Volunteering and traveling in Argentina to proclaim God's great love, and hopefully not getting sick along the way.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mucho mejor

A part of me didn't want to write that last post. It's hard to find oneself complaining about ministry work (and it's a double offense when you're working on memorizing Scripture that clearly says "Do everything without complaining or arguing..."). At the same time, I think it's great for me and for others to know how imperfect I am. That's actually why I appreciated Corrie Ten Boom so much in her book The Hiding Place. She's so honest with herself, reminding us that we aren't the ones who need to have our act together before we serve. Jesus is in the process of sanctifying us mientras, or while, we serve.

Plus, alfajores day seems to make things better yet again. Today, the teenagers were much more talkative with us than these past three weeks, praise the Lord. We talked mainly about music and dancing. It led to a cultural revelation in fact!

Question: Do you know this song?


If you're from the US, the answer is most likely no. Why? Because you don't like soccer. This song was very important this past summer in the World Cup. No, it was not the official song of the tournament, but it was widely spread. Back in Holland for our conference for example, we had a dance party night and the dj played this song. EVERYONE knew the song and was singing along, EXCEPT.. you guessed it. The folks from the States.* Might I also mention that there were about 50 different countries around the world represented on that night?

What does that say about US?

Maybe I grew up inherently unable to like soccer. Maybe I never started playing until I moved to Colorado two years ago. I think it's pretty clear I'm not perfect. And while I would love the uniting factor for this world to be Jesus Christ and not soccer, might it be more important for me to recognize something that does unite us and then take that avenue to share the good news about Jesus?

When playing with the boys from the institute on Tuesday I had noticed another something peculiar about soccer. These boys aren't interested in following rules whenever we're making a toy with them, or trying to pray or what have you, but they certainly will follow the rules when it comes to soccer. Even if it means they are the ones penalized. It's as if the rules of soccer overrules all things. Truly, truly fascinating! To me it seems there is no greater way to reach the nations than through this sport. At least, for the moment.

Perhaps in understanding the importance of soccer, relationships can be formed with the teenagers I meet here. I still remember introducing myself to one of the boys (Jaime) and then asking his name. He responded with a shout, "Me llamo Leeeeeee-onel Messiiiiiii!" Haha. Too bad he picked my favorite player from Argentina's team (also featured in the official video for the World Cup!).

This week, I was also given the opportunity to share a small lesson from the Bible. In Spanish. I prayed right before I began simply saying, 'God help me!!' I first read from Salmo 8, about how God created the heavens and yet still thinks of us. I told them about how much I thought about this in college when I took a class that talked about the billions and billions of stars amidst the billions and billions of galaxies. Then how the earth is so small in comparison. And if the earth is so small, how much smaller are we?

I then read from Psalm 139 and talked about how not only does God think about us, but He knows us intimately. He loves us!

Corto y dulce. And what an experience! I thank God for giving me the words within my limited vocabulary. Andrea told me afterward that I can keep giving a short message every week! Woohoo!! Which then adds to the prayer list: pray for words and for discernment on what to talk about!! Chau.

*From the States. Did you know it is offensive to say you're from America when you're in Argentina? Argentina is in America, after all. South America, but still America. Something to think about.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This week en los institutos

Primero, fuimos al instituto por los ninos. I asked for us to walk instead of to take a taxi because I wanted to save us some money (y me encanta caminar!). The walk was quite pleasant except for one part: I had a horrible attitude.

Back up--Monday, as previously stated, is our day off. However, we were asked quite late in the evening to finish making these juguetes we in the States like to call Jacob's ladder. I'll just say this, great toy, next to IMPOSSIBLE to make. Especially within a few hours. Especially when we decided before hand to walk instead of take a taxi which means we will have to wake up earlier than normal.

We tried. We also didn't have very good glue, or very strong ribbon. I joked by saying it's like making bricks without straw. Too far? Possibly. The point is, we finally finished making these toys very late and were a little on edge the whole time. We ended up having to start over with some of them and they still wouldn't function properly. Argh!

So in the morning, when we tried to explain the problems we had, it was decided to just leave them home and we would play futbol with the boys instead. I could live with that, but I was sad that we had put so much work into them, only to see it lead to nada. To use a favorite German phrase, "Kaput!"

Thus, I was super frustrated. Frustrated that had I known we were going to finish these toys on our own that I could have been working on them all week, not a few hours the night before. Frustrated that we had to use time on our day off to do so (I am very protective of my Sabbaths!). Frustrated that I didn't get a, "Thanks for trying," or, "Nice effort."

There were a couple other little things not worth mentioning.

I prayed rather angrily about all of this. I knew in my heart of hearts that in the grand scheme of the history of Sharayah, this was nothing. I know that some of my frustration comes as a result of cultural shock and communication differences that I'm just not used to. I apologized to God for being a bad word. Then I felt bad for thinking of that word, but thought it was the only way I could really describe myself in the moment.

I just needed help and lots of it. Again, I'm thankful God gives us emotions, but I so need His grace to practice self-control.

It was about the time we started playing futbol that the boys stole my heart and all was better again. We only had three boys with us: Rodrigo uno y Rodrigo dos, y Chechu. We had a blast, playing Americans v. Argentinians, adultos v. ninos, and other mixes. Afterward, we talked about our favorite sports and drank some Coca-Cola.

