Wednesday, September 30, 2009

By decree of Marcia, Lila is officially mine. *Angels sing Hallelujah

In return for me getting Nati’s rabbit, I have to go buy her another one, which, if left to her own devices she will probably kill or maim. Bitter sweet. I get to keep my little gem safe from Nati’s brutal hands, but at least one other rabbit will suffer because if it.

It started all started this morning…

1) I told Nati that Lila couldn’t sleep in her room with her bed.

2) She asked if she could spend the night in her room. I also said no to that as well.

3) Later, she went into my room, took Lila out, put her in the kitchen, and Inigo started attacking her. I told Nati to put her back in my room, when she didn’t, I did it myself.

4) A short while later I snapped at Nati because she ran over to the bushes Inigo was climbing in and forcefully jerked him out by one leg, probably almost breaking it. I yelled at her for grabbing him by one leg so harshly as well as for freaking out every time he tries to climb something.

She had a conniption the other day when he was climbing on the roof of the chicken coop. She tried to send Aldo up onto the roof to get him down. She literally almost strangled him when she took the cord I was using as a leash for Lila and tried to tie it around his neck to keep him from getting back up there. I keep trying to explain to her that his climbing habits are normal, and in all honestly it will just get worse since he is going to be quite the little tomcat since there is almost no chance of him getting neutered. They bought the poor guy a collar today, so I think they’ll start tying him up, but at least Nati isn’t going to asphyxiate him with a homemade noose.

5) Anyway…I’m going to take care of Carly’s dog Luna for about a week when she goes on vacation to Brazil. I’ll be staying at her house and I have every intention of taking Lila with me because I don’t trust Nati with her. Nati told me I couldn’t take Luna with me and that she would take care of her. Personally I have far more confidence in my ability to control Luna than my ability to get Nati to care for Lila appropriately. I told her she didn’t know how to take care of Lila, she didn’t even know how to take care Inigo and he is a far easier creature to take care of, she doesn’t listen to me when I try to teach her how to take care of either of them and I wasn’t willing to leave Lila with her without supervision.

6) And then a little while later I told her to stop feeding Lila the leaves off of some random tree. Nati still doesn’t understand that just because Lila will eat it doesn’t mean that it is good for her. Case and point: Luna loves cow poo and random dead bird carcasses but won’t eat the fabulous, well-balanced meals that Carly makes for her.

7) Then I told Nati to leave Lila under my dresser because Lila is terrified of Nati. Nati took her out, claiming that Lila licked her hands. I accept that Lila may have licked her hand, I do not accept that she came out of her own volition, which means that Nati grabbed her and pulled out. My dresser has about 2-3 inches of space between it and the floor. The fact that Lila is somehow able to squish herself through that space is a miracle in and of itself. Which means that Nati probably came very close to severely hurting Lila as she wrenched the poor little one from her safe space.

8) I scolded Nati for taking Lila out from under the dresser, and then gave her a ‘I don’t believe you for one minute’ scowl after Nati gave me her fish tale about Lila coming out of her own free will.

Yea, all that in one day. We were not getting along to say the least.

Nati started getting really bratty after all of this saying how it was her and Aldo’s rabbit, implying that I couldn’t take Lila with me and that I had to let Nati play with her. I gave her my same, ‘You don’t listen to me when I tell you how to take care of her so I don’t want you around without supervision’ speech.

This is that same child that has never bought a single leaf of food for the rabbit, who only yesterday bought her first bag of cat food for Inigo, who was willing to let Lila starve to death in her own urine and poo in a bucket in the kitchen, still doesn’t understand that you have to support a rabbit’s body, you can’t just pick them up by their arms, who causes Lila to run and hide under my dresser in fear AND who introduced Lila as ‘Lila Jolley’ when my program directors came into town for my site presentation, and has been referring to her as ‘your rabbit’...suddenly she cares that the rabbit is hers.

Unfortunately she is on the spoiled side, so her parents don’t do a thing about it. She went to school; I went to the muni. When I got back Marcia and I talked. She recognizes that I care about Lila or at the very least have put a lot of money into feeding her and building her a cage. We agreed that I would get Nati another bunny and I would keep Lila. When Marcia and I told her that I would buy her a bunny, she was so excited. Personally if the situation had been reversed and they offered to buy me a new rabbit in order to let Nati keep Lila, I would have rejected the offer. Lila is special.

I’m going to keep trying to teach Nati how not to torture the thing, but I’m not touching it, looking at it, or providing any care to it whatsoever, not one dime. It doesn’t get any of Lila’s food, they will not be friends. If I hear it scratching in a bucket in the kitchen, I’m eating outside. If Nati is playing with it, I’m going somewhere else. I will buy it for her per our agreement. After that I don’t want to know it exists. I Will Not Get Attached.

