Global Service Scholar: Josary Perez
I arrived in Paraguay with very few expectations. I knew I was entering a country that shared many of the cultural values that I was raised with, but that would be very distinct from the American culture I grew up with. Still, Paraguay took me aback. I was surprised by the size of the capital city and the grand houses standing beside dilapidated buildings. The blatant disparity of wealth was unlike what I was used to in the United States. I was accustomed to seeing pockets of poverty but in Paraguay there was no transition. I was reminded of Los Angeles and how there, like in Paraguay, a five-star restaurant can be on one corner and a slum on the next.
Still, seeing this widespread in an entire country was disheartening. Although the people we spoke to told us they were used to the dysfunctional systems in their society, it was difficult to look past what in the United States would unequivocally be deemed wrong. Yet, Paraguay is not my country and so it was not my place to impose my judgement on its actions. Despite the degree of poverty, I could not deny that it was a beautiful country.
The Lapacho tree, the national tree of Paraguay, could be seen coloring sections of the city bright pink. Before arriving, we were expecting to be met with the thick air of humidity, but instead our stay has been filled with crisp mornings and warm afternoons. However, the greatest beauty of this country has been its people. In the city there is a hum of people at work. This transitions into the countryside. Once in Cerrito, we met the youths attending the San Francisco Agricultural School and were surprised to be welcomed with such hospitality and openness.
With every passing day I spend in Paraguay, I most look forward to talking to the students at the San Francisco Agricultural School. The level of maturity they possess never ceases to astound me. Although the experiences of the students at the agricultural school are distinct from those of my own, I can see the similarities between my experiences and theirs. They, like me, struggled to find a sense of belonging. They fought to be where they are today, and they aspire that go beyond what society has limited them to. Despite our limitations, we all persevere. I cannot wait to learn more from them and the people of Paraguay.