This month we were very excited to welcome Alli’s best friend Julie to Paraguay. It was such a wonderful visit filled with food, Michimi, drinking terere, meeting our Paraguayan and Peace Corps community, more food, more Michimi, and then a quick jaunt to Argentina. We invited Julie to write about her experience, so without further ado…
I am extremely grateful that I was able to visit Alli and Dylan in their home of Yatytay, as well as explore Argentina for a little R & R. Back in 2014, Alli visited me in the Dominican Republic during my Peace Corps service. She was an excellent visitor– despite knowing minimal Spanish beyond, “tengo hambre” (I am hungry). She made lasagna in 100 degree heat for my women’s group graduation, took an 8 hour long bus ride with no A/C, and jumped off a cliff into the ocean with me.
So when I slyly mentioned to Alli, “Did you know that Peace Corps is allowing for domestic partners to serve together?” the seed of Peace Corps was planted and began blossoming before my eyes. Fast forward five years and here we are full circle!
Throughout the visit, Alli and Dylan allowed me to go down memory lane of my own Peace Corps experience and discuss similarities and differences between the two cultures of Dominicans and Paraguayans. So I thought I would highlight some experiences in Paraguay that reminded me of my own: the youth, the people, the free time, and “treat yo’ self” moments.
During taco night at Alli and Dylan’s house, some youth from the town’s ecological committee came over and they were pumped about their upcoming training with other Paraguayan youth leaders. Alli and Dylan are able to collaborate with this committee, who took the lead with the tree planting project at the waterfall, as well as beautiful signage on protecting the environment. Alli and Dylan are able to obsess over cats (mainly Michimi), sing The Greatest Showman soundtrack, and work well with this great group. Their work and interaction with these young adults reminded me the impact of empowering youth to take the initiative with projects and let them run with it
Alli and Dylan have their “go-to people” who were so welcoming. Their neighbor/landlord/friend, Margarita, invited us over to exchange recipes. She was in love with the brownies with peanut butter frosting that we made with her and her daughter. Then the following afternoon she made us la sopa (Paraguayan cornbread with a sponge-texture) for an afternoon snack and mbeju (pan fried cornbread) for breakfast.
Even passing around terere, which you sip from a shared cup and a straw, Alli and Dylan pointed out that you share regardless of socioeconomic status, and anywhere in the country, Paraguayans always have their thermos and guampa (cup) on hand ready to share.
Free Time and Food
With some extra time during school vacations (which the entire town celebrates), the kitchen is a great space to get creative and to pass time.
With their green grass and red dirt, a common and proud phrase of Alli and Dylan is, “We grew that in our garden!” They currently have chives galore, cucumbers (they made the pickles with that!), and dill. They recently planted peppers, too. Pretty cool to see what is able to grow in the red dirt– and said red dirt’s ability to get everywhere and to stain clothes.
Delicious pickles, homemade breads, tacos with homemade tortillas, creamy pasta, and curry were some of the dishes we enjoyed together. Dylan is diligently gathering recipes in a notebook so I cannot wait to see the final compilation after this year of service. I’m thinking of cookbook titles such as “Alli and Dylan Dish Food and More!” or “If You Can’t Handle 110 Degree Heat, Then Stay Out of Yatytay.” Still brainstorming…
“Treat Yo Self”
Following the wise words of Parks & Recreation stars Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, anywhere in life humans deserve to treat themselves, and during the Peace Corps service, it can come in a variety of forms. For Alli, that is singing original songs to Michimi and, for both of them, it is enjoying a pasta and salad bar at Bellini’s. As a one year (and counting!) married couple, they show their appreciation and love for one another every single day. Dylan begins the breakfast prep even before I can say good morning because he knows Alli’s need to eat within 10 minutes of waking up—and it must be protein. Alli will modify Dylan’s man-bun to perfection with so much thought and care. And there are obviously a million other adorable things they do for one another but I do not want to keep you on this blog all day.
I am so glad I was able to make this trip and share and create new memories with Alli and Dylan. I cannot wait to see what 2019 brings their way!
Check back later for a collaborative blog post on adventure to Argentina and our plans to move there some day—just kidding, Peggy and Debbie! 🙂