Friday, March 16, 2012

I was slightly chastised recently by a few friends for being so lazy about posting to my blog. My excuse is that I wait far too long between blog entries. And then I feel compelled to write time consuming long-ass missives that try to cover the events, (well at least what seems interesting), of the past 3 or 4 months - - and since I am not a note taker so much is dependent on my bad memory and therefore effectively lost. I really need to learn to do short, sweet, and frequent posts . . . here´s one that´s not too terribly long.

Cue music! - - Vicente Fernandez, tal vez. At a hearty, ear shattering level of volume, of course. After a minute or two, or ten, or fifteen, the music ceases, and a voice comes booming over the loudspeakers mounted in the church steeple - - echoing through the streets and fields. “Buenas tardes moradores (dwellers) de Cahuasqui! We want to announce that in this very moment Doña Maria Guajan has carne de rez (beef) to sell in front of her house! If you desire to buy carne de rez, then you should just go to the house of Doña Maria, at this very moment!” More than likely one of Doña Maria´s milk cows has just dropped dead at 2 in the afternoon, and by 3 PM it´s been carved up into pieces and some little kid has been dispatched to the town offices to tell the local officials, who will then make the important announcement. And it is relatively important, because although just slaughtered pig or chicken is available from street vendors every other day or so, meat of the cow is a delicacy that comes along just every so often. No matter that the cow likely died of old age and that her flesh is tough as shoe leather . . . it´s beef!

The announcements are for me one of the most endearing things about Cahuasqui. Almost all community events are noted via the loudspeakers - deaths in the community; election of the reina; meetings and mingas of the water committee; arrangement of bus transport to a neighboring community for their fiestas; etc. etc. All announcements are almost always preceded by a few moments of pop music, sometimes Ecuadorean, sometimes Mexican or Cuban and sometimes American. The music is a warning, a little advance notice, that important messages are about to be broadcast, so pay attention! When it comes to the death announcements the pop music is replaced by slow and solemn Andean flute songs, usually El Condor Pasa is the favorite. Most unfortunately, sometimes the recording is left running too long, and the soothing flute music eventually degenerates into a sort of reggaeton/trance version of El Condor Pasa, which is not exactly “death announcement” music.

Once in a while the jefe of the water committee will get on the loudspeakers to go on and on about how lazy everyone is because no one showed up at yesterday´s minga to clean the irrigation ditches. He really does get going, and his harangues can last a full fifteen minutes and by then everyone in town is fully ashamed of themselves for being vagos y egoistas (lazy and selfish).

On rare occasions the town officials will decide that things are just a little too quiet around here, that some life needs to be injected into the streets and fields. When that happens we get music, just music. No announcements. Sometimes the music is pretty good, maybe some bomba, maybe some bachatas. A few days ago the music was not so good, however, because we got over an hour´s worth of Aerosmith and Guns n Roses. Makes me wonder, who´s running this show, anyway?
- -
Last week I made an early morning trip down the hill to the ferreteria for a few supplies, and on the return busied myself with keeping an eye out for stray plants and flowers that I could dig up later to plant up at my place. For a short while I lose myself in my scheming, but in a quick moment the sound of charging hooves snaps me out of it. I look up, and racing down the narrow path is a rather large cow with an impressive set of horns on her, and alongside her a calf, struggling to keep up. Ten meters behind them a man is running down the hill crazily waving his arms and yelling for me to “stop the cows! Stop the cows!” All I really want to do is get the hell out of the way, but I instinctively grab a stick, and start swinging the stick to and fro while calling out in a shouting whisper “shoop, shoop, shoop.”

The distance between the cows and I is shrinking rapidly, but with three or four meters to spare the momma digs her heels into the ground, almost just like in the cartoons, and the calf follows suit. Coming to a full stop, she puts her head down, tears a tuft of grass from the ground, nonchalantly turns and heads back up hill where she belongs. The owner shouts out the obligatory “Que Dios le paga!” as he too turns back up the hill. I take the stick, break it into a few pieces, and mark the locations of the plants I want, and then I also head up the hill, back to the house.

I bought my little piece of land in November of 2010. As work progressed on the house I confidently told anyone who would listen that I would be moved in by May. Little did I realize then that it would be almost May of 2012 before I actually made that happen. It´s kind of shocking to see how quickly the past 16 months have come and gone - - but little by little I´m finishing up and moving in. Pretty soon it will be time for the huasipichay (housewarming party), and all 2.3 readers of this blog are invited.