sábado, 24 de octubre de 2009

God and Potatoes

Before I get into the meat and….starch of this post (lame I know), I want to tell two little stories that I read about yesterday in some emails from dear friends back home. Also please take note that I changed the mailing address that I previously posted to one that will be closer to me. In order to protect the innocent I won’t name names but just know that it kept me pleasantly awake last night chuckling to myself. I haven’t quite caught on to the not subtle at all humor of the crowd I’ve been hanging around (the running joke seems to be giving each other a good slap to the face and then falling over laughing as the other person then seeks revenge. When I really think about it, my friends and I do much more pathetic, much more humiliating, and much more painful things to each other that we consider humor but I guess it’s the subtleties of the non-subtle humor that a foreigner will never quite get). I have had to master my fake laugh the past few weeks so some real laughing was just what the doctor ordered. One friend related a story that appeared to be one of the highlights of the past couple months, a story that he called a “race against the clock” piece. Apparently he had replaced the alternator on his car a year ago and it crapped out on him again. So he drove to the auto parts store where they informed him that he had exactly one hour until the one year warranty expired. So he had to race home, figure out how to take out an alternator, take out the still scalding hot alternator, and race it back to the auto parts store just in the nick of time making him feel like “a real tough guy.” Maybe you aren’t laughing but I was. The other story was from a friend who, unlike me, is in the real life working world and told me of his excitement having recently received some executive recognition of his hard work. He then, however, lamented that he felt rather lame for being excited about it because it would “never be as cool as a 40 second keg stand or anything like that.” Cheers fellas
I decided that every once in awhile I would post a little segment entitled “Grandma Wisdom” because there is just too much of it to keep to myself. These are the kinds of nuggets that could only come from the type of lady that brags about being up for hours by the time I start my day without mentioning, or course, that she not only went to sleep at 7:00 pm but also was getting ready for her third nap by the time I woke up. Last week, I was feeling some of the inevitable frustrations that everyone said I would encounter in the first couple of months in site. I was searching in vain for ways to make myself useful as the school announced that the 3 month vacation was now a 4 month vacation and that it would be starting October 16th instead of December 1st. I have since started planning some different activities and classes that will start next week and things are getting busier. But at the time, time seemed to be crawling rather slowly and I found myself calling my grandma to offer some advice. Having grown up in Ireland my grandma has undying faith in God and only slightly less in potatoes. “Eddie, anytime things aren’t going your way, you just need to turn around and say ‘come on God, what you doin’ there, help me out!’ He likes to be called out like that every once in awhile.” Great advice but I think she could also, like any good mother, detect the boredom in my voice so she had this to add: “If you are ever bored, you just need to plant yourself some potatoes. That way you can just have a ball watching a half a dozen pop up where you only planted one. And everyone will want to be your friend because you will have all the potatoes and you can show them how to make a half dozen pop up where you only planted one.” We are talking about someone who is 97 and still kickin’ it so you know this is advice worth heeding. Thanks Grandma.
I am now into my third week in site and, like I said, things are slowly but steadily getting busier while, at the same time, I am feeling more and more comfortable. I am still very much a freak in town. But a freak whose name they know. The Library, Health Center, and Kindergarten, where I will be doing a lot of work, are all literally right next door to each other and about a 15 second walk from my house. My other main counterpart is the primary school (1st through 9th grade) which is only another minute or so walk beyond that. My community is very tiny but if I´m not careful I can find myself never going more than 100 feet beyond my house unless I want to do a lot of aimless wandering, which I am not above. Luckily, I have a bike coming my way from a departing volunteer and I recently discovered the beautiful river that runs behind my house. For some reason, nobody uses it to go swimming even though it is perfect on a hot day (everyday). I figure there is some crazy bacteria/insect/reptile/monster they all know about that I don’t. But I’m happy to keep myself blissfully ignorant for the time being. The first week I was here I took the long way home from the library and walked by the soccer field where the same group of guys play every day. At first the game would stop so they could stare, wonder, and yell the English words they knew. “Hello my friend, Waats cookin man? Sammanabich.” of course followed by riotous laughter. After a couple days of that, I finally asked if I could play and they warily replied that I could. Call it beginners luck, call it destiny, call it what you will but I was a