Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Don’t Want No Bitches and HOES*

*(Horny Overly Excited Strays)

Well, one bitch in particular, my bitch. I came home to find a pack of stray dogs pursuing my puppy Bon Bon. Apparently the doggy birth control which I had injected in her 3 months ago had expired, against all claims by the vet that it was supposed to last for 6 months. In the day and night I had been gone from my house, my yard had turned into the dog pound. Usually the sight of Bon Bon trotting happily down the street, tail wagging, cheers me up. Now, however, I was worried. The dogs that were following her were no longer friendly neighborhood dogs wanting to play with my dog, but wild beasts (Wild: untamed, undomesticated, feral, rowdy, ferocious)! And like all males thinking with their penises instead of their heads, they turned their lust into a fierce competition to conquer the sole female. Any attempt on my part to approach Bon Bon led to several mad dogs, aggressively charging me with their teeth bared. It would be an understatement to say that I was scared. I was terrified. At the same time, my maternal instinct (or maybe just adrenaline) flared seeing several mad dogs trying to rape my baby girl. I charged back, with a large stick in my hands and screaming all the while like an enraged Scot in a Mel Gibson movie. Grabbing my dog’s rope, I dragged her inside the house. For a week, the poor girl was confined my dog to a tiny corner of my house (she’s a campo dog who lives outside and is normally not allowed in the house). When Bon Bon wanted to go outside to use the bathroom, I had to take her out her rope in one hand, armed with a broom in the other. I used that broom too (fear leads you to do crazy things, including beating animals with brooms), not that it helped much.
The first night I couldn’t sleep. I thought that Bon Bon was responsible for the whining keeping me up all night. Only later did I realize that it was the male dogs, lying outside my house, and whining about their blue balls. Whining was the least of my worries. I had dogs ramming themselves against my house walls at all hours of day and night. One even jumped through my kitchen window! These dogs were insane! The results of one hellish week are as follows:

List of Damages

2 broken doors
1 broken shower
1 caged puppy
1 mentally-precarious dog-owner

Why is my life so crazy??? I’ll never take lightly the expression “like a dog in heat” again!

Book Chuck!

Confessions of an Economic Hitman - John Perkins

The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth about Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World - John Perkins

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver

Handy Machete Tip #37

The best way to cut a coconut isn’t with a pocket knife (says the girl who still has a scar), but with a machete.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They Are like THAT because We Are like THIS

When I’m in a bad mood (often a result of some jerk whistling at me or frustration in general with my Paraguayan colleagues for seemingly being unable to get work done without me), I tend to become bitter. I rant, I rave, I curse the Paraguayan people (all in my head of course). As I grow ever more delirious every step that I take in the blazing Paraguayan sun, I’m seething on the inside as well. I fume about Paraguayans lack of education, their dumb questions, their poor manners, their misconceptions of the U.S., their poverty, everything I can think of at the moment. I look down upon them all the while feeling superior because of my university education, my knowledge of computers, my proficiency in several languages, my productivity, my class.

And then this morning I read a parable by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He tells the story of a 14-year-old prostitute in Manila.

It is true that in the city you can make money more easily than in the countryside, so we can imagine how a young girl may have been tempted to go there to help her family. But after only a few weeks there, she was persuaded by a clever person to work for her and to earn perhaps one hundred times more money. Because she was so young and did not know much about life, she accepted, and became a prostitute. Since that time, she has carried the feeling of being impure, defiled, and this causes her great suffering. When she looks at other young girls, dressed beautifully, belong to good families, a wretched feeling wells up in her, and this feeling of defilement has become her hell.

But if she could look deeply at herself and at the whole situation, she would see that she is like this because other people are like that. ‘This is like this, because that is like that.’ So how can a so-called good girl, belonging to a good family, be proud. Because their way of life is like this, the other girl has to be like that. No one among us has clean hands. No one of us can claim it is not our responsibility. The girl in Manila is that way because of the way we are. Looking into the life of that young prostitute, we see the non-prostitute people. And looking at the non-prostitute people and the way that we live our lives, we see the prostitute. This helps to create that, and that helps to create this.

