Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened. ~Theodor Seuss Geisel

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The next day was really relaxing. I spent most of the day just hanging out around the house. Most of the family was gone for most of the day. I hung with my Sister while she washed clothes and rearranged her house. Then around 4:00, I went with her to pick the kids up from school.
I’ve had been to their school once before, and Mary has been asking me when I was going to come back to take pictures for a while now. This was my first real chance to do so, and it was a good feeling to pick them up for their school on my last full day in Paso de Oro.

I’ve already mentioned the education system in Paraguay in one of my earlier blogs so I’ll just make one comment about it now. You know that feeling in the atmosphere after a summer afternoon shower? The air is kind of moist and the ground is just a bit damp, but everything is starting to dry up? That is what the weather was like that day. Only 5 kids showed up out of Fabiola’s class of 14. The situation was even worse in Mary’s class. It wasn’t even raining, but because it wasn’t 100% ideal conditions outside, kids just didn’t come to school that day. That just shows the overall commitment to education in Paraguay. Not only do they only attend school for about 4 hours a day, but they also don’t show up at the slightest indication of bad weather. So even if the teachers were on point and the facilities sufficient, which they’re not, they would still be at a huge disadvantage.

Anyway, all of the kids in my family went, so I was super proud of that.

Fabiola was so excited to see me, and she got out of class a little early. She showed me around her school a bit and we played chase. She showed me where Mary’s class was, and when we walked up Mary was looking out the window at us. Shortly, Mary got out of class, and we headed for home.

On the way back from their school we stopped by a little store that is half internet café, half small clothes store to buy a few things for Mary and Fabiola, who are in desperate need of clothes. You should see how excited and grateful they were to receive a pair of jeans and some sandals. The sad thing is that my Sister didn’t even pay outright for those. She has a credit account with the owner of the store. She pays in small payments over a long period of time. That’s why she shops there instead of lots of other places. If that lady wouldn’t extend her credit, the kids would simply go without decent clothes. If Mary gets straight A’s on her report card, she’s going to get some boots. She’s working really hard to earn those boots. She’s waited a while for these jeans and she says once she has the boots, she’ll have a complete outfit. When she got home, she did exactly what most kids, around the world, do after buying new clothes...tried them on and showed them off. She was so proud of her new jeans and it made her day. It made me think of when Churches, non-profits, and other groups send packages filled with basic items and maybe a few toys overseas to those who won’t receive anything else for Christmas. When we were filling the boxes, I used to think how the kids were probably upset to find toiletries, underwear, etc... in their boxes. Now, I don’t think that at all. I bet those kids light up.

How spoiled we are in the States right? I used to get money and clothes were a given...a necessity. In my opinion something that I needed anyway didn’t count as a special prize for making good grades...the ways my perspective is changing... Here parents have to use things that they know they have to buy anyway as incentives, because there isn’t enough money for luxuries.

That night we had my despidida (going away party). Before eating, Fabiola and Mary danced traditional Paraguayan dances for me.

My family went all out for me. My brother bought a chicken, my Mom killed one, and I threw in to buy another chicken, and added in the meat I had purchased from Mary. We also had rice, salad, and of course there was mandioca. Papá even drank wine, and he hardly ever drinks.

I was kind of out of it during the dinner because I knew this was the last time we would all be together for a while. It was a lovely dinner, and afterwards people made a few toasts/chants for me.

I sat back and looked at the family, and in my mind it was like a scene from a movie or TV show. You know...the drama has built up for a while and the conflict finally solved. Everyone gets together at a Christmas or a Thanksgiving meal. Some witty comments are thrown around between family members, and then the camera starts panning out. You can hear all sorts of conversations going on, and the clanking of dishes. People are reaching across the table, and it’s such a nice, warm family scene. Music starts playing and the picture pauses in that moment and then fades away into the black screen with the rolling white credits. Happily Ever After...

Well my story didn’t exactly end that way, because I’m one of the characters. It’s the camera that stops filming, but the characters go on living.

The kids finished eating and went to the front of the hosue to play. I stayed at the table chatting with the adults a bit, and then went to join the kids. I saw Fabiola sitting along with the saddest look on her face. It broke my heart. I sat down next to her and gave her a big hug and consoled her. Later, I came back into the living room, and she had fallen asleep there. I sat down beside her, and just watched her sleep for a bit. I started having memories of us together, and thought about how much she likes me and how much I like her. It broke my heart, and I began to cry. In fact as I type this I’m overwhelmed with emotion and tears are welling up in my eyes. I love that little girl.

I walked outside to get myself together, where I was met by my good brother, Agusto. This made me break down even more. He tried to tell me that we would talk on the phone, I could come back to visit, and that I would meet new people in San Juan, and that everything was going to work out. I told him it would never be the same, which is true. It never will be the same as it was. We had a good conversation about how crazy it is that complete strangers from two different parts of the world can become so close so quickly, how happy and comfortable I was there, and how I could have not found a better family with which to live for my first 3 months in Paraguay.

After our conversation he went to bed because he had a long day of work and another long one ahead of him the next day. We were going to say our goodbyes then but I told him to wake me up in the morning before he left for work.

I talked to my niece for a while and then went inside and played Go Fish with the kids.

Before too long, people started heading to bed, and I did the same.

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The next day I woke up and played Crazy 8s with Mary and Fabiola. I played a while with the kids and then began to pack. Fabiola was my little helper. She wanted to put things in my suitcase, so I just let her as I was arranging everything else, and then redid it later. As I was packing I gave Fabiola the Crazy 8 cards, because she still needs to learn her colors and numbers, and this would make for a fun and educational gift for her. I gave Mary and Fabiola toothbrushes, and gave them each a spiral notebook I had bought and not used. I also gave them a few pencils. These gifts basically represent what I hope for them. I hope that they maintain their hygene and health (toothbrushes), study hard so that maybe one day they can go to University (pencils and notebooks), and also that they play and enjoy each other(crazy 8 cards).

Mary, Jessica, and Jacquelin all went to school so I had to wish them goodbye. I know I’m coming back so it wasn’t so bad. Once I finished packing everything, my Dad helped me take my stuff outside to the road. Then we took some pictures and waited on the bus, which came all of a sudden and kind of rushed my goodbyes.

This whole process has been full of goodbyes. First I told my friends goodbye in Columbia, then I told my family goodbye, then more friends in Spartanburg, my parents at the airport, my Peace Corps friends after the swearing in weekend, and now my training host family. I guess I’m getting training in goodbyes for a reason. I’ve gone away before, and moved around a little, but this is on a completely different level.

I hugged my Mom and sister and told them I would see them later. I gave Fabiola a big hug and told her how much I loved her, and that I would see her later.

My Dad and I loaded my stuff up on the bus and boarded. As the bus drove down the long dirt road, I stuck my head out the window and waved at the family I had grown to love in such a short time, and then I just watched Fabiola get farther and farther away from me until eventually I couldn’t see her any longer. Then I turned around in my seat and looked out towards my future while nostalgically remembering my past.

It was an hour and half to Asunción, and a few hours waiting at the bus station. My kind Dad didn’t have to but insisted on waiting with me until my bus departed. Within a few hours the bus arrived. We walked over and put my luggage on the bus. I told him how appreciative I was for having me in his house and how much I enjoyed my time there. I told him to tell me if Paso de Oro plays in the championship because I’ll come back for it. He wished me luck, we shook hands and said goodbye.

And with that I boarded the bus, which was empty, put my backpack in the overhead compartment, sat down, started a playlist on my ipod, and started the next phase of my Peace Corps Adventure.

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