Thursday, January 5, 2012

Felices Fiestas

Fiesta in English is translated as party, but that is not quite right for the Paraguayan usage of it. What I would call a party is instead refered to as a brindis (toast), asado (Barbeque), or a meridenda (snack). A house party of any number of people for a birthday or holiday is just a toast then. A daytime party is an asado. And a meridenda is a minor daytime party, like some kind of celebration during school.
A proper fiesta is only a very large gathering, which is generally something between a school dance and a rave. These happen at the municipal tinglado which is just two blocks from my house and occur on holidays or just every couple months. Hundreds of young people turn out to dance from 11pm or so until well into the madrugada (the early morning hours, one of my favorite spanish words which sounds like dragging or drugging). They drink cans of beer, which are thrown onto the dance floor and gradually pile up and are kicked around. A vast wall of speakers is erected at one end of the tinglado (like a outdoor multipurpose area with an arched metal roof, which vibrates with the bass beats) which mercifully faces the opposite direction from my neighborhood. Even so the music can be heard in the entire town, and I believe I have seen my lights pulse to the beat by the drain on the power grid.

So, there was one of these for New Years, and I intended to go because I hadn't been to one in my town yet (we went to one during our first month of training in Guarambare) and because this is the most festive time of year. In (the United States of) America christmas and New Years are winter holidays, and Christmas especially is a family holiday. American New Years is about partying, but even so the party climaxes at midnight, and people tend to head home by 1 or 2 am or so. Paraguayan Christmas and New Years is a summer holiday and is the greatest, roudiest celebration in a culture that enjoys many. Family time is very important, but I love that here debauchery and family time are not kept so distinct and polarly opposed as back home.

Here the New Years party does not even begin until nearly 1am. The time before that is spent with the family or resting up I imagine, because after midnight the fiesta begins, and does not cease until after dawn, if it can even be said to cease at all. I have been told that at dawn the party moves to the river Aguaraymi which runs under the highway just outside my town and has several balnearios (swimming areas with volleyball courts, music, beer, etc). I gave up on partying after I showed up at the tinglago at 12:20am and there was still almost nobody there. I had been travelling, sleeping in my hammock in Aregua and Quiindy and on the host family's couch in Guarambare, and looked forward to a night in my bed.The pounding music all night did not even bother me.

In the afternoon of New Year's Day I finally ventured down to the river. I encountered hundreds of people in and about the shallow water. Folks came from all over our part of the department (administrative region) from San Pedro de Ycuamandiyu to Santa Rosa. They were having a lot of fun.

I ended up at the fancy balneario, owned, supposedly, by a former PC volunteer who married a Paraguayo. I met a group of sullen men of roughly my own age that I know. We never have much to talk about, but they accept me at least. Some people to stand around with and watch Piki-volley, which is volley ball played with soccer contact rules, i.e. feet, head and chest are okay, but no hands. It is incredible to watch. Even so after a while of this I got bored and went to the dance floor. There I enjoyed myself very much, as I have not had many chances to dance in a long while, and I can count on my blue eyes to win me more dance partners than I would other wise get. I left my terere thermos near the volley ball court and I was not too surprised to find it had disappeared when I came back later.

I finally returned home around 9pm after six hours down at the river tired and happy. I am told that the partying has continued, and that huge crowds continue to come to our river.

 I guess it is just that time of year.

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