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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Latest food experiences

I have not stopped cooking since I've gotten here. Mostly, the food is akin to that we in the States would normally make, only slightly more from scratch. Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, or other things you'd rely on Paul Newman or Prego for (I even made a peach vinaigrette with the right combination of smashed peaches, vinegar and salt) have all been undertook. I have some perfecting to do, but in general if all you have are some left over pasta, veggies and spices (and only a gas oven and stove), we can make it happen.

I had wanted to do something even more special for our German friends who came over last week. My cooking day is Wednesday, the day of their arrival. Could I possibly make some enchiladas? After a quick run to Wal-Mart, we found some spicy peppers and shredded cheeses other than Cremoso that happened to fit in our budget, gracias a Dios.

So.. three hours of tortilla and sauce prep leads to the above picture. I think they liked it, which is comforting. The better news is I hope to make more in the future, and when I get home I'll use more exotic meats like chicken! hehe. (Chicken is too expensive here, so we settle for beef, which is still good.)

I've also learned another magic trick to which I don't have a picture namely because I have already gobbled it all up. Oops :P

Eggplant. Introduced to me in middle school when my aunt Dulia prepared some for us, I have enjoyed other dishes including this vegetable especially on my trip to Greece. We've prepared a few meals with eggplant and most people don't seem to like it. It bugged me, because I still liked it, but I knew I had tasted better.

So today, I looked up how to prepare eggplant. A-ha! There is a process!! You're supposed to dice it and then place it in a colander, spreading salt on the surfaces. After about 40 minutes or an hour, you'll find all of the bitter flavors oozing out, and something else about clearing out air holes. I don't know. It's science.

After preparing said eggplant, I decided to take some of the leftover veggies in the fridge as well as dice up some parsley (I've read parsley brings out the flavor of eggplant), sautee and bam. Delicious. You can definitely tell a difference, and I look forward to preparing more eggplant in the future! Ahh, how I love learning more tricks of the trade!

Chau.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Adventures in bus riding

First, it was Ari who wanted to leave. She was afraid of being late to be picked up by Andrea as we were on the other side of town enjoying a delicious meal from our favorite Colombians. I reminded her not to worry as Andrea and Raul are almost always late (on time for Uruguayan standards), but nonetheless Ari insisted on waiting closer to the bus stop. When the bus came, I waved it down, and gave my quick beso to my dear friends so I could get on the bus.

Only, Ari took a little too long to give a hug to Johanna and so the bus left without us.

Then when we finally got on the bus, Sarah noticed a man staring at her from another. She turned to me to explain this information, so I looked at him directly and began to wave. He smiled and waved back while the bus parted ways from ours.

I love riding the bus. Seeing people, especially the teenagers, that I know in random parts of town. I had nudged Samuel, our director, at one point, after seeing him take the R8 with us. It wasn't until afterward that I thought how awkward it could have been if I had mistook him for a complete stranger.

Then there's all the slipping and sliding around. Not only when you're standing, but when your sitting too, the seats are so slippery. I always have to readjust to make sure I'm sitting somewhat erect. Good times, great oldies.

Chau.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I survived the Ministerio de Migraciones

While I wait to talk with my sister-in-law and nephew on Skype, I thought I should tell about the adventures of the day. Mainly the morning. Because today was the first time for me to deal with renewing my visa.

I've had a visa before, but someone else obtained it for me. I even have a tourist visa for Argentina, but there's something about having to renew it every 90 days, even when the visa says it's good for travel up to 10 years, that I don't understand. Therefore, today marked my first time to figure things out on my own. Like a fish out of water, talking with birds. Because birds speak a different language, and often like to eat fish. ahem..

Thankfully, I was not alone. Jonas and I woke up at the crack of dawn to arrive at the Immigrations office and find--no line! Well, we waited five minutes only to find out we needed to go to another section of the building where once again, there was no line. Except there was no one to help us either. We were told to go to an office, but it wasn't specified which office that was. So we waited.. and decided to just knock on a door and figure it out for ourselves. We knocked on the right one on our first try, and handed over our information. He told us to wait outside.

After about 20 minutes, Jonas busted out the Truco cards. If only we had brought a maté to make the occasion even more Argentinian. In total, we waited an hour, and came in to fill out some paper work and explain what exactly it was we were doing here. "Volunteers," we told him. "We volunteer at certain institutes and hogars."

"No, we don't get paid."

"No, we are not students."

In English we flashbacked to some of our experiences at the GO Conference and we thanked God that we live in a country more open to people in our line of work. How hard that must be to deal with Immigrations if you don't have a more practical alibi.

But that wasn't all. Then we had to take a sheet of paper to get stamped at the bank where we paid the 300AP fee to extend the visa. The bank was "only 6 blocks away," but I kept thinking that it's still a silly process.

It's also a natural process; difficult for anyone in every country.

Then we returned to the same office only to be told that he needed a copy of our passports. Okay, we'll go across the street to the kiosk. We return. "No, no," he says. "I need your picture AND your stamped page of when you entered the country." Back and forth. By this time we just laughed about the process.

"Wait outside."

Thirty more minutes later and we were free to go. I rejoiced to see that I have exactly until my birthday to leave the country. haha.

But the kicker was even better. We walked outside to find ourselves in the middle of a protest for employees. They were shooting off fireworks and singing as if in a futbol stadium. This is Argentina. Chau.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anything that begins with ice cream will be great

You know it. Because who's going to say "no" to ice cream? Boys and men out there, if you're struggling with an idea for a first date, just stick to good ole helado.

Any way, this was our plan for our first day back with the boys at the institute. I was nervous, because this would also be a first for us to visit without Javi. Javi is the one with the longest standing relationship not only with the boys, but with the directors of the institute as well. Thankfully, JD and Jonas came with us, so it wasn't just us girls trying to control the three. And yes, you should be afraid of the number three at this institute, as each boy can be a handful.

