Thursday, April 22, 2010

Missing My Invisible Stuff

Not only do we Americans have a lot of stuff, we have a lot of stuff around our stuff. Invisible stuff that other people can’t understand, and that I miss.

For example, those ladies shirts that criss-cross on top over the chest, and then have a horizontal seam underneath. This whole criss-cross top area is like a boob nest. That horizontal seam, that’s the bottom of the boob nest. Here, they have no respect for it. None. It goes straight across the boobs. It looks like the boobs are falling out of the boob nest.

And don’t even get me started on bra straps. I want to buy a mega phone so I can yell: "That's a strapless dress honey! You need to find its friend, Mr. Strapless Bra."

No respect.

I say no respect, but respect for what, our made up rules? It's just that those rules are so ingrained in us, evolutionarily stuck in our brains as fact, that you just can't help but be appalled when people do not have respect for the things you were taught to have respect for.

For instance. Dinner Time. It's dinner time. Set the table, forks on the left, knife (facing in) on the right. Turn off the tv. Turn off your cell phone. Wash your hands. Sit down. Wait for everyone before you start eating. Ask to be excused from the table. Don't tell the person who cooked how not delicious the food is. (This last rule was never taught, nearly implied.)

In Paraguay, it's the opposite. Every one of those things.

Movie time. Turn off the lights, Get your snacks ready. Don't answer your cell phone. Don't be in the other room and yell, "Just start it without me." It's movie time.

No movie time in Paraguay.

Same thing with class time. Can’t you see we’re having class?

There's also unspoken invisible image that we value in America. I see this especially with clothes. An old lady wearing a Quiksilver shirt. No, you don't understand. That is not only to clothe you, it's to tell the world you are young and a surfer/skater type and are cool. You cannot wear that shirt, silly old lady.

And there’s this other, somehow from nowhere, fad where people are wearing those GAP t-shirts that were popular 10 years ago in the United States. They’re trying to be American with shirts that say GAP Authentic, but anyone authentically American is just kind of left confused by the sight.

Lastly, I miss my invisible stuff of tradition, wrapped around our food, for example. When my Paraguayan boyfriend puts ketchup on the indian food I just made. Part of the anger that rises in me is a Joy-Luck-Club-mother-esque indignation that anyone would alter the food I just slaved over. But the other side is an outrage on the part of culinary tradition. Chefs everywhere who join me in a common cry: You don't put ketchup on indian food. And the’re with me on the fried rice too. You don't put ketchup on fried rice!

Today I made tuna casserole. It's expensive. A can of mushroom soup from the American aisle in the special Asuncion grocery store. Two cans of tuna, also pricey here. The time, the effort, and I go next door, and they're cooking cuts of beef, even though I said I would cook. They're cooking it, as usual, in an oily bath of oregano and cumin and salt salt salt. Just in case, they say.

Then at the table, they scoop out the the tuna casserole, which came out really well. And then, they scoop out the oily bathwater of the beef, and pour it all over. And they place a big chunk of meat, right on there. And I say no, no thank you. To their surprise, I'll eat it like this.

Some of my invisible things I’ve been able to let go. I’ll let some bra straps hang out. I’ll put my elbows on the table. But I will not put beef on tuna casserole. That, my countrymen, I promise you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fun Fall Times Outdoors

Howdy! The sun is shining on a nice breeze, it's finally cooling off, and instead of being cooped up in my air-conditioned cell, we've been outside enjoying the fall. Here are some pictures.

Mateo & Sasha's Visit

Taking the horse for a spin
Mateo rockin' it as he does

Campo sky

Sasha's turn

Giving pony rides to the little children.

Making Gyros Happen

I got this idea to make gyros, and Oscar knows a guy, so we had a lamb killed on a farm across the routa and in the campo town of Potrero. Instead of sending O-town on the moto, we made a trip of it on Bigote and bikes.

Leaving the paved streets of The Yat

The Road to Potrero

Vanessa riding a horse for the first time.

We stopped to take some pictures

Vane and me

The nice lady and her half of a lamb.
The gyros came out delicious and the host fam loved them!

Salto Cristal
Following the carefully placed signs, we headed to Salto Cristal.

In the campo of La Colmena

Oscar and sugar cane

We went in a car. I love a car! It's my dream to one day have one.
This is Oscar's buddy from the big city.

The climb down is steep and scary!

Oscar carrying the heavy stuff.

The falls are worth the climb.

The Partridge Traps

This started when Oscar brought his slingshot out to the campo, and he got hooked on trying to kill these partridges that are all over. We did some Googling, and next thing you know...

In the backyard earning our Boy Scout Badges

Just eat that corn little bird, I dare you.

Looking for a good spot

And now, we wait.

More views of the campo
Cactus, or, in spanish, tuna.

I feel like everyone's staring at me

Takin' some t-ray along


I have a dream...

Little cow at the pond

Smoke from a far-off fire

Back Home

Memories of my childhood fort-building give me an idea
while washing my sheets, then I turn around for one second and...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can I watch a damn movie already?

Let me tell you what that's like, just two people, one from the U.S., one from Paraguay, trying to sit down and watch a damn movie already.
Movies in Paraguay come from various places. Most Peace Corps volunteers carry their external hard drives to every Asuncion weekend, clicking and dragging from their friends' computers the movies their friends back home saw months ago, or seasons of The Office, Lost, True Blood or 30 Rock. I don't have a hard drive, so my computer, stuffed like 100 gigabytes of sitcoms in a 50-gigabyte bag, is constantly warning me that if I cram anything else into it, it will explode.

Sometimes we pass around DVDs, left in each others' lockers at the office or passed around at meetings. These are usually just the C-grade ones people are willing to pass on.

C-grade is good, I'll take C-grade. On television there's strictly D-grade. When my host sister asks if I've seen Miss Congeniality 2, I try not to act too offended when I say no. And I don't correct her when she says, "Oh, it's so awesome."

There's also a usual D-grade level on these DVDs Oscar brings, up to five movies on one DVD in a poor man's ziplock, with a cover printed on some computer, probably in Ciudad del Este, with the images of 5 normal DVD covers on one. They might be a collection of Jackie Chan movies, , bad Argentinian comedies, gory horrors of varying quality, whatever. I can now claim that yes, I have seen American Pie 6. Oscar's only seen an orginal disk once, in my house. He opened it like it was a treasure box lighting up his face and said, "Ooh, original." Those others, making us Americans look like idiots, are $100 worth of DVDs, one on disk and available at your local street corner for 10 mil (2$).

You put that disk in your computer and there could be anything. We once started "2012" and it began with a shot that looked like someone's volcano vinegar/baking soda experiment. Even if it is the movie you wanted, there could be Spanish with Russian subtitles, or Portuguese, especially with all the movies taped in the Brazilian theaters. I always hope for spoken English and Spanish subtitles.

I also hope it's a DVD rip, and not taped in the theater. When's it's taped in the theater, the sound comes out like you're trapped in a box and the movie is from 1942. Oscar and I were just watching Night at the Museum, and some subtitle came on that was on the real screen in the movie theater, only in the tilted camera, it just dove diagonally off screen, cut off into black. Sometimes people will cough, laugh, or their shadows get up to go pee. On my friend's copy of the New Moon movie, girls in the theater squeal at the part where Jacob takes off his shirt.

So many times we put the disk in, and it just doesn't work at all, or it's in a language that neither of us understand. Sometimes, there are just subtitles, in the doodles of Russian. Or, worse, there are too many choices. Audio in both English and Spanish, subtitles in both English and Spanish. So then, who gets to listen, and who has to read? To me, it is an injustice to take a film that was recorded in my language, change it over to Spanish that doesn't go along with mouth movements, and have the English words written on the bottom. But that's just me. Oscar does not share that opinion. We recently had a little bilingual lovers' spat over the fact that I didn't want to watch Avatar, again, in poor theater-taped quality, in Portuguese, which only understands, and only partly.

There are a hundred web sites to download subtitles, should I find something that otherwise works but doesn't have them. So you Google the movie and "subtitles" and "spanish" and you dig around on slow internet, and then you find them, and then you wait, in the dark because you thought you were about to watch a movie, for them to download. Not perfect, but it made possible the sharing of my love of The Office with Oscar.

Sometimes the subtitles don't work and Oscar makes me translate the whole time, which, for the record, is The Worst. Sometimes the subtitles work, but the movie talks and then the subtitles come on 5 seconds later. You have to play with the delay until you get it just right. We watched one movie where we had to pause it every 10 minutes and set the subtitles back. They kept moving too fast, like they were on a different treadmill. When Inglourious Bastards turned out to have two discs, I figured out how to make the subtitles roll over by setting the delay forward to 4374. Worked like a charm.

Photo: me with a pirate dvd of 5 movies, including 2012, New Moon and, yes, a movie called American Poop.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our New Catalog!

Hello All! So I finally finished the catalog for the coop! If you click on the images you´ll be whisked away to a bigger view.
In other good news, we just got a big order (100 shirts) from a woman in Argentina who saw the little web page I made. Suddenly I´m working hard for the money over here. Everyone is. No more drinking terere and making ao po´i. We´ve been getting lots of e-mails, actually, just from the other blogspot page I made. And checking e-mail, making up price lists, organizing the embroideries and making up codes and names for them. I´ve been plopping these huge tablecloths on top of the scanner to put there patterns into digital form.
A history of Ao Po´i and information on the cooperative.

Clothes and patterns for the ladies.
Clothes and patterns for the menfolk. And ao po´i ties too!

Things for the household, including and ao po´i toilet paper holder!

Tableclothes, their patterns and borders in crochet or the locally made lace.

Information on special orders and our price list.

All the pretty colors