I officially made it one month in site before my first trip to Asuncion this weekend. As I understand from past volunteers and current friends, this makes me just about insane. And, to be fair, I was feeling a bit on the verge of cracking before the wee descanso. Thank the big man (or woman) up there for NVAC (not actually sure what that stands for now that I think of it... but it's a bit like student government for Peace Corps Volunteers- one rep from each geographical area). For my region in Departamento Caazapa, I am the NVAC representative. Which could sound important, until I say that I'm one of only three people I actually represent. :-P Yep, impressive! (Sense the sarcasm) Actually though, what that does say is that just about nobody is out here- so in a way it is impressive to be one of the few. Hmm... makes me smile inside.
Due to several days of rain prior to my trip, it was a bit difficult to get out of town originally. Luckily one of my closest neighbors to the south and I put our contacts together to find a night bus leaving my town for Asuncion that would get us there just in time to have dinner with our host families in the greater Asuncion area. What luck! If it hadn't of been for that bus we may never have made it at all- apparently all day buses had been cancelled. After a record-setting shortest-trip-I-will-ever-make-to-the-capital, I woke up in the same clothes as the day before at 5am at the terminal just in time to catch the very first bus of the day back out of town. Another 45 minute ride and I made it "home" just in time for breakfast with my host sister before school. It was so nice to go back to a familiar town. I can only hope it feels the same way returning to my site after several months. Nothing overtly special about the experience, just a shared mate, nap, terere, and casual conversation. I don't need much.
The Peace Corps committee meetings kicked off in a hurry at 1pm on Friday. First, the CoCoMu meeting with programs Ahendu (translation- "I hear") an American/Paraguayan concert series and Ahecha (translation- "I see") a photography class and exhibition of youth photos from around the country. If any of you readers ever make your way down here, I hope you have time to check out these super events! Second, popping around running errands such as getting my mail, picking up vitamins at the med office, finally getting my Paraguayan ID, helping out on the new civic ed manual another PCV has been putting together, etc. Third, Library Committee where I got to share my reads for the month (my personal goal is to read at least 2 books a month while I'm here- one for fun and one academically inclined- which may not sound like much, but it helps to keep me on track) and learn all about just how very involved PCVs are in community libraries. If there is one lasting legacy of Peace Corps Paraguay- libraries I feel will definitely be it. My site's library, in fact, was started by a PCV. Case-in-point.
By 6pm I was pretty much dead. Time for a sleep in the hotel- the first time I'd slept alone in my own room for quite some time. There's something to be said for all the personal space we get in the States- you just never realize how nice it is until it's gone.
The big celebration, wine with dinner and the lot, started around 9pm. We found a wonderful bookstore/coffee shop near the hotel to relax and collect our thoughts. I was out cold by 1am- finally a real rest for the weary.
The next day I woke to a stellar continental breakfast- yes a real breakfast with toast and fruit and yogurt and coffee and all the wonderful things breakfast can be. For those of you that know me well, you may be awestruck that I am actually enjoying breakfast here, but I guess I finally decided that I like to eat in the morning. Yes, I'm growing up and out of my adolescence. Por fin! My breakfast binge carried on into my first ever NVAC meeting at 10am with bottomless juice and even a bagel with lochs for brunch. This was indeed the day of food (later on I also had a salad and an amazing veggie fajita plate at the PCV favorite Mexican place) and it was amazing. Anyhow- I learned a ton during the NVAC meeting from the happenings of every committee from the Seed Bank to Gender and Development to Thanksgiving. I also was briefed on security, comings and goings of PC staff, an up-and-coming Peace Corps University for sharing the wealth of resources out there amongst volunteers, and new potential site assignments for G-34. All that knowledge flowing through my veins- how great to feel informed and inspired once again. Everyone says that meetings are quite boring things, but I rarely find that to be the case. There is always something to be gained from throwing around ideas, voting, debating, laughing. I left with so many more ideas and plans then when I came.
Saturday night I spent with old and new PCV friends to celebrate the Coordinator for Community Economic Development's birthday. What fun! While I am always partial to the dancing portions of any night out, I had a lovely time talking to volunteers at all stages of their service- on the way out, mid-point, brand-new -it's certainly a ride unlike any other. I've been here for nearly 4 months and yet I feel so very fresh to the experience, not yet hardened by the crusty red mud, a mixture of failure, mis-trust, and loneliness. Will I look and feel the same as them after my first year? The second?
The long bus ride home (during the day this time), I couldn't bring myself to sleep. Flying by town after town, comparing the scenery of one departmento to the next, I wondered what my place is here. Some cities with park benches, sidewalks, and paved roads... others with little more than wooden shacks along the highway. All of it rolling on by. How should I start again in my town? Where to pick up after a weekend such as this? A call from my new host family broke the pensive humming of the micro- I've got dinner tonight with Pa'i and a meeting with the cooperativa tomorrow. So much for the wonder of it all. Back in Caazapa, back online.