regular Pele that day. “Pass to the Gringo (again riotous laughter)!” They yelled. The ball arced towards me and I swatted at it with my foot like a giant fly and it gracefully backspinned and stopped right in front of me. In disbelief, I ran towards the opposite goal, and when the opposition approached I got tripped up in my feet and kept the ball right with me in such a way that only someone who either had no idea what they were doing or was a seasoned professional could do. I eeked out a cross field pass that came right back to me perfectly in stride and I scored a textbook goal. After the game, everyone was suddenly a lot more interested in me, asking all kinds of questions about where I’m from, what I’m doing here, what the names of my family members are (a popular question that always gets some good laughs), and how I could possibly be 23 and not be married and/or have kids. Wow, I thought, I really won some friends here! Then the kicker was when they invited me to play with their league team that Sunday against a neighboring village. “Sure!” I replied thinking that somehow I had gone from not good to really good over night and that I would soon have tons of friends.
Sunday rolled around and I was picked up by a busted up old van that had 17 sweaty guys stuffed inside. After breaking down twice, sitting on the side of the road for a few hours, and watching a lot of the slap game I already described above, we finally arrived to the neighboring field. The entire community was lining the perimeter, the official uniforms were waiting for us, and I could suddenly feel it in my bones that my beginners luck had run dry. “Uhh hehe so guys I actually uh don’t really uh know at all what I’m doing. Maybe I should just watch this game.” They laughed. I had to be joking! I was their saving grace and I would surely quiet the sideline hooligans who were already shouting things I’m glad I couldn’t understand at me. So we played… I will spare the details a) in an attempt to maintain a shred of dignity and b) because most of the memories vaporized in a heat exhaustive haze. But I played like…well I played to my real ability which is not a good-enough-to-win-friends-who-take-nothing-more-seriously-that-soccer level. Needless to say, the sidelines had a ball and the car ride home was quiet. I was a bald man wearing a toupee and meeting someone for the first time. The truth had to come out sometime. I have since gone out to the soccer field in town and somewhat redeemed myself and I think found a few people that are genuinely interested in being my friend. One fellow, named Franklin, has asked me several times why I decided to come to his little village. I recall a conversation I once had with Benny, the German foreign exchange student who lived with Mark in high school. Similarly, I asked him why in the world he would choose to come to a Houston suburb, to which he replied “well, I didn’t exactly get to choose but I like it here. It seems very much like the real America.” I’m pretty sure we took him that night to the parking lot of the strip mall where we hung out on weekends and drank soda. I hope Benny really did feel the same way that I do because I really do like it here. Franklin assured me that the team has a short memory and knocked on my door the next Sunday to make sure I was coming to the game. It makes me feel like I’m the loser kid in Sandlot. My luck well also came up empty in another sector of my life. The blender inside my stomach was set on one of the red buttons (liquefy, gooify, pulverize, etc.) and nobody bothered to put the top on or hold on to the handle to make sure it didn’t make a mess. I have my suspicions about the source but its best not to try to wrap your mind around something like that because you will get lost in an eternal vortex of beans and weird meats. I look at it as a rite of passage for living in Central America. It’s like going from boyhood to adolescence. You just can’t do it without making an ass of yourself at a family wedding. But that passed and things are great. Despite school now being over, I have 2 different English classes for the 6th and 9th graders that will be starting next week and a rather large scale building project for the library. I’m not expecting too big of a turn out for my first couple of classes but every kid I’ve talked to is very excited about having something new. English is, as I expected what everyone in town expects and wants me to teach all the time and I was really hesitant because of all the other needs. But I plan to turn it into more of a day camp weaving in a lot of different topics and doing a lot of different activities. We’ll see how that one gets off the ground. Did I mention that last week Honduras made it into the World Cup for the first time since the 80s! The good ole USA sealed the deal on a last second goal and this country went nuts. Im excited. I just got back from a couple of days on the island of Amapala for a regional meeting with all the volunteers in the south and the country director. I have lots to tell that will have to wait for the next post when I have more time. Its beautiful and only 30 minutes away! Another incentive to come visit! I promise I promise I promise that picures are coming soon! Very soon! I just have to get them from my camera to my usb thingy and then to the world. I miss you.
Albums I am currently loving:
John Hartford- Steam Powered Aereo Takes
Stevie Wonder- Innervisions
Ween- Live in Chicago

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