The most beautiful moment came when Javi passed the ball to me (the verb of choice for passing is sacar) and I had a chilena! That is, a bicycle kick (over my head) to score a goal. Que lindo, no?! Oh, it was a great moment, particularly because the boys started to respect me afterward. Hopefully this will help our friendships progress! I am praying that this be the case!

My only sadness by the end of our time was that Nahuel wasn't there. He had to work on some school work instead. Bummer.

Despues, hoy, fuimos al institutos por las chicas (que estan embarasada o que tiene ninos). If you thought Tuesday's miscommunication was bad...

Oye vey. I had the understanding that this time Sarah and I would be making food for the group (hence yesterday's blog). However, as we let into the house the two other women who help at the institute, I noticed they had a large torta en sus manos. In addition, we had the impression that these women would be bringing the supplies for this week's handcraft. All they had was the cake. What to do?

I won't go into these details, but again, on the walk to the institute, I just couldn't believe that this was happening otra vez! I couldn't help but think that it's very clear I will need to be guarding my heart with these situations. I need, so desperately, to trust that the miscommunication is not just to me; that my identity is not in whether or not an event goes well or not; that others are not going to meet my criteria of communication needs. I can do my best to explain what I need, but I can not expect changes right away (if at all). All in all, very humbling.

We had a good time again with the young ladies. Not as many were there, but it meant more time for me to play with a certain adorable baby, so how could I complain?

One thing though. A girl entered the institute today with her parents. They went into the main office for a meeting and in about 15 minutes, the parents left. The director then came to present the young one who was to be joining the group for "a little while." You could see sadness in her face, and I felt great pain for her. What must it be like to be in her shoes!! Que triste! Join me in prayer for Clara.

I don't know what else to say right now, as I'm quite tired and just needing some time with the Lord. Chau.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Experiment-ating

 I'm really okay with making up my own recipes. No, really.

I'm teaching Sarah how to experiment with baking. I'm a major fan of baking, and adding a little twist to make the delicacy my own. I would say it all started when I decided to bake a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving back in high school. It was all uphill from there, as I then basically subscribed to Better Home and Gardens recipe website, learning the basics of almost every sweet baked good there is. Okay, I'm exaggerating there, but I did bake a lot of cookies (I think the Burgesses remember when I took over their kitchen a few times one summer).

Below is a little something we decided to make for the women we meet with each Wednesday--the Institute for pregnant teenagers. We meant to make something for them last time, but forgot, so we picked up our game with this delicious treat which is Banana-bread. Ish.

Basically, we looked up the recipe for a basic cake. Then when all the essential ingredients were there, I decided to add a goop (technical term) of honey and smashed up one banana (for fear of feeling bad for taking all the bananas as well as remembering that the banana flavor is pretty strong on its own), and BAM! Banana bread. Ish.
After one bite, because c'mon, the baker is obliged to take the first bite, I realized not only that it was good on its own, but that it would also taste fantastic with a glass of leche or with some mantequilla de mani (it's not cacahuete here). I tested these hypotheses and was quite correct ;)

I also chuckled at how much Sarah struggled with abandoning the recipe after so far. She's the type that likes to stick to the rules. I mean, I do too, I just.. um.. yeah..

Special Note: Please realize that this blog is also my diary of events in Cordoba, so not everything is going to burst your spiritual bubble, if you will. Aside though, in that every part of life screams Christ if we allow it to. As a friend of mine might've said had she tasted this delectable delight, "It's a party in my mouth." In the same way, I was tempted many a time to say, "Taste and see..." but decided to stop there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chapparón

Mondays are our (Sarah's and my) free day. The rest of the week is not packed with things to do, but there's enough stuff where we can't just do what we want (you can do whatever you like..) as on Monday. We were excited for two reasons this week. 1) We were no longer sick (well.. that's debatable with me, but I like to play too much) and 2) We have picked one Cordoban monument each month to explore for the rest of Sarah's time here. That is, nine months. This week: Catedral de Cappuccinos. Yes, you read that correctly.

However, when we woke up, we realized that the weather was not going to be on our side:

 
That's not the canal--that's the calle!!
So we tried to wait it out. The old mantra came to mind, "Rain, rain, go away.." But then we rethought that because we'd much rather have an option of going outside in such weather than have to walk to the Institute or to el Refugio with flooded streets. Que lastima!

To pass the time, we prepared for our weekly visits by making versiculos to give to the children and teenagers. After about an hour of that, we got antsy. Yes, we were definitely going to brave the weather. 'Let the adventure begin!' we thought. First stop--la Libreria so we could buy cospeles.

Only, it was closed. Haha. Thankfully, I had enough for us to get to el Nuevo Centro (we opted for a mall instead of the church, because we were thinking about the walk back. Plus, I was looking for a jacket. My bulky sweatshirt wasn't going to cut it for much longer.). The only issue was that we had gotten soaked crossing the street that we wouldn't have crossed in the first place had we just decided to use my cospeles. Silly rabbits..

