Posts Tagged With: love

Appreciation Day

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  – Author Unknown

October 2, 2014

My boss and her 2-man team made a visit to my site today to talk with the community and learn more about their request for another volunteer. With my time coming to a close the middle of next month, we are all making preparations for the transition.

The senoras from my Women’s Club (Club of Witches they like to be called) recounted stories of the fun we’ve had together and one in particular who proudly described how she began calling herself “Primera Bruja” or the “First/Best Witch” after a recent incident of peek-a-boo with me (see September blog post “AHAs in Cultural Exchange” for details). Since then, I only refer to her as my Primera Bruja and her sister as My Segunda Bruja (Second Witch), far better than given names! They. Love. It.

Another gent asked if I could stay two more years; the others nodded in agreement. Of course, he was one of the fellas who had hoped to marry me one day and he was running out of time. Haha. It was a great meeting of feeling acknowledged and appreciated as a person and for my work but, even more importantly, considered as one of the community.

While my team was here, my program specialist and I chatted in the garden, taking in the view of the hills in the distance, sharing various things I was trying, answering my questions about why my 3rd generation of carrots was growing deformed, and sharing the variety of plants that had volunteered (self-seeded) themselves throughout the garden – green manures, carrots, beans, and a new invasive weed. While there, we watched a beautiful orange and black butterfly tuck her abdomen under the edge of a passion fruit leaf  and lay an egg mere inches from us! It took only a second and when she flew away we examined the tiny egg with its texture and color. Had it not been for his watchful eye, I would have missed the whole thing. Amazing! It pays to practice awareness and live in the moment. I’m so grateful to my team for placing me in this community to live, love, laugh and cry with these beautiful people for the past two years.

Tiny butterfly egg, the size of a pen tip. (stock photo)

Tiny butterfly egg, the size of a pen tip. (stock photo)

At the end of the day, it’s the relationships and the little things that really matter and make life most beautiful.

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The First Goodbye

“It’s always the right time to be happy.” – WW

October 1, 2014

During my first 10 weeks in Paraguay I stayed with the wonderful Gomez Silguiera family. They coached me with my infantile language skills, fed me, taught me to milk their cow, included me in their weekly Sunday family lunch with all seven grown children and mounds of food, and my first weekend there, brought me along to my host mother’s sister’s wedding. The bride was 81 and her new husband was 82.

 

I’ve been back to visit only a handful of times since moving to my community because the 10 hour journey makes more frequent visits difficult. However, I am always welcomed like royalty and quickly settle into making myself comfortable, no longer a guest, just another member of the family.

 

Over the weekend, I returned to attend my host sister’s wedding, held on the two year anniversary that I landed in Paraguay (and the same weekend that her aunt married two years earlier!) It was a grand and lavish affair of 200 guests, created solely by the family: my event-organizer-brother did all the decorations; the bride owns a bakery and she and staff made the cake and the hundreds of cupcakes and other sweets; her sisters made her dress; the entire extended family pitched in making giant trays of various salads, beans, mandioca and more (I counted 20 pans of sopa paraguaya -corn bread- and I’m sure there were more that had already been loaded into the truck).  We danced until 3am and, after about 3 hours of sleep, the gang was starting a new day by sharing morning máte. I have no idea how many people actually stayed at the house but emergence of ever more people rounding the corner into the kitchen seemed endless but joyful.

 

Finally came the time to catch my bus home. For the road, Mama tucked some sopa paraguaya into my hand and I embraced her. That’s when the realization hit that this would likely be our last hug. Ever. The last time I will see this loving woman who opened her heart and her home to me and treated me like her own flesh-and-blood daughter. Who worried over me when I was sick. Who learned I love watermelon and made sure there were always two in the house at all times. Who made my favorite breakfast everyday as if it was the highlight of her day. Who attended my Swear-In ceremony and cried happy-sad tears when it was time to move away to my new community. Who poured through my photo albums as if it was the greatest honor to know my family. Her soft belly absorbed the shudders that my tears brought. I held her and tried to brand the moment into memory. I couldn’t speak. When we finally separated she knew too and spoke for me. “If this is the last time I see you before you return to your country, please know that my home is your home. You will always be welcomed here. Please stay in touch.” We hugged again and I really let loose with the tears. The others nearby took their turn afterward: my host dad, an elderly aunt from Buenos Aires that I’d known for about 15 hours and with whom I’d shared a mattress the night before but nonetheless told me how she adored me, a brother, cousins. This family knows how to make people feel loved.