Marcia and I agreed that Nati will probably kill it. Personally I think it is horribly irresponsible for Marcia to just stand by and let Nati treat a living creature so poorly. She and Anibal seem completely oblivious to the presence of the animals in the household. I think Nati could decide to set Inigo on fire and they wouldn’t notice and if they noticed, they wouldn’t correct her.

Now to make matters even worse, Nati had decided that she doesn’t want a baby bunny, she wants a grown rabbit. Marcia has decided that she is going to purchase a rabbit of the opposite gender so they will have babies and she can sell them in the campo. Now instead of having one bunny that Nati is going to kill and hopefully learn a lesson from, Marcia is going to sponsor her cruelty by making it into a business, giving her plenty of little rabbits to smother. At least Marcia might actually somewhat take care of the rabbits. It is still going to bother me how poorly Nati treats them, but they will probably have a semi-decent place to live somewhere in the yard and they will get fed. And a lot of them will probably die in the summer because Marcia doesn’t know how to really take care of them.

If this becomes a rabbit chop-shop, I’m going to have to leave. I might have to leave anyway depending on how poor the living conditions of the rabbits’ are. I already know of a really nice lady who hosted a PC volunteer in the past who was the backup in the event that Marcia didn’t have space.

I just can’t stand to be with Nati right now. Inigo tried to bit her last night when we were watching tv because she was smothering him. She asked if she could hit him for it; I said ‘no’ and explained he clearly wanted to get of the bed and she wasn’t letting him, so she deserved it. Oh boy do I understand how he feels.

It is really terrible that this is coming between me and the family. Marcia told Nati that she and I are sisters so we can’t fight. Overall they are amazing in so many ways. Marcia and I are getting closer, we joke around and have a friendly cooking competition going. Up until now, I’ve been incredibly happy here. But I have a big heart, my big heart led me to join Peace Corps, and big heart won’t let me stay some place where small little animals are dying slow miserable deaths.

I some ways I feel responsible. If Nati had just killed Lila from neglect maybe we would be done with this mess. Aldo wouldn’t have bought two bunnies of his own, Nati wouldn’t be getting a second one to mistreat, and Marcia wouldn’t be trying to start a bunny business. I feel like by saving one and showing how it can thrive with a little bit of care, I may have caused innumerable others to suffer.

And yet I just love Lila so much. She makes the lonely nights so much easier because if I feel bad I can just cuddle up with her or watch her run around my room in crazy happiness. Every morning I sit up and look over into her makeshift pen at the end of my bed. When she sees I’m awake she looks at me as she sits on her back legs and gives me a ‘Good Morning! Let me out plez, noms plez, cuddle plez? kthanxbi’ look. [Yes, she speaks lol]. Sometimes I let her out and then curl back into bed if it is cold. If I still don’t feel like starting the day a little while later I’ll put my hand over the side of the bed, within seconds Lila comes binking over to give it little bunny kisses. There is no better way to wake up.

I’ve even been in contact with a rabbit rescue organization in North Texas to get advice about how to best care of Lila in such a non-rabbit friendly environment. For example rabbits are supposed to eat large quantities Timothy and Alfalfa hay, but they don’t really sell hay of any sort here. Even the large livestock animals like horses and cows don’t get it. So I’ve been given the okay to stick to fresh grass. I also have been feeding Lila these rabbit food pellets, which have been responsible for her weight gain, but I doubt they are very good for her. Their purpose is to fatten commercial rabbits and it probably has goodness only knows what kinds of random fillers. Amazingly the rabbit people have recommended switching her to rolled oats, and equally amazing is that this is what I eat for breakfast every morning. I’m probably in one of the only places in the entire country where I can easily find quality oatmeal.

*very sad sigh

I just don’t understand how people who have such big hearts for people can have such small hearts for defenseless little animals.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I do not have enough buckets to deal with this !!!

Ahhh shit shit double shit. I’m getting flooded here! There are now at least 5 spots of actively dripping water in Lila’s living area, 2, oh no…let’s make that 3 in the corner by my bed, the 1 by the door is gushing, and now there are 2 leaks around my light bulb, 1 from the actual socket area, 1 a foot away …and…every time I turn around I notice a new leak…and I do not have enough buckets to deal with this! And …the buckets/tupperware I do have doesn’t work well because most of the drips are right along the wall and the lips of the containers and the fact that the containers are slightly rounded or completely circular means I can’t get them close enough to wall to actually catch the water… and the containers are so shallow that the water is splashing out of them… and since they are shallow they are going to need to be emptied during the night or they are going to overflow on the floor…and now I can’t keep my rug from getting wet because there are too many leaks… and it is going to smell to like a rat died in the wall for days because of the moldy, dirty rug….and people are going to think its Lila who is making it smell bad, but it really isn’t because I clean her litter box out every day and… and… wahhhhhh, I want my blankie…….*curls up in the fetal position and prays to the peace corps gods that there are not little drip, drip, drips on my bed tonight.

