I’m currently sitting in a cafe in the San Salvador airport waiting for my plane to Guatemala and then Chicago.
Lots of things on my mind:
1. I love coffee shops. I’m happy to be sitting in one and I can’t wait to sit in lots more while I’m home. I think I spent at least 40% of my waking time in college in a coffee shop.
2. I love Colombians (and RPCVs). I made friends with a couple on the way back from their gorgeous wedding in Cartagena (I saw the photos on the old city walls!). The man was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia about 14 years ago and talked about how it influenced his life path, taught him a lot about himself (including his desire/need to see results in the work he is doing), and taught him to go with the flow. I connected to a lot of what he was saying and I’m happy to be able to spend the next year furthering that learning process.
3. I love Paraguayans. On Wednesday I had my one year site visit with my sector director and I felt like it was really productive. She talked with all of the people I work on projects with (without me in the room) and seemed to get glowing feedback from them all. Showing and explaining to her my successes and challenges of the last year also helped me realize I need to give myself a little more credit. She says I got all of the hard parts of the job done the first year and now get to move into more of the fun stuff. She also gave me permission to make a t-shirt to wear around that says “No soy misionera” (I am not a missionary– a very common confusion). She also helped me better define what my projects can look like for the next year and I’m really excited to return and get to work on it all. [spoiler alert: should everything go right I’m going to move into an old train station built in the 1860s that they’re remodeling into a cultural center!]
On Thursday I had a despedida lunch with my host family in Paraguari. It was my “uncle” who raised his 21 year-old niece since she was a little girl; his distant, distant nephew he took in so he could have access to a high school that offers 10th, 11th, and 12th grades; his cousin who recently lost her husband and her 12 year old son; his brother in law; and me. It was a glorious mix of individuals that they call family that most people would call a mix of strangers anywhere else. Having me at the table was just one more distant cousin– they say I share their last name, they just “can’t remember” anymore what family blood we share…does it matter anyways?
I ate the vegetarian lunch that the other aunt sent over from next door and we laughed and talked about the presents I would bring them from the U.S. (More accurately they talked in Guarani and I kept up the best I could inserting in a few well-received jokes in Spanish) Then they offered me their bed for a siesta (giving up your bed to your guest si o si is a common practice in Paraguay) and I happily accepted.
By the time I woke up an hour later they were busy moving all of the branches that they had “accidentally” started on fire (it was super windy that day) that my uncle promptly scolded them all in his loud voice saying that he was a “public figure” and needed to be an example for the neighborhood, they could not be burning all of the branches in the backyard.
They continued sweeping and moving things around the house, working hard but taking intermittent breaks every few minutes to just lose it laughing. “Did you see tio’s face!? He was so mad!” and breaking into impressions of his yelling speech.
Their laughing made me laugh…every time.
And I thought, I am extremely content to be here. And then I thought, I am extremely content to be going home and seeing my friends and family! And then I thought, I am starting sentences with “And,” (a very Paraguayan thing to do) so I guess we’ll call that integration.🙂