At the mall, we perused the various shops and also enjoyed a non-meat-filled lunch!!
Mmm.. broccolli quiche, a fruit salad (which normally makes me gag, but fruit here is so much sweeter) and Sprite. All for the low, low price of 16AP, which equals 4 dollars.
I landed on a sweet blue Reebok jacket and enjoyed the payment process because I got to practice more Spanish. I'm thankful that here I don't look too far off from being a native, so most people just speak to me in Spanish. I still struggle though, but the sales rep reassured me that I was doing just fine.

There's a movie theater at this mall, but nothing was playing that we had to see. And it seems that movie prices are pretty universally ridiculous. Though it's interesting to note that I can still go see Avatar in 3D if I really want to, no matter Mark Driscoll's thoughts.. Additionally, we didn't want to stay out too late watching a film we didn't want to see. Two of our teammates have already experienced the not-so-wonderful reality known as mugging, and we'd much rather play it safe.

After grabbing some super rico helado, we noticed it wasn't raining anymore. Yes we shall walk back those 2 short miles! It was only the last quarter of a mile that it started to rain again. Understatement. It started to pour (hence the title). By the time we got back to the casa, we were soaked. As in, we could feel water all the way to our thighs. The natural reaction was to go big or go home:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Senor de los Anillos

I can't help it. In fact, I blame the Ammermans for my new found (always missing?) love for Lord of the Rings. While I'm still thinking about actually reading the novels, I do find myself thoroughly enjoying the films. That said, we finished, in Spanish, the first film today. The catch is that we don't um.. have a copy of the other two. Well, we don't have any more movies in this house at all, as we don't have a television any way (which is a-okay by me!). It's sort of a bummer, but nonetheless, it was great to spread out the first film into two nights (this Friday and last) because it gives me an excuse to continue my blog post special often referred to as Lessons in Cinema! [Trumpet call]

I'm fairly certain every person's favorite character in the LOTR series is Gandalf (for those who aren't focused on looks. We know that Legalos wins every time.). And how could you not love him? The "None shall pass" moment; the fun fireworks he brings into the Shire; the riding on a white horse to save the day (though not in that order).

It was a certain instance I want to draw your attention to: the moment in the Mines of Moria where Gandalf is thinking about which direction to go. Frodo sees the first glimpse of Gollum and gets nervous. Frodo has a pretty good sense, at least in the beginning, of when things aren't right. Yet Gandalf talks to him about how it's not our place to decide whether or not one can live.

"Many that live deserve death. Many that die deserve death. Can you give it to them?" he says. "Do not be too eager to deal out death or judgment."

Phew. What a concept. Even if you watch till the end you know that on one hand it's good for Gollum to be spared, to help the lads get to the fires of Mordor. On the other hand, he causes so many problems, and the poor creature loses his life after all is said and done.

We remember the hopeful moments with Smeagol. How he did come to a point of wanting true life again.

I think of how frustrating dealing with someone so fickle can be. I think first of all of myself, un pecador, vacillating back and forth with so many various issues in my heart and mind. But with myself I'm also more optimistic (I think it's because I'm bias and I know that God is pretty merciful). It's the others that I'm worried about, and that's where Gandalf's words penetrate my corazon.

"Do not be too eager to deal out death or judgment."

No one in particular comes to mind right now, but it does make me want to be more careful. Other Biblical principles enter my mind--those that describe God as slow to anger and abounding in love, or how 1 Peter says it plainly, that the Lord is not slow as we think of slow. The whole day = a thousand years concept.

If God can be merciful with me, he must be "pretty merciful" with the rest as well. Could it even be why certain not-so-great people in this world lived so long, because God was giving them another chance? Was that other chance including you and I to go out and do something about the situation?

What type of people would be included in our circle if this principle of holding back death and judgment were true for our lives? Just sayin.

Chau.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Compartmentalizing the alfajores

Yum!

Thursday is alfajores day. Alfajores make Sharayah very happy. As I told Heather, "I will look forward to Thursday for a long time." Amen.

What's also pretty great about Thursday is it's my day with teenagers. Last night, Andrea (Raul's wife, the other Andrea is Samuel's wife.. hmm.. kind of like all the Amanda's back in Colorado..) pulled me aside and asked if I would read a verse to the teens on Alfajores day because she would not be coming. My face probably did that I'm-excited-but-also-scared look. Something probably like this:

No, I'm not trying to look like Harvey Dent in this picture.

But I said yes. This morning, I was praying about what to read. Well, I was praying about two things really. First, I was facing that ever popular skepticism about what I'm doing here. As in, as a missionary. Am I a lunatic? Am I mad for coming all this way to face fairly stressful situations every day just to tell people about some guy named Jesus? And then I asked what I should read.

Here's how awesome God is though. I've been feeling compelled to read Hebrews for the past couple of weeks. At the same time, I've been reading 1 and 2 Peter (also believing that's what I needed to read in answer to prayer) and I didn't want to rush that. So I read through it twice, and have savored many moments. Enter my two-question prayer and the beginning of God's response.

First, I was reminded that Hebrews is an argument proving how much greater Christ is than "just a man." The logic of even just the first two chapters got me excited to be serving again. Not that I didn't know these things before, but as 2 Peter says, "It's good for your minds to be refreshed." Indeed, I didn't feel crazy anymore!

