Thursday, July 15, 2010

That Group

You know that group. Maybe it was in high school or college or at a job, but everyone knows that group. They're so cool, not in that "popular, football player, cheerleader" sort of way but genuinely, profoundly cool. That perfect mix of not giving a shit what other people think and doing everything so well that people only think good things anyway. They are all witty and funny, and they have this rapport with each other that just makes you wish you were in with anyone like that, and, dare you dream, you could be part of that group. If you're lucky, and skilled at playing it cool, the way you idolize them doesn't come through when you're with them, and they actually like you, too, at least a little, in a pesky, little sister sort of way. Maybe they even invite you places. Maybe you're not too shy to throw in a witty comment of your own every now and again so they don't think you're a complete dud during those witty repartes...if you're lucky.

Allow me to illustrate. The World Cup in Paraguay. There is nothing bigger. This is a country where they closed schools the day after qualifying for South Africa. Where, during every game, firecrackers are set off all over the country when a good block or pass is made, let alone a goal. Where, win or lose, caravans of motos and cars and vans and trucks, decorated in Paraguayan flags, drive all over the city. They honk and yell and smile through their face-paint and wave at the people on the sidewalk, for no other reason than to show their team support. And that's just the regular season.

There were some tense moments in the world cup. That Japan game just about killed me.

So the Saturday of the Spain game, Asuncion was eerily silent everywhere there was not a big screen TV in the vicinity. There were ups...

and downs...

and in the end...well, you know.

But despite all that excitement, my favorite part of the game was half-time. I was outside the bar in a little group talking to Shola, from G-27, who was quickly becoming my new favorite person as we were having a very serious conversation about nymphs. He interrupted himself in the middle of "A nymph and his...What? There's a word, what is it? I won't rest til I know..." when a vendadora passed by selling jewelry, purses and chotchkies.
"We should buy everything she has and make her day. Right now, who's in?"
"I'm in," I said, thrilled.
Between the 5 of us, we bought out of her whole supply, with the stipulation that she had to go home and relax for the rest of the day. She promised, and we suddenly had kilos of hand-made jewelry. Then we got to play santas and go give it all out to our group as gifts.

They were happy, we were happy, the vendadora was happy. This apparently had been something they'd joked about doing for their 2 years here.

After the game (city eerily quiet again), we wandered down to the park to have terere with a terere lady with whom Timmy Charlie is freakishly close friends, and gave out more necklaces and gum to her kids. Then we're wandering toward the river when we make spontaneous friends with a random group of Paraguayans who were sitting in a parking lot.

Shola as nymph
Shola and Tessa, having a moment
With new friends

These Paraguayans were so cool, and then the guy invited us down the block to his roof, which overlooked the city.

Paraguayo, Tessa, Paulette, Liam, and Eric

He told us amazing stories about how the church next to his house used to be a prison where they tortured people and the bodies were buried down below where there are now wooden shacks. Then we started to walk back and got about 20 meters before joining kids in a soccer game in the church courtyard. They of course won, the kids, despite all the dirty American cheating.

And this was just one afternoon with these guys. One of the last, since their service is ending soon. That's the thing about Peace Corps - you're always on rotation. I've been in to training to do charlas with the newbies that are coming in now, and have gotten to hang out with them quite a bit. I see it - the idolatry. They look up to me, to my group, the way I looked up to this group, G-27. During their volunteer visit, my newbie Ashley burst out with, "You're just so cool!" which is flattering, of course, but come on - I'm no G-27.

(Dedicated to G-27)

1 comment:


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.