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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Las Violetas

When I say slum, I wonder if you think of the movies like I had--do you think of District 9? Do you think of the Hoovervilles in Cinderella Man?

As we walked to el Refugio this morning, it was Heather who noted, "How beautiful this area was probably intended to be." She was referring to a lagoon type place, with weeping willows and a calm stream of water. The water is murky, and meets the street filled with bottles, other forms of trash, and the resulting hyper-green algae.

Along the side of this stream, the back way into the barrio, is a mud path filled with broken glass. We enter a side street made of cement block homes with unfinished walls. On these walls, names like Facundo and Josue declare their love for various girls in purple spray paint, only the girls' names have now been crossed out and unmentionable words are now inscribed.

The streets are clear. We saw our first taxi today, as it avoided a stray dog who refused to move from his resting point in the middle of the road. He stared the yellow cab down, only brave enough to come during the day I suppose. It is rumored taxis don't come to Las Violetas out of fear of robbers.

The gate screeches open as we enter el Refugio, because it scrapes against the ground and lacks WD-40. Described as a place for teenagers, children also find the Refuge as a safe place to get away from home. The teenagers have come to a point where they are well acquainted with life in the barrio, and many have assimilated to the rules of the land. Those who do come, only come Thursday, as it is a source of immediate income. The other workshops offered during the week have no monetary reward, so what's the point?

We greet everyone with a kiss on the right cheek, a "Cómo andas?" and I try to make a point to say everyone's name when we say hola. Gustavo, Davíd, Pedro, Chichillo (also known as Profé), Celeste and Maribel. Others come in and out near the end of our time together. We spend a quarter of an hour in Bible study in the patio in the back, but the teenagers are more interested in learning the few English phrases we can teach them when we return to complete our work.

I've been trying to assess the importance of college, or more colloquially called, university. I've heard of these kids not participating in school past our equivalent of middle school. For one, it's not offered with qualified teachers. Additionally, going to school is looked down upon by their peers.

Davíd (22) though, talked of his dream of going to school for dentistry. I was impressed, because many of the adolescents here, and not just in Las Violetas, have no sense of dreams, or sueños, for their future. Many shrug at the question of what they hope for. And in case you are surprised by the age and the word "adolescent" coming together, it has to do with cultural differences.

When I say goodbye, I try to say their names again. I try to say that I look forward to seeing them next week, or for some, the next day at church. We walk back to Las Palmas and see some of them again walking to their homes. Some of them have stray dogs now following them, and we all avoid the gifts the perros give to our paths. More people are walking the streets now, and we make eye contact with most, giving a "Buenos días." They respond with a smile and ask how we are.

Their clothes are worn. Two roosters cross our path. Several motorcycles will weave through us. Children pass us with cigarettes held between their index fingers and thumbs.

The church in Las Violetas is the last thing we pass before exiting through the back way once again. It's a large, orange painted, structure. The very top has a faded sign that says Jesus is the only way to be saved. I read it and pray, and then am interrupted when a truck from the 50s roars past and splashes the sewage that has collected on the street. Thankful for having avoided getting splashed, but saddened by the distractions of this neighborhood. We have passed panaderias that give off the fresh scent of baked bread, but then in a moment are consumed by the smell of dog leftovers.

In and out, in and out. Splashes of good, of hope, contrasted by the truly disgusting.

Chau.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From scratch

Hopefully to the delight of my team leader in Buenos Aires (hi Vanesa), I write again about food. Wednesday is my cooking day after all, and add to that that it's Census day, I've got a lot of time on my hands.

What is Census day? Census day is when all businesses are closed (including the mall) as all are required to stay home for the Census takers to come to the door to ask the basic questions involving the census. How many times can I include census in one sentence? Sense us taking the census on the day of census. But I digress... What I have most enjoyed so far though is not being woken up by the clippity-clop of horses, or the bustling of motorcycles by our window. Sweet, sweet sleep!

The downside is that the meat store is closed. Then again, I'm always wanting to try new things, and so I've scraped together our vegetables and have begun creating a pumpkin lentil soup! The trick that I must include as well is that we have some stomachs to account for. One stomach does not like mushrooms (for shame!) and another gets really bad heart burn from tomatoes. The past few days has been especially rough on her since tomatoes have been the main ingredient.

I found this recipe and I'm hopeful, but also a little nervous as we don't have all the ingredients. Maybe you read about our lack of ingredients before in the Tonta post, but if not, I'll include a picture of everything.

The top left are the lentils being prepared. On the bottom left are the pumpkin pieces ready to be baked for the major ingredient of pumpkin puree. On the bottom right you see the prepared vegetable stock, as we don't have regular broth readily available. This is why cooking takes longer; you have to prepare the ingredients for the ingredients of the final product. It's kinda fun, as long as you have the time.

