Sunday, February 12, 2012

Paciencia y Respeto

Knowledge transfer and interaction with people different from myself is something that I do on a daily basis as a Peace Corps Volunteer. In fact, I can think of so many examples that I find it hard to give any one concrete sample.

But let me use an example of my friend "Fulano," a country-boy from the surrounding suburbs of my small rural community in Paraguay. Fulano is a 20-something that comes from a fairly poor, rural background in a developing country- but has dreams of doing bigger things. I met him at first as a member of my neighborhood youth group and our first conversation revolved around where I’d travelled in the world for my young age. Fulano has rarely seen a world map, much less even thinks of visiting such far off places as Asuncion the country's capital. So when I pull out my list of countries I’ve visited he can barely grasp the reality, “Does everyone speak Spanish in the USA? Wow look at those "chinas" he remarks while I show pictures of Korea. Muslims and Israelis- those are the same right? Did you take a bus to get here?” Each conversation, I was teaching this young man about the geography, culture, and the world outside our pueblo. As our time in youth group developed into his becoming a volunteer at our local soup kitchen and later a good friend, I began to help him with his computer projects working in word, power-point, and the internet. I even helped him to work out various plans of action on gaining approval of his fiancĂ©e’s stubborn father wishing more for his daughter than a poor but wide-eyed country-boy. There is never a lack of opportunities to teach in Paraguay.

In the process of teaching, working, and conversing with "Fulano," I learned that I have a lot of patience. It is not easy to deal with what sometimes you feel are silly questions or go over time and again where the “w” is on the keyboard. That said, I also learned that I have a lot to learn from Fulano- just how difficult it is to overcome poverty in the developing world, Spanish/Guarani, how to use local remedies, etc. I learned that no matter who one is or where he/she is born, world-traveler or so-called “nobody” that we all have something to offer another… at minimum respect.

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