Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bigots Deserve Access to Development Workers Too

Ña Annastasia showing the abonos verde carnavalia intercropped with mandioca (This photo is completely unrelated to this blog post... but I like it anyways).

I looked at my facebook page recently, and I realized just how… well, gay it had become.  Well over half the links I post are about equal rights, and lgbt news stories.  It didn’t used to be that way.  In the States, due to my open-minded community, loving family and accepting college town, being queer was not something I thought about that much.  It simply wasn’t a big deal. I rarely considered if and how being queer influenced my interactions with people, my safety, or my future.  Liking women (and men) was part of who I was, but it wasn’t a big part. Occasionally I might sign a petition or speak up in a conversation if it seemed necessary, but all-in-all I was very casual in my lgbt identity. Because it was rarely something I felt ostracized for, it was never something about which I sought support.  But as a Peace Corps volunteer, I have to be closeted in site in order to productively do the development work I came here to do.  So now, perhaps due to being closeted, if I’m lucky enough to have an internet signal, I find myself trolling Huffington Post Gay news section for hopeful or shocking news stories.  I have started to closely follow equal rights issues in the states (ex: repeal of DADT, North Carolina amendment banning same-sex marriage, President Obama public support for marriage equality). I have become more interested in the advancement of equal rights and acceptance because I now feel the lack of them.  Ironically, having to hide my sexuality has made my sexuality more central to my identity.
One of the absolute most important reasons to be out, is that people begin to revise their bigoted opinions, when they realize they actually personally know someone who is gay.  When it comes to votes, and rights, they realize that their actions will directly affect someone one they know as a person, not just as a sexuality.  One of the questions I struggled with for a while, was why doesn’t this apply in Paraguay?  Shouldn’t I open here for the same reason I’m open in Indiana?
I realized that it doesn’t apply because as an agriculture volunteer, I am here to work with everyone who has degraded soil on their farm.  Bigots deserve access to development workers too.  There are already so many barriers to over come to get someone to try something new on their farm, why add something else?  I’m not Catholic, but I don’t advertise that to the community for the same reason.  In order to work with as many people as I can, I want to present as few barriers as possible.  If I were to come out at the end of my service, or several years from now when I come back for a visit, the community will know me as a person.  They will know the work I did.  They will have to reconcile, the person they know with the sexuality they object to.
By not being out, I am able to reach more people and be more effective.  But it means I am not able to be a resource for the lgbt youth and adults that live in the community.  No one is out, but I have my suspicions about a few folks.  I can’t be a role model for them, because they don’t know what we have in common.  I can’t come out to them, because it could compromise my position in the community (one well-worn strategy for deflecting suspicion off your self is to become an out-spoken homophobic ass (ex: Ted Haggard, George Rekers, etc).  This is the hardest part about not being out in site.
There is gay rights movement in Paraguay.  Things are changing especially amongst the youth and in the larger towns and cities.  But out here in the campo, there is still a long way to go. Poco a poco, I guess.
I am about to head back to the States for a much needed vacation.  I had heard it said that things pick up in the second year, and that is definitely what has happened for me.  I am involved in things at site.  There are things I wish I spent less time doing (English classes), and things I wish I spent more time doing (abonos verdes, gardens).  But I’m just glad to feel kind of busy for once.  Every so often there are mile stones, that I don’t always write about.  For example, an old host brother of mine, shyly ask me for information on STI and condoms.  I was delighted that he trusted me enough to ask for the information, and did my best to bombard him with the information I had (especially sense health isn’t my sector).  Its been 20 months since I came to Paraguay and I have undergone many changes here.  I know my two week vacation is not enough time to really find out, but wonder how those changes will effect my interaction with American culture.

See you soon America.

(Sorry, this is not my best written or focused blog post.  I promise I’m full of ligament excuses.  But I figured I should post it now, and take advantage of the good internet while I could).

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pets: The Life and Death of Campo Mascotas.

Carrot.  Such a wonderful, faithful little dog.
A month ago, in the midst of a busy week at site, tragedy struck.  My dog, Carrot, died.  And it was my fault.  I went in to Santani on Friday, and Carrot the dog, followed me to the ruta like she always does.   This in and of itself is dangerous and is something I should have trained her out of doing long ago.  But I always rather like the company on the long walk to the ruta, and the usually extended wait for the bus.  But this last time I went to the ruta, I walked down the highway a bit to find a shadier spot to sit and wait.  Carrot accompanied me, brining her in much closer proximity to the racing trucks and motos that she normally gets.  Apparently, moments after the bus arrived and I left for Santani, a truck sailed by instantly killing her.
The family at the ruta where I leave my bike told me of her fate once I returned.  Someone else at the ruta had a car and we brought her back to my house.  Later that day, I picked a nice shady spot under the trees in my front yard with a good view, and buried her.
I still think having a dog was one of the best decisions, in terms of my mental health, that I made here.  Having a dog who would be beside herself with joy when ever I came home, meant that no matter how my day had gone, it always got a little better.  Dogs also help create a structure and a rough schedule to life.  Although out here in the campo, dogs are pretty self sufficient.
Berenjena when she was just a pup.

I had another dog before Carrot, named Berenjena.  But she eventually decided to live at my host family’s house instead of mine.  So now she is their dog.  The only thing that stuck, was the name.  However, even Bejenjena might be on her way out of this world.  She refuses to eat most of the time (she wont eat the carne my host family gives her, or the dog food I try to feed her on the rare occasions she deigns to visit my house).  I gave her drops in case she had stomach worms but it had no effect.  My host father said he looked into Berenjena’s eyes and saw death.  He predicts she will not live for much longer.
If Berenjena dies, I will have lost two dogs and one cat during my time in Paraguay (I had a cat-not pictured- for a short time last year, but it disappeared in August and never returned.  I assume it died).  That is not a very good track record. 
Its not all bad.  I have had a wonderful cat for several months now, named Perejil.  He seems healthy and happy in my house.  However due the fate most of my pets seem to face, I was hesitant to get another dog… But an English speaking Paraguayan friend of mine offered me a little female puppy, and I just couldn’t say no…  I have named her Pepper.  She is very very adorable. Tonight is her first night in my house!
Clearly Perejil enjoys the space heater as much as I do.

My new dog! Se llama Pepper.