Second, I had been thinking about Psalm 139. And so by the end of this personal conversation with God time, I pretty much landed on that one as the section of verses of choice. Then reading Hebrews, I remembered Psalm 8 and felt like the two chapters were pretty great for each other. When we got to el Refugio (where we make the alfajores.. mmm...), Raul took a moment with us as we were beginning to knead the dough for the cookies.

(In Spanish:) "I would like to take a moment to share some verses with you," he said.

I thought, 'Oh, so I won't be leading a Bible study type thing today after all. That's fine!'

But then Raul began to read straight from Psalm 139! Wait, really? As if to say, even if Raul didn't read them, I would have. Surely the Lord wanted to tell someone in the room something today! Who, I don't know, but it's a crazy experience.

I later told him this, and how I wanted to read Psalm 8 too. He looked at me with surprise. "The Spirit must be doing something," he had said. He then told me that I must lead next week. Gulp. :P

As we continued making the alfajores, I noticed the boys were still not talking to us as much. I then stopped to just pray about this. Only He could make the conversation start after all. About 10 minutes later, one of the Spanish-only speaking volunteers turned to me to tell me something they had told her.

(Also in Spanish) "Whenever you gals speak in English, they think you're talking about them."

I responded with a little smirk, "Cualquier ellos estan hablando en espanol, pensamos que ellos estan hablando acerca de nosotros." Everyone laughed. And the tension then relaxed. The door opened quite nicely and we all talked much more. Praise the Lord! May Alfajores day continue with such blessings! Chau.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dos institutos

This week we finally got to go to both Institutes. While I still have three more ministry opportunities in the week, I almost wonder if it's best to compartmentalize the experiences for the blog's sake. Almost wonder, slash, am going to compartmentalize for the time being. It's been counted, weighed and divided.

Boys Institute:
As you may have read earlier, I have started praying for the boys at the institute by name every day in preparation for the relationships to be built over the next two years, Lord willing. This week, I've already seen some small fruits from those oraciones (yours included!).

The first is with Nahuel. He had not come la semana pesada, but I found him in the computer room where he was playing with the screensaver. I invited him to come paint with us and that was when we introduced ourselves. Over time, we found ourselves laughing a lot together, especially when I had added too much water to the paint and it was taking much longer to dry than normal.

Unfortunately though, a lot of the kids were rough-housing more than normal. Two started throwing punches and eran muy ruidosos--something I've seen before with other kids I've worked with, but I have yet to really know how to respond. Please pray for my discernment with situations such as these!

As a result, Nahuel ended up getting hit too, and one of the boys damaged the painting he had completed! I was frustrated, and sadly watched him leave the crowd. As no more work could be done until his otras cosas had dried, I patiently waited and prayed. Entonces, I decided to bring the paint to him (we were making pieces of a Jacob's ladder, by the way). He was laying in his bed looking sullen. But then he surprised me by his response, "No! I wanted to paint the next one rosado!" I had brought green. So I slowly walked all the way back to where the others were to grab the um.. pink.. and then to slink away. Thankfully, Nahuel came back with me afterward, and we finished what we could before we had to leave.

In that time, Sergio dos joined in our laughter about making the paint dry. We were blowing with all our might onto the wood blocks, and when that wasn't enough, we would sling the blocks in a giant circle, como un helicopter, really fast. We were a comical sight!

I can not wait until I can speak more to tell them about Jesus! Please pray for us as we continue going each Tuesday morning!

Girls Institute:
The craft went well, and a lot faster than expected. I also have their names ready for some prayer action, but in a moment. First, I wanted to add that two other young women are coming with us. They are from Columbia and are daughters of a pastor who has moved here this past April to help with a church. I was blessed to talk with them a lot as a way to practice my Spanish (I got way too many compliments from them about this), as well as to meet more people my age that maybe I can have deep relationships with outside of the OM team.

Aside from these few comments, I also made a connection with Cynthia in the Institute. She pulled me aside very specifically so as to learn more English. While I'm not wanting to have reasons to speak more of my native language, I am grateful for any way to build trust with these young ladies. That's what I viewed this first week to be more or less. We played with their children so as to show them that we do care; we told them of our intentions of coming every miercoles; we want to be as dependable as we can be (even though we know we are not God, and have so so so many flaws<--understatement). Anything to help them see we're not doing this for our own glory.

So now I'll list the names to add to your prayer list:
Belen
Soledad
Diana
Cila
Cynthia
Laris
Maria
Jessica
Nelli

The stories begin, and I'm excited for what else is in store! Chau!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Latin Time

I'm finally coming around to writing this. How Latin of me..

The common phrase that we have when we go to kiss each other on the cheek during a greeting is "Como andas?", which is literally, "How are you walking?" That is to say, there is no sense of hurry even in how one is doing.

Actually in Argentina, time is a little bit more Western. I have yet to notice anyone more than maybe 10 minutes late to an appointment, such as church. At the same time, let's say everyone has arrived, nothing officially begins until 30 minutes later. Or an hour. Por ejemplo, we had a group meeting at el Refugio yesterday that was supposed to begin at 3. We arrived for set up around 2:45, were ready to go by about 3:15, but it didn't start until 4.