 

With a mere seven weeks remaining before my service ends, time is flying and there will be many more goodbyes. As I start down this path of closure I can’t help but reflect and appreciate all that these last two years have brought me.  My heart is swelling with gratitude. It hasn’t always been easy but, damn, it sure has been worth it!

Photos by Luis Ramon and Pedro Gomez Silgueira

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Friendship on Every Doorstep

“Rain or blessings may pour down from the heavens, but if you only hold up a thimble, a thimbleful is all you receive.” –  Ramakrishna

August 5, 2014

The day started with 2 goals: to pay my water bill and to deliver a handful of passion fruits. It never ceases to amaze me how such simple things can blossom your whole day into brilliant joy.

I made my way the half-mile or so to the señora’s house to pay my water bill (the equivalent of about U.S. $4/month). It seems every plant is flowering right now and the air was perfumed with a bouquet I wish I could attach to share with you like those old scratch-and-sniff stickers from the 80s! It makes walking around town a blissful, sensory delight! I passed the señora on her way to the school where she cooks lunch for kids who don’t get food at home. After exchanging greetings, she nodded me toward her house saying that her daughters were home and could take my payment. In their twenties, I LOVE these two women: friendly, cheerful, gracious, easy to talk with…we talked for a good while about everything while their toddlers ate mandarins and shooed away chickens. As I prepared to leave, I inquired about the pig carcass hanging from the patio roof. They said it would be BBQd the next day in honor of their mother’s birthday. I was officially invited to lunch and gladly accepted! (pork BBQ – one of my favorites!)

My next stop was across town to visit a señora whose son had helped me fix my passion fruit arbor in the garden a while ago. As a thank you, I’d promised to share some fruit when the time came. Laden with a bag of uncommonly large deliciousness I arrived, unannounced, at her gate (one of the things I LOVE about Paraguay – you can visit unannounced, there’s almost always someone at home and they are happy to have your company!) She was doing laundry, squatting in front of her washbasin made from a tire turned inside-out, hand-scrubbing her husband’s tighty whities and jeans. She hugged me hello like I was a long-lost daughter, pulled up a chair for me next to the tighty-whitey wash station and proceeded to catch me up on all her news. I shrieked in disbelief upon learning she still had running water! A bad lightning storm killed the motor on our town’s water tank and we’ve been without clean drinking water for a week. While every family has a dug well on the property, few families have maintained them after the town installed running water over a year ago. My own well, from lack of use, is full of rusty-brown, debris-laden water and leftovers from a giant, bloated dead frog. To bathe, I’ve been filtering, boiling and chlorinating water over the past week.

My filtration system from the dirty well. (Right) untreated well water, (Center) filtering through a chamois towel, (Left) boiled and chlorinated.

My filtration system from the dirty well. (Right) untreated well water, (Center) filtering through a chamois towel, (Left) boiled and chlorinated.

Seven days ago, I borrowed four liters of drinking water from a neighbor who had a bit extra to spare in the beginning and this had lasted me five days, supplemented with homemade orange juice and kombucha. To conserve, I’d avoided cooking any food that required water (pancakes anyone?), salting foods or doing anything that induced sweating in an effort to stay hydrated. I was on the brink of desperation for a new source of drinking water as my supply dwindled and rumors said the motor wouldn’t be fixed for 2-3 more days, so when this señora offered to send me home with two liters of fresh water – she was an instant hero! I was ecstatic! Not only water, but I had a full load of lettuce, carrots, Persian lemons AND four liters of water! Add to that, the husband’s hilarious sense of humor, constantly jibing about my non-existent husband, the señora repeating every funny thing I’d said each time a new family member returned home, watching the youngest son skin a pigeon, being invited to lunch for the best meal I’d had in a week, and a time of incredible bonding and laughing over several hours, I thought the day couldn’t get any better. I was wrong.

