A friend here asked me the other day what I hope to take back from Paraguay. Not the tangible, but the habits I’ve picked up.
The first things that came to mind were probably pretty common from Volunteers who serve here. I hope I continue to drink mate and tereré (it’s going to be a much more expensive habit back home though). I hope I hold on to some of the tranquilo or tranquility I’ve acquired here. I’ve learned that nothing is set in stone and that’s been frustrating and liberating at the same time. Frustrating because sometimes you have planned for a full work day and it rains, so nothing happens. Liberating, because things don’t work out and you learn that that’s OK. You move on to the next thing, or work on making the first thing better. I really hope I hold on to that.
I also want to spend more of my days outside. When I was having allergic reactions to the sun back in December, and my mom told me to stay away from the sun, I laughed. It’s impossible here. The houses are built to be open. People don’t have living rooms; the yards and the shade are where friends and family socialize. The shade turns into dining rooms too when it’s too hot to eat hot food and be inside without a breeze in the summer. Sometimes the shade is a classroom at school when there are not enough rooms or it’s just too hot. We are looked upon as oddities somewhat, because we value privacy. If I am spending too much time inside my house, people start asking me if I am sick, sad, or missing my family.
I also really want to hold on to my current beliefs of what I consider “necessity” and “luxury.” There are very few things in my house that I need, but am glad I have. I need my mattress, and in the school year when I don’t have too much time to cook, I need my fridge to keep my food bacteria free.
I don’t NEED a washing machine though. That is luxury (luxury I will dish out money for in the states though, because I really, really, really despise hand washing clothes). I don’t need a dryer, the sun does a perfectly good job. I’m not sure I’ll get one of those when I’m back.
Luxury here is:
- enough water pressure to take a real shower instead of bucket bathing
- cool enough days to take a warm shower and enjoy it
- a cup of chai with milk and some honey
- burning scented candles on my stove
- vegetables, chocolate, ground (as opposed to instant) coffee, cheese. In general, any meal that is not my almost daily staple of anti-Atkins diet (white rice or pasta with garlic and tomato sauce)
- having enough calories in my body and time to waste exercising or jogging (has anyone ever thought about how preposterous that is?)
- a ride in a vehicle with AC
- a breeze and no humidity
- an adult beverage with friends
- a kitchen sink
Note that these are all relative… to me and my placement here. I’m sure volunteers all over the world have different “luxury” lists depending on where and how they live!