Paraguay Calling: Part I

Paraguay has called, once again. For those who don’t know my back story intimately, (as I won’t be so presumptuous to assume you do!) I spent 6 months volunteering for the WWF in Paraguay in 2010. It was a challenging time for me, filled with both the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. I struggled to adjust to a new way of life in a third world country, particularly to the extreme poverty I wasn’t used to seeing and the children, cats, and dogs roaming the streets aimlessly in search of food or a kind soul. But I also made incredible friendships that will last a lifetime, greatly improved my Spanish, and learned that I could in fact survive in a new city on my own, (with a little help to guide the way, of course!)

My first trip back to Asuncion was about 10 months after I moved away, last October, 2011. I had been working on a proposal with my colleagues in our Paraguay office and we had just received approval to write the long proposal, (think 20  or so pages versus 5,) so I flew down for two weeks to work more closely with the team to develop our project plan.

I was nervous to go back at first. I wasn’t sure how I would feel now that I had been home for a few months and then moved to Germany. Would I still get along with my friends well? Would my Spanish be at least as good as when I left? Would I still understand the intricacies of our work as well as when I had lived there? Would my heart sink every time I saw a homeless dog crossing the street?

I arrived after 22 hours of travel a bit exhausted and somewhat flustered at my inability to move my tongue as fluidly as I would have liked, (I blame the months of German lessons for that one!) but after resting up for the day (and soaking in some sun at my hotel) I was prepared to take on the language, and my former home (albeit a temporary one.)

As for all of my other fears, they were nothing to worry about. What I learned more than anything was that you can always go home again. I fit right back in with my friends (with a strange Gringa/German accent, but still), the office welcomed me with open arms, and my memory of our project work and goals had nowhere near disappeared in my time away. I felt peaceful being there, without the same conflicts that had plagued me during my volunteership. I was in a new place, both physically and mentally, and could handle what was thrown at me.

Paraguay was a place I belonged, it had become a part of me.

…to be continued…

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