In Paraguari, a major city center, situated about 3 kilometers from my town, there rests a pleasant little building titled, Regional Hospital Paraguari. In this hospital there sits a special area designated for youth titled, Zona Joven. The Young Zone. An obstetrician who works in the Zona Joven heard through the grapevine that I possessed the triple threat of youth obstetrics: Yoga, teenagers and pregnancy experience. I've only directly experienced two of the three but had pretty intimate contact with the third. Lots of blood and screaming. Anyway, this obstetrician named Laura rooted me out in my little town down the road and asked me to lead a yoga class for pregnant youth.
You might be wondering... Is Carly certified to instruct yoga classes? Then again, you might not care enough to wonder. Either way, the answer is... In what context? .... okay technically in the United States well no not really. I'm not licensed or anything. But hey- this is Paraguay. And my mere access to Google makes me an infinitely better resource for yoga classes than the overwhelming majority of the gente (people) around me. So ah ha! The answer now is yes: I'm certified. Don't worry about it.
Obviously I said yes and after about a month we have organized the group. Se llama Mama Felices, Bebes Sanos: Happy Moms, Healthy Babies. Hopefully by increasing the mothers' awareness, we can increase the likelihood of a healthy, educated upbringing for the child.
This morning I had my first class. But let's back up because the class is important- it was a huge moment for me- but even before that a huger moment presented itself to me for which I'll be infinitely grateful. And that's a for real statement. An un-exaggerated-yes-I-mean-it-life-changing kinda' thing.
So it's 10 o'clock this morning. I've just finished the first in a sequence of radio broadcasts on the topic of women's health with my dear friend Anna Banana Sanger. Hey- we spoke in another language on the radio. I'm kind of proud of myself. Anna and I are eating unhealthy food on the way to yoga class because that's how we roll. I got a sweet tooth that would put Cookie Monster to shame and I am not messing around with that statement either. You're shameful Cookie Monster. Anyway, I'm thinking to myself... I'm thinking... after all this managing spanish, it must be so nice to go willy nilly and teach classes in your native language. What a breeze!! What a break!!
Thinking this I feel a little bit ... what...?.... a little bit like my hubris has up and abandoned me? Like I'm flourishing my bravura a little too brazenly? I don't care. I can feel the power of my thoughts welling up inside me and I've got to say them out loud and hey, there's Anna, a fluent English speaker and the ever-present sounding-board of my sometimes frightening thoughts so I say to her, "I think I can do anything," and before I can even finish tacking on, "after this experience," an ambiguous statement in itself, she's already nodding her little head and pointing affirmatively at me. "Yeah!" We both say how relieving it would be teach a class - on anything- in our native language considering we frequently teach classes in Spanish and Guarani on topics we knew almost nothing about 10 months ago. I can't imagine ever being very nervous for a job interview again- unless it's going to be in Russia.
Considering this incredible feat- having acquired the confidence to tackle any obstacle- the two years are worth it. Two years away from friends and family, two years of not 'climbing the corporate ladder' or advancing academically are suddenly worth it when weighed against the backdrop of personal development that comes from constantly living outside of your comfort zone. If the Peace Corps dropped me off in April of 2013 with nothing more to show than this confidence in myself, the two years are worth it.
Now consider this, my friend. Add on top of the personal development and leaps and bounds in self-worth the fact that I am affecting other people live's positively and -WOAH- the two years become more than worth it. Pile on top of that the fact that I'm learning a set of personal skills that will benefit me the rest of my life- for example, I can now do anything by hand- and top it off with the cherry of life-long friendship.... uhhhh. I would have paid a lot of money for this junk. Hey. Maybe they should put me in a commercial. As much as the bureaucratic stuff is stupid, I kind of love this.
So let's re-focus on what's happening. I'm in town preparing to lead this group of medical professionals in their first ever yoga class. I've just finished a radio program with Anna on the importance of exercise. We have declared the importance of the ever-elusive-to-define "Peace Corps experience" in our lives and affirmed our ability to rock out job interviews, university lecture halls or Broadway stages. It's whatever. But here we are preparing for yoga. And I have a strange feeling. It's a somewhat familiar feeling but I can't identify it, like a smell in the air that takes you back to a specific place in time but you have no idea what the smell is. It smells like... it smells like.... It's creeping in around the edges of my consciousness and I can almost identify it but there's something out of place... something missing.
Anna and I grab our power health bars from GNC and we're off. We're picking our way through a poor excuse for a sidewalk in a major city center along the country's most well-known highway. In my head, I'm reviewing all the words I looked up last night to make the yoga narrative as eloquent as possible: Let your arms relax; the head hang; the bones to sink; the muscles to melt... and there's that feeling again. Like a twinge of something in my stomach. A little light-headed maybe? I don't know.
With the hospital in site, a large-ish one-story building painted a dull yellow but well-maintained, Anna and I cross the street, once again miraculously not plowed down by any manner of "vehicles" on the highway. I'm always waiting for the impact. Anna spotts a familiar old man drinking terere on the sidewalk so we stopp to chat for awhile. He mistakes me for another white girl in the area (per usual) and after much confusion and correcting, I'm starting to get anxious to move on and start this class already.
That was it. Anxiety!
Anxiety!! How stupid! My old friend! It wasn't until that moment when this old man whom I'd never seen before was chastising me for leaving his wife waiting (who was she?) and thinking I was some other white girl who lived 20 miles away (that's you, Stephanie) that my foot took on a very American life of it's own, started tapping, tapping, right there on the sidewalk and I identified my anxiety. My stomach! My head! My foot! I was nervous! I was feeling anxious and the feeling was so incredibly foreign that I had lost my ability to even identify it. You're a weirdo, Carly.
This is what Paraguay has done to me. I have to say it again, if the Peace Corps left me with nothing but my ability to relax the two years would be worth it.
Class went beautifully. I spoke in spanish. Sometimes I messed up. That's life.
It's 2 o'clock. I'm sitting in my house after running around Paraguari all morning. What have I done today? I have transmitted a radio broadcast to the departamento (county) in Spanish. I've taught a yoga class in Spanish. I've created a calendar of events for the hospital in Spanish. I've reviewed the plan of submission for our pregnant yoga class. In Spanish. Hake! (Watch out!) I speak Spanish!
I find myself a little tired. A wee bit sleepy. It's hot out and I've walked 6 kilometers today which isn't that much but it's nothing to scoff at in 90 degree heat either. I feel- full. I feel satisfied. I feel physically and mentally exhausted for the moment and if I had the energy I might be blushing with pride but for now, it's just sweat tinging my hairline. I've done what today needed and tomorrow can wait for tomorrow. This is life. And we can do anything.