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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nuevas palabras

This morning, I confirmed with Maria Sol that some words are only found in certain regions of the country. You know, like "coke" in the south is "soda" in the midwest (or "pop"). (And for those who think too hard, that's right: we say coke, and the follow up question is "what kind?" Usually Sprite for me. :P)

Any who. I have a plethora of new vocabulary from Chaco, and an additional for Cordoba from today:

"Chomasa." It's.. well.. you know it's hard sometimes when they explain a word to you with a Spanish example. I think it refers to the ridiculous.

"Oh no, manzana." This is used when you're being sarcastic.

"Que honda, hoy?" Just another way to say "What's up?" I heard the term "honda" in general a lot more up north, and they appreciated it while I used it during Truco, "Va con honda che!" Speaking of..

"Che." It's the filler word. Most of my facebook pals use "Che" in their statuses. Has nothing to do with Mr. Guevara.

"Nachas." Another word for your backside. The junior high gals loved teaching me this one. They also enjoyed..

"Jeta." It's a slang term for the mouth. When you're with close friends, you can call someone out when they say something without thinking. Kind of like a "Whatchyomouth!"

I'm also learning new vocabulary from my latest Alexandre Dumas read. These words I want to use more in life:

"August." Respected and impressive.

"Peremptory." Insisting on immediate attention.

"Pusilanimous." Showing a lack of courage.

There are more, but they escape me for the moment. The point is, I love language. We had a conversation today about linguistics and it just about made my day getting to explain some of the roots of words. Ah, I'm such a nerd! Mmk, chau!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Más alla de la vida

One should remember that the only movie I paid full price for last year was The Green Zone. And now, other than Narnia, I pursued the first of perhaps 4 Matt Damon movies of the year. Go ahead and laugh. I can take it. I can also say that movies here are about a fourth of the price most of you pay. So there.

This one, known in English speaking countries as Hereafter, was "Eh." I hear that's an official ranking these days.

I walked out thinking something similar to what I felt after August Rush. Those two hours could have easily been reduced to about 20 or 25 minutes. At least this time, the characters were a bit more likeable, and one of them was well.. Matt Damon. ha.

The good thing was that it made me remember how real death is for everyone and as I rode in silence on the bus home, the wind from a perfect evening hit my face. It still feels surreal this night--being in Argentina and getting to serve as I do. Only a few days after having returned from a group of people I feel like I've known all my life.

Certainly every moment counts, and I have so much more ahead of me. I have so many dreams, and I want to live life to the fullest.. without missing a second.. being faithful to my Lord. I guess that means I should turn off my computer and finish reading from good ole Clive Staples for the evening. Maybe take into account his words that remind us that we've never talked to a mere mortal... Chau.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


When I was a teenager, I loved poker. It didn't take as long as chess, and it still required strategy and reading the other player more than the cards. I have Matt Damon to back me up on this one. haha.

I got into it too, from an ex-boyfriend, who taught me all the rules, and allowed me to play with all of his guy friends, despite not being very good. In general, I learned to like all sorts of card games as well from this. Add to that my competitive nature, and well, I'm hooked.

But the cards in Argentina are different. I remember Sarah buying a pack and thinking, "What are we supposed to do with these?" There are different signs, that seem to represent the different suits. But there aren't as many cards, and no Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces. Ahh! "We need to learn how they play cards here!" I said, eager to add to my Argentinian culture.

Then I met these boys in Chaco. Leo on the left, and Moncho (or Ricardo) behind us.
They were in my small group discussion. While difficult to go very deep in conversation, I noticed them playing a game in a group of four afterward. "Will you teach me?" I timidly had asked.

Two nights later, I found myself getting the basic rundown of the game. I had to ask for pen and paper to verify that I was learning the right thing, and saying the different cues correctly. Because Truco, as it's called, is a song.

That is, when you call a play, it's like a part of a song, and each person playing has to "sing" along. "Cantale," you will hear your teammate say. And you begin with "Envido" or "Truco." The responses build upon the other: "Re-Truco" and "Vale Cuatro." etc. etc.

Learning to play opened up the door to spending more time with these guys. And with Moncho, I got to spend an entire afternoon playing with him, his father and younger brother. It was so fun. Fun for me, because I was getting pretty good at it. Everyone was laughing to see the student become the master, surprised a girl could catch on so quickly to this male-dominated game. ha.

