Monday, May 4, 2009

Mother's Day in Paraguay

When I visit borrowers here in Paraguay, I am continuously inspired by the women I meet. Young mothers, old mothers, grandmothers, and single mothers, all of them working tirelessly to make ends meet, send their children to school, and achieve some financial stability for their families. Sometimes, when I hear one of these women call her daughter to a meal or lament her son's disobediance, I think to myself: "My mom would say that."

This Mother’s Day I will be far away from my wonderful mom (and
Kiva lender), Terri Cain, as I have been many years since leaving Southern California. But, this year feels a little different.

A couple of weeks ago, I met Alejandra Alvarez, a Paraguayan mother of ten, and an entrepreneur who manages her own business producing, decorating, and distributing guampas and térmos (tea cups and thermoses used to drink tereré tea, which is widely popular in Paraguay. To learn more, read my blog post about Paraguayan tereré here).

Alejandra has a warm and welcoming smile and a face that shows her age, but her eyes have the vibrance of someone years younger. She is an impressive woman who has built somewhat of an empire; her business has grown steadily, so much that she now employs one of her sons, Cristian, and four other employees to fulfill all the orders she receives. Alejandra's daughter also runs a complimentary business producing mortars and pestles, which are used to crush the herbs that are added to tereré.

So far away from home, I was amazed at how close to my own home I was at the same time. Alejandra had spent years working fiercely to provide for and do right by her children. The matter of fact way she spoke about the sacrifices she made for them reminded me of my own mother, who, throughout two successful battles with cancer, never failed to be there for me and my brother Matthew. And just as in California the stores would be stocking their shelves with flowers and Mother's Day trinkets, when I visited Alejandra’s team was putting the finishing touches on a batch of Mother’s Day guampas so that one of her employees could load them up and deliver them to Ciudad Del Este, a town six hours to the east of Asunción.

But the moment that really brought me home was when I asked Alejandra how she planned to celebrate Mother's Day. She told me she'd have a little barbeque, with cake and maybe a soda or two. And of course, she wouldn’t be doing any of the cooking!

Despite being almost 5,000 miles away, that celebration might as well have been planned in California. And on May 10th, even though Skype and email will keep us connected, I know I'll be wishing that I had at least an hour or two at home in San Diego for a barbeque and some cake with my mom.

Nick Cain (pictured with his mother, Terri) is a Kiva Fellow currently volunteering with Fundación Paraguaya in Paraguay.