Chronicles of a Landlocked Island

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Validations- Two Tales

Tale 1. The Nurse

Uterine cancer is the scourge of women throughout the developing world. Paraguay is no different. The country ranks sixth in the world for uterine cancer deaths. Insufficient knowledge of their own sexual health leaves women ignorant of the value of this life saving examine. Jealous husbands often prohibit their wives from getting the exam. Moreover, my local hospital NEVER returns results of those who are proactive do seek treatment.

One of my ongoing programs has been PAP smear promotion. Pap smears are the cheapest and most common early detection method. Early detection and aggressive treatment has reduced mortality in the developed world. Unfortunately in Paraguay, the state has not funded pap smears and or other cancer prevention and treatment programs in 30 years. Until now the UN assumed this role. This year marks the first time the state will met this responsibility.

With the cooperation of the local obstetrics nurse, we have circumvented the inept local hospital. I do the leg work on the ground, working with local women to heighten awareness and encourage women to go for the exam. The nurse waived her consultation fee and offered a reduce price for the lab work and free follow up visits. The women only pay 20.000Gs[1] and the cost of any additional medications.

During a recent trip to town, I visited the nurse. She surprised me saying, “You know, the women trust you. They have faith in the work you do and that you are always looking out for their wellbeing. Everyone that comes here tells me so. I just want you to know that.” I had no idea that for all my endless jabbering in pigeon Guarani, that I was getting anywhere.

[1] $4US or the day’s wage for male farm worker.

Tale 2. The Running Water Project

Today after the church service, Javier, the youth coordinator, stood up to make yet another announcement. Instead of the usually injunction to the confirmation candidates, he implored the community to please come to the running water meeting. The project, a practical training in soliciting municipal funds, is an outgrowth of a European Union sponsored initiative to improve transparency and citizen participation. FarinaCue’s request is for money to expand an existing running water system. Results seem assured, yet folks still won’t come to the meeting. Ringing his hand Javier implores his neighbors to pleased come the meeting or at least kick-in for bus fare to send a representative to the regional meetings in town.

As distressing as it is to see such apathy it is oddly reassuring. For months now, on the bad days, I have been blaming myself. My projects limp ahead. No one in the community wants to take the baton and run. I blamed my bad Guarani, my poor Spanish, maybe I wasn’t persuasive enough, or maybe if just gone and done more visits things would have been different. Javier standing up make the same plea, reminded me of what I occasionally forget. It’s not me, it’s them.


Prickly is the adjective of choice. I am soaking my feet, hoping in vain this salt water bath will stave off infection from my last adventure. I relate the tale below. Relationships too here are prickly. Like roses polite fronts hide old grudges, secret crushes, and scandalous gossip. Each day I navigate this tangled web with more agility and ease. Each day brings more laughter. As I crave to speak and understand Guarani better, I am simultaneously relieved to know the end is in sight. I can cast off my efforts at cultural understanding and stop translating.

My best adventure if late was last Thursday. An ongoing local PCV project is organizing a youth leadership/ HIV Prevention workshop and the group was schedule to get together and prepare for the conference. The two days before the meeting scattered showers had closed the road. This is normal the road closes every time is rains.

No matter my meeting was in the afternoon and I would walk the 3 miles through the fields to the town of San Carlos on the highway. I set out for journey in good spirits sporting my backpack, poster tube, long sleeve cotton shirt, canvas skirt and tevas. The tevas were a change from my usually footwear- flip flops. I thought the extra support would do me good. This was not the case the tevas attracted mud like a magnet. Furthermore they cut into my big toe leaving and tender wound. Mudded and sore I arrived at the crick. The rain has convert the stream into a river. The bridge, previously a rickety structure for single file human traffic, lay in snarled ruins. A half mile from the highway, I could hear the passing traffic. So close to catching the bus, I look for another way to cross.

