Life in India has been less than picture-riffic on this blog about my past 10 months as a Clinton Fellow in Delhi. Then I realized that it is in most part due to purchasing an iPhone in December, which has drastically changed my life living abroad. With a fabulous little technological genie that I can use not just for calling people, but also for the internet or google maps, the whimsical amazingness of Whatsapp, and a million other applications, there’s been a world of a difference in how much simpler life has gotten in Delhi. However, as all of my friends will attest, the best part of my iPhone is the incredible camera. I have therefore become a complete Instagram addict over the past 6 months and completely forgotten about any other medium.
So please sit back, relax, and check out a few choice pictures of what life has been like in India from January-onwards.
Just another typical day riding my favorite form of transportation; the auto rickshaw.
My roommate and Clinton fellow Zain with “Didi,” our neighborly shopkeeper who always has Indian snacks, soft drinks, ice cream, parathas, chai, and fresh gossip.
One of the many things I love about Delhi: street stalls.
My roommate Yu is an amazing cook. Here she is showing off her best creation yet: homemade Eggs Benedict. Yummmmmmmmm
Roommate and Clinton fellow Ana and I celebrating Holi together in mid-March, a festival of colors here in India.
My Dad and sister Siobhan arriving in India in April for a week-long trip!
Siobhan’s favorite part of the trip were the elephants.
One of the breath-taking hotels we stayed on our trip.
Visiting the Taj Mahal
Downtown Jaipur… incredible city.
A boat ride on the Ganges River at 6 AM, Varanasi.
Special fellows trip to Ashram Paryavaran Vidyalaya School in Uttarakhand. Here were are at sunrise after an hour of meditation.
Enjoying dinner with my Tibetan brother, Nawang, who lives a short 10-minute walk from me here in Delhi.
Me at work, doing what I usually do.
Enjoying the plethora of Indian snacks here in Delhi- this one is Rajori Chaat.
Delhi is a fabulous city with many interesting pockets. This particular area is Hauz Khas Village, a fun place full of shopping, restaurants, and night life.
Group picture of the William J. Clinton fellows in Delhi 2013-2014- all fellows, all friends, all roommates (at one point or another), all family.
The Peace Corps never tells you how hard it will be to leave the community you’ve called home for the past 2 years of your life. It’s so hard that I felt it was impossible to even write about it, and so I kept putting it off. But everything deserves a proper ending, no matter how difficult, so I’ll do my best to convey my final week in Caazapá.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so emotionally drained as I did during the last week in my site, even though it was by far the most incredible week of my service, and probably one of the best and most memorable of my life. The littlest things would send me spiraling into a blubbering mess: packing, realizing I had ‘3 days left,’ walking down a street and wondering if this would be my ‘last time going down this street,’ etc. My Paraguayan friends started to make it into a game to count how many times I cried over a five-day period. We lost track after the second.
It’s interesting to reflect on how much leaving this time period in my life has affected me. First off, I’m not the biggest crier, yet I found myself welling up over the tiniest things. Every day as I got closer and closer to finishing my service in Caazapá, it came with such a sense of foreboding and anxiousness that I had never experienced. It was as if I didn’t believe life continued on after the Peace Corps- strangely enough, I remember feeling very much that way at the end of high school. Both were similar in that they were huge chapters in my life ending. Second, I can’t say that these past two years have been the happiest of my life- far from it, I would say that while it’s been an incredible and life-changing experience, it’s also been the most challenging, frustrating, and at times, isolating time period. Yet while I initially felt an immense sense of relief and happiness at coming back to the United States at the end of my service, as the days got closer and closer I felt more apprehensive and sad to leave. And while I had felt through most of my service that I had fistfuls of time, more time than I knew what to do with than ever before- the last two months of my service flew by so fast that I blinked, and it was gone. And saying goodbye had never been harder in my life.
Things went by in stages in my final week. I found myself wrapping up all of my classes.
Finishing my final World Cultures Class
My 6th Grade Students showing some love
Teaching my cooperative some sales strategy to promote their newest product, honey packets
My final ‘Build Your Dreams’ Entrepreneurship Class
My friends at the local University invited me to a goodbye party.
