Privacy, please

The importance of close community in Paraguay.

Vocabulary:

Privacidad, por favor: Spanish for "privacy, please"


By Stacy Shutts - Peace Corps Volunteer, Paraguay (2012 - 2014)

If laughter is medicine, Paraguay’s the pharmacy

If company’s a cure, privacy is the disease,

And the only alone time is bathroom time—if there is a door

 

Sleeping arrangements are privacy primitive too

Rooms shared by grandparents and little ones,

In-between-ones and anyone that needs-to-sleep ones

Ones to a room are many

 

Proceeding down the street is Ignacio, a drunk with a drink

But here drunks have names and family, however extended is of no note

He subtly motions towards the gate of a neighbor with food and a table

And receives an invitation to lunch and to share, community karma

That will spread

 

Your business is not your own, it is the town knowing—

Troubles, joys… even your bowels

So that there are many concerned for your security

More to celebrate with… and to cure you

Every conversation is a continual casual upkeep

 

Passing and saluting—a hello and how you doing—is virtuous

Your privacy is not sacred here

Just scarce and unwanted

Tell your neighbors little and they may make up the rest

 

“Privacidad, por favor”, an early-disgruntled request

Passive for the purpose of keeping ties

The knots slowly reveal history’s strong weave

Neighbors work together in their fields, give rides

Connection to place and people I desired to know

Remembering, I realize and relieve the bitterness

Embrace my private-public life

 

Nowhere else have I seen ____

Fill in the blank with a thousand things

730 days proven, I’ve take notes on my village in memory form

Written by touch, hugs and double-cheek kisses

Constant joking and poking that keeps neighbors neighbors

And community connected—by a public story


This poem was entered in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. The contest received more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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