Finding no other bridge, in a moment of bold desperation I decided to ford the river. Hoisting my backpack, posters and good-for-nothing sandals over my head I made a first attempt. The water came up to my waist after only a few steps and I retreated. Trying again, disregarding all care for appearances, I took the plunge and made it two-thirds of the way across before I had to retreat. Beaten and soaking wet I had to walk back to FarinaCue. 4pm is the rush hour the world over. It was a good day to be a campesino for all the guys coming back from the fields. Never in my life did I think that I’d attempt to ford a river to get to meeting. Isn’t Peace Corps great?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Busy getting down to business

Here its all tranquilo. Its Indian summer or veronillo de San Juan as they call it. The weather is haku lento or 75 to 80 F as a high. Rain is unusually sparing but right now the skies are threatening and I may be rained out of site again.

These last two months I was working on an Environmental Education in service training for teachers with another volunteer who lives near me. Cathy is a blast and a new favorite pal. 6 weeks ago we attempted to have the the workshop when thunderstorms-- the first rain in a month-- forced the workshop to be postponed. The rain started too late to to stop the folks travelling from Asuncion so we still gave the workshop but to the students at the local teacher´s college. The impromptu dry run was a hoot. It was fun to get better acquainted with the other volunteers in my area.

Still enthusiastic to bring "environmental consciousness" to the local schools, we rescheduled and redid all of the invitations only to have protest by the Federacion Nacional Campesino closed the road, prohibiting speakers from coming for Asuncion and causing the workshop to be cancelled. The whole ordeal was quite disappointing.

Why all the hullabaloo about the environment here? Eastern Paraguay (and portions of Brazil and Argentina) are world reknowned for the incredible biodiversity of the sub tropical rain forest. There are still tract of virgin forest near me, but illegal logging threaten to destroy all of the national reserves in a area. Paraguay has the highest rate of deforestation of the 3 countries. Since 2000 the world wildlife fund has been working with paraguayan NGOs and the public sector to ensure the survival of the Bosque Altanico de Alto Parano.

In FarinaCue a substantial number of folks enter the nearby national park to steal the most valuable timbers. Everyone knows about the practice. The park rangers come periodically asking for payoffs. The police in town extort the logging trucks for free passage. And the mayor-- know one really knows how much the pay off to the mayor is. The common people are all disgusted by the practice and think it is a disgrace, however the have no recourse becuase of the fear of reprisals if they were to denounce the neighbors and their own certitude that the prosecutors will be bought off.

More info on the BAAPA go to: BAAPA in english is the Atlantic Forest Ecosystem

In other happening theFarinaCue women´s group finally finished fund raising and bought their sinks. Delighted and proud is the best way to describe the senoras when they show me how each one set up the sink in their kitchen. I am glad to see the project completed and show they can as group actually finish something without it being derailed by in fighting. Plus now I don´t have to make chipa every Saturday. Replacing the chipa making session we are instituting twice monthly health lectures. The first topic is uterine cancer.

The women in FarinaCue are deeply concerned about cancer uterine cancer. Two weeks ago a respected senora succumbed to a long battle with the disease. The loss for the family and the community is great. For me, I never witnessed the process of dieing so intimately. She lived at home until then end. Her family providing her care. After her passing, the same family prepared the body and the arrangements. The funeral and burial concluded 12 hours after her death.

In the weeks since Na Kambita´s death, the community has rested and is recovering slowly from the loss. Her husband is distraught and the youngest daughter age 10 has been set to her grandmother´s house to get a break. Before her adult brothers and sisters came back from Argentina to say goodbye to their mother, she and her 14 year old brother were the mother´s primary caregivers. Now the boy lives alone with his father. The sad saga has been heart breaking for me.

Looking to prevent further premature deaths the women have proposed organize to bargain for a reduced rate with a private doctor to get PAP smears for everyone. Establishing leaders of this group is our activity for Saturday.

In the last month I have started teach a sex ed course to the male youth. 10-12 guys between 13- 22 are participating in the 6 meeting course. The are a hoot. Surprisingly this has been the class that is easiest to teach. That has been the case I am co- teaching it the Luis my 24 yr old neighbor.

