Saturday, February 28, 2009

Carnaval Yataity

I woke up yesterday morning and about my third thought was: Tonight night I will put on a gold sequined bra with huge crystals right in the middle of each cup and shake it down the main road of my little Paraguayan town.

What do you have for lunch on a day like that, when recently your neighbor walked by your front window, and, upon seeing you cooking lunch, simply said, “No hay que comer mucho. Un poquito no mas.” (You shouldn’t eat too much. Just a little bit.)?

Timmy Charley arrived and we got ice cream to calm my nerves. Then cookies.

Other select friends came (chosen for their ability to laugh with me, not at me) and my outfit was finally last-minute ready, in all it´s glory. The seamstress had put gold sequins on every white surface, with two huge flat-backed crystals right where I would wish they wouldn't be. She had cut out the back straps in to two straps, or more like back fat traps.

The seamstress had told me to bring her a bra to decorate: un pushup, she said. This bra wasn’t very pushup, and in a last-minute act of desperation to compete with the other hotties I was dancing with, I sewed one sock, ankle socks no mas, into each cup of the bra.


I went to get ready later than planned, and had time to drink some beers with the buddies that came. I got nervous about it getting so late and started to do my makeup in the only mirror available.

When it was time to go I went to a house that was filled with what looked like 25 girls trying to get ready for the prom, speaking in stressed Spanish. I set my bag in between all the others. We were trying to find someone to do my makeup, my hair.

The makeup lady from the capital was selling fake eyelashes, crazy huge black ones I wore the time I was a transvestite for Halloween, for 20 mil. Again, I needed all the help I could get. Doing my makeup, she attached them with glue to my eyelids. It felt heavy to blink, and it was like the whole world had a low, black ceiling. Someone braided my hair, then it was time for glitter. Three girls, all in their own outfit of gold, each grabbed glitter from a bag and proceeded to rub me down until I shined. I have one friend who keeps asking me if the people of my town have made me their queen. This scene, my little attendants, made me think about that.

About then, my friend Sergio came and put some glue on a crystal back and pushed it into the center of my forehead. I looked in his hand and, before I could figure out how to say, “Is that superglue?”, it sure did start to burn like superglue.

I looked at myself in the mirror and looked like a drawing of someone else.

I put on my bandaids in all the places I’ve learned they need to go, following the blisters from practices, then my heels. We waited at the end of the road. Ahead I saw bleachers on the sides, a stage, bright lights that had been put up that week shining down on the painted-white pavement, and painted bottles strung on the street and glowing from inside. Our main road looked like a runway stage.

We waited and waited, little bouts of practice at times. I could not rotate, as I had on my 6-foot headdress, nor could I usually walk straight, but sideways like a feathered crab.

The younger girls kept grabbing my baton, a gold stick with a ball on top and two feathers, and saying, “You’ve got to dance like this.” They’d put their palms on the top of it and bend their knees, swaying their hips, until they were practically droppin’ it like it was hot. I wondered whether they had access to American music videos.

I grabbed my pole, I mean baton, away and say I’m not going to dance like that. I avoided the use of the word “stripper”, which in spanish is “estripper.”

Timmy Charley bein a goof

TC approaching beautiful strangers

Little dancer waiting

And then it was time. One second you’re a normal person, then next second your jangling your sequins for paying viewers.

They kind of wave you up, like you’re in line to go down the big slide at the waterpark, and you want them going ahead of you, and you think with fear that you’re next to next, then next.

But you just start dancing, as I did. I looked down to make sure everything was alright, that my socks weren’t showing. But I knew I had to look up, so I did, at the stars that were unmoved. With the thought of the absurdity of it all I eventually brought myself to smile, instead of having a look that said: Sorry, I don’t usually dress like this and I´m personally responsible for the behavior that lead to giggling in some wrong areas.

The history of Carnaval comes from the freeing of the slaves in Brazil, they tell me. It’s kind of a celebration. So I thought: celebrate. dance. be free. This is it.

Something is happening like that: You’re in the Peace Corps and your dancing in South America, in Carnaval, and you know that the rest of life is not going to be like this. It’s a moment so huge that you want to gulp it down, but the seconds still pass the same.

So I only remember little things, like when the band split on either side of the main area, the road painted white and covered with stomped beetles. The drums were coming strong in both ears, like I was walking between two living speakers. On my left was the big stage, six people sat facing us like beauty pageant judges. And over the loud speaker in between the pounding beat I kept hearing “La Americana Pauli! Dale Pauli!”

My friends screaming for me, Timmy Charley spraying foam up in the air from a bottle in each hand and jumping up and down and yelling my name over and over.

The band

All along the sidelines I could see people I knew: my old host parents, shop owners, and they were smiling and waving.

After each run we walked around the long way, on the wrong side of the two-wire fence that the men were using as a urinal, eyes straight.

On the second run I was called back to dance with the King of Carnaval. He too started to drop it like it was hot, and so did I, but without my pole.

By the third run the beers were drunk and the crowd was crazy. People kept waving us over to take pictures for them, asking for kisses on the sweaty cheek. Men would be giving me a thorough eyescan and telling me “Que linda,” and I remembered how much women are sex objects in this country. Of course, I want it all, both ways. I can put on my socks and sequins and heels, but still expect to be treated like a lady.

From the sides came the foam. Some girls got it worse than others, looking like they just went for a ride on Wonka’s Bubble Machine, but still smiling and dancing.

Brennan asked me on our radio show if I´m going to do it again next year, and I said I don't know. I guess will see if they come knocking at my door.

No comments: