There’s a reason these things go up at the end of January, rather than the start. En seguida. In Paraguay, that phrase doesn’t mean “right away.” It means the same thing “mañana” means in Mexico. It means something will happen at an undisclosed time between “in a little while” and infinity. And I’m adjusting. So don’t judge, read on…
- Be more communicative. Talk to more people. One of the main regrets from my first Peace Corps service (Agroforestry Cameroon, 2006-2008) was that I kept it professional. In a bad way. I went to my village, said “This is a job I’m here to do,” and rarely made friends. If something didn’t lead to work, I rarely pursued it. It made the projects go smoothly. I was efficient. Like a machine. I don’t want that this time. I want to have a community that I’ll weep to leave. I want friends, damn it, and if I can help them improve their farms, their fields, their lives, that’s all good. If not, well… What kind of person are you if you go through life measuring relationships by their professional potential?
- Be more tranquilo. It’s hard, being an American Peace Corps volunteer in a Paraguayan community. You want things to happen now. You feel like every moment should be spent working. You remember being told “Volunteers are on the job 24/7.” But nobody else works 24/7. People take siestas. Nobody goes outside on rainy days – they shut their doors and go back to bed. The nervous twinge in your gut increases. “Shouldn’t I be doing something right now?” you wonder – especially during the first few months, when work hasn’t really started up yet, and you’re still figuring out your role in the community. But tranquilo – be easy. Don’t stress about it. Things will work out. That’s what I tell myself when I worry.
- Be more guapo. This one’s even more general, but it completes the Paraguayan triangle – en seguida, tranquilo, and guapo. And I don’t mean handsome, though I wouldn’t mind waking up to find I’d suddenly become a hot stud. In Paraguay, guapo means hardworking. It means you get out there and do things. It means you pick up a hoe and start digging in the field. It means getting your hands dirty even when you don’t have to. Guapo means going above and beyond. “Nde guapo,” I want them to say. “You’re so guapo.”
- Go horseback riding. Finally something specific. Bam. Done. Winning.