The women´s group in San Jorge finished its course and they are due to receive their certificates of participation. Its good to have that done as scheduling difficulties with the social worker turned a 7 meeting course into a 4 month project. Nonetheless its a great to work closely with her and to take advantage for her influence in "persuading" folks to participate.

I have gotta get to dinner now, but I hope you guys enjoyed the update.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Last Three Months

January…Hotter than hot.

If December was hot January was hotter. Any and all work had to be finished by 11am. The hours from12-3 each day were completely lost except for playing in the creek and washing clothes. FarinaCue has a large stream Ita’y (Water Rock) and everyday in January almost everyone could be found down there trying to beat the heat. One of the little boys would find an orange still on the tree from last year and we would play monkey-in-the-middle till the thing bust.

In January was dry. For 26 days the crops endured without a single drop of rain. In the end most of the corn crop was lost. The cotton crop recovered, but the draught diminished yields. At the end of January, the men were back in the field. The corn was replanted and the cotton was sprayed with insecticides. Every time I saw the guys going out the fields to get bugs I couldn’t help but laugh. They pesticides are manually sprayed on by contraptions that can only properly be described as proton packs. As they set off down the road I’d hum “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”

In anticipation of rejuvenating my garden I bought a hoe. A hoe is the all in one tool of non- mechanized farming. What ever the task, a sharp hoe can get it down. Well, my hoe lacked a handle, so I took it Don Epi to have one made. He returned it to me while I was visiting the home of the Reyes family. My goodness, if you had seen the way the men reacted you would have thought a muscle car pulled up. Each one had to give the hoe a try, comment on its weight, the angle of the blade to the handle and the grip. In the end, they decided, I possessed a fine piece of agricultural equipment.

Work. Yes work that amorphous thing that is inextricably connected to my social life here. January was a month of more defined work.

Running Water Extension
I visited two with two representatives from the Pro-Running Water commission to see if we could secure a copy of pump’s technical folder. The information is necessary to present to the state government to get the promised PVC piping to extend the running water network. Moreover the document will verify if the pump can stand the extra load. The document has been lost to both US and Paraguay bureaucracy. The search would continue till the end of March, but as no one returns our phones calls. We are giving up the document as lost. To get the information now, the communities will need to hire an outside engineering firm to come in and evaluate the equipment.

Ministry of Agriculture Coordination
The local Agriculture ministry extension, Ingra. Marisa, asked me to help her promote a citric project. A Paraguan business, Frutika, was collaborating with the ministry to increase pomelo (its like grapefruit) production in my department. FarinaCue was supposed to be on the list of places to receive the project. It took two visits to town just to confirm the dates of the mandatory training course, I promoted the event with house to house invites, only the have the Ag Min cancel the night before via radio due to “car trouble”. After that, they never communicated with me or the community again. Needless to say, I was more than frustrated.

AIDS Lecture
In addition to my normal women’s group activities, this month the ladies want to learn more about HIV/AIDS. With the local school teacher and her 18yr old sister we did a lecture covering what is HIV/AIDS and how do you contract HIV/AIDS. To warm up the crowd we played a rousing game of pass the mandioca. Now most folks thought I requested a clean piece of giant tuber for the condom demonstration, little did they know what lay in store. Pass the mandioca is a simple game. The mandi’o needs to go around the circle, the only restriction is you can’t use your hands or touch the ground. From knees to knees the giant root was passed, each woman bursting into a fit of laughter louder than the last. The guys were poking there heads out of card games to see all the commotion. The game put everyone at easy to treat a sensitive and serious topic. HIV/AIDS is becoming more prevalent among the female, heterosexual population in Paraguay. These ladies wanted to know how to keep themselves and their daughters safe. My proudest moment of the lecture was when Maria Eber, the 18 yr old sister, gave the condom use demonstration in guarani. She was dynamic and confidant and no one thought less of her for knowing how use a prophylactic.

February...STILL HOT
It must have been a little bit cooler, because I wasn’t passing out at noon of exhaustion but who cares it was ungodly warm outside.