I hurried home in time to meet up with two señoras with whom I’d arranged to help build their solar food dryers in the afternoon. They are sisters in their 50s, both with a sense of humor and general light-heartedness about life (are you seeing a theme yet? Paraguayans. Laughter. Love.)  We spent the afternoon laughing, joking, working, and ultimately celebrating their achievements. What a great feeling to see the pride and sense of accomplishment on their faces!

Senora showing off her completed solar food dryer

Senora showing off her completed solar food dryer

I returned home (2 classrooms down the hall in my ‘schoolhouse’– haha) to find the Peace Corps “Blog It Home” contest had begun. In case you missed this announcement: I’m honored that my blog was selected as 1 of 20 finalists from over 350 entries around the world. If you’ve enjoyed reading my work and learning about Paraguay, I’d be grateful for your support and your vote as the public helps decide the ultimate winners now through August 10. Click here to learn how or go straight to the voting site here!

Stay tuned for more amazing adventures from Paraguay. Thanks for reading.

Jajotopata! (until next time)

UPDATE – running water came back this morning a day ahead of schedule!!! I had a celebratory discussion with the teachers on my front porch who laughed how I’d be able to bathe again. Ummm, yeah. Having water again IS exciting and a hot shower…even better!…but was it THAT obvious I needed a bath? – Always laughing in Paraguay…

 

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Kids

“Some people pursue happiness. Others create it.”

August 2, 2014

Some of my favorite memories from Paraguay have been with the youth. Today was a kid day. I was in the mood for a fun, tranquillo day, looking forward to my Kids’ Club meeting this afternoon. As it turns out, only one girl came, 7-year old Luz Maria from one of my favorite families. I told her she would be the only one today but invited her to stay and I’d teach her to make chocolate pudding and she could help me paint art on my windows. Her eyes lit up and we got to work.

She’d never had chocolate pudding, nor even heard of it. But she loves it now. We sat on the floor with two spoons and a pan of warm pudding and ate until it was gone. When I pulled out the tempera paint and Qtips we were using in lieu of brushes, she looked questioningly at the Qtips. She’d never seen those either and asked what they were for. After a quick explanation that seemed to make no sense to her, we started painting windows with abandon. While she finished, I taught her to make French fries, which she claimed she’d never tried either but quickly became a fan. Before you judge me for offering all this junk food (!), I assure you I usually encourage great eating habits. I knew these were novelties for her and since it was just the two of us, I wanted to spoil her a bit.

 

This was followed by some quiet time with a coloring book and crayons then we finished with some funny yoga that somehow turned into London Bridge (or Downward Dog) is Falling Down and had us collapsing in laughter. We adjourned and I watched her tuck an extra coloring page into her pocket for more fun at home as she wove her way through the 150 cattle claiming the soccer field between her home and mine.

At dusk I took a walk toward the sunset with my camera in hand, something I hadn’t done much recently. While taking photos of roadside flowers, a little 5-year old, Marie, came running out of a nearby house, asking her Mom if she could walk with me. We sauntered down the road to the prairie. I taught Marie to take a sunset photo with my camera then we took a selfie, playfully arguing whether tomorrow will be Sunday or Monday. I walked home with a contented smile on my face after a just-right day.

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National Friendship Day

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.” – Henry Ward Beecher

July 31, 2014

Yesterday in Paraguay was National Friendship Day.

I think this is one of my new favorite holidays.

Hearing and saying “thank you for your friendship” was a pretty sweet way to spend the day.

No wonder Paraguayans are some of the happiest people on the planet!