Bombtastic pizza made by Marlene
Then my local VAC-mates (Peace Corps Volunteers that live close-by to me) threw me a good-bye party in Caazapá.
All of us immediately passed out on our super comfy beds… before going out to rage it in Caazapá, that is! And by rage, I mean eat dinner and have a beer.
I made a quick trip to my homestay family’s house from training to visit them one last time. There were lots of tears.
My homestay family showing off my gift- some favorite pictures.
Then my training group, G-36, held a little going-away party for all of us at a retreat outside of the capital, which I popped by for the first night before heading back for my final weekend in site.
Gathering together to eat a ginormous and delicious meal prepared by chef Kevin.
Inhaling said food.
Oh yeah, and then this happened.
Love you, G-36.
My contact Carlos and his wife invited me over to their house for one last carne asado.
Mouthwatering carne de chancho- grilled pig. Possibly the best I have ever had.
Carlos and his wife Doris peeling a typical Paraguayan dessert- yummy oranges, which you suck like a juicebox.
And then my neighbors threw me a little goodbye party with- you guessed it- more carne de chancho.
My wonderful neighbors/homestay family for the past two years in Caazapá.
Meanwhile, I spent my days packing up my house as it slowly turned into a depressing shadow of its former self.
My boxes that I left for my follow-up Volunteer
Kitchen, sans table or any posters/pictures
My kitchen, without… a kitchen.
Taken on my last day in my house, my finished ‘Messages of Love’ project.
I had to say good-bye to my wonderful kitten, which was one of the hardest moments of saying good-bye.
Oh my Harry! I love you so.
Danielle, a Peace Corps Volunteer that lives by me, graciously offered to take care of him.
Then, the cooperative held a little good-bye party for me. There were a few speeches and I gave a brief summary of all of the work I did in Caazapá over the past two years. My contact Carlos presented me with a wonderful certificate thanking me for helping the Production department (certificates are big in Paraguay).
Good-bye fiesta at Cooperative Ycua Bolaños
I finished painting the World Map I had been working on for months, and then cried when it was finished (typical at this point).
Then, on my final day, I handed in the keys to my house. I didn’t take any pictures because it was too sad to see my house so barren and cheerless. When my landlord came to collect the keys, I really lost it. I wandered up and down my street like a loser visiting my neighbor’s houses and wailing that I no longer lived in Caazapá anymore while they all hugged and kissed my tear-stained face, whispering things like “Te quiero mucho, che muñeka” (I love you very much, my little doll). My neighbors and adopted Paraguayan family cheered me up by dancing to ‘Gangnam Style’ in their living room and feeding me glass after glass of wine mixed with Guaraná soda. After I was sufficiently calm (and drunk), we raced around Caazapá, up and down the center of the town, and they helped me bring my bags up to Denis’s house, where I was spending my final night.
I spent my final night in Caazapá the way I loved best: with Denis and Liz and our other friends Gracia and Joaquin, blasting Paraguayan music, eating carne asado, drinking wine and coke, watching movies, and running all around the city taking pictures in all of our favorite places.
Celebrating my final night with typical rico carne de chancho and spicy chorizo.
Lying in the middle of the road in Caazapá at 2 AM
Me and Denis
Me with my best friends.
We didn’t go to bed until 5 AM, which was pretty pointless since I had to get up at 7 AM to catch my final bus out of Caazapá. Denis, Liz, and Gracia all drove me to the terminal as we passed through the main avenue one last time (at this point I was mentally willing the tears to stop streaming down my face). The ticket salesman, a young Paraguayan who always flirted with me mercilessly every time I got on a bus, looked dumbfounded as I popped out of Denis’s car, laden down by three very heavy bags.
“Are you leaving? For good?” he asked incredulously. My throat was so tight that all I could do was nod.
At the last second, my neighbor and Paraguayan mother Mari showed up, and we sobbed and hugged, as I clung to these truly wonderful friends that had changed my life and made my experience in Paraguay so worthwhile.
Paraguayans have this saying: you come to Paraguay crying because you don’t want to go. You leave Paraguay crying because you don’t want to leave. Peace Corps doesn’t tell you that leaving will be one of the hardest things about this experience. But it’s also in those moments that you realize how incredible and special it all was, how worthwhile and enriching of an experience you had, and how every moment from then on will be a reward from those 2 years you lived and served in the Peace Corps.
