Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gringo Television and more...

September 6, 2009

Since you last tuned in, I was newly sworn in and hiding out at my host family’s house afraid to go to my site. That’s been almost 3 wks ago, so here’s a little rundown on how things are going and my observations (oh and I will post pics as soon as I get my usb cable from the PC Office next week):

I made it to my site with no problems. I wasn’t sure exactly where I was supposed to be staying, so I went to my contact’s house, where I stayed for my Future Site Visit. My contact wasn’t home, but her parents welcomed me. I can tell they weren’t expecting me because honestly they didn’t have room. The family had taken in this girl who didn’t really have a place to go and she was sleeping in the room where I slept for Future Site Visit. So I had to share a room with a 10-year-old. Although I should not complain because they were kind enough to take me in. But I knew that I could not stay there for the entire 3mths that we have to live with a family before we can live alone. My contact had been talking about having me stay with different families to get to know the community better. In theory, I agree that this is a great idea, and I’ve heard of a volunteer who’ve done it. But I would’ve hated to live like that; not being able to really unpack and settle would’ve driven me nuts! I’m the type of person that needs a routine and needs to be able to unpack her crap. So I told my contact that I really didn’t want to do this because it would be very difficult. I also told her this before I left from my Site Visit. But it’s like it went in one ear and out the other. So I started asking around myself to see if anyone had a vacant room to rent. So the Sunday of my first week in site, a friend of my contact came up to me at a mtg and said that the next day she’s going to come get me and my bags because I’m staying with her family for week and then coming back to my contact’s house. Huh?!! So right then, I new that I needed to get on the ball and take matters into my own hands. So right after the mtg, instead of riding back to the house with my contact, I told them I would walk (and besides it’s a great way to meet folks). So I walked and along the way introduced myself to people I saw, gradually bringing up the subject of a vacant room. Well, eventually I met this woman who told me about a room in Doña Lorenza’s house, and she gave me directions. I went right over there, but Doña Lorenza wasn’t there, but she “was coming”. I ended up waiting about an hour before she showed up. When she showed me the room I was like, “When do I move in?” I mean it’s nothing fancy, but after sharing a room with a 10yearold, and after some of the other rooms I’ve seen, this was perfect. So I told my contact that I found a room that I can stay for the entire 3mths, and when I told her whose house it was, she started smiling and said that Doña Lorenza is a little crazy. I was like, crazy how, dangerous crazy? She’s all like “no, no, just muy nerviosa”(exciteable). She wasn’t the only one who started smiling when I told them. But from what I can tell of Doña Lorenza she’s just a lil hyper. Paraguayans think anyone out of the ordinary laidback style is a little crazy, so I’m happy to say that I’m very glad that I moved here. They treat me VERY well here.

The family consists of Dona Lorenza, who doesn’t seem crazy at all. Then there is her husband, Andreas, who most of the time I think he’s not home, but he’s actually tooling around out back, very stealth-like. There is the youngest of Lorenza and Andreas’ four kids, Patricia (Patty). Patty is 20years old with a cute babyface. She does half, if not most of the cooking. Then there’s Paola(15 years old), Lorenza’s granddaughter. Paola’s mother, Lorenza’s daughter, is somewhere (can’t remember), and her father has passed away. Paola has the enthusiasm of, well a 15 year old. She loves showing off her very small English vocabulary.

Like I said before, Dona Lorenza is hyper; although a better description would be a talker, which she readily admits she is. This is good because it forces me to talk. I feel like I’m bonding pretty well with the family.

An example of a conversation with me, Lorenza, and Patty:

They were telling me about the men here in Paraguay; saying they don’t clean or cook. The men are even too embarrassed to go to the store to shop (they were making generalizations b/c I’m pretty sure I’ve seen men in supermarkets here). So I was like, “Wow”. They asked me while laughing, “You don’t want a Paraguayo?”
Me: “Ummm, no, I don’t think so”
Patty: “You have a boyfriend in the States?”
Me: “No”
Dona Lorenza: “No hiciste chookie chookie?” (you didn’t do chookie chookie?)
Patty and Lorenza crazy laughing
Me: “What’s chookie chookie?”
Lorenza (laughing): When a woman and a man are together.” (then she takes her two pointer fingers and put them together.
Me playing dumb: “Chookie, chookie?”
Patty and Lorenza both laughing still: “ Yes, chookie chookie”
Me (trying to get them to say sexo): Is there another name for it?”
Lorenza, naming at last four other names but still no sexo
Eventually I started in laughing too, so as to avoid answering the VERY personal question.
Lorenza: “When people do chookie, chookie, a criatura(baby) results”
Me (I had to say this): “Yeah, but a baby don’t come every time you do chookie chookie” and i really wanted to tell that there are condoms, but 1. they’re catholic, so I don’t know if they believe in that, and 2. I don’t know how to say condoms in spanish.

Lorenza: “That’s true”

Oh Dona Lorenza, and now Chookie, chookie is our inside joke.

