Thursday, July 2, 2009

First Post from Paraguay

I’m sorry that I haven’t written for the past couple of days. Hopefully you have been able to keep up via Twitter, Facebook, or my dad’s blog to know that I have made it to Asuncion alive. I’ve had to make several adjustments over the past few days, and have not really felt up to blogging. I realize that there are people from church reading this blog, and I’m sorry if I bum you out at all with this post. I will try to dull down the bad stuff as much as I can, and let you know more about the good stuff, but the truth is, being a missions worker is nothing like I expected, and I need to be completely honest about it.

The good stuff first.

Asuncion is beautiful. Lambare, where I am living is beautiful. However, they are not, to the average American eye, major tourist areas. The architecture is amazing. Most of the homes are white with red, clay colored slate roofs. There is absolutely no division between la ciudad and el campo (the city and the country). For example, the Birs, and by extension at the moment, I, live in a very nice rancho. It has three bedrooms, two stories, two bathrooms, and a courtyard. Next door, there are three very poor families, with roosters. I get woken up by the roosters every morning. Yesterday, we were driving along, coming home from the school and the church, and I saw cows. Yes, as in “Moooo….”. Cows. Just sitting in a random patch of grass in the midst of a bunch of Laundromats and empanada stands. It was fairly surreal.

The school was amazing. It’s very small, with three classrooms, a kitchen, and an office, with a courtyard in the middle. The kids seem to like me. I got so many hugs yesterday. They talk very fast and I try to talk to them, but it doesn’t work out very well. “Mas despacio, por favor” (more slowly, please) has become my favorite phrase. I did manage to make a friend at the school- one of the teachers named Deisy. She speaks no English, but has very good articulation and speaks very slowly so that I can understand her. We were able to talk for about twenty minutes yesterday, about our backgrounds, our families, and all of that stuff. She thought that Teacher Academy seemed very cool. I made one of my first mistakes yesterday, though. Deisy was telling me about the temperature in Paraguay during the summer and how incredibly hot it was. She asked how warm it was at home during our summer. I told her that in Ohio right now it was summer, and was very hot. ”When I left home on Monday, it was ninety degrees,” I told her. She gave me this look like I was insane and said “Ahhh….si….en Paraguay en el verano es treinta, veinte….” (Ahh…yes, in Paraguay in the summer it is thirty, twenty) I forgot that here they use Celsius. And I have no idea how to use Celsius. So, she probably thinks I live in a fantasy world at the moment. I was also able to talk to the Guarani teacher, who also teaches second grade. Guarani is the native language and a Guarani class would be the equivalent of our English classes in the United States. His name is Elias and he offered to teach me how to say some things in Guarani and asked me how I liked Paraguay. The people working at the school all seem very nice and hospitable. I was also able to sit in on their children’s service yesterday, or “cuto”. Don’t ask me what that means because neither I, nor the missionaries , know why they call it that.

They are attempting to build a new school across the street, with six new classrooms. It was apparently supposed to be ready this month, but due to excessive rains, they haven’t been able to finish it. It was nice to be able to see the progress on the building after hearing about the necessity to buy this land on the DVD that the Goodrums gave me last year.

I love all of these things, but one thing is extremely hard here. I hate being away from home. I was never really at home anyway, because I was usually with Dawn or Mistie or, back during the school year, Rachel. Because of this, I always considered myself a fairly independent person. However, being 6000 miles away, by myself is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. People keep telling me that saying goodbye was the hardest part, but I really have to disagree with them. I have felt horrible since I left Houston. I was praying that I would have a fever at the Argentine airport so that they would send me back on a plane to the United States. But, I didn’t, and that airport was the worst experience. I got stopped at customs because they thought my books weren’t books, and ended up opening my suitcase to make sure that they were, in fact, books. The airport was huge, and although there was a McDonald’s, I couldn’t find it. In order to get into the country, I had to wear a face mask, because they were afraid of swine flu. Once I got to the Paraguayan airport, they didn’t make us wear face masks, or say anything about them, and when I got off the plane and into the place where my luggage was and my passport was stamped, I was horrified to see that everyone was wearing a face mask and I was not. The fear of disease is really getting to me. Sis.Bir made the mistake of telling me about Dengue. I have medicine to prevent malaria, but apparently, Dengue is a mild form of malaria, and there isn’t a medicine for it. She said that nearly everyone in the church has had it, and she is the only member of her family who hasn’t. Her neighbors apparently had notices put on their doors a little while back. She told me not to worry because people usually don’t die of it, but they are usually sick for about two weeks, with chills, aching bones, and flu-like symptoms. This terrifies me, because I haven’t felt great since I got here. I’m sure that it’s not that, but right now, I’m feeling pretty awful and am terrified that I’m going to get swine flu or Dengue and have to go to a Paraguayan hospital. Add to that, the fact that Pneumonia and Bronchitis are going around the school, and I’m a nervous wreck.

I haven’t really been able to eat since I left. In Houston, I picked at my dinner at Chili’s, causing even the waitress to comment that “You didn’t even eat it…”. Airline food, obviously, is just disgusting. Even here, I haven’t been able to eat, and we haven’t really eaten anything Paraguayan. We’ve had sloppy joes, pancakes, fried chicken, and mixtos, or grilled ham and cheese, since I’ve been here. I’ve just not been able to eat and Sis.Bir is convinced that I’m hungry and trying to be polite. But I’m really not. I’m just ridiculously homesick. I’ve slept a lot, not eaten a lot, and every chance I get, I’m on Skype with my parents or friends, because I go insane when I’m thinking of home and can’t talk to anyone. My first night here was horrible. I talked to my parents and when I got off to go to sleep, I couldn’t sleep because I found letters that they had written me and stuck in my suitcase, and started crying really hard, after trying so hard to keep my composure in front of the missionaries and to not cry. Then, for some reason, after that I couldn’t stop worrying that something horrible was going to happen to someone in my family, and I was going to have no way to find out because my BlackBerry doesn’t work, I have dial-up internet here, and even if I could find out, it’s a 21-hour trip home, at least! I feel so lost and alone. That night, I went and talked to Sis.Bir because I just couldn’t handle it any longer. I told her, point blank, that I didn’t think I could handle this six months. I missed home too much, and if I felt like this, there was no way that I would be any help to anyone. I was scared, sick, and just wanted to be at home, in my own bed. My family missed me, I missed them more than I could say, and it just wasn’t working for me.

This is the part where some of you may be frustrated with me, or even mad. Please don’t. I really am trying and this is really this hard for me.

She told me that she wanted me to commit to a month. Bro.Bir is going to Peru and she wants me to help her for the two weeks that he is gone and while winter break is going on. One month, and if I was still absolutely miserable, then they would take me to the airport, and I could go home. She told me that she thought I was incredibly brave for even getting on that airplane by myself at eighteen and coming over to Paraguay.

A month right now is my goal. I know that I’ve been working for the past year with a six month to a year mindset, but right now, the idea of a month is what I can handle. I have July 28th marked on my calendar, checking off the days. If after a month, I’m okay, I’ll try for another. The ultimate goal for me right now, although even this hurts to think about, is coming home once my first visa is up, in September. I’m sorry if this hurts or disappoints any of you. I honestly am going to give this all I have, but I really don’t know how much that is at the moment.

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