Friday, August 22, 2008

New President...the TV Question...The Exercise Question

Hello everyone! I´m settling in, hanging out. I had my first successful video conference the other day. I´m on Windows Live Messenger if anyone wants to find me.

Yesterday I bought the fabric to make my first shirt. Hooray. I´m going to experiment for a while to see what patterns I want to use.

This morning I had the thought that this is going to be like when I went to Penland, aka craft camp. Then I worked in the kitchen on a work-study scholarship while I learned to make glass beads. Now it´s like a two-year craft camp, where I work in the cooperative. Oh, life is good.

I talked to a woman who actually makes the clothes, and she asked me if I wanted to learn to sew. Yeah, we´ll see. For now I´m going to pay her to make the clothes after I do the Ao Poi.

It´s Sasha´s birthday so she´s headed here then we´re going to spend tomorrow in the big city (Villarica) to hit the club. (Usually, it´s hit the clubs.)

August 15 - A new president

This morning while I was enjoying my cafe con leche, fireworks started in the streets. I’m accustomed to these on Sundays, when futbol games are won, but not on a Friday morning. I had forgotten it was the day for the new president.

In the first peaceful passing of power from one party to another in the history of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo became president this morning.

In fact, I can’t believe I’ve gone this long here without mentioning the story that has lead up to why Paraguay is the way it is, why the people are the way they are.

From 1954 to 1989 Paraguay was ruled by the dictator Alfredo Stroessner. In this time, many writers and musicians were exiled to Brazil. People with differing opinions and voices disappeared. No one enjoyed a good job unless they were part of the ruling Colorado party. During our training, some of our Paraguayan teachers told us about family members and friends who had been tortured, disappeared for a while or who locked for days in a room with a wire floor and white walls for sensory deprevation.

Paraguay became a democracy in the 1989. But even after the dictator left, his party ruled. Until this morning.

This is the first generation of people becoming adults now that didn’t grow up under a dictatorship. That’s where many of their parents got their tranquilo attitude. They didn’t have the power to change the way their lives were, so why worry? One of our trainers mentioned to us that when we ask a campo little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, probably no one else has ever asked her that in her life.

As Americans, we have that power, those opportunites, to pick ourselves up and change our lives. We´ve never known anything else but opportunity and freedom to make our lives better, if we only worked for it.

Yes, Paraguay is known for it´s coruption, but the people can see and hope now that things are changing. With an emphasis on transparency and shared profits, cooperatives are one of the ways Paraguayans are changing their country and their opportunities. And I feel really lucky to be a part of that.

August 17 - Television

The reports are starting to come in one how everyone is doing. One volunteer is up in the second floor of a vacation house with a washer and dryer he bought. My friend Tim called me from in a tree -- the only place he gets reception -- to tell me that his family served him pig’s head, skull included. Somehow it’s been miscommunicated that he likes the telenovela Marina, the one with the sexy villianess whose implants separate an extra inch every time she screams during her tantrums and return toward the center every time she takes a breath.

Oh television. It’s as much of a conundrum here as it is back home. When I watch it, I hate it. All the drama - The women with their tantrums. The bad fake slaps. The steamy sex scene that puts that adds an awkward touch to an otherwise pleasant evening with a Paraguayan family.

And there are the commercials. Somehow, the advertising seems more rediculous here. In America, no matter how anorexic and photoshoped the models are, we somehow think, if we throw enough money and gym time into it, we could look like that. Here, it’s like two different worlds. I see perfect world on the tv, then look around and see the third world.

But, everyone watches tv. It’s what’s done. Like back home, the conversations are on what happened last night on such-and-such a show. While I’m searching for ways to connect with people, it’s the easiest thing to chat about. And when I do catch an episode of Marina or Pura Sangre, it’s something to talk about with some of my PC friends who are far away. (Sasha thinks she might have to buy a tv, she´s that deep into Marina.) If community is shared experiences, then sometimes television is one of the only things you have to share with the people you want to keep in your community.

And, it´s TV. I like it. You don´t have to think. You don´t have to move. However, I consider myself a reformed couch potato, and I know my life is much fuller without. Must. Resist. Temptation.

I’m going to try to avoid it. Since the average American watches 5 hours of tv a day, I heard a statistic that by the time he is 60 years old, he will have spent 15 years in front of the tv. I want those 15 years.

August 19 - Crafty Dia

I woke up today at my usual hour, which is to say whenever I realize the noises in my dreams, twisted into screams or alarms, are really the roosters and hens on the other side of my wall.

I went out for my coffee. The empleada of the house talked to me about staying to live here for my two years. Of course, living alone is a strange thing here. What I didn’t say to her was that if I lived here, I would essentially have an empleada. While I sipped my coffee, someone else would be sweeping my floor, doing my laundry, taking out my trash.

Now, I can accept that life here isn’t going to be the rustic hut-life I thought it would be, and that’s fine. But I simply cannot live more luxuriously here than I did in the states. Playstations, coffee ready-made when I wake up, tvs and cars? I can’t live like this!

After breakfast I went to the IPA, where they teach Ao Poi, and sat with the ladies there for a while. Then I went to the cooperative and made Ao Poi there.

I lunched at home, tried to siesta but couldn’t, and got up. I listened to my Most Played list on my iTunes while I made a necklace for my friend Sasha’s birthday this weekend.

Then back to the cooperative. More Ao Poi.

By then my tushy was suffering from craft-butt, so I convinced my buddies to go for a walk. We strolled down a lane where the cobblestone gave way to red dirt, and suddenly I felt like I was walking in the top half of a hanging calendar. There were little ponds lined with yellow flowers. A man passed us on his bike, holding a rope that was attached to a horse trotting in front of him. We passed cows coming in from the field, which one of the girls feared after a freak moto vs. cow accident she had a while back.

Their dog trotted along with us as I talked about the ocean in St. Augustine. A man passed herding his cows with his motorcycle.

Then the land just opened up, the path swallowed by the tall grass. It went on until the hills in the distance, and I pictured myself as one of those cows with their legs disappearing into the grass, only for me it will be as I’m jogging along my new found path.

It was getting dark so we returned. We watched the telenovelas, I made Ao Poi and shared a packet of Skittles with them.


Something has to be done about my health. I’ve got to get something started here. One of the ladies here told me that the women don’t like to exercise, and that’s been confirmed by several sources.

I saw a Wii Fit mat in the store here, which is something you attach to this video game consol and do exercises with (There’s a boxing game!). And I’m tempted to dip into my dollar funds to buy one. But that just seems like the American thing to do, especially with exercise -- throw some money into some technology and think it’s going to change things.

I was hoping to play volleyball here, but only the men play. The only other thing I’ve heard of is this nice guy I met, who practices Kung Fu.

Yes, Kung Fu, and I’m welcome to join in.

The other option I’m considering is starting an aerobics class. That’s what I heard another volunteer did. But how to convince women to come. I thought about having a charla (talk) about the health benefits. But, we in America know all the benefits, but how many of us actually get out there and exercise? If we did Zoomba, it would be really fun, but people have to show up first. And public exercise requires a kind of lack of shame that I’m not sure is common here.

The woman who’s teaching me Ao Poi does walk some days, and I’m going with her tomorrow. We’ll start there.

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