You likely already follow Isaiah’s photo-a-day site, Yuty365.com, where he documents sights that are now part of our everyday life here. If not, you should as he keeps working away on those codes and (insert other computery term here) and it continues to improve and develop over time. Besides, knowing you’re watching will help hold him accountable to his “photo-a-day” promise.
Day 198 shows two big grins: one from me, and one from a new friend named Milanne. As the caption reads, it was a chance meeting on a double-decker bus that brought us together. I had just made the long solo trip back from the US after learning that Isaiah’s flights were cancelled. I borrowed some cash from Devin, a volunteer and friend, and made my way through drizzling rain to Asunción’s bus terminal and purchased my favorite seat: one in the front row on the top level.
I squeezed my huge backpack and many bags of groceries filled with things not available in our little town into the space reserved for me. I had a lot, so as I got settled, my bags took over not just my space but that of the seat next to me as well. A woman appeared, ticket in hand, and looked down at what must have been her seat, which was loaded up with bags of groceries as well as contents of my backpack as I dug around trying to locate those Sunbelt fudge-dipped granola bars I had personally imported from the States.
I looked up with a sheepish grin, proclaimed my apologies, and began to tidy up and get my stuff under control. She quickly said it was no problem and that she’d sit in the seat just across the aisle. If the ticket holder of that seat showed up, they would be welcome to sit with me.
Just as I was getting the last of my mess tucked away, in walks a fellow natural blond who sits in the seat next to me. Now this was a bit rare. I didn’t recognize her as another Peace Corps volunteer and tourists and backpackers are honestly few and far between.
We began talking a bit in Spanish. She told me she was just beginning to learn the language, and I was in the process of taking mine off the shelf to dust it after three weeks of no use. Soon enough we discovered we both knew English, switched to that, and chatted most of the 7-hour bus ride.
She was Milanne, a student from the Netherlands who arrived in Paraguay only two weeks prior to conduct interviews with soy farmers, research, and write a thesis on her findings. She was heading to San Pedro del Paraná for the first time, wasn’t sure where that was exactly, and would live with a family she didn’t there for the next five weeks.
San Pedro is a stop about 45 minutes before Yuty, so I told her to get comfy since it would be awhile. She was friendly, down-to-earth, and seemed to be handling the changes and unknowns of her position in Paraguay all in stride.
Before she got off the bus in her new town, we exchanged numbers and I invited her to visit Yuty someday. A week or so later, our plans were made and I opened up our painted green gate and welcomed her into our home. She met Isaiah for the first time and we found we already knew quite a lot about each other from our time of chatting on the bus.
She was relaxed and speaks perfect English, and was happy to have a break in her Spanish-learning. We drank tereré and gave her a walking tour of our town. We made homemade tortillas together and although she said it was her first time, she rolled them out for burritos like a real pro. Our friend Igor came over for supper and when he glanced back and saw Milanne in the kitchen, we heard him ask Isaiah if we had a guest.
Without missing a beat, Isaiah said that no, “Allison just grew her hair out again while we were in the States.” After a moment of hesitation and thinking, Igor laughed and Isaiah joined in, explaining truthfully that we did have a guest and introducing Igor to our new friend. It was back to Spanish for the group and I was impressed with how well Milanne could follow along. She had only begun learning a few weeks before!
We all finished cooking and preparing the meal and then enjoyed the big burritos with gusto. Though satisfied, we dove in and enjoyed a chocolate cake I baked for the occasion as well and washed it down with tea. I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at the people who sat around our little painted table on our back porch. A man from Paraguay, a student from the Netherlands, and a couple from the midwest USA gathered and eating and laughing and joking in languages not necessarily their first. Thank you, Peace Corps, for this opportunity that makes experiences like that night a thing of not-so-rare occurrence.