Well here we are again. Another relaxed day in Paraguay. Another stretch of us forgetting to write a blog post.
Right before we left for the states we passed 1 year in Paraguay (September 14). We are have now recently passed the one year mark in our community, December 2. It’s pretty insane how fast time flies by as an adult. When you’re a kid, all you want is to be older, and adults are literally ALWAYS saying how fast time goes, and that you need to slow down. Well, turns out they were right. Damn.
Even though a year isn’t that much time, it’s fun to look back on our progression here in Paraguay. The biggest thing that has evolved for us is definitely our language. When we arrived, our Spanish was BAD. Like, we could string some shit together, and stumble over it, and we could conjugate verbs, and our reading comprehension was passable…. But to actually SPEAK? To a real human person? Who couldn’t understand English? That was flipping terrifying. And that doesn’t even cover trying to comprehend someone speaking to us.
While we can now hold conversations without having a panic attack first, we realize that language skills aren’t the only ways of communicating. Our first host family, that received us on Day 1 in Paraguay, showed us nothing but unending kindness and warmth, and we REALLY couldn’t speak intelligently at that point. We also knew ZERO things about Paraguay, or Paraguayan culture (and to this day, we still make cultural gaffes, but they are fewer and further between), but their patience was incredible.
When our friend Nate came to visit in May, he also knew very little Spanish. But the way in which our community received him was so beautiful. Our friends spent evenings talking with him through Google translate (the power of technology!), playing music together, and somehow, forming bonds that could transcend language. Our host family in our community invited him over for a traditional Paraguayan barbeque, and showed them their farm. Our landlady made a big Paraguayan lunch, complete with sopa paraguaya (a cornbread-type dish). The ways in which people showed humanity without the basic common denominator of a shared language is something we hope to carry forward with us.
Just the other day, we received a message from our friend saying that he has noticed our language is improving and he is proud of us. Throughout all of this language learning, we have always been ready for comments such as, “why are you in a Spanish speaking country and don’t speak Spanish?” or “Why can’t you understand more Guarani?” or “Why is it taking you so long to learn this?” But, in reality, these comments rarely come, and we have been our largest critics. Most people we encounter have focused on the positives: How well we speak, and how much we’ve learned. This graciousness and positivity is something we need to do better at remembering in the moments when we are very frustrated.
The last year has been one of the most impactful thus far in our lives, and it’s hard to sum up all our feelings, and honestly, probably wouldn’t be that fun to read all that babble. So, while those who religiously read our blog (hey, Peggy and Debbie) may already know some of these, we wanted to make a list of some of the highlights from this past year.
- Meeting such an incredible group of volunteers – we are so inspired by all the work our colleagues are doing, and they help us to better understand this country and our place in it
- Spending our first 3 months in-country with an incredible host family and learning SO MUCH from our host sister Lisa
- Moving to our site!
- Staying with another great host family that helped us get acquainted with our site, and connected us to so many other people in the community
- Getting to see new beautiful places in Paraguay – Saltos Tembey, Cristal, San Jose and Amambay; the Jesuit Ruins; the beaches of Carmen del Parana; and various cities around the country
- Moving into our house, and working on projects in it, alongside our landlady Margarita
- Drinking so much tereré. SO MUCH.
- Nate Visiting!
- Speaking English with Andrew
- Cooking with our friends and watching them try spicy food and like it (most of the time)
- Our Tuesday night English class
- A reforestation project with the ecological committee
- Getting to work with the ecological committee more, and the president, Gustavo
- ADOPTING MICHIMI
- Our trip back to the USA to see friends and family, and go to our friends’ wedding
- Taco nights with our friends Daisy, Carol and Romy
- Going to Buenos Aires for our 1-year anniversary
- Spending all our time with Michimi
- Our Basura Cero project & working with all the teachers and students in the schools
- Our first international race – 10K
- Spending a lot of time with our cultural guide/friend, Santi, and his family
- Telling Michimi how beautiful he is, and making up theme songs for him
- Growing together (and spending literally every minute together and not hating it) in our first year of marriage
At the one year mark, we definitely already have stress about leaving Paraguay. This place has become our home, and we feel happy in our day-to-day. A few things we are looking forward to in Year 2:
- Continuing to learn and improve our language skills
- Visits from our parents! Kintish parents and Bell parents will both be making their first treks south of the equator in 2019, in February and April, respectively
- Visits from friends! We are so excited to be hosting a few different friends from the states in the coming months!
- Spending more time with our friends here in Paraguay cooking, and drinking tereré.
- Continuing to work in our patio area – growing more grass, and experimenting in our vegetable garden. Our patio was mainly just a dirt patch upon arriving, and with monsoon rains, it would become basically a giant mud pit. We have become a bit obsessed with our grass/garden – talking about it all the time, thinking about it, asking each other when it was last watered…. Etc.
- Visiting other volunteers and seeing new parts of Paraguay
- Expanding and continuing our Basura Cero project (Blog post coming soon on that.. we mean it. Soon. Within a week. Probably.)
The past year we have had some absolutely incredible experiences and we are sure that many are to come. At the same time, we have written a fair amount about how hard it is to live immersed in another culture, and the real frustrations that come along with it. To balance the two, something that we have started doing each night for the past two months or so, is to say what we are grateful for each day. Sometimes it’s as simple as “we are grateful for our bug net”, other days it is something as large as the support of love of our family and friends in the USA, or guidance and patience from a Paraguayan. Even on the days that we miss our families/friends/USA/driving/familiar food brands/etc. the most, there are so many things to be grateful for in our Paraguayan life, and we want to continue to be more cognizant of these things in the moment. We constantly speak about how through all of the difficult moments, we are truly happy and thankful for the life we have in Paraguay. Seeing how relatively fast this first year has gone, it is that much more apparent that we need to focus on our gratefulness and the positive moments, because before we know it, it will be 2020 and we will be back stateside, missing Paraguay more than we can imagine.
Peace and love to all of you in this holiday season. Hoping this finds you all well, and that we all can reflect on the things we are grateful for in the closing of another year.
Dylan and Alli