Last week I had a fiesta de despedida (goodbye party) in Ña Justina’s, my neighbor, house. The Señora told me that she wanted to have a dinner for me. I ajahu-ed (bathed), ambochuka-ed (dressed up), and aha-ed (went) over to her house. Her and her daughters had prepared pasta with a red sauce, pasta with a cream sauce, ensalada de arroz (rice salad), and vegetarian empanadas with cabbage, peas, and eggs. We ended the meal with a what they called a tortita (little cake), but was actually a giant frosting-covered lemon cake. It truly was a vegetarian feast!
I appreciated the communal creation of the food, using lettuce from my garden, lemons from my tree, and crema de leche (cream) from my cupboard, to create a delicious meal. That’s something I’ll miss about Paraguay, how it takes a community to create a meal.
This lovely evening exemplies the unparalleled experience of being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Throughout the last two years, I’ve repeatedly had the same experience of people whom I’ve only known for a short period of time, with whom I don’t share the same language or culture, inviting me into their homes and preparing a meal for me. This meal was made even more special because it was entirely vegetarian in a country where every fiesta invovles asado (grilled meat) and little else. It was held by my the first family I had lived with in my community, including the mother who had taught me word after word in Guaraní, the father who had me taught how to pray after meals, and the daughter who had taught me how to prepare empanadas. They threw me a party because even though they don’t know my favorite color or my brother’s name or what I like to do on weekends, they will me and I will miss them and Paraguay.
Typical Paraguayan party food:
The vegetarian feast at my goodbye party: