Jeyma- Again already. Usually comes with a slightly frustrated conviction. Hannah says that when she would visit people toward the beginning of her service, they would say “nde jeyma…”. You again already…
Perlita, Alto Verá, Itapua, Paraguay
Chara once told me about an interaction she had with one of her community members that we laugh endlessly about. It was simply a response to a greeting. She came upon an acquaintance in Jovere, asked how life was with a hearty “mba’eteiko?” and was answered with a dull “miercoles jey….” Wednesday again… We giggle about this and use it frequently with each other in comedic fashion because, when it really comes down to it, days of the week have no meaning to us. They’re weak, powerless ideas meant for city folk with office jobs. (Sorry to all you city folk with office jobs.) Out here, one man works in his chacra any day of the week, unless he’s devout and it’s Sunday, in which case, maybe he’ll just work in the afternoon after church. Any day of the week is good for doing laundry if the sun is out. People plant, build, hoe, harvest, wash, milk, sweep, cook, till, spray seven days a week out here in the campaña. As campo volunteers, it’s our job to follow along and join in, living as those in our community do and with this lifestyle, weather has more force than a day of the week.
I find myself losing track of days and dates. They speed by without a single soul mentioning them or really even allowing me to their existence. Yet somehow, everyone always knows what holidays and birthdays are when and precisely what day they fall on. I just follow along, blissfully ignorant, as someone (my mother) will most likely inform me the morning of. There’s only one thing that remotely keeps me in check, forcing me to keep track of my days and preventing me from falling into a campo vortex without days or numbers. My schedule at the school in Perlita, my neighboring community, tends to be the most structured part of my life here.
Perlita has a larger, more structured school than Oga Ita. Even though I do teach in Oga Ita, there’s absolutely no set schedule. If the sun has passed its highest point that day and I feel like it (AKA have something planned), I can stop by at any moment and all 12 students will instantly start shouting my name over and over, trying to show me their most recent art projects while Profe Mariana takes a step outside for her afternoon breather. Perlita is much different. It has grades. And more than one teacher. And even a Director. And a cantina! I teach with Profe Julio, the son-in-law of my favorite Señora in Oga Ita, and every Monday we teach together for the whole day.
Despite it being Monday, I’ve never woken up and thought, “ugh…. Monday jey.” I HAVE woken up at 5 AM and yelled out loud, “WHY?” and reset my alarm for 6:30 while having an internal moral conflict that ultimately results in me getting up at 5:10. Monday again. But I’ve never not enjoyed it. I wake up, put on my thick, red wool sweater and a kettle of water. I step outside with Moritz and look at the very first light peaking up over the trees. I make mate and gather up my supplies. Markers, tape, a rolled up charla paper, various objects from the environmental sector’s biodiversity kits get thrown in my backpack. Never will I have as interesting of a job where I get to school and pull a set of jaguar teeth, an ocelot skin, an armadillo shell, capybara hide, or a large poisonous viper in a jar of alcohol out of my bag. Monday again. I set out the door by 6, mate in hand and my morning playlist setting the tone. I walk to Julio’s house every Monday morning at sunrise, past foggy fields, drowsy houses with the slow sounds of señoras stoking cookstoves and chickens getting their morning meal. Roosters crow every ten seconds and dogs look up at me sleepily from their tightly curled positions on compacted grass at the side of the road. It’s too early to bark. Monday again. Julio lives on the complete opposite side of Oga Ita from me and, as the town rests in a slight valley, this means the second half of my journey is uphill to the top of a cerro. The first time I did this early voyage, I came to the top of the hill and was overwhelmed by the valley on the other side, encasing Perlita and Mbatovi and all the forest and field that come with, bathed in chilly fog and lit up by pink and orange light. Monday again.
I get to Julio’s house and sit down with his mother-in-law, Ña Angela. We drink mate and discuss the day’s events and the previous week’s happenings. She knows I’m coming back to the house for lunch, so she always jokes about what we’re going to eat. Chivi or jagua most likely, because there are always plenty of dogs or cats around to be thrown in a pot. And meat is expensive at the despensa! Monday again. Julio comes out around 6:55, tucking his shirt in and we hop in his car. I gingerly open the passenger door that appears to be taped on and hope that this Monday is not the Monday the door falls off en camino. We chat, but Julio is not a morning person and mainly just sucks his teeth. Monday again.
We get to the school in Perlita and we greet all of the other professors. Profe Luis, without a doubt, ask me what the weather is like in the US today. Vice-directora Ramona asks me to teach her English. Director Eger looks at me and mumbles. Profe Osmar says my name in his resounding bass tone and laughs at his mere fortune of seeing me today. Profe Nilda comments on my muddy boots or the muddy state of the road and Profe Martin begins a discussion about poverty or socialism or mandatory voting. It’s 7 AM. Julio sucks his teeth. Monday again. Ramona rings the bell and the students all scramble to line up at the flag pole. Two alumnos are chosen to raise the flag and everyone begins singing the national anthem. The Director watches with a skeptical eye and if one person is seen not singing or there’s low energy from one age group, everyone gets to sing it again. Twice. Monday again.
The actual teaching part of my day is actually the fastest part. I’ll do a small lecture on a specific topic: nature and gardening with the 7th graders, trees and nurseries with 8th, and biodiversity and natural resource management with 9th. Most of the Paraguayan education system consists of copying down given information, so volunteers try to shake things up and make classes more dynamic. We include ice breakers or motivational games to further exemplify the lesson. I ask questions, probing for easy answers, which, with embarrassed, puberty stricken middle schoolers, is like pulling teeth. The eternal dead silence that follows, “what’s something non-living in the environment?” is the only part of my week when I think, “Lunes jey…” But it’s fun! It’s different for them to be taught with questions, with activities, with jaguar teeth, rather than dictation. It speeds by and I find myself drinking terere with the other professors at the midmorning break. Julio warms up. Less teeth sucking, more conversation. Monday again.
The rest of the day flows by. We’ll trek out to the school garden to repair rogue cow damage and check on the cabbage seedlings. I plan my next lessons while Julio teaches for the rest of the morning. At lunch we drive back to Ña Angela’s to eat with the family, probably crocodile or armadillo because by now we’ve surely run out of cats and dogs in all our joking. The afternoon is a repetition of the morning, but with a different grade, less national anthems, less teeth sucking. Monday again. Julio will drive me back to Ña Angela’s and I’ll make the trek back to my side of town on foot. I get home, greet my family, say hey to Moritz, open my door and fall face first into my bed. It’s a long day, but the fact that it’s Monday has nothing to do with it. It’s a day of different work. It’s a day of structure. It’s a day of a lot more conversation and presentation and anunciation. It’s Monday again, yes, but it’s also the day I get to share and laugh and teach again. Lunes jey.