Gratitude

Gratitude

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A Magical Birthday

“We make plans, and sometimes Life laughs at our plans and blows them apart like leaves. When this happens, if we keep ourselves open to the possibilities that the changes bring instead of being attached to what didn’t happen, we discover that these unexpected Life mishaps can be full of amazing gifts.” – Lloyd Alton Hall

July 30, 2014

 

I celebrated a birthday over the weekend. I’d had plans for a fellow volunteer to visit my community for the occasion. At the last minute she got food poisoning and we postponed for another time. I decided to use the change in plans to treat myself to a couple days in the capitol. And, for something that started as a spontaneous change of plans, last weekend will go down as one of the best, most memorable birthdays of my life. Kindness, love and spontaneity in abundance.

 

The birthday greetings began in early morning from my community, family, friends, and volunteers. While enduring the early 6-hour bus ride to the city, all of my favorite señoras called me to wish me a wonderful day. Getting a call says a lot. Calls are expensive for the locals here and reserved for the most important of life’s details or emergencies.

 

A priority for the weekend was to visit one of my best loves in PY as he prepares to complete his service and return to the US. I was so grateful to hug him one last time and wish him well as he transitions into the next phase of his beautiful life. Peace Corps volunteers are amazing people. Our bond has moved me deeply and I will forever feel a timeless friendship with this extraordinary, talented angel. Paraguay, and the volunteers fortunate enough to know him, are forever richer because of his service and presence here.

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Saturday, an ever-thoughtful Paraguayan friend surprised me with tickets to a tango orchestra visiting from Buenos Aires (if you are a new reader, you’ll learn I’m addicted to Argentine tango, one of my utmost burning passions from the U.S., and I was ecstatic to find it in the capitol city recently, offering a little fun while I’m in town on business). I had given up hope of seeing this concert so this was a splendid, spontaneous turn of events! The orchestra was amazing and we got a chance to dance tango to the live music! The orchestra was followed by some fabulous Latin tunes that brought the hundreds of guests to the dance floor. Between Latin and tango, I danced and conversed the night away with many dear Paraguayan friends.

 

 

Sunday, I was whisked away to a surprise birthday lunch with 18 immediate members of my host family (from training in 2012) who decorated their home, sang “Happy Birthday” 3 times in 3 languages, and made all my favorite foods and desserts. My host sister is an amazing chef, having several of her recipes published in magazines throughout Paraguay, and she sent me home with two of my favorite recipes (Crema and Vori Vori which you can find on my blog page “In the Kitchen” here along with many other traditional Paraguayan and volunteer-created recipes to try in your own kitchen.) Plus, the internet stars aligned so I could skype with my kids from home! Life was getting more joyful by the hour; I never stopped smiling all weekend.

Upon returning to my community, when I thought the birthday hubbub was done, one of my favorite families invited me to a celebratory birthday lunch. Paraguayans usually reserve pigs for special occasions; I was honored to discover they killed and BBQd a precious pig and made traditional sopa bread for me!! And let me tell you, it was the most delectable pork I’ve ever eaten. After lunch the señora wrote down two of her favorite recipes to send home with me (significant since all of their recipes are in their heads, passed down from mother to daughter by hands-on-learning, not in a cookbook). Click here for the recipe page and look for chipa guazu and sopa!

 

Sopa Paraguaya

Sopa Paraguaya

Not to leave out my community, I am hosting a birthday fiesta’i (little party) at my house this Sunday for my neighbors to celebrate with me and try a buffet of North American food I am making for them – a great cultural exchange! In PY it is the responsibility of the birthday gal/guy to provide food, serve and clean up; guests just come and enjoy. Señoras offered to loan me larger pans so I can feed EVERYONE (everyone? what? the whole community? the fact that I have one tiny burner and small oven is no deterrent for them; I’ll need to start cooking tomorrow!) They are excited, and a little scared, about the food bit. Paraguayans are not super adventurous in trying new foods but so far the women have loved all the new foods we’ve made in the women’s club so I think I’ve got a little street cred now. And they made me promise to play music and dance all afternoon with them. One of the husbands requested a tango lesson. I told him he needed permission from his wife first. Haha. That should be a crowd pleaser! All around, it should be super fun!