(Just a few of the buckets in my room)

Forecast tomorrow: More rain, still no running water
Irony = all of the buckets I have to collect clean rainwater outside the house, are being used inside the house to collect dirty roof-filtered water inside.

(And we are now passing the lovely Jolley Falls on your right coming down the wall there and just below you can just see Lake Lyn and Jolley Lake, which is on its way to becoming the Jolley River as it works its way towards the door)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Job Description: PC Volunteer Aka Bunny Raiser

You’re probably thinking, hmm I didn’t realize that Lyn/Lyndsay went to the Peace Corps to play with bunnies and kittens. Ahh, if only that was good enough to count as work. I do feel like my work related energies are currently focused on training bunnies and kitties to be polite and training Paraguayan’s not to kill them, at least not accidentally. No one at the Muni who is nearly as cute as my two little fuzzy pocket pets and official work has been slow. This is a challenge because I’m far better at working than doing anything else. Heck, I’m so bad at mindless small talk that I’ve created a community survey to help give my conversations a purpose and give me a reason to knock on strangers’ doors errrr… clap at their front gate.

(Lila drying herself on my computer fan after her bath, and then I learned you aren´t supposed give rabbits bathes. Evidently it stresses them out. Woops)

I will admit that it took me a long while to write the questions for survey for the funcionarios and community members. I blame the great Teresa Purge of August 2009 that spilled over into September. But then it took almost 2 weeks to get copies of the surveys printed because Nelson’s printer didn’t want to work…And there was rain for almost an entire week, nothing gets done during the rain. I also made the invitations for my site presentation on Tuesday and handed those out to all of the funcionarios. I’m going to have Marcia talk about it on the radio in the morning and the tv on Sunday.

I intended to start my community surveys tomorrow morning…but it is raining again…and the world stops turning for rain. At least I did my laundry yesterday.

I got my first pesado text message the other day from some guy commenting on how my skirt fit me that day. I didn’t know who it was at first, but then he called me, asking to speak to Nelson, the guy I work with most right now. Turns out that Mr. Pesado is a guy who works in the Muni who has been pesado since Day 1, asking me one more than one occasion if have a boyfriend, do I like to drink, to I like to go out, the normal pesado things that pesado guys ask. Oh brother.

Nati talks all of the time. I mean all of the time. She follows me around and talks. She doesn’t really say anything, she just talks. Most of it is nonsense to me because she mixes in ‘hina’ and other random Guarani words where I don’t think they belong. Smile and nod. Smile and nod.

The three-stooges with strippers

TV is a little different here.

The news is very graphic. One time I saw a guy pinned under a truck, blood running out of him, pooling on the concrete, moaning. He later died. The news shows crime scenes, and talks to suspects before it is probably prudent to do so. The morning news programs generally just consist of the news casters holding up a copy of that morning’s papers, pointing and summarizing some of the stories.

Most of the TV programs, other than telenovelas, are dubbed US shows. I’m not sure if they really realized this. Nati, in J.A. Saldivar, once asked me if we had America’s Next Top Model in the US. I explained to her that that is where the show is filmed. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that all of the episodes she was watching were very old and that I already knew which contestant would win.

One day as show came on with a distinctly 80’s feel. I sort of recognized the actors, and then, oh yes, there he was… Alf… the muppet alien anteater creature. I almost fell off of the couch. Boy Meets World is still going strong, as are many other long-retired US programs.

I must comment that Hannah Montana is far less annoying in Spanish. The show with the two little blond twin boys is still very annoying. Amazingly my 22-year-old host brother watches Hannah Montana. Not in the ‘well it is what is on in the living room so I might as well watch it’ kind of way. He has a TV in his room and I can hear it playing. My 20something host sisters in J.A. Saldivar also enjoyed the program. I’m certainly not going to tell them that it is geared towards the 10-year-old age group.

Some of the day-time tv programs are really long made-for tv movies. However, when the commercials come on, evidently they don’t stop the program. So when you come back from commercial break, you’re at a different spot than you left off at.

There are two programs in the evening that are very popular. One is called Polibandi, which is set in a police station. Basically it is the three-stooges and Reno 911 with strippers. Another show, Conejo [rabbit], is basically an extended commercial for a new sponsor every 15 minutes or so, mixed with Candid Camera, mixed with strippers clothed in the sponsor’s logo.

Let´s just say I don´t watch much tv here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taking a slide on the tile side

I am a glutton for punishment, as such I have started trying to litter box train Lila. I made the final decision after Nati decided to take her and Inigo on a trip to Grandma’s house in the campo. I told her that she shouldn’t bring them both because she wouldn’t be able to watch both of them at the same time. Thankfully the family invited me to come along; Inigo spent the first 5 minutes being introduced to the family and then was relegated to sleeping in the car when they got bored of him soon after that. Lila spent the entire time in my lap. The minute we got into the car I felt my lap suddenly get very warm and instantly regretted folding the towel under her in half only once. Yup, time to teach bladder control.

