In Preparation for Week Long Fat Tuesday

The blog walk of shame- coming back after being gone SO long. I’m embarrassed. In my head I’ve been making the excuse that now that I’m living in a semi-urban city- there’s nothing interesting of life to tell. Like in the campo- the blogs practically wrote themselves- I just had to hold onto the pen. What on EARTH could I write about life in Chitre? It would be like “Today I went to a meeting. Then I went to the gym. The End.” But if your bored then you’re boring- and life in the Peace Corps is far from it, whether in the campo or the ciudad. So with the help of a new notebook and pen (and a cash incentive from my mother to keep me from having to spend the week before pay day eating so many 15 cent eggs I’m starting to cluck) I’m here, again, telling you how much better my life is than your… I mean, than you thought life would be in the Peace Corps.

SO, Today I went to a meeting. Where I was invited to a Kite Competition at a nearby beach. I have lots of nearby beaches. All the kites in the Kite Competition were home made and meticulously decorated- most with detailed paintings of Bart Simpson- many depicting the bare, yellow a** of Bart Simpson. The categories ranged from smallest kite- looking like flying stamps to most airplane looking kites to biggest kites- involving numerous big muscled men to throw the kite, and others to run while pulling it up in the air (many of the muscled men I knew from the gym- who knew all that iron pumping was in preparation for the kite festival). There was an ‘extreme sport’ feel to the whole event as I was told that almost every year, one of the large kites doesn’t get airborne and comes vehemently crashing to the ground, sometimes taking parts of one unlucky persons shin with them. There were no trees to stand under to protect me so stood close to someone with an umbrella. At least I couldn’t say I didn’t try. (Is that sentence correct English? If it is, there’s NO WONDER English is so hard to learn… I don’t even understand it….)

As it always happens, the judges wanted the huge gringa to be the “International Judge” of the Kite Competition even though I’m not positive if I’ve ever even flown a kite. During the heat of the day and in the mid-day glare, I couldn’t even make out a single of the smallest flying stamp kites and in the mid-size competition I couldn’t understand the credentials amidst the noise of the crashing waves, the ocean breeze that was lovely until it got angry and picked up fist-fulls of sand and threw them at you and carried away the words of the seasoned judges (I missed ALL the secret advice about the best wood, string and paper to make the smallest, or fastest, or biggest kites). And of course, amongst the racket that is the constant reggae music that is synonymous with beaches in Panama. So I just chose which kite had the most proportionate and rounded Bart butt and during the large kite competition, I pointed haphazardly at my choice of winning kite and ran to the “safety” of my umbrella while the kite was only just becoming airborne, being thrown up by one of the muscley hunks, me not caring whether it flew or not. The “International Judge” had chosen and was right in her choosing because the kite didn’t take flight and came crashing to the ground- luckily not injuring anybody. It might not have been the winner, but something about that kite had grabbed my attention. Must have been that ubiquitous guardian angel who likes my two shins. I think her name is Baboula.

Then I went to the gym. Aerobics class actually, taught by a fabulous and slightly overweight gay man who shows you the initial run-through of the aerobic routine- a combination of punches, jumping jacks and pelvic thrusts (obviously) and then walks around sipping his Gatorade through a straw while saying ’10 more, now 10 more, last 10, okay 10 more’ and screaming at you in Spanish (which, oddly enough, my mother sometimes does to me in her aerobics class as well)- so I am never sure of what he’s telling me to do over the WAY-too-loud electronic music with a beat WAY too impossibly fast to humanly keep up so I just try to punch harder, jump higher and put more umph in my thrusts until I feel so overwhelmed and hopeless in keeping up and GOD does my ass hurt and GOD DO I LOVE THAT GAY MAN!

One thing you have to know to understand where I am in this crazy world is that Latin America is very macho culture, where gay men do not easily fit in. This is apparent in Panama as well, but homosexuality is just slightly more prevalent and accepted in the Azuero- where I am, and even more so during Carnavles- Panama’s week long version of Fat Tuesday. In this time, it is just slightly more acceptable to be slightly “more” gay- and in this time is where I will find all of my new best friends because I am tired of Panamanian boys, have nothing in common with most Panamanian girls, and, well, I am going to need some serious help in remembering how to put on make up, dressing to my best features and how to wave like a Queen before coming back to the States. And, although Panama is as macho as the rest of Latin America, it’s the real Queens (the gay boys) that do the make up, design the dresses and teach the Carnival Queens how to dance, wave and be lady-like. And, by the grace of the Universe, the real Queens also love the giant tacky gringa- either looking at all the fun things they could do to accentuate blue eyes, but probably more so, seeing me as a charity case in need of great help and it is their duty to serve those in need. I’ve already been offered to have my make up done by one, my hair cut by another and taught to dance by another. I was flattered initially, but now that I type these words I wonder how flattered I should be….

So, tonight at midnight marks the start of Week Long Fat Tuesday and I would be lying if I didn’t say I am completely petrified by what this week entails. I have my tacky blonde head square on my shoulders and I know my limits, the risks, and luckily, all the police, but there is no way to know what I’m in for until I’m in it. Here’s hoping that being made over by the Queens doesn’t mean white eyeliner, hot pink mesh tops and public pelvic thrusting, but then again, I am here to learn their culture and who am I to say those things are tacky?

Until we meet again. And, you are right, and I am SO wrong- blogs can write themselves in the cities of Panama as much as in the campo. You will hear from me soon.

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