Oh my goodness! I just tasted the pumpkin puree and it is scrumptious! I hope that's a good sign for the whole meal!!
Praise the Lord for a puree machine!
Ok.. the time is coming to an end when they are said and done. Looks like the lentils are still a little hard, but it doesn't take away from the wonderful taste! I'm twice as excited because now I can make pumpkin puree from scratch which means I've completed half the battle for making pumpkin pie, or better yet, pumpkin cheesecake!!!
Oh yes, it was quite tasty!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's never that easy

To the boys' institute today. I was in good spirits, as we were learning new Spanish words and laughing about the many obstacles on the sidewalks during our walk. When we entered the institute on Dom Zipoli street, my eyes met with Rodrigo uno--

"Aww S*%# MOTHER-F*&$#@$!!" he shouted.

These were the same English curse words he shouted when I had kicked the soccer ball he was reeling back for last week. He didn't forget.

During our walk from the institute to the nearby park, I practiced my apology once again. Part of me wanted to pray that he would just forget the whole thing so that we could play without any qualm.

The boys in general were very rowdy. The good news is that the boys were mostly the same this week; something I had prayed for in hopes of building better friendships with them. Unfortunately, they couldn't stop fighting each other and spitting at each other and talking about each others' moms (that part they didn't think I understood). Then there was Fabrizio who just went off to sit alone most of the time. Sometimes I wanted to cry for their sakes.

I prayed for the opportunity to approach Rodrigo uno again. I said that I wanted to apology for last week, and that I hoped we could come to peace. He nodded, and I felt that I saw forgiveness in his eyes. Then, of course, came Rodrigo dos who just wanted to pick another fight, while JD (our fellow worker) was trying to playfully stop all of the madness.

Thankfully, I did have a chance to talk a little with Fabrizio. He had asked us to pray for his dad, Diego, last week, so I asked him about that. He had looked up with me in amazement. "You remembered?" Sometimes there are those little moments to make up for how terrible it can be.

I thought a bit on the way home (especially during the part where I got on a bus that the rest of our group could not squeeze on fast enough) about how much we want the forgive and forget concept to work more with others than with ourselves. There are two realities here: the first is that it's not in our capacity to easily forget when one has wronged us. The second is that I seriously don't want to mess with a kid and his soccer ball on this side of the world.

In order for relationships to work, we've got to try harder to forget. We need to be able to show more grace to one another when one or the other can not, and we've got to work through as much as we can if we want to call it a relationship at all. That last sentence probably needs a few read throughs, but in my head it works. I'll leave with this verse:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

IF it is possible. As much as you can. Everyone. This world is full of sinners, but our God is greater. I pray for more endurance during these frustrating and heartbreaking times with these boys. Please pray additionally for next week, as we are taking them to the zoo. Chau.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Advantages of Being a Celebrity Missionary

That's right, I said it. One of the advantages of being from the States is everyone wants to hear you speak English. Or they want to make fun of you. Or they want to comment on your pale skin (SHE'S SO PALE!). As the mantra goes, any publicity is good publicity.

In Córdoba, I don't make a splash. I enjoy fitting in fairly well; until I say something with bad grammar and then they know and overcharge me. But that's only happened a couple times. Truly, it is wonderful to fit in and be one with the people. It's just sometimes... sometimes you want to not have to work so hard to gain authority for speaking and being heard.

In Villa Dolores, I got to use my white skin for the sake of Christ, and it was wonderful.

We cruised through the mountains. I recalled visions from the past, driving to Loveland Pass and Copper, except these mountains were not snow laden. They were much more rocky, brown and dry. They were much taller. They were breath-taking!
Our group of Raúl, Andrea, Eva and I, the lone native English speaker, shared lunch with the pastor of the local church before having a meeting with the Scouts. The plan was to perform a drama that talked about peer pressure, and then to meet in small groups to discuss the verse in Joshua that says to "Choose this day Whom you will serve."

Comment: ad-libbing is a learned skill. It takes time to be creative, to go against the grain, if by grain you mean script. For us, we had no script. This is a skit that has been done among the OM group for years, so all they needed to do was add me, right?

Ha. Ad-libbing in another language is a completely different story. Thankfully, I was clear with the others that I only needed a single line or two during each part if it really mattered. So there I am trying to act my part, make sure I really understand what's being said (as it changes within our two performances and two warm up rounds) in order to catch my "cue."
It worked out. We ended up having some great discussions with the kids after, so I'm glad I wasn't too distracting. Raúl had too much fun with it though, as he is a natural born clown and liked to throw me off as best he could.

During the discussions, I was surprised to hear these preteens talking about the peer pressure they've already faced. I shouldn't have been too surprised, but I think it just breaks my heart hearing stories of the affects of alcohol and drugs so early for kids.

As soon as the discussion finished was when I felt the first affects of celebrity-ness. Three girls in particular were fond of hearing English, but I resisted as best as I could. I prayed during our few talks, asking God to provide a moment to share more with these young ladies. The opportunity did not come, but I am already Facebook friends with two of them, so I am hopeful.
Moving on, we went to a church where we would nap before the final performance and fellowship time. I was drawn to a young gal that I had at first thought was 16 years old. After we talked about how tough dealing with peer pressure can be, I find out she is only 12!
We made a quick connection, and even talked more the next day. I have been praying for Belen and her friends ever since, with the desire that she choose Christ more than ever in her young age.

