Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tai Night

October 17th, 2009

The next day Analia, Yaz, Anne, and I all went out to Claire’s site, which is about 5 miles away from San Juan. Analia and Yaz’s parents took us out in their truck.

But before I get to that, I’d like to describe the events just before we left to go to Claire’s house. It was apparently Liberal day because the Liberales (the other major democratic party) were going crazy all over the city. Bombs were exploding and liberal music boomed from cars parading around town. A giant line of beeping cars adorned in blue and white (the liberal colors) paraded through San Juan, and there was also a big Liberal party that everyone was headed to.

People really support their political parties here in a very public way. It’s not town hall meetings or candidates out pressing the flesh or even a caucus or sponsored event. It’s half the town or more parading around, making noise, and partying in support of their party. I think it’s great that they get involved so much and at least care enough to do something to show their support.

I’ve asked several times what the differences are between the Colorados and the Liberales, and no one has been able to tell me. As far as I can tell, it’s just an affiliation you are born into and there may not be a ton of political ideological differences. I think it’s more like an alliance. I’ll explain. The Colorados have been in power for the last 40 years. You couldn’t get a government job if you were not Colorado. You couldn’t even lie and tell them you were Colorado because either your last name gave you away or you had registered as a Liberal. So all the teachers, all the people that work in public offices, all the low-level government officials...they’re all Colorado. In this way, your political party wasn’t a choice based on your personal ideologies or candidates you sided with more, it was more something you were born into and if you were lucky enough to be born a Colorado, you had a better chance at most jobs. If you weren’t and had the ability to change, it was a job strategy.

This is now reaping effects on the new Liberal administration. All the leaders changed over to Liberal but all their subordinates, who have years of experience and by this time are fiercely loyal to their party, are Colorado. You can imagine how difficult it must be to get things done.

Paraguay was and is very corrupt. You might initially think this would change with a new administration and new leadership, but what I’ve been told is that the Colorados have had years to stuff their pockets with dirty money, and now it’s the Liberals’ chance to get rich. What a mess...

Anyway that’s all I have to say about that for now.

Back to the story at hand...

This time we made Tai food. It was like a spicy vegetable stir-fry with white rice in a lettuce wrap. Most Paraguayans aren’t used to spicy food so Analia and Yaz were going crazy and between the two of them drank a liter of milk. By our standards it wasn’t really spicy but by theirs it was like nuclear at Zaxby’s.

The meal was really delicious. I talk about food so much because delicious meals are so hard to come by here and it’s the thing I miss most about the States. For the most part I don’t eat very much (my host family doesn’t eat dinner and breakfast is a glass of juice or a cup of coffee), and when I do eat it usually isn’t anything to write home about, or at least write home in a positive light about.

Anyway on the way back Analia, Yaz and Anne got dropped off at the Liberal party. I didn’t go because Volunteers aren’t supposed to be associated with any political party, which was a perfect excuse for not going, being that I didn’t really feel like going out.

But in all seriousness I’m not supposed to get involved in politics or associate myself with either party. I can’t attend demonstrations or political events. My host family situation complicates this because they are die-hard Colorados. On several occasions I have walked out to our patio to see what was going on only to see huge Red (the party’s color) flags flying, Colorado music playing, bombs being set off to announce the event, and tons of people talking politics. Just the other night my host mother hosted a political fundraiser in which they sold hamburgers to raise money for a particular candidate they want to get elected.

One time I walked outside and saw a few people sitting around a table with a man in the center speaking most eloquently and persuasively in front of a press-like camera...picture the scenes from the Osama Bin Laden videos but without the long beards and Muslim attire.

Sometimes I hear my host Dad speaking softly in Guaraní over the phone and other times there are groups of adults huddled around a table talking politics. I like to imagine I’m in a house of people planning a secret, government overthrow or imagine this is what it must have been like for communists planning a revolution. It’s not the reality, but it just feels that way sometimes, and I like to allow my imagination to run wild because it’s more interesting that way.

The fact that my host parents are probably the most die-hard Colorado supporters in San Juan combined with the fact that there is a big, red sticker that says, “We are Colorados here” above my door, which accesses the street, probably makes me a Colorado in the minds of most people in town.

We've had a Mexican Night and a Thai Night. Next up...Italian Night!!!

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