As I lay in bed last night, wide-eyed as I tried to locate a mouse with my cellphone flashlight, I reflected on the days before I spent half my time asserting my superiority over dumb animals. Actually, to tell the truth, I’ve been for the most part unsuccessful in contending with nature.
Let me start from the beginning. I used to think that roosters were smart birds that signaled the dawn by crowing. I was sooo wrong. Roosters are the dumbest birds alive. They crow ALL THE TIME. One rooster starts up so the others feel obliged to respond, and before you know it, they’re engaged in the loudest and most obnoxious conversation you’ve ever heard in your life at 10 PM…and 12 AM, and 2 AM, and 5 AM. The roosters here make me want to give up being vegetarian and kill them with my bare hands (Incidentally, you kill a chicken by grabbing it by its head and twisting it around until it breaks. It apparently takes a few minutes for its heart to realize that it’s dead, so it will usually run around for a few minutes afterwards spurting blood everywhere – a site I have been lucky not to have witnessed as of yet – giving rise to the expression "like a chicken with its head cut off.")
Americans love having dogs as pets, and I am no exception. Paraguayans are not so nice to dogs and it’s understandable once I realized that dogs here are mangy, pike-ridden beasts. As one other volunteer said to me, "It’s amazing how the only thing Paraguayans have managed to coordinate on around the country is having their dogs freak out when they pretend to throw a rock." I’ve pretended to throw a rock on more than one occasion, when I’m running and a dog comes chasing after me, barking. Kissing also works. It tends to stun dogs, just stop them in their tracks. However, my host family has the two stupidest dogs in Paraguay. Somehow, they missed the message about going away when someone kisses at them. I’ve consequently spent the last week chasing one of them out of my room with a stick (he has a habit of laying under my bed, making my room smell like wet dog). I’m still too American to actually hit a dog.
I don’t think twice about squishing bugs between my fingers. I talk to the many creatures who hang around inside my shower, including a praying mantis, a toad (luckily still a tadpole and not yet the huge slimy creature as big as the size of your head that it will soon grow into). My new bedfellow is a mouse. At times I think it’s cute, crawling out from behind the dresser to gnaw on pieces of food. On the other hand, the endless scratching at night has me desperate to kill the sneaky bastard (It successfully avoided the trap I laid. The food was gone alright, but it’s still at large…or small as the case may be). That as a matter of fact is what I hysterically started yelling the last time I spotted it, along with, "Die! Die!"…to think I used to think I was vegetarian because I didn’t like the killing of animals. Now I spend my days plotting how to kill a rodent. To be fair, when a pig was being slaughtered outside of our training center (right in the middle of class people started walking through the house, preparing to kill and cook a pig in order to celebrate the fútbol victory from the day before), I practically had a meltdown.
I’ve had to deal with all this while at the same time constantly telling Paraguayans, "That’s right, I am vegetarian. Why? Because I believe that animals are life too and I don’t want to hurt them." Sigh…I’m officially living in the Paraguayan zoo.