Praise God for some great conversation and connection this weekend. I am already looking forward to another chance to visit and reconnect with these gals! Chau.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Más de la cultura de Córdoba

Driving. Stories about driving around the world make me all the more thankful for public transportation. I would never drive on California highways. And if I'm unwilling to drive the 101, I probably would be horrible in places like Nepal and India.

When we cross streets, I'm now apt to look for the arrow on the street sign to see which direction cars are supposed to be coming from. Key word being supposed. Then I think too, of what it is like to live in those few countries that drive on the left side of the road.*

Here's the deal. Córdoba has very few stop, or "pare" signs. It's a given that the cars coming from the right in an intersection have priority, but usually drivers will just flash lights and/or lightly honk their horn as a warning. "Coming through!" Just today riding with Raúl, we only slightly stopped to let a car pass in front, then behind, as we weaved through the intersection.

Cutting each other off is run of the mill, and most will give a smile and tranquil wave after you've extended the pleasure. Besides, the lanes on the streets aren't definitive, so know one really knows when they're being cut off any way. Usually.

Aside from driving, cars are fascinating. You can catch sight of a vehicle from every decade if you just wait a couple minutes (or seconds!) at a street corner. The Volkswagen and Renault are the most popular brands--disfruta watching the many varieties of VW bugs pass by! Then you get to enjoy the repetitive beeping of the car alarm that will go off even when one is driving. Having a car alarm is a sign to thieves that they won't stand a chance. And yet, what does one do otherwise?

Perhaps as Donny on our team does! He purposefully disconnects a wire or two from the engine so that even if the robbers get inside the car, they can not drive away.

And finally, the picture. If you see any vehicle (including motorcycles) with the gas can on the top, it's not because someone is lazy, it means the car is for sale.

So now you know. Chau!

*What's up with how few countries use the left side over the right side of the road? Then I stop to think about how silly it is that we in the States prefer the stupid Imperial system and I bite my tongue.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2 for 1

Wednesday: With the teenage mothers, we watched a film that essentially shared the story of Christ's sacrifice for our sin. Jenny, a fellow worker from Columbia, shared Scripture and prayed with the women.

In my opinion, they weren't very receptive. They went through the motions of praying, but by their faces you could see--

Nothing.

And when we continued talking with them after, it's not like they wanted to know more. Remember that it's my opinion here, but to me it seems we need more time with these women. We need to build relationships with them.

At a crazy moment near the end of our time together, I tried again to talk to Belen. When I had first talked with her a few weeks ago, she just kind of laughed at me. Each week though, I've made a point of singling her and her friend Dayana out to let her know that I care about them. They still look at me with an odd who-do-you-think-you-are look. That's okay. I can take it. But this time, something strange came from my lips.

"Si quieres aprender inglés, puedo enseñar ustedes."

Dayana had given Belen a little tap on the elbow, and they both gave an enthusiastic, "Sí!" What did I get myself into, I'm not sure, but I have some major prayers ahead of me!

Thursday: We arrived to find that the alfajore process was halfway over! Apparently they decided to start at 9am today and didn't let us know. For shame. Never fear, I still had my Bible study to share.

We looked at Luke 8 and the story of the Sower and the Seed. I focused on the seed (the Word of God) that fell among the espinos, or thorns, and said that I feel like many of us find ourselves in this place. I began to balance my Bible with one juggling ball and said that we easily get distracted from God by wanting to fit in with the world.

While God wants it to be just us and Him, we want other things more. As I added another ball and began to toss them in one hand and try to read the Word at the same time, the final ball was added. "Eventually, we will have to put down the Word of God if we want to balance these other things." I even did a little trick with a reference to the people of Nineveh who could not recognize their right hand from their left.

"Maybe we can balance these things.. for a little while," I said. "But what will we do when everything falls?" (Drop.)

Raúl helped me out by saying more at the end. He stressed how important it is for us to focus on knowing Christ and bearing good fruit. I hope very much that what I was trying to say came through!

Afterward, I was blessed to spend more time with Pedro, Gustavo and a new kid named Manuel. We practiced some more juggling tricks, and I got to teach those who didn't know how to get the basics down. It was great solidifying my Spanish vocabulary of juggling terms (mainly, throw, catch, balance, etc.), as well as possibly build more trust with the boys!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Menos dos, agrega cuatro

We've lost two boys at the institute. The eldest, Facundo, has been transferred to another place. The next in line in terms of causing the most trouble, Dario, has gone, but I do not know where. I'm very saddened by this news because in my prayers for them, I have been most fearful for their future. Seeing their poor choices when we are all playing together makes me wonder how easy it will be for them to make more poor choices as they age.

I can only hope for their sakes, and pray with all my heart for the Lord to protect them. Even when they don't know why their plans to do wrong fail, in the end they will be able to see it was Jesus walking with them, protecting them all along. May more workers cross paths with them to lead Facundo and Dario to this truth!

But as I wrote, we get to add four more: Joe, Franco, Fabrizio y Brian. I have yet to meet Brian (I was told of his arrival two weeks ago, when I had stayed home due to illness); I did meet the rest of them today.

