Friday, March 20, 2009

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." - 3.20.09

A moment of clarity at Cerro Yaguaron in March

So here I sit, approximately two-and-a-half months since returning from my trip home for Christmas, and still a month before that since I wrote my last blog entry. Where have I been you ask? Everywhere from the depression-induced low of having to readjust after my visit home to the highs that come with meeting new Paraguayan friends and living life down here to the fullest. If anything, I am fully confident that my coping mechanisms are in overdrive. Let's start with the sad stuff first.

My visit home for Christmas can be described in one word: bittersweet. The sweetness of course was being reunited with my friends and family, after having spent the longest time away from them until that point. The bitter part, which I tasted even before I left Paraguay, was knowing how fast the time would fly, how potentially traumatic it could be, and also knowing that I would not be able to see everyone as I would have preferred. While I was home, I almost felt like I was living out the last days of my life - trying to spend as much time with everyone as possible, still having time to lay around and relax at home, trying to buy up all the necessities to take back with me, even eat what seemed like my last meals! And of course, as my return date back to Paraguay approached, so did the anxiety we felt when I was preparing to leave in May 2008. However, leaving the States a second time was actually 10 times worse than before. The lump in my throat began to form as Lil' Mommy and I approached Dulles Airport and were in full torrential swing when she walked me to the security checkpoint. My heart was broken all over again, as my responsibilities in Paraguay snatched me from my mother's breast, just as the anticipation of what awaited had seven months before. I cried from Dulles to Panama to Peru to Asuncion. Although once I reached Asuncion, I begun to feel a little better, even better still when I stepped out into the warm air and familiar smells and surroundings of my current home.

When I finally arrived back in Valenzuela two days later, my recovery process continued to improve, until I was struck down by the entrance of a number of tarantulas into my house. Initially it was one per day for the first three days I was home, and then maybe one or two per week until I discovered the root of the problem. Let me make you understand how I absolutely loathe bugs, let along big, hairy, evil, devilish spiders that are, in most cases, poisonous. So here I was, by myself, literally confronted with the devil incarnate in my bedroom. It was unnerving, to say the least. As a result, I developed the obsessive-compulsive habit of checking upon entry every corner of every room of my house, and not taking a step without a broom in my hand just in case I found another one. I lost the peace of mind I once had in my home and felt like I no longer had any control of my situation. I wondered what I was doing here and why I was putting myself through such hellish challenges. I was happier when I was visiting my friends in their nicer houses or in a nice hotel in Asuncion. Finally, I realized that I had no choice but to regain control, leaning harder on my neighbors for solutions to my problem until I figured it out. I also began to cook more for myself instead of always eating with my host family, and taking other steps to regain my independence. The other week, I had two more get in after not having seen any in weeks, after which I quickly identified and covered the entry points to prevent their re-entry. I was finally in control!

While the "squatter situation" was comfortably under control, it was not until last weekend that the cleaning situation was effectively tackled. There are many times down here when I am reminded of just how much of a "lazy american" I am. Please believe me when I tell you that you have not seen people working hard until you come to a developing nation, especially one with a strong agricultural base, such as Paraguay. People wake up at the crack of dawn, work around the house or in the field, wash clothes by hand at a water spout a half mile from their house, come back and prepare lunch from scratch over a fire, maybe rest a little after lunch, head back out in the hot sun to gather firewood, come back and get dinner ready, bathe for maybe the third time that day, and then go to bed. You can't tell me that just reading that routine didn't tire you out. I swear, some days it's all I can do to wash my clothes and make my lunch. While this may not be everyone's routine, there is no shortage of housework down here with the abundance of red dirt and dust that gets into everything. Lil' Mommy asked about the potential for using a vacuum cleaner; I compared it to vacuuming dirt from the backyard. While I had been sweeping my house regularly, cleaning my bathroom and other more or less low impact cleaning, I had yet to tackle the numerous cobwebs on the ceiling and other more thorough chores. I knew I would hate doing them and it would put me in a bad mood by creating a bigger cleaning task. So it went undone, and I just continued living as I had been in my house. However, paying someone to clean your house is pretty normal in many houses down here, so I knew it would likely be the route I would take. My next-door neighbors have a family member that cleans their house and watches their little daughter, so they suggested I check with her about helping me out. And so it was that last Saturday Patricia came and delivered me from the filthy evil that was my house. The amount of dirt and debris that fell from the ceiling was UNREAL. From even my front porch, she went through the house like the white tornado. When she finished, my neighbors came in and said that it was as if the house was "breathing new air". I thought to myself, "Lawd I WAS NOT living right," and swore that I would never let it reach that point again. Even after she finished cleaning, I continued to do other chores around the house until almost 6pm. Cleanliness is certainly happiness!

Earlier this month I started my computer classes, which are going well so far. I have about 20 students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, two per hour, one hour each in the morning and afternoon. It is definitely an adjustment from being on vacation and not having to be somewhere at a certain time most days, but it will also be good to get back into the routine. We'll see how things go. I will leave you all with some pictures from the past few months I've been m.i.a on the blog...

Me and Paulette at Thanksgiving in Encarnacion

Me and Courtney in Asuncion watching the Super Bowl

Lazing around my friend's house in January; that thing on my arm is my lil fake boutaineer (sp?) i found. Yes, we were bored.

Supermarket in Asuncion - toothpaste, anyone?