I actually the last time a rabbit peed in my lap I was in a car, about 10 years old, coming going back to Arlington after spending the day at some sort of flea market in Canton with Nana and Jolley Pop. Garrett came home with a turtle; I came home with a little black and white bunny whose ears criss-crossed, because of which I was going to name him ‘Scissors’. The turtle lasted a long while; we eventually gave him to a nearby pet store. Scissors wasn’t so lucky; Nana and Jolley Pop’s Yorkies got him after a few days.

Actually in general Lila is very good. She usually pees on the concrete in my room, not the rug. However she has had 2 accidents on my bed recently. No bueno. I have a little litter box for her in my room and I think she is actually getting most of her poo in or near the box. However she has a strong preference for peeing in front of my door. Again, she gets points for avoiding the rug. I’ll give my floor a good scrub with vinegar to help get rid of the odor from her old spots and motivate her to use the box.

Lila has been eating her little rabbit pellets and has gained some weight. It was difficult to tell that she was skinny because of her fur, but for a long while her spine was very prominent. Now she is rounding out little, her hips are still a little bony, but her spine isn’t sticking out. Actually she has gained enough weight that she can’t jump on my bed anymore. She is a downright hefty little heifer.

Inigo looks like a healthy little US kitten now. Tia Carly brought him over some cat food that she had left over from cat-sitting for another volunteer. When I put it down for him for the first time he attacked my hand and so I sent him sliding across the kitchen floor. He almost never attacks me anymore; just Nati and Lila. Just the occasional hit-and-run while I am ironing in the kitchen or walking past him while he is ‘hiding’ in the bushes. I say ‘hiding’ because he is a bright white cat who can hardly sit still in brown dirt and sparse coverage of the bushes. It is like when Brinkley, my parents 60lb tank shaped white boxer, thinks she is being stealthy as she slowly creeps into our laps on the brown couch. Smooth guys, real smooth.

While Bree told me that little boy cats are naturally very mischievous, Tia Carly, who also grew up with cats, has officially certified Inigo as particularly naughty. Yes, it does make me feel better to know that someone who knows cats agrees that his is quite the little imp.

Lila loves Inigo’s cat food, which is terrible for her, so I try to keep her out of it. However he does a good job of keeping her away all by himself. He will swipe at her with one claw while he has his head down in the bowl. It reminds me of a large school yard bully avoiding punches by putting his hand on the forehead of his swinging opponent and extending his arm. He eats like the food is his first, or last, meal. When I saw him eating like this for the first time I felt terrible for not getting him on real cat food earlier. Clearly he was ready for it. Oh well, he is on it now. Nati she is going to buy the next bag of cat food for him. We’ll see.

I’ve started cutting Inigo’s nails as well. Yes, the beast has been semi-disarmed. The first time Nati and I both had to hold him down. They don’t make kitty sized straight-jackets do they? I guess you’d need kitty mental hospitals first. Anyway, he was not a happy camper to say the least. The second time I was actually able to do it alone. I did it in front of Anibal and Marcia. I don’t know if they were impressed with my manicurist abilities or if this is just another note for them to put into their list of ‘Strange Gringo Habits’. Note: I actually sort of picture this list being narrated by some sort of Paraguayan Steve Erwin. Hmm, what would an Australian speaking Guarani sound like?

Gringo Custom #&*^: Our gringa child decided to cut the malcriada cat’s nails today. We are not sure how she managed to survive. Perhaps she is protected by ST. Francis of Assisi.

Inigo has generally seemed to learn not to bite or claw me. He can paw at me with his razor blades sheathed, but the minute they come out, weeeeee he goes across the tile. Sometimes he will just sit in my lap with his open mouth on my hand, he doesn’t bite down, he just looks at me, waiting, watching for my hand out of his peripheral vision. Then I start to wag my finger at him like a scolding mother, the way I do when I yell at him for attacking Lila right before I send him to take a slide on the tile side, and he thinks twice, and closes his mouth.

I’ve started prepping Nati to give me the bunny if/when I move to a place of my own. Today I mentioned her giving her to me when I go back to the states, which btw would make her the hands-down luckiest bunny of all time.