Gringo Television

Peace Corps Volunteers and Returned Volunteers all across the land know intuitively what Gringo Television is. Even if you’re not or have never been a Volunteer, but have traveled to a country that perhaps don’t see too many foreigners, then chances are you’ve experienced the Gringo Television phenomenon. I can’t take credit for Gringo Television. Our country director, Don, first brought it to our attention when we arrived in country. Although, by the time we met with him, we had already experienced it. He just put a name on it for us. Remember that journal entry where I was at the Bus Terminal in the bathroom washing my hands, then turned around only to find everyone silent and staring at yours truly? Well, I was on Gringo Television my friends! And it doesn’t have to be as extreme as that, but pretty much every time we walk down the street, we’re on Gringo Television. People will stare.....openly. This is a staring culture down here folks. Don’t get me wrong, I know that staring exists in the States. But at least people will do it on the sly and be embarrassed and look away if caught. Here? People will stare at you standing less than 3 feet in front of you. And when you make eye contact with them, do they look away? NOPE!!! They will hold eye contact a good 6 seconds(on average-I’ve checked). And it’s not just a wayward kid, but grown-ups too! I gotta give them their props because I’ve never seen such brazenness. And sometimes, just for the hell of it, I stare back and even look ‘em up and down-all while standing not 3 ft away;) And this is just on the buses (colectivos). It’s not as bad on the streets. Especially in my community. It’s pretty much a given that people are going to be watching Gringo Television exclusively when you first get to site because they don’t know you. But I’ve found that with a friendly “Hola” or “Adio”, which is said in passing to someone on the street, the people with generally smile and speak to you. And it’ll get better once more people get used to seeing me around town. I’m not gonna lie, when I came to Paraguay, Gringo Television used to annoy the hell outta me, still does sometimes. I think it’s a cultural thing. We’re taught from a young age that staring is rude and so when someone’s staring at me, my first reaction is, “How rude!!” I don’t know if I can ever get used to that, but hopefully, with time, I can learn to block it out a little bit more.


All during training, I was like, I can’t wait until I’m in my site so that I can cook for myself, and buy my own groceries, and blahblahblah. Well, it’s been 3 wks and I haven’t cooked a lunch for myself yet. Sometimes I feel bad because I told them when I moved in that I would cook for myself. Part of the reason is that I don’t get home from the Muni until noon-ish on most days and by that time Patty and Lorenza are in the kitchen cooking their lunch. Besides if I whipped out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, they would swear I’m starving myself. And I used to try to be sneaky about it too:

When I got home from the Muni, they would ask me what I´m having for lunch. I would say, "Oh, just a Peanut butter and jelly sandwich". I would even go to my room and bring my pb and j out, then patty or dona lorenza would be like, "You want to eat with us. It doesn´t have carne (meat)?" I say, " Oh, well if there´s enough, then muchas gracias!" My PB&J sit there untouched. Another day, another meal. Hah!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but the big meal of the day is lunch. Stores will close down for lunchtime. I was explaining to Lorenza that in the States, our big meal is dinner because most people work so we don’t have time to come back home during the day and prepare a homecooked lunch. I told her that people will generally take a sandwich or something easy for lunch. Her eyes almost popped out of her head! En serio? she asked. Yep! One thing I love about the way they cook here is that they prepare a lot of stuff fresh. There are no prepackaged veggies, or microwaveable dinners. But on the flipside, alot of the nutritional benefits are negated because they fry EVERYTHING and eat lots of starch. So MAYBE when I get my own place I will start cooking for myself....although I am looking at a place right beside Dona Lorenza ;)


I don´t really have any projects going on yet. The first few months are supposed to be spent getting to know the community and viceversa, because after all how can we ¨help¨the community if we don´t even know the community. So pretty much from Monday - Saturday, I go to the Muni from 8 - noonish. I either sit in the office of turismo or ambiente, or sit in the council (junta) mtg room where the president of the junta works. I listen to them talk and make sure that I know about any mtgs or events taking place, and occasionally I help out if there´s a computer problem. At first it was hard trying to explain exactly what it is that I´m supposed to be doing in Pirayu because I´m not an employee of the Muni, and one of my contacts (the president of the Junta) was asking me what types of projects I wanted to do. I didn´t really have an answer for her, because I don´t really know what needs to be done yet. Then I thought she was p´eed at me because I chose to live with Dona Lorenza and I got the vibe from her that she didn´t really like that. But I think I just overreacted. Last week, I was helping her with a brochure on the history of Pirayu, and she asked me again what type of projects I wanted to do. So told her some things I was interested in, and she was like, ¨Well, if there´s anything that we can do to help you, then let us know.¨ Then a couple days after that, she said we´re going to do some work on the computer some, (which meant I was going to do some work while she told me what she wanted). I thought it was something related to the brochure. Let´s just say I can make some pretty decent Baby Shower cards;)

No comments: