Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Aliens in Paraguay

So I came into Asuncion for the weekend. It’s a long bus ride, six to eight hours. Six hours on a good day when there are not people getting on and off the bus every 200 feet, and eight hours if the bus gets two flat tires and the engine breaks and another bus has to come to pick up the people on the broken bus. That happened. The best bus to take is the one that leaves around 1:30 AM from my town and gets into Asuncion around 7:30 AM. This is the best bus because the weather is cool, the bus doesn’t stop a lot because there are not many people waiting by the side of the road in the middle of the night, and you can sleep on the bus to begin work early in the morning once you hit Asuncion.

That is if you can fall asleep.

For the first hour of this particular bus ride I could not fall asleep. So I begin thinking about stuff, really I thought about one thing. As I passed by miles and miles of unpopulated Paraguayan countryside I began to think that if I were an alien visiting Earth and wanted to remain unseen, Paraguay would not be a bad place to land. Might be better to land in Alaska where the population density is about 1 person per square mile but Alaska is cold. Paraguay would be pretty good, it’s warm and sparsely populated. Really for miles and miles by bus there are 5 towns, the rest is just deep dark humid campo, perfect for an alien. Furthermore Paraguay has a variety of legends about things that go bump in the night, so there is already a way to explain the presence of a thing like an alien if you were to be seen by a human. Here are some examples of the myths in Paraguay that would go a long way to rationalizing the presence of an alien(this is taken verbatim from Project Paraguay):

The Kurupi is a very interesting legendary monster, and is still believed today by many people. The Kurupi is a very short, ugly, and hairy being. He lives in the forests and takes care of the animals. Another characteristic that makes the Kurupi stand out was that he is said to have an enormous penis that is wound around his waste several times, and for this reason he was said to be the god of fertility. As being the god of fertility, the Kurupi is blamed for unwanted or unexpected pregnancies. The Kurupi was said to be able to impregnate girls without even entering the house because his long penis would go through windows, doors, or other openings in a house. The Kurupi was used as someone who the women would blame on for cheating on their husbands. He was also said to take women at night, and take them to the forest to satisfy his desires.

Here's a picture of Kurupi:

Pombero's original name in the Guaraní language is Kuarahy Jára, literally "Owner of the Sun", though he is said to be a primarily nocturnal creature. In some parts of Argentina he is known primarily by the Spanish translation of his name, "Dueño del Sol". Although accounts of the Pombero's appearance and nature vary slightly from one community to the next, he is usually described as being short and ugly, with hairy hands and feet. His hairy feet are said to give him the ability to walk without being heard. He is also often described as wearing a large hat and carrying a knapsack over his shoulder. It is also said that the Pombero generally dwells in rural areas, living in the forest, although he will sometimes choose to inhabit an abandoned house. The Pombero is generally viewed as a harmless troublemaker. Owing to his preferred habitat of rural forests, the targets of his mischief tend to be rural farmers. Among his favourite activities are setting loose cattle, stealing eggs, chicken and honey, frightening horses and causing them to throw their riders off, as well as scattering corn, rice, or other provisions. The Pombero is also often accused of impregnating single women either by a mere touch of his hand or by raping them in the night, and it is said that babies who are born ugly and hairy are likely the result of a visit from the Pombero. Another character from Guaraní mythology, the Kurupi, is blamed in a similar manner for unexpected or unexplained pregnancies. The Pombero is difficult, if not impossible, to detect due to his silent movements as well as other supernatural abilities, such as being able to turn invisible, squeeze through impossibly narrow spaces, or other such feats. It is said that one can keep the Pombero from engaging in such mischief by leaving gifts out for him, most specifically cigars and rum, though honey is also an acceptable offering. Thus appeased, the Pombero will abstain from wreaking havoc upon one's home and possessions. In some areas it is believed that repeated giving of these gifts can cause the Pombero to become friendly, to the point where he will guard over one's home, animals, and possessions, and sometimes even leave gifts in return.

Here's a picture of Pombero:

There are many more myths in Paraguay but those are two of my favorites. My favorite part about these myths is that as the descriptions point out many people in Paraguay really believe that these things exist. My host dad insists that Pombero exists and that when I smoke a cigar late at night it is prudent to leave the still burning end of the cigar on the ground so that Pombero can come and smoke it and won't hit me but will instead make friends with me. He also says that if hear something in the middle of the night that sounds like baby chickens chirping it is most defintely Pombero. That's exactly what he says. I think in this particular case he is just messing with me, but it's always fun to think that he's not and he actually believes these monsters roam around in the night.

So if you were an alien, and people saw you they would just say you're one of these mythical creatures.

