There is no such thing as an average day in the Peace Corps. Each day is filled with the mundane of living (cleaning, cooking, waiting…) and spiced with unexpected adventures. My projects and routines change with the seasons. During the school year I taught classes and during the vacations I visited friends and explored new places. This current period stands out because it is comprised of my final months as a volunteer in Paraguay and summer vacation. Despite the disparity in my activities, it is not completely futile to attempt to explain what a day in my life is like. There are two fundamental occupations that fill my time: fostering relationships and growing personally.
Peace Corps volunteers have three goals–to help people in their country of service gain new knowledge and skills, to share about American culture, and to learn about the culture of their host country. Those goals are a long-winded way of saying we volunteers are here to share all we know with whoever wants to listen and absorb as much as we can.
Most of the time outside of my house I spend with people in their homes. We sit. We drink terere. We talk. We cook. We eat. We stare into space. During my almost 2 years in Paraguay, I have already spent more hours visiting my dearest Paraguayan friends than I have spent with most of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the States during my life to date. Those hours of sharing with Paraguayans created the exciting events of my service: going to birthdays, being in a wedding, dancing all night, sharing Christmas dinner, going on road trips, and participating in religious activities like mass and patron saint’s day celebrations.
Even in the classroom, the relationships I developed with my students are what made me successful. By our second year together, my students were comfortable enough to ask questions about sex in my class–a feat in a country where the topic is usually only joked about in formal settings and invokes shame in most other contexts.
In summary, most of my energy in Paraguay is dedicated to visiting. You might ask, is visiting your job? Can visiting be a job? And my answer is a shrug. It’s not a 9-to-5 no matter how you look at it. But, this place is one where who, not what, one knows profiles and opens doors. I could not have taught English or youth development if my community members didn’t know me. They would not have trusted me with their children. I could not have thrived here without spending hours with my foreign friends. I would not have learned who I am. My friendships here gave me a professional and personal identity.
When I am not sharing time with people, informally at events and in homes or formally as a teacher, my energy is mostly dedicated to either doing personal projects or cleaning my house. I will spare you the details of housekeeping except to say that you should take a moment to imagine a life where the power and water do not always work and there is no trash pick up or dump, vacuum, dishwasher, or laundry machine. I promise, speaking from experience, that such a life is quite different from one with those luxuries. Personal growth is inescapable in the Peace Corps, especially in Paraguay where some hours of most days are too hot to do anything other than think. Amusement falls soundly on my own shoulders. I live alone. I am the only American in my community. To visit the nearest volunteer, though not far away, requires a bus odyssey. I can not spend every waking hour with Paraguayans. I do not have a TV. I can not stream videos. My technology prevents me from watching many videos. I can only read so much. I write. I play the guitar. I think….there is so much time to think about hopes, dreams, and wishes.
I typical day for me in Paraguay is a spread of eating, cleaning, chatting, writing, thinking, navigating, and enjoying what and who is around me.