Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rude...Teaching...Dance Party

Hi everyone. Just wanted to say thanks so much for the comments and the emails. I appreciate all the support!

Tuesday, Sept 23: Rude

I was on the phone with my sister the other day, and I heard her say to my nephew, during some of his antics: “That’s rude.”
Rude. Before it seemed such a concrete idea. Something was rude or it wasn’t.
Then I came here, and saw things that I was taught to frown upon. And I felt those negative emotions that had been ingrained in me in the way we pass on culture.
If I did some of the things people do here, back home, I could see someone say to me, “What in the hell’s the matter with you?”
Here it’s normal to start eating before everyone sits down, to eat directly from the salad plate in the middle of the table, to wipe your mouth with the tablecloth.
In the way we consider those things rude from our view, Paraguayans could see us as rude from their view. Here it’s rude to just flat out say no to an invitation. It’s rude to not greet everyone you see in the street. It’s rude to not share your glass.
Add to that our micro-cultures, what’s acceptable in one family being unacceptable in another, and is easy to see why we people sometimes have a hard time playing nice. We play by different rule books.
So the more appropraite thing, dear sister, would be to tell my little nephew that his tongue sticking-outing is considered anti-social in our family unit and in our regional and contemporary cultural paradigm. Let me know how that goes over with a five-year-old.

Thursday, Sept 25: Fat ass.

I went to visit my old host after two weeks away, and she told me, “Estas mas gorda.” You are fatter.
I accepted the comment and rolled on, later telling one of my favorite senoras that day that I was going for a walk because according to the other woman I’d gained weight.
She looked at me and scrunched her brow. “Aca, no.” (Here, no) she said, running her hand across her stomach.
Aca,” she said, putting her palm on her bum and looking at mine, “si.” She nodded.
I cracked up. Your ass is fat. Is that not the worst thing you could tell a woman in the U.S.?
I let her in on the joke, and she gave me a confused look. “Asi les gusta los hombres.” (That’s how the guys like it) she said. Then with a sucking sound effect, she traced an hour glass in the air with her hands and curved it wide at the bottom, rounding out imaginary cheeks with a popping sound from her mouth.

Saturday, Sept 27: Home Away From Home Away From Home

We’re in the Alpes once again for a group birthday celebration in the capital.
I’m sitting in the pitch-black attic as those around me try to get in a nap before Round 2 tonight. Last night we went to see our favorite American hits cover band. While they sang our Coldplay and Pink Floyd, our group danced and pumped our arms and sang along. Later they switched to some Spanish music, and they tables were turned, with everyone around us dancing and singing as we just kind of swayed, left out of the language and the pride.

Sasha and I spent today lounging by the pool waterfall in the lushly landscaped yard. As she was preparing to put in headphones, reclining on her beach toweled-chair with her face in the sun, I turned to her and said, “Toughest job you’ll ever love, Sasha. Just hang in there.”
“Thanks Paulita.”
To top it off, we had Lomito Arabe, which is our favority gyro-like Asun treat, delivered directly poolside.
However, I did help this week! Yes, I, me, was of use to another person of the third-world variety.
The cooperative got a request this week for a catalog of products, which they didn’t have. So I helped my friend take product shots and taught her how to use the camera, then we put together a catalog in Word.
Just making the catalog would have been ten times faster, but the important thing is that I’m not here to do things like that, I’m here to teach people how to do things like that.
The fact that I’m here to be a teacher, really, hit me in training.
Teaching is like walking a person through a path. You know the landscape well and want to trot along. They are blind with inexperience, frightened, shuffling along. You want to say, “Come on. Why are you walking so slow?” They want to say, “Wait up. Don’t go so fast.”
Add the fact that I’m teaching computers with the fact that it’s in another language, and I can feel that I have some learning to do of my own...on patience.
Any time I get frustrated, or I just want to yell “stop clicking!” I remember how blind I recently was in the world of Spanish. I had teachers who calmly held my hand and warned me of potholes as we went along. They never said, Oh god, it’s just a verb, it’s so freaking easy. In the way they grew up speaking Spanish, I grew up with the language of computers.

Ode to my friends
I got the chance to catch up with some buddies from the U.S. today, to hear the voices of my old life. I felt so refreshed with their encouraging comments.
Then I went downstairs, my ears numb from the headphones, and looked at all my new friends I have here and felt doubly lucky.
There’s Sasha, of course, party of one, who will break it down literally whenever and wherever, who gives me the crazy eye when I deserve it, and keeps me laughing with text messages all day long.
There’s Matteo, who starts talking with his hands and raises his voice with enthusiam when the conversation turns to music or spanish. He also does a killer impression.
There’s Timmy Charley, who tries to act all goofy but then quotes Yeats and does math in his head while I’m searching in my phone for the calculator. Timmy, who dances, we decided, like a robot with Parkinson’s. He’s always there to laugh at my “That’s what she said” jokes.
There’s Eric, our New Yorker, and his constant profanity-laced commentary on what sucks and what’s awesome today. His sweet side comes out when he talks about his girlfriend or his mom.
There’s Pooja, who’s always talking out a thesis and reminding me of the vastness of education that is over my head.
And those are just my fellow REDs. Our whole group is a mix of people from all over the United States, so many cultures mixed to come here and mix some more. And then there are my Paraguayan friends, who are becoming more three dimensional as my language improves. And I have my family, who I’m lucky enough to like as well as love.
In friends, I feel like the richest girl in the world.

Sunday, Sept 28: Salsa
We started Saturday by trying to watch the presidential debates via YouTube. They were on live, but with Spanish voice-overs. You’d think with two men debating, the translater would be male. Turns out not so much.
We passed the day shopping, buying tickets for an upcoming futbol game, using the internet.
I chatted for a while with Koika (sp?) volunteers, who often stay in the same hotel. There’s a similar program in Japan and Korea. So we meet all these Asians who are doing the same thing, and chat in our overlapping foreigner Spanish.
Saturday night we headed out to salsa dance, requested of birthday girl Pooja. At the club I saw these two couples dancing in a back area like professionals. My friend Joan and I sat to watch, and as we saw our other buddies walk by on their way to the rest room, we called them over to sit with us.
This guy was dancing around, his legs like a puppet, they seemed to barely touch the ground and support his weight.
Timmy Charley, always surprising me, was going on and on: “This is incredible. Look at them. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I want to dance like that.”
So we decided to take lessons. Turns out the puppet is also a bartender named Alex, who told me he would give us lessons for 40 mil (10 dollars) on Saturdays when we were in Asuncion.
Timmy and I decided we are going to dance like that at our despedida, our going away party in two years. Training starts on our next trip.
We left the club at about 3 and stopped at the Esso gas station/cafe, the 24-hour Denny’s of Paraguay. The late-night snack of choice is the Super Pancho, a gargando hot dog.


joker said...

Great post and cool video too!

Oh mant said...

I read your blog a couple times a week, just about every time you update it. Royal is saying "mamamamama" now and Theron is full of questions, "Are you got milk?" So cute. Our garden is in full swing now, buds of tomatoes and peppers are visible. Theron helps pick basil and pull weeds. He likes to take rides in the wheel barrow. Had our first huge public tantrum the other day so that was fun. Royal is all smiles and laughs when Theron is around. She loves being worn on my back so she can watch everything, she protests being put down at all these days. Love you and miss you! I'll call you soon.


kechu said...

How´re u doing paulita..!! i wanna know more about my country hahaha
i was looking for ao po´i because tomorrow i have a presentation in my school and look what i had found. Iam in toronto studing english, so i leave my msn to chat,