Not much else to report. It’s so hot here. It takes forever to get anything done. I'm super pooped tired. I’m having the time of my life. More later.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The First Entry from South Paraguay

So I have been here five months without a post, without a picture, without any contact with home save email and phone. I would like to record what is happening here because it is interesting and I would like to remember it in the future. This first post is only going to be photos, because that is what everyone wants to see and frankly I have a lot of them. The photo below is us upon arrival in Asuncion, Paraguay. I was so confused. I had no idea where I was in relation to anything else in any realistic sense. I was a dot on a map and in the last five months I have learned a lot.

So I'm just going to jump into it. I don't want to discuss too much the first few months or the first few people I met, save the family I lived with to start my time here in Paraguay. I lived a few minutes outside a small suburb of Asuncion called Guarambare. One of the things I learned to do that I remember most and have continued to practice since I have been here is butchering animals, in this photo the pig is still alive and we are tying it down so it can't move while we slaughter it. It is not pretty, it is not clean, but it is effective and is food you can eat.

That smiling face is Miguel, my best Paraguayan buddy. The other smiling face is Clement, The American Terror of Women and The Best Damn Pig Artist Who Ever Lived. Girls didn't like him because he whistled and made comments. I liked him because he was a good guy who was open and had no problem teaching you his art. The animal in the background is the pig who was previously alive, now he is missing his skin but still has his bowels. He is now dead. I took some gruesome death shots which I might put up later. For now enjoy as is, por favor, as they say in Paraguay. Let's not start too gruesome.

I call this photo "Terere, Olimpia, and Pig Meat". I am a fan of Club Guarani. Terere and Pig Meat are something all Paraguayans enjoy. Club Olimpia is up for debate.

Fast Forward 3 months. I will now be residing in a town called Las Mercedes for the next two years. Las Mercedes is a road. It is a road lined with lots of nice and interesting Paraguayans who I want to get to know and help if at all possible. Help with what is still what I'm figuring out, but these things do take time. This next photo is of the horse racing track. They like racing horses in Las Mercedes and in Paraguay as a whole.

It is a pretty place in which I live. Flat and expansive with forests and swamps on the edge of one of the largest rivers in the world, The Rio Parana. One of the activities I fill my incredible amount of free time with is beekeeping. Here is my friend and contact Alicdes holding up a panel from the hives. We have a lot of work to do in the apiary in the next year. Right now we are learning together how to raise queens. It's not so hard, the bees do most of the work.

Here is another candid photo of Alcides and I outside the storage house. If you think I look sexy in a bee suit you should see how good i look in a Speedo. That post will come later.

These next shots are of the family I live with. They are great. The father's name is Mario and the mother's name is Antonia. This is a photo from Christmas. We got to eat a cow we had slaughtered just a few days previous! I'm going to be so good at field dressing animals after two years here. Pretty darn neat if you ask me. In the photo Mario is left of me and Antonia is to the right. They put on quite a fun Christmas celebration, I was touched to be able to attend.

These are my brothers here. From left to right their names are Alicdes(different from beekeeping Alcides), Fredi, and Jorge(aka Dani). They happen to be my older brothers. I by about 12 years am the youngest. We speak Spanish, Guarani, and English together. I speak the most English. Sometimes I also speak Spanish. When I speak Guarani no one understand what I am saying. I hope that changes in a year. It seems that every sentence I try to say in Guarani is a sexual innuendo. While usually I like to master the sexual innuendos of a language it would be nice to say I'm hungry in the native tongue without it being a sexy comment. So for now I will stick to Spanish and bad words in English.

These are the boys of Las Mercedes. We like to stay up late at night and drink beer in front of the Dispensa. If a girl passes between the ages of 12 to 75 the boys comment on her beauty through flattering tones of whistles and airy commentary. They're a fun bunch of gentlemen and we can all agree we like our beer cold. In this photo I am pounding 40's and flashing a Westside side. We are all God's children, but the Westside happens to be the blessed side.

I got to go visit some ruins in Paraguay. While not as old as some famous ruins in the world they were nonetheless very spectacular. These ruins are called Trinidad. They were build by Jesuit missionaries in the 1700's to protect the Indians from slave traders. They are very picturesque, perhaps I will post more photos of them in the future.

What is that? Pictures of another ruin? This is Chitzen Itza, a different stone was used and the workmanship has lasted a little longer.

Oh, there I go, I found me again. This is a picture of me in front of the old cathedral. Hard to imagine there used to be a giant dome where now there only stands a ruined relic.

Man I'm sure doing a lot of cool stuff here in Paraguay. Usually I wake up happy and pumped to be here. But other days, as I'm sure you can imagine, it can be difficult to keep a smiling face. When my bike falls out from under me as I'm riding it, or the bus is two hours late, or a spider bites my toe, or I bite into what I think is a nice piece of beef but turns out to be tongue, I can get a little case of the grumpies...

But then just when I'm being a big weeny whiner and complaining that I'm not making enough money or I can't just go to the local pub and have an IPA or I'm thinking "Where all the girls be at", I get a day like today and I stop complaining for about thirty seconds straight.

Thanks for reading my first post, there will be more to come.