In the previous post I announced Re-connect. Basically this is a time for us to go back to our training center and do a "check-up" on how we are doing in our sites. This is a good opportunity for many reason, but most of all it gives us an opportunity to find out if our frustrations are shared by the rest of our counterparts or are individual frustrations. Anyway, this post has nothing to do with re-connect, but instead, with arriving "home".
The site of our training center is in a city called Guarambare. This is where we spent the first 3 months in Paraguay. For many of us coming back to this place is like a mini homecoming. We come back to what is familiar to us, families that have always treated us well, and more than anything, the town is accustomed to having Peace Corps volunteers in the town and don't seem to be too surprised when a foreigner is seen walking down the street. The only difference is that Paraguay is not accustomed to having black people walk down the streets. In most cases a black person is a Brazilian campesino (farmer) who is coming to take land. Well when I arrived last night (Wednesday) all of the good feelings about Guarambare went out the window. I am no longer known in the town of Guarambare. One would think that a tall black guy (Brazilian as far as they are concerned) who speaks weird Spanish who lived in a small town for 3 months would be easy to recognize—uhm, not exactly.
Wednesday night I arrived in Guarambare at about 9pm at night. As always the town was lively with people walking to and fro, the normal hustle in bustle in the plaza near the church. I arrived with Jesus who is also about my stature and same complexion (now we have 2 Brazilians walking down the street). When we got off the bus two blocks away from our house (the normal stop as usual) we proceeded to our houses via the normal route. The normal route takes us by the plaza, the church and the comisaria (police station). Lucky for me my family's house is located less than 10 meters from the church and about 30 meters from the police station. In other words this means that I was almost home. Once we arrived to my house I said goodbye to Jesus (as his house is one block further past mine) and approached the main door. To my surprise the door was locked. This is somewhat normal given the fact that I arrived semi-late and my the people in my family are not night owls. Nevertheless, I knew they were awake and had simply planned on waiting for them to hear the dog and come and see who was at the door (a total time frame that would normally take 1.5 minutes). Well as soon as I arrived and noticed the door was locked I heard someone behind me, I turned around to see 2 policemen. As soon as I saw them I became somewhat nervous. I begin thinking of the dictatorship that Paraguay lived under 35 years. These 2 policemen that I was looking at (and were looking at me) were the same police force that was used under the dictatorship to brutalize the people and force them into submission of the dictator, the same police force that tortured people….in other words the same policemen that were staring me down. Finally, I said hello to them ("Muy Buenas Noches!!). There was not response from the stoic policeman and he commenced to asking me questions—"De Donde venís? (Where are you coming from?) questioned the police officer. Me, not knowing how I should respond (I'm from the U.S., I from San Juan Bautista, I live here) stammered out a "huh", in English. Realizing that he didn't understand me and I hadn't comprehended what he said, he repeated the question "De donde venis?" This time I was ready, and I told him that I lived at this house "Vivo aqui." In disbelief he responded "VOS, vivís aquí?" (YOU, live here?) I assured him that I lived at this house and once he understood exactly what I was saying both policemen looked at each other as if to say, "does this guy think we are crazy? I know this family and he does NOT live here". At this moment my host mom opened the door and greeted the policeman. They asked her in disbelief if this guy lived at the house. She assured them that I did and told them that I was an American who lived here in Paraguay and visited them from time to time. The two policemen respectfully excused themselves and bade us good night.
After speaking with my host mom about the incident she told me that a week ago someone had been assaulted in at their home (this does not happen much in Guarambare at all) and the police were watching very closely everyone in town. For this when they saw me (an outsider) they became concerned. So, in my opinion the police did a good job. I think they are very vigilantly to protect their town citizens. I just wish they didn't have to do it in such a scary manner.