Sunday, June 21, 2009

Feliz Cumpleaños!!!!

Partying with the pooch (slightly drunk at the time and we thought this was hilarious)


Carrie, Mary, and Liz

Me and Belén

Belén, doing her bottle dance in front of everyone as a gift for me, super embarrassed

Sobrinas, Alé, Belén and Mirna (Mirna never smiles)

Ronnell with Augustito

Super fun Paraguayan kids

Bambi, Isatta, Vonda, and Mary

Me, Liz, and Mary

Paraguayans seriously know how to party! My birthday weekend was super fun. The day of my birthday, Friday, was our first Dia de Practica, where we have to practice what we´re going to do once we have our sites and talk to people about their businesses or co-ops. Then a little bit of class and we finished the huerta we built as a group (it´s awesome).

Then there was a little miscommunication with my family and I was thinking Belén had a dance program that night, and wanted to go watch it. So I´m walking with all these little giggling, whispering 12 yr olds, not understanding a single word and sad that that´s what I´m doing on my birthday, when I look up and see Elmer from my group walking by, so I beg him to please come with me and speak English. He does, of course, and then it turns out that it´s not a program, it´s a practice, and nobody is allowed to watch, so we have an hour to kill. We see a few other people from our group and go to this San Juan festival they´re having at the school.

The Dia de San Juan, which is another one of those holidays that´s a mix of Catholicism and Paganism, is June 23, so this weekend there were parties for it. The festivities normally include playing soccer with a flaming soccerball (pantyhose on it lit on fire so that if it touches someone´s leg they have melted nylon permanently engrained in their skin), and a greased flagpole with money at the top. Kids try to climb it and fall all over each other, and I guess it´s pretty much a guarantee that someone gets a knee in the eye or something. Unfortunately, we didn´t get to see any of those particular festivities, and this festival was just about a hundred little kids in traditional dance costumes (frilly dresses on girls, fake mustachiod boys) coming out in turn and dancing for the audience. Pretty boring, but fun to just hang out with my friends.

On the way home, I´m walking with Alé and Belén and they are huddled together behind me whispering to each other (this is pretty common, so I just ignore it). Then Alé comes flying up beside me (Belén pushed her) and she asks me again what Elmer and I did while we were gone. I told her again about the San Juan festival and she just laughs. "por que?" I ask. "Because she´s jealous!" Belén pipes up. We´d just had a whole lesson about this in training a few days before and it hadn´t even occurred to me to be an issue until right then. But in Paraguay, guys and girls aren´t supposed to be alone without supervision, so a girl is always supposed to have a kid or another girl with her when she´s with a guy. So they thought we were off making out. The whole dating situation here is muy complicado. There´s that whole supervision thing, or the fact that if a woman happens to be in the same room alone with a man, it´s because she wants to have sex with him. The story we heard was when a volunteer was trying to have electricity put into her house, and was telling the town electrician where she wanted the lights hung, when he grabbed her and kissed her. He thought she was inviting him to. She was a little upset.

Then there´s the whole phenomenon of the Jakare. A jakare is a crocodile in Guaraní, and it´s a guy who goes outside of a woman´s window at night and claps to get her attention so she can let him in to have sex. Sleeping with your window open is an invitation for someone to come in and have sex with you. Bars will be on my windows. This is all wanted by the woman (except in the example that my trainer gave when some guy came up and tried to come in her window because she´d smiled at him earlier in the day at the well (she´s a very smiley person and meant nothing by it) but normally that would be all it would take to arrange a rendezvous). I´m now terrified to look at anyone because a prolonged look can be an invitation; also a smile, if you dance more than a couple songs together, or about a hundred other really subtle things. This is all just for sexual invitations because dating is done very formally and a guy visits a girl on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the weekend when he wants to really date her. MWF, then, is left for the sombrero. A sombrero is the other guy that´s having sex with a girl but not dating her. This means that any meeting scheduled on certain days might be telling someone you either want to date them or just want to fuck them. No wonder everything takes so much longer to get done around here. To be fair, the cities are not this archaic and these situations would only be in the campo these days.

But I digress. So the next day, we were learning about the festivities for the Dia de San Juan and were split into partners and had to go talk to our families about a traditional game or food. Elmer happened to be assigned as my partner. We went to my house and talked to my mamá about this game (Like a piñata but with clay pots),and she fed us and we sat down to talk, and he was all charming and fluent in Spanish. Then they took a picture of us at the end. I´m pretty sure they think Elmer is courting me now. Great. So we had a fun morning of a psuedo-party for school, and then the real partying began.

It´s Paraguayan tradition that the person having the birthday pays for whatever festivities occur, but we all agreed that that was a terrible idea and we were going to do this up American style. Brad, from my training group, talked to his mom, who has a reputation for being especially fun (my mamá warned me about her, even though they´re cousins, because I guess there is chisme of parties with lots of people making out in their respective dark corners of the of course I had to have it there) and she agreed to throw the party. We sent around a sign-up list to all of our training group so everyone brought something. The Paraguayans went all out and it was huge- like 50 people, all partying outside. I got lots of great presents, including a white thong with a topless mermaid on it and a t-shirt that says Piraña across it (Mary and Liz have dry senses of humor like me), a silver heart necklace, a keychain that says Angelica (I´m changing my name here because no one seems to be able to pronounce Angelíc), a hand-drawn and painted card with pictures of all the aspirantes on it, and a packet of combs and too-small slippers from my family. There was a cake but I had chocolate bars, and lots of beer and wine with coke. Everyone brought food I could eat and they sang happy birthday in 3 languages. There were lots of people standing around talking and laughing, kids running all over the place, just lots of fun. First this little 6 year old taught me all her dance moves, and then her 17 yr old cousin taught me way sluttier dance moves, so that was fun. We partied for like 6 hours and then I spent the night at my friend Mary´s house so I wouldn´t have to walk home in the dark. It was great. I´ll post pictures as soon as I get a chance.

1 comment:

  1. Man, your birthday sounds pretty much perfecto. I'm so, so glad.

    Also: "No wonder everything takes so much longer to get done around here." Best story/line ever. Miss you. - J.



Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.