I praise God that the institute trusts our group to bring the niños each week to the local park for some fútbol and snacks. This time, we played mono en el medio, or monkey in the middle. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of stealing the ball from Rodrigo uno, as he was lining up for a monster kick to another person. My fault was that I kicked it before he could, and it comes from my distaste for ball hogs. He was holding the ball for himself most of the game.

Nonetheless, I need to be more careful with these boys. I'm thankful that Rodrigo only responded with curse words (English curse words mind you), instead of running away or throwing punches. I need to remember how sensitive they are when it comes to soccer. In the moment I prayed for help, and it seemed to get better.

After a little bit of this, we went to a local store to play metegol: foosball. That turned out to be a lot of fun, as we played a round robin like tournament. It costs a peso to play 6 balls worth of a game, but when the store owner learned where the boys came from, he gave us another game gratis: free!

I think what today's ministry boiled down to was a desire for consistency. I'm grateful to get to come for a couple years, but I also think about about the small size of our ministry. Once a week, a couple hours. That's it! What would a better ministry look like with these kids? How can we devote more time, even just once a week, especially in order to see ALL of the boys every week? Right now, the boys change each time, as some are going to school (don't get me started on my desires for the school system here!), or busy with other things that prevent their coming.

I know I can't save the world, but I want more!

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"

Chau.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Carlos Paz

When we decided to go to Carlos Paz for our day off, the first we could really enjoy without rain or sickness, we had to ask Samuel how to get there. He explained the bus situation, and then made sure to add, "Know that you will be disappointed."

What he was referring to was that we weren't to get our hopes up. Rightly so, as it's mainly a summer tourist attraction. All of the catamarans and water sports places were vacant, the water of the main river, Río San Antonio, mostly dry. We didn't mind too much though, as we really just wanted an excuse to leave the city and be on our own a bit more. Additionally, how can one not want to spend a day away, in the sun, for a mere 21AP (the equivalent of 5 or so USD)?

Granted, it wasn't until after Sarah and I returned that we were exposed to the realities of the ozone hole directly above where we live. We were also informed of its dangerous affects which are felt most between the hours of 11am and 2pm. Pretty much the time we were walking around. Argentinians have more than one reason for the blessed siesta.

The day began by walking along the river to get to the mountain, or the Sierras, view. The Sierras are only a taste of the Andes, so it's probably best to call them foothills.

Along the way, this guy on the right started to follow us. We figured he would back off, but were very much mistaken. It wasn't until about 10min later, and climbing a wall, that we got rid of him. Or so we thought. He found us on our way back!

Here's my favorite shot. The foothills reminded me so much of my view driving to work when I lived with the Banichs. Oh how I miss not only that family, but also the amazing view of God's creation. I think after living in Colorado, I was spoiled, and I must live within close proximity to the mountains for the rest of my life. Neither here nor there though, I suppose.

We continued on, and had more interesting sights of the city. As a local told me, Carlos Paz is the Las Vegas of Argentina, and many important people of the país perform shows here, close to the many casinos. I dunno though, it felt either more like a Reno or a trying-to-hard-to-be-like Lake Tahoe. It's much smaller than Las Vegas, and the buildings themselves have a lot of 50s/60s appeal--similar to the Frank Sinatra influence over the Lake Tahoe area. Once again, personal commentary that doesn't really matter.

The main thing, I had a lot of fun, and don't regret our few hours just walking around, seeing some cool sights, and getting my glimpse of mountains to sustain me for the next day trip (not for a few more weeks, but still). There were a lot of simple God moments too, such as finding the right bus, getting where we needed to go, getting to rest. Oh, and seeing the coolest costume ever:
Oh I wish I were a dulce de leche alfajore, that is what I truly want to be!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tonta

I'm just being silly, but I want to write this down.

I never imagined coming to a Latin American country and not having sour cream. Both Sarah and I have contemplated this issue, especially as we are deciding what to make this week when each of us has a cooking day.

"Mmm!" Sarah sighed. "I want to make enchiladas!"

"Enchiladas! How come we have forgotten about enchiladas?!" we thought. After all, it wasn't until just last week that we made fajitas for the first time. Obviously our ideas of what constitutes as Latin food was ill perceived.

So onto this sour cream business. Ahh, the recipe calls for buttermilk. We both look at each other. "Do we have buttermilk?"

"Oh look," I say. "There's a recipe for a buttermilk substitute." Then I think some more, "How funny would it be if we had homemade sour cream made with an alternative version of buttermilk?"

I then proceed to read the ingredients for buttermilk: "Lemon juice or vinegar with cream of tartar sauce..."

Do we have cream of tartar sauce?

Escuelita update

We began the day unsure of what time Escuelita started. We had missed last week's due to the conference, and the start time has always been a little unclear. On my Google calendar, I had written 10am for three weeks, and 10:30am for the other three. The confusion takes place because Coco will sometimes come before we start so we can talk about game ideas. He had joked, after a vicious game of Uno (haha), that this week Sarah had to come up with all the games. A lesson learned: don't play the Draw Two card too often.

When he didn't show up at all, we got nervous. Then I relied on the fact that I like to sleep in, so surely these kids don't meet until 11am at the park. Right?

