This week I was finally able to experience some freedom and little bit of travel within Paraguay! We were released from our busy training schedule to hit the road and visit other volunteers in the field. Two buses and five hours later, thanks to the random Paraguayans I had to interview for directions along the way, I made it to the small town of Caraguatay in the Cordillera district.
My volunteer hostess received me with delicious homemade pizza and loads of hospitality. We settled in for the afternoon in her vibrantly painted one room house and lounged on the patio in her equally colorful hammock. For four days I was able to get a sneak peak into the tranquilo life of a volunteer in a small community. We went to the radio station for the weekly program…but nobody showed up to put us on the air. After waiting for a half hour or so, we caught a bus to Caacupe and toured Paraguay's basilica, which attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year, who walk along the camino for a few miles or a few days to pay homage to the year's past miracles attributed to the Virgin of Caacupe.
In my hostess's community we hung out at the library she helped run, sipped terere and read aloud the many Paraguayan sayings and myths. We also walked an hour to the national park called Vapor Cue, where two huge steam ships used to transport supplies and troops along the nearby Rio Negro during the War of the Triple Alliance in the 1860's were on display. Next to the ships and the monument we had a picnic and enjoyed the sunny weather. I hope to spot a crocodile in the murky waters that have been rising far above their banks due to all the rain, but to no avail. On a serious note, there has been significant flooding in all of Paraguay this winter, and upwards of 500,000 people have been displaced.
Today I'm back in training and have a while to go before I will be able to travel again. But I'm feeling more confident in navigating my way around the hectic Paraguayan bus system and am reassured by the friendliness of Paraguayans. Visiting a volunteer was also a good look at challenges and successes in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer (PCV). No matter where I end up six weeks from now it is apparent that my ticket to success will lie within the slow but meaningful cultivation of community relationships, not only to combat feelings of loneliness and cultural isolation, but most importantly to build a foundation for impactful projects to come.