I just enjoyed the time, and was flattered at the compliments from both my maestros about learning the game so fast. I still have a lot of practice, and I need to learn the signals that people use in teams, but for now I'm excited to introduce a new game to the Northern Americans in time.

Oh, and I was also excited when Moncho handed me my very own pack of Truco cards on the last night:
Aww shucks. Which is cuter? The gift or the packaging?
They warned me that I can't practice too much, because I can't go around winning all the time. They also said I could teach them the odds and ends of poker when I come back, so that way it's more even. lol.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chaco - a brief overview

I'm a fanatic about noticing the little things. While I'll certainly overlook things every now and then, one may call it a momentary lapse of concentration, I decided to write down the cultural differences between Chaco and Córdoba (and the U.S.) that I noticed these last two weeks:

1. Argentina does not do breakfast. No more scrambled eggs or even toast (when it's hard to come by sliced bread!), no more cereal really.. Just some tea and.. um.. cake? During our camp week, we had pieces of bread on which one could add some peach spread or dulce de leche. But the line was longer for the tea than the food. Everyone had brought their own mug for the occasion!

2. Every evening we would shower before dinner. Not surprising. But every evening time was also dedicated to washing.. our shoes? The TOMS inspired shoes, especially the white version, are very popular. And so each camper made sure to use some detergent a scrub the day's grime off in the outside sink before supper time.

3. This observation comes with the help of Sarah's notation. The people don't seem to drink water here. During a hilarious representation of our team, two girls parodied Steph and Joy--our committed runners who always carry around a bottle of water with them. The "Steph" and "Joy" during this skit made sure to bring their Sparkletts-sized water jugs around while mimicking simple after-run exercises. They don't drink water, but they do drink perhaps gallons of tereré!

4. The NIV, or should I use the Spanish, NVI, of the Bible is just now making headway. Many are finding the KJV, or Reina Valera version, to be a little difficult to understand. Most of the students have this version, including myself, and find the wording to be very archaic. It works, but I'm thankful for the switch as it also translates better from the English version I use when preparing for talks or discussions.

5. Radio. I remember listening to Spanish radio in the States as a way to get used to the speed of Spanish. That was when I began praying for the ability to concentrate while listening to someone, because the "speed" is normal. We talk fast too, according to those learning our language.

Any way, I also remembered how strange it was at times. How there were times when the deejays would repeat a joke three times in a row, with the same laugh track and other strange sound effects. Or how people would interrupt songs to take a call and have a conversation about a broken relationship (or something). I didn't understand it then, and I'm not sure I understand it now. It's not a bad thing, just a cultural difference.

And at camp, we had the daily radio led by two or three campers at a time who would play music and take calls or text messages, tell jokes and use sound effects just like what I remembered listening to before. I really enjoyed this idea and if I lead a camp in the States ever again, I'm bringing it with me. But I still don't understand why you have to interrupt a perfectly good song to read yet another message about Mauro (one of the campers) being the coolest person at camp. jaja.

6. Another confirmation of Heather's observation about everyone in Argentina loving to act, and being good at it, came with a game we played during camp. I had collected a few Telenovela scenes, showed them on the big screen, and had three different groups complete one of the scenes however they wanted. Ahem, appropriately of course.

Not only are they so creative, but they are so great at convincing me they belong on the silver screen. They are fun to watch, and I wish that good writers and directors would pick more Argentinian actors.

7. One interesting conundrum. No matter how hard I try, it is next to impossible to explain games without showing them. Them being folks of Argentina-land. One game in particular comes to mind, but I could give an array of examples. The game was simply to be in a line, one person at a time from the line runs to a chair that has half of a piece of watermelon waiting. The person takes a bite of the watermelon without using their hands, returns to the end of their line, and repeats the process when they are at the front of the line until time runs out.

The game had to be explained over 8 times before they could begin.

I've yet to be able to play a great game of Screaming Ninja because of this, and that makes me cry on the inside just a little bit. I can't figure out if it's a language issue, or if in general it's hard to keep the attention of these kids. I mean, I know it takes time to explain games to my students in the US, but was it as difficult as it has been here? I don't remember...

8. Must be repeated. I never had to twist someone's arm to cook or clean at camp. Everyone knew their duty and did so. Some more than they were required. We US-ers need to better teach our kids these qualities. Period.

9. Last but not least. Chaco = 2 kisses, 1 on each cheek. Córdoba = 1 kiss. Today I made the mistake of going for the second kiss. Sometimes you get so used to things you don't even know what to do when it goes back to what you had before. I wonder how I'll cope without the kiss greeting in the US.

