Change Yourself…Change The World.

Ahora Estoy Una Caazapeña! My Site Presentation
September 1, 2011, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Paraguay

My life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is full of lessons everyday, and I wanted to share one that has been hitting me hard lately: there are always two ways to look at a situation.

Today was a wonderful day, and a very prominent one as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay- the famous ‘Site Presentation.’ This means that my bosses in the Peace Corps (One of my Associate Peace Corps Directors that works in our sector, and the Volunteer Coordinator for our sector) visit the sites of new Volunteers to present them to their communities and talk about the role of a Peace Corps Volunteer. Anyone from the community is invited to attend. My bosses have been traveling all over Paraguay over the past two weeks to present new Volunteers, and today was my Site Presentation Day in Caazapá.

Setting up for a Site Presentation can be slightly stressful for new Volunteers. We talk to our Community Contact (the main person in our site who helps us integrate into the community- mine is the head of the cooperative I’m working with) to set a time and place for the event, and then we make customized formal invitations to give to every and any person in the community we know. Since I’ve been in my community for only three weeks, the type of people that I know so far are those that I have met while walking about the community, which are pretty random interactions. However, wanting this to be a good turn-out, I dashed around my community all day yesterday passing out invitations left and right to everyone I knew. I put together a presentation on my life- where I live in the United States, my family, what I studied, and things that I like about Paraguay so far. And finally, I dressed for success in hopes of a good day.

My APCD (Associate Peace Corps Director) Giancarlo and my coordinator Angelíc pulled into Caazapá at 11 AM and got straight down to business: how could they immediately support me in my site? How had things been so far? And of course, let’s not forget the spectacular brand new speeding bike they pulled out of their SUV. After a lengthy lunch, we spent the afternoon driving around my community to interesting spots (We went to the most gorgeous quarry, an Agricultural School, and ‘Ycua Bolaños,’ which is a famous creek with the belief that if you bring your loved one there to drink the water, you will be together forever). Finally, we prepared for my presentation to the community.

So, the lesson: the truth is, not a whole lot of people from my community showed up, even those who promised they would come. I’ve heard from many Volunteers before about low turn-outs to events, but this was the first time I was experiencing it myself. I looked at the room around me, at the people who came to my presentation- all at the request of my community contact, and not me. All were employees and committees of the cooperative, which were still only about 12 in all.

Staring around the room, I thought, there are two ways I could look at this situation- the worst and the best. The worst situation was thinking that no one I invited showed up and henceforth didn’t really care about me and what I was doing in Caazapá. My fears led me to believe that maybe I didn’t have so much to offer after all, or that I wouldn’t live up to the expectations that the cooperative had of me.

The second outlook, and the best situation was to be happy about the people that were there, to appreciate that 12 people showed up to listen to what I had to say at 5:30 PM on a Thursday afternoon. Such people who gave up their free time to listen to me deserved my complete attention and gratitude. And so I chose the second outlook, and put my heart and soul into the presentation. And in the end, the cooperative loved it. They laughed at all of my jokes (including a slideshow about ‘Las Brittanys en el mundo’ which included a photo of Britney Spears) and were excited that I gave a small speech in Guaraní. The people that were there looked at me with affection and respect. And really, isn’t that what the Peace Corps is about? Not the amount of people that you reach, but the quality of the way you reach out to people.

I think probably the best lesson I have been learning so far in Paraguay is changing my perspective from the way I tended to view situations in the past (which has subconsciously been the worst outlook) to beginning to view circumstances in the best light possible. Really, the only difference in these perspectives are how I respond and react to them- with frustration and disappointment, or with satisfaction and gratitude. This is definitely a great lesson to learn that I’m sure will serve me well in the future.

At the end of the site presentation, I felt this sudden burden lift from my chest. I feel that I have crossed over from the very beginning of my Volunteership to the next phase… and we’ll see what that next phase is. At the very least, I truly feel that I am a Caazapeña now!

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