Memoirs from the First World.

January 31, 2012

Despite it being an obviously insurmountable task, I do what I can to keep low-key here.

Generally, I stick with dirty jeans, plain v-neck t-shirts worn in short rotation, and dusty flip flops. I wear mascara only to prevent myself from rubbing the dickens out of my eyes, and my daily perfume is 70% DEET (okay, maybe not the key to blending in but neither are thousands of bug bites). Two extra swipes of deodorant comprise the extent of any morning “primping” rituals.

I drink the terere if it’s passed to me. I laugh along at jokes that, really, I can’t understand because the Spanish here is frickin’ hard to decipher. I leave my shopping carts where they are sure to block the aisle and make no apologies for it. I am also starting to drive like a maniac, for which I also have no remorse.

I refuse to pay for someone to clean the apartment for me. I try to hang dry my laundry as much as possible even though there is a functioning dryer available. And I only run the AC if I’m seriously on the brink of death and about to shank someone just because it is that hot outside.

But sometimes, I simply cannot escape the fact that I am not a native Paraguayan (not that I particularly want to be one but I do want to look the part), and not only that, but I am, in fact, one of those privileged few from the upper echelon of the Developed World.

Like the morning we went to the airport to bid the Sc’s adieu on their Christmas vacation, and Y kept asking me wild questions about airplanes like: “Are planes big enough to fit more than ten people? People serve you drinks while you’re up in the air?!? How do the stewards not fall all over the place? Is it hard to breathe?” Then with a look of sheer panic smeared across her face, tremblingly asked, “ARE YOU NOT ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED WHEN YOU FLY???” and almost fainted when I answered in the negative. For someone who has been flying in airplanes since the age of five months, there are myriad things I take for granted and others that don’t even garner a second thought. Oh, the privileged life.

Or the time we had a work day at the Baez house, and I had to learn to draw water from the well. I’m not talking well like the ones you see illustrated in fairytale princess books that are complete with a sturdy bar sweetly dangling a bucket that is lowered down by a crank. This is a smelly stone pit of mossy green liquid and a cracked pail with a ghetto rag wrapped around the handle. One must hold onto the rag, and very strategically toss down the pail so it actually sinks in order to fill up with water. Technique must be executed perfectly lest you wish to be stuck with a floating, empty bucket. Then the pail must be drawn up quickly before all the water leaks out the crack. Considering filming a reenactment of my successful first throwdown to show everyone at home was one of those “Makes You Think” moments.

Just like the time I spent three hours in the blazing sun scrubbing children’s clothes with a bucket of water, a wooden plank, and a gristly brush. Again, I was secretly proud of the sweat and cracked knuckles manufactured by my manual labor until one of the Baez sisters, clearly exasperated by my apparent (but unbeknownst to me) incompetency said, “Pleeease. Just let me do it. You obviously don’t know what you’re doing.” Ouch.

Last week, I bought my first ever mop bucket. The act itself was something I had never thought about let alone carried out. Here Paraguayans drape rag cloths around big squeegees attached to a long stick (check background of photo included above) to use as mops. Every so often, you drop the rag into your bucket of progressively dirtier water, swirl it around, and then wring it out with your hands. I did not find this effective. And frankly, it grossed me out (I know, I know, I admit I’m a princess, okay?).

Fast forward to the lime green tub purchase and washing floors now felt a thousand times easier. There I was commending myself for, ohmyword, mopping floors twice a week. Wasn’t I just the best little missionary. The best was when I shared with my La Ruta girls about my new acquisition and proud accomplishments, and they just stared at me blankly.

Did I say low-key? Ha. Clearly, I am anything but.


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