Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "This is just a phase, he'll stop blogging any second now." Well for you negative thinkers out there, I have this to say . . . you're probably right, so enjoy it while it lasts.
The weather is finally cooling down a bit here, from averaging in the high 30s (upper 90s to 100 degrees) it is now topping out at about 33º from day to day (92º) and getting down to below 20º (the mid 60s), which feels pretty cold actually. Funny, this time last year, this weather made me sweat, now I have to work to get sweaty in this weather. It's wierd how your body adapts to this stuff. Oddly though, it's only rained once here in the last three months and before that it only rained once since summer started, which is a drought here. More on that later.
So I'm gonna combine acouple of questions from relatives in this post and try to kill two birds with one stone.
"Have you met any potential life partners recently? If yes, tell us about them. Have you frequented the dance hall or church in your town? Tell us about your dance and/or religious experiences. Now that the weather is warming up, will you shave soon? Describe any local customs that you have incorporated in to your lifestyle. What do you like about living in Paraguay? What do you not like about living in Paraguay? What do the people of Paraguay think about Americans in general? Good or Bad?"and
"Have you fathered any children since you've been there...J/K! Seriously, what are 5 things you like most about being in PY? What are 5 things you miss most about being in the states? Do you think you will be ready to leave when your 2 years is up? Any intentions on staying longer? Will it be hard for you to transition back to the American lifestyle? I think your mom covered the "life partner" aspect, LOL ;) I didn't realize you danced, do you?"Why is it both of you guys started out with questions about my love life? You don't see me prying into yours!
Well no, I have not fathered anymore children since coming to Paraguay. And as far as life partners go, I'm just now figuring out how to live with myself and I've found that I'm damn near imposible to be around so I'm a little reluctant to condemn someone to my fate. So it's just hookers for now, who cost about as much as about 3 cokes or beers. Frankly I think I prefer beer.
On a related note, if I were looking to father children I would probaly start at the local club (club in Spanish, sounds like "cloob"). Apearently, older Americans call this a "dance hall," although I find this name makes the place sound respectable, and I assure you it is not. I'll admit I'm biased, I hated clubbing in the States and I only tolerate it now as a source of entertainment. But this place is a shit show. If you want a picture of the outside, I put one in an earlier post. On occasional Friday and Saturday nights this place opens up at midnight and blares what passes for pop music in Paraguay into the wee hours. This thing is about four blocks from my house, and on club nights I can hear it as if I were listening to music at a reasonable volume inside my house. What's worse is people get ready to go to the club at midnight by disturbing the peace on their own for four hours preceeding. Worse still is that after the club closes round about 4am, people continue to party on their own for a couple hourse more, driving their cars around drunk and blasting some of the most god awful "electronic" music you can imagine. To give you a mental picture, imagine a 1970s robot clown having an ebola induced seizure and the sounds that it would make . . . yeah.
As far as what goes on inside the club, well thats pretty familiar. People posturing and dry-humping to the beat, appearently unaware of the fact that its blazing hot inside (that the place is more popular in summer than in winter I don't understand at all). However, when you factor in how agressively sexist Paraguayan men can be and the tendency here for older men to go after much younger women (mid-teenage girls are the sexual ideal for all ages of men), it can be a little disturbing to think about, which is why I don't.
So, yeah, I've been to the club. As bad as I make it sound, it's acutally fun, even for chicks, but I still make no effort to go, unless I'm invited. And if it sounds like I'm judging, trust me, I'm not, I gave up on that a while ago, it's just the way it is.
Do I dance? Well, I guess, if you consider arythmic muscle spasms dancing. Although I am pretty good at the "bite the lower lip, bent elbows, hands up, white guy two-step."
So what do Paraguayans think of Americans then?: tall, blonde, promiscuous, rich, blue eyed, white, intelligent. And if your only exposure to the States was the movies we make, well you would probably think the same way.
On a number of occasions I've had to confirm and reconfirm that I am indeed an American even though I'm not white. Additionally, some Paraguayans seem to think we have gobs of money on us at all times, and in dollars no less. Every time I tell people I get paid in Guaranies (the national currency) they seem surprised. To be fair though, even relatively poor Americans are middle class by Paraguayan standards. However, very few Paraguayans are in debt where as about half of all Peace Corps Volunteers have debt. But that has more to do with the unavailability of loans here rather than Paraguayan financial sense. And as far as our percieved sexual mores, they seem to think we are ready to get on with anyone at any moment. Every female volunteer I know has been openly propositioned by Paraguayans at least twice, many of the male volunteers have aswell. But, once again, I think this is more a reflection of Paraguayan thinking on sex, and it is a constant subtext. I have been greeted by strangers with questions such as "Have you fucked recently?" and am asked constantly if I have a novia (girlfriend) yet. Although, my favorite was durring a break in a meeting we were having at a local government office when someone was introduced to me as el jodido, which translates literally as "the fucked," so this person was essentially introduced to me, by his boss, in front of a group of men and women as "Joseph who gets laid." Once again, if it sounds like I'm judging, please believe, I'm not (and you shouldn't either). This is all normal for me now, but I do like how strange it sounds to the part of me that rembers the States.
But to be fair, Americans are huge sluts. However, this is a characteristic that they share with all other peoples of the world as far as I can tell.
Otherwise, Paraguayans generally have a good opinion of America and Americans. I've only ever personally ran into "anti-Americanism" once, and he was just airing his views on Bush government policy. We agreeed on all points and ended the conversation as friends. Paraguayans love exported American culture and admire our prosperity, even if they don't want to a carbon copy of the States (which is for the best). What bothers me about that though is that very few are willing to see the dark side of America and the ills we visted on them by dictatorial proxy durring the cold war. But I'm not about to go running around trying to convince people that we're the bad guys.
So what do I not like about Paraguay: the machismo, the fatalism, the corruption, the heirarchy, the lack of privacy.
What do I like about Paraguay: everthing else. People are generally much more friendly than any American and you can live very free and tranquilo here. As an example, I mentioned the noise issue before with parties and loud cars doing the rounds at night. All that is probably illegal on paper, but the police won't try to do anything about it and people in general are more likely to just put up with it. I was at a party once and one of the attendees had his car sound system blaring into the night when a rock came over the wall from the neighbors house. That was their cue to turn the music down. In general, people just live and let live here. This is a good thing when it comes to being alowed to do things that don't do harm to others, but sometimes this translates into ignoring and putting up with other abuses . . . like 50 years of dictatorship and 60 years of one party rule.
What do I miss about the Sates: my family, high speed internet, and certain supermarket items (see "cheddar cheese").
And yes, I am already trying to come up with ways to stay here longer, even though I still have a year left to serve.
As far as transitioning back to life in the states; I couln't say whether that would be difficult or not, I'll find out if and when I do it. But the volunteers I know who have been back to the States for vacation sound like crazy people when they return. They go on and on about rediculous things like paved roads, debit cards, hot water, and abundant fast food options. All sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me.
Religious experiences: God, Saint John the Baptist, and the Angel Azrael appeared to me in a vision and told me to get more fiber in my diet.
And the question you've all been waiting for . . . the beard is here to stay . . . at least until I accidentally singe it off.