Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Language learning and teachings of a questionable nature

Hola. I just have some random happenings to report this week. Oh, and I have pique. It looks like a splinter in my toe, but it's really an insect that has burrowed into my foot with the hopes of making a nest. About half the group has gotten it. It's supposed to be good luck, but maybe that's just to make you feel better about a critter layin eggs in your baby toe.

We're going next week to our Long Field Practice, a week of shadowing another volunteer. I'm going to a banana plantation you have to get to by boat. Anyway, it might be a while before I update.

July 2 - Oh Tim

Things have not been the same in language class since Tim learned the phrase “relationes sexuales casuales.”
For he likes two things: Women and meat, especially if it comes in the form of fried pockets called empanadas. During our language classes, I catch him looking in his Spanish-English dictionary, giggling.
Our poor language teacher has to keep a straight face while he practices his question by saying to me, “Quieres muchos relationes sexuales casuales con los Paraguayos?”
If we’re learning about present tense, his example sentence is “Yo como empanadas.” For the past, “Yo comi empanadas.” Commands, “Por favor, traeme una empanada.”
Tonight we were at the bus stop, late getting home because we couldn’t tear unplug ourselves from the internet cafe. There had been no talk of going to the meat stand, where he answers his cravings for meat on a stick. We were counting out our Guaranis at the bus stop. We’d been waiting about seven minutes, when Tim burst.
“I’m going for asadito!” He yelled, running away from us. “If the bus comes just leave me. I’ll find my way home somehow!”
“Get me one!” I yelled.
It was just 30 seconds later that a bus pulled up. I didn’t want to leave Tim in the dark by himself. We looked at each other and mulled the line.
Right then he booked it around the corner, holding his hat on his head and carrying a green little bag with two sticks coming out of it, weighed down by meat and two pieces of mandioca.
“Go! Go!”
We jumped on and wedged in the middle, holding on the rail with one hand, and feeding ourselves from meat sticks in the other.

July 4 - Happy Fourth of July

Oh, you know, just another day at the embassy, playing Frisbee and mowing down hot dogs and hamburgers while listening to a radio station piped in via internet from Miami.

July 6 - Bam in your face

We’ve been having “Dias de Practica,” or days of practice, where they send us out into the community to hang with a family and see if we can try to find out if they have any needs we can help them with over six days spread out over our training time.
My buddy Sasha and I have been hanging out with some women who live on beautiful land of sugar cane fields.
We find them in the kitchen, two sisters in law, their mother tending the store out front, and little kids, some old enough to jump the overturned chair that serves as a baby gate.
This last day they were making tortillas in their open kitchen, a building with a half-wall along one wall, letting in a breeze and casting photographer’s light on the side of faces.
Their kitchen was some countertop held up by stacks of bricks. Turning up the heat on the oil for frying tortillas meant putting more coco palm fronds on the fire.
The first time we visited I said little to nothing, as we toured their fields, followed by two boys calling for their dog, Pupy (pronounced Poopy, also a brand of diapers here).
By now, I feel like I understand about 80 percent of the conversation. It actually feels like chatting. I notice that my eyebrows lift at the same time as everyone else’s when someone says something surprising.
Paraguyans are never direct, but they can be pretty blunt.
We had a conversation at the last visit that went a little like this:
Paraguayan to Sasha: “You’ve gotten thinner.”
Sasha: “Oh yes, I have a little.”
Paraguayan motioning at my stomach: “You’ve gotten fatter.”
(Paraguayan putting arms at side and expanding them out.)
Other Paraguayan: “How much do you weigh?”
(This portion censored)
Pyan to my stomach: “Yes, you are fat. When you return home you will be fatter.”
Other Pyan to Sasha: “I like your skin. Her skin is dry.”

They asked us to teach them English, and one of the mothers, a sweet woman who looked to be about 60, was great at pronouncing.
“sheep” is what Sasha taught her.
I decided to pass along one of my favorite phrases, useful for when winning hands at poker or when gloating.
“Bam in your face!”
“Bamnyofae,” said the small keen-eyed grandmother, laughing to herself.

When one of the woman brought in a sac of loaf-sized madioca and put them on the ground and started to peal, I asked her to teach us. Laid out an old sac and we gathered around it. Holding the madioca in her hand, she whacked the ends off using the force of a swinging knife.
Sasha and I got some knifes and started to scrape them down the sides. Then we had to peal off another layer. It was difficult a first to find where the white peal ended and the white madioca began, but I started to get the hang of it. Sasha and I compared our work and I gloated that mine was better.
One of the woman pointed at mine and said, “Es bam inyou face.”


Ileana said...

haha, i liked this post. btw, i saw your awesome "asleep" picture on kati's desk. good stuff.

Lynn Bannister said...

Hi, Paulita!
Your blog is wonderful fun and so full of cultural insight. We love it. You sound like you are adjusting and feeling positive about your experience so far, a really good thing. DB and I are going to visit little Peter Man on the 25th, can't wait. He has probably grown so much since April. Just wanted you to know we are thinking of you and your adventure! Love, LB and DB