(This is my travel journal that I kept during a medical mission to Paraguay; part one can be found here)
September 22, 07:30
Train, commute to work
It is difficult to avoid making comparisons. The inevitability of rationalizing the unfamiliar with the comfortable, or that which we often take for granted. Though not knowing what to expect, I anticipate such a motion on my part to construct comparison.
In travel, comparison starts from the beginning, from, “Where can I go?” to “Where have I not yet been?” as a desire for comparable or contrasting experiences. It continues with comparing costs to get there and equating currencies. One Swiss Franc (currently) is approximately 5,679 Guarani, 5 CHF approximately 25k GUR, and so on. The comparison, certainly, will continue throughout my journey. Preemptively, I envision comparisons to what is familiar to me; water, clothes, buildings, culture, food, kids, technology, and despite not knowing the side of Paraguay, I have already begun to question the familiar side in Switzerland. Water is very much taken for granted.
My children have access to technology beyond their years, as though preemptively robbed from self-exploration. Vids and apps have become a contentious foster companion. What do the children of Paraguay have to occupy themselves? I hope they have more than imagined, hopefully a lot more, but I hope they have not been corrupted by technology. I’m not sure what to find on the other side except for some of the images I saw on a program from Anthony Bourdain: decrepit buildings – weathered and un-kept, a large brown river, and various foods which could remain unfamiliar.
Pre-flections of Economy
September 24, 16:00
Train to Zürich Flughafen
So it is, my day long, over 24 hour trip to Paraguay! I am sitting on the train, trying not to be sad about leaving my family behind while not worrying about traveling nearly half way around the world. I’m listening to the “Paraguay” mix that Melinda made for me.
This train is immaculate. Smoke-grey floors and seats with yellow, blue and red spots, people with perfect luggage, MacBook airs, iPhone 6’s and colorful scarfs. I’m almost depressed envisioning the world where I am heading; mostly because I don’t know. I feel depressed not so much about where I am headed, but for those around me with such excess which I have never noticed; this being accentuated by my sadness of parting from family for more than a week.
I am worried about others who may contribute to the disappearance of my small black duffle bag, mostly full of gifts for the children (pencils, notepads, stickers, and tooth brushes) that may be missing on the other end of the required three flights and four airports. I put some tape on it to cover the Calvin Klein label so that it looks, well, more discreet. I hope I have everything. We will see.
My thoughts of an immaculate train has just been altered by a small black piece of paper, torn off of some kind of meal package, a large spec of white paper and a swizzle stick near a lady’s white shoe. Is that really what it is called? A swizzle stick? I think I heard this in a movie one time and that is all that comes to mind when I see it, that sad, flat and dirty coffee stirrer on the ground. There are those who disrespect their environment and leave trash behind, even in Switzerland.
The views expressed on this website/blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or Operation Smile. The author encourages your help and support by donating to support medical missions by Operation Smile via this link: http://support.operationsmile.org/goto/schoutens
This blogpost-series are pages of my personal journal leading up to and during my first medical mission to Asunción, Paraguay. I hope this series encourages you to serve global communities and/or donate to a wonderful organization that improves the lives of children and families around the world!