Saturday, September 20, 2008

Foster Home No. 3...American Vacation...Bacon

Sept. 9: Foster Home No. 3

I was driven to my new house in the back seat of my host’s car. My new host “mom” sat shotgun.

“What does she eat?”

“Oh, she’ll eat whatever. No problem.”

“Does she drink cocido?”

“Oh, she likes coffee.”


“Yeah, she drinks it in the morning...”

I just sat silent in the back.

My new house is nice. It’s right next to the soccer fields, the roaming grounds of sheep, hourses, cows. Next door there is a yard where another farmer lets roam his cows and ostriches in rotating shifts. I like to watch the ostriches with their backward knees.

I’ve spent the last few days passing out invitations to my “presentation,” where my boss is going to come here and explain to the people exactly what I’m doing here.

I went to the radio station to invite them, but they ended up having me go on air to invite the whole community. My friend Mariela was next to me on the couch, whispering the answers to the questions the DJ was asking me to help out.

Sept. 11- Come se dice 'slackin'

Ok, 5:30. Time to put down “Eat. Pray. Love” and study. Yep, Spanish time. Yay Spanish.

Oh look, my computer is right here on my table. Hmm...Well I guess I could just write my blog for a little while.

And so it goes that I’ve been slacking on my studies. Guarani has me frustrated and I’ve barely passed “I go.” The main problem there is that I can get along with Spanish alone here. I’m trying to find the joy in learning for the learning's sake (along with the kudos from the locals), but the joy is just so wrapped in frustration. It seems every time I ask for help in Guarani, someone just started rattling off in words I don't know.

Spanish. Ugh. It’s been four months. Why don’t I know this yet?

But when I’m just sitting around chatting in Spanish, I try to remember, I’m sitting around chatting in Spanish. This couldn’t have happened four months ago. I’ve always wanted to know Spanish, but always thought I was too lazy to actually learn.

And so, in the words of wise Sasha, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.” Ok, here I go...

Sept 12: Slow Slide to Hippiness

I’ve started doing yoga, which I usually associate with boredom and discomfort. But I’m willing to give it one more try.

I Googled for yoga positions, and clicked on a site that seemed to have some printable ones. Next to the articles section of the page, it said, “Did you know women have 11 moon centers?” Oh lord. I’m not looking for my moon centers. I’m looking to fit into my pants.

Remember when I thought I would lose weight in the Peace Corps?

The yoga stuff has been prompted in part by the fact that I just found out that I can’t move into my own place for another six weeks. Six more weeks of eating Paraguayan, of breaded meat bathing in bubbling oil. Something has to be done.

I jog and walk sometimes, but it’s always a scene and it’s weird that I go alone.

I’d rather being doing Krav Maga, but the local YMCA quit offering classes. (that’s a little PC humor.)

So I lay out my quick-dry towel and I stand like a warrior and I bend like a flower, and at least my shoulders ache, which tells me I’m doing something. This morning I laid down to do my snakey pose, and I had to push my Birkenstocks out of the way to make room for my head.

And I thought: Birkenstocks, yoga, Peace Corps. Oh God, I am a hippie.

Sept 16 - American vacation

Before I came to the Peace Corps, a second uncle tried to convince me to instead to the Foreign Services and/or work for embassies. I didn't, of course, but this weekend I got a taste of what it would have been like if I did.

A friend of a friend who works for the embassy had a cat that needed to be taken care of for a few nights. So I joined the cat-sitting team of seven volunteers and met up at a three-story brick house in the middle of chuchiville, Asuncion.

We opened the heavy front door, flanked by stained glass, to see a house straight out of Pottery Barn. We piled our shoes by the wooden staircase and went around the house exclaiming like it was our first day on MTV’s Real World.

“There’s a treadmill in my room!”

“She has chocolate syrup!”

“This toilet paper has plies!”

I stayed in the room the internet, aka Skype-central. The desk had wavy vases that wobbled everytime I played in the rolly swivel chair while talking with the headset on. The desk was stacked with mail and catalogs, including Pottery Barn.

