Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In which they go fishing!

Tuesday. By now our ragtag team of tree measurers and hole diggers is a well-oiled machine, working with precision and grace….so that we can finish early and go fishing. We have also taken to skipping lunch and relying on a chewing a certain green leaf to keep us unhungry yet energetic. Although this means that dinners are huuuge because they are a combined lunch and dinner so that Dona E gets paid for both meals. No tricking her. So on Tuesday evening we head down to the river (Me, A, Don B, Don S, Don V and Roger) with our fishing lines and guts for bait. Don B takes A and Don S and I across the river in his dugout canoe (no joke) to a good deep spot before checking his own nets. I actually do know how to fish and am pretty darn good at it but I have never fished without a pole and the guys just generally assume that as a gringa and a girl I am completely ignorant and I’m tired enough to let them think that because I do not stake my integrity or my personal identity on my ability to fish. So Don S tells me “If it pulls, let me know” and we arrive at a system where he does all the work and I get all the credit. In this manner I catch three fish in quick succession. A catches one too and Roger across the river is super proud of his teeny tiny catfish. All I get to eat for the next two days is fish.

I have noticed by this point that both A and Don S and sometimes the other guys have started saying “ok.” This makes me flashback to Peace Corps when my counterpart prohibited the word because it wasn’t Spanish. I maintained that everyone understood what it meant but was forced to use “esta bien” or “de acuerdo.” So I feel guiltily pleased about this small cultural imperialism. Don S, by the way is only about 18 years old (20 tops) but he is out of school and has bought a few hectares of land so he just has to survive military service and get married. As such he gets the honorific Don although he’s basically just a kid. He has been our ally through the week, commiserating about the amount of drunkenness and commenting on which of our crew are now single because of it.

It is not my intention to make everyone sound like a drunk but there really is no other way to amuse oneself. I would drink all the time too….well, no I would save my money to pay for my children’s education and to build an outhouse like women do. Generally alcohol consumption occurs within certain strict cultural norms but at levels that your average American might see as excessive. Check out this New Yorker article on the drinking habits of the Camba, photojournalists Dado Galdieri's project K’ajj: Tradition and Ethanolism in the Andes, and/or the WHO report on substance abuse (which really doesn't reveal anything. sorry. so much for my hard hitting journalistic investigation)

Wednesday. Pay day! Post-work, we settle up accounts. This requires more math than I think necessary. The day laborers can choose if they want all their money and the responsibility to settle up with Dona E for the food they ate or we will settle for them.  Either way they get paid surprisingly little for a week of work. I am not naiive enough to be surprised when everyone goes into town to get drunk, including Don S.
At lunch, Dona E tells us that the school will be closed on Thursday for the Aymara New Year and so the professor will not be available to drive us into town. We will have to stay in Yumao forever! So A and I spend all afternoon walking around the community trying to find someone to give us a ride into town on Thursday. We are not met with success. I am surprisingly more resigned to this fate than A. It is finally warm out so I figure I can spend all day swimming and fishing. I do however refuse to eat one more plate of rice and so skip dinner.  

The next morning (Thursday! Last day!) we take everything out of our tent so that we can later repack it neatly and head to breakfast where Dona E tells us that there will indeed be school….ack!  All of our stuff is strewn about the school room! Data sheets! Clinometers! Socks and undies! We also realize that we have neglected to take any photos of me in the field so that morning between fretting about our belongings, playing angry birds, and watching hogs being killed (real pigs, not pigs being pelted by angry cartoon birds) we stage a few photos of me measuring things. I am unfortunately wearing sandals and no one else is in the pictures so you can tell something fishy is going on but it was a diversion.

And then in a truly anticlimactic manner we pack our stuff, dump it in the professor’s pickup, and drive to the highway to wait for a passing taxi. The only excitement on the road is that I cannot find an open bathroom and our taxi driver runs out of gas. And I buy bananas which are super delicious.  On Friday, I have in my head that I will take the day off of work but A informs me that we have a meeting at the office and we have to take our samples to the natural history museum. We also wind up going out for pizza and a party with some colleagues before he invites me to his parent’s for the weekend to celebrate San Juan because evidently we are having a bit of separation anxiety but that’s a boring story for another day.

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