That is all for now. Next up, learning Truco :) Chau.


Short for bicicletas. As in bicycles.

I had learned many things from Vanessa. One was how to eat an orange in Argentina. It looks like this:
Vane and I had several great conversations over the course of camp week in Chaco (camp was near Resistencia, the capital of the province) as well. We were paired together for devotionals, and always talked longer than our given amount. Then again, I love talking about the Bible, so that might have been more my fault.

After camp, I wanted to spend more time with her, and she suggested that we go for a bike ride around the city. Great idea. Only, it's really hot outside, so the only appropriate time is early in the morning. And when I say early, I mean 6am.

6am equals 5am for me, as I have only my two legs as a mode of transportation to her house. So first came the scary part of walking down the main street of Saenz Peña, alone, amidst some not so safe looking groups of young adults. Let's just say I said a lot of prayers during this time.

Vale la pena. This is an important saying, and it's more or less like our "Worth the wait" or "Worth the effort". Literally, it's worth the pain, in this instance, the overcoming of fears of the long walk alone. Let's add too, the fact that I had a late night before, sharing favorite riddles (that translate well!) and Truco with some of the teens and college students after church. They had dropped me off at the house at 2:40am.

Vane and I spent over an hour and a half roaming on the bicis throughout the city of 76 thousand people. I learned how to trust my fellow car, truck, and moto drivers as we had no sidewalks to make our tour. We talked about life; her future, my past and our dreams. We enjoyed the sunrise over thin strips of pink, yellow and purple clouds, and avoided some rabid dogs we watched attack another cyclist.

We stopped just short of an hour before I had to be ready to go to the countryside for a lunch with a family. In this short, but intentional moment, I shared about praying for the countries in the world through this book I've started called Operation World. It seems she will be joining me in this effort, and she is intrigued by the Middle East. She had no idea what Islam was, so I explained as best as I could.

I had to ride the bike I used back to the church that night. Taking the route I knew best, I shared the road with even more cars and cyclists, and this time, a couple horses as well. The talk about Operation World got me thinking more about my possible trek to another country on the other side of the world. That dream has not disappeared, and this ride down the busy street, watching cars fill in the spaces to be as crammed as possible made me wonder if I was encountering a glimpse of what that life would be like.

Vane said to me that night that she couldn't get what I had told her about musulmanes (or those who follow Islam) out of her head. She had been thinking about it all day. I suppose both of us have some full plates for our future. Please pray for us as we continue to trust God with our future!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cuando compartimos

This day should go down in history. Certainly in general, Argentina one ups the US in matters of sharing. I have already mentioned maté more than once here, but a refresher course is this:

Maté, a warm tea drink made with holly leaves, has this intrinsic rule for sharing in a round of people. Each person gets a turn, with the same bombilla or straw, and it is an understood rule to not talk when you are drinking. Share the maté, share the conversation.

The same is true for the cold maté more frequently drunk here in northern Argentina. Only it is called tereré, and I love it because it has more flavor as it is often served with juice instead of just water.

Both maté and tereré are shared throughout the day. One will pass by entire neighborhoods with people sitting outside their homes sharing warm maté in the morning. Tereré is more often served during the heat of the day, and then everyone returns to maté in the evening. Yes, outside again, in their lawn chairs.

Not only is this a sharing culture, but it is an open doors one as well. But more on that later, as it also depends on where you live.

Any way, I believe one can see a trickle effect that takes place beginning with the cultural practice of maté. People share drinks, for some thinking about our germaphobia, yes, we share germs, but we also share whatever other household items are needed from each other while cooking. I have brought extra flatware, and have borrowed the neighbors blender more than once.

Or like today, everyone brought their share of food to distribute during our visit to the zoo.

But all this is not as impressive to me as the sharing of the sacred.. gasp.. fútbol. That is right my friends. Tonight I played street fútbol, with teenage BOYS, and they passed the ball to me. Not just once or twice, but throughout the whole game. Even after I fell on my face from an overenthusiastic dribble down the field (lets just say that my legs really wanted to run a lot faster, but the rest of my body refused to keep up. jaja), they continued to pass the ball to me.