It's relaxing. And as a result, I find myself enjoying my long mornings (most of our events don't start until 9 or 10am.. so really 10 or 11). I've even started this wonderful routine of stretching and a small work out, prayer time, Bible time, reading time, and if there's a little bit to spare, I'll get on my computer. Monday is a bit different however, since it's my day off.

I think much about what it means to be on time. In the States, there is a sense that by being on time you are showing respect. Being late means you're not taking the event or job seriously (although I wonder about the whole, showing-up-on-time-but-not-having-your-work-done part). Here, it's a whole 'nother story. Whether you're on time or late, it's more important that you value the relationship--that you check up on things you talked about last time you were together or that when you do spend time together, it is quality time.

I guess I'm thankful that when I worked with youth in Colorado, I had to understand that they still valued time with me, even if they didn't always show up (or let me know they weren't going to show up). Such times prepared me to be aware of another Latin American truism, that you always say yes to coming somewhere or doing something. The idea is that whether you actually come or not, you have every intention of coming because you care about the person.

When we stop to think about that as citizens of the US of A, we might cringe. Wouldn't it be better if we just said that we weren't coming?!?

Possibly. But need I remind many of you on Facebook how often you say you'll come to an event, but actually do not. Mmhmm, you heard me!

In Holland, people are very honest with you. They aren't afraid to tell you that your hair doesn't look good today, or that you smell funny. These things have nothing to do with you, they would say, they are just a piece of your outer appearance. Really, they love who you are very much.

Presented with both extremes, brutal honesty and white lies, I wonder if we just have to let go of ourselves. How much less stressful life might be if making an appointment meant we didn't have to worry about taking care of last minute things before seeing someone. Just do them, and meet with the person eventually. How much do we take offense to little comments about our hair, when really it is just a small thing (and usually lasts only a day). Does this make sense?

As long as we love God and love others, we're on the right track. As long as we remember this story isn't about me...

The final remark on Latin time has to include siesta. Between about 1 and 3pm most of the shops (although it's different in the city center) aren't open. What's happening during this time? Only the most wonderful thing known to man--NAPS!! When was the last time you've had a good nap recently? I think it might be my spiritual gift, as it has been included in my near daily regimen for many years now (the couches at 4Cs knew me very well). I wish I could scientifically prove to you how much more we need to include naps in our lives, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

Or look it up for me to prove my point. It's up to you. Chau.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Aprendiendo the Espanol

As we walked to her house, Sarah and I prayed that she would provide us Spanish lessons. We prayed that if not, another opportunity would come to our attention immediately. The second half of that prayer was unnecessary, because not only did she say yes, but that we could start the next day and that she wouldn't charge us. "I need to study up on my English any way," she had said.Esta es mi maestra Romina. Ella sabe mucho ingles porque ella trabajo con MCI en Argentina. Ahora, es una policia. Tiene un hijo llama Fabri que viene todos los sabados a Escuelita.

Speaking of Escuelita, we had our second hang out today. I had a lot of fun, because I was able to remember some of the names of the kiddos that I played with la semana pasada. They were so great when they worked to pronounce my name. They insist that I must have a nickname--I respond with equal persistence that I do not. But Sophie has come up with a little diddy to help remember my name that is pretty stinking cute, and some of the others are saying it with her. In time, we will all know each other!

Before going to Escuelita, another team member named Coco met with me and Sarah to talk about the games we wanted to play. Enter what probably would have been a great scene for Lost in Translation: Argentina Edition. Coco can only speak Spanish, Sarah can only speak English, I know a little bit of both (haha, okay, a lot of English, but a little bit of Spanish). I have the list of games before me; games I've played with teenagers and little ones multiple times. We can do this right??

You try explaining "Screaming Ninjas" in Spanish. Although I had told myself that I should probably find the Spanish equivalent for words like ninja and point, there's so much more that goes into explaining el gritando ninja. Multiple times, Coco and I found ourselves drawing pictures as if we were, and sorry about this Geico, cave people. Sarah said that there were multiple times she had to hold in her laughter.

Coco was overall very gracious with us though, and I did get to practice hearing the language and talking with him more. That's something I appreciate so much. And I've found the value in working with kids more when it comes to learning the language. Enter scene two:

The game is "Telephone." Everyone knows how to play telephone. Not everyone knows what to say when there are words in another language being whispered to you (thus, not fully enunciated) and that you need to pass on. Which means, even when I knew some of the words, I would then say "Something, something, something...Ah! I mean: algo, algo, algo.." But the little girl didn't understand that she wasn't supposed to include the English part. So when I "retaliated" by having them play with the English phrase, "Jesus loves me, this I know," they finally understood how hard it was for me.

Pretty funny though. All right, almost dinner time, so chau!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Nombres

After my first day in the institute with younger boys who have no home, Javi asked me what I thought.

I said I didn't know for sure what he wanted to hear from me, but that all I could think of is how much I want to pray for these boys every day. "Me puede escribir los nombres de esos nin(y)os por mi?" I asked (oh my Spanish...). Honestly, I don't know what to say with these boys, nor do I always know what to pray. I just believe in a big God who knows what these boys need most.