Surprisingly, I didn’t cry on the bus ride out of Caazapá, and remained dry-eyed through the last 5 hour bus-ride to Asunción I would ever have to take. I felt incredible. In that moment, I felt like the most blessed person alive.
Meet my best friends in Paraguay.
This post has been a long time coming- literally, I’ve been meaning to post it for months. My wonderful friends Denis and Liz have popped up in photos throughout my blog, but I wanted to write a post dedicated to our awesome friendship (singular, we’re a three-headed beast).
At the exact mark of my 2nd year of service in the Peace Corps, I accidentally stumbled across Denis and Liz- and after realizing how incredible they both are (and literally right under my nose- Denis’s family owns a Video and Photography production store right next to a TV station I go to every week, which is 2 blocks from my house)- I still can’t believe that it took me a full year to find them.
I’ve discussed this before, but being in the Peace Corps and the only American in a completely foreign place can be a huge loss of identity. All of the things that I thought made me who I was before the Peace Corps- being an avid reader, a foreign movie buff, passionate about social enterprise and micro-finance, etc.- didn’t translate in Paraguay at all. My daily conversations with Paraguayans in my community included whether I liked to drink tereré (the staple Paraguayan drink) and eat mandioca (the staple root vegetable). I oftentimes felt lonely.
Then one day, as I was passing by the television station, Denis (who later told me he ‘finally plucked up the courage,’ since he said he always saw me passing by), asked if i was a Peace Corps Volunteer that lived here, and wanted to work with the local Boy and Girl Scouts group. Thinking this would be a great place where I could focus on leadership and self-esteem skills with youth, I said yes. At the first meeting, I met Liz, who is Denis’s closest friend, also works at his shop, and is the other leader in their Scout group. Then a few days later, I happened to be walking down the street and saw Liz at the store. I invited Liz to go to a party with some close-by Volunteers over the weekend, thinking she wouldn’t actually show up. But she did, and so did Denis. And it was definitely one of the most fun nights I ever had in Paraguay.
Since then, Denis, Liz, and I started hanging out every day. Denis loves photography and videography, so we had a huge common interest. We listened to the same music, and they both loved watching movies. But the biggest thing we have in common is that we are all total weirdos. We have bizarre inside jokes, poke fun at each other, and oftentimes quote my terribly phrased Spanish and Guaraní.
My life in Paraguay completely changed when I met Denis and Liz. I can’t imagine my life without them in Paraguay, and I feel so lucky to have met such wonderful friends. Sometimes I feel that some of my friends in Paraguay are by coincidence- because I live here and so do they, and so we may as well be friends. This is not how it is with Denis and Liz. They aren’t just my best Paraguayan friends- they really are some of my best friends in the world.
So Denis and Liz, thank you 1,000 times over for being my friends. Thank you for making me really love Caazapá and feel happy and comfortable here. And thank you for being weird, and embracing the weird American.
Check out some pictures of our exploits over the past 8 months below.
In honor of turning a quarter-century old, I have created a new blog! Yes, it’s an addiction- once you pop, the fun don’t stop. Or once you blog, the fun don’t… someone finish this rhyme for me.
Remember my bucket list, or the list of things to do before I die? Somewhere on that long index of life-long objectives is:
- Take one photo every day for a year to document my life.
In lieu of turning 25, living as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, and plans of many adventures to come after I finish my service, I decided this is the year to do it. I will always want to remember my Peace Corps experience forever- and since I haven’t been doing a great job of documenting it through photos, I thought this could be a great motivator for me to take pictures of my everyday life here that I will look back on with great fondness 50 years from now (or “man, I’m so glad I don’t have to wash my clothes in a bucket anymore.”) It will be the ultimate “I once walked 7 miles to school uphill both ways” yarn I can spin to my grandchildren, and I’ll have photos to prove it.