 

If ever I needed reminders of the beautiful people in my life who are always there for me, here and stateside; the incredible generosity of Paraguayans who went out of their way to show their love and ensure my time in Paraguay is special and unforgettable; gratitude for the bounty of blessings in my life…this weekend was a shining example. I trust Life will blow apart my plans many more times and bring an alternative invitation. It’s my job to stay open to it. I tried it. It worked out beautifully. My heart is full and overflowing.

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Meet My Community – Ña Celia, Mother of 12

June 19, 2014

 

I first met Ña Celia in November 2012 during training on what was called “Future Site visit”, my brief, initial visit to meet the community a few weeks before I was to actually move here. The current volunteer introduced me to neighbors and the projects he had worked on and one afternoon we went to Ña Celia’s house for a rezo. It was the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. That day I also learned she’d lost her home and everything she owned to a prairie fire just months before losing her husband. Despite these tragedies and me being a complete stranger, she welcomed me with outspread arms and a radiant smile as if she’d waited her whole life to meet me. With the top of her head coming to just my chin, I leaned down to exchange the traditional double-cheek greeting kiss and was offered a seat on the rustic bench made of a single plank between two tree stumps alongside other neighbors. After the service as we began taking our leave, she urged me back to visit once I moved and got settled in.

 

One day while waiting together at the bus stop I asked about her husband. They’d been married 35 years and she spoke so fondly of him. I asked if she missed him and she nodded with a wistful, longing smile. But when I asked if she planned to remarry, her eyes flew open with a mischievous twinkle and firmly answered with a chuckle, “Oh No! I loved my husband and we had a good relationship but I’m enjoying my freedom! Husbands are a lot of work!” I roared with laughter.

 

Like most Paraguayans this gentle woman in her mid-50s is light-hearted and friendly, seemingly unphased by anything. I guess after bearing 12 children (ages 14-39) and being blessed with 18 grandchildren you’ve seen it all and no longer sweat the small stuff. When I heard that her entire family was coming to visit for semana santa in April I made a plan for a group photo of her with all of her children. Printed photos are so rare here that I thought it would be a lovely surprise at the end of my service to give to her. I went to visit the Friday of semana santa, which is like a day of rest here. On this day, Paraguayans eat nothing but chipa, which would have been made on Wednesday or Thursday. I arrived to another warm, heart-felt greeting, and was introduced to all those present and available, which unfortunately was not the whole clan. When we finally settled down for a cool drink she began naming and describing all of her family: children, their spouses, grandchildren, in order of age. I commented how she had enough family to make her very own pueblo right here. “Pueblito!” she shrieked with laughter and tears stinging her eyes, nearly falling out of her chair from the hilarity of the idea. It’s now July and I continue to hear her tell the story of her pueblito. Here are some photos we managed of the day, her little house on the edge of the prairie, full of love and family.

 

Ña Celia with several of her 12 children and 18 grandchildren!

Ña Celia with several of her 12 children and 18 grandchildren!

Daughter showing off their pet parrot, known as Loro, which traveled on a motorcycle to join the family for semana santa.

Daughter showing off their pet parrot, known as Loro, which traveled on a motorcycle to join the family for semana santa.

Semana santa - Na Celia 010

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The Places That Scare You

“Serve somebody.” – Andrea Balt

July 18, 2014

 

I recently came across my copy of The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron. If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to make it part of your library. Rather than running away, denying or hiding, this Buddhist nun encourages us to go to those places that scare us, feel the feelings that terrify us, have the conversations that make us uncomfortable, find compassion for those who seem unworthy, touch those dark places in our lives, have patience with others who attempt the same. It takes courage, it can be daunting. We may flounder over and over in our attempts. She didn’t say it would be easy. She does say it will be worth it.

