Thursday, October 22, 2009

Motocross Race

October 11th, 2009

This was another very unexpected event. When I was told there was going to be a moto race, I envisioned people standing on the side of a highway watching a few motorcycles racing down a straightaway.

It also took me by surprise because I just didn’t envision going to motocross races as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Panfilo, a coworker, told me the previous day he was going to come pick me up to take me to the race. His cousin was in the race, which was why he was particularly excited about it. He was supposed to pick me up at 2:00 PM. I had several other friends invite me to go with them, but since I had already committed to going with Panfilo, I denied, and waited on him.

He never came.

In this way I confirmed a suspicion I had about many Paraguayans. It’s really normal for them to not keep their word. I know it also happens a lot in the US, but it happens here at a whole different level. For example, my host mother said she was going to wash my clothes one day. Two weeks later I had to take a small load to the laundry-mat in order to have something to wear to my presentation, and sit my laundry basket in the middle of the kitchen before it got done. Another host father said several times he was going to move my light switch to beside the door and put a lock on my door. That has still yet to happen, and just today I bought the lock myself, and am going to have someone come over to install it. I hear tons of Volunteer stories of them scheduling a meeting with someone or a group of people who never show.

You also have to understand the “Hora Paraguaya.” They are not very prompt, which actually is fine with me most of the time. If you schedule something, even something really formal, expect it to actually get started a solid 45 minutes to an hour late. It’s just all part of the really relaxed culture I think. Really, it’s fine by me, because I’m not in any hurry here, and I don’t have to stress about being somewhere by a certain time.

Example...The other night, Anne took a bus from her site to San Juan to meet up with us for some dinner. The bus was supposed to leave at 7:00 PM on the dot. It left around 7:40 PM.

They recognize it as part of their culture, referring to it as the “Hora Paraguaya,” (Paraguayan Hour). The Administrative Manager in the Cooperative even said, when referring to my presentation, that if it were scheduled for 9:00 AM, it would get started around 10:00 AM, which is exactly how it happened. After saying that, she said, “Hora Paraguaya.” It was comical when 9:10 AM rolled around and only my APCD, Volunteer Coordinator, and myself were in the room. Not a single person showed up on time, and the general manager, who should be setting the example, was the last to arrive at around 9:50 AM. I just couldn’t help but think that I was a very low priority on his list especially when he was answering phone calls in the middle of my boss’s presentation. It’s a great example of cross cultural business interactions. It could very well be that another Paraguayan wouldn’t think twice about it, let along consider it rude or a representation of priorities.

Anyway, back to the story at hand, the motocross event. So when I realized he wasn’t going to show up, I decided to ride my bicycle to the race. When I arrived, I was surprised to see that instead of being a straightaway track, it was actually the motocross style track (without the jumps).

It was a really cool atmosphere. Imagine a radio style stage booming music and occasionally announcing over the speakers. There were people all around the edges of the track and in the middle. The sound of motos revving and the smell of their exhaust permeated the atmosphere. I wandered around for a bit until Peke and his friends spotted me and called me over. I hung with them for a while and then headed over to where some of my coworkers were hanging out.

While I was hanging out with Peke and his friends, they started horsing around. The biggest, Gonzalo slammed the smallest, Ernesto down to the ground. He smacked the ground headfirst pretty hard and was slow to get up. He had to be transported to the local hospital by ambulance, and was then taken to Asunción for some test, because a few months earlier he had a really serious motorcycle accident, which fractured something in his spinal column. I didn’t actually find this out until mid way through the race when I called Peke to see where he was at, to which he responded the hospital with Ernesto. I’m happy to say that as of writing this Ernesto is up and about. It wasn’t too serious and he was just given a few days bed rest.

Back to the race...before too long, it started pouring down rain. Igual no más. It was actually nice because it settled the dust and dropped the temperature. Plus I had my handy Marmot Rain Jacket on because I noticed it was likely to rain.

Soon after the rain quit, the races started, and we had fun drinking and talking while watching them go around the track.

The most exciting thing of the day was when everyone started running to the other side of the track to watch a fight. Apparently they had bet a lot of money on the race, and someone from San Juan threw something at the racer from San Ignacio. That caused a big fight. I actually saw a few fists land. Three cops walked up. But here, that doesn’t mean much. The fighting calmed down, but no one went to jail. They continued pushing and arguing, and it kind of fizzled out slowly.

Like I said earlier, when it comes to competition, sports are like politics in Paraguay...corrupt. It’s my experience that they will attempt to cheat in a heartbeat and are quick to argue and fight.

Guess who was the main guy in the middle of the fight? Yep...Panfilo. I guess that’s Karma.

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