Change Yourself…Change The World.

Love Conquers All: Meet My Paraguayan Family
September 29, 2012, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Paraguay, Pictures Post

I’ve been living in Caazapá for over a year now, but still have yet to introduce some of the most important people in my life on this little slice of the internet!

Over a year ago I went out on a house-hunting search in Caazapá. Geared with nothing but a barely sufficient grasp of Spanish, my super ‘negotiation skills’ I thought I had acquired from living in street markets all over Asia, and my pursuit of a good bargain, I thought I had all it took to find a super affordable and stylish house in my little city. W.R.O.N.G. As I spent fruitless days wandering up and down streets in each of the little ‘barrios’ in Caazapá, I was met with dingy little one-room shared-bathroom places for a whopping 300-400 mil a month (Translation: roughly 75-100 dollars, which is big amount to dole out for a 9′ by 9′ square room, at least with the salary I get). The reason for this is because Caazapá is a college town and has a bunch of universities, so all of the students quickly rent out all of the apartments and split any available houses. And as for my so-called negotiating? Turns out my ‘skills’ didn’t translate in Paraguay (either that or I’m just awful and refuse to acknowledge it). No one budged on their prices, and I thought I was totally out of luck.

That is, until I stumbled upon a run-down house on a beautiful street, sandwiched between a church and a couple of apartment rooms (you can see some photos of my house in this old post). The price was 350 mil per month, which was a total bargain (well, the reason why it was so low was because the walls are full of mold, but I didn’t let that deter me- I’ve just lived with my windows open for the past year). Besides, the landlord was this adorable little old man with the biggest, most genuine smile.

But what was the biggest sell? The first day I looked at the house, I decided to wander around the neighborhood and get a feel for the place. Right next to the church (the house on over) had a little grocery store. I timidly wandered in and immediately encountered a plump, middle-aged woman relaxing on a lawn chair and sharing tereré with what appeared to be her daughter. We struck up a conversation, and when she found out that I was considering renting the house right by her, she broke into a huge smile and said we would be neighbors, and friends! Her pure happiness was infectious. I loved being around her, and it was at that moment that I decided that this was a sign telling me to rent that house.

It was the best decision I could have made- not for the house, but because I’ve gotten to live next to Mari and her family for the past year. They have become my family in Caazapá. Not a day goes by where I don’t go over to Mari’s house to drink tereré, or share a meal, bake sopa paraguaya or brownies, or chat with her daughters, who have all become my ‘sisters.’ I feel so infinitely grateful to be a part of their lives for the past year, and for them to accept and love me.

Truthfully, Mari is wholeheartedly the number one reason why I was able to make it through some of my toughest moments in my service the past year. No matter what difficult phase I was going through- whether it was one failed project after another, my frustrations with communication, wondering if I was making any sort of difference in my community, missing home or my friends and family back in the States- Mari always was there with a smile and a hug, and usually hot chocolate. We’ve spent days together talking long into the night about her family, my family, and our lives. She lets me use her washing machine and always watches over my house when I have to go to the capital or to visit another site. She even got up at 11 PM at night when I was locked out of my house to make sure I was okay, and brought me back to her house to sleep.

Since she’s been so open to sharing her life with me, I thought it was only fair to share it with all of you! Here are some pictures of my ‘Paraguayan mother,’ and family.

This is Mari, and her beautiful smile! In this picture she’s making home-made popsicles that she sells in her grocery store. She’s extremely hard-working, loves her family, and is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met.

This is my ‘Paraguayan Dad,’ Higenio. This guy is also one of the nicest men I’ve ever met in Paraguay. He does a lot of work in construction and electricity, and has fixed a lot of stuff around my house. He’s also a very moral and upstanding person that I respect a lot. 

Mari and Higenio’s youngest daughter, Techi. She’s 15 years old and is in high school. She’s pretty quiet, but we have a special bond. 

Techi along with her older sister Fanny. Fanny is a dear friend of mine who loves to dance, sing karaoke, and wants to desperately get married (she’s 21). She’s very opinionated and we have a lot of interesting discussions together.

Fanny with our other little adorable neighbor

The three sisters! Techi, Fanny, and Laura (in the middle). Laura is in her late 20’s and has a little daughter. All three of them live in the house with their parents, along with Mariam, Laura’s little girl. Laura is a lawyer and very laid-back. She’s fun to watch ‘The Simpsons’ with, and always corrects me on my Spanish conjugation.

The two Mari’s! Mariam is Laura’s daughter, who also lives in the house. Mariam wouldn’t directly speak to me for about 7 months- it took her a LONG time to warm up to me! But now every time she sees me a huge smile breaks out on her face and she screams ‘BRIIITTANNYYYY!’ I love this little girl. 

Mari cooking something delicious in her kitchen, which her husband built for her.

A shot of their living room, which is where I sit nearly every day to drink tereré, eat lunch, or have dance-sessions with Fanny.

Mari proudly showing off her little grocery store. Yes, I am one of her ‘clients!’ (Her customers are her neighbors). 

So there’s a little bit about each family member that I’ve come to love dearly over the past year. They are incredible, and I am so thankful every single day that they love and accept this weird little American living in Caazapá. I’ve learned so much from them about neighborly love, about being accepting and open to strangers, and sharing whatever you have. I love Mari, and I love her family. I consider myself so lucky to have found my house, but not for the reason I thought. I’m lucky because Mari is my neighbor, and that I get to have such a wonderful relationship with her family. I’m lucky that they have always been there for me as a life vest, even at the worst moments when I felt like I was sinking. It just goes to show that love conquers all. Mari and her family will always hold a special place in my heart forever.

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[…] Christmas, I bought my neighbor and ‘Paraguayan mother’ Mari oven mitts from the United States. Mari is the ultimate Paraguayan ‘Ama de la […]

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