The month was dominated by the Colorado Party Inter-Party election. To my tiny community in the middle of nowhere, no fewer than 8 politicians came to stump. One threw a kegger at the local volley ball court. Another promised prescription drugs for a sick child and money for the local school. A third gave money for a “community project” the inactivity neighborhood council president. All of these promises were to be paid in full before the election and would secure the community’s votes. It was astounding to see the amount of money being thrown around at election time, when every agency is broke the rest of year. No one in my community could explain and policy differences between the different candidates, except for the top office of junta del gobierno. Policy didn’t seem to enter into the equation. Election time is one of few times a poor community can get the funding it needs. Plus I met yet another would be suitor at one of rallies staged in the shade between mine and my neighbor’s house. A politician can bring you anything, including happiness, or so he says. All I can do is shake my head at the lines some of the men come up with here.

I do have to say, the voting technology here- screens with a limited keyboard- was elegantly simple. It even included pictures of the candidates for the illiterate. I don’t know how fraud proof the technology is, but it was ease to operate.

Summer Camp
I threw a health summer camp for the kiddies of FarinaCue and San Jorge. Getting ready was an insane amount of work. Luckily I know how to delegate and 14 yr old girls love to color. Canceled once at the beginning of the month for rain, the reschedule camp was one day shorter than the first due to the fact I could find any of my Peace Corps pals to come out and help me. Instead I used 7th grade girls as group leaders and I believe it turned out all for the better. The kids loved story time and dancing the Hokey Pokey each day.

Out Sick
The worst sty/eye infection combination ever laid me out for a full week at the end of last month. I spent 6 days in a hotel in Asuncion recovering. Being sick is no fun. I am well now. Enough said.

March...Waiting to Go

Cognoscent of my impeding departure after returning from sick leave in the capital it was hard to get any big projects started. I did have one rather large house keeping project to finish before April’s planting season- a new garden. My old garden received insufficient sunlight and the fence had rotted. The solution a new garden. After months of informal discussion on garden placement and assurances from my guy friends that they would help me, nothing had been done. Worse yet, the cotton harvest had start. Everyone who wasn’t cooking was in the fields picking cotton. I knew that is I wanted a garden it was all up to me.

After bringing in the fence from San Juan (a luxury item), I set to work on preparing the land.
Who knew it would be so much work? First, got out there with the machete and took out all of the weeds and brush. Most of it was as tall as I am. That was a two afternoon project. Then with a spade the machete I took out any trees that were on the lot or would block the sun. Then I dug up the roots of straw plants. Next I laid out the location, 6 by 6 meters and began to turn over the soil. By this time I was waiting for a rainy day. Now that the land was clear and my hands had no fewer the 10 blisters. Every señora that saw my hands promised her sons’ help once the rain came. Rain it did. For four day everyone got a much need break from the cotton harvest and I got a fence around the new garden. Before I left for Uruguay, I got one bed done with lettuce, berro, carrots, acelga, oregano and peppers. Hopefully, something will have grown while I was gone.

Uruguay and Argentina

Ms. E. Dempsey came all of way down from Nuevo York to see me in Buenos Aires. Nothing beats old friends. Nothing. Vacation was a break from Paraguay and a short return to my old life. A cosmopolitan city, manicured open public spaces, the bustle of trains- I was home in a foreign land. Plus I went to beach in Uruguay. No words can describe my relationship with large bodies of water. It always a rejuvenating experience to look out on to that infinite horizon.

Now I am back in Asuncion. I am headed out to San Juan Nepomuceno on the overnight bus. We’ll see just how much dust has collected and what creepy creatures have taken up residency in my house. Until then…

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Morning Mantra

“December, DECEMBER, December,” I mutter to myself each day. Dawn has broken and the world is awake and it is hot. My mantra binds me to time in FarinaCue. Without the moorings of the cutting cold, I quickly forget where in time I am. December is a time keeper for me. Without the snow, I have gotten lost. My birthday and Christmas passed in a humid hazy. I, simply, am in Paraguay.