Oh and just a note ‘Lila’ may have to be changed to ‘Lilo’ at some point. I really have no idea whether or not he/she is a… well…a he or a she. Little bunny genital is a bit ambiguous if you don’t really know what to look for. I’m secretly hoping she is really a he because I don’t want her to start having babies. There is a reason we have the saying ‘breeding like rabbits’

The whole little bunnies thing is a real possibility because for some insane reason Nati and our little neighbor, Aldo, want to get another f^&!$#@* bunny! They say the second bunny is to keep Lila company. But Nati doesn’t take care of Lila as is and I don’t want to take care of two of them. For heaven sakes, Lila lives in a bucket! Actually she has been spending most of her time in my room. I’m really hoping that her parents step up and just say ‘no’ this time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Colorado Birthday Party

While yesterday was the 8th anniversary of 9/11 in the US; in Paraguay it was celebrated by Colorado party members as the anniversary of the party’s founding.

In recognition of this day I was awoken at 3:30am to the sweet sound of what I initially thought were 3 gunshots on the other side of our front gate. After my heart finally started beating again in my sleepy terror/shock I realized it was just the normal bombas[noise making fireworks, no pretty lights]. Since they were within such close proximity, they sounded a little far more menacing that usual, I swear.
Goodness, you’d think I’d be used to them by now; they set them off all of the time. Anyway, after the three bombas went off, I heard a song being playing on maximum volume from a stereo. The song ended, I heard three more bombas, and then the song started playing. Song ends, three more bombas, the song starts again… you get it. The song started getting progressively softer a few repetitions. I realized that it was probably a person in a car as opposed to obnoxious neighbors having a party. The way I figure it, they were probably moving about 2-3 houses down after each round of bombas/song.

It took about 7-8 repetitions for the song and bombas to be soft enough that I could sleep through them with my ear plugs in. Unfortunately I was wide awake, so I probably didn’t get back to sleep until around 4:30-5am.
In my humble, sleep-valuing perspective, scaring the @$*& out of your neighbors’[okay maybe just me] but at the very least waking everyone up mid-sleep cycle is probably not going to win you any political converts. Send a little lady around to give out free chipa or alfajores or something like that, during the day, when people are awake. Now that is a recipe for success.

Don’t mess with my sleep man. You’ll put the rooster in the chicken coop out in our backyard of what seems to be his chosen profession at the moment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bring on the encore of the pots and pans chorus

On September 1st I symbolically packed away my sleeping bag. It had been a while since I’d needed it, so I figured it would be best to accept that summer had arrived and began to mentally prepare for the heat wave that was soon in coming. A few nights later, I unceremoniously unpacked the sleeping bag because some thunderstorms and cloudy days had brought back the chilly nights. I’m back to doubling up my blanket and stacking my 3 jackets on top of me to keep warm. I also had to unpack a pair of pants and some long-sleeved shirts. I definitely am not complaining though. Summer is going to long and nasty. I’ll enjoy the cool weather for all its worth while it lasts. Last night we had a huge thunderstorm with quarter-sized hail. The lightning flashes that I could see through my window make my room look like the scene from an old black and white horror movie. I kept half-expecting some disfigured man with a butcher knife to appear in one of the corner after one of the flashes. Did I mention the roof of my room is made of tin?

It sounds like a 2-year-old future heavy metal drummer practicing on mommy’s pots and pans in the kitchen. My host mom and sister asked me if I was scared of the storms; I said no’. If I was in Texas, I would expect some tornados to be out and about, but I was told they almost never have those here. So a little hail and lighting? I don’t have a car to worry about anymore, so bring on the encore of the pots and pans chorus. The hail does seem to have done some damage to roof over my room. I used to only have one spot along the wall by my door that leaked during heavy rains. Now there are about 5 new spots along the wall with my bed dripping steadily. Fortunately I’ve moved everything on that side away from the wall so the water is just getting my cement floor and rug wet. They probably needed to be washed anyway.

The power went out, as it has been doing on and off this morning as well. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like the power going out in a small city like this where nothing has back-up power. One minute you’re in civilization, the next you might as well be out in the middle of the woods. The other night, while some fellow volunteers and I were watching the Paraguay vs Bolivia soccer game on the patio of a little restaurant, the lights went out for a few seconds for no apparent reason. It felt like I had been suddenly pushed into a dark basement; it was completely disorienting. The rain also means a free pass from doing any sort of work. Pretty much everything is guaranteed to be cancelled. While I didn’t have any specific plans for today, the rain gives me an excuse to sleep until 8:30 and then spend the rest of the day huddled in my sleeping bag on my bed writing to you. In addition to writing for my adoring public and my own private notes, I have been playing computer games excessively. I purged myself of Spider Solitaire recently, and have managed to stay that particular addiction after getting about a 68% win/lose ration.

Yes folks, read it and weep.

I also figured out that it is possible to cheat and artificially boost my percentages by saving a game that I am about to win and playing it over and over. However my score was duly won. I won my first game of computer chess, I’m still terrible because I can’t think ahead to how to trap the king. I spend most of my time just trying to capture the other players pieces. After a few rounds of Hearts I got bored. Mahjong Titans was interesting until I realized that most of the games are almost impossible to lose and require no skill. Inkball is not interesting. Actually the most interesting game, I’m a little embarrassed to say, is memory. It is for kids, so I have to match up cakes or cartoony faces. The gumdrop level is the most difficult in case you were wondering. If only they had tetris…or maybe I should just go study.

