The surprises never end, and they’re never the surprises you expect. Just when you think you have hit the limit for confusion for the week or maybe the month, things like this happen:
HEALTH CENTER COMPUTER: *angry screen of blinking cursor DEATH*
HEALTH CENTER STAFF: Don’t do it, computer! Come back! Don’t go toward the light! We need you so we can fill out all of these forms about everything we do here!
COMPUTER: *refuses to even turn on*
FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER: Now what? We have to print more copies of this letter of commitment, and the only thing left is the ancient typewriter that attacks me every time I so much as look at it.
COUNTERPART: The alcaldía is the only place with a copier within 20km; you’ll have to go there.
(This is true. Also copies in town cost money, and the alcaldía (town office) is free. I was sold on the idea. I did not realize quite what a big deal copies are here, though.)
SECRETARY: *standing beneath a big sign that declares FOTOCOPIAS* Hello?
FNPCV: Our computer at the center died and we need copies of this letter. Can we copy it here?
SECRETARY: *looking extremely doubtful* Well...
FNPCV: Just ten or so? Please?
SECRETARY: You’ll have to talk to the alcalde.
FNPCV: The... mayor? Are you sure? All I want is...
SECRETARY: He’s that way. He’s in a meeting.
FNPCV: I... *secretary leaves* ...okay then?
ALCALDE: *is in a very important-looking meeting*
ASSISTANTS: *are looking bored in very important ways*
FNPCV: (to assistants) Look, all I want to do is copy this letter...
ASSISTANTS: You’ll have to talk to the alcalde. Go on! Just walk in!
*everyone stares, but no one stops talking*
FNPCV: Uh, hi? Sorry, I... just want to make some copies? Of this letter. For the health center?
VICE-ALCALDEZA: How many?
VICE-ALCALDEZA: *decisively* You’ll have to bring your own paper.
FNPCV: I have to... right. Okay. Yes. I can do that. Bring my own paper. Sure thing.
So I made the copies eventually, with further help from the assistant mayor, who apparently needed to speak directly to the secretary in charge of photocopies and give specific directions. I just stepped back politely and let the whole surreal thing happen until I had exactly ten (they counted) copies of the letters, which I will be bringing back to their office next week, when I actually do need to see the mayor so he can sign off on anything the local government promises our project.
I wonder where they’ll send me for that?