Sweet Home

Our traveled legs were ready to rest. Our souls were filled with enough adventure to tide us over for a while. Our thoughts started drifting toward home. We began checking flight prices. One day it became clear that our next destination was going to be the USA. Better yet, we were able to secure flights to arrive the morning of my grandma’s 92nd birthday. We decided to surprise her and it worked. She walked into my parents living room to see us sitting on the couch. She wrinkled up her whole face in pure confusion and said, “Well, WHAT in the world are you two doing here?” An outsider may have thought she was disgusted at us, but we knew she was pleased. Very pleased.

Grandma's 92nd birthday

We’ve been in Iowa for a few weeks now and it’s been great to be back. Especially when that same healthy and independent grandma suddenly passed away this past Saturday. It is such a complete shock. I go up to her empty house and cannot believe that she’s not there in her chair, happy to see me. At the same time, I recognize that to pass away in a cozy bed as a happy 92-year-old is probably exactly the way my grandma would have wanted to go. No nonsense and living well until the very end. I’m also beyond grateful that we felt a nudge back to Iowa before we had originally planned. Those small miracles are like friendly, I’ve-got-your-back winks from God. So we won’t complain and we will carry on, just as my grandma has demonstrated in so many different ways throughout her life.

People often ask if we were struck with culture shock or are having trouble adjusting and I always answer, a bit surprised myself, that we’re doing quite well. We seem to have slipped back into the culture we call our own without a fuss. We’re enjoying the variety of foods we had missed and are soaking up time with my family. Soon we will travel again – this time just within the States to visit Isaiah’s family and some of our friends.

Allison, Troy, Marie

Mom and dad in kitchen

Thush and Austin

We don’t have a set plan for our future. We’ve barely started looking for jobs. We haven’t picked a city or state in which to live next. Some moments I’m so excited to make some decisions, get our own casa and unpack those glorious boxes from storage and carefully choose a place for everything (yes, that is my idea of a very, very good time). Other times I’m content to be just where we are. I’m not yet to Isaiah-level ability to live in the moment, but I feel greatly improved since before this whole Peace Corps experience.

Marie in leaves

Isaiah and Marie in leaves

Isaiah in leaves

It’s been a good ride and the adventure shouldn’t stop here. However, this blog will. I so enjoyed using this blog to process my thoughts in Paraguay and it was a great way to keep in touch with you all back home. My grandma kept saying, “What would we ever have done without those blogs? We wouldn’t have been able to imagine your life at all.” I hope it gave you a taste of the Paraguayan culture and the friends we made there. Thank you for following us, supporting us and cheering us on in all that we did.

It’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later. Or shall we say, jajatopata!

Advertisements

Paraguayan Landscapes

After saying goodbye to our community in Yuty, we welcomed a big blue moving truck to our house on August 1. The two men packed it full of all our belongings, which were to be delivered to a new Peace Corps couple, Genny and Stephen, who had visited us while they were still in training.

IMG_3104

IMG_3105

 

We had arranged to get a ride with the truck so we’d be able to see what would be Genny and Stephen’s home for the next two years. When two men instead of one showed up to do the loading, we weren’t sure it would be possible. Until they suggested setting up a cozy little place for us in the back of the truck.

IMG_3109

Before anyone worries, it all turned out great. The furniture was super stable and we were comfortable on the thrones of our blue patio chairs. It was perfect. We climbed aboard and began slowly driving away from our home, through the town. In doing so, we waved huge goodbyes to our neighbors as we passed. We passed our corner store and waved to the daughter there, and then her mother ran outside and waved and waved with both hands to give us a real farewell.

IMG_3107

IMG_3110

IMG_3111

Next we passed the municipal building where a group of familiar men were standing, laughing, and sharing tereré and sent us away with huge smiles and waves. I mean, it was just perfect. We made it to the edge of town and passed the big yellow house where we spent the first 6 months and then drove onto the main road heading out of town.

IMG_3114

From the back of the truck we could look out on the expanse of landscape that was our home. The home we likely won’t see again for many, many years. As we bumped along the dirt stretch of the road the beautiful scenery became blurry and unrecognizable with my tears. And then came the outpouring of tears and the deep sobbing from the soul that came from the recognition, if only for that moment, that this stage of our life is really coming to an end.

IMG_3128

Isaiah took my hand and together we rode along in our private cocoon for the next 8 hours, surrounded by our things, taking in the sites of Paraguay as the sun set and the night stars shone. To add to the serendipitous moment, a fellow volunteer we know was strolling down the street of his town right past where we had stopped to get gas.

IMG_3135

Eventually we arrived at Genny and Stephen’s host family’s house and spent the evening and next morning with them before heading on again. What a memorable way to pack up and move on; one we’ll not soon forget.

IMG_3149

Faces of Yuty

Our last week in Yuty before packing up and heading out was filled with all the kindness and warmth that Paraguayans are known for. We were invited over for dinners and snacks and tereré sessions and given little gifts to remember our friends and community by. It was overwhelming and humbling and is exactly the kind of outward hospitality that I love about Paraguay and hope to be able to incorporate into my life as well.

Without further ado, here are just some of those friendly faces that made living in Yuty so wonderful.

Entrepreneurship Workshop

We are officially Returned Peace Corps Volunteers as we’ve already finished up our two years in Paraguay. However, in the flash of packing up and saying goodbyes, we have a couple events to document. You know we need it all in here so when we’re old and grey we can look back and try to remember just what all went down in the P-guay.

