There has never been a more beautiful sky than when I was in the Peace Corps in Paraguay, South America. For two years, I lived in an extremely rural village where there were only a few houses that had electricity. At night, the stars were electrifying. It felt like you were standing in the midst of natural glory -- gazing at what seemed like billions of glowing specs. The Milky Way was larger, more vivid and vast creating a glorified stripe through the atmosphere that seemed so close you needed to touch it. Falling stars were common and splendid. I had my own firework display each night.
I found looking at the night sky extremely comforting because I missed my family dearly. When there was a full moon, I would think that everyone in New York was also looking at the splendor of that moon. We all share the same sun, moon and stars- whether you are rich or poor, from the USA or South America, Jewish or Muslim. Each day and night, the planets and solar system unifies us. This gave me much solace but also perplexed me how we can all live such different lives under this unifying force.
I lived in a wonderfully beautiful community. I had no running water and so I bathed in a tub where I had drawn the water from a well. I lived in a hut with dirt floors and wooden slats as walls. To buy food, I had to walk miles to a store. To communicate with my family, I had to make a four-hour bus trip riding to the Capital City, Asuncion (there was no email then). But I lived in bliss with wonderful people who cared so deeply about their land, family and agriculture. I developed some very deep relationships. And to this day, I have never tasted better watermelon, honey or pork.
My son is now 7 and I am making plans to return this year. I know 20 years later, Paraguay probably looks much different and I am sure the World Wide Web has made it closer to my village. I wonder if there is now running water and more predictable electricity. I wonder if they are still growing soybeans, corn and cotton. But, I do know one thing is for certain. I can count on the nighttime sky to look as brilliant as it did in 1995.