Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feb. 4: Asuncion Purgatory

***This post is more of a rant than anything else, just to make myself feel better. Your life will not be enriched by reading it***
I'm in the Peace Corps office, nervous about missing my bus, because I have to get back to site today. It's been a week since I left, packed for two days.

I was in Yataity thursday when I called the woman at the bus station in Asuncion, to confirm that a 12:15 bus would pass through town. My neighbors said it wouldn't, so I bet them a beer that it would, just because I already had my bag on my back and wanted to believe it. I sat on my backpack and read in the heat until a bus finally came at 1:30. My neighbor road by on his moto and said to make sure I had the beer on Sunday when I came back.

I stayed the night at my friend's place near Asuncion. This was a way to avoid paying for a hotel and avoid getting up at 5 a.m. to get into town early. I had planned to visit NGOs (Non-government organizations, that might help us) early in the morning Friday.

I woke early and visited an NGO with Sasha that dispatches workers to different sites to help for 40 hours for free, and they teach classes in marketing and sales. That was an awesome find and we ate a lomito arabe lunch feeling productive.

That afternoon I had my PTIP, my quarterly check up with my boss. It was quick and I just had to fill out some forms about how many people I had affected or helped, officially.

That night was a meeting on the library funds that just became available. We went out to a bar later, where the fans of a "Paraguayan thrash rock band" were gathered near us in Metallica and other assorted black t-shirts.

Saturday night we decided to go out to a dance foam party at a club. This consisted of a bubble waterfall flowing out of some device on the ceiling, flowing down to the floor and filling it three feet high with bubbles. We danced and danced and I loved it.

In the morning I woke with the intention of getting back in time for the 5 p.m. samba practice. My clothes were in a wet pile, and my cell phone emerged from my pocket with moisture under its glass, suffocated. I pleaded with it, taking out the battery and putting it back and thumbing the power button hard, but it was gone.

Now I had to stay until Monday. I packed my bag and left that hotel to go to the Chaco hotel, where I got a room with my buddies Shola and Liam, and we skipped the Superbowl party to lie in our separate hotel beds with our laptops on us, enjoying the wireless.

Now I was in limbo...

Monday, I packed my bag, now weighing about 50 pounds from all the crap I picked up in Asuncion. We checked out of the hotel, and I left feeling like I was giving a midget a piggyback ride all over town.

I had already missed my Guarani class and wouldn't make it for my internet class, but maybe I could make it back for the board meeting Monday at 4:30, where I could swoop in with all my great NGO info.

But the cell phone guy at PC office was less optimistic.

"Could be tomorrow. In the morning, or the afternoon. Or the next day." I wished he were leaning forward and talking fast, but he was sitting back, talking slow.

So I dropped off my phone. Sasha left town and I was with Shola and Liam.

El Gigante, La Rubia y El Negro

It was 108 degrees the day it was the three of us. Liam is 6'5", I'm a blond amazon, Shola is black. All three are rarities, and when we're together, people don't know where to stare first.

Also, when everyone else has left town, we're like three children. We're all averse to effort, organization, or thriftiness. So when someone says, "Let's take a taxi," we all say, sure. When it's a question of whether we want dessert, we toss a coin to see who has to get up and get it.

So we're walking around. I was carrying a bag of heavy, wet clothes that were starting to stink, looking for a laundry matt. I thought I found one and Liam and Shola went into a grocery store to look for peanut butter. When I found them later, still with a bag of heavy, wet laundry because they wouldn't weigh it dry and wanted to charge me 42 mil, Shola told me to come to this one aisle, that I would be shocked and awed.

Aisle 26, now known as America Aisle. All things American. Hot chocolate with marshmallows, Peanut Butter Captain Crunch, Stovetop Stuffing. We were starving and about to go to the nice grill in town so Liam said we were just going to buy some sauces and go. I got A1 and some Heinz ketchup.

On the way to the grill I realized they planned to use these sauces in the restaurant.

We went to Paulistas, the kind of place where each bathroom stall is like it's own little hotel room. I was wearing my only pair of shorts. It's a churrasceria, where the waiters in bow ties come around with various kinds of meats, like strippers strolling for a lap dance customer. If you like what you see, they cut you a chunk of lomito or pork or chicken off the big skewer.

