I saw a frog in the street tonight as I sat with my two señoras in front of our house. Its presence is the harbinger of rain tomorrow. I don’t know how the frogs can sense that rain is coming. After it starts raining, we usually see huge toads in our kitchen or in the street. Although rain enters our kitchen and leaks through the roof in some places, I welcome it because it has been in the 90s yesterday and today. On hot days such as these it’s so nice to have some ice cream or some fruit juice. Tonight we had watermelon and a mix of watermelon and pineapple juice that I bought at the depsensa (aka Mom and Pop convenience store). We threw it into a blender with some sugar, added some ice, and voilá. The cooking practice continues: last night I made soy empanadas; or rather, I went to the despensa across the street to buy some green pepper to add to the empanadas while the other señora who lives with me cooked the vegetables and soy. Nevertheless, I saw her technique and I will be able to do it by myself the next time! She used two tomatoes, two onions, soy (obviously), black pepper, oregano, basil and garlic. After that mix is cooked, I had to wait for it to cool. Then you put it in the store-bought empanada discs, fold it like a taco and close it, assuring there are no holes where the mixture within can escape. We cooked our empanadas in the oven rather than frying them in sunflower oil like most do. They are much better for you if they are baked rather than fried. One must beat one egg and then spread a bit on top of the closed empanadas to make sure that they get hard in the oven, I suppose. Currently I am fighting a nasty cold. Kleenex surrounds me here on my bed while I listen to Julieta Venegas. The Paraguayan diagnosis of my ailment is that it’s too hot and there is too much dust, which makes my throat hurt. They suggested that I go to the health center, but I only started feeling under the weather on Sunday. If it continues, then I’ll go. But I don’t feel any different from when I have had colds in the past. It’s just a matter of riding out the stuffy nose, congestion and lack of energy. I hope that it doesn’t turn out to be a sinus infection, because then I will probably have to go to the doctor and get a prescription. I am thinking more about moving out these days because I don’t like using my señora’s pots, pans, refrigerator, and her general kitchen space. The downside is that living by myself requires that I do more cleaning and that I spend more money to buy my own appliances like a fridge, microwave, etc. I know volunteers who have lived without a fridge, but in the middle of a Paraguayan summer, I must have a freezer for ice! New volunteers who are following up another Peace Corps volunteer are more likely to live in the former PCV house already equipped with necessities. That is not the case in my town since I am a first time volunteer here in the urban area (about three years ago there was another Peace Corps volunteer in a rural part of my town). Yesterday and this weekend were boring and depressing. Two years started to feel like an incredibly long time. I started to consider if it’s worth it to fly back to the States for Christmas…or stay here and go somewhere like the beach in Uruguay or Argentina. At this moment I am thinking Uruguay; a friend of mine has family there and invited me to spend Christmas there. Tomorrow, however, you may find me checking flights to the States. I am disappointed to be missing my favorite season of the year, with the colors of all of the leaves changing, the brisk air, the clear blue skies, the high school and OSU marching bands, football games and cross country meets.
Today I hear that some city council members reported the mayor of my town to the National Control Office (Contraloría) because he is allegedly misusing royalties funds from Itaipu and Yacyreta dams. Every municipality in Paraguay receives some royalties money to support community projects.
The part that is most difficult regarding this report is that the guy (Robert) who reported it ran for mayor in the 2005 elections, the most recent election year. He is my next-door neighbor, and I visited him this past week to learn more about the community work that he has been doing. He rode around on his bike for two years interviewing everyone in BB (that's code ;)), my town. He knows what parts of town flood when it rains, where bridges are needed, the phone numbers of all residents; the specific needs of each barrio.
He has at least 10 pages of detailed maps of the whole municipality to appropriately plan his work with neighborhood commissions, youth groups, etc. He has helped put on painting and theatre workshops and has recently started giving talks in school regarding leadership. At the conclusion of said workshop, the students wrote their suggestions for future talks. From these suggestions, Robert is formulating 35 more talks regarding sexuality, politics, pride, drug addiction and professional skills such as how to write a resume. I was so excited to meet him because I felt that I had found a community contact that could be my door into effective, meaningful work. He inspired me to work more with youth as well.
Nevertheless, what with these city council members’ accusation of the mayor, I don’t know if I can or if I want to work with Robert anymore. People in BB will start associating me with him and will assume that I am a member of his political party. There are people who don’t like Robert and say that he doesn’t do anything for BB (whereas it seems to me that he apparently does). I still haven’t found a good community contact with whom to begin my work. There are many people who say, “We’re going to work together,” or, “Anything you need, let me know,” as though they really have the time and energy to dedicate to helping me form and carry out a project. Then when I text so and so, they are consistently busy, don’t respond, or their responses are shallow and don’t answer me directly. It is hard to find someone genuine with whom I can work, who has the best interests of Acevalenses (people who live in BB at heart, doesn’t think I’m a spy and is a good listener?
I don’t know what sources of information to believe anymore. I doubt the ability to know the truth about anything going on in this town; or in Paraguay, for that matter. Now I understand why development work is so difficult: it’s unbelievably, inextricably political. It’s a game of lies and power grabbing. It’s no wonder that people are apathetic and jaded about progress here.