IMG_5796

One such event was this year’s Paraguay Emprende national workshop. Isaiah, Elva, and I taught the 15-week course on how to plan a business and write a business plan for the second year in a row. At our local presentation, we selected one student with the most viable business plan to attend the national workshop with other youth from across the country who had taken the same course with their local volunteer.

IMG_5893

From our course, Day was selected with her business plan to amp up the small business her mom and her already run of creating and printing t-shirts and uniforms for local schools and offices. For you Iowans, maybe they’re the local version of Imprinted Sports.

IMG_6025

IMG_5786

IMG_6200

Since I was still having a blast at Camp GLOW (and there’s always so many events over the schools’ two-week winter break), Isaiah and Day attended the event without me. It was sad to miss, especially when I heard that Day’s presentation went super well and at the end of the 3-day workshop, she was even awarded a trophy for Best Written Business Plan! What an honor among 20-some of the other top students from across the country.

IMG_6440

IMG_6455

It was a great event that is gaining more support and momentum and involvement with awesome Paraguayan organizations with networks and influence. I can’t wait to see where Paraguay Emprende goes next!

G-39, We Did It!

Thursday afternoon we had our final event as Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay. Those of us left from our group, G-39, gathered in the office for some kind words from our fearless leaders (including the brand new Country Director!)

IMG_6740

IMG_6738

IMG_6742

And as is only fitting considering the number of certificates we’ve each given out over the two years, we were each presented with a certificate of completion for two years of service in Paraguay. As if that wasn’t good enough, it was followed by a delicious chocolate cake.

IMG_6759

IMG_6767

Per tradition, we then each rang the Peace Corps bell, officially closing out our time as volunteers.

IMG_6781

IMG_6783

I like closure and this ceremony was a perfect way to come full circle and end our Peace Corps run.

IMG_6769

So was a last visit to probably our favorite restaurant in Paraguay, Gagnam, near Mercado 4 for some delicious Korean food and super friendly staff. Heck, the owner’s daughter is now even in college in Isaiah’s home state of Kansas. It’s a small world after all, eh?

IMG_3171

What’s next for us? For the next month or two Isaiah and I are going to enjoy some more of South America, starting with a loooong bus ride to Brazil tomorrow morning. We even look forward to meeting up with Isaiah’s brother and wife along the way. As for the blog, we plan to keep popping in with a quick update or some photos of what we’re up to, so feel free to come along for the ride!

Break at the Bridge

In the midst of packing the house and spending time and saying goodbye to friends, Isaiah and I hit the dusty trails Tuesday. We’d biked out to the little town outside of ours, named Estación, which means station, since it’s the home of the old train station that’s no longer operable, once with Elva toward the beginning of our time, and Isaiah went once when Nick was visiting. This time we ditched the bikes and set out on foot. Partly to soak up the beautiful day and have some down time away from all the hustle of preparations, and a huge part because Isaiah’s bike pedal broke off and we don’t have the tools to fix it.

The deserted building that was once the train station is still there and so is a beautiful iron bridge that brings our town pride. Signs say it’s around 8 km to the town of Estación and then a couple more to the bridge where we stopped to grab a bite we had packed and snap some photos.

It was a great chance to eat up another piece of our lovely town while we can and recharge our batteries for the big transition that is to come.

Now the only question is, who posed with it best? Send in your votes for the next Yuty billboard model!

Option #1:

Walk to the bridge, Yuty Paraguay

Option #2:

Walk to the bridge, Yuty Paraguay

Option #3:

Walk to the bridge, Yuty Paraguay

A Time To Uproot

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” -Eccles. 3

Friday morning the moving truck will arrive and haul away our belongings. After a bumpy journey, they’ll be delivered on the doorstep of a fresh, lovely, new couple who are just embarking on their two-year Peace Corps experience. So we are packing. Making piles. Donating. Throwing out.

Close of Service Peace Corps Paraguay - Packing

This is so my cup of tea. I love cleaning out and packing. It brings such satisfaction to physically see the progress. Where once a cupboard was stuffed full of Stuff, it is now empty and clean, its contents gently tucked away in a box. It’s a fresh start. It’s the idea of the Next Great Thing.

Sure, I can get sentimental and nostalgic with the best of them. I can wax poetic on the red dirt that’s stained my shoes for the last 730 days. I can tear up at the hoard of smiley kids in worn, mismatched clothes that runs to me with hugs at the ready every time I show up at the soup kitchen. How about when the bus driver passed me his thermos and guampa and I served tereré to a content little group of strangers-turned-friends on my bus? Yep, that was heart-warming and I doubt I’ll see a repeat performance once I’m back in the States.

Close of Service Peace Corps Paraguay - Packing

At the same time as all that is true, I stand at the frontera of my future. A future I’m quite thrilled about. I know that things are just things (a far cry from my childhood self who spent worrisome hour upon hour choosing the one stuffed animal to pack for vacation, only to end the struggle by having all but one fluffy friend tell me they’d really prefer to stay home anyway. Phew, no hurt feelings!) and a house is a house and a town is a town. We have thousands of photos and memories to last a lifetime.

Close of Service Peace Corps Paraguay - Packing

Best of all, my very most favorite part of my time in Paraguay is not something I have to leave behind. Isaiah is packing up too and together we’re preparing for whatever lies ahead.

Close of Service Peace Corps Paraguay - Isaiah Packing

Perhaps I’m just in a good place as I type this today and the crash of emotions will come whenever it sinks in that this is real. This big, important, life-altering experience that we anticipated for years is actually, truly, really done. Complete. Terminado. Over. Or maybe it won’t hit me for months or years. Either way, we’re packing up and gearing up for taking the next step forward. That next little step forward is all any of us can really do anyway, so it’s a great place to start.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: