We really have lived in Paraguay for over 23 months and are, in many ways, rounding third base and running toward home. For the most part, our arms are lifted in the air and we glance over our shoulder at how far we’ve come. We were stuck on second base for a while and thought we might get tagged out at one point, but alas we are here. We’ve nearly done it. We’ve nearly completed these fast/slow, strange/ordinary, remarkable/trying, incredible two years of service.
1. Filling my time these days is…
Allison: summer is over and we’re back to work. We’re teaching entrepreneurship, training teachers in technology use for their classrooms, creating better account management with a new cooperative, tutoring in English, doing projects with the soup kitchen kids and continuously trying to raise money for their operations. The girl power Camp GLOW is in July and I’m in charge of its communications. Our youth group, Jovy, is working on projects (that reminds me, we still need to finish that world map) and we’d like to get them more involved in the soup kitchen. And mate in the morning with Isaiah is still my favorite.
Isaiah: we’ve used up our remaining vacation days with an incredible trip to Patagonia, a visit home to see family, growing families and friends, and a short jaunt with my mom to show her the awesome Iguazu waterfalls. Now we’re back in it full force for the few months that remain with entrepreneurship courses, computer classes, and, of course, the children’s soup kitchen.
2. The strangest thing lately is…
A: we completed our Close of Service conference, are scheduling our final medical clearance appointments, and thinking about next steps. Therefore red dirt, mate and terere thermoses, clapping at doors, and the sound of Guarani bring tears to my eyes on a nearly daily basis.
I: the end is near. Now that we’re feeling pretty comfortable in our community, people know us and we know them, it’s time to think about the next adventure. Travel, family, and (hopefully) a flexible and paying job, here we come!
3. My favorite yuyos at the moment are…
Yuyos are herbs that you can add to the water or the yerba (tea-like leaves) of mate (hot tea-like drink) or tereré (cold tea-like drink) to both give it a nice flavor and help with different ailments (digestion, cholesterol, etc.).
A: Burrito can’t be beat. Isaiah and I play a guessing game of Name What’s In This Mate for the one who didn’t prepare it that morning. It’s like he has a free pass when I prepare it because sí o sí, surely I’m going to make my concoction with some burrito, which falls somewhere in the mint spectrum.
I: Shredded coconut. While not precisely a yuyo, it is a great add to my morning mate that adds a smooth undertone to the mix. Throw in a little ka’a he’e (stevia in the States) to bring out the sweetness of the coconut. Throw out the yerba mate entirely and replace it with coconut and use hot milk (or, even better, hot chocolate!) to transform things into the legendary mate dulce (sweet mate).
4. What I’d miss most if I hopped on a moto* today is…
(*The Peace Corps has a few rules that are very rigid. One is no riding on motorcycles because they are practically the leading cause of death here. If you choose to ride one, you have one choice: aisle or window on the next plane outta here.)
A: The feeling of truly completing this journey. We’re so close to the end, with so much yet to do and enjoy and soak up. I wouldn’t want to cut this wrap-up time short.
I: Ditto what my lovely and smart wife said.
5. My current comida tipica (traditional Paraguayan food) obsession is…
A: chipa. It’s like a cheesy, cornbread bagel that I immediately crave when our bus passes by Coronel Bogado, a town said to have some of the best chipa. Buy it hot from Don Pipo across from the bus terminal and use their bathrooms too. They are nice, new, free, have toilet paper, soap and a full length mirror.
I: Is grapefruit considered comida típica? Whether it is or not, we are up to our eyeballs in them and I’m loving all of the fresh-squeezed juice.
6. My favorite Guarani phrase of the week is…
A: Hake! (ha-kay) which means something like “Watch out!” or “Careful!” and can be used when your friend is about to get run over by a moto or when the conversation gets a little spicy.
I: Che rembireko porã (shay rem-be-ray-ko por-ah) meaning “my beautiful wife.” An interesting side note about the word “wife” in Guarani is that, when deconstructed, it translates to “the thing that I have.” And I like the beautiful thing that I have a lot!
7. Paraguayans say the darndest things…
A: like “Boy your yard is so dirty!” when we don’t rake up every last leaf. I’m all for a tidy looking yard, but it’s ironic to me that many people in our town don’t seem to mind all the trash scattered about the streets in front of houses, or don’t think twice about tossing a candy wrapper into the grass of their yard. But those leaves, man, those have gots to go.
I: “Allison! Allison!” a kid will call at the soup kitchen. Oh, you’re talking to me? Apparently our names aren’t so very common nor clearly masculine or feminine in these children’s world and so it’s not always obvious which name goes with which one of us. Even after nearly two years this still happens.
8. The MVP (Most Valuable Paraguayan) Award goes to…
A: Elisa. She’s our boss, and the head of our sector of Community Economic Development in Peace Corps. She is incredibly overwhelmed with work and red tape from Washington and all the needs and complaints and requests of over 50 volunteers. She’s traveling around the country to check out and interview people in potential new communities for future volunteers yet always, always takes the time to be friendly, chat, encourage and make you feel like the most important person in the world. She is amazing, personable, and super guapa!
I: Don Cantalicio. He’s a cobbler who just finished making an awesome pair of boots for me. He’s also super involved with the children’s soup kitchen and, without him, it’d likely cease to exist. And somehow he also finds the time to be involved in other church and community-related projects.
9. What I wouldn’t give for a…
A: way to better convey this whole ride that is Peace Corps service to you. We try to write and post pictures here on this blog, and it surely helps to paint at least a partial picture. Those who had the chance to visit us saw a little deeper peek into our lives. But the experience is so strange and new and beautiful and difficult and stretching and amazing and lonely and wonderful and overwhelming and life-enhancing that it’s often too hard to put into words.
I: obvious path for what’s next in our lives. As best as we could we’ve tried living in the moment and putting off thinking about “the next thing.” But now it’s time to figure out where we go from here, and the world is wide open with possibilities. It’s exciting, but the uncertainty of an infinite number of paths can also feel uncomfortable or overwhelming.
10. Most likely to be published in a Peace Corps brochure is when…
A: the kids at the soup kitchen gather around for reading time and say many of the words to the books with me because they are just that familiar. Dr. Seuss is universally wonderful.
I: we reunited as a training group for our “close of service.” It’s incredible to think about all that’s happened during the past couple of years and no one else will be able to understand this part of our lives quite as well as our fellow volunteers from our group with whom we’ve journeyed together, apart. It was fun being together again, laughing, reflecting, and awarding each other “paper plate” awards.
11. Coming up next…
A: We’ll continue the projects we have going. Soon we’ll start a photography course with two camera kits we checked out from a Peace Corps initiative called Ahecha Paraguay which means “I see Paraguay” in Guarani. We’ll write our last reports, say our goodbyes, and ring the final bell to officially end our service on August 8. Then, it’s travel time!
I: That’s the question. Immediately coming up are things Allison mentioned. But the question in the back of my mind is what happens post Peace Corps—where will we live, what will we do, etc.
So that’s where we find ourselves today. Know of a great job opportunity? (Isaiah is a web guy and Allison likes planning/managing things.) We’re all ears!