 

With these thoughts swirling in my head today, it seemed fortuitous that I came upon this post written in January but somehow never posted. It’s too precious not to share as it was perhaps one of THE best discussions of the year with a host country national.

 

My adult English student, one of the most intelligent, curious and progressive Paraguayans I’d met, was completing his law degree and learning English in preparation to live in the US someday (after being Paraguay’s next President…I love his gusto). Part of our English class involved an hour of cultural discussion and my topic this day was homosexuality, chosen specifically after witnessing his negative reaction to it in a prior session. What ensued was enlightening yet heartbreaking, curious yet disturbing.

 

He explained the machismo attitude in Paraguay that prevents people, especially men, especially in the campo, from discussing the topic, befriending a gay individual, supporting gay marriage or adoption of children to gay parents, or defending gays in any way. He says it’s custom, it’s in Paraguayans’ blood to feel this way. I called bullshit. He talked of how gays have no friends and are regularly harassed. I asked if he would feel the same if his brothers were gay. Would he desert them? Turn his back on them? He said it was more complicated than that; that children of gays would be harassed and completely unsupported in the school system and have terrible lives. He reiterated that gays have no friends. I asked if he felt gays were “bad people”; no, not at all, it’s just custom not to like them (my jaw dropped for a moment, and I had to recompose myself.) I asked if he felt all people in the world were equally human. Yes, yes he did. With feelings and the same needs to want family, friends, love, acceptance, and community? Yes, absolutely. Then… why? “It’s custom,” was the reply. “We don’t break custom.” I asked how he would feel about this type of treatment from others if HE were gay? Eyes lowered. No answer.

 

We argued over the Paraguayan viewpoint that being gay is a choice. I insisted otherwise and asked why anyone would CHOOSE a life of harassment, no friends, secret love, and limited options in life? He then understood. I suggested that, because of his education and career path as an attorney and community leader, he will ultimately be more influential than many here, and perhaps he could start changing the custom by changing his perspective, and then implementing those changes little by little, especially when he becomes President (it was time for a little humor by now).

 

While he didn’t feel capable of breaking custom or habits himself at this time, he understood my points and promised to teach more tolerance to his child when the time came. At least the seed is planted. If I make no other noticeable contributions during my service, planting this seed in an individual capable of running with it and instigating the conversation with others will be a worthwhile contribution in my eyes and hopefully someday in the progress of this country and those suffering from a nation that lacks understanding and compassion in this area. This topic is a Place that Scares people. Fortunately, it doesn’t scare me. In fact, I want to do everything I can to light that dark place with love and understanding, one seed, one conversation at a time, if necessary.

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Father’s Day

Be present and count your blessings. -WW

June 15, 2014

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there and a special note of thanks for my very own, very special Dad:

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you for all these years of love, guidance, and being there through thick and thin. Thank you for being a model of integrity, generosity, kindness, gentleness, and accepting others as they are without judgement. Thank you for showing me that we need make no excuses for who we are. Thank you for teaching me that quietness is not weakness, but rather strength lying in wait. Thank you for making your family a priority. Thank you for offering a safe, nurturing home where respect, values and hard work were emphasized. Thank you for marrying Mom. Thank you for participating in our lives and our children’s lives and for creating beautiful, grounding memories along the way. Thank you for all you have been and are. You mean the world to me. Lots of love today and always. Wen 

 

Today is Father’s Day in both the US and Paraguay. I honored the husband of my host family with a large pan of chocolate brownies with which he was ecstatic and slightly possessive. This earned me a lunch invitation where we feasted on BBQd pork, sopa, and cabbage salad. Two of his older kids (seven total) made the long journey from Asuncion to join us. This family is always joking, laughing, smiling and loving each other and today I reveled and found comfort in that love, grateful to be included.