Good thing I went shopping yesterday for my ingredients to make tomato soup.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Dating Game

Evidently Paraguay has one of the highest incidents of volunteers marrying host country nationals or each other. During the first week of training, Country Director Don Clark and Deputy Director Jason Cochran estimated that four people in our group of 18 would get married/engaged during our service. 2 of the Trainees are already a married couple and one girl is engaged to someone back in the US. That leaves 15 non-married/engaged trainees. That means our directors think that over 25% of us will get married!

After being here for just a few weeks, I understand why they gave such a large percentage. I have met a significant number of volunteers who are getting married to either 1) other volunteers or 2) to Paraguayans. Some people are taking their counterparts to the US, some have decided to stay in Paraguay. Our Technical Trainer, Ricardo, knows of several volunteers who moved into their sites permanently and have been living there for 10+ years. One of the trainers for the next G was a volunteer here who got married to a Paraguayan woman, had children, and now has a tree farm. I can think of a few volunteers in our G who may follow this path.

Even if volunteers don’t get married, dating amongst volunteers and Paraguayans is very very popular.

The rules to dating game with Paraguayans here are pretty old school:

The official dating days are: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are the ‘mistress’ days.

Basically if a guy keeps asking you out on the first four days, he wants you to be his official girlfriend. If it’s usually the last three days, he’s probably just looking for something on the side. It’s not a fixed rule, but evidently they do still somewhat follow the dating days in the more rural areas.

The basic dating dance is that the guy is supposed to be the aggressor, the girl is supposed to resist the advances and/or set all the limits. So yes, even if a girl likes a guy, she might rebuff him a few times just for good measure to… I don’t know… let him know she isn’t easy or that she has boundaries or that she can’t be taken advantage of.

Unfortunately this basically has created a society where ‘No’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘No.’ This is one of the reasons that the men here can be really persistent. They don’t know if it’s an actual ‘no’, or a you need to try harder/try again a little later ‘no.’ It also means that men are looking for the slightest signal from a woman that she might be interested. She isn’t supposed to give any obvious signals, so things like smiling too much or being just a little too friendly, gets us Nortes into a lot of trouble, because that’s what the guys are looking for to initiate their little dance. Also, hitting on women is so a guy who doesn’t make a pass at every moving target may be considered odd by his friends.

Evidently it is common for a girl to bring along a female friend on a date with her to keep the guy in check. Therefore isn’t not uncommon to see a pair making-out on a bench with the official third wheel friend off to the side a little.


Literally a jakare is a crocodile. Socially, a Jakare is a man who has a ‘special’ relationship/arrangement with a woman to come visit her during the night for some extracurricular activities. Often times, he would enter the home through a window, so an open window is sometimes understood as a signal to the men in the community that you intend on having a visitor, or that you would like to. FYI, I had bars put on my window, not that anyone could have fit through it anyway, and there is a gate around our house that is locked at night.

Evidently some men need only the smallest hint of attention to think you have invited them to be your Jakare. One of the administrators at CHP was a volunteer years ago, she is now married to a Paraguayan man and has 2 kids. She liked to sleep with her windows open. One night a man came to her window and started asking to come in. She had no idea what he was doing and told him to go the front door. When he got there she could tell he was very drunk and wearing cologne and had more or less clear intentions. I think her host father and the family dog ended up scaring him off. The volunteer thinks he was a family member who lived out of town of some people she knew. She vaguely remembers possibly seeing him working alongside this family and greeting them. She is a very happy, smiley person, and evidently that was all the encouragement this man needed to come to her house in the middle of the night.

While I think adults are welcome to make whatever arrangements they want however they want, I’m pretty sure that a smile and a ‘hello’ directed at a group of people don’t mean ‘oh baby, oh baby, you hot thang, sexy stranger man; you, me, my window, tonight.’ Actually, maybe if this was someplace in the Middle East where women were covered from head to toe and aren’t allowed to speak to men who aren’t related to them, then maybe smiling and saying hello could be misconstrued as interested. But here, there are naked/might-as-well-be-naked calendars, magazines, porn videos all over the streets and homes. The women in one of the most popular tv show, Polibandi and el Conejo, are essentially strippers with a few speaking parts, scratch that, they don’t always speak.