We left at 10:30 in order to see if any kids showed up early. Thankfully, our instincts were correct, and we got to hang out a little bit before the little crowd gathered. Coco had already arranged the games, so we had no worries at all!

I purposefully sat with Luciano again, and I subtly verified the fact that he can't read. I wondered if that meant I should do something about it, causing my mind to race with possibilities. I need prayer as to whether I should lead a reading study or not with the rest of the boys and girls who struggle because they do not have to go to school. More so, I need prayer with HOW to do so.

The cool part. We were reading about how God had provided the Israelites in the desert with manna and water. The verse for the week was from Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

I looked at Luciano, and with as much courage as I could muster (and a quick prayer for my Spanish), I asked if he believed this. Did he believe that Christ will provide for his needs?

He smiled with a yes.

Ahh, how I still wish I could keep talking, but that was good news for now. I hope Escuelita will provide more chances to search out what this means for him and the others.

At the end, I taught another kid named Gabriel an easy game that involves you trying to stay balanced. All the older boys seemed to enjoy this, and so they quickly joined. I was most surprised by the eldest of them, who hardly comes except for right at the moments that we pass out snacks. Maybe this is the beginning of him being more willing to come for the rest of the time? I can only pray. Chau.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Packages make the world go round

So far I've received two packages. Unfortunately due to the excitement of receiving the first from my parents, I have no photo. The candy disappeared ahem.. rather quickly, and the other valuables have been tucked away for future use.

Today's package was a welcome gift for more than just the Skittles and boots that will help me survive the rain (and fancy that they match my umbrella--I think that was planned!). The reason comes from getting to do some city searching on my own.

I missed the two opportunities of receiving my package at my door. Instead, I had to plan the closest bus route to the post office. First step: success. Next step, communicating all the necessary cosas to receive my package: success. Final step: finding the bus home. Oops.. forgot to check that one, as I didn't remember until the time we left that it's not as simple as going to the other side of the road, facing the other direction.

'But wait,' I said to myself. 'This area looks somewhat familiar.' So we walked a little this way.. a little that way. Then who should appear but Javi's mom and sister, who only speak Spanish. After showing our genuine excitement for running into them on this side of town, I asked if they knew how to get home. We were on the right track! Within a couple minutes, we found our stop. And yet, there's more!

I found postcards! The first I've seen since I've been here! So one more quick stop, and then we got home (and saw Gustavo on the way there). The boots fit perfect, the Skittles are saved for special occasions (such as sharing some today with Coco for his birthday), and the other little gifts will make great prizes for my kiddos. I'm so excited to share :D. ¡Qué lindo!

Chau.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More with Alfajores

The story never seems to get old. Perhaps this week, my excitement for Thursday was heightened by returning to ministry, although the break with the conference was quite refreshing as well.

Before I continue, I would also like to add that these photos are taken by teammate Heather, who has an artistic knack for editing pictures.

Okay. Hmm.. I just started this sentence three times because I don't know where to begin. Perhaps I should introduce these two pictured first. They are brother and sister, and they both are mute.
Celeste, above, has gotten close with Heather, and I'm excited for their continued relationship, particularly because Heather gets to help at el Refugio more than once each week. I think that Celeste has an understanding of Jesus, so I pray that she will always put her trust in Him.

My concern is for los dos as they are often made fun of by the others who come. I think first of how living in Las Violetas is not safe, but then how much harder it might be without the ability to yell for help, or communicate well in general.

Nonetheless, God is still good, and it is such a blessing that they come. May we set good examples for them, and show true love.

My other fun story has to do with Gustavo. I guess it is coming into fruition that he and I get along the best. Or at least we understand each others' silliness. When I first came to el Refugio, I immediately joined Celeste in amasando la masa de los alfajores (pictured), and Gus yelled to Maria Elena that I had not washed my hands. I tried to argue with him that I had taken a shower before coming and hadn't touched anything. "Estoy limpia," I urged, placing both outstretched hands before me.

"But you didn't wash your hands here!" he responded in a rapid, somewhat slurred, Spanish. Maria Elena looked at me.

So I gave him the I'm-defeated-but-I'm-not-done-with-you look, and walked to the kitchen. He smirked back, and gave a full smile when I returned, shaking my head. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy joking with teenagers?
This is actually Jaime, but the two look a lot a like.
Which brings me to the next point. I have been invited to work with some more teenagers every Friday with Andrea. I need to talk more about Andrea and how much I love her. Our common bond of excitement over seeing teenagers come to know the Lord makes our laughing together all the more beautiful. So, starting next week (though I guess I'm not completely sure if it's every Friday, but at least a lot more than normal), I get to help with some devotionals for her and Raul's church youth group. ¡Olé!

Finally, I include my favorite picture from this morning, because these guys are just so adorable. Say it with me...
Awww
And chau!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coincidentally...


Freedom for a few hours from our conference this weekend allowed us to show our lovely German friends some of the beautiful sights of the city. The classics were involved: St. Martin's square, Cathedral of Cappuccinos as well as Patio Olmos.

