Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My first PCV Visit

Hi all! I´m in the bus terminal in Asuncion, on my way back from a trip to visit a real life Peace Corps volunteer. Using my Spanish, I had to navigate my way across the country. 3km walk, hour and a half bus, six hour bus next to a woman who had no concept of the border controls of the arm rest. (Or is that just an American thing?) (But seriously, when I had my arm folded over my head to sleep, her elbow was digging into my rib cage, for miles on end.)

The bathroom in the bus had a swashing pool of brown liquid. Thank you waterproof boots. On rainy days here, you´ll often see people with plastic bags sticking out from between their shoes and socks, around their feet. It´s whatever works.

I got my first case of the BIG D, which I am at this point attributing to the room-temp fried chicken sandwich I ate on the bus. There were two other volunteers visiting the same girl, so we all had a little slumber party while I laid on the bed in the fetal position, laughing at their tales of bowel situations. I hear it´s a rare thing to get through two years of Paraguay without crapping your pants at least once.

The girl I visited was a beekeeper who lived in a perfect little Walden cabin across from a field of sugar cane. She had a few chairs outside and a hammock, a space heater and floor fan and fridge and a bed with a mosquito net, a table and armoir and tiny gas stove. Out back was a heated shower and a bathroom, or more correctly a teepee of coconut palm barks over a concrete hole with Bienvenido scraped into the cement.

I helped her teach some locals how to use their new computer. The first step was just to have them draw in Paint, to learn how to use the mouse. I helped, in Spanish! It was like, wow, look, this really works. To watch them use the mouse for the first time was so weird. There are so many things I´m discovering here that I hadn´t even considered as something I took for granted before.

On the bus ride back the kids next to me were puking in a plastic bag, then they just laid the bag on the floor.

Ok, I´m off to get some more refrigerated, packaged food. The yogurt here is yummy, and they drink it instead of eating it with a spoon.

Below check out another post I wrote at my site. I was having kind of a tough day, and I´m more able to laugh about it now. We are the sideshow freaks here, especially with all our gadgets.

June 9 - Paraguayan learning environment

It’s difficult to concentrate. In school, the children poke their heads around the window sills, lean their shoulders in the doorframes, watch.
(As I sit down to write this, in my room on my laptop, my Paraguayan padre is standing over me.)
(He leaves, in comes the next door neighbor kids to ask me if I danced with a futbolista last night. Yep, sure did.)
My alone time...
(Now my little sister’s in here.)
My alone time is when I wake up at about 5 or 6 a.m.
(Here’s my other little sister, in my room and leaning over to see the screen. Looking as I type. Have you ever had someone just watch you, like while you’re eating?)
In the mornings I read, listen to a song or two on my iPod, write.
The trainee next door and I meet up to be at school by 7:45. The school is really just a rented house.
(My little sister has brought in a chair. She is sitting in front of me, looking and drinking cocido.)
I have language class in the morning.
(My little sister has called in my other little sister, then hid behind the door.)
(The littler comes in, picks up the chair and moves it closer to me.)
We have a few breaks at school, when we play frisbee in the yard, eat popcorn with hot sauce or whatever food someone has brought. My hands often smell like tangerines when I rest my chin on them in class.

Today, the football team stopped by to see if they could slaughter a pig in the yard, to celebrate their win yesterday. The woman who owns the house where we study is one of their supporters, so it’s where they do their celebrating of victories, wine drinking, pig killing.
While we tried to write objectives and challenges in supporting small business, motorcycles of futbol players rolled up our driveway, children ran in our gate to watch, dogs smelled blood.
We went outside to see, our teacher sitting there with our papers, resigned.
A black band ran from a tree, around the pig’s stomach, then knotted on one of its legs. Someone held the hose over it, cleaning it off, and it thrashed to the point that the rope would let it.
The kids played on the swingset. Some women cleaned mandioca.
The pig squealed a bit. It rooted a brown hole.
We gathered ourselves back in class.
We discussed economic challenges of business people working on credit.
(Leaning over the screen again. Standing. Scooting closer. Bending down, hands pinched between her knees. “You’re not drinking your coffee.” says my sister, in spanish.)
We tried to give our presentations while right next to our heads, through the window, the pig’s nose became brown, building its new home in the dirt.
(The little one is back. “Paulita. Paulita. She’s picked up my flashlight. She’s talking in her little spanish.)
So, where was I? (As beams of light flash around my room) Ok, yes, the other group was presenting their idea to have a one-chair hairdresser examine her pricing schedule as it was time when on presenter looked out the window.
“They’re gonna kill it!”
They ran outside.
(Strange neighborhood child, right on spot, to my right, looking at my screen. Now four children in my room.)
I stayed in the class with the vegetarians. When I eat pork, I don’t picture a pig having its throat slit, and I’d like to continue that pattern. We had some nearly-finished volunteers visiting, and I tried to ask one about her work with a women’s artistry group.
“Is there a lot of {“SQQQUUUEEEEAAALLLL”} {“AAAHH! EEEEW!”} craft culture in Paraguay?”
She’s covering her ears but answers. “Yeah, at first {“SQQQQQEEEAAAAL!”} you don’t think there is but then {“OH DAMN!”} you find it in small pockets.”
They’re bleeding the pig. It’s slow.
But then my friends return, shaking their heads and if coming out of the door of a theater where an the credit are rolling on an especially gruesome movie.
And right back up to the board they went and continued their discussion of the marketing tools available to small Paraguayan businesses.
Through the open door, we could two men carrying a huge silver bowl of meat, being followed by a dog with its nose to the rim.
Oh, and I started writing this to tell you about how the school is here, about how great it is, really, but maybe another time. Sometimes in Paraguay, you get distracted.

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