In general the Paraguayans can be so nice and helpful, which is why I don’t understand why there is an overabundance of men with the social graces of Tarzan. The official adjective for these men is ‘pesado’ which literally means ‘heavy. I can’t pretend like we don’t have slovenly men like this in the states, but they seem more contained. The women here can hardly believe me when I tell them that men only behave like this when they are young, drunk, out at night, in a group and not in the company of women who will knock them off the curb, barstool…

I’ve already had two too friendly guys at the muni. One who keeps asking if I have a boyfriend and if I like to drink, the other, well I’ll just give him the benefit of the doubt right now and keep him in the ‘suspiciously helpful’ category until I know more. He has a wife, but that doesn’t mean anything here.

Thankfully the person I work with most in the Muni, Nelson, is dating another funcionaro who is also the Mayor’s niece. If he does anything suspicious not only will she see it but the Mayor will also know, which could threaten his job. Apart from this, he does seem like a nice, non-pesado guy, so I don’t think he would hassle me even if he didn’t have a girlfriend.

The women don’t help the situation; they are obsessed with being in a relationship as well. I have one lady I’m trying to make friends with at the muni, but all she wants to talk about is:
• Did I have a boyfriend before I came to PC.[Answer: Yes]
• Are we still dating? [Answer: No].
• Why did we break up?
• Why aren’t we trying to keep the relationship going while I’m in the PC?
• Are we going to get back together when I go back to the states?
• How much do I still talk to him?
• Do I miss him?
• Why didn’t he become a volunteer?
• Why didn’t we get married so that we could be volunteers together and get placed together?
• Do I have a new boyfriend yet? [Answer: No] Why not?
• Am I going to stay in Paraguay and get married?
• Am I going to take someone back to the US with me?
• And so on…

The last conversation I had with her went like this (remember I’ve been here about 3 weeks):

Francisca: ‘So do you have a boyfriend yet?’
Me: ‘No’
Francisca: ‘You need to look for one; no, not look, you need to find one.’

She also felt that it was important to inform me that Paraguayan men are very affectionate. Francisca is totally enamored with her boyfriend of two months. No doubt she is planning the wedding by now. I wonder if she has names for the kids yet. Evidently it was love at first sight. Well isn’t she just so lucky.

I may be making up a boyfriend very soon. That could be fun actually. Any name and characteristic suggestions?

Fidelity is not a priority here. In fact, if you tell the women you want a man to be faithful, they’ll often just laugh at you in a ‘boys will be boys’ manner. From what I hear though, the women aren’t particularly faithful either. And everyone has no idea about using protection or birth control or preventing STDs, oh don’t get me started.

Again, I’m not going to pretend like men and women don’t step outside of their official relationships in the US, shit happens, but I’ve never seen infidelity so open and prevalent in a dating/marriage culture. It isn’t in the hippie free love way; it is in a way that makes ‘official’ relationships have no value because no one respects their partners.

One theory about why people are loose with their relationship is because that is how one of the more notable indigenous groups, the Guarani, also maintained their relationships. From what I remember, the Guarani didn’t seem to have official relationships at all, or fidelity wasn’t an expectation. However I feel like there is a notable difference from being in a relationship where fidelity just isn’t in the rule book at all, like the Guarani, to being in relationships that are official, clearly between two people and where fidelity is expected but regularly violated.

The whole thing, the women on TV who look and behave like strippers, naked women all over the place, everyone cheating on everyone else, divorces and people living together being quite common, seems to contrast strongly with the country’s Catholic image.

Almost everyone is Catholic, if you aren’t catholic but you are some other Christian denomination, they may look at you a little funny, but you won’t ruffle their feathers too much. If you are any sort of non-Christian, they look at you like you’re an alien. When it comes to any sort of reproductive or women’s rights, they are the most controlling, straight-laced people ever put on this earth. Tell a man to stop cheating on his wife with 14 year old girls and he will look at you like you’re a prude.

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that before, but yes, 14ish girls with 40-year-old men is very common. One mayor in another city evidently has a little harem of underage girls going. Actually the married guy at my muni’s wife is 17, they have been married for 1.5 years, which means she was about 15 when they got married and who knows how old when they started dating. He is around 28 I think. Definitely on the misdemeanor side of the skeevy scale, at least comparatively, but still something that you’d want to be the exception, not the light side of the rule. It is also really common for the teachers to be dating their high school students. The parents don’t seem to mind, especially when it’s a man with a good job. If the ‘boy’friend takes care of her, or wants to marry her, all the better.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Moto Death

A few entries back I wrote about the motos and how dangerous they were. A day or so ago, Marcia [my host mom who is also a nurse] and I visited an 18-year-old young man who was the brother of a man who works in the muni with me. The brother drove his moto through the glass door of a store after trying to avoid a collision with another moto, and probably after having a few drinks. His brother was on the moto with him at the time, but wasn’t hurt. The doctors the brother was originally treated by patched-up his fractured leg and gave him some medication. However, a few days later, he had started coughing up blood and vomiting. The family couldn’t afford another doctor consult so they called Marcia to come and see him.

