Friday, March 20, 2009

Paraguayans...Huerta...Staying In

Good morning. I'm in Asuncion on a mission to find us a web page designer. Thought I'd upload some random shots of life in Paraguay.

So I think a good theme for these photos is people. I really want you guys to get to see more of the people of Paraguay.

Lady on a mule, getting from point A to point B

Woman selling brooms outside the co-op.

Militar in Villarrica, gun in one hand and terere juyos in the other.

Mariela and Leidyd with their mom, Ña. Celia, on the day Leidyd won Queen of the Futbol Clubs. She's the queen of everything.

Little boy who lives next door to Stu.
Apparently he wears these goggles all the time.

Free lawn service. My host dad ties two sticks of bamboo
to the handles of his clippers to reach those high spots.
He's quite guampo. And Oscar holds the t-ray pitcher and watches.

March 11: Huerta
I felt unsure about digging up the grass in my back yard for a
huerta, the word for garden that now seems like the right word to use all the time. I have so many things going on, and I didn’t want to add more responsibility, more things to my To Do list. I’ve been feeling a little, well, stressed.

But then Sasha yelled at me, and said of course I’m going to have a huerta, this is Peace Corps dammit. And she was right.

I remember that first time I took home from school a lima bean in a clear plastic cup, pushed against the clear plastic with a damp paper towel and placed on my window sill. And then it opened up and a plant came out.

I recently held a leaf and thought, what is this made of? A seed, water, dirt, and what? What’s that fourth thing, that mysterious engine that makes life go? Whatever it is, we could all use a reminder of that, an alter to that, in our back yards.

So I cut off the sides of milk boxes and filled them with dirt. Little kids came by and I let them help, even if it meant my transplanted green onions from the huerta across the street fell to every direction. I check every morning as new plants of basil, hot peppers and tiny trees wake up and stretch toward the sun.

I think: If I go back far enough, me and this plant share an ancestor.

While I’m out there I wave to my neighbors. Ña Maria on the left tells me to watch out for Ati on the right, as she’ll steal my onions. Ati tells me to look out for Maria. They both laugh afterward and I guess this is a Paraguayan joke.

Oscar breaking ground

Oscar and I made seed beds one late afternoon as the temperature dropped just a bit. I tried to be guapa with the shovel, but he worked ahead of me, faster and stronger, of course. And we disagreed on nearly every point. When he said the little stone path I had created and showed him proudly would only made the ground hotter, I taught him the American saying “kiss my ass.” Now he keeps walking around saying “kees may ass.”

But better that it’s
ñande huerta (our huerta) than che huerta (my huerta), so that I can text him when I’m out of town and tell him it’s his turn to water the garden.

The back of my house with my freshly made huerta.

March 13: Staying In
Today I flaked on a trip to a waterfall swimming hole. It didn’t feel good, but my life was out of balance: dishes piled up, flash cards dusty, my knees still scabbed from the wrestling Shola on the beach on our last get-together.

It was a good day in-site day. I watered my garden, studied a little Guarani, a little Spanish subjunctive. I sat with the ladies at the post office and stiched a little Ao Poi when I went to pick up a package from my mom. One woman mentioned that her daughter loves to read and I noted that for later, when I’ll need help with a library project.

I shared the Jelly Belly’s with my friends at the co-op, giving them the Buttered Popcorn flavor. They guessed: What is this black, this purple?

I lunched next door, and Ña. Maria explained to me how to make beans and Paraguayan cheese.
After lunch I had time to put up my hammock and read a bit. Oscar brought me a glass of sweetened grapefruit juice and I was officially living the dream.

I went to the cyber cafe and booked a flight home, spurred by my friend Mateo leaving yesterday for his visit. I chatted with a friend on Skype.

Then I taught my friend Excel, just a half hour because it was her first time and she smiled with her teeth closed and looked afraid.

Then more Ao Poi with my ladies across the street. I had them cracking up with stories of how bad my Spanish was while I was living in Aveiro, of how I was so broke in college that I sold plasma for beer money. I love telling stories in Spanish/Guarani. Things that happened in English so far from here that never thought they’d be translated and relayed in South America.

For a snack I had my first taste of avocado Paraguay style: pureed with sugar and milk, which I must say is delicioso.

We went to grandma’s birthday at night. She’s turning 81 and has one tooth hanging on with her.
Something happened with this woman a few months ago that I didn't think much of it at the time, but it persists as one of my favorite memories: While I was cutting up some watermelon, I saw her sitting alone in the back yard, out where there's always steam in the mornings from mandioca boiling over a little charcoal stove. We had only spoken once before. I asked her if she wanted any, and she said she did, so I brought out a plate. Then this 80-year-old Paraguayan woman and I just sat in the quiet shade eating watermelon and smiling and nodding a little bit when we caught each other's eye. When the plate was done, I asked her if she wanted more and she nodded. We ate nearly a whole watermelon together.

When we arrived at the party on this night, grandma was dancing. We sat on couches on the patio. There was a chicken and a kitten and a little boy in overalls running around. We danced to Reggaeton and Brazilian music.

So nothing much happened, right? But the one thing that struck me yesterday is how normal this is all starting to seem. How much it’s just like, my life. Those little nothings are what life is built on. Friendship and community don’t happen in one grand gesture, but build with every terere, every laugh, every little stitch of Ao Poi made in the shade.

1 comment:

Amambay said...

pretty cool pics and your blog is so interesting for reading.
good luck here!