Sometimes I get discouraged by a somewhat more machismo society that exists here in Argentina. Some things I really enjoy too, dont get me wrong. But tonight was just so great, and I am passing the blame to maté. When a culture practices sharing from cradle to grave, even the things that are hard to part with come easier.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Corte la luz

My life is an abundance of changed plans for the better. When I thought that I would by this time be married and with child, I find myself soltera in Argentina. I could not have come with such freedom had I been attached, nor could I have travelled as much as I have in the past few years.

I could still be in Colorado.

I could be in my second or third year of seminary.

Not that those plans are bad, but my life is different. Estoy agradecida que los planes no son mios. They are God's plans, and I trust that being here is better.

So in Chaco began an adventure that reminded me a little of summer camp in Texas. The differences were vast and abundant, but the camp style of things remain the same. We still had our messy game times, our devotional and small group times, our talks (only called charlas), our late night bonfire. And then Argentinian culture shined through:
  • Every camper made sure to bring their KJV Bible, their package of maté, and their thermos. On that note, sometimes they would bicker to decide who was going to serve the tereré, a cold version of maté served with juice. Special note number two is that more people drank tereré than water.
  • Breakfast consisted of a piece or two of bread, dulce de leche and hot tea. The line was longer for the tea than for the bread.
  • No need to get on to students for not cooking or cleaning when the time came, usually they did their chore without asking (pay attention those from the US).
  • An eagerness to wash shoes and sandals with detergent at the end of each day.
And then there was the first night. Stephanie and I had prepared our talk about having faith like a child. I prepared the first half, Stephanie the second, all that was left was for us to prepare a video clip from The Chronicles of Narnia (guess who brought this idea). The video didn't work. After trying another computer, looking on the internet, etc. etc. I assessed in my head how to change my intro.

Then, just for fun, God decided to turn off all the electricity. I wasn't as frustrated with the fact that we had lost electricity as you can imagine. Sure, I was upset at something else in the moment, but it soon faded after I walked outside.


Funny, just now I realize that Switchfoot not only wrote a song about Narnia, but also about las estrellas. Indeed, comforted by the thought that I am quite small, I thanked God that I didn't have to talk that night. I told Eze that we should instead sit outside, maybe play a couple songs and then he could read the part in Job about God holding the stars. Follow that up with some Psalm 139. Some moments in silence to let God talk to us, call it a night.

The transformation of the evening was incredible. I could not literally see, but I felt the power of His presence among the students as they began to lift up prayers of desparation. Seeking forgiveness, seeking to live more like Him.

One student had told one of our leaders that the first night of camp was also the first time to really experience God. All we had to do was look up.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Some comments about daily life

We have just over 24 hours before leaving Córdoba once again. This time not for vacation but to work at a camp and outreach in Chaco, Argentina. Everyone who hears about our trip says, "Have fun! Enjoy the mosquitos for me!" I joke back with them saying I'll save a tarantula for them. Oy, it will be hot and full of interesting bugs. Lord willing, they won't be as much of a problem.

Any way, just a few other things that have been in my mind lately:

Cospeles. They're changing. From 2 pesos to 2,20 (they don't use a decimal point here, but the comma serves the same purpose). Everyone who stocked up on the old cospeles are not allowed to use them past the 7th. Bummer huh?

January 6th is a big deal here. I want to say it has to do with the Epiphany feast, because I know the neighbors were sharing lots of food together, but there was something else. Maria Elena told us that many children leave their shoes outside of their doors in hopes of it being filled with candy and gifts. She gave us gifts tonight (weekly dinner--yum!), and so I'm wondering what it's really all about.

Fernet. So there's this tea drink that you add to juice or water that people have fun lunch. I don't really like it too much, but I'm willing to have it if offered. Then there's Fernet which you add to Coke. I kind of like it, and yet tonight I realized it kind of tastes like the tea drink. Perhaps my mouth is getting used to the bitter taste? No sé.

Now that the house has fans, I no longer sweat in my bed. Gracias a Dios!!

Do you ever just look at a map and dream?

Today on our way to WalMart, we had to step over the leg of a dog. I believe it had been run over by a car (then again, it could have been mauled by a horse and cart, or perhaps in a street fight with other dogs), and so there was the leg, bone protruding outward. Watch your step!

I would also like to thank God for the bout of rain we have had lately. It's been wonderful being outside in the dead of summer to enjoy almost Denver like weather. Denver during the summer, that is. Ok. Me voy. Chau!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Sarah calls me obsessed. She currently laughs at me for including the picture.

