Assimilation is the name of game for the Peace Corps volunteer. That means absorb and integrate, become part of your host community’s culture. But, assimilation is a balance between integrating and staying true to your being. It’s more of a give and take than a transformation. Here are some things I’ve changed and some things I fight to keep in my life as I adapt to Paraguay.
Things I’ve changed:
- Ugh, I won’t wear sunglasses. My eyes are very sensitive to light, but people here don’t wear sunglasses and they think it’s standoffish if you do. I stopped wearing them (though I’ll probably get wrinkles from squinting and the sun gives me headaches).
- You’re right, let me minimize my time mingling with men. Interactions between the sexes are just too complicated and sexually charged in almost every setting but professional ones. It’s easier to just chill with kids and woman.
- Fine, I’ll drink coffee…and eat bread and meat all the time. I wasn’t a big fan of any of those things in the states but they’re staples here.
- You know, sitting doing nothing for hours isn’t so terrible. I was one of those people who always had to be doing something. But, in Paraguay, sitting together is a huge social activity. It’s kind of the core of everything and, now that I’m used to it, I kinda like it.
- Yeah, waiting is just part of life. Just plan for double or triple the time you think it should take when preparing to do something. Then, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if it happens faster.
- Okay, I can eat faster. I don’t know how Paraguayans do it, but they are rapid-fire eaters.
Things I’ve kept:
- No, I’m not here to look for a boyfriend. Questions about my love life and cat calling are part of life here. But, that doesn’t mean I have to embrace them.
- Sorry, I can’t say I like listening to the same genera of music all day, everyday. Paraguayans LOVE their music, which is nice but it’s either cumbia or polka…which I only enjoy in SMALL doses.
- Correct, I believe as a woman I have the same freedoms as men. I’m never going to believe things like: “when women are menstruating they shouldn’t shower” or “we aren’t made to do certain jobs”. Sure, I can’t pee standing up and that’s annoying, but I’m not delicate.
- Yep, I do stuff by myself all the time. Just because I’m in my room or walking alone doesn’t mean something is wrong. I just enjoy alone time and being independent sometimes.
- Nope, I’ll just take the bus or walk. It’s a Peace Corps rule that I can’t ride motorcycles and dirt bikes. Yeah, it’s an annoying rule on the surface, but I’ve also seen how people drive motorcycles in Paraguay and I’ve read the stats. I don’t want to die.
- Well, I’m just going to tell it how it is. Communication in Paraguay is indirect (people usually don’t say exactly what they mean). But, I’m going to be blunt. Yes, I will do everything in my power to be polite, but I’ve worked my entire life to avoid beating around the bush.