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Love Water: A Guest Post by Joanna Arnold
November 7, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: Paraguay

My friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Joanna, along with her husband and a few other PCVs from the south visited me in Caazapá for the day. This is a chronicle of our journey: a guest post and pictures, by Joanna Arnold.



Upon completion of the intense, ten week PC training, newly minted PCVs gain not only just over 150 hours of language classes, deep insight into PC development theory and technique, and a dozen textbooks.  We also gain upwards of twenty new BFFs scattered throughout Paraguay.

Once PCVs move to site, many experience a sort of withdrawal.  After sharing every intense, strange, and often ridiculous moment since arriving in country with our fellow trainees, a loneliness hovers as we make our way in our new communities.  Of course, with time, we figure things out.  Yet, few connections bind like the ones made the first time you hang out the side of a collectivo balanced between a broken door, your friend’s backpack, and someone’s newly filled tank of propane.

Two months into service (which felt longer than two years in previous lives), and desperate to reunite with our training classmates, nearly all of G-36 descended upon San Juan Nepomuceno for a mini-leadership camp and, more importantly, the promise of delicious Indian food.  On the way, a small southern faction of the group stopped for the night in Caazapá.  And like any good PCVs, recognizing that 2/3 of the PC mission statement regards cultural exchange, we took the opportunity to get to take in a little local color from this central city.

400 years after the Franciscans first set up camp, and following six hours on predominately dirt road, we arrived in the Caazapá bus terminal.  After a brief tour around the local coop, our group of five retreated to our friend’s home and rinsed the dust out from in between our teeth with a little sweet cider.  We relaxed, we caught up, and then we decided the time had come to visit Ykuá Bolaños.

When the Franciscan Friar Luis Bolaños arrived in town in 1607, thirsty locals wanted something a little more tangible than the holy man’s word to assure the sanctity of his intentions.  They made a deal: if he could produce water, they would convert to Christianity.  If he failed, they could kill him.  Lucky for him, after some swift work with his wooden staff (the stories here can’t quite agree on if he touched a rock or moved a rock), a spring began to flow- and even in years of extreme drought it has never stopped.  Today, legend dictates that good fortune will come to lovers who drink from the spring together.  As a married couple amongst friends, it seemed only natural to test out the legitimacy of the story on our love.

Like every other activity in Paraguay, it took us way longer to walk to the sacred spot than any of us expected.  We walked through the church plaza, past a number of chuchi (nice) houses, saved a sweet puppy from a moto, and ultimately arrived at a community sports complex.  Behind where active residents play racquetball, we took a set of wood stairs set into a hill down towards a small natural spring.  We arrived sunburned, sticky, and in darkness.

We also didn’t have any cups.  Informed by the cider from earlier in the afternoon, we decided that our hands couldn’t possibly serve us in this situation.  We determined that in order to truly make the most of the promise of the spring, we should drink the water out of a plastic bag leftover from an empanada purchase.  In the haze of the moment, I don’t remember who shook the crumbs out of the blue and white folds.  All I know is that when the liquid hit my tongue, I was less concerned about greasy leftovers and more worried about giardia.  That, and falling face first into the rocks.

As our fellow volunteers flashed their cameras like paparazzi, we balanced between slippery algae covered stones and poured bagfuls of cool tasteless water in our mouths.  I couldn’t help but wonder about those who stood on the steps before us and the dreams they held dear.  How rare a moment to share a 400 year old tradition with strangers I’ll probably never meet.  How fortunate for such dear friends to bear witness.

I also wonder if our love got an extra boost when I sprayed the spring water through my nose.  Hopefully, like Friar Luis and his famous staff, this extra touch sealed the deal.  I have a lucky feeling about this one.

And make sure to check out Joanna’s witty and hilarious stories about life in Paraguay at Rate of Exchange!


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