Paraguay Day 1
With only three hours of sleep under my belt, I left the Sacramento airport at 6:00 a.m on September 25. I couldn’t really wrap my head around on what I was actually doing and what this 27-month commitment would mean. I was overwhelmed with excitement for the unknown, nervousness in not knowing much about where I was going, sadness for leaving my family and friends behind and not getting a chance to see some important faces just one last time. With these arrays of emotions, I maintained a solid confidence in knowing that my decision to join the Peace Corps represents me achieving a long time dream and how lucky I am to have a core group of people who have been here with me every step of the way.
I arrived in LAX at 7:00 a.m. with a direct transfer to Miami set to leave at 8:00 a.m., as I make my way to the terminal, I hear a voice behind me say “Are you going to Miami”, in shock as to how some random person would be able to know that. In which I turn around to respond and it is the girl I noticed earlier in Sacramento who had a backpacking backpack with a ukulele on one side and Chaco’s and hiking boots dangling along the other side, to which I then applied “ Are you doing Peace Corps Paraguay?”. Little did I know at the time, that this girl, Lisa, would become one of my closest friends thus far. Apparently we both looked very “ Peace Corps” which is why we both questioned our travels when we saw each other.
Once in Miami, we took our hotel shuttle back to the hotel, slowly picking up more and more Peace Corps volunteers along the way who more often fit the part with stuffed backpacking backpacks and array of outdoor gear. We all registered that night for a day long staging event on Thursday that would only skim the surface of what training is going to be like. I wanted to have a low-key night so, I treated myself to one final American meal with Pizza, salad and a few beers by myself. As I’m sitting there by myself thinking about all my friends and family, a girl approaches me to join me. What lovely company it was as she was the 1/46 people in our group who I somewhat knew about. Before I left for journey, a very important friend of mine told me his friend’s best friend is doing Peace Corps Paraguay, so from that we knew each others first names but nothing else. So randomly having dinner together, ended up really well, as we shared stories of the people who make it hard to leave.
After endless icebreakers, sharing our concerns, and our backgrounds as our group (referred to G43 from this point forward) consist of two sectors: Environmental Conservation and Agriculture, we left for our direct flight to Asuncion, Paraguay. I flight went really well, we landed at 7:00 a.m. went to debrief and get our host family assignments, as we start living with them that night. When I got my family assignment I was so nervous about if they would like me as I had little Spanish under my belt. In my soon to be host town, Cumbarity, the 12 of us lined up to get called off to our family, frantically trying to remember the welcoming Guarani phrases we were told to say to our family. I was one of the last trainees remaining and when my Mom, Catallina, came up to me all I could say was “Hola, no hablo espanol mucho” and she just smiled and helped me with my bags to the car she borrowed to take me home. After a five minute drive, we arrived to the house where I was greeted by two women in there mid 20’s, a little girl, and what looked to be an American man, though I wasn’t sure. I brought my bags to my room, was told to sit down in the front yard, by various hand movements since I literally had no idea what they were saying to me. My mom, two sisters, a brother and the American looking man all sat in a circle trying to speak to me and I kept just smiling, saying “ Estoy cansada, soy de California, me gusta….., no me gusta… trying my hardest to remember the Spanish I had in high school and what some friends have helped me with before I left. In a conversation that kept going in circles because we couldn’t communicate efficiently, the American looking man, in fact was American as he butted in translating what they were asking. Turns out he was the previous volunteer that was visiting my family the same weekend that I arrived, which ended up being a tremendous amount of help. Tony is Agriculture volunteer from G40 who had the same Spanish level as me when he arrived and gave me great advice on how to make the most of my Peace Corps experience, warned me on the challenges I may face, helped me improve my confidence of learning a new language and getting my familiar with my huge family and the community. Tony stayed with us for three days, which gave me a great step in integrating as we was able to help me translate some things to my family which helped us better understand each other….
Mailing address for those interested in mailing me something from now through the end of November:
Kelsey Eaton, PCT
Cuerpo de Paz/CECP
162 Chaco Boreal c/ Mcal. Lopez
Asuncion 1580, Paraguay (South America)