“And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back--if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?” –C.S. Lewis, from Out of the Silent Planet
Ok, I had to start this with a C.S. Lewis quote. (anyone who knows me is not particularly surprised by this) And it is a pretty good point-much of the joy from an experience usually comes from expecting it and remembering it afterwards. So what does this have to do with Paraguay?
First, the whole expectation thing. I figured out quickly that it’s pretty unwise to have lots of set-in-stone expectations about a trip like this. When I first came, I thought I’d be spending the whole six weeks out in the country teaching English. To say that some of my expectations were a bit off the mark would be correct. A few things that I didn’t expect:
1. I didn’t expect to live in Asunción for 3 weeks. It´s been a really great experience, but I didn´t exactly see it coming.
2. I didn´t expect that part of a missions trip would be chasing a dog around the mission house and playing tug-of-war (not that I´m complaining about that one).
Jake-the-dog, not to be confused with Jake-the-person, whom some of you may know
3. Neither did I anticipate having a bad cold that basically put me out of commission for the better part of a week. Yuck.
4. Cow barns with chandeliers and a Paraguayan fair that played Korean pop music were unanticipated experiences.
Awesome chandelier in a cow barn
5. I definitely didn´t expect this sunny, 70-80 degree weather during the Paraguayan winter. If I ever come here again, I´ll be bringing more shorts.
6. I didn´t expect passion fruit ice cream, juice, and quick bread to taste quite this good. I´m going to miss that so much when I go home.
7. I didn´t expect to adjust to some things quite this fast. For example, the random motorcyclist who has decided to take a shortcut on the sidewalk only prompts the following thought: “Hmm, I should probably move out of his way.”
As for the memories, I´ll have a ton of those from this trip. But there are always a few that stick will stick with me, whether I have pictures of them or not. A few things I never want to forget:
1. The sound of all the Paraguayan passengers clapping when the plane landed safely on the runway in Asunción. This is apparently a Paraguayan tradition of sorts. I have to say, I agreed with them quite heartily (especially since the plane landed 7 hours behind schedule).
2. The taste of a fresh mandarina (tangerine), picked for me by half a dozen adorable elementary kids. Nothing tastes as good as fresh-picked fruit.
3. The sight of the hills, not flowing like ocean waves, but sticking straight out of the flat landscape like the fins of giant fish. And knowing that this sight is a broken shadow of the one in the world to come is even more awe-inspiring.
4. The smell of freshly made cocido (yerba mate tea with milk and sugar). While staying with a family in the village, I drank it every morning for breakfast.
5. The touch of about 40 other human beings crushing against my body on a public bus. All I could think about was (another) C.S. Lewis quote:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare... There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal... it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
It´s hard to comprehend that this quote described every single person in the bus that night-not to mention every single person in this city. So many people that are loved, whether they know it or not.
6. The feeling of accomplishment when I was actually able to walk a block or two to the store and complete a transaction there by myself. Sometimes it´s healthy to get back to elementary school level.
7. The laughter of little kids and big kids, too. That´s the same in any language.
My kids from English class
So a moment is not just the moment itself. It´s the expectation, and how the reality differs from the expectation, and how we remember the moment days or years later. But they´re all a gift. I think that´s part of the reason why we don´t get to live the same moments over again-because we´d never get to enjoy all the other aspects of it if we could have the reality as often as we wanted. So savor your moments, cherish your memories, and hold loosely to your expectations (advice I´m still learning to take myself). You never know what unexpected things may come up in a life led by God.
Until next time,