Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Beautiful Bland of Paraguay

My friend Anita Krishnan is an amazing musician and wrote this song that so aptly sums up all that Paraguay and the volunteer experience is that I had to share it.
It´s even better when she sings it, but technology being what it is here, the lyrics will have to do for now.


Where no means no and yes means no
And I´ll be back means no return
With awkward parties, awkward silence,
The social scene´s got lots to learn.

They drink their soda like it´s water,
Brush their teeth just once a year.
Though teeth keep falling, they keep smiling,
Igual no mas, to them, it´s clear...

The men, they cheat. The women gossip,
The food is meat, there ain´t no faucet.
And in the heat, the power goes out so many times.
And the bugs they drive me crazy
And it´s so hot, it makes me lazy,
in Paraguay.

Cook on the floor, breathe in the fumes,
It´s really quite a smell and a sight.
They´d be better off using my house,
which heats up by day and cooks me at night.

Hey, long time! Who´ve you fucked lately?
Wouldn´t quite call that question stately.
In a way, us girls are lucky,
Women don´t care with whom we´re fucky.

The chipa´s hard and dry but not my neighbor´s,
Pays her friends in sexual favors...
For the things she wants like food and clothes and beer.
But who am I to judge, I just sit on my porch, thinkin´...
I´m so lucky to live here.

They sweep the dirt yards and water them too,
Latrine´s may splash you back when you poo (ooh...ooh...ooh)
Diarrhea´s so common it´s hardly diseasy
But oh, oh, oh on a long bus ride, it´ll make you SO uneasy,

Niko, tallarin and terere
Asado, mate, ere´erea,
Mandioca, sopa, and chipa up the guazu
Jopara, who needs a bra...
don´t you just LOVE it where we are?
In Paraguay.

We smile and say ADIOS,
And children love me.
The full moon lights the sky above me,
And people take me in as I if I were their own.
And looking back on what I´ve learned, and who I´ve done, and how I´ve changed,
I call Paraguay my home.

The men, they cheat. The women gossip.
The food is meat, there ain´t no faucet.
And in the heat, the power goes out so many times,
But even with so many things wrong,
Here, I feel like I belong...
In the beautiful...
The beautiful land,
The beautiful bland of Paraguay.

It is all this and more.
I figured I´d also give the update on my projects:
Summer is finishing up, so camps are done for a while, until July for winter break. The project that my jóvenes decided was to provide tables, benches and food for a comedor (place that feeds meals to street kids), so we´ve combined with my youth group to work on that. I finished a second world map in the community center

We´ve realized that the government cannot be depended upon (who knew?), so the bakery is nixed, but we´ve decided to concentrate on a soap business (detergents, house and body liquid soaps, etc) and I´m starting s series of weekly workshops to teach how to make the products and how to plan and run the business. At my NGO CCAB, we´re planning the 2nd annual awareness walk (you may remember it from last year), but this year is about preventing and stopping child abuse, and we´re combining with other organizations and NGOs to make it national.
English class, english lunches, and the radio program are all still going strong, and I´ve also started teaching spanish to a swedish guy, Emanuel, who is here volunteering with CCAB, as well as a penpal thing with all the spanish classes of a teacher in New Orleans.
And through it all, I´m still squeezing in an amazing amount of social time, parties, Carnaval and Couchsurfers.
Kristen, Anthony, me and Patrik
With my couchsurfers, Patrik and Anthony
Andréa, Liz, Davíd and Charlie
Andréa, Liz and me
Lindsay´s birthday


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.