I realized that if Paraguayans are the prostitutes, we are the pimps. Who are we to condemn the way they live their lives, they way they act, the way they are? They are that way because we are this way. They are that way because we are this way. They live in poverty because the American consumer refuses to pay more than 50¢ for a bunch of bananas. Those bananas contain a delicious fruit, nourishing, full of potassium, delicious. In those same bananas are the sweat and tears of the Paraguayan farmer, the days, the weeks, the months spent in the hot sun planting, hoeing and weeding the land. The American consumer demands big, yellow, spotless fruit. We don’t see the fertilizers that double the size of the fruit, the pesticides that ensure that the fruit has no black spots; the vast expense the family must bear to pay to spray fruit ever-more resistant to chemicals. We don’t see the yellow puddles after the rain, chemical runoff from the fields that seeps into the ground and the wells and the water; the miscarriages caused by the women’s exposure to the toxic chemicals on their husbands’ clothes. Looking at their poverty, we see our non-poverty. And looking at our non-poverty, we see their poverty. Paraguayans are that way because Americans are this way.

What I Do: Part II

What I Do: Part II

Recently I was in a meeting between the Consejo de Administraci├│n (Board of Directors) and the Junta de Vigilancia (Supervisory Committee/Auditing Committee), when all hell broke loose. The Presidents of the Consejo and the Junta launched into a shouting match. Ever watched a WWF wrestling match? It was a lot like that. Here’s how it went down:

[translation by Pooja Virani]

PRESIDENT OF CONSEJO (PC): We’ve invited the Junta here today to this meeting of the Consejo to keep you informed of our decisions. We’d like to talk about X …

PRESIDENT OF JUNTA (PJ): We don’t like who you’ve chosen. Why did you choose them?

PC: It’s very important that the Consejo and the Junta work together.

PJ: You say you want us to work together, but how when we participate when the Consejo makes all the decisions?

PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER [in this episode featured wearing a cape and a large PCV imprinted on her shirt]: Excuse me…

PC: We chose them because we taught they would be an appropriate match for the job.

PJ: How come the Consejo made that decision? Why didn’t we get a say in it?

PC: Because we made it.

PCV: Excuse me…

PJ: You only care about yourselves!

PC: No. We think that they are doing a great job and are very trustworthy.

Member of Consejo: “I’d like to apologize on behalf of the Consejo…”

PC: Maybe if you did your jobs…

PCV: Excuse me…

PJ: You all are stupid and you smell! [ok, I’m embellishing here]

Member of Junta: “Can’t we all just get along?”
PC: Well my daddy can beat up your daddy! [still embellishing]

[After half-an-hour or so of these back-and-forth accusations, I was finally able to get in a word. I pulled out one of my handy-dandy guides to cooperatives and read from it.]

PCV: The principal tasks of the Consejo, among others, are to make administrative decisions and to hire all cooperative employees and assign them responsibilities. The role of the Junta is to control the social and economic activities of the cooperative. In other words, their job is to revise the finances and the Consejo’s decisions and ensure that they comply with the cooperative’s by-laws. Under no circumstances, should the Junta interfere with the administrative decision-making process.

[I was so riled up that I couldn’t even properly pronounce the three-four-syllable Spanish vocabulary and had to have the Secretary read these passages]

PCV: [to the Consejo] Your job is to make administrative decisions. [to the Junta] Your job is to make sure that the decisions of the Consejo comply with the by-laws. If by chance they do not or you believe they will not benefit the cooperative members, you can bring your objections to the Consejo’s attention through your monthly report [which of course they have never actually written or submitted in all their months of service].

[Stunned expressions on the faces of both the Consejo and the Junta members. Of course, that only lasted a moment before the fighting resumed.]

PJ: We can’t participate in your decision-making, but that doesn’t mean we agree with the people you chose.

PC: We don’t care, we’re sticking with them.

PJ: You’re still stupid and you still smell.

[Once again, the PCV saves the day…?]

A large part of my job focuses on cooperative education. How do you run a cooperative if you don’t know what your job is? A Peace Corps Volunteer has the opportunity to train local leaders in managerial skills. I accomplish this goal through several approaches, including attending the cooperative’s directors’ meetings, conversing with the directors one-on-one, and directly teaching the directors. I hold classes with the Education Committees of both cooperatives, in which I teach the members about “cooperativism” and the functioning of cooperatives, among other things. The aim is to teach these members to teach the other members of the cooperatives. The same way that Paraguayans feel the need to share how I don’t eat meat with every new Paraguayan that I meet; wouldn’t it be great if they repeated the 7 principles of cooperativism or how great crop diversification is to every new member who attended a cooperative meeting?