Change Yourself…Change The World.

I’m After Everything
July 25, 2011, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Paraguay

There’s a famous PCPY story that our director, Don Clark, always likes to tell right before Peace Corps Trainees receive their site placements: during a site placement ceremony a couple of years back (or who even knows when, this is a story of legend), two girls each received their site placements. One girl, who was assigned to Villarica (a large city in Paraguay), responded by screaming with excitement for getting her dream site, taking a celebratory lap, and hugging all of her friends. The second girl, who was assigned to Ita (a medium-sized city in Paraguay) promptly burst into tears for getting a placement that she didn’t want, and was inconsolable.What ended up happening? The girl who was assigned to Villarica left the Peace Corps mid-way through her service. Meanwhile, the girl who had gotten her site placement in Ita loved her experience SO much that she extended for a third year of service. Don Clark likes to tell this story because it symbolizes that we should always have no expectations when it comes to our site placements, and that we may end up loving what we don’t expect.

And the truth? I won’t lie. I was one of the ones who cried when I got my site placement.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t because of my actual site placement. In reality, my site placement is a dream come true- working with a cooperative in micro-finance, living in a medium-sized city with access to fruits and vegetables, close to lots of other volunteers, and only 4 hours from the capital, Asunción. What I was really crying about was looking at the map of where all of my training group would be, and realizing that most of my close friends from training would be over nine hours away from me. It was a sudden realization that the group of people I had come to love and think of as family over the past two months would no longer be a part of my daily life. And here we come to the absolute worst part of being a nomad: meeting the most incredible people who become a part of your everyday life, only to have to say goodbye to them again and move on to something new.

I know many people have experienced this in their life, but I think it’s pretty rare the amount of times I have in such a short period. In merely three years, I have been continuously moving- the longest I have stayed in one place has been five months. Through this constant shifting, I have truly met the most incredible people and gotten to know them on an everyday, normal basis. It has by far been the most amazing part of roaming the planet. Transversely, moving on has been the worst for me, and every time it gets harder. Getting to the Peace Corps, I was frankly exhausted with the moving, and fully embraced the fact that I will be living in Paraguay for the next two years of my life.

So I know that I should’ve expected that my g-mates would move on to the next phase of their lives, from trainees to volunteers-but to be truthful, I didn’t think about it until the second I got my site placement. There was a sudden realization- these are not the people I am going to spending the next two years of my life with. Even though I knew that in theory, it suddenly hit me on a real level.

But now I am here in Caazapá. Today, following Peace Corps guidelines, I went to Caazapá’s police station to get their telephone number in case of an emergency. Suddenly I found myself asking the police guard all kinds of questions- “What kinds of crimes are most common in Caazapá? What services do you offer the community? What happens if there is a fire? Is there a ‘9-1-1’ in Paraguay? (answer: yes) What’s your name? How long have you been living in Caazapá?” Sitting there chatting with the head of police, Andrés, the big realization hit me: I am finally here with the people who I am going to be spending the next two years of my life with. With Catalina, my new homestay mother; Lariza, my community contact; Andrés, the police officer.

Sometimes it feels like I am in a dream when I walk up and down the main avenue of my little city- that this is only temporary, another mirage. But it’s not. I am here for real. It took me two and a half years to get here, but I am here. As Don Clark implied, crying during your site placement ceremony is synonymous with having an amazing Peace Corps experience. And I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Here, in Caazapá, in Paraguay, in the Peace Corps.



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