Twenty-four hours from now I will be home. My Peace Corps service will be over; 2.5 years complete, and Paraguay will begin shifting from reality to memory.
Its not the way I wanted to end my service. With and unsolved stomach mystery, a useless month of medical exams, and many weeks of uncertainty. But while not ideal, the time was right. With weeks of uncertainty and waiting, I had time to think, to process, and to prepare for the end of what has truly been an incredible Peace Corps Service.
When I applied to Peace Corps, I sincerely hoped for any country but Paraguay. Yet ironically, that is exactly where I ended up. Two days after I swore in as a G-31 beekeeping volunteer for Paraguay, I developed a severe bee allergy, had to switch sectors without additional training, and began waiting for a site all over again. But despite the ironies and hard times, on January 8th, 2010, I moved to Caroveni Nuevo/Cocuere Guazu. Though it wasn't what I thought I wanted, there I ended up was exactly where I needed to be for the past 2.5 years.
I wish this was a post about the Peace Corps, but while I met many amazing people in the Peace Corps, had some wonderful bosses and mentors, and learned a lot in their trainings, the Peace Corps did not define my time here. Instead, it was Paraguay. The cultural quirks, the incredible landscape, and most of all the people of Paraguay turned a foreign land into a comfortable home for the last 2.5 years.
Summing up this experience would be impossible. I know in four short days I will resort to a simple, "It was incredible" when questioned about my service. But inside I will smile, and remember the amazing-ness that is Paraguay. The countryside, the people who are willing to share anything/everything, the calmness and constant lack of rush, the willingness to try new things, the many gloriously plain afternoons spent reading in a hammock under a grove of mango trees, and finally, my fellow volunteers, who I know will mirror my smirks at the same memories.
As I left my site for the last time a few days ago, I was surprised when the bus stopped in front of my friend's house. Soon she marched on, told the driver to wait, and without talking to anyone else, walked straight to the back of the bus, handed me a platic bag wrapped around an undetermined amount of money and said, "this is for your chipa, my daughter. I love you and will miss you. Good luck." She kissed my cheeks, thanked the driver and told him he could go again.
I came to Paraguay with two families (my own, and my college family), and I leave with another 4 or so. The goodbye’s have been hard, with random swings of sadness, excitement, fear, and more, but I breathe a little easier when I realize that inside, I know I’ll be back. When? How? Who knows? But I’ll be back Paraguay. It’s the end of Peace Corps, but its not the end. Jajotopata.