Sunday, June 13, 2010

Trip Home

I'm taking a trip home in July, and when I come back I'll have just 9 months left. It's costing, well, a lot. But it feels something like necessary.

I've changed in Paraguay. As much as we like to think we are strong enough to be who we are, no matter what, the truth is we are where we are, we are the people we're with, we are others' reactions to us. In most cases, without realizing it, we become who our environments tell us we are.

People treat you just a smidgen less than human, or more than a smidgen. You can only laugh it off for so long. You think you're still laughing it off, until you realize you've become introverted. You want to stay home. You want to be with the few people who treat you, fully, as if you're another person. You don't want to be among the stares, anymore. You don't want to hear their voices, talking to you in the same voice as you would a child, then repeating your responses loudly and have a jolly round of laughter, minus you.

I've grown tired of it. I don't want to be out, listening to someone else's music, speaking someone else's language, sitting there, unintroduced. When I do go, I usually just sit there, the only one not laughing at the jokes said in speedy Guaraní, hanging on to Oscar's arm, and I want to sleep before it's even 11.

There are six Paraguayans who treat me like I'm a real-live human being. They make it alright. Other than that, I am the joke. I am that girl. Unless I'm in my house, alone, which has become my preferred spot. I didn't used to be like this.

The old me comes out over Skype, talking to my sister, my mom, my old friends. I have a distant memory of being the funny one. Of course I've provided a lot of laughs for Paraguayans, but there's that crucial "laughing at" versus the "laughing with" component.

In a way, I'm going home to visit my old self, seen through the faces of the people who are glad to see me. I'm a true friend there. I'm a sister. I'm a daughter. I'm an aunt. I can leave the foreign kid behind, go home and, for 22 days, be myself again.


Anonymous said...

dear paulita , i have been following your blog for long time now,is been really fun at times and really hard to read at others, please get in touch i will love it if you ever in london to meet for chat about that place i called home
all the best

Pamela said...

Seeeeestor! We can't wait to see you and I will bet you $50 that Peter makes you laugh within your first 3 minutes together. You ARE the funny one, some people just don't get it. And some people are just assholes. You are kind and funny and make me laugh so hard I cry. Don't ever forget how lovely you are. Your environment does not define you. YOU define you. I'm sorry that you don't have fun people to laugh and play with.

Keep your head up and always remember that you don't have to extend! Love!

~Stateside Seeeeeeestor

Anonymous said...

I wish I'd seen your blog before tonight. Yeah yeah- strangers aren't as good for comfort as folks you actually know, but when they speak the same language you do, and will only ever know you as the funny one-- well maybe it helps a little.

Glad you're still writing here. It sounds like it was a life changing experience, and life lasts beyond just a week, a month, a year after the experience itself has ended. And at the very least: A stranger in Waukesha, WI is really digging reading your thoughts and reflections on this trip, and nobody wants to let down a Wisconsinite. We're full of too much too roly-poly, down home Americana huggableness.