On Friday after my birthday, I headed into Asuncion to switch to a Tigo cellphone (the company that actually works in my site), do some research for my charla the following Monday, and see about my package that Lil' Mommy sent. It was indeed a happy birthday when I received it. And she even included her iPod so I can listen to all my music again all the time! Eric, Paulette and Rebecca also came in town so we went out for lunch. Like me, Eric was also going to Aveiro to visit his fam, so he and I headed out around 3:30. We were both talking about how great it felt to be "going home"; we got off at the stop to change buses and jumped on a crazily crowded bus that would take us to the entrance to the town. Eric was almost hanging out the door at one point - just like old times! We jumped off and started walking up the road to our houses, and it was immediately like we were in a different world, a familiar world that made us forget any anxiety we may have felt in our sites. We greeted the passers-by with the customary "Adios"; one woman even stopped to chat for a bit, saying that her daughter had gone by my brother's house looking for Tim the other day. Apparently the neice, who lived in Czech Republic and spoke English, came to visit and wanted to meet Tim and converse in English. I remembered them because the woman's daughter, who's maybe 16, came over and was chopping it up with Timmy at a 1-year old's birthday party and the mom came over and snatched her up like, time to go you fresh lil' hussy! It was hilarious. So I left Eric when I got to my house and he continued up the road.
I walked around the side of the house and entered through the kitchen shouting, "HOLA!!!!". Mama ran over and gave me a huge hug that brought a tear to my eye. We were so happy to see each other. My sisters came out of their rooms to greet me and I went to see Papa in the living room. I put my stuff down in my room and then Mama led me back out to the tv room so she could give me my birthday present. It was a really nice black cotton sleeveless shirt. She went into the kitchen and finished cooking the empanadas, one of my favorites, while Papa and I chopped it up. Once they were ready I went into the kitchen where we were joined by Gabi and Wilsin (my neice and sister-in-law, respectively), so we all hung out chopping it up. Wilsin remarked that I had lost weight since I left; Mama agreed, saying you could tell it by my face also. I told them my new family wasn't feeding as much as they used to, we all laughed. I watched tv for a bit and then retired to my room, watched part of Friday and then went to bed. The next morning, my other sister Muka arrived to get some clothes for a conference she had to attend that day, so she wouldn't be spending Saturday night and Sunday as she usually did. While they began preparing the water for mate, I went to see Misuri's new kittens that had just arrived the day before. They were teeny little things, too. We pretty much hung around most of the day Saturday; after lunch I talked to Lil' Mommy and then decided to visit my people in the town.
My first stop was Don Blasido's farm to see Na Dora, Angela, Noelia and their people. On the way I ran into Eric's host dad, Andres, who was making his usual number rounds on his bike. We talked briefly about how much weight Eric had lost, and how his Aveiro mom had made his favorite milanesa and salad the night before. We said goodbye and I continued up the road. When I arrived at Don Blasido's I received big hugs from everyone including Don Blasido, who is normally a handshake man. We sat and talked about Valenzuela, how things were going, how the other groupmembers were doing in their sites and various other topics of interest. They said that they missed me very much and thought that I might've forgotten about them since I hadn't been back for a few weeks. I told them that there were no other people like the ones in Aveiro, that I missed them too and that it would be impossible to forget them; they were family. We had some rolls and cafe con leche and, after having been there for well over an hour, I continued up the road.
The next person I saw was Miriam. Our next door neighbor at the house where we had training classes, she was one of the kids that would wander into the yard and play frisbee with us. She was very good - definitely better than the other little boys. She was twelve years old, and over time she became my little sidekick. Back when we all left at the end of training, she was also in tears. When she saw me, she screamed, "SASHAAAA!!!" and ran toward me. "MIRIAM!!!" I cried, and ran toward her. More big hugs. Her mother came out along with Eric's little sisters and we sat and chopped it up in Guarani. They were also concerned about Eric's weightloss. It was starting to get dark and I still had to go by Paulette's family's house, so Miriam and I walked over. Apparently Paulette had left her hiking boots and a mosquito net in her room there. Since she hadn't really mentioned missing her hiking boots and I already had a ton of stuff to take back to Valenzuela, I decided to leave them there and we could get them when we were all back for In-Service Training in November. Miriam and I rolled out and headed back to her house where I was also warmly greeted by her two grandmothers. One of them calls me "La Morenita Linda" and always gives me hugs; she is a darker-skinned Paraguayan - maybe slightly darker than I am. We brown-skinned people are always happy to see each other, I swear. Eric's host mom was back home so I went by to see her - more hugs of course. As it had been dark for some time, I didn't stay more than 30 minutes since I still had to walk back home. Just before I left Eric got back from playing volleyball and soccer with the guys so we also chopped it up. Of course the visit wouldn't been complete without some town gossip. During training, we would always talk about how Matt's host dad was really moody, at times downright standoffish. Matt was glad to leave when training ended. Now, three weeks later, Eric comes back and finds out that Matt's host dad has a new taxi and paid for lights on the soccer field. Keep in mind that he seldom works and the family's main financial support is from his wife who works as a domestic in Spain. Deductive reasoning would therefore lead one to conclude that he used the money he received from Peace Corps for Matt's room and board to finance his recent expenditures. Do y'all understand how some people have no shame?! All I know is that Hell is hot...I wrapped up the visit and got back home around 6:45pm. Mama had prepared my favorite ground beef with rice and veggies and lots of garlic. "Because I know how much you like garlic," she said. I punished it and then settled in for the night.
On Sunday we woke up and drank mate and then I ate my beloved buttered toast with dulce de leche. We are more modest folk here in Valenzuela, so I had missed the comforts of my home in Aveiro. Mama of course made sopa paraguaya as she does every Sunday. I went next door to my brother's and jumped on the internet for a bit, and for lunch there was of course the customary asado. After lunch Papa and I sat and chopped it up about my work in Valenzuela. At the end he said that he just wished me the best of luck and that the door was always open anytime I ever needed anything. It almost brought tears to my eyes because, while you know he cares, very seldomly does he say something so heartfelt. Instead of going to my room and taking a nap as I usually would, I went and finished packing, took a shower and then it was time to head to the bus stop. Rita and Mama drove me to the bus stop and waited with me until the bus came. Nothing like family. Period.