We happened to hear some Deutsch from a few folks passing by and we made note. "They certainly look German," Carol had said.

A little later, we came to one of the original Jesuit missions that has been turned into a university, but now serves for tourists like us to take pretty picture(s) . Yet, there's more to the picture above. If you can zoom in, you will see a young man in a blue shirt. He had come up to the plaza we were in, and I timidly asked him, "Sprechen zie Deutsch?"

His eyes widened. "How did you know?! Do I LOOK German?" Well, actually, he responded a little bit in German, but then I replied in Spanish that I didn't understand but my two friends are German.. and so he said with excitement in the English you've already read.

I asked more about his travels and how long he was staying. Ariane, very boldly, got to tell him that the reason she is here is to tell people about the most important person in her life: Jesus Christ. So cool, right?

In that moment, had we not Ariane, we would not have gotten to share that good news with that young man. More than that, we would not have been there in the first place. There are no accidents with God.

We moved on to visit Buen Pastor and the Cathedral. At Buen Pastor, we enjoyed the fountain dances, as they are literally called in Spanish. Every week day, you can catch the fuente danzadas at 5pm/7pm/9pm and on the weekends, they are more frequent. I couldn't help too, trying to take a good picture of what most of the plazas in the city look like:
That is, full of young adults sharing maté and playing cards. Uno is a favorite around here, but there are also traditional games I am looking forward to learning. So I took this photo above by hiding it under my jacket (as seen top right) and having Sarah direct my zoom.

We moved on to the Cathedral, where we saw our Austrian friend once again. He was entering as we were exiting, so we made our cordial nods of recognition. It wasn't until I reflected on how much I liked the picture above though, that I realized something else. See the two people sitting in the background in front of the glass wall? On the right side. Slightly to the left of the girl in the foreground with the white jacket. That's them!!

I guess that means we're supposed to pray for them, don't you think?

Chau.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Moments graciosos


Since the Germans have been here, we have had so many moments where we laugh so hard our stomachs hurt, our eyes tear up, we lose all sense of time. Here are a few:

1. We were talking about cockroaches at the dinner table. Before you say gross, it has to do with language, I promise. In German (and by the way there's a great card game that includes the cockroach), it's Kakerlaken, pronounced ka-ka-lah-ken. In Spanish, cucaracha. Ariane thought of a story to go along with this language discussion, and she turned to me--

"YOU KNOW WHAT?! Not only did I KILL a cockroach, but I drank it!!!!"

Everyone responded with wide eyes. "YOU WHAT?!?"

"Yeah! I drank it!" she declared again. "I poured water all over it..."

Ahh... she DROWNED it... or is it drown it... or drowndeded...??

2. Donny took us around the city to see more of the famous sites of Córdoba. Near the end of the day, we passed by what appeared to be merely apartment buildings, however, Donny made sure to note a particular one.

He pointed to it, but it was hard to tell which. "This one is the best." he said. "This one is the best building in all of Córdoba because it is MY university."

Everyone gave a nice, "Ahh!" and clapped. But then Donny stopped us.

Apparently the building we were looking at was the wrong one. "No no no, that one!" he pointed to the one adjacent.

Everyone paused and said yet again, "Ahh!" and clapped. It felt like we were in a skit for a comedy.

3. Okay, okay, this story doesn't come from this weekend, but it must be remembered! In the other team, there was an instance where all three Germans had to squeeze onto an undersized couch. The hosts of the home asked if it was okay, if maybe someone wanted to move to another chair or something, but they replied that all was well.

Apparently, one of them got a funny look on his face.

The young German man was asked if everything was okay. He smiled and lightly tapped Ariane on the knee. In the little Spanish that he knew, he replied that he was just so happy to be there, that, "Me excitan mucho sentar con mi amiga Ariane!"

Unfortunately, he did not know his linguistic faux pas until the night was over, but he wondered (or maybe he didn't realize) why everyone laughed very hard.

4. Perhaps one of my favorite, as it involves more language issues. Ariane and I, you must know, have a little phrase we like to say to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ. It is German, and it is simply, "Ich bin königstochter." Or, "I am a princess."

While we were practicing my pronunciation (especially since I have learned the importance of stressing certain sounds--the word for "night" and for "nude" are VERY similar!), our Argentinian friend Coco asked what we were saying. As I explained, he ended up saying, "¿Qué significa? ¿Soy un princesa?"

I was about to explain, but Ariane quickly interrupted. "Coco, did you just say that YOU are a princess?!"

Needless to say, Coco now has a nice little addendum to his name.

Conferencia

Sort of by request, I'm going to leave a quick note about life. Quick because my water is boiling and I want some green tea today. Quick because the conference for the weekend is not over and begins technically in 3 minutes.

But I still have to buy cospeles to get there, so um.. yeah.

Ariane is here! I've gotten to practice SO much Spanish! I'm also reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and I'm just wanting to read the parts about Mr. Darcy so it kills me when I have to drop reading sometimes. I'll get over it.

