Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
- Antonio Machado
This quote was sent to me by my son- this seemed like an appropriate place to share it with you.
During the past two years of our Peace Corps service in Paraguay:
Our footsteps led us through subtropical forests with hardwood trees sprouting pink blossoms, tangled vines, and wild orchids; to wide open savannas with birds, bunch grass and three foot tall ant hills; to tree lined rivers, whose fish provided food and income for those who lived near.
Our footsteps led us to fields where people who grew their own food, with hoes and hands, following the cycles of the moon, and wisdom of their fathers; to schools where students used a notebook and pencil to capture what their teachers imparted, using the materials they had- a blackboard and piece of chalk; to the patios of artisans who created works of art by hand, with a few simple tools, from ox cart wheels to finely crocheted wool ponchos, and who were happy to teach their craft.
Our footsteps led us to cocinas, where hospitality treated us to new foods – mandioca, sopa Paraguaya, carpincho, kesu, and clerico; to gatherings for holiday celebrations, weddings, birthday parties, and sharing the grief of a miscarried child; to house fronts where chairs formed a circle for sitting, sharing terere and stories about the weather, beliefs, and local gossip.
Our footsteps led us to farms where we worked side by side with our neighbors, sharing seeds, harvests and sweat; to plots of land, with buckets, and boxes and arms full of trees, helping those who wanted to give back to the land what was one time taken away; to the classrooms carrying books and the privilege of seeing the excitement of children who had received a gift they treasured.
Our footsteps led us to nearby countries- Argentina, with Iguazu Falls and Salta; Chile and the Atacama desert; through the Andean mountains of Bolivia with the Salar de Uyuni and Lake Titicaca; then to Peru with Cuzco and the trek to Machu Picchu, via the Inca Trail. From heights of 15,000 feet above sea level, to blue alpine lakes, to pink flamingos, colorful market places, to ancient ceremonial grounds, our journey left us breathless, humbled and in awe.
Our footsteps led us to people with open hearts, who passed bowls of soup over fences; arrived at our door step with gifts of chickens; patiently listened to our stuttering Spanish, though Guarani was their mother tongue; who asked about our family, and included us as part of theirs; and who yelled our names in greeting from patios, dirt roads, farmed fields, and forests.
Now it is time for our footsteps to lead us back home. We will take with us the sights, experiences, and memories of people who we grew to love along the way. Paraguay will be with us always.