I actually tried (and spectacularly failed) to do this year-long project leading up to starting the Peace Corps when I was 22- but after 3 months of taking monotonous photos of my life in the United States everyday (I lived at home, jobless, for a few months waiting to start my service), I threw in the towel. This year, in order to keep up the motivation and dedication to the project, I created a photo Tumblr blog where I am posting one picture a day. So far it hasn’t been too boring yet- things in the Peace Corps are always interesting.
So without further ado– check out 365 For Year 25!
Already showcasing my Paraguayan life. I teach dogs how to play piano.
And don’t worry- this little blog won’t be going anywhere!
The day has finally come. A year and a half in the making (for me to take some pictures, that is), I present to you my house in Paraguay: MTV Cribs Style.
This tour is the real MTV Cribs experience for 3 reasons: 1) because I’m supa-fly, duh! 2) I show you the contents of my fridge, as any self-respecting person on MTV Cribs does, and 3) because my house actually is a pretty crazy awesome pad compared to a lot of other Peace Corps Volunteers around the world. With the combination of Paraguayans giving me free stuff, getting free things from previous Peace Corps Volunteers, and saving up for months on end (aka, eating the equivalent of ramen noodles so that I could afford a stove to cook them on), I’ve hobbled together more than everything I need to live in a comfortable and functional space (except for the tarantulas, but that’s what ‘Mata Todo’ (Kill All) spray is for).
Oh, and I also brought some things back with me from my visit to the States (such as my comforter- after seven months of using my sleeping bag as my covers, I
had a mental breakdown caved in and brought my security blanket back down to Paraguay). And I also am a major decorator/photo hoarder, and have super generous friends that send me snacks from the States. AND I’m also just extremely lucky to live in such a big house for a seriously low price ($80 a month- thanks landlord). Is the crazy mold worth it? Check out the pictures and you decide.
TMI Disclaimer over. LET THE PHOTOS COMMENCE!
Apologies this post is nearly a month late! There have been so many happenings in January, and many exciting things to update! But instead of giving excuse after excuse, let’s jump right into it: as stated in my previous post, I had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas outside of the United States for the first time in my life, and what better way to spend it than in Paraguay? I spent my ‘first’ Christmas, December 24th, celebrating all of the traditional Paraguayan festivities to ring in the holiday (read more about the experience here). The ‘second’ Christmas I celebrated was on the 25th, where I invited all of my close-by fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and some Paraguayan friends to have a traditional American Christmas dinner!
It was a blast. I’ve never cooked a traditional Christmas dinner before, so being in charge of all of the preparation, cooking, and decorating initially seemed like a daunting task, ESPECIALLY when you’re unsure of how the food will come out with Paraguayan ingredients. Then my grandmother’s genes kicked in and I turned into a lean, mean, cooking machine and project manager of the kitchen. Check out the pictures below of us preparing for the feast!
Our two beautiful 5 kg chickens (turkeys are rare and expensive in Paraguay) all spiced up and ready to be stuffed! Thanks to my grandmother’s instructions, I remembered to sprinkle paprika all over the top so that it would broil well. Thanks Muzzy!
My fridge full of all of the food I prepared ahead of time: twice baked potatoes, deviled eggs, and raspberry jello.
A visiting Canadian helping prep for our Christmas meal in my kitchen
Stuffing the chickens with our homemade apple… stuffing.
Our chickens ready to go in the oven!
Our ‘appetizer spread’ (my grandpa GB would be so proud): caprese salad, deviled eggs, latkes (one of the Peace Corps Volunteers who came was Jewish), onion dip, and the cheese platter! Everything was consumed in a matter of minutes, except for the cheese platter. You know that the food is good when Peace Corps Volunteers are so stuffed they can’t even touch the cheese!
Showing my Paraguayan friend Doris how to decorate gingerbread cookies! I got the cookie cutouts from the U.S. for this special occasion.
My friends Dennis and Doris decorating the gingerbread cookies. This is their first time they’ve ever done it before.
The finished result, a truly collaborative effort! Too bad I totally forgot about the cookies while they burned in the oven and were then inedible. Oh well…
Fellow Peace Corps Volunteers Wendy and Zoe serving our main entrées: roasted chicken, twice baked potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
My closest Volunteer Zoe and closest Paraguayan Liz celebrating an American Christmas in Paraguay!