In time you'll hear great adventures about cooking more empanadas, and laughing to my heart's content. It has been a wonderful weekend :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Alfajores and ice cream. Well.. okay :D

I didn't fall asleep until 4 in the morning. I worried that by the time my alarm went off to prepare for alfajores day, I would not have the energy to go. Then I remembered how much I haven't been able to do anything this past week because of recovery time from that monster of a sinus infection--blast! the reason I couldn't fall asleep in the first place was mucus stuck in my throat.

When I arose, I knew I had to go. I made sure to have my devotion before leaving and I was appreciating the perspective it gave: others before me. I was well enough, only coughing every once and awhile now. And when I got to el Refugio, I was even better, only leaving the room twice to spit. Oh.. you probably didn't want to know that detail. I mean.. girls don't spit.. ahem.

I was praising God the whole time. He allowed me, since less people came this week, to not only make a batch of alfajores on my own, but I was able to teach the process to a new kid named Carlos:
Oh, not that Carlito...

We had a great time, and I even got to chat more with Pedro and Gustavo. If you couldn't tell, we really only have teenage boys who come on Thursdays. I think that they notice when I remember their names, so I pray that I can continue to make the most of every opportunity each week.

Unfortunately when we returned home, it was clear that we have two more sickies: Heather and Sarah. I felt that some ice cream might remedy everyone's sadness of oncoming infections (or for me, might offer the necessary celebration of almost complete recovery). And since Grido's, the Argentina gelato store, is so close, how could we not?

So yeah, the sugar rush from all these sweets gave me just enough energy to write down my basic thoughts. I can feel it coming to an end though, as well as the need to enjoy the ever important siesta time Latin culture so graciously gives us. Chau!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Juan Piper (last name pronounced pea-pear)

Ahh! I finally finished his book Let the Nations be Glad. It took every ounce of energy inside of me to hold back my words until the end. I wanted to see if there was a light at the end of the tunnel, hoping I wasn't just anticipating the end like the credits of The English Patient.

No. It's not THAT bad. But there were points at which I got so frustrated at how long he took to argue such ridiculous points about missions and worship. On the bright side, he's a much better speaker than he is a writer. Just. Don't. Do. It.

I'm sorry, but I'll explain. First, an entire chapter (50 pages!) on whether missions includes reaching all people groups or all geographic locations killed me. The idea is to go; the idea is not to compartmentalize missions in one's life but to realize that every opportunity is missions. Let's not argue about who counts and what doesn't, give me more Juan P. give me more!!!

Second, it was hard to find that a lot of my favorite parts from the book turned out to be quotes from other people. Example from Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian worker who was put in prison for his faith:

I remember my last Confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, "Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ." They had tears in their eyes when they said yes.

Exactly. How could one not feel convicted from that?

My other quote comes from John Stott, and the quote is actually in a footnote--something most people don't read. I fear quoting this because it will be out of context. And yet, since I struggled so much with the book, do I really want to recommend it for you to find what I'm talking about?

Okay, I'll go for it. It's this thing I have about making claims about Christianity when there's not enough Biblical support one way or the other--or if it's simply unclear. I.E. what hell is like, what the apocalypse will be like, etc. I'm just not comfortable making a claim, and I'm also very happy with saying, "I don't know." Because hey, I don't. It doesn't mean I'm not seeking out certain answers (such as the whole women in ministry debate that continues to loom in my head), but there are parts of Christianity that I am more concerned about. Namely, that all people come to know Christ.

Well, Piper argues about the hell issue. It's the, is hell an eternal torment vs. a complete destruction question. Piper sits on the eternal torment side, arguing that this makes missions all the more urgent. His mentor John Stott disagrees, and wrote to Piper back in 1993 that he finds Piper "overly dogmatic, as [Stott] wrote in [his] earlier letter, leaving no room for humble agnosticism which allows that God has not revealed everything as plainly as [Piper] make[s] out."Clarification: I'm not saying this quote is great because it calls Piper overly dogmatic, but the last part of the sentence is well put. In my opinion. Randy, you're allowed to say something here because I feel like you might want to.

I guess when I thought about the hell debate I thought, either way makes missions more urgent! If it's an eternal torment, then I want to tell as many people as possible about Jesus so they don't have to suffer so. If it's a complete destruction, then I want to tell as many people as possible about Jesus so they can still have purpose. How Descartes of me, but I agree with the line of reason that thinking makes one significant. And in a way, complete destruction is still an eternal torment--an eternal separation from Christ.

Any way, the best parts of the book written by Piper himself are at the tail end, so I'm glad I finished. He included a great analogy about how all nations are included in God's story. We are like a choir, not singing in unison, but our unique parts make the sound richer, more beautiful... only then he included an analogy in the very next paragraph that basically said the same thing and I was reminded of the poor writing style yet again. You just gotta tell me once, man!

I'll also cut some slack because in the end I talked a lot with Sarah about how I was feeling about what Piper was saying. I'll give him plenty of street cred for his pages of Scripture quotations. I'll even say again that he's a great speaker. Then I'll add, for good measure, that maybe I picked the wrong book because I'm already on the field and I don't need the petty arguments to convince me why I should go or support someone to go.

