On Thursday I was placed with my Paraguayan family—the people who I’ll be living with during the next 3 months of training. I have been invited into a very friendly—and very full—house. I have two host parents, Teresa and Basilio, and their five (!!!) sons: Diego and Fernando (identical twins; 24), Braulio (goes by Cacho, lives with his girlfriend; 22), Pablo (typical adolescent; 16) and Augusto (goes by Manú and is very cute; 10). I’m their third trainee. I must say, everyone is the house has made an effort to make me feel welcome and put me at ease, especially Fernando and Manú. Teresa is one of those tireless, thankless mothers who puts up with a lot. She has been extremely kind to me, and I’d like to think she enjoys having another female around. I don’t interact much with the father (he’s a mechanic), but I’m okay with that.
My housing situation is very basic but safe. I have a room with a locking door, a single bed with a thin sheet on top (which I supplemented with my own sheet set), a desk, a little table that serves as a night stand, a broken-but-repaired-with-paperclips plastic lawn chair and a very, very old couch. I have curtains that cover a barred window (no glass) and a ceiling fan. That’s it. I’m not gonna lie, the first time I walked into the room I had a definite moment of culture shock. Without my stuff in it, I looked like a nun’s cell, with peeling green paint and wires falling out of the wall. However, now that I’ve unloaded my stuff and adjusted to my perception, I’m actually really happy with my housing. After all, I have running water, electricity, a place to put my stuff, and people to socialize with. That’s all I really need (or was promised, for that matter.)
My family’s house is about a 20-minute walk from the training facility and a ten-minute walk to the plaza. I’ll use this information as a segway into a rather embarrassing experience that happened to me today. This Saturday, we only have language class in the morning, so after I ate lunch with my host family, a group of trainees and I went into downtown Guarambaré for Internet and shopping. I left around two. My friend, Rose, and I went to a cyber cafe and then walked around the commercial district. I needed to buy a couple things for my bedroom—like a pillow—and a bag for my school supplies. All in all, this took about 3-4 hours. Then, Rose invited over to her house, where I met my host mother and four of her host siblings. Her host family runs a small cheese factory, so we ate cheese, drank tereré, and played Uno. I was feeling really good about myself for a while there: I had emailed my family and updated my blog, found and purchased everything I needed, and made new friends, all while speaking in Spanish. Around dusk, Rose and her oldest host brother walked me home. As I entered my house, feeling proud like a peacock, Manú stopped me and said that his mother has been looking for me. For hours. Shit.
I’d like to take this moment to explain that I told both my host parents separately that I was going to the plaza at two and that I returned before it was fully dark out. I walked accompanied the entire time. I typed, I shopped, I played cards with children. Unfortunately, host mama had no way of knowing this. After I didn’t come home for a couple hours, and with no way to contact me, she basically flipped a shit. She went to the houses of other trainees (of course, not Rose’s) and enquired about my whereabouts. After not finding me at their houses, she got a search group together of three other families, and they circled the neighborhood looking for me. I didn’t find all of this out until later, and when I did I was completely mortified. Mor-ti-fied. Like, wanted to dig a hole in the sandy, red Paraguayan dirt and die. To her credit, Teresa didn’t yell or get mad when she saw me, and of course I apologized profusely. And I will continue to beg forgiveness for many days to come.
This whole incident has got me thinking about what exactly I should have done differently. I realize now that I put Teresa in a terrible situation. Just this morning, she had to walk me to school because I don’t know the way yet, and then I go off for several hours without an exact itinerary or return time. But I also understand my own thought process: I told my parents I was going out, left, and then returned at a reasonable hour. There’s nothing wrong with that. Next time, though, I’ll be sure to mention names, places, and return times. Teresa will have my plans in writing. Promise, promise.