THE RPCV TOUR PART I

So I didn’t think I was gonna write in this blog anymore. My creativity kind of tapped out in the last five months of my service — monotony doesn’t really inspire you to write new things. But here I am in my friend’s apartment in Buenos Aires after a 20 hour bus ride and suddenly there are words again.

I just finished leg one of my RPCV tour. Iguazu Falls, Argentina. It was the only part of my trip that was alone, which was nice because after leaving Paraguay I was feeling feels that no one deserved to be on the receiving end of (also why I haven’t called you in a  couple of weeks, Mom).

I hopped my last Paraguayan bus to Ciudad del Este last Saturday. Of course, the bus took longer than promised and of course, I missed the last bus to Puerto Iguazu, but it wouldn’t have been Paraguay if something hadn’t gone askew. There were only a few people on my bus, it was quiet, the soy fields and sparse trees of the country I’d tried to call home for the past two years flew past my window…I was leaving. I ate my last bus chipa. I hopped in a taxi to my next destination and stamped out of Paraguay for the last time. It felt happy and sad and frustrating.

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Happy — because I’m done. I’m free. I will hopefully never again worry about being spat on or run off the road when I ride my bike. No more shitty campo buses making me carsick even when I fall asleep. No more inconsiderate neighbors burning their trash when i put my clothes out to dry. NO. MORE. CAÑA. Maybe now my hair will start growing back. Maybe now I can stop being afraid of every man who walks by me in the grocery store. Also, happy because of the sad. I was going into my last week in site feeling nothing but excitement for my trip, no sadness for leaving, and feeling big heaps of sadness meant I really had put my heart and soul into my two years here, I hadn’t half-assed it.

Sad — because when will I next see my favorite Paraguayans? A, H and I sat on my porch my last night in site crying for an hour, because we didn’t know what else to do with ourselves. My host family have been my people for the past two years. They took me in during a really sketchy and unpleasant time in my service and I’m so grateful to them and there was no amount of thanks and i love yous i could say to get across what I needed to say. When I left the States two years ago, I knew that I’d see my parents again. I legitimately don’t know if I’ll ever see my host family again. That breaks my heart.

Frustrated — because of the impact this country has had on my mental health. I am sitting in Mo & Simone’s apt in Buenos Aires now and am trying to sort out how I’m going to get past the man-hating Paraguay has instilled in me. More on that later. Frustrated because my work here seems futile. I don’t know if any of the impact will stick. The infrastructure, the culture of Paraguay says it won’t. Who is my host sister going to talk to about the big taboo topics I have no problem confronting? Who is going to encourage my brother to continue to be respectful, faithful, and challenge the machismo stereotypes of Paraguay? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the rest of Paraguay will tell my sister to sit down and shut up, and tell my brother that he’s less of a man for only having one girlfriend. I hope they don’t cave in.

Frustrated — because if one more person tells me what a good person I am for serving in the Peace Corps I am going to lose my head. I am no more noble than a doctor or a journalist or really any other human in their mid-twenties trying to figure out their place in the world. I want to give you all a blanket thank you and want to stop talking about ME. I have stories I’ll want to tell, but right now I need to process it all so I have something real to say to you instead of talking out my ass. 

So I went to the Falls by myself and thought about my happy sad frustrated feelings and got instantly happier the second the mist hit my face. When a wave crashes on the shore, you can see that the bubbles and water droplets came together and formed one big wave. That water is both big and small. But at the falls, the water falls in big giant sheets. It was the best kind of feeling small. I love feeling small in the face of nature. Sad dispersed pretty quickly. I was beyond content being alone (with like a million other tourists) and some big water. Frustrated of course manifested itself when a man who took my photo made a slimy-sounding comment about my looks. Of course, that man was attached to the friendly couple from San Diego I had met and was chatting with. Their guide and driver. But they were so eager to hear about my service and she worked with battered women and they were a gold mine of familiar California chit chat so I stuck with them, despite the weird vibes from their guide. Eventually it was time to go and they offered me a ride back to my hostel and I said ok because I was already sunburned and the bus stop had no shade. I spent the whole car ride, especially the part after the driver dropped off the couple, feeling uncomfortable. He drove too fast, he took weird, zig-zagging turns like he might be trying to confuse me or get me lost. He kept saying my name which sounded slimy and dirty in his mouth.

When I told another volunteer that story, they got it. But the second I told someone who hadn’t lived in Paraguay, it felt like maybe I was projecting. It felt like maybe I am being overly cautious? I don’t know. I still haven’t figured it out. Paraguay has set me up to assume the worst about men, and I have never felt like that before. I have great, respectful, marvelous feminist men in my life. They have created an unrealistic expectation of what men are like. And Paraguay has done the same, only opposite. I don’t want to be scared, but honestly I am.

Yesterday, after discovering bed bugs in my bed in my hostel in Puerto Iguazu (classic south america), I hopped a bus to Buenos Aires to reunite with some loves from college. In true South American fashion, my 1 p.m. express bus arrived at 2 p.m. and made 10 stops as opposed to the promised two. We arrived five hours later than expected, and the whole ride I sat next to someone who smelled like fish guts. I was cranky when I arrived, but then I stepped out on to the streets of Buenos Aires, a city that a year ago grabbed me by the heart and said “come back soon” and I am so, so glad I listened. I drove through the city and grinned, like that scene when Lizzie McGuire arrives in Rome and her taxi casually rolls past the Trevi fountain and she gasps. That was me. I am Lizzie McGuire. Some seventh grade dreams do come true. So I’m going to be here until Friday and then play by the ocean and then meet Kait in Chile and maybe if creativity strikes again I’ll write some more but no promises. 

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