“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” -Sam Keen

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Semana Santa and Renovations

It’s official: I’ve been in San Pedro for an entire week. So far, I’ve been having a pleasant, lazy time with my new host family and friends.

I arrived on Tuesday evening last week and spent the better part of Wednesday shopping and setting up my living space. I am now the proud owner of a bubblegum-pink mosquito net, among other things. Going shopping was an interesting experience here in San P. because most of the shop owners are part of an inter-related web. While I was in a home goods shop buying a hamper and trash can, I mentioned that I was looking for a standing fan. The owner promptly got on the phone, called around, and found a couple of different stores selling what I was looking for. She even sent one of her shop girls with me so I wouldn’t get lost. At first, I was a little weary of the situation, thinking that I was going to get cheated, but I later found out that I payed a fair price for everything. People were just being that nice. It was weird.

During my Wednesday shopping day, I also started asking around for the prices of paint, cement, etc. for the renovations that my room needs. Once my landlady saw that I was serious about fixing up my rooms, she made arrangements for a couple of contractors to look at the space and give me an estimate. We agreed on a price and they started working today. (No worries: all of the renovation money I’m spending will be deducted from my rent.) Once they finish, I’m going to post before and after photos.

I’ve also been spending a significant amount of my time cleaning because my rooms were not in good condition when I arrived. Think strings of dirt hanging from the rafters and cobwebs on the doors. My first night I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid a spider was going to fall from its web and onto my face (and I’m not talking about friendly little spiders like Charlotte. These guys were big and scary.) The workmen are making everything dirty again, but at least my mind was at ease for this past week.

As for Semana Santa, my family didn’t do much of anything. There are no egg-dying or candy-gorging traditions here; instead, the religious people go to church, the non-practicioners stay at home, and everyone eats chipa. Most of my friends had the chance to make chipa with their host families, but my family buys it instead of baking it, and I didn’t push the issue. I don’t really like chipa anyway.

On Good Friday I decided to go to the plaza to check out the festivities. It seemed like the whole community was out, but only a cluster were actually participating in the religious stuff. Everyone else was enjoying the scenery more than anything. At 3 o’clock (apparently the time that Jesus died...is that actually a thing? I wasn’t aware) there was a very serious ceremony in which the priests took a wooden statue of Jesus off the cross. First, they removed the INRI sign and all of the priests took turns bowing and kissing it. Nobody touched it with their bare hands; everyone used their vestments. They went through the same process with the crown of thorns and the rags that covered Jesus’s body, and finally lifted the statue off the cross and gingerly placed it into this decorative coffin-looking thing. Then whole crowd joined a procession to a nearby convent, where I assume there was a Mass. I only walked to the outer gates, so I’m not really sure what followed.

That was the extent of my Easter celebrations because I didn’t go to church on Sunday, heathen that I am. I’m pretty sure my family didn’t go either, and I didn’t want to go by myself. I spent most of Easter Sunday reading and watching movies, but truth be told, I was missing my mom’s baked ham and potato salad. Next year, when I’ve had some time to prep, I’m going to incorporate some American Easter traditions into the mix. Maybe an Easter egg hunt.

Other than that, my days are pretty uneventful. Now that my rooms are being worked on, I’m pretty much tied to the house because I don’t want to leave my stuff alone. Next week I’ll start observing classes in the local schools and making some real plans. But for now, I think I’ll take a page from the Paraguayan play book and drink some terere on the porch. It’s a beautiful life.

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