My work this month is slow. The heat makes everyone too lethargic to do anything, but take care of the fields. This past month was a critical time for weeding. Each day, all available hands were in the fields hoeing. Now the young corn is coming in. Cotton will come in March. Since January, folks were more broke than usual. The money from the year before ran out and the crops weren’t in yet. For many families the return of sons and more daughters from Argentina, brought urgently need cash. These remittances will keep these families going until the cotton harvest. With everyone broke and exhausted from the heat there is less work for me. Everyone is too busy to participate in my programming—or maybe they just don’t want to.

Unfortunately, I believe the later was true of San Jorge, the last community on our road. The poorest and the smallest cluster of houses, San Jorge’s children attend FarinaCue’s school and thus are in the anti-parasite program. In December, the kids were due for their quarterly meds. With school out, I called a meeting to hand out the pills. Not one person from San Jorge came. The next Sunday, I went to the Church. Even with the gossip worthy event of me walking all the way their on a Sunday, no one came to pray. Thus I couldn’t use the gathering to invite folks to a make-up meeting. In the end bad weather and time constraints did me in. I had to deliver the drugs house to house because it was impossible to organize a meeting of the 20 families and have anyone attend. Never again, though will I be the Avon lady of parasite pills with my neighbors. Community development is to collaborative project, I need their support just as much as the community has grave public health needs.

My week in San Luis Numi- Dept Guiara, at my friend Georgina’s site was a delightful and affirming experience. We held a summer health for 60 kids. Filled with games, mini lectures and singing the kiddies seemed to have fun. Being in San Luis, only affirmed how deep campo FarinaCue is. The kids in San Luis spoke Spanish, had shiny bikes, and the church…my god was made of brick and had ceiling fans. Only 2 houses in FarinaCue are made of brick. The chapel in a wood plank 30 by 20 structure full of benches. Georgina used to be a teacher. It was great to steal teaching tips from her and watch her interact with the wee ones.

Inquiring minds want to know, how I spent Christmas and my birthday. In chronological order, I spent my birthday in FarinaCue basking in its glory. In the morning I made 4 chocolate cakes in anticipation of the afternoons, mini party I was throwing myself. After cleaning the house, yard and latrine, I went to the soccer game. It was one of my best Sunday’s in site ever. I just felt like fit in. No one paid me any special attention beyond a few Happy Birthdays. The joy of being part of the crowd maybe a unexpected pleasure to you guys sitting back home in states. In FarinaCue, I am a celebrity. As the object both positive and negative unwanted attention, I was greatly relieved to just be part of the scenery.

After leaving the soccer game early, I went home to find 10 mothers and 25 kids waiting at the neighbor’s house from me to come home and serve the cake. A distribution nightmare, eventually everyone but my friend Norma went home from the anemic event.
Happy with the day, but still nagged by some sense of incompleteness, I bucked cultural convention and bought a beer for Norma and I. Guess what? They sky did not fall. The neighbors did not stone me for being loose, instead they just laughed and wished me happy birthday. And that is exactly what I had.

Christmas. I chickened out on spending Christmas in site. I wanted to call home too much. I wanted to speak English. I wanted to watch cable television. And that is exactly what I did. With the help of a few other volunteers we had our own, small America Christmas minus the presents. Apple pie, turkey, we even found green beans. It was a delicious feast. Well rested, I am headed back to site tonight. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Far from home, wilting in the subtropical heat, it is easy to forget today is Thanksgiving. Living here has only shown me I have many things for which to be thankful. For all the blessings I enjoy, I am most grateful for you guys- my friends and family. Love and support from home has steadied me through rocky days and made the good ones even better.

I know I have neglected my correspondence. I can only beg forgiveness and understanding. Thus for Thanksgiving, I am updating the vacant blog with excerpts from unsent letters from the last few months. You see, its not that I don’t write, circumstances just seems to keep me from getting letters in the mail.