My friend told me that embassy employees get free shipping, which means that most of the stuff in the house was shipped in, including food. The extra freezer, in the garage where my clothes were enjoying their first mechanical drying, was filled with Kellogg and Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker. Within the first few minutes of checking in, I was drinking a tall glass of chocolate milk and examining everything Burt's Bees and Lysol and Pledge.

After Eric enjoyed a real shave from a sink that had hot water, he asked me, “How does it make you feel to be in this house?”

“I don’t know,” said, thinking maybe I don’t want to know.

He said, “Yeah, I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

I let myself watch whatever crappy tv show I wanted on cable that was in English, with Spanish subtitles. I laid on the couch looking at the life of Denise Richards on E!, with the Spanish commercial pronouncing her name Denise Re-tards. We watched the Global Edition of the Daily Show, followed by the Best of Will Ferrill.

Mr. Whiskers or Muffins or Boots or whatever name we threw out enjoyed lots of attention. My friend the Captain Cat Sitter was so nervous about letting the cat out that he carried it much of the time. We were only allowed to open the door about six inches and slide through while another person scanned the area for any sign of an escapee.

The first night we sat outside, drinking and chatting on the porch by the little pool.

In the morning we walked to the huge grocery story, determined to make bacon, egg and cheese croissants happen. It was your typical cluster of four hung-over people trying or organize a grocery mission and figure out how to ask for chedder cheese in Spanish. Between a little chuchi shop and the big supermarket across the street, we went through the same culture shock as in the house.

“Gummy bears!”



We got there on sample day, and even though it was 10 in the morning, we felt the need to accept the glasses of the new Brahma beer. I consider drinking beer in a grocery store an acceptable cultural exchange.

We ate the donuts, with white frosting and sprinkles, immediately outside the store and took the groceries home to make the most delicious breakfast I’ve had in a long time.

I went to the Peace Corps office to get things done. I perused the library for as long as I wanted. I just love how many random books are there. I brought home a bag full. I walked around Asuncion by myself, enjoying, loving the freedom, and basking in the feeling of knowing where I was, and that if I got lost, I knew I could ask for directions, even in Spanish.

And now I’m back, as if sucked through a portal to America and back. And how did it make me feel? Fine, I think.

After my slight freak out, both my aunt and my mom reminded me that I can come home, any time I want. And that’s true.

If I wanted to work for the embassy, I could have. If I want to go home now and get a PR job and live in a three-story house. I can do that, too.

So I’m remembering that I choose to be here, even if, at times, I get lost remembering why.

On that note: Things I miss:
* hot baths
* nice, strong showers
* lookin’ sharp
* Grimbergen
* Krav Maga (and seeing my Krav Maga teacher)
* Yankee candles
* Food, sweet, glorious sushi, thai, mall chinese, Bagelicious stinky-stank special (tunafish with cheese on toasted everything bagel)
* This American Life
* Intervention, Cheaters (which I just actually saw a commercial for here!)
* My press pass
* Our beach

Things I’m surprised I don’t miss that much:

* my car
* couches
* my cell phone rings
* going out every weekend
* fast food

Things I like better here:

* Salad, served with a little oil, lemon juice and salt, ok too much salt. And I love how they just make it with whatever’s around. One day we had a cucumber and onion salad.
* The fresh-squeezed juice
* The double cheek kiss hello. Lots of girl-friend affection, walking arm-in-arm and such.
* Watching futbol/soccer games. Par-a-guay! and fireworks in the street when we score

1 comment:

Ron said...

I have just discovered your blog. My wife and I have moved to St. Augustine from Ohio. Our daughter, Michelle, served briefly in Paraguay in 1989. She did not return home. The day she landed in Paraguay there was a revolution and her first impression of Paraguay was hiding under a table in a bar while the tanks rolled down the street.

May you return home to your loved ones safely.

Ron Drabiski