All of us had to wake up early today, around 7:00 a.m. to travel to Isla Pucu. The call time was 7:30 a.m. but many students ended up waking up late. We road the bus for about an hour and a half to get to Isla Pucu, during which we took one break in front of a super market. By looking at the vast fields in the countryside with the occasional cows, chickens and horses meandering along, I realized once more why Paraguay is only a country of 5 million that feeds 30 million people around the world.
When we arrived in Isla Pucu, we received the warmest welcome. The high school, called colegio, consists of students from 7th to 12th grade. The school consists of long houses the surround a square grass field. It’s situated in the center of Isla Pucu. As soon as we stepped out of the van, students from the colegio were dressed in their traditional Paraguayan clothes to greet us, and of course, music was playing. They all gave us kisses on both cheeks. I’ve never given so many kisses at one time. By the end of the greeting, I did not know who I had kissed. This is when we first met Ashton, David and Paola. Ashton is a Peace Corp volunteer, who basically organized all of the LearnServe activities in Isla Pucu. She has only been in Paraguay for 4 months. Her job is inspiring many of us to become Peace Corps volunteers some day. David and Paola are students at the school, who helped Ashton with planning.
The students of Isla Pucu danced the traditional Paraguayan dance, and played beautiful music on the guitar and harp. We were all blown away by their hospitality. Jeremy became the Justin Bieber of the group in Isla Pucu and everyone was welcomed warmly.
We then had lunch at a comedor, which is Isla Pucu’s parallel of a soup kitchen for children. We had delicious pasta and learned how to eat oranges Paraguayan style for dessert. While we were waiting for the food, we enjoyed watching Yoni play soccer and get completely slayed by 3 little kids. At first, we all felt bad for eating at the comedor because we thought that we were eating the food meant for children who actually need it. But when Scott explained that we were providing them with funding for support, everyone felt relieved.
When we got back to the school, they had another concert for us. They are extremely hospitable. Then the LearnServe group split up into 6 teams to visit the classes. Aaron, Sache, and I visited the 7th grade natural science class. We did not talk much, mostly because we were all rough on our Spanish, but the teacher told us that they had no labs where students could carry out experiments. I also noticed that students had no textbooks. Only the teacher had a textbook, and students listened and copied what she read out loud from her book. This exposure as well as Ashton’s mention later on that Paraguayan kids did not yet know how to properly treat and read books pushed me to value my possible job tomorrow as a bookmaker. Other students visited art classes. When classes were over and LearnServe students shared their experiences, Nailah again shared the Paraguayan people’s fascination with her hair. She had to show them how to brain their hair like hers. People from Santa Ana had shown the same interest in Sache’s braids.
After, we took a walking tour of Isla Pucu, hitting all the schools and locations we will be working in tomorrow. Then we came back to the school to finally go to our host family homes. Everyone was anxious about meeting them, and especially for girls, concerned about the condition of the bathrooms. I arrived at Cati’s house with the help of Ashton and David. Cati is a 16 year old girl who is very sweet and energetic. Her mom greeted me and gave me tortillas for dinner. They were good. When Robin later joined me at the house, she was also impressed by the tortillas. We enjoyed the peaceful and quiet night of Isla Pucu while having our dinner, although we were both so cold. The layout of the house is different, so the kitchen is actually situated like a balcony. I enjoyed seeing the unique layout of Paraguayan homes and bright solid colors that decorate every wall.
Cati, Robin, and I talked for awhile. Although Cati spoke little to no English and Robin and I speak little Spanish, I was amazed to see how much we all understood each other. With lots of laughing, and understanding, and just going with the flow, we all grew close extremely quickly. We became close enough to call each other sisters, listen and dance to American music, Paraguayan music and pop, and even visit Cati’s aunt’s house right next door. Cati’s entire family basically lives all next to each other. Whereas my family is separated by thousands of miles of ocean and land between Korea and D.C. I envied her for having all her family so close.
We had a wonderful conversation at her aunt’s house. Her aunt actually spoke some English because she had lived in the U.S. for three years for work. When we came back to Cati’s house, we all watched “Yingo” together on T.V. It’s a popular Chilean show. Robin told me that it’s equivalent to an American game show, but people were arguing, crying, and jumping inside cold water.
As I am writing this journal, snuggled up under three layers of blanket, four layers of clothes, with gloves and a hat to protect me from the cold, listening to dogs bark and chickens crow around midnight, I can’t believe that I am in Paraguay. Although this is just my reflection on the day, I am certain that all LearnServe members are making priceless memories with people they will never forget. It has only been three days in Paraguay and one day with my host sister, but I feel as though I have lived here for months and I already can’t imagine ever leaving them.
Tomorrow is another full day in Isla Pucu. We will officially start working and also celebrate San Juan with traditional food and music. So “ahora me voy a acostar.”