There's a Spanish saying: "pueblo chico, infierno grande" (small town, big hell). I'm not suggesting my life is somehow engulfed in flame (though it has been amazingly hot the last couple days) or that demons gnaw on my ankles and force me into uncomfortable positions involving pineapples (though again there is one particularly evil neighborhood dog about one foot long that daily tries to eat my ankles, and pineapples do tend to appear out of nowhere). Instead I'm beginning to realize the intensity of my small town's issues and think the phrase works nicely for characterizing the rivalries, awkward histories, confrontations and sworn enemy status type nonsense that seem to maintain my town in a strange state of paralysis. Instead of writing a whole lot here, I'll instead direct you to two books I have read in the past that have somehow taken on a whole new meaning for me these days.
Book #1: "Doña Perfecta" by Benito Pérez Galdós. Young modern-minded man educated in the big city arrives in tiny provincial town in conservative Spain. Massive ideological battle ensues and middle-aged conservative catholic aunt Perfecta ends up destroying young idealist liberal nephew. Differences with me: I didn't arrive in town for a prearranged marriage. My host family has not declared religious war on me. I have no blood ties to local crazed conservative middle aged women with a tendency towards killing liberal nephews. Gracias a Dios.
Book #2: "Soul" by Andrei Platonov. Young mondern-minded man (yes, there is a pattern and I seem to be suggesting that I myself am mondern-minded which might be a stretch but so on and so forth) gets sent back to his native small town Turkmenistan as part of a Soviet government project to develop rural USSR (Stalin's answer to Kennedy). This young lad quickly realizes his old town neither cares to hear what he has to offer nor seems to give two hoots about their own miserable economically and socially depressed situation. The good news is that in something like 2 years time (how long will i be in Costa Rica?) said young man helps inspire said miserable excuse for a community to "rediscover" their soul and the resulting happiness in putting an effort into improving their lot. A fair share of desert walking and sheep following is involved. Also a corrupt regional government creep of a man. Differences: I have not landed in my home town. Stalin has not got my back. I don't follow sheep through deserts - in fact there are no deserts. Or sheep. Just cows and dogs and pigs and chickens. A couple of turkeys in the neighboring town. And unlike the guy in the book I have yet to inspire any semi-significant change around these parts.
Well that should give everyone a sense of my recent frustrations. It's all an incredible lesson on community organizing, project planning, local government and maintaining sanity. Glasses raised for a Thanksgiving toast to Peace Corps and a reminder that I must be thankful for the opportunity to attempt to navigate and disrupt my town's beautifully maintained dysfunction. Bottoms up.