Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Blend OR Bare Glittery Asses

The following are instructions for how best to blend in Paraguay:
Step 1) Be about a foot taller than the average Paraguayan woman and foreign-looking
Step 2) Have a tattoo over your whole back, which is technically considered sacreligious (defacing the temple of the body God gave you) in a country where almost everyone is either strict Roman Catholic or stricter Evangelist
Step 3) Attend a Catholic Mass in an: a) orange, b)satin, c) floor-length d)Strapless (so it shows that tattoo, you heathen) BALLGOWN.
- a side note on this step: it is not a requirement, although it certainly helps, if at that mass, they are initiating several new nuns into the ...nunnery, so that the first 4 rows of pews are filled with nuns, and a monk, and there is a special guest bishop from Argentina giving the mass.
Step 4) Have at your side (so luckily because otherwise you have no one to whisper smart-ass comments with in English) a black guy
Step 5) (only because this is always the final step) Enjoy!

You may be wondering how I came to be in the very situation that would test these instructions. You may be thinking that that doesn`t sound at all like blending and wondering what those 3 months of training on integration were FOR, exactly, if afterwards I go and pull a stunt like this. Allow me to explain.

Feb 11, my niece, Alè, from my training family, turned 15, which means she had her quinceañera. THIS. WAS. HUGE. Quinces in Latin America are, of course, a big deal - and this one pulled out all the stops. Alè`s dad came back from Argentina, there were 150 people all dressed up, a giant pavilion dance floor with formal tables set up, everything decorated in fuschia and cream with a carnival theme, waiters in tuxes, a delicious steak dinner, a life-sized wooden cut-out of Alè, a slide show, videos (this was actaully a little creepy, with her playing on playground equipment, or slow-motion running, and the Paraguayan announcer voice talking about how she been on the brink between childhood and adulthood and today she is officially a woman)- the works. It`s like My Super Sweet 15.

But BEFORE all this, when I get there in the afternoon to find everyone covered face to feet in depiliatory cream, prepping, my mamà tells me that it`s tradition for the good little Catholic girls to go to mass before their quince, and that we should get ready before-hand because we were going straight to the party after the mass. This is not such a big deal for the guys (who just were shirts and ties), or for mamà (who wears reserved black all the time since she`s still in mourning for her mom), or even for Alè, who everyone expects to be in a fancy dress, but that is how I came to be it mass in an orange, strapless ballgown, next to Ronnell, as a few hundred people burned holes with their eyes into the stars on my back for an extremely long 1 1/2 hour mass. A few months ago, because we were so often at a loss to describe common situations in Paraguay, Melissa and I made up a new Spanish word for it. That mass was super awkwardo. It was also pointless since we did end up going back to the house after the mass, but it is what it is (and it is a funny story, so there you go.)

Alè and family posing AND the happiest nun ever
Dressed for worship

The Quince was amazing.
This is more or less the process:
Ale greets everyone at the door where they kiss on both cheeks and give her a gift.

Then they play a slideshow of pictures and that creepy playgound video (Alè talked for like 20 seconds in the video, thanking everyone, and it was literally the most I`ve ever heard her say at one time).
She switches to a long ballgown and dances with her dad, and then all the guys in the party take turns handing her a rose and cutting in for a few minutes to dance with her.

Then she dons a giant, fuschia, mariachi hat and, accompanied by a mariachi band, visits each of the tables for pictures. Then dinner and dessert and like a ZILLION more pictures, and then it`s time to dance. There were still and video camera people recording every moment of all of this. Paulette warned me long ago that if anyone ever asked if I wanted to watch a Quince video, do whatever possible to get out of it because, although the parties are fun, the unedited reliving of the party on video is definitely not.

Alè, cutout of Alè, and Me
Daisy and Belèn
Me and Mamà

After hours of Dancing (still lookin`good)

Perhaps it was feeling so conspicuous in the mass earlier that pushed us over the edge, but neither Ronnell or I felt like trying to blend Paraguayan-style on the dance floor. So we tore it up like Americans, much to the amusement of everyone there, who already know and love us, and so forgive our crazy norte ways. We got a lot of attention dancing OUTSIDE the 2 line formation that all Paraguayans use, and actually following the Beat of the music (I know, right?!), and were a huge hit. It went until 4 in the morning and by the end of it we were soaked with sweat and exhausted but happy.

The next morning, I advised them to put that cutout of Alè in the window as a security measure for when they`re not home, and headed back to site, only to leave the next day for Villa Rica where I went to the Carnival Parade some other volunteers. This is also huge, and everyone has cans of spuma (spray foam) that they`re spraying all over the place as the parades pass. The parade was cool. Lotta bare asses. Lots and lots of bare, glittery asses. My favorite was the 5-year-olds in little toddler-sized thongs. I didn`t even know they made those, but how naive I was. Unfortunately, those pics aren`t downloading for some reason, so I`ll have to leave that to your imagination. Oh, and "Enjoy!"

1 comment:

  1. You certainly have your mother's smile!!! Nice dress!!



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.