I learned a new word in Guarani the other day: techaga’u. The closest I can get to translating it into English is “call of the motherland.” It’s why Paraguayans return to their homeland after years of being abroad working in foreign countries. They say the land calls them back. It’s probably why I received a message from a RPCV who served in Itacurubi in the 90s who missed the area desperately and wanted to see pictures.
The global south is still mostly developing. We probably had a romanticized vision of what that meant before getting here, but the reality is the family that can’t feed itself, lives in a shack with 3 other families and has no pants to dress their 14 month old daughter in. Not enough beds as there are family members. Not enough food and the shame of dependency. Poverty sucks. Seeing stuff like that makes me shameful of everything I own and makes me want to give it all away but that will not help. Poverty slows the development of infrastructure was makes for long horrible hot bus rides and dirty cities and lots and lots of trash.
But at the end of the day, I still think Paraguay is beautiful. There are moments when I am standing, sweating on a crowded bus, open windows and a breeze; I should be miserable but all I can think of and feel is “I am ALIVE.”
It’s a feeling that everything is connected and that you too are part of this grid, changing things (for better or worse) and being changed by every person you meet (again, hopefully positively). I just re-read that and from an outsider’s perspective it reads like I’m on drugs. I promise, I’ve only had lentils today.
Peace Corps years are transformative in a way no one back home will ever understand completely. After my mom’s visit that seems more obvious than ever. I’m bracing for techaga’u and culture shock in general when I return “home.” Yes, it’s hot and dirty and things are a mess here but I will miss it.