After having been on vacation in the United States for two weeks, adjusting back to Paraguay has been much harder than I thought it would be. In fact, I didn’t expect it at all, so it was a big shock.
A year ago I left for the United States after being in the Peace Corps for 6 months, and I was in a hard place. I had just hit the 4-month mark in Caazapá, and I was struggling a lot with my role as a Peace Corps Volunteer and as an American within my community. I didn’t speak Spanish or Guaraní that well and didn’t have very many good friends in my site. Coming back to the United States was amazing, and I left feeling completely refreshed and excited to come back to Paraguay.
This year, I left for the United States in a very different place than I was last time. I felt happy, confident, and secure in my site, Caazapá. I had some great projects going, truly wonderful friends, a house and space I felt very comfortable in, and I felt I had really integrated well into my community. Plus, my Spanish-speaking skills are great now, if I do say so myself.
But this time, the United States really messed with my head. I had grown so used to living in Paraguay that I forgot what it was like being in the United States. And let me tell you guys- living in the United States is AWESOME. There’s air conditioning, hot showers, phones that will deliver mail to you the second it arrives, Netflix, unlimited wi-fi, a huge array of food that you can have delivered right to your door (!!!), the ocean, CHEESE (don’t get me started), and so many fun things you could do at any moment it is quite literally overwhelming. There’s meet-ups, movies to see in theaters, roller-blading, sports games to either watch or play in, concerts- it seems like there’s things to do at all hours of the day, every day. I could literally sit in a chair at the airport and just watch people walk by, and I was overwhelmingly entertained and content.
Additionally, the United States just felt so easy- everything ran on time (even though I usually didn’t), nothing broke down, people showed up to things, everyone all spoke the same language- while living in Paraguay is a challenge every single day. Whether it’s my house flooding, finding green chunks in my drinking water, standing on a bus for 5 hours, or trying to implement projects or meetings – the United States felt like a piece of cake.
And truly, nothing compares to being surrounded by the people who love you most in the world. Being around my entire family felt so incredible. Seeing all of my closest friends from high school, college, and my travels felt amazing. Cuddling with my dog that I brought back from India- there’s no comparison.
Yet one by one, those experiences slipped from my fingers and I faced the upcoming reality of returning back to Paraguay, which suddenly didn’t seem nearly as appealing as before. Tarantulas and 115 degree weather with nothing but a fan to keep me company was suddenly not my idea of the best time ever. Additionally, I had to face the reality that many of my friends in the United States were going through huge life-changing events, and I wasn’t there for them. My best friend just got engaged, and I don’t even know if I can make it to his wedding. One of my close friends is having a baby, while another one is going through a really hard time period. I cannot physically be there to celebrate with them, or to support them. And though eight more months seems really fast, when you can measure it in how much taller your 12-year-old sister has gotten, it can feel like a lifetime.
Thus, I returned back to Paraguay shell-shocked, and not ready to return. The first few days I moped around in a hotel in Asunción, half-heartedly running around to meetings for Jóvenes Empresarios del Paraguay. I threw myself a giant pity party, dreaming of Starbucks ( I don’t even drink coffee) and huddling under covers watching America’s Next Top Model re-runs. I finally mustered the courage to figuratively slap myself straight and get on a 5-hour bus ride back to Caazapá.
And wouldn’t you know it- the second I stepped out of the bus, my two best friends arrived on their motorcycles, grinning from ear to ear and assaulting me with bear hugs. My friend Liz hopped off her moto and took my giant suitcase from me, while my other friend Dennis took my backpack. We started the long walk back to my house, laughing, cracking inside jokes, and greeting everyone we passed. I was met by one of my closest friends and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Zoe, who lives a two-hour walk from me. We cooked a giant dinner of Pad Thai as my neighbors stopped by, one by one, to tell me how much they had missed me.
Celebrating my return to Paraguay with Pad Thai!
My Peace Corps boss Elisa has told me over and over again- the most important aspect of the Peace Corps is establishing relationships. I felt so humbled and additionally so stupid for throwing myself a giant pity party and not focusing on the greatest things about my service: the relationships I’ve made in Caazapá, and the wonderful community of people I’m surrounded by. Since coming back to Caazapá, I’ve felt so much better about my return.
The United States is a wonderful place- but so is Paraguay. I’m glad to be back. Every day may not be the best day, but I’m happy I still have eight more months left to live in this incredible country. And while I know there are so many things that the United States has to offer, and that I have so much love and incredible friendships and family there- it will all be waiting for me when I come back.
Basically, my life is incredible and I should be so grateful for everything I have in my life. I am one lucky girl.
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