Any way, I'm a month into being here and that is crazy to me. Excited to start the next book and to get more rest to prepare for a day where I hopefully go back out to be with the gals at the institute. Chau. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Who knew?

What I have is a sinus infection. I don't think I've ever experienced this before because of a little thing called ear candles.

Yes, everyone responds that way when I say ear candles, but if you don't believe me, just click here. And maybe they don't actually work like the Wikipedia article says (after all, Wiki is the end all of world knowledge). All I know is my sinuses cleared up every time.

Any who, it's a little different here in Argentina. I have some antibiotics, but I'm so congested, it's often difficult to sleep. I've never experienced the bending down and all of my face and forehead hurting from so much pressure! So I did one of the most important home remedies: I talked to my mom.

That helped a lot, as we just chatted about life and she eventually prayed for me before my battery died. While I had every intention of then going to sleep as rest is the priority for any sickness, I was intrigued by this saline solution idea that had sprung up in conversation with mom on what might help.

So I began boiling the water filled with salt and inhaling process. Then out of curiosity, I decided to check out some other home remedies that the world wide web has to offer.

I realized I'm doing one major thing right, and that is drinking lots of water. But then I learned something else. Boiling garlic is another great thing to inhale. Well.. okay.

So in the process of that I find some other fun ones such as eating a jalepeño pepper. Hmm.. Argentina doesn't have these spicy things, what else? Why, a paste of cinnamon and water applied to the forehead of course!

I'm sure you would love a photo. However, I have just a little bit of pride about this, and besides I need to go to bed. Hehe. At least now YOU may know what to do when your sinuses attack your entire system!! Chau.

Escuelita, two-week update

I realized that last week, I didn't get to tell you about Escuelita, the Saturday morning ministry Sarah and I take part in. Well, let me tell you!

Last week, it was pretty rainy and cold, so we decided to bring it indoors. Above is a shot of us about to have our snack time. You can't really see everyone, but on the left in the striped jacket is Alberto, the one holding the young'n is Luciano. Further back there's Johanna and Flor and many more!

I enjoyed this particular Saturday because we (well, Javi) got to share the gospel. Now, I do not have many expectations as to whether they really mean it or not, but I am praying about that. I have yet to understand the age of accountability, well, simply because it's different for everyone. Plus, as you see us about to partake in snacks, I often wonder if kids come for the food more than anything else. Nonetheless, it's great to share, and I'm encouraged to keep sharing as the weeks progress.

This Saturday was probably one of our best though. I agreed with Sarah when we talked afterward that we feel much more connected with each kiddo now. I particularly got to help with a worksheet about the creation story with Luciano. He's a kid that often causes a lot of trouble, and is rebellious when it comes to following the rules in our games. But in this moment, I realized that he can't read (he's 9 years old!) very well, and that if one spends quality time with him, he will be a great kid! Once again, proof that presence is way more valuable than presents.

I hope you will pray with me for kids like Luciano, and for the many weeks of Escuelita ahead of us! Chau.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gana mi estomago, gana mi corazon


Burger with lechuga, tomate, berenjena y carne. Wow.

Here's more documentation of the day I made homemade tortillas and all the fixins. Quite delectable if I do say so myself! And made from scratch tortillas are quite simple:

Harina
Pocotito de sal
Manteca
Agua herviendo

Pollo con chinichurri sauce and cooked veraduras.
















I made these two for my day of cooking today. I was inspired by Monday's quiche so I thought I'd give it a try. Above, spinach with bell peppers, onions and cheese. Right, pumpkin, eggplant, bell peppers and green onion and cheese. I know the pumpkin sounds really weird but it's amazing I tell you!

I want to add too that the crust is also made from scratch. Huzzah!


It is such a blessing to get to do all this cooking! I find myself very relaxed when I am in the process of making my own recipes for just about everything. I even enjoy the hand washing process afterward, even though there are seven mouths to feed, and thus seven sets of dishes to clean. Estoy loca?

Tonight, Heather, JD and I had the opportunity to visit a fellow worker's home in la ciudad. Maria Elena had made some bon bons for us one week, so I asked if there was any way she would teach me how to make them. She said, "Claro!"

So first, we made an amazing torta with manzanas, and despues, we worked on the bon bons. She even gave us some of the extra dulce de leche and had some walnuts added to the sugary goodness. Como un polo, esta muy rico. It was so fun because this woman is a pro--she makes a living by selling the treats she makes in her very tiny kitchen. She told us that whatever she sells, she gets to keep. If she doesn't sell anything, she has no money for the day.

"Pero, Dios es siempre fiel!" me dijó.

Que lindo, no?

What a woman. Maria Elena got a kick out of our feeble efforts to make walnut/dulce balls that have yet to have their cascaras (formed by vanilla sauce) added. Nevertheless, she was very encouraging, and even helped us a lot to learn more Spanish words.

Here's a fun one: halfway through our trabajando, she stops to ask us if we'll help her feed her pets. In the middle of the city where she lives, she has a backyard full of about 10 chickens! After we collected the eggs, she said that they would be her gift to us!

Certainly, a new experience, and worthy of a blog. So cool to see how God's people live all over the world. Chau!