Thursday, June 30, 2011

Week Four: Kure ñembohu guái

What has got these Peace Corps trainees so worked up?  

If you guessed poner la cola al chancho, or as it’s know in english, pin the tail on the pig, go get yourself a cookie.  It’s San Juan, we’ve been without American television for an entire month, and evidently we’ve all lost our minds.  If we’re having this much fun trying to tape a paper tail to a cartoon pig while blindfolded, what will happen when the fire games start?

This year, San Juan has had kind of a slow start.  Originally, all the aspirantes were planning on heading into Asunción for the bicentennial San Juan festival.  Then, the forecast called for rain so the festivities were suspended.  That’s right- I now live in a country where, under the mere threat of rain, the federal government shuts down one of the capital city’s highlight events during the bicentennial year.  In case you were wondering, the weather was perfect.

Generally speaking, Paraguayans take real issue with the rain.  I’m fairly confident that L. Frank Baum got the idea that a character could truly despise precipitation from a Paraguayan national.  When the clouds gather and dark skies move in, folks lose access to larger cities and most activity outside of them ceases.  To be fair, in most parts of Paraguay, this is a solid logistical solution.  Very few roads are paved and when the sky opens up, most streets flood.  Sidewalks are not exactly uniform either, so there is real potential to end up stranded.  Plus, lightning is a major problem here as well.  In the countryside (or campo as it will henceforth be known) people die from lightning strikes on a monthly basis.  In other words, rainy days are bad news.

Back to our story, the rain came the following day and our host mother told us that the local festival wouldn’t have any of the cool fire games because of the nasty weather.  When we suggested checking it out anyway, she in no uncertain terms told us we were crazy people.  Well surprise, surprise- the festival (sans us) was awesome.  One of the other trainees actually got to BE the bull.  (You know the one, the toro candil?  That’s the person wearing a real bull skull with the horns set on fire chasing all the kids.)  My heart audibly broke during the retelling.

Luckily, this weekend we have plans to attend a San Juan festival in a nearby town.  Our older host sister is responsible for creating the Judas effigy, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a fabulous evening.  And yes, Judas will be stuffed with fireworks and soaked in kerosene before he is set on fire.  Cheers.

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