We went to his house and at first glance he didn’t look like he was in very bad condition, uncomfortable yes, but without any obviously life-threatening wounds. His leg wasn’t even in a cast, it just had some bandaging. However, Marcia listened to his lungs and told the family that he needed to go back to the doctor soon because there was something wrong with his lungs and that he was probably getting pneumonia.

However the family just didn’t have the money to do so, even with Marcia’s warning, especially considering they were also going to have to pay to repair the broken glass door. Marcia said it would cost about 6millionG, which is about 4 months’ salary for me. In order to see a doctor you usually have to pay upfront for everything. Most people don’t have insurance.

The man didn’t see a doctor as Marcia had recommended. Unfortunately he eventually got so bad that the local hospital couldn’t help him anymore and they had to drive him the 3-4 hours to an emergency room in Asuncion. He died there sometime earlier today.

I’ve been fortunate thus far in my life to not have anyone I see on a regular basis die; I knew this man for about 15 minutes and had no emotional connection to him. Yet it is still extremely bizarre to think that a man I saw such a short time ago, living, breathing, watching tv, is dead and on his way to be buried. Gone, done, just like that. It is also strange to think about how easily he could have prevented his own death, how no one will stop drinking on motos [not even his brother probably], and how if he had been in a similar accident in the US, he probably would have lived.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Being tasty is her #1 health risk.

Inigo Montoya:

I’ve decided to name the kitten Inigo Montoya

´Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.´

It is a good substitute for what I have been calling him: demon, demon child, demon spawn, Lucifer, evil little bastard, little shit, shit head, little bugger, snot rag… My host family will probably just stick to calling him Miche, which is similar to the word that means ‘small’ in Guarani, and as I’ve mentioned before, is the generic name for all cats. My initial names are due to the face that he always attacks me, usually my feet and legs. He’ll try to climb me like a tree if I’m wearing pants, but is always looking for an excuse to use me like a human staircase. I seriously feel targeted, he always comes to me, and I don’t want him too. Carly likes him and yet he’ll still hang around me when she is over and trying to play with him.

Inigo also attacks the bunny rabbit, which I do not like one bit. He is super spastic, one minute he is sleeping peacefully in Carly’s lap, then a second later the beast awakens and he is clawing and biting her viciously…and then 15 seconds later he’ll go back to sleep. I like the name Inigo because sometime he is really nice, and sometimes he is stupidly brave and unshakably focused on whatever. And calling him Inigo, as opposed to oh let’s say… demon spawn… makes me far more inclined to try and catch him during one of his nice moments as opposed to ignoring him completely.

Or maybe I’m just warming up to him because he almost got his behind kicked yesterday in the yard by a full-sized cat and has thus upped his pity factor. Even after I scared away the intruder, poor little Inigo was still frozen with his claws dug into branch pile he had been climbing on. For one of the first times he actually seemed to like me petting him for more than 2.7 seconds as I tried to coax him off and then calm him down when I was able to extricate him. Poor little guy, I suppose I need to remember that he is just a little kitten…He is kind of cute..when he isn’t trying to maul me.


(Lila resting near a cool water bottle on a warm day)

I think the bunny’s name is going to be Lila, which means lilac. She is cream and white colored, but whatever, it’s a pretty name. I’ve been around a few bunnies before, but I’ve never seen one as sweet as her. She likes to be held and will fall asleep in my lap. I think she likes me in particular, which makes me feel just so darn special. She will come to me if I call her sometimes, likes to stand between me feet when I’m ironing, and I have a much easier time of catching her when she escapes out into the yard.

The family was only feeding her a little bit of lettuce and having her drink out of the kitten’s milk dish, so I went and bought her more lettuce and carrots, which I feed her more frequently, and I’ve put out a water dish as well. I also found bona-fide rabbit food yesterday at the pet/feed store, so I’m working on getting her to eat that as well, though so far she is pretty resistant. At the cyber yesterday, I also read that rabbits are supposed to eat Timothy hay too, but I’m pretty sure it will be hard to find that in rabbit sized portions. The meager diet I can give her, combined with the fact that it is pretty much impossible to get her spayed [one rabbit site said that 80% of unsprayed female rabbits die of ovarian cancer], she will probably have a relatively short life.

Inigo attacking her constantly probably isn’t good either. He is going to get bigger than her quickly and could do some real damage. Right now the family’s solution is to put Lila in a box. I’m tempted to buy a cat-carrier for her to sleep in at night in the kitchen to keep her away from Inigo, and then have Inigo stay outside during the day so she can run around in the kitchen. Oh, and they both need some sort of litter box if they are going to live inside…

However my main concern regarding Lila’s overall life-span is the family. I think the parents are probably just waiting for Nati’s interest in the bunny to wane so they can cook her for lunch. Being tasty is her #1 health risk.