To mark the halfway point of our service as Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay my training group traveled into Asunción for our, appropriately named, Mid-Service Training. When I walked into the conference room and saw a bunch of round tables set up, my mind instantly flashed back to when we first gathered in Miami for a couple of days before making the long flight that kicked off our lives in Paraguay.
I remember standing in the paperwork line in Miami looking around at the people who would journey down the Peace Corps road with me. I thought Tamara was clever when she said her name is pronounced “not like today, but like tomorrah.” I thought Nalena was fashionable with her flowy grey top, Kelly was fit and no-fuss with her light luggage, Michael was slightly disheveled as he worked to wrangle and complete all his forms and Devin was small.
And I remember sitting at a table the next day with Tim among others when the trainer mentioned something about the doctor’s appointments we’d receive during our Mid-Service training halfway through our service. Tears welled in my eyes as I expressed to my new friends how exciting it would probably be to reunite with our group after a whole year in country. I guessed at how much we would have missed each other and how we’d celebrate being together again.
After some moments of silence as these new acquaintances took in the fact I was getting choked up over reuniting with friends I hadn’t yet made (and, in doing so, risked ever making) they laughed at my drama and quickly stated their agreement. And just as quickly changed the subject.
Fast forward to our real Mid Service training where my guess was correct that it was great fun to see everyone. However, I think my expectation back in my naïve Miami days was that I’d barely see other volunteers barring a few planned events like this. That isn’t the case and that’s a good thing. We already know that expectations aren’t everything, remember?
After a clean bill of health and a day of chatting about how to make the most of our service, the long-awaited Mid-Service Training came to an end. The fun didn’t, however, as Isaiah and I attended an AJE event with our fellow volunteer, Devin, and the head of our sector, Elisa. AJE is one of our major partners in the Paraguay Emprende entrepreneurship project and once a month or so they hold casual events where young entrepreneurs get together to network and share.
The highlight of the evening was holding the falcon someone had brought along. Have you ever held a bird like that? It gave my arm and shoulder a nice little workout. The owner is used to it as he owns eight falcons. Part of his job is to take them to Asunción’s airport where they scare off other birds so they don’t get caught in the airplanes’ engines. Not as much to save the life of the little birds as to prevent damage to the planes, but still a unique and interesting gig.
It was encouraging to see what an awesome organization AJE is (I already had an idea but this event sealed the deal) and how empowering it is to simply be in the same room with amazing, hard-working people who are doing cool things. It makes sense, then, why sitting at those round tables during Mid-Service training with intelligent and creative volunteers ignited a little spark in me that has me pumped up for the rest of our time here.