Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kids and Fires

Me with Fabiola
San Juan Festival
Paulette showing us Ao Poí
Me with Roxy and Rafi

Well, I felt it coming on and it finally happened. No, not the crash - everything is still awesome. I´m talking about fiending for some kid interaction, since I went from nannying every day to hardly a kid in sight. Of course, I still chase my 7 yr old niece around the yard, but she always wears out after like 2 minutes, and I need more running time than that. The day after my birthday, when we had the class/party for Dia de San Juan, my trainers´ kids, 5 and 7 and adorably trilingual, were my buddies for the day. Then, at my birthday party, I was of course, playing with all the kids. This included a game where a group holds hands and walks in a circle taunting a kid that is curled in a ball in the middle of the circle, presumably crying or self-preserving, until they lash out and attack someone to be next in the circle. Ah, Paraguay. A few days later, we had a workshop on cooking with soy at another aspirante´s house and I played with her 6 yr old twin nieces and their overloved to the point of tortured kitten.

But it STILL wasn´t enough until I finally got my fix last Thursday, during our second Dia de Practica. The Dias de Practica are when we have to go out into the community to talk with people about their work or projects in the hope of giving a talk or lesson on the 4th or 5th Dia. My 1st day was started with me talking to my mamá and sister about the sewing co-op they want to start, and my sister trying to explain deep Paraguayan societal concepts about cooperatives, all in Spanish. About halfway through my brain shut down, I couldn´t understand a single word, got frustrated nad went to the ciber (internet cafe) to escape. But for the 2nd Dia, Ronnell invited me to work with him on a project at the children´s home that I didn´t even know was right across the street from my house. They have 200 kids from all different situations - orphans, disabled, parents working out of the country, homeless, etc, and every age from baby to adult. The older ones take care of the younger ones and everyone old enough has chores. They are nondenominational Christian and get money from the government. I loved it from the moment I got there and a little girl ran up to hold my hand up the steps. After a brief talk with the manager, we went out to play in the yard. Ronnell parked himself on a wall and let the kids come to him, but I went right out into what turned out to be a very complicated game of house, with Papá working in Argentina and calling home on the broken piece of pottery cell phone, dinner of sand and rocks served on giant flower petal plates, and trips to Brazil on a bench airplane with la policia after us. We played for 2 1/2 hours, I had a dozen kids crawling all over me, and I loved every muinute of it. They were so grateful for the attention and fought over who got to climb on my back and kiss my cheek with dirty faces. I´ve decided to definitely work with kids in the development work I want to do after the PC. It was really funny when a 2yr old with thick yellow snot from his nose to his chin ran up to hug Ronnell´s knees. Ronnell is super chuchi and doesn´t like to be dirty, ever. He really nicely asked his name and age, then looked at me and, in English so they couldn´t understand, and through a gritted smile so his lips didn´t move, said "Is this your kid? You want to get him off of me right now, please?" "Veni, Arturo" (come, Arturo) I said, and picked him up so we could rejoin the game, but I thought it was hilarious.

So I´d gotten my fix, but it wasn´t over yet because the next day we had an overnight field trip to Villarica to visit a volunteer there. Villarica is in this section of the country that was not as beaten down by Stroessner´s rule (Paraguay had the longest running violent dictatorship in the history of the America´s (2nd longest in the world), which just ended in the 80´s and which made people afraid to do anything lest they end up pushed out of an airplane over the Chaco. Another reason for the seeming lack of motivation and poor economy). But Villarica is thriving with lots of jobs and a strong economy. It has paved streets, parks, pools, and businesses in fancy buildings with landscaping all around. Super chuchi, and the volunteer, Brennan´s, house is legendarily chuchi by PC standards. We learned about his financial co-op in the morning, which is successful and an obvious contrast to Mary´s co-op that I visited a few weeks ago.

I was really scared for the afternoon, though, because we were split into pairs to give charlas to elementary school classes. Charlas are literally "chats" but are facilitated group discussions with lots of activities to illustrate the points. Ronnell and I had first read little books to preschool kids for a half hour (a long time to think of conversation in Spanish when a book is only 10 pages long), then charlas to a second grade class and then a 5th grade class. We had to talk about deforestation and the importance of planting trees. I was scared to facilitate a discussion in Spanish, but actually we did really well and I totally seemed like I knew what was going on. Then we all went out back to plant baby trees and build little bamboo fences around them to protect them. It went really well and Ronnell ended the afternoon by starting a dance circle with his Robot (always a hit with the kids).

Afterwards, we went to see a herd of carpinchos (the giant guinea pigs) and then out for icecream (I just had chocolate). We all had host families for the evening and Carlos, another aspirante, and I stayed with Diego for the night. Diego is 24, works at the co-op, and is super nice. His friends came over and we drank wine with coke and watched Biker Boyz (which is a terrible movie in any language, but they loved it). We spoke in Spanish the whole time, and that night I dreamed in Spanish (which means it´s getting into my subconscious and is extra exciting because I have felt progressively dumber in Spanish since I´ve been here).

The next morning we all met back up to head to a co-op that makes ao po´i, which is traditional Paraguayan clothing, started in the 1800´s when another crappy dictator closed the borders and Paraguayans had to make everything from only the materials the had. It´s a slightly rough, but very light and thin material, perfect for this climate, with embroidered designs on it. I ordered 2 custom made shirts that I´m really excited about.

Then it was piling back into the van for the 3 hrs home. I slept hard for the afternoon (I sleep and eat more here than I ever thought I would need. It´s such hard work thinking in Spanish). Then Diana, Carlos (my sister and brother-in-law) and I went to a real San Juan Party, with all the traditional games I thought I´d missed out on. This is a holiday designed for muchachos, and there was a good group of them running around with cloth masked stretched over their faces. There are many things lit on fire for San Juan, including: a soccer ball, dummies hung from trees, and the horns on a giant bull costume that then tries to gorge people. But the project that really took over the evening was the Palo Alto, which is the greased pole with prizes on top. They spent hours stacking themselves on each others´ shoulders and then falling, over and over again. before finally bringing out the extendible ladder at the end of the night.

So clearly it´s been a busy week, but everything´s great and I love Paraguay more every day.

1 comment:

  1. The wonderful adventure continues! Thanks for the update! Thoughts and prayers are with you always!




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.