Monday, September 8, 2008

Upside down...Homesick Cry

Hello. My name is Paulette. I live in Yataity. I am happy there. I work in the cooperative. I'm going to live in Paraguay for two years.

Hola. Soy Paulita. Yo vivo en Yataity. Estoy feliz allí. Trabajo en la cooperativa. Voy a vivir en Paraguay por dos años.

Mba'éichpa. Che Paulita. Aiko Yataitype. Che avy'a upepé. Amba'apo cooperativape. Aikota Paraguaype mokôi ano.

Sept 2 - Upside-down

I stood tonight thinking about the stars. They’re different here. Gone are my dippers I could spot easily. Now I look for the Southern Cross.

The stars on the other side of the planet, confirming that we are surrounded on all sides by space. Floating here. I thought about this while looking up at the top of a palm tree with the stars behind it and for a moment dizzy, like I might fall into space. I looked at the trees, and knew that they grew here at a different angle that the trees back home, growing out instead of up, like spokes on a wheel.

Sept 3 - Liver and Onions.

I had seen it in the refrigerator, a huge mass of non-meat with an off-brown color flowing off both sides of a plate. Whatever it was, I hoped I wasn’t around when it was served.

Lunch today. I sit down to what looks like meat with onion. I poke it with my fork and it’s resistance is more spongy than my liking. My host heaped more onions on top. And I think: Onions. Liver and onions.

I taste it and I know, from a practical joke my dad pulled on me, saying something a spoonful of brown stuff was chocolate ice cream when it was really liver pate.

After my first bite, I panic inside, looking at three large piece on my plate. “Oh crap. It’s liver. I hate it. Maybe I can eat it with some rice. (Another bite) Oh god no. Can’t. Won’t.”

For the record, I have eaten everything put in front of me thus far in Paraguay.

Ok, so there was one time where I took a bit of tripe, which looked like meat when I picked it up. Then I bit into it and suddenly I thought it someone had walked into the house with poo on their shoe, then I realized what I thought I was smelling was the taste in my mouth. So I spit it into my hand while the host was grabbing more drinks, and later threw it to the dog outside.

But other than that, I have been a dutiful guest.

However, this time I figured I’d had a good run, and thought of what Sasha says when I get too sensitive about offending people. (Later, she would say of this event, “I’m a grown woman and I’ll eat what I want to eat and I’m not going to eat that. Period. Next question.”)

I ate around the liver and I heard my hosts mention it in that way that I can kind of tell what people are talking about, even in Guarani, by their expressions. And I smiled and said sorry, I don’t like this part of the cow.

And they were very nice about it. I ate another serving of rice. And by the time I got to the cooperativa later it seemed everyone had heard that I finally found something I didn’t like to eat in Paraguay.

Sept 7: One big home-sick cry: Check.

This morning the family came over. And while I did Ao Poi, they spoke in Guarani. A pig that the empleada had woken up at 3 a.m. to kill was dragged in piece by piece. Both rib cages slopped on that countertop. They hacked it to pieces and partitioned them out into grocery bags while I drank my morning coffee. Later I opened my fridge and made a frightened “Mway!” noise at the sight of three shelves full of red carnage.

When I put my Ao Poi down to try and socialize, I just stood around, staring. Ao Poi is something you can do to be invisible, to look like you belong there even if you’re alone, like smoking a cigarette.

A hummingbird came and picked a the flowers right next to my head. I had time to look up and see it’s flutter of wings around a body no bigger than a human bite and a long orange beak. It was an amazing experience that I couldn’t really share. Everyone there had seen picaflors plenty of times before.

I was called when there was food. And I sat there while we ate and they talked, in Guarani.

And it’s hard to be the outsider at someone else’s family time, when you haven’t seen your family in four months and all you can think is how much longer it’s going to be. When you used to be the one joking and now your the quiet one, not saying anything for hours.

And I’d had a dream the night before that my nephew didn’t know me.

Walking to my casita, it started. The big tears you can’t stop, and you just flop on your bed and have what my mother calls “a good cry.”

I talked to Paula in Key West for a while. It calmed me down. But right in the middle-beep! Out of minutes on my phone.

The store that sells minutes didn’t have any today, maybe tomorrow, and the internet cafe is closed. Nothing I can do but take a walk and buy myself some ice cream.

There’s something else I cry about too. It’s not just missing home, it’s a kind of home-sickness that will follow me back to the states. Even there, I won’t have the kind of life where all my relatives can come over for a barbeque on Saturdays and pull up chairs under the shade. Our together time involves hotels and flights.

When I want to call my friends and family, I call Key West, Sebring, Tarpon Springs, St. Augustine, Virginia, Pennsylvania. There is no home where a big welcome home party is waiting.

Sometimes our whole way of life, or my whole way of life, moving around so much, makes me homesick.

And with all I want to do, (maybe) get my masters, be a traveling crazy, I’m afraid of the truth of one of my least favorite quotes: “You can’t have roots and wings.”

It hurts every time I rip up my roots.

Sept 8: Feeling Better

Sitting outside with my laptop and the hummingbirds and butterflies, thinking about the slight breakdown yesterday. “Everything is going to be alright,” mom would say.

There are ups and downs, everyone says about the Peace Corps. I think when I have my ups, like in two years when I’m chatting in Guarani and I forget I’m a Norte, when it feels like family here, then it be all the more amazing remembering how much of a foreigner I used to be.

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