The content of this webpage, and everything associated with this webpage, is independent of the Peace Corps and the United States Government, though I think they should read it too. This blog solely reflects the experiences and observations of Jake DeBerry.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Godfather...part 1...no sequels


At the beginning of March, two of the artisans I work with came to my door to ask if I would be the godfather for their 13 year old daughter. They are not technically married because that costs too much money to do, but they’ve been living together for 15 years. Usually I say no outright, but I felt bad doing that so I tried to scare them off first.

My opening tactic was that I’m a volunteer and don’t have much money and the whole baptism thing usually costs some money. They are relatively poor as well, but they assured me I wouldn’t have to pay for a big party or anything. They laid out the costs that I would have to pay, which I could do…I just wouldn’t be able to have any fun in March.

Next I mentioned that I’ll be leaving at the end of August and I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to visit again. Of course I hope to visit at some point in the future, but it won’t be for a long time. If I were the godfather, I wouldn’t be able to take a large part in her life. Plus, I didn’t really know their daughter at all. They said, that’s okay. No big deal. In general, I think they just feel like baptism is something they are supposed to do, but not that vital, more of the Pascal’s Wager thing.

The last topic I mentioned was that I’m not catholic. In fact, I don’t have a religion. I was baptized when I was a baby but I do not subscribe to the ideas and principles of that church. This caused them to pause and look at each other uncertainly. But then Hugo, the dad, told me I could just say I’m catholic if someone at the church asks.

So, after discussing those things, I decided to go ahead and say yes. The parents probably didn’t have another choice for a possible godfather. Their daughter is already 13, a little older than most and if I didn’t say yes, she would have to wait till the next year probably. The parents considered it an honor and the girl probably felt special that a blue-eyed gringo would be her godfather. I was also intrigued at the experience. So, those aren’t the right reasons to be someone’s godfather, but if it sufficed for the parents, I was fine with it also.

The process involved three Sundays in a row. The first was a lecture about baptism. We were asked why we were going to be the godfather/mother. Most repeated the example the leader of the discussion gave, “to be better Christians”. I said to help lead a life of love, forgiveness, and peace, which I meant. Even though I don’t think Jesus was born of a virgin or was the son of god or that if you don’t believe in him you spend eternity in pain and anguish or that I am born with sin from the very beginning of my life, I completely embrace the idea of living peacefully with compassion and understanding and I don’t need any ridiculous dogma to practice that in my life. (In the picture, I was doing everything I could to try and get them to smile...but that doesn't really happen much here)

The second Sunday was the baptism. There were a bunch of people getting baptized because of the time of year. The preacher went around doing a cross on their foreheads, then after him I had to do a cross with my thumb on her head. Then one by one we went up to the bowl to get some water taken from the faucet but now magically holy, poured on her head, meanwhile I had my left hand on her right shoulder. That’s it! Now I’m a godfather.

After the baptism, the adults party, which I wasn’t all that excited about. We went back and had a traditional meal, soup and then guinea pig with potatoes. Usually you get a quarter of a guinea pig and a mountain of potatoes, but because I was the godfather, I got a whole one and a mountain of potatoes. Basically, it’s just a fried dead animal over a bunch of potatoes with a delicious spicy sauce. The animal was intact and I was given a spoon to eat it with. Other members of the family come to the party and we drink and dance to traditional Andean music, there was about 12 people altogether. But, the dancing has to be started by the godfather dancing with the mother of the daughter while everyone watches. I was able to put up with it for a few hours, then I got out of there.

The third Sunday is the first communion. There were tons of kids there for their first communion that had been baptized over the previous months. That was it. Done deal. Now, I actually hope to spend some time with my goddaughter before I leave but she is so shy around me I can’t get anything out of her other than one word answers. But, maybe that’s still helpful for her that someone else is showing an interest.

Thanks for reading,
Much love,
jake

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