Enjoy the turkey and gravy. Eat a piece of apple pie for me!!

July 2005
“…. Being a rural health promoter is a lot like being a candidate for office- it is more important that the people like you and feel “connected” then what you actually say.”

Aug 31

“So what is going on with me lately? Work is good. I am almost done with the community census- that was a really big project- 33 home visits. The women’s group has 1 meeting a month and 2 fundraising activities. The soy milk machine project is floundering. I’m not really working in the school, but I did hustle so that they got anti- parasite pills and a Paraguayan doctor is coming to give a lecture on parasite.
That is where I stand work wise in Farina I see opportunities, but at the same time all of these projects require a lot of legwork to put together. Plus, day to day living could be a full time job here if you let it.
I have Paraguayans I love and trust, but so much of my life is inaccessible to them. Today fro example: As is my habit I was listening to the BBC world service and heard about the bridge collapse at the Shiite mosques. I am the only one who knows or cares about these events here. My average neighbor has a second grade education. Explaining international politics is lost on them. The rest of my life they just don’t get to see and it leaves me feeling alone.
I did shake the worst of this bad vibe on Sunday. In a dust storm, I went to the soccer game with 3 girlfriends, ages 17-21. Two have boyfriends so their mom asked me to chaperon. We made it into a big joke. They kept calling me mom in guarani and I called them my daughters. >>Che la sy ha ha’ekuera che membykuna<< I was fun to be goofy with people my own age. The rest of the time I conduct myself like a married woman to keep the men away.”

Sept 13

“We are the champions! The fellas of FarinaCue with their ugly, hot-rodding soccer won the inter community tournament. The prize- a young bull. Barbeque baby! Monday, yesterday, was reminiscent of winter here. 55 F tops, overcast and burdened by rain that just wouldn’t come. Nothing stops BBQ, not rain, lack of charcoal or cold. From 2 pm on the players assembled at the Reyes family house and got the fire going.
This BBQ was much smaller than the last time. Half a ball, slaughtered and divided into foot size chunks roasted on a make shift grill. 40lb of madioca boiled in an impossibly large pot in the kitchen. The men sat, in a circle, tending the fire and passing around to two glasses of wine and coke.
Normally these events aren’t my cup of tea, but sometimes they work. Yesterday, there was space for me in the little community.”

September 2005 in Language class
“Wait, wait. I get it. Guarani is like legos, you just keep adding on to the word until you have a sentence.”

Oct 28

“From your vantage point my lack of correspondence could be seen as a sign of discontent. In fact the opposite is true. I feel better than ever in FarinaCue. Work is picking up, the weather is warning up and I a generally feeling good.
I went on vacation to Buenos Aires at the beginning of the moneth. The break was like fresh air that cures a dull headache. You almost didn’t know you were in pain until it ceased. Excellent coffee, fabulous Italian food, stimulating conversation, it was good to be in city again. I worried the post vacation blues waited in FarinaCue. Ha! They didn’t come!! Being a homebody rocks because wherever my books are, I am happy.”

Oct 31
“Monday came after an unseasonable cold Sunday and rainy. The rain was short. I hoped in vain to get to town. Up at 5 am, I threw on clothes and walked up the big hill to wait for the bus. I waited an hour and gave up. The bus wasn’t coming. Back at my house, I fetched water to make breakfast, greeted the neighbors and swept the yard.
At 8am I prepared to wash my sheets. I swept the cement floor, put away everything that couldn’t get wet and haul 30 gallons of water from the well. Now I could start. An hour later the sheets are clean and hanging on the line.
Next not missing a beat, I moved on to cleaning the latrine. A task more easily accomplished than cleaning a bathroom, I take great satisfaction in burning the toilet paper and keeping the losa clean.
Post latrine duty, the floor of my house got a wet wash with the leftover laundry water. Not quite mopping I scrubbed it with my broom. It’s 10:30 or so and one to the garden. My trip to Buenos Aires made a mockery of my garden. Last week I put in a solid 4-5 hours just beating back the weeds that in general threatened my house. The neighbor killing a 4 ft long poisonous snake between our houses gave me news vigor to keep up the house. In that round of home maintenance I restaked my tomatoes, got the leaves out and that was all- and quite a bit. This time I weeded the beds w/ plants Now that garden is garden again.
Now at 11:30, I rested. I west to Alicia’s house to drink terrere and ate lunch with her family. She is my best friend here and is moving to Argentina at the end November.
After lunch I slept till 2:30. My nap saved me from crabbiness for the rest of day.”

