Last week, I went on my first site visit. In pairs we (the trainees) traveled to a current volunteer’s site to learn about volunteer life. I was ecstatic to finally see a site after spending weeks discussing sites theoretically—it sunk in that in only a little over a month I too will live in a site of my very own.
Sleeping in, taking siesta, selecting my own food… my wonderful host spoiled me.
The visit shed light on the Paraguay beyond my training community. The department that I visited, Paraguarí, is green and tranquil. During the visit we hiked along a stream with little waterfalls, viewed the plains from a hilltop garnished with palms, and enjoyed the vibrant sugarcane fields.
Through the course of the visit two contradicting feelings bubbled through me: excitement and dread.
Daydreaming about what my house would look like was the root of my excitement. Seeing how my host had decorated her mud and brick house walls, stocked her kitchen with all kinds of goodies, and shared her space with an energetic cat I’m itching to get started with my own homestead in Paraguay.
Dread came from an entirely different place: reality. Despite my host’s positivity there are slow times (no tangible work) and hard times (rumors, gossip, etc.) between the rewarding times (little victories). The visit showed that we volunteers are not in control of our work. As a volunteer we have a responsibility to put ourselves out there, build relationships, offer our ideas, lend a hand, but in the end all projects, work, and relationships come back to the Paraguayans of our community. What I mean to say is that pure desire to work hard doesn’t guarantee that you will accomplish any project that you can report on—a project that has numerical results (i.e. things produced). Being a volunteer is the epitome of teamwork, you have to trust and work with others of a culture you are still learning to navigate.
I returned from the site visit with the vision that I’d be trapped in a rainbow for the next two years—caught in the rain and the sun at the same time.