Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Before, I would have said nothing was wrong with this picture. I found it in my Apple dictionary, looking for synonyms for beef. Here's beef. Now tell me, what's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong is exactly what Oscar said when he walked up behind me. "It doesn't show the feet," he said. Or the tail. Or the head. It's American beef, the prime cuts. But it's left out all the parts that I can tell you are certainly considered beef, considered food, down here. This photo should be reclassified, under A, for American Beef.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Doors that Close

I was looking through these Fulbright Scholar things, maybe you’ve heard of them -- and I saw the word Finland. It made me smile.

I had Finland on the mind when I was 13 years old. Somehow I’d gotten my hands on this exchange program brochure. Without the knowledge of my parents, I applied to one of the only ones that didn’t cost thousands of dollars and was a scholarship, to Finland. What did I know about Finland? Nothing. I just wanted to go, somewhere.

I can still remember how important it felt. The careful filling out of all the forms with the nice pen. The wanting. I got down to the finalist, and my mom, who now knew her daughter wanted to spend the summer across the Atlantic, drove me hours away for the interview. I’d never before been so nervous as I was, sitting at the head of all those people who got to decide if I went or not. I did get one laugh out of them, so I thought there was hope.

Then a thin little envelope arrived, that relieved my parents greatly. I didn’t get it.

It seems so funny now, but I was so crushed by that that I literally thought I’d missed my chance. I didn’t even look, really, for other opportunities. It reminds me of this quote:

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
-Alexander Graham Bell

I was blind to everything else. In my dramatic 13-year-old mind, Finland was it, like a boy who had dumped me who'd I swore I'd never get over. Luckily I didn’t stay that way, and I couldn’t really tell you what snapped me out of it. But here I am, putting Peace Corps Volunteer on my resume, looking at this program I used to think was just for people who were smarter than me. From now on I'll try to turn away faster from those doors that close.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chicken Sex

Chicken sex comes darting out across the yard. Your eye will be caught, whether you like it or not. A chicken making a run for it, head forward and legs crisscrossing exactly like they draw in the cartoons. A rooster behind, gaining on her.

Uh oh, that chicken’s gonna get it.

Few get away, flapping their wings, bobbing their heads as they walk away as if to say, “That’s what I thought, mister.”

But for most of them, the chase only lasts but a few moments until the rooster is upon them. Without even a “Hello, good day to you,” he hops on and bites the back of her neck to hang on. Then it’s just a shake of some feathers and a flap of the wings. He hops off, and wanders off clucking as if she were just yesterday’s bucket of thighs, leaving her to face the judging eyes of the rest of the farm animals. Tisk tisk tisk.

So ladies, if you’re ever thinking about hanging out with a rooster, I’m telling you: Don’t do it.

Click here for disturbing footage:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ñandu Guazu! (aka Tarantula!)

So yesterday morning we're just outside in front of the house, and I look over and see something I've only ever before seen in a movie, a giant tarantula, only it's walking in real life, my real life, black and hairy but cruising across the walkway three feet from me as if it were just another chicken.


Oscar brings a pitcher.

They kind of think I'm crazy because I'm so hyped up and freaked out. They've all, as children, fished tarantulas out of their holes with gum on a string and played with them.

Pali, my host dad, just comes out and says, quietly, "Oh yeah, that's a tarantula." like it's a cricket or something.

Then he just picked up the pitcher and I'm squealing that he's crazy.

Once it was dead, Oscar put this fork tong under its fangs to show them off. Tramtizing! But we all survived. At least it wasn't in my house. That's what happened to Sasha!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why I'm Staying Longer

Monday morning. 8:30, alarm clock goes off. I hear rain. I turn off the alarm clock. I go back to sleep until 10:30.

So maybe today is a good day to explain why I'm extending my service. I have asked for, and received, an extension until June of 2011. Nine extra months, a full 3 years of Paraguay fun times.

I think about how hard it was, that first year. How much I didn't know. All the confusion and frustration. Living in Paraguay is just so much better now. I'm good at it.

I know now, for example:
  • Which buses will enter my site and which will leave me 2 km. away, on the routa.
  • That when I ask for vegetables at the store, I have to ask by kilo and not by number, so I don't ask for 2 anymore and get a look like I'm crazy.
  • That when someone says, "And Oscar (or whoever)" They mean "Where's Oscar?"
  • When someone asks me if I know how to eat something, they just mean, Do I like it?
  • When someone says, Moogui reju that means "Where are you coming from?" (and a growing number of other Guarani phrases.)
  • You have to wash your bombilla every time, unless you want a mouthful of ants
There are a million things (at least half of them words) that I know now. Information I have crammed into my head that will be mostly useless as soon as I leave this place. I've worked damn hard, and now I'm coasting down the other side of my efforts.

Then there's the general benefits of Peace Corps:
  • I work whenever I feel like it
  • I do whatever I want to do
  • My podcast is kickin' ass
  • My Guarani is finally coming around
  • I love Yataity
  • I have a pony
  • I don't have to work when it's raining
  • I get my lunch cooked for me every day
  • I get asado every Sunday
  • There's also this boy next door...
  • And, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I finally have a home. Isn't that weird? All the way down here?
It is not all pretty, I can tell you that right now. Some people I work for are real jerkfaces. I'm helping jerkfaces. Who don't appreciate me, at all. I miss my family. I can not wait to have a car again.

But the good outweighs the bad. I'm happy down here. Life is balanced, something it is not in the United States. This is the best thing I've ever done in my whole life. I took a big risk and it paid off. I think, then, that I'll stick around a little while longer.