Praise The Interruption

I’m working on the porch with fan on and bug spray at the ready to fend off my latest fear of dengue fever when I hear the familiar whhooooOOOOP! of the vegetable vendor coming down the street.

I grab my keys and wallet and head outside, grateful for this path of least resistance to replenish my depleted-by-grocery-shopping-procrastination egg supply.

This man has become the super Catholic grandpa I never had. He showers me with blessings, tells me I look like a pretty doll, then sends me on my way with vegetables and benedictions for the coming day. It’s pretty much the most feel-good interruption to your research you could think of.

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Sunday Blues

I left the house for the first time that cloudy day in the evening. Just to walk. Just to move and get unstuck from the same place. I crossed the abandoned construction site, sneakers crunching on dried mud, my eyes thirsty for any view of the river ahead. The sky was dense with the power of mood-changing muscle. What is it about Sunday nights that always gets me? Those Sunday Blues. 

The Meat Of The Matter

I had agreed to transport half a cow to the butcher, so the meat could be used to make five pots of stew for the celebration today. Fortunately, we left the head and the bucket full of intestines behind.

 

The hulking, wobbling masses got loaded into the back of the pickup truck. I was mesmerized by the kilograms of flesh that were now starting to attract flies. At the butcher shop, my attention honed in on the heel of the butcher’s hand guiding the impossibly thick bones across the singing blade of the band saw, set into a granite counter.

 

“If you eat this meat,” V. said, stabbing the cow leg with her knife, “it doesn’t mean you have to vote for him. The politicians do this every year for everyone, for Indigenous People’s Day, but the meat isn’t political.”

 

In Argentina, voting is compulsory. This may seem like a good idea: what a great way to get everyone involved in democracy! What it actually means, though, is that politicians come to many poor communities to buy votes, by promising new health centers, new social assistance programs, new schools. And sometimes they actually build the health centers, or the schools. But here’s the catch: the pristine-from-the-outside buildings topped with “another job accomplished in Namqom” banners often remain untouched, unopened, and unused, until the next election rolls around. 

Easter Exuberance

This Easter, instead of going to the usual egg blessing at the Polish church, I attended my first mass in Spanish. I sat alone on the thin wooden pew watching, as a group of little girls in bright pastel dresses entered with two nuns. The old women, both wearing saggy white tube socks, beige cardigans, and round glasses, organized the combed and sashed nenas into a few rows. I tried not to laugh as I watched the littlest one, in a large-shouldered sea foam green dress, pat the nearest nun’s backside to get her attention.

Towards the end of the mass, we all clapped for the volunteers who had helped out at church during the week between Sundays Palm and Easter. Then the priest told us to give another round of applause, this time for The Resurrected Christ. I have never clapped for Jesus before in my life. 

Strong Women

A group of women from the same church group load firewood for cooking onto the truck

A group of women from the same church group load firewood for cooking onto the truck

One of the many hats I wear at my job is “Girl With The Truck.” For some in the barrio, knowing me is important because the truck is seen as a commodity. I often take women to cut reeds for their basket-making, and field many requests to go to nearby cities or not-so-nearby other provinces. I’ve transported furniture and palm trunks and bicycles and baby carriages and wobbly cakes across the highway that cuts through the neighborhood. I brought a sweaty groom from his house to an expectant church crowd. 

This day, I took a group of friends and aunts to the monte so they could collect firewood for their families. Many have gas stoves, but use wood when the fuel runs out and they can’t afford to buy a tank refill. I abandon my wimpy attempts to help load the wood and instead stare in awe of the strength they expend to provide for their families.