When I’m speaking with other volunteers it’s easy to use phrases like “In real life…” or “If I were in the States…” to describe what I would do or think if I were living normally. With these phrases I infer that my time in Paraguay isn’t real life or that while I am in Paraguay I’m not who I really am.
Two years is a long time to take a break from “real life.” With this in mind, logical questions are: What makes Peace Corps life feel like it’s not part of my real life? And, how do I go about making Peace Corps part of my real life?
The first question is easy to answer. I left everything I had in the State to move to a country that has fewer resources and amenities. In addition, in my case, the life I had before the Peace Corps has ceased to exist forever. I gave up some freedoms by coming here and every day I’m fighting to navigate a culture that’s new to me. Further, I have to commutate my thoughts using a language I don’t use to think—things get lost in translation all the time.
Okay, so if that is what makes life in Paraguay feel unreal, how do I make it real? I started by changing my rhetoric and remembering that the things that were important in the US are still very relevant here. I tried to stop using phrases like, “In the States…” I also looked to incorporate the things that made me happy in the US into my life in Paraguay.
A huge breakthrough in my life in Paraguay was being invited to go to zumba classes with two Paraguayan friends, women my age, in my community. We have zumba class 3 times a week. A Paraguayan dance teacher teaches the class. It’s not a zumba you’ll find in the States—we dance mostly to cumbia and reggaeton—but it’s something I would love to do anywhere I live. There’s more to making life real, but zumba sure is a wonderful start.