“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” -Sam Keen

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks my one-year anniversary in Paraguay. It’s a happy day, and also a reflective one.

Has the time flown by? Yes and no. There were times in San Pedro where I’d literally watch the minutes on wristwatch tick away. There were also entire months that passed so quickly that I could barely catch my breath. Now I’m here in Caacupé, learning how to navigate my new community, my new role, my new contacts. I have so much more in my toolbox this time around and for that I’m grateful.

Now is the time that Peace Corps volunteers do some serious self-inventory. What have you accomplished in your service so far? What types of relationships have you built? Where do you see yourself at this time next year? Are you still happy you joined up?

In terms of accomplishment, I feel that I’ve grown a lot during my time in Paraguay. That response is stereotypical, and with good reason. I’ve learned how to manage awkward encounters and handle gossip and walk with my head held high while men hiss at me. I’ve learned to wash my own clothes without a machine and cut weeds with a machete and kill tarantulas with a squeegee. I’ve learned how to cook well with limited ingredients. I’ve learned how to drink tereré in the shade and talk about nothing for hours. I’ve learned that I can live well and happily without a lot of material things. I’ve learned that popcorn and whiskey are sometimes an appropriate dinner option. But I think the most important thing I’ve learned so far is how to advocate for myself. I never realized how important it was to develop that skill, especially as a woman. I’d still be in San Pedro, unhappy and unfulfilled, if I hadn’t stood up for myself. I only wish I would have done it sooner.

Workwise, I honestly don’t have much to show for myself. The reason for this is partly situational and partly personal. I hope 2012 proves to be much more fruitful in that respect, because I really do believe that education, with an emphasis on literacy and creativity, is this country’s ticket out of extreme poverty. It’s an uphill battle, especially when many involved in this country’s educational system have been so beaten down that they use apathy as a shield against years of disappointment and broken promises. Development work, by its nature, is slow and oftentimes frustrating. However, I feel that Caacupé will be much more receptive to some of the ideas I’ve been sent to promote.

I feel very lucky with the number of friends and contacts I’ve developed over the last year. I’m starting the process over again in Caacupé, but as I mentioned earlier, this time around I have much more cultural literacy. Plus, I’m not nearly as scared. Bad stuff happened and I’m still standing. I’ve already weathered a storm and I’m more confident in my ability to do so again, if necessary. But I really hope I don’t have to.

Next year, I hope to look back at my time in Caacupé with pride. I hope I’ll leave this place a little better off than when I came. I hope I’ll have some semblance of a plan for what my life will look like when I go back home. I hope I’ll continue to be happy.

And as for the last question, yes, I’m still glad I joined. Definitely yes.

1 comment:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Paraguay? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Paraguay in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Calle Valencia,39
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez