Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Cell phone saga....

The Cell phone. Before I get started I need to explain a bit about how some Peace Corps Volunteers experience Paraguay. Here in Paraguay, many volunteers have experienced outright request for the property by Paraguayan friends and family. From what I’ve heard this is not uncommon. Many Paraguayan adults and children will look at your tennis shoes, being named bran (Nike), and say something like “ Wow, I like those…How much did they cost? Can I have them?” or “Oh my gosh, that’s a nice camera, it takes pictures and films? The pictures look nice, Can I have that camera?” The Peace Corps has told us that this is common and there will be lots of people that ask us for our stuff. They have suggested that we not give it away or they will think that we are a walking bank. On the other hand the Peace Corps also says, that whether or not you give them your stuff, they still think you are a walking bank. In many occasions they believe that an american’s presence can get money to come down easily. So what does all this have to do with a cell phone? Well, my host family knows all of the aforementioned. Furthermore, many of the families make sure that their kids and family member do not ask the Peace Corps volunteers for their stuff. They do this for many reasons, but the main reason is because to flat out ask also implies that the person is needy. In order to save face many Paraguayans with just compliment on what you have hoping that you will give it to them. As I mentioned, most host families know this and won’t behave that way with volunteers. Being that my host mother knows this, here is the story of the Cell Phone.

Upon arriving in Paraguay I realized that my phone did not work here. I also knew that the Peace Corps is going to provide us with phones once we go out to our sites in August. On top of that, I remembered why I got cell phone. I originally got it because Karla went to OU when I went to OSU. When Karla came back to OSU they had changed the phone service whereby was required to choose and pay for a long distance phone plan, no longer could one just have local service in Stillwater. For this reason, I kept my cell phone. If the peace corps is going to give us phones, then I don’t need mine. If I want a cell phone when I come back to the US I will be able to get a free phone when signing the phone contract This was my thinking. Continuing with more background info, here in Paraguay one may get robbed for their cell phone. This is very common because cell phone use, text messages and things of that nature are relatively new and everyone wants to try and get one. For this reason cell phone are really popular and frequently stolen. One night when talking to my family they were explaining to me all the things that we need to be leery of when in the capital city of Asuncion. We have a maid that works here at the house with my host family. She practically lives here and goes home on Saturday afternoons and comes back again on Monday. While telling me this, my host dad mentioned to me that Gladys (the maid) had been robbed a few months back and had her cell phone stolen.
This is where the story begins. One day I gave me cell phone to Gladys. I told her that I didn’t think it would work, but if she could get the phone “unblocked” and hooked up here she could have it. Three days later she goes to Asuncion and comes back chatting away to her friends and boyfriend on the phone. My host mom darn near threw a fit. While I was at school, the host mom bombarded her with questions about where and how she got the phone. My host mom didn’t believe Gladys when she told her that I had given her the phone. When I got home my host mom waited until Gladys was gone to the store and she asked me a number of times if I had given her the phone. I told her “yes” and then my host mom assumed that Gladys had asked me for it. Then my host mom didn’t believe that Gladys had not asked me for the phone. So, I had to pull both my host mom and the maid together and clarify before both of them. “Señora, Gladys did not ask me for the phone. I gave it to her. Gladys, I didn’t tell the Señora that you asked me for the phone.” After that things were fine. But needless to say it caused a big mess, all because they are not accustomed to someone giving away something that they perceive as expensive. I can remember Brett Mardis giving me his old cell phone. But I guess here it’s just unheard of. On top of that, I think my host mom would have been embarrassed for her family, had the maid asked me for the phone. Anyway that is the Cell Phone Saga.

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