And I figured that if you joined in prayer for me, how much more powerful might that be?!

Names:
Dario
Sergio (who goes by Chechu)
Rodrigo
Facundo
Sergio dos
Rodrigo dos
Nahuel
Jonatan

Thanks, and adios. Though I think I'm going to start using the more colloquially appropriate: chau.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More chicken fun

Certain sounds for Latinos are hard to differentiate. So by chicken, we actually have to make sure they switch the sounds so that they say what they really mean--kitchen! Chicken.. Kitchen.. so close!

Esta noche, yo aprendi como cocinar an Argentinian specialty, Tortas Fritas. Though en nuestra parte del pais, I think you can just call them Fritos. Asi las patatas fritas. As Eva described them, they are are like sopapijas (sopapillas for Mexican pronunciation), just not hollow. To better understand their taste as US-ers, I would tell you that if you add some powdered sugar, you've pretty much got yourself some Carnival style funnel cake. Translation: Kathryn Banas would thoroughly approve of how unhealthy they are for you!
Notice how tan I look! (Don't worry, it's just the lighting.)
Eva had made the dough, but she said I can make it myself next time. My official cooking day is Friday, so I also have asked her ensen(y)arme how to make tortillas from scratch. Can't wait!

Last night, as some of us scrounged for dinner, we laughed as Heather accidentally pulled off the stove door. I wish you could have seen her surprised face! All in a day's adventure a la casa en Las Palmas! Adios.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Opportunity!

Javier, Sarah and I walked to a nearby Institute, as it is called. There are many institutes in our area, all serving different purposes. One is for teenage boys, another for girls, and this one specifically for pregnant or already-mom teenagers. Government funded, these homes serve as places of refuge for adolescents who come from abusive, or just unhealthy home lives.

When we first arrived, no one was answering the door even though we could hear people inside. So we stopped to pray, and sure enough, someone answered the door. We had also prayed that they would let us come often to this place to serve, even though we have no idea what exactly we would be doing.

The administrator was very kind to us, and enthusiastic about us coming. We start tomorrow, in fact, and can come every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the morning. I'm a little nervous, because I'm not quite sure what to say not only because I can hardly speak Spanish, but because I do not know what to say to a 14 year old with a 1 year old child.

Tonight, we came up with these. Little crinkle toys for the moms to make for their children. Additionally, we put together a vocabulary list to help us explain the making of them. I'm a bit more at ease having something prepared--although I just found out we might be going on Thursday instead of tomorrow. Oh, how I'll need to make a blog specifically about Latin time! :DI would just like to point out that there is some hand sewing going on in this by yours truly! I feel so jill-of-all-trades right now!

I am confident that Christ will work in me, but I can use your prayers. Ultimately, I want to remember that He has equipped me in the first place, and I rejoice in the opportunity to serve! Thank you Lord for answering our prayers! Adios.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

American hub

I have been told that it is always necessary to find your "comfort food" when living in a new place. My parents were so funny when I went to see them, or when we travelled to other countries, whenever they perked up at the possibility of a Starbucks.

It's also funny because sometimes American versions of places/things in other countries are way different. For instance I never knew that Smarties were made of chocolate until I went to the UK. Doritos too, are labeled things like Paprika, or Tangy Cheese.

The point of these places and things though, is to have a little piece of home whenever you're not feeling great. When the said honeymoon period of cultural shock wears off, where do you turn? Other than the Sunday School answer obvious, that is.

I think we found our place yesterday, and I mapped it out to be only 1.55 miles away from our home. Additionally, it's a Supercenter version!
You may be thinking, how can one ever support "The Empire" as my dad likes to call it. Well let me just say we don't have Starbucks, I don't like McDonalds or Burger King, so this will have to do. Plus, it has more stuff to look at. Adios.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Escuelita

Every Saturday team mate Sarah and I get to go to something akin to a Vacation Bible School held in a local park. We only have about a dozen kids come, but it is a chance to get to know our neighbors better, as well as share the gospel.

Today we played a couple games, shared the story of Philip and the Ethiopian (the Bible translation left out the eunuch part. I wonder why :P), and had snacks. I worked with a darling girl named Sophia and afterward we played on the amecas (aka columpios) and paseo de manos. There was also a young man who went by Fabri and was always insistent on having a carrera. Despues, corrimos a su casa tambien!

I was reminded of our time with Upward in downtown Dallas. The kids were pretty rough with each other (in fact there was this one that I wanted to show him a lesson more than once!), but more of an issue to me was the environment. The playground is sparse, and the ground is covered in broken glass. I thought of what it would be like to clean it all up. How much time until it was covered again?

Las Violetas are also in need of being cleaned. What might the testimony be for a group to come and just spend a week cleaning up the neighborhood? I'm certain there would be a lot of questioning looks, which might lead to great conversations about why we come ("Because there's this guy named Jesus..."). Who knows?

Just a thought. Time for almuerzo though, so adios.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Primer dia en el Refugio

You see, I'm a people person. Yes, I enjoy my alone time. I enjoy some hard labor, just-me-and-the-wind, time. But I love being around people.