Nov 16
“Today I walked back into FarinaCue after a wasted trip to Caazapa. In the late afternoon, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride out of town 10km to the crossroads that leads to Farina. Then I walked another 10km to get home before dark. Exhausted I went to Alicia’s house to drink mate and eat dinner. I love her family. Her boys tease me like they do there aunts and the 2 yr comes to visit me 3-4 times a day. Tonight David, the 13 year old was wittier than usual. Commenting on the fact that this is the second time in a week I have walked back from San Juan N. he teased me. ‘You’re favorite bus is line 11 the pypytauirena. (Line 11 like a person walking the footbus.)”

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, August 25, 2005


August is wilting away on the vine. It might be winter here but, we are rounding out the planting season. Until two days ago, my local bus was more efficient at generating dust than transporting people. Luckily it rained ending a month dry spell and heat wave that felt like summer in Chicago.

This month, rain came like a breath, slowing the pulse, releasing frustration, and making time out of nothing. Life stops when it rains. In my hurry up and wait Paraguayan life, I needed that break. The respite I did receive was all to brief. And like the fields of FarinaCue, I need more rain right now.

This past month has been marked by melodrama associated with the formation of my women’s group, a quixotic-esque quest for telephone service, bureaucratic bullheadedness by the PC administration, and the resurrection of the dead by the visits of past volunteers. Each one these short scenes engender its own irritations, its own moments of alleviation. And inn the end, they all passed.

Somehow they seemed to have left me more alone then when I started. My Guarani has improved. But more then ever, I am aware that I am cut from different stock. My allusions go unrecognized, jokes frizzle, and I hold back. To no one else it is hysterical, that I am riding in the back of a 1940s ford pick-up with a 20 meter piece of bamboo hoisted over its front end like a jousting stick. No one else sees the humor. This month I am tired for laughing alone.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Que mal suerte!!

This last week I was back in my training site, having language class and enjoying the camaraderie of the other volunteers. It was a grand time. I am still in shock to discover that I have learned quite a bit of guarani.

I was quite amused to find just what transcends class boundaries here. Gender roles and the spectacle that is a Norte living in the campo.

Mical and I arrived more than fashionable late to what we imagined to be a mix and mingle event at the bar. How wrong we were. Thirty-some odd well dress individuals sat around one long table sipping red wine out of goblets. We entered the private room. Immediately we were the center of attention. Both heroines and crazy hermits we were given a royal welcome. The welcome never stopped.

The modest construction of my house transformed me into and instant celebrity. I have joined the ranks of Cher, Prince and Madonna. Now I too only have one name. It is FarinaCue. FarinaCue to the Paraguayan is not only a pretty place, but a pretty girl too. And a pretty girl must be talked to all night and reminded of it as if that were her only feature. Most of the attention came from one older and gregarious gentleman who had indulged just a bit too much. His comments were flattering, harmless, and tiresome. In the end, I bettered him and his clever double entendres.

His wife sat down beside me. She introduced herself, and her relationship to my admirer. In a moment of rare brilliance, I utter without emotion, "What bad luck you have." It put the whole party in stitches and closed the book on FarinaCue.

I miss you guys at home and all the parties there! Keep sending the letters. Please send me an email to let me know if you receive the mail I send you. CDs are always welcome. Photos, too. My new CD player plays MP3. The old one bit the dust, literally.
One funny anecdote for the road. What is the best song to use to promote the feast of you local patron saint?

Give up?? Like a Virgin.