Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crash and Burn and Smile

It's safe to say the web site presentation was set off to be a crash and burn, so I can't say I'm surprised. I'm so used to them by now, I just let it happen.
The day we picked to have it was today, the birthday of Yataity. There would be a festival in the plaza. Who of our socias would want to leave a festival to come to a talk about a web site? But The Boss could not be convinced. Although there was no reason not to do it next week, she was set on this week.

It was supposed to be a tranquilo gathering. But then The Boss heard that the governor was going to come through. Hell ensued. We could not just serve the governor (and his flock) coke out of plastic cups. We needed glass cups, blah blah, etc. She was worried that we needed food for all of them, plus for everyone we invited, should they ALL show up. This is about as likely as a tsunami hitting the co-op. This was my event and it was making life tough on the girls who worked in the co-op. Not good.

Nameless Peace Corps Higher Up was going to come, adding some prestige to the event, and bring the projector so that we could project the computer screen on the wall for all to see. Mariela and I worked on a PowerPoint of what the internet is and why our web page is important. We did three practice runs. Everything was set.

8:30 I arrive for the 11 a.m. meeting. I'm surprised to see that everyone is there, hustling. Making sandwiches, putting up decorations. I'm nn a common situation: I want to help, but I don't know what to do and worried about just getting in the way. I printed the business cards we needed and added last touch-ups to the PowerPoint. I began chatting with Mariela and one of the girls yelled at me, "It's already time and we need to get the sodas here now! Where are they?" Woah. It was my job to order the sodas, and I asked them to come at 10. We still had 2 1/2 hours. What's the big deal?

I found out later that The Boss had been calling people since 7 a.m., yelling at them to get over to the co-op, do this and that. She had injected anxiety into everyone.

At about 10 we were asked to go to the plaza. I wanted to stay, but I went. There was the governor. The Boss announced that we would be showcasing our web page. I left.

10:40: I call the Peace Corps Higher Up, and he's lost, but he'll get here soon. At 11 a.m., just Mariela and I are in the room for the presentation. This is normal.

Then come in The Boss, pulling by the arm important people. The Priest and the Mayor's people. All coming toward me. No projector.

I ask The Boss to say a few words, which she's more than happy to do, about all the work she's done for the co-op all her life. She introduces me, says I have 2 years in Paraguay, and although she still can't really understand what I say, they should all try to understand me.

I step over my ego on the way to the computer. We use just the computer screen to give the PowerPoint. He'll be here any second. I talk about why the internet is important, all the things Mariela and I have practiced, until The Boss stands up and tugs my arm and says, "That's great. Just show us the web page." She also says, "Why didn't you tell me your Peace Corps Higher Up wasn't going to be here, we could have just used my son's projector." Why didn't you say your son had a projector?

I begin talking about the web page, and just then, the Higher Up walks in, but nothing is in his hands. "And the projector?" is the first thing I say. He puts his hand to his forehead. He'd forgotten.

During the next 15 minutes I went down flaming. Is it the two years in disaster-prone Paraguay, or a study of spirituality based on accepting what is? Whatever it was, there was a calmness about my crash. The internet worked as slow as a snail, or not at all, please try again, in front of a squinting crowd. Sputtering sentence fragments, saying "cosa" (thing) when I wanted to say "window", "cursor" or "screen." I remained fairly calm. The words formed in my mind: Crash and Burn. I could feel the redness in my face, the physical reaction to humiliation, as natural to a Peace Corps Volunteer's bodily functions as sneezing.

The parade started outside, and to my relief, they all left. The subject of all this preparation and anxiety had passed in 15 awkward minutes where little was accomplished. The parade went by (at least there was a fat kid on a pony) and they ate a small portion of the food we'd painstakingly set out. I talked to the Higher Up, who was red in the face and couldn't stop apologizing. Was I just so used to things going horribly wrong? The governor and his flock never showed at the co-op.

A reporter from ABC Color did come by. The least curious reporter in the world. Mariela and I provided him with facts. "Our web page will be the first in inner Paraguay to accept credit cards." "Uh-huh," he said, perusing the snacks. "We won a grant from Peace Corps for 10 million Guaranies." "Hmm," bite of empanada. He took a picture of me at the computer.

That was the answer, Jeopardy players. And what was the question?

"What's it like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer?"


Ken, Christie, Camille, Caroline said...

E'a! So sorry the presentation crashed and burned, but the website ROCKS! I'm trying to talk my hubby into that colorful long-sleeved shirt to wear home on furlough. And nice touch that the guy's sippin' terere in the photo shoot. WELL DONE! (And I didn't have to see the power point to come to that conclusion... hehehe) I had to giggle at your descriptions, but I'm sure you weren't laughing as it all went down. Nde rasori.

hisc1ay said...

The only thing missing from your post is a link to the website. :)

One day I think it would be fun to chill, drink some tea-ray, and discuss our perspectives on Paraguayan culture. I love them to death, and will never say the US is better culturally, but I think some things only Americans would appreciate...