I forgot to even take pictures of dessert, which included my Mom’s famous Christmas candy and an INCREDIBLE cheesecake Doris brought that we all went nuts over. Even though our stomachs were bursting from appetizers and dinner we each managed to eat a slice each.
It truly was an wonderful celebration- us 11 participants played American Christmas music, drank wine and coke, and stuffed our faces full of incredible American food that you would never dare to dream of having in Paraguay (it was marvelous, if I do say so myself). Our Paraguayan friends LOVED all of the food, and we celebrated by having an impromptu dance party in my house afterwards. Dennis taught us Brazilian Bachata while Wendy busted out some incredible tango moves. We ended the night with popcorn and Men In Black.
Thanks to everyone that attended for making Christmas so special for me. It’s hard to be away from family during such an important holiday, but being surrounded by people that do love you makes it all the worthwhile.
For the first time in my life, I celebrated this past Christmas outside of the United States and without my family. Hands down, my family’s favorite holiday is Christmas, and it can’t come fast enough for my Dad. Usually the day after Thanksgiving we get our Christmas tree, and our house is suddenly glittering with decorations. My Mom pulls out our advent calendar, and my Dad marks down the days to Christmas by blasting Christmas tunes throughout the house and teasing all of his children about the amazing gifts he got us. It’s a very special holiday for us, and even though I’ve traveled non-stop for the past 5 years, my Dad has always ensured that I come home for Christmas.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for me to make it back to the States this Christmas, so for the first (and most likely last) time in my life, I spent Christmas outside of the US. What better place to spend Christmas than in my second home, Paraguay? While on one hand it was sad to not be there with my family and celebrate our traditions, I got TWO Christmases for the price of one: a Paraguayan Christmas on the 24th, and then an American Christmas on the 25th. Both of these events ended up being some of my best times down here in Paraguay. Nothing is better than celebrating with the people you love, no matter where you are!
If I could describe this Christmas in one word, I would say it was unforgettable. Here’s to my first Paraguayan Christmas.
The FIRST Christmas- the 24th- I spent with my two best Paraguayan friends Liz and Dennis, who invited me to spend the holidays at their family’s house. Dennis picked me up in his car at about 8 PM on Christmas Eve, and we drove to Liz’s house to find about 20 people sitting on chairs outside on her patio. I sang ‘FELIZ NAVIDAD!’ (“Merry Christmas!”) as we pulled up, only to realize that they were all in the middle of prayer. Whoops.
This is a Paraguayan ‘nativity scene,’ which is very popular here. Almost every Paraguayan family has one outside of their house during Christmas. They decorate the nativity scene with Chipa (a traditional Paraguayan delicacy), cookies, Christmas lights, fruit, and the Baby Jesus!
Christmas in Paraguay is sort of celebrated like New Year’s is in the United States- on the evening of the 24th friends and family gather together for a big party and count down until midnight. So in typical Paraguayan style, we sat around on lawn chairs for a few hours drinking ‘vin-cola’ (Wine and Coke, a staple Paraguayan beverage) with all of Liz’s cousins and aunts and uncles, and counting down the minutes. I cracked jokes with Dennis and Liz (while Liz laughed repeatedly about me singing ‘Feliz Navidad!’) and drank a little too much cider. At about 11 PM Liz’s family pulled out chairs and tables to set up for the big Christmas feast, which consisted of typical Paraguayan ‘carne asado’ (grilled meat), ChipaGuazu (my favorite!), potato salad, and mandioca (a staple root vegetable, served cold and with meat). As I dined on roasted pig and beef we watched kids hurl fireworks at each other throughout the neighborhood, disregarding any sort of safety hazard per usual.
Liz’s entire family preparing to eat a delicious Christmas dinner!
Liz passing the carne asado to Dennis
Dennis getting ready to shove a huge piece of meat into his mouth
At 11:55 PM Liz poured champagne into glasses and we counted down to midnight on her phone. Once midnight struck everyone yelled ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS!’ and toasted. I was then hugged and kissed by every Paraguayan on the patio while neighbors lit off fireworks.
Liz giving the toast!
The Christmas tradition in Paraguay is that the children leave their wish lists next to the nativity scene on December 24th. This is the letter that Sofia, Liz’s niece, wrote.
