Friday, December 26, 2008

Rich People!...Christmas

Dec. 19: Rich People!

My buddy Auxi needed to go measure some windows at some guy’s house to make Ao Poi curtains. That’s all I knew when I agreed to go with her.

We were picked up in an SUV by some guy, I wasn’t sure if it was the owner of the house or what. This is just one of the facts that falls under the I Don´t Know Now But I´ll Find Out Soon Enough category, with so much else. We rode in air conditioning for about an hour, listening to songs like “What is Love?” Then we turned off the routa and bounced at high speeds along dirt roads, arriving at a gate, where someone from a nearby house let us in. I thought, “Oh nice, this guy has an assistant here.”

Then we rode farther and farther in rolling green hills, and I realized we were within this guy’s fencing, and I started to wonder exactly where we were going and who we were dealing with here.

Where we went was the largest, nicest estate I’ve ever visited in my life. Who we were dealing with was one of the richest men in Paraguay.

If before I thought that I was a spiritual person who treated all humans the same, that self-image was dashed by the grin on my face as we entered the side door to the huge kitchen covered in Spanish-style tiles, where maids at the center island stopped chopping meat long enough to stare at us. I linked my hands in front of me like a nervous little girl.

It took about a millisecond to imagine myself living there. There would be a son (maybe he’d approach on horseback with the sunlight in his hair), who rejected his wealth in principal but still had use of the pool. We could go to lavish fund-raisers and eat our home-chef-made steaks without guilt.

Then in they came. Actual rich people! There was an older man and a man in his 40s, (there goes my age requirements). But I didn’t know who was who. Are you the gardener or do you sign the paychecks?

I finally figured it was the older man who lived there. I looked at him and wondered if he was really happy and at peace, then I counted how many chairs were at his huge dining room table (14!) so that I could quantify how rich the guy was later in a detailed report to all friends and family.

They were very nice, not at all snooty. The older man showed us around the house:

Through the dining room with all the silver and the wide 14-seater. Through a billiard room where we walked over the skin of a large animal. Into another dining room. More silver. More paintings. A chandelier. A marble fireplace. Then a hallway as wide as my room, with benches lining one wall and tables with silver frames lining the other. Doorways with wood frames with angel faces carved into them lead to bedrooms. Paintings covered every wall.

The long carpets lead to another sitting room, then around the corner a space with more seating, a lit case with guns and knives and more animal skins. Wooden stairs with iron railings lead up to a lit marble statue of Jesus, then around to the master bedroom, the size of a small school auditorium. By the door were his boots, next to a packed bag with a handgun resting on top.

With that, he left us to measure. I wanted a map of the house to find my way. We all went back to the kitchen, where I asked to use a restroom. Around a back corner, I passed a marble door that radiated cool air, then turned another corner and caught site of the biggest painting I’ve ever seen. It was in a room that was the biggest room I’d ever seen in a house, like a large lodge with a bar in one side. “Oh. My. God.” I said. Then I went pee and giggled in the mirror as I washed my hands in a marble sink.

While we measured the dining room, the maid came around looking for Him, holding his bag in one hand and the gun in the other, in a manner I think gun safety experts would frown upon.

Throughout the house, the same symbol on his cow´s derier was everywhere: embroidered on the sheets, printed on the ash trays, on the smock of the maid who followed us from room to room.

We went to another house on property, and I asked his assistant (our driver) who lived there. “This is the pilot’s house,” he said. I made a note to include that little tidbit in the ol’ blog.

Then we went by the pool with the huge lodge and saw some iguanas running around as we went to measure the windows in the church on property.

We finished and left, driving through more of the property, the maid´s quarters, the horse stalls. Then right outside his gate we drove back into reality. Poor kids running without shoes.

I felt a twinge of guilt and shame, remembering that I´m here on a mission not only to help others but to help myself, partially by rejecting the seduction of wealth. My relapse was strong with just the first scent of riches. It’s amazing to me how much it sucked me in, how quickly I imagined getting my hands on it, how eager I was to report how close I got to it.

Dec. 25: Feliz Navidad

So I cried on Christmas Eve, when I realized I wouldn’t have Internet to video call my family and friends. I hid in my house and called my mom on my expensive cell phone. Then I went to sit out with the fam here and my host brother said, “Were you crying?” So I started crying some more trying to explain. Then he made fun of me.

But my host mom said sure you’re going to cry, you’re so far from your family.

We sat out back and they decorated a pesebre, or manger. My host family grew theirs out of the bushes people shape into topiaries and even ducks and dragons. They hang candy from its branches, light candles and put in a Baby Jesus and all the animals. It’s funny, they make an alter to Jesus, we make an alter to our presents.

Instead of going around to see different house’s lights, people visit to see each pesebre. We went down the street and were offered a seat and a drink. I did some good meeting-of-people to terere with later.

Back at the house, we drank beer and champagne. I offered to help cook, then was fake kung fu fighting with my host brother when host mom jokingly grabbed me by the back of my ao poi and said, “You said you were going to help me.” She pulled me over to where a knife waited by some veggies to be chopped, so I grabbed it and continued with a knife kung fu fight. Then I did chop the veggies. As the meat (pork, beef and chicken) cooked, we visited with neighbors and passersby. My host mom kept telling all the visitors I’d been crying.

At midnight everyone double-kissed and gave “Felicidades!” I made the mistake of going to the local fiesta. I wore really high heels so no one would try to dance with me, as this puts me at about 4 inches taller than almost everyone. But they were really uncomfortable. My belly was full of meats. I just kind of stood against the wall, wishing I had a car and entertaining myself by watching one especially bad dancer until 4 a.m. when we walked home with our shoes in hand.


I slept with my sleeping mask on so the sun coming through my bathroom window wouldn’t wake me. I slept until 11, then went over the fam’s house. We watched Shrek in Spanish, which made me happy. We ate the triple-meat leftover special. Then I came back to the house not wanting to think about Christmases and slept until 5. This would be nice if I hadn’t accidentally bought sheets that were 50% polyester. Everytime I turn over, the part touching the sheets feels like it’s been laying against a wet beach towel, as the fan breaths its hot air down on it.

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