The past couple days were spent not only getting to know the city, but also arreglando er.. repairing.. a donated building for future use as a cultural center in the heart of Cordoba. Last night we had a team meeting where we dreamt about the possibilities of this building as it is in an ideal location, and many people are wanting to be involved. It's sort of the cultural trend right now. As Ron Burgundy would say, "It's kind of a big deal."

Wow. That just happened.
All this to say, I've done a lot of work with things. Granted, I've gotten to know the team better which is wonderful, but it's not exactly what I'll be doing in the long run. And since I'm staying longest out of the group here (though trying to convince Steph and Joy to stay the extra year), I'm very eager. Then there's this thing called learning the language that I very much desire. Hanging out with all the gringos is not going to cut it.

Hoy era diferente. One of the ministries with OM here in Cordoba includes El Refugio, a refuge center in the slum called Las Violetas. To clarify, I'm living in el barrio (espanol por "neighborhood") called Las Palmas. Just a few blocks away is Las Violetas. This is the work I've been looking forward to most. While I'm excited about el centro cultural, I'm more excited to work with los adoloscentes en el Refugio. Today just solidified that.

We got to teach some locals how to use a computer. As in the very very very very very basics. Then I took a break to help the teenagers make alfajores. Holy frijoles these are good. Picture two cookies with dulce de leche, a sort of milky caramel sauce, in the middle. I might have accidentally broke two of mis galletas in order to enjoy them right away. :P
We had lunch with our fellow worker Javier and his family. Javi and I cooked the milanesa (pollo y carne) and prepared the pure de papas while Heather and JD made a lemon meringue type dessert. Even more fun, was speaking with his family that only knows Spanish. Hooray for learning more vocabulary!

Upon return (after a short and necessary siesta), we helped some even younger children learn the ways of the computer. I worked with two little ones who had to share a computer. They were so young it didn't matter, so we just played with Paint.

I was intrigued by the way of things. It's so interesting to meet people who have no comprehension of technology (well, perhaps most of them understand the infamous cell phone--the one technology I'm currently avoiding), while I have spent today not only blogging, facebooking and emailing, but youtubing as well. Then I think about how difficult it would be to translate those verbs... Any way, I love it here.

I love that I get to be in this place. As I was talking out loud with another teammate, Cordoba is not quite third world, but definitely not first world living. It's a chance to get my feet wet in terms of living in a place so close to people in great need not just spiritually (as is the case all over the world), but in other areas tambien. As the not so pleasant aromas invade my nostrils every once and awhile, or I catch site of yet another stray dog dropping, I keep thinking how this is not so bad.

I believe I'm still in the first stage of culture shock, and may even eat words here. Nonetheless, please read this:

Christ died for me. He traveled more than just 1,000 miles to get to me. He did more than just live in an uncomfortable place without knowing the language. He was beaten, bruised, rejected in every way. Just for me. The least-most deserving candidate of grace in the world. Doing this, living here for just two years of my life is nothing compared to the cross. I mean, I get to eat empanadas and many things with dulce de leche. I get to drink mate! What is pulling a small wire in order to flush the toilet? What is drying my clothes on a wire? What is inconsistent internet? What is not always getting to do what I want or see all my friends from home? Nothing.

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things..." Philippians 3:8

And there is so much more I could lose!!

Adios.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Cordoban culture

I am always intrigued by public transportation wherever I go. I enjoy the American style that most cities go by--a swipe card that you can add money to over time, or even a hard card that you can prepay a certain amount and save money in the long run.

Then there's Paris, where (at least when I went in 2008) you pay for 10 tickets that are small and easy to lose, and that you need to not only get onto the subway, but also to get off of the it.

I greatly enjoyed the German style, which I hear is also true in Holland, of the honor system. You pay for a ride and then you just get on the train. Kendra and I had bought a 3 day pass because it was so much cheaper, so that we could hop on, hop off anytime we wanted. If you're ever stopped by authorities without proof that you paid for the ride however, you would be fined for 40Euro on the spot!

In Cordoba, you MUST have a cospele if you hope to ride the bus. A cospele can be bought from many little neighborhood stores, and they all come in little plastic packages as if they're pieces of candy.

So, you take out your cospele, you go to the bus stop (you also must know where they are for the most part as they aren't well marked!), and you wait. When you see the bus you want approaching you've got to wave it down or it will not stop. And when it does, jump on as fast as possible so the bus driver can keep going :P It's really not that bad; it's more of an adventure.

From there, you hand your cospele to the driver, and he pushes a button to give you a receipt. Similar to Germany, it's important to keep your receipt so that if the policeman checks you, you won't have to pay a fine.

Another part to Cordoba bus culture includes young people who come on for a couple stops. They hand out various items, usually cards, as in greeting cards. You are allowed to take them to look at them, but then later they come around to see if you will buy it from him/her. It's not annoying, just something I'm not used to. I would suggest that you take the card because you're not forced to buy anything, and it's very fascinating the types of cards for sale. They're often very silly.

