[This is part of our series on the people behind the International Calendar. Annie Freeman Evansen served in Paraguay in 1979.]
One of my favorite memories of my Peace Corps was the day we arrived in the town for our initial training. I left my home in Wisconsin in January, where is was 0° F. The day we arrived in Asuncion, Paraguay it was 105° F. We spent 2 days in Asuncion getting to know the PC local staff. We then headed for Aregua, a small town 45 min outside Asuncion. We were the first group of volunteers to train in Aregua.
As we drove the scenery changed from asphalt and concrete to trees and flowers. As we turned off the main road and into Aregua we could feel the temperature drop and a breeze pick up. The road came in near the top of a hill with a beautiful white church that looked over the town and down to the Lago Ypacarai. The bus stopped and let us off at a large white house with porches front and back. It was there where would spend most of our days for the next 3 months as we trained in language and skills we would need.
I then met my host family. Dona Lucy picked me up with her 7 year old daughter, Dori. Dona Lucy gave me such a warm smile and Dori gave me a great big hug. We drove a short distance toward their house before stopping and walking the rest of the way. We walked on a foot path over a shallow stream. Women sat and washed clothes in the wider area. They all said “hola” as we went past. Their house was turquoise with 4 rooms. They showed me my room and wardrobe, and after settling in a bit, we all sat and talked and talked. Later that night a thunderstorm went through the town and we stood out on the porch watching the rain and the lightning.
Four children, including Dori, still lived at home. Her oldest daughter was married with a 6-month-old baby. Dona Lucy’s niece lived there, too. Her home village didn’t have a high school, so she helped with house work and attended school.
I keep in contact with members of the family. Dori and other siblings live in the USA and she has two children in high school. I hope I can be as welcoming to others I meet as they were to me. Welcoming others into your life with kindness doesn’t depend on how much you have, but how open your heart is.