As a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay, I’ve developed many close relationships with my friends, neighbors and coworkers- and days when I’m feeling down or ill they are more than willing to offer a helping-hand. However, a Paraguayan’s help on your sick day may not be what you thought you were getting yourself into.
Recently when I was dealing with the flu followed-by (or perhaps with) giardia- my boyfriend José decided to come over for what seemed like a short-notice party. He brought movies and friends and food…. And all I could think was, “Didn’t I tell you guys I was sick? I just want to sleep!” Trying not to be rude, I cooked up the food running to the bathroom every 15 minutes and tried to struggle through YouTube funny video sessions until I was ready to cry- “Guys please, I’m so tired- no more movies! I’d really like to go to bed!” The next week José was sick, and thinking of how miserable I felt I brought him soup and left him in bed to rest. Within an hour, José was furious with me- “how could you leave me alone when I am feeling so sick?” Completely confused, we decided to talk it out once we were all better.
As it turns out, when José was a child his mom would invite over friends and family when he was sick to give him company (as most Paraguayans would do), whereas when I was a child my mom would give me soup and tuck me in to sleep (as most Americans would do). Thus the root of the misunderstanding and also a way to resolve the problem- when I’m sick he now knows to let me sleep in silence with an occasional wake for tea, when he’s sick I know it is time to plan a party :-)
Even on a sick day, don't think you're free of those little cultural moments!