We got our first pieces and the guys looked at me. I rolled my eyes and pulled out of my purse Liam's wing sauce, Shola's Kraft Hickory Smoke Barbecue sauce and my A1 and set them on the tablecloth.

That night it poured, and we ordered in Bolsi bar. I got chicken fingers and creme brulee. Again we watched cable and abused internet resources. I clogged up the shower in the hotel room and did a load of hand-washed clothes.

In the morning I missed my computer class back at site. The cell phone guy, who I called from Liam's phone, had no news.

Tuesday morning, I was alone in the hotel room. All my buddies were gone and I was alone in the city, spending money, not having fun, not really helping anyone. Again, I checked out of the room and went off with my bag, reminding myself to lift with the knees. I got lost on the bus alone on the way to the PC office.

Liam left his extra phone, which I could use with my chip, so that was at least one good thing. I knew I had to just accept my fate and tried to turn it into a positive. I decided today would be my day to report on Asuncion, and I went around taking pictures. Then I remembered they have their Agro Shopping on tuesdays, so I went and bought some dried shiitake mushrooms and walnuts, two exotic things I haven't eaten since I arrived.

I keep having this nagging guilty feeling. All the things I'm missing. All the Guarani I'm forgetting. All the people I'm not helping, all because I had to go to a stupid dance party and dance around in a big kitchen sink. It feels like my two lives here are always clashing.

I met a new girl from the latest group. She was still in town because she lost her phone at the foam party, so we roomed together.

This morning I finally got a text saying something about my phone: That it could not be fixed. There was a number to call for more info, which no one answered. I called the PC office, and the cell guy wouldn't be in until 1.

So, uh, finally at 4 today, wednesday, nearly a week after I left, I got my new phone. My bag is full of books from the PC library, and I even filled up my locker with ones for next time.

On the level of acquiring things, the shopping has been out of control. Asuncion does that to you. I'm broke and my bag is so full. This morning I looked at everything I bought and tallied it as a kind of confessional:
peanut butter, bike lock, coriander, parsley, thyme, rosemary, ketchup, A1 sauce, PC t-shirt (because I just couldn't take my dirty clothes any more), decaf coffee, shelled peanuts, crushed peanuts, Nestle chocolate, a Yankee candle (mango peach salsa, splurge), wooden forky-spatula thing, vanilla flavoring, another thing of coriander because I forgot I got it the first time, tape, granola, gel pen (now lost), can opener, garlic powder, tissues, the Peace Corps cook book (because I lost the old one), shoes for Carnaval.

Shola told me that when he thinks of me, he thinks, "Paulette, the girl with a lot of stuff." That hurt.

It's 6 now, and alledgedly there's a 7:10 bus that goes through my site. And so I'll go now, tail between my legs.


Jeri Jones said...

Just finished catching up with you. not only are you leaving a mark there, you are also leaving one with those of us reading your blog. You have an imaginative and fun way of educating us through your adventures. thank you for sharing your writing. i love you, jeri

Jeri Jones said...

ok girl with a lot of stuff, im sure it is good to be back after a week. im thinking being a minimalist has its perks. sorry about the cell phone, that sucks, but you got through it,sounds like you made some new friends too. Good for you? ive banned spending money unless i need something,and when i do i go and look for it. i used to look for things to buy instead of looking for things i need. i try to stop myself from being impulsive or compulsive, and it seems to pay off. With your situation you almost have to grab it when you find it, so thats the way it is. To bad you have to haul everything so far, but i bet it was fun unloading it from your backpack. You are living a different life now. Enjoy. Love Jeri

Jennifer Pollock said...

Love your blog. My days in Paraguay are flooding my brain as I read your adventures. I was a volunteer in Carmen del Parana in 1990-1992 and not much seems to have changed except you have a laptop and cell phones. I remember waiting anxiously for months to get a letter from a friend or family member and I would read it over and over. Also, phone calls were a luxury and I treasured them when I got them. Have fun down there and enjoy it as much as you can.