Saturday, August 9, 2008

Despedida… Saying goodbye…

Despedida is the Spanish word for goodbye. At this point in our training most of the volunteers feel very comfortable with their families and hate the thought of changing to a new environment. I think I fit in the category as well. I’ve been treated very well by the Perez-Aguayo family. I’ve mentioned to them on many occasions that I wish I could stay here in Guarambare. I know that it’s impossible, but I think I would I enjoy the most is the simple fact that I have a routine, I have become comfortable with it and I know what to expect from the routine. The mere thought of changing routines and beginning this process again is rather daunting. Moreover, to have to do this alone without a peace corps trainer, or language teacher to help me is kind of scary. To be honest, I have not required any help from the Peace corps trainers nor the language teachers, but simply knowing that my safety blanket is being removed is enough to make me nervous. It’s like the little boy who has been riding his bike for the last 6 months with training wheels, but has not needed the training wheels the last 5 months. When Daddy approaches his son and the bicycle with the wrench to remove the training wheels, Daddy had bettered be prepared for a vicious fight to the end from his son. Not because the son can’t ride a bike, but because the training wheels have always provided the little youngster with the security to answer to question of “what if…….”. Again, I have never required the assistance of the trainer nor the language teacher, but now that my blanket is being removed, I’m like a babying coming out of the womb, “put me back in….it was warm inside there!”

So back to the Despedida, the last few days here have been filled with these formal goodbyes. We have been invited to many goodbye parties by different families. My family did not do one for me. Little do they know, but I’m thankful that they didn’t. To me it seems bassackwards. Maybe I’m the one who is confused, but I think the volunteers living in the families homes need to be throwing the party for the families in a way of saying thanks. If I were to be walking in downtown Oklahoma City and picked up homeless child and took him home, cleaned him up, fed him and taught him all sorts of things, I think it would weird for me to throw him a party when leaving (still not knowing much about the culture he’s about to enter). The best way the young child could repay me would be to keep in touch and keep me informed about how his life is going.
Here in Paraguay, the Perez-Aguayo family has accepted a stranger into their home. They have opened up every nook and cranny of their home to a stranger. The Peace Corps has not done a mental evaluation on me, and this family has no idea if I’m crazy, going to rob them or hurt them. What assurance do they have? They have provided me with a room and a key to my room and allow me to go into my room and close the door (which I would never do). To me it seems that the family needs to be given a party, not me. Without, the family most of us volunteers would be found in the street crying because we don’t know how to buy and hot dog. For this reason I’m glad that they did not throw me a party. I have told them on many occasions, I think the Lord provided this family and I’m thankful for them. Don Eddie likes to drink coffee (actually tea) in the morning, and although it does not compare to having coffee with my Dad in the U.S., it helps to facilitate a good relationship with my host dad here in Paraguay. My host mom here is retired but still works at the school as the director and is out of the house a lot. Like my mom at home in the U.S., when my host mom comes home she make sure to express to you personally how happy she is to see you. My host sister Gladys (actually the maid that works here, but is just like family) has a good attitude about working around the house. Given her job as a house assistant here in Paraguay, this means that she is probably from a family of severely limited economic means. Despite this she is diligent in her work and appears to enjoy her work (I don’t know if she really does though). The family treats her as a daughter and helps her by paying for her schooling in exchange for her working at the house. In a strange way, her position, socially and economically, inspires me to be a better Peace Corps volunteer. According to the Peace Corps, the generation of Gladys (and especially the generation younger than hers) is the first to grow up in Paraguay without a dictator. Gladys’ effort to overcome her position without expecting someone else to take care of her is something new here in Paraguay. This attitude is a very North American attitude, but not so common here in Paraguay. This is another reason why the Peace Corps work can be very effective here in Paraguay. Many of the people are mentally ripe for the planting of new ideas. I just hope the ideas that will be planted will be good seeds.

For all of these reasons and more, I’m thankful to my Paraguayan family for helping me to learn all of this. This will help me in my work. This is why I think they deserve a party, not me.

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