"do you believe in God?" he asked me.
"what?" i replied, somewhat surprised by his question.
"do you believe in God?" he repeated again, then sat back at waited for my answer.
it was four o'clock in the morning, and we were drinking mate on his front porch. teodoro, brother-in-law of my paraguayan best friend, and i sat around waiting for ana to pack her things so that we could get to the airport before six o'clock. normally, i wouldnt have tolerated such tomfoolery and woken up so early to straighten her hair and lend her my mascara.... but seeing as how my hopeless romantic side still lives on, i couldnt say no to ana when she asked me to accompany her to the airport.
i sat back and thought about my answer. well yes, of course i believe, but i was just surprised that he even asked. hes an older, gray haired paraguayan man, that i assumed would be more on the conservative side and try to push religion on me had i answered no to his question.
"yes," i answered. "in fact, i was raised Catholic, and although i am not the best practicing Catholic, i still believe in God and feel verguenza when i do, or contemplate doing, something that i am not supposed to. i try to follow the rules."
"pero, te casaste con un hombre, y tu marido no es Catolico, verdad?" he said, looking at me like i should give him a really good answer for this one.
yes yes, i know that teo is not Catholic, but that he still believes in God i explained. we dont share the same religion, and thats why we were not allowed to have our ceremony in the community oratorio. thats why we had to have an outdoor wedding, although we were told that we should just lie so that we could have a more formal ceremony in the oratorio/iglesia. we didnt want to start our marriage with a lie, we love and accept each other regardless of religion, and we didnt want to lie just to please the members of my community.
"i know," he told me. "i heard about what happened to the two of you, and how you werent allowed en la iglesia. your host mom told me about the difference in religion, and that your husband is a good man. he loves you and is faithful, and the two of you work together and travel for hours to see each other."
and then he told me something that i will never forget.
he told me that teo and i are exactly what the people here need to see. in a world full of religious wars, and people fighting over something indefinite, people need to see that we can accept each other. we can love others that have different beliefs, and that all we need to do is respect each others. he didnt understand why that was so hard for the world to understand.
he told me that people like teo and i end wars. we bring peace. we work to teach about equality and working together, all for the betterment of humanity.
and ive been teary eyed ever since.
its been bugging me all day, mostly because i dont think that i deserve the kind things that he said to me. im shocked, because its the nicest thing that any paraguayan has ever said to me. not gonna lie, for the past few months ive just been tired. tired of hearing the same conversations about the weather, problems about the economy, how hard life is in paraguay and how poor they are, strangers questioning how much guarani i understand, children harassing me and not understanding that i am not a small child that can always play UNO and climb trees with them, people on the street asking for money, wondering if ive actually accomplished anything during my service, waiting for money from the municipalidad to fund the fogon project, worrying about whether or not i will find a job when i get back to the states, people telling me i should come home already, trying to convince myself that i am ready to go home, having a long distance marriage, running low on money, 110 degree weather with no air conditioning, dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting from dehydration, ragged clothes and ugly hair....
so yes. regardless of whether or not i deserved what teodoro said, i appreciated it.