My 5 favorite things about Paraguay so far:
1. My Paraguayan welcome
I have a host family, Paraguay PC staff, and whole community welcoming me and supporting me as I try (not without hilarious misstep) to learn Guaraní and learn how to assimilate into Paraguayan culture. My language professors go out of their way to give me tips for communicating with my family and my family members repeat themselves a million times as I learn.
2. Tropical fruit actually grows on trees
Yep, that’s right, my neighbor has a mango tree and we have oranges, grapefruits, and lemons (not to mention all the wonderful fruits whose names I haven’t learned yet).
3. Learning about a new culture
The thing about the PC is you’re not just trying to learn about the culture of your country of service, you are trying to know it well enough to operate within the system. This is frustrating, no doubt, but it’s neat when you realize you are flexible enough to adapt your life to fit a different mold.
4. Other volunteers
Every person in my volunteer class has an interesting and unique story. This is particularly cool because despite our diversity we have something in common: We agreed to leave whatever we were doing to come to Paraguay.
5. Time to reflect
There is a lot of time to just sit, stare at the lawn, and drink tereré. Sitting time is thinking time and it’s nice to have time to think built into daily life.
The 5 most challenging things about Paraguay so far:
1. The heat
It’s too hot to think or move several hours a day.
It’s a unique language. The challenge is learning new words and how to make new sounds. I anticipate many stumbling conversations in the coming months and years.
3. Pace of life
While it’s nice to have plenty of time to reflect, life moves a lot slower than it does in the US. Coming from a city, I will need to creatively come up with ways to stay busy after training.
4. Adjusting to a new culture
Did you know the typical greeting wave of the US (made by keeping your hand upright and moving fingers up and down) doesn’t mean “hi,” it means “come”? Did you know that in Paraguay dogs are kept as guards, not really as pets? These are just several examples of the many small things that make life different here.
5. Availability of things
Tampons and candy bars, no you can’t just find them at the corner CVS. I’m slowly learning about all the little stores in my community. I visited the one “large” supermarket the other day. There is nothing like the box stores you’ll find in a US strip mall here and nothing like the variety you’ll find in the shampoo aisle of Walgreens.