Filed under: Paraguay
There are some things you want to remember for always. So I’m going to write them down here, even if they’re more of a free-form jumbled mess than I usually post.
The week leading up to my 25th birthday has been absolutely the best ever.
On the first day of many celebrations, last Monday, my dear friend Vicky took me out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant in the capital for my birthday! We feasted on tortillas, sangria, and I had unbelievable shrimp fajitas- an incredible feat for a landlocked country! Vicky even made me my favorite cake of hers, an olive oil rosemary cake (it’s super delicious), and the waiter came out with a giant firework candle. It certainly didn’t hurt that I had spent the day at the Spa (as a reward for 2 months of assiduous GMAT studying). Thanks so much Vicky for a great night out in the capital.
Celebrating my birthday at a Mexican restaurant with Peace Corps friends
On Wednesday as I returned to Caazapá, the group of Volunteers that live close by to me (as we call it in Peace Corps Paraguay, my ‘VAC’) had a meeting in the city. My VAC-mates surprised me with lemon cupcakes and chocolate oatmeal cookies! We then had an epic sleepover with gluten-free pasta (one of my fellow Volunteers is a celiac and graciously shared the pasta from a package from home), salad, and Argentine wine. A new Peace Corps trainee visiting one of my VAC-mates told us her incredible background story and we discussed human rights, activism, and the efficacy of the Peace Corps while getting a little tipsy. We ended the night with cheese popcorn and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” one of my new favorite movies.
On Friday, my sitemate and one of my closest friends in the Peace Corps, Zoe, came over to my house to ring in my 25th in style. We started with dinner and drinks with our friend Denis at our city’s ‘fanciest’ restaurant (we had burgers, fries, and one too may ‘Sex on the Beaches.’) Hearing that the ‘Circus’ was in town (a once a year event), we walked on over to check it out. By ‘Circus’ in Paraguay, I’m not talking about Cirque du Soleil. I’m talking about an event that was SO terribly bad, it went all the way around to being good again. Definitely the highlight of the show was a man who came on to the stage carrying a torch, pulled out a long handkerchief, and threw it over and over again in the air, tying it into knots, and twisting it this way and that way as if he was performing ‘magic.’ Zoe, Denis, and I could not control ourselves. We were laughing so hard we almost choked on our cotton candy. There was also an 11-year in a tube-top and daisy dukes performing the worst ‘sexy’ dance on stage of all time, and what appeared to be a 9-year-old boy riding a motorcycle inside a circular cage. We truly had a truly fantastic time. As we walked back to my house the clock hit midnight, and we officially rung in my birthday by big bear hugs in the street.
I woke up on the morning of my birthday with a Vanilla milkshake, made by Zoe! We then headed into the center of my town to meet up with our friends Denis and Liz, with a lovely little tree, shovel, and compost from my worm bin. I had decided a little while ago that for my 25th birthday I wanted to plant a tree, and continue the tradition every year onward. The tree I picked out for this year was ‘Corazon de India’ (Heart of India). If that wasn’t a perfect enough name, it grows my favorite fruit in the world- custard apples (known more popularly as ‘buddahead fruit’ in Asia)! It’s a very popular fruit in Thailand, and though I’ve seen it a few times in Paraguay, it’s not nearly as common down here. I loved the idea of Paraguayans being able to seek shade from the summer heat while drinking tereré together and feasting on delicious fruit. So, I decided to plant my tree in the ‘Plaza de los Heroes,’ the biggest plaza in Caazapá!
This was my first time planting a tree (well, I DID do a tree-planting project in Caazapa a year ago with some high schoolers, but they planted the trees while I watched). I was a little nervous, thinking I wouldn’t be able to do it properly- but since Denis is a Scout and has planted plenty of trees, he showed me the entire process. I don’t know why I thought it was complex- it was super easy. We first dug a small hole and loosened up the dirt, put in the compost, watered it a little bit, and then put in the tree, removing the plastic wrap. Then we covered up the hole with dirt and watered the tree. Since the tree is so young, we tied it to a pole to help it grow strong. Meanwhile, Zoe and my other Paraguayan friend Liz took pictures. It was the absolute perfect way to start off my birthday.
Zoe, Me, Denis, and Liz in front of my tree. I love all of you!
But the day wasn’t over yet! I hopped on a bus to Paraguari where my friend Molly lives, to celebrate my 25th with 10 good Peace Corps friends at her house. After a dusty bus ride, I downed my second milkshake of the day in an air-conditioned restaurant, and joined Molly and friends for guacamole. As more and more people arrived, we climbed onto Molly’s roof to watch the sun set, and then went out to dinner at a local restaurant- where yes, Molly gifted me my THIRD milkshake of the day by sticking in a candle! Three milkshakes in one day is definitely the way to go when it’s your birthday. After a Skype chat with some of my best friends from Global College, I joined my friends in the Peace Corps and spent the rest of the night on the roof, drinking beer and telling stories.
Tomorrow we all head to Salto Cristal, a beautiful waterfall in Paraguay. I have been wanting to go for a year and a half, and I am so excited to be heading there for the first time with good friends.
It was definitely an incredible birthday to remember, always. Being 25 years old feels great. Some people have pointed out to me that I’m ‘old’ now. I don’t feel old. I’m really glad to be in the heart of my 20′s, and be on wonderful adventures with incredible people halfway around the world. I also felt a lot of love from many Paraguayans today- so many who texted and called to wish me a happy birthday. And many Peace Corps Volunteers as well! I really have built a wonderful life down here in Paraguay. I feel so blessed to be here.
Thank you to all of my wonderful friends, family, and Paraguayans who have made this birthday so wonderful and special. Here’s to the next 25!
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