Welp, there's your Cordoban culture for the day. Hopefully I'll make a video for Nolan about it. :) Adios!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Suzy homemaker


Today was THE day. Okay, no. There are many more days like this to come.
Something very important for the culture in Cordoba is for the women to run the house. I don't find this offensive when I think of Paul who became like the people to reach the people. It also helps that in the process I get to learn how to make delicious food! Today: empanadas!!The final product was delicious, but lacking only one thing. Eva taught us how to make the insides of the empanadas, AND we learned how to "repulge" (reh-pool-gay). That's the term for the cute little folds on the edges of the treat. We did not, however, get to learn how to make the discos, or outer part. We had bought those pre-made. So we told Eva that the next time she visits her mom she will have to learn how so we can feel complete in our empanada-making skills.It gets me excited for the next cooking lesson, that is for sure. Adios.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Culture shock begins

There are several stages of culture shock. The first being "the Honeymoon period." Everything is new and wonderful during this time.

Coming into Cordoba and knowing of this stage I tried to hold back on my feelings. It was hard, because the first thing that smacks me in the face about Argentina is flying during the sunrise. With all the lights off in the cabin, the city lights shone in great contrast to the Atlantic Ocean. Then our plane had flown just south of the airport in order to turn around and land. Which meant that yours truly got to watch the sun rise from her window seat! Praise the Lord!I was grateful to find two of my teammates in the Buenos airport--Joy and Stephanie. We went through customs and took care of checking our bags (for the last time in a long time) together. Then came the flight. Well, then came the bus to take us to our plane in order to fly. I was blessed again with a window seat, and was able to take some snapshots of my casa nueva: Cordoba.
We were greeted by Raul the Uruguayan, who drove us to our home in Las Palmas. From there, we had lunch and talked to the other three teammates that had moved in yesterday.

Which brings me to an often joked about definition for OM. Operation Miscommunication. Originally, I thought I was the only American coming to the team, and I was also led to believe I was the only one coming at all this year. Not true. Joy and Stephanie, two who had been friends throughout college and had traveled to Chile together were coming too. I met them at the conference in Holland.

In Holland, we had a skype date with our OM leader in Buenos. It was then we learned that there were 7 more coming. Seven more Americans!? Aye carumba!! But what was really meant by the statement was that there were going to be 7 total--something we recognized today. And yet if you're really paying attention, you'll realize that there are still only 6 of us. Confusing? I know. But in the end it all works out.

I decided to take a short nap, and then woke up to find our group going to the city and to church. How could I refuse getting acquainted with our city a bit more? We got to see the heart of Cordoba, which is filled with plazas where so many people hang out. We also got to see the cultural center that OM has been working to get ready for awhile now. I will have to take pictures next time I'm there. While visiting the cultural center, I was told that not only is Cordoba one of the youth centers in the nation, but art (all kinds of art) is its main focus.

Ezequiel had driven us around so that we could go to church. There is a church service that takes place at our home in Las Palmas, but we decided to come to this other one. Here I learned the traditional greeting: a light kiss on the right cheek. And don't go forgetting to say goodbye without one either!! By the end of the night, I had met so many people: I've never been kissed so much :)

My favorite part however, was during praise time. My brain was tired of hearing Spanish as well as trying to respond back, so I asked God if there was a way He could make this moment of song more personal. The next song was a word for word translation of Philippians 2. Mom knows how much I love that one. But if that weren't enough, the NEXT song was a song we used to sing in Iglesia Vida Nueva, the Spanish speaking church I had attended in Colorado. Ahh to something familiar. Thanks God!

Now I'm very tired. I'm encouraged with the Spanish I do know, although I'm more excited to learn more. Oh.. my ankles are swollen from not getting to elevate them enough. I'll get on that. Adios.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Waiting waiting

Welp. I'm waiting. For some reason I like to torture myself by staying up super late before the big day of travels so that way I just sleep on the plane. On this occasion too, many of my new friends are/were leaving before me, so I had motivation to stay awake. It means though, that I'm running on 3 hours. Phew.

Here's what I'm thinking about:

I'm thinking about my new best friend Ariane. We met one of the first days of the conference, and I was impressed by her insight into something going on in my life. We got to spend some time together getting to know one another better, only to find out that she's going to Argentina too! She will just be in Buenos Aires instead, but that's okay. It's nice to have someone to talk to in the same time zone experiencing near the same thing in a new place.I'm thinking about this great card game I played with my German friends: Kakerlaken poker. It is hilarious!! And I met a young man whose name I'm not allowed to share because of where he is going. We formed many new inside jokes from this game, and just kept laughing and laughing...

I'm thinking about the many people from the conference I went to in February who are now well on their way to various locations around the world.

I'm thinking about all the words from other languages I've learned. I can't say them right now because I've near lost my voice from staying up so long.

I'm thinking about this really quite amazing story about two Northern Irelanders and how they came together in marriage. I'll just say I'm such a fan of dreams. As they would say, "They're brilliant!"

I'm thinking I should stop writing so that my battery will survive the trip. Adios.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Beginning

2pm Holland time. I have a few hours set aside to pack and clean up the room in preparations for the big move tomorrow. I have become facebook friends with several of the people I have met now, but I need to be sure to save some privacy settings for their sake while I'm thinking about it. Hmm.. Okay, maybe next time.

The band is preparing "Be Thou My Vision" and it gets me more excited to just go. A little worried about the cost of extra baggage, but the Lord will take care.

This is a pathetic beginning, but I just wanted something up for all the new followers. Adios.