College student from Scottdale enjoys visit to Paraguay
Laura Booher is someone who seems to always have the most interesting answer to the question, “What did you do on your summer vacation?”
Just a year after spending a month in South Korea, the Scottdale resident recently returned to the area after spending 6 1⁄2 weeks in Paraguay. Officially referred to as the Republic of Paraguay, it is a landlocked country in South America which is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest.
Booher, who turns 21 in September, was hoping to study abroad, but such an endeavor was not going to fit into her schedule. So the junior-to-be at Grove City College explored a different avenue, one provided through World Gospel Mission.
Booher said she first inquired with WGM about Bolivia, but was advised against a trip there and Paraguay was recommended.
It appears it was a good recommendation
“It's a beautiful country,” Booher said. “It's a big contrast from last year and a big contrast from here. It was really interesting. It was interesting to speak some Spanish.”
It was good practice for the Spanish and education major.
Speaking of the contrast between the two countries she's had the chance to visit the last two years, Booher said the differences are vast.
“Culturally, Asia and South America are pretty far apart just in the way they view things or their behaviors,” she said. “Economically, there are differences that play in. One thing I did love in Paraguay was how open they are to everybody. You'd stopped by people's house and they'd just drop whatever they were doing and they'd sit there and talk to you for an hour and a half. Relationships are always first. That's top priority....I made some nice friends out there. I'd very much like to go back and hang out with the church's youth group.”
Booher had the chance to stay with a family in Paraguay for a portion of the trip, who she said were quite patient with her Spanish.
While in Paraguay, she taught English to some local children who ranged in age from 7 to 11, visited a number of native churches, witnessed a wide range of temperature changes during a Paraguayan winter and took a tour of a railroad museum.
She initially was to spend the time with missionaries in a town two hours from Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. However, the missionaries were forced to go to Bolivia for two weeks, forcing Booher to spend time with the Paraguayan family. When the missionaries returned, Booher went back to them, but they took ill and she returned to Asunción.
Booher noticed the houses in Paraguay were quite colorful.
“Light-colored houses are very popular,” she said. “The house I stayed in was mint green, bright blue, bright orange, all the color you could pack into it.”
Something else that stood out. When the people of Paraguay have something to drink, one person takes a drink and the cup is passed to others in attendance.
“The first person drinks all the liquid, then you fill it up again and you pass it to the second person,” Booher said. “You just keep passing it.”
Booher tried to bring that custom back to Scottdale. But her mother, Sue, wasn't too keen on the idea.
“She said we're going to all drink after each other,” Sue Booher said. “You have to do it or you offend them. I said, ‘No.' ”
Obviously, Laura's mother is concerned every time her daughter embarks on such a journey.
“I have to say I was a little more at ease this year, because she had last year under her belt,” Sue Booher said. “We knew she could maneuver the airports and that kind of stuff. It was a comfort this year. Last year, we didn't know anyone this year. This trip, one of our former pastors is head of mission for World Gospel Missions. ... I'm proud of Laura because she's doing something that I probably would not do.”
Sue Booher also said she met the couple that her daughter would be staying with for a time.
“I felt at least there would be someone looking out for her if there was a need,” she said
Booher does have a blog detailing her experiences, which can be seen at havedictionarywilltravel.blogspot.com.
Spending a good portion of the last two summers away has been hard at times for Booher, but she has enjoyed the experiences she's had.
“There are parts that are hard, but it's worth it,” she said. “I tell people when I get back, the part of traveling I don't like is the traveling.”
Once she reaches her destination, it's all good.
Are there any other parts of the globe that Booher plans to visit?
“I would like to,” she said. “My next stop if I had the choice would be either Spain or England. You leave a little part of yourself here and there and everywhere.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.