Liz putting Sofia’s letter next to their family’s nativity scene.
‘Papa Noel’ (Santa) brings you your gifts at exactly midnight, and they ‘appear’ as everyone is toasting! All of the kids get to open their gifts and celebrate. Here is Sofia with a giant happy face because Santa brought her a kiddie pool to swim in during the summer!
After Papa Noel brought his gifts (including some gifts from the United States for Dennis and Liz!) we continued drinking, chatting, playing card games, and I even learned some choice curse words in Guaraní. We finally went to bed at Liz’s house at about 3 AM (but not before my parents called to read to me ‘The Night Before Christmas!’ So sweet!)
Dennis and his Dad
It was definitely a lovely and memorable Christmas Eve in Paraguay! Even though I didn’t spend Christmas with my family, it was a lot of fun to see the tradition of Christmas down in Paraguay and celebrate with two people who I care about so much in my site.
Stay tuned tomorrow for updates on the SECOND part of Christmas, which was where the real fun began.
Merry Day After Christmas!
What stories have you heard about Peace Corps Volunteers having a crazy meltdown? In Paraguay, there’s always the popular story of a Volunteer going berserk and stabbing a cow with a knife for eating her last pair of underwear. I’ve also heard the tale of Peace Corps staff finding a naked Volunteer alone in his house, stapling pancakes to the wall. While both of these accounts are a little bit hilarious, the stories ring true: we all have moments in our service where we go bat-shit cray-cray.
When you’re in the Peace Corps, ridiculous situations happen to you on a level that’s hard to even comprehend anywhere else. We’re alone, new to our communities, struggling to learn the local language, and trying to figure out how to live our lives in a completely different way. Many times in the developing world, things never go as planned, safety hazards are blatantly ignored by everyone, people are blunt and disregard what we consider polite, or rituals and customs in-country are completely different than what we would ever consider ‘normal’ from our American values. Peace Corps Volunteers do a great job of handling these extreme and often stressful situations with humor and grace. However, when a lot of them happen at the same time, there reaches a tipping point, and the littlest trigger can send us spiraling out of control into cray-dom, turning us into a blubbering, deranged mess.
How do Peace Corps Volunteers go crazy? I’ve illustrated a few examples of how a couple of bizarre situations can lead to a total meltdown. All of the situations outlined below are true instances that have happened to some of my Peace Corps friends in Paraguay. One of them happened to me: I’ll let you guess which one it is.
Walking down the street and being screamed you’re fat by a stranger (who by the way, is usually morbidly obese) can sometimes be worthy of a melt-down itself. But for this purpose, the Volunteer is pretty calm about the entire thing.
Bee hive in your house? Green chunks in your drinking water? House flooded by dirt and slime? Rats scuttling around your kitchen? Frustrating and annoying, but always a situation that can be ignored and dealt with later. This extra stress causes the cray-meter to slowly rise a little higher.
Crazy medical condition? Plastic bag full of groceries that you have to carry for 3 miles splits open in 90+ degree heat? You killed that rat in your kitchen by feeding it poison, but now it’s dead and decomposing somewhere in your house? Maggots got into your food and now there are a million flies in your kitchen? The cray-meter is rising, and you feel an explosion coming on…
The next and littlest inconvenience in your life, like not being able to fit the key into your lock because you’re impatient and just want to get into your house, is the trigger to an insane meltdown.
And that my friends, is how you end up sobbing in an aisle in your supermarket because you can’t decide on the right shampoo.
I was recently interviewed by Vida de Latinos, a new Singapore-based magazine, on my travels in South America! They contacted me after reading my blog and asked to feature me in their magazine. I feel super grateful and also excited to be highlighted in a travel magazine. Thanks Vida de Latinos for including me in your first edition!
Feel free to check out the article here- Traveling South America With Brittany Boroian.
And for those of you visiting from Vida de Latinos, welcome! If you’re interested in reading more about my travels through South America, check out my travels and pictures to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. I’ve also been to many other areas of the world, which you can read more about by scrolling down to the ‘Categories’ section on the right-hand side of my blog.
Thanks for visiting and for your support!