With less than two weeks until I get to come back to the States for a week for Seth and Lisa’s wedding I’ve had so many thoughts going through my mind. I’m ashamed to admit it, but one has been how much easier it would be to just stay home. (Don’t worry it’s not happening. I still have so many things I want to learn and do here. Plus, my Spanish is nowhere like I hoped it would be at this point. I know that I’m not ready, and He’s not ready for me to leave.) It’s not that life here is stressful or physically demanding, but being away from the people I love and being confined to a different lifestyle is harder than I expected. When we’re busy time flies, but when I’m sitting in my room lonely and with nothing to do I often wonder, “What am I doing here?!"--Especially on rainy, cold days ( It's about 62 degrees today, and the sisters have informed me that this is fall weather. Winter will be colder, especially since our house, like most in Paraguay, doesn’t have heat. (As I write this I’m currently under three blankets and in a sweatshirt.)
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we visited Posadas to get to know the sisters there along with their missions. We stopped by Comedor Medalla Milagrosa (basically like a food kitchen) run by one of the nearby chapels and volunteers. One of the volunteers is from Germany and serving in Argentina for a year—I think he’s on his 8th month. We exchanged less than 50 words, but meeting him gave me hope that I’ll be able to do this for the next 7 months for two reasons. First, because he’s doing it and that in itself is inspiration, and second, he’s also part of a group similar to Habitat for Humanity that builds houses for families in need. He said the next build is in June or July so I’m excited to hopefully be a part of that. We also visited a neighborhood that’s built around a landfill that people are constantly searching through to find materials for construction. It was definitely eye opening to see people, especially children, in flip flops digging through mountains of trash and contamination. Additionally we got the chance to stop by a daycare and kindergarten with babies to 5-year-olds. They were of course adorable, and it was nice to see what some other kindergartens are like. Unfortunately it started pouring right after our "tour," so we didn't get to see the city of Posadas yet. Hopefullly we'll make it there Monday when we go to Posadas again for a special Mass celebrating Hrn. Vicki, a new sister that works in La Plata but is from Posadas.
In this visit and our visit to Jardín America I think Caitlin and I both have realized how lucky we are to be in our community. Not that the sisters in the other communities aren’t nice and accommodating like ours, because they are, but the personalities of Hermana Maria Jose, Hermana Graciela, Hermana Ylse, Hermana Magdalena and Delma definitely mesh well. Plus, we feel very included in the community here in Encarnación. I’m sure it helps too that they’re all very young (three of the five are under 30).
In our other ministries things are going pretty great, too.
Jardin has finally gotten to its full schedule of 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. I was a little worried how the extra hour and half would pass, but it’s flying by. I’m really starting to get to know the kids, which has been good since I’m starting to bond with them, but bad because some of their true colors are showing and we’ve got a few terrors. I was surprised to find out though that one of them actually asked where I was when we went to Posadas—after all the times I’ve told him no and disciplined him he still likes me! Score! Part of the additional time of jardín is spent serving lunch, which is a great thing to be able to give the kids since you know how hungry and malnourished some of them are.
Right now, since my language still isn’t 100 percent, I visit the barrio beneath the bridge with Hermana Magdalena twice a week, go the health center and serve as the secretary to Hermana Susana for one day, and only help with classes de apoyo two days a week. It’s a great mix of ministries that allows me to get to know a variety of people, so I guess my language handicap is actually a blessing in disguise.
This Tuesday and last Friday, we got to spend the afternoon with Sandra (the 4-year-old teacher in our jardín) at her other job where she teachers 5-year-olds at a public school where many of the kids from the neighborhood beneath the bridge attend. Since we help with the clases de apoyo, it was interesting to see what an actual school is like. Plus, we made some little friends. I’m hoping to volunteer more there when I come back after the wedding.
Saturday morning and early afternoon is Caitlin and my free time, which we usually spend exploring Encarnación and stocking up on sweets (for me). It’s been raining all day today though, so we decided to stay in and watch a movie. Since that’s what I often do on rainy Saturdays at home it was definitely comforting. Plus, after watching The Way I have added another entry to my bucket list—El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James). I heard about the pilgrimage that ends in Spain when I first arrived in Albuquerque (since I arrived on the final day of a retreat focusing on the camino—not this specific one, but about the journey of life in general) so it was great to be reminded of it again and to get some images to go along with what I’d heard. It’s a great film starring Martin Sheen about a father that goes on the Camino after his son dies in an accident while trying to complete it.
When I reflect back on this week it definitely wasn’t one with a lot of work in our ministries (with our trip to Posadas and lots of rain there wasn't a lot going on), but it was one focusing on relationships--with Caitlin, with the sisters, with friends and family back home talking via Skype and through meeting new people. I have definitely discovered that relationships and people are the most important part of my life. Before coming to Paraguay, while I was living and working in St. Louis after graduation, I often thought about my time studying abroad and wished I could be living in London or Ireland or some other foreign place because I thought that is what would make me happy—being in new or different places was my thing. But, what I’ve realized is that it’s not the places that I loved so much. Sure, they have been breathtaking, impressive, famous, and historical, but it has been the experiences I’ve had with the people I was with that made those trips for me and that’s what’s making and will make my experience here.
|Enjoying a toast after "Cumple Bingo" for Hrn. Ylse's birthday.|