 

After lunch I made a visit to one of the poorest families in my community. I think for the first year, the kids were afraid of me but one day as they returned from the local despensa with flour and sugar and our paths crossed while I was out for a morning run, they joined me. Barefoot and hair askew they ran alongside me, occasionally racing me despite pounds of food in their arms. We laughed and giggled the whole way. It was our breakthrough and they’ve smiled, waved and said hello to me ever since. My heart smiles at the thought every time. And so I watch them as we slowly come to know each other and it is clear the family doesn’t have much. Though it is winter, I’ve seen these kids come to school without shoes or warm clothes. Their clothes appear to be handed down through many siblings. I have refrained from giving gifts or give-aways in my site for a variety of reasons but today I made an exception. I received some great toys and socks from friends in the US and decided this family would be the recipient of that generosity. The mother was delighted and the kids were initially apprehensive, afraid to believe luck might allow them to possibly keep these goodies. But then the smiles came. Big broad smudgey grins, twinkly eyes, giggles and squeals. The four-year old held a tiny doll in her grubby hands and stared, fascinated. I don’t think she’d ever had a doll before and didn’t even know how to play with it. I took it and showed her how to move the legs and arms to make her appear to dance and twirl. Her eyes lit up. Her whole face smiled. Her shoulders hugged her ears in a bashful display of excitement. She paraded back and forth past me every couple of minutes, looking me straight in the eye with her radiant face as if to say thank you, because she had no words. The older siblings aged 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 (yes that mama is GUAPA) took turns trying out their toys in the privacy of the tiny, run-down house and then eventually running around the yard with them. Wow. Talk about feel-good, warm fuzzies! I wish I could see this happen every single day.  It’s not the kids’ fault they are poor but there are plenty of things I can do to lift them up and make those kids’ lives a little brighter, material goods aside. A kind smile and a bit of encouragement goes a looooooong way.

 

Finally, to end the day I went to a neighbor’s rezo. Immediately, a man in his 60s began asking if I knew him. Whoa – Of course! When I first moved to my community in December 2012 I joined my host family for a New Year’s Eve party at this house where he and I danced and laughed ridiculously for HOURS until the rain drove us under cover (We made our own version of Dancing with the Stars, or better yet, Dancing Under the Stars). And then in true Paraguayan fashion, everyone at today’s rezo began affectionately recounting the story of how he’d stole me from my younger dance partner after just one dance, and how we danced barefoot that night on the cool grass in the yard inside a seated circle of about 80 amused and enthusiastic family and friends, and then how we danced under the breezeway when the rain came and never sat down until the lightning brought that party to a halt. He’d worked hard to copy my style of ‘tango-accented-freestyle” while I’d done a terrible job mirroring his practiced Paraguayan dance moves. He promised to come back to dance with me again in November before I leave. I asked why he was waiting so long. Everyone had a good laugh and are looking forward to our finale.

On the way home, I paused in a secluded turn in the road and just stood still. I could hear my heart beat, the occasional snap of a branch breaking as a bird hopped through the canopy, the zippy buzz of a hummingbird behind me, the trickle of water making its way through the mud-laden ditch, the wind rustling the roadside leaves, the chirp of a cricket in the sugar cane field, the wooden knocking of tall bamboo against itself. I felt the hardness of the packed red soil under my feet, the weight of my empty backpack freed of its children’s treasures, the breeze lifting my hair, the smile creasing my eyes and the pressure of my heart swelling with joy and gratitude and love for the gifts of today. Some call it “stop and smell the roses.” I call it “be present and count your blessings.”

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Being Loved

“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” ~ Lao Tzu

April 25, 2014

Sometimes I hesitate to visit people in my community because I worry I’m bothering them when they have so much work to do. Recently, I had to swing by to see a senora and didn’t think it had been THAT long since my last visit but she quickly reminded me how wrong my philosophy was when she reveled in my presence at her front gate and told me I hadn’t visited since January 28 (she knew the exact date!) I was not a bother…she’d missed me. She held up that ‘mirror’ for me to show I still have some work to do on appreciating my value and allowing myself a more honest, and loving, take on the community’s image of me and my work. It’s nice to be loved.

Categories: Peace Corps Paraguay | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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