Today we watched Narnia. After an overstuffed bus ride to the entrance of O!, getting lost in the labyrinth of Patio Olmos, and laughing at realizing the place we did watch the movie was more expensive than had we just stayed, we watched the next in the series, my favorite book: The Voyage of the Dawntreader. In Castellano.

I'm certain that Jim, one of the teaching pastors at Flatirons Church in Colorado was as disappointed as I was in the de-dragon-ing scene with Eustace. Nonetheless, knowing the true history behind the scene was enough. What was even greater was getting to see my favorite character, Reepicheep, more often. And more specifically, the end.

Oh! The valiant heart of the grand mouse, the very heart welcome in the nation of Aslan, moved me to tears. Not only do I long for my Savior to say, "Well done" to me, but I also desire to have the same eagerness to enter into the pure presence of the Lord as Reepicheep. How I loved when he placed down his sword, "I won't be needing this anymore" (translation). What a day that will be, no?


Sunday, January 2, 2011


Arriving at Punta Tombo was a dream in itself. We had already made one pitstop in order to see several dolphins in Rawson, so my enthusiasm was growing every kilometer closer to the final destination of the day.

We were told the basic rules; no smoking, no touching, staying in between the white rocks marking the boundaries of our path, and, that if the penguins should choose to cross, we had to stop to let them.
There they were. So close! Some having nests near the parking area, meaning they would have to walk over 40 minutes just to get to the ocean to find food for their newborns.

I noticed that all you had to do was look for their splashes of white poop on the ground to see where they were napping under some of the dry grasses. Not exactly pleasant, but it's not like they have indoor plumbing available.

In fact, at one point I had seen a penguin just standing on our path, seemingly afraid to move. I and two other tourists tiptoed our way around him so as not to disturb the guy. When we passed, we noticed that he had just left a major "package" right behind him. My guess is he was covering up his embarrassment from all of these humans coming to see him.

Punta Tombo has a colony of over 100 thousand Magellanic Penguins. The number has decreased over the years to its current level, but other colonies, such as the one of Peninsula Valdez have begun.

The further into the territory you walked, the more there were. Sometimes, it was just a field of holes with penguins (some with their babes) standing up like those pictured--head up and mouth open, singing some muted song. I thought of Happy Feet and how the partners would sing together to know who was their mate.

Sometimes you would just stare at them and think maybe they were animatronics. These things couldn't be real. Until, well, they flapped their wings un-mechanically and waddled off toward the beach. At another colony, I had caught one scratching his head with his foot. "Yep, that one's definitely real!" I thought.
Mom bought me a stuffed penguin to befriend my current one named Charlie. I've decided they're cousins, and I've named him Magellan. For his first photo, he wanted to show off his Argentinian nature in this one, as he sips his maté from a bombillo with a little penguin on it as well. Chau!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The trouble with knowing the history

Pause from mission work for a short personal, has nothing to do with anything, moment.

So it started with wanting to read The Man in the Iron Mask. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dumas' account of The Count of Monte Cristo. I wanted more. I remember watching the movie for Mask and thinking that it would probably be an excellent read as well (I promise it had nothing to do with Leonardo DiCaprio's excellent performance). But then I noticed in a book list that my desired read had a few books before it that I should probably tackle first so as to get the full background of the characters and situations.

Which led to a rather fast, and wonderful reading of The Three Musketeers. I'm currently 65% (thanks Kindle for the Mac) through the second, Twenty Years After, and am getting excited to embark on the final of the three novels. Additionally, I have looked up certain locations the novels take place, only to discover that the characters are based on historical truths. I'm learning much about French and English history, perhaps more than I've ever learned. People like Cardinal Richlieu, Oliver Cromwell, etc. Truly fascinating!

But then, I came to another realization. 3M had 67 chapters, this one has about 70 or 80 (I haven't checked), but the final of the three is actually subdivided as well. The sum total of the chapters of Ten Years Later is 267 chapters. The third section being the part I want to read. I was surprised to see what I've gotten myself into, because well, I can't stop now!

It's sort of like the history of the Bible. Sometimes you learn something cool, say, like what someone's name means in the original Hebrew, and you can't help wondering what else you can learn from knowing the Hebrew or Greek. Sort of like Pringles. Once you pop, the fun don't stop, and it makes the text itself even tastier during the next read. You don't have to know all the facts for the Bible to be interesting and soul captivating, but knowing more certainly makes it come more alive.

And finally, GO CATS! (in the Ticketcity bowl against Tech)