Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Viva la Vida

There weren’t a lot of us, just 15 about. But we had a slab of concrete near a beach on a river. We had music and bathing suits.

Friday we swam to the bank where the trees hung sideways from the jagged wall carved out by the running water. The minnows nipped at us while we tried to climb our way out of the river and into the low branches. We squealed and slipped and fell and pulled each other up. We climbed cracking limbs, unsure on our adult feet that had forgotten the bare feel of bark. We jumped out, just about 6 feet high but scarier than I remember.

Saturday night a stack of speakers turned the patio into our dance club. A grate over a fire was our restaurant, flaming at chunks of beef and pork. The cooked slabs were brought over and deposited on the table and hacked at. Some put pieces on their plates and others just cut away and ate and fed to friends danced over to with a fork held out.

The Paraguayan dj played the reggaeton hits with the regularity of radio. Sasha shook her way to center stage, as usual. When she put one foot up on a tree that grew out of the space in the floor and used it as a prop in her show I almost fell over laughing.

We went to the water at times and swam in the cool darkness. Lighting sparked in the clouds beyond where we had climbed the tree. We were all just there. Two individuals to remain unnamed were kissing and giggling on a towel in a crowd just chilling on the beach. There was this feeling: I was 15. It was summer.

In the morning I was told that the only bus to my site left at 10:30 a.m. from Carepegua. This was 10 a.m. and I was another hour ride from the bus stop. So I went with Sasha to Asuncion.

We rode with some new Paraguayan friends in a car, a luxury I enjoy when I can get it. The sky grayed over but I admired the landscape from my open window. When it drizzled, I closed it. We sang songs from a cassette.

Up ahead there was a cerro, or hill, but which pop out like mountains. The Paraguayans asked if we wanted to climb it.

We pulled up to it through a town, and it was green all over, except at the top where the dirt couldn’t cling to the pitch of the brown/black rock. Up top there was a cross and a tiny one-room church.

I tightened my Birkenstocks a notch and we started to walk in the red dirt and rocks. Paths crossed our trail, surely, I thought, carved out by little creeks when it rains. It must be a nice scene.

We were rising into mist. Our friends kept apologizing, saying it was so pretty when you can see. But I liked it the way it was, just kind of knowing we were up above it all.

A dirt footpath crisscrossed by tall grass lead us through a field of wildflowers, palms, mandioca and cows.

Then there was the church and beyond it the rocks we had seen from the road. It all dropped off into white. I sat on the wet rocks and looked out.

Then it cleared, as if we had said please and nature thought that since we’d asked so nicely, she would scoot aside the mist for a peek. I looked down and like I always do thought: That’s you. A speck.

To my left I saw other cerros rising through the white.

Then rain. Droplets big and so I grabbed my shoes and we climbed underneath a tiny cave that was more like a mouth. I had to lay down to get all the way out of the rain and they told me to look out for snakes. Sasha was sitting up, her head perfectly fitting in a crack in the rock, and from behind her it was a nice photo, with the sky coming in on both sides and silhouetting her head. So I leaned back on my elbow and held up her camera, my hands nearly touching the top of the low cave.

Then as fast as my brain could shoot messages: pain/hand/pain/spider?/snake/Ow/scream/run.

I ran from the cave and saw something come out. I thought it was a spider (Eric just said there was a tarantula on his floor) and I thought we should catch it so that when my hand was swollen and falling off as they carried me down the mountain we’d have something to describe to the 911 operator.

But it was just a wasp. Got me in the back of one hand and the tip of another finger. And everyone laughed at me. It swelled, but not enough.

Since we were out in the rain anyway, we decided to just walk down. The water came down with pressure I wish my shower had. I tried to find some place to put my phone, but I was soaked down to my skivvies.

Our trail was now a creek, and we were up it. I sloshed down the rocks in my Birks, water rushing over my feet. All of us just laughing.

Volunteers always say they fall in love with their country, their people. This lead me to wonder if Paraguay was my place, Paraguayans my people. But I don’t know if that’s the truth of it. What we fall in love with is what’s left when there’s nothing much. Tiny dance parties and just hanging with your friends and detours if you want because there’s time.

I think more and more about how I can continue this life, the parts that matter, after this structure called Peace Corps falls away. I love it here, but it’s more than Paraguay, Paraguayans. It’s the life, what was always there, but obscured or forgotten about, somewhere between nine to five and prime time. I remember now.

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