But praise be to God! We had a great time with them, as we had gone to a nearby shopping area that had the next best thing to Grido--Freddo. The boys were able to have an M&M's chocolate ice cream cone, and afterward, enjoy a beautiful view of the city.

Funny times included them pretending to run away, but always coming back. I think they've realized that we won't chase after them any more, because we know they need to have their space, especially after being locked up in a building for most of the day. Good times included talking with Fabrizio again. He was surprised that I remembered a few things about his life from the last time we had talked. I mentioned that I was praying for his dad, Diego, and checking up on school stuff for him. Bad times... can't say that there were any. Esta vez ;)

It was also hilarious to see them all with new haircuts. In fact, I didn't even recognize Fabri without his hair covering his face. ha. And Rodrigo sported the faux hawk which served him well. His mouth is still pretty dirty, but it was adorable when he asked how my knee was doing. That caught me by surprise, and I just kept thinking about the blessings from God for building these relationships! Chau.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I love it

It's so gimmicky ;)
It's made up by Hallmark for a profit.
Why can't every day be Valentine's?

So I'm just going to get my argument out there on the table again. Valentine's, despite some of the opposing views listed in the beginning, is a great day! And this comes from someone who has only shared one Valentine's with a "significant" other in her life.

Sure, it helps that I've had a father who almost always gets me flowers on February 14. This year it was a little difficult considering the whole living in another country thing.

But let's talk about church. Wait, what? That's right. Church. Why do we go? Isn't it a little silly to go every week, when really we should be loving God and each other every day of the week? What's the point? I can read and even effectively study my Bible on my own. I can plug in my iPod for some of the recent Hillsong jams. I can even invite some of my Christian friends over and we can discuss what we're learning about God. Whenever. I. Want.

But it doesn't work that way, does it? When left to our own freedom, we don't read, we don't praise God, and we don't meet corporately all that often. We need a day to remember.

I've been working on memorizing some Scripture, and I'm currently meditating on this seventh day of the week. God blessed it and made it holy, because on it he rested from all of the work of creating he had done. Not only is the Sabbath our chance to remember, but it's our chance to rest. There's something about rest too, that allows us to enjoy our time of remembering.

Perhaps we can view Valentine's in this way. Sure we can show each other love any way, throughout the year, but why not set aside one day (out of 365 days guys--it can't be that bad!) to remember and rest in our love for each other? To spend a little extra, to be a little more intentional with our time together?

Of course, I greatly encourage spontaneity, but give Valentine's Day a little street cred every once and awhile.

Love,
sharayah.

chau.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Challenging thought of the day

I finally got around to listening to Paul Washer. Someone from the conference in Holland suggested I have a listen, and now five months later, I have to say...

Wow.

I will sum up what he said that made me think, so that you too, may dwell:

Many of us desire to be completely free of God. We want to make our own decisions. We want to live the way we want. And yet, when there is so much pain and suffering in the world, all happening because of the freedom man has to do what he/she wants, we demand that God step in. We even question God's love for the world when it seems that He doesn't. Could it be that we can't handle the freedom we desire? Do we see how our one decision to turn away from God can snowball into the death and demise of the innocent?

And we call God unfair.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Retiro

What do you get when you mix 7 North Americans, 3 Germans, a Dutchie, a Mexican, 2 Uruguayans, and 7 Argentinians? I've been MIA for a couple days due to a retreat with my OM peeps. Wow, I just used peeps for the first time in.. well.. ever. It was a relaxing, fun-filled time, spent in Villa Bolsa, Córdoba province, Argentina.

(Córdoba is not just a city, but a province. Geography trivia: Argentina has 23 provinces, and they serve in a similar way as the different states of the US. My goal is to have touched soil in all 23 provinces before leaving. As of now, 7/23.)

We drove in and immediately Eze said, "Oh, it looks just like Narnia!"

"Umm.. not quite," I laughed. But I did think the green grass and giant trees were akin to the Shire. :P

As we gathered for the first evening of discussions led by Don Hammond, I realized that the foreigners outnumbered the Argentinians. Nonetheless, it was great to intentionally practice more Spanish with all those serving in Buenos Aires and Córdoba. I think I had more time to hear life stories from my teammates at this retreat than I've heard in the past 5 months!

The speaker taught us about the various gates of Jerusalem, per Nehemiah. It was fascinating to look at the symbolism behind each gate, just as each part of the temple is intentionally pointing toward Christ.

On another note, I loved getting lost in nature. The campsite location was close to a little river that had several paths one could take and enjoy a meander under grand trees. I even climbed one, but as soon as I saw a giant spider in my face, I figured it was a good time to get down.

Then there was Truco. Now, I'm losing in terms of matches, but when I win, it's always big. Jonas told me I should never play for money though. haha.

All right, time to finish laundry! Chau.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I had a dream about Age of Empires

And this is how it came to be.

I went to bed early. Earlier than the norm not just for the house, but really, for Argentine life. 10:30 was the hour. I couldn't explain why I was so tired, nor be completely happy with my decision as I was leaving during the last thirty minutes of Mansfield Park, but part of me was also hoping to wake up earlier the next day for a walk. Perhaps even as a run (gasp).

But then the light was on, and I felt bad asking to turn it off until about 1 in the morning because I knew my roommates were needing that light for various reasons. So it was more of a half-sleep. Only, when the light went off, my mind went crazy and decided not to sink into the traditional REM cycle. Instead, it raced about things to do, ideas for the new year with Escuelita, and much, much more!

There was this cat that used to chase the Looney Tunes character Speedy Gonzalez around all the time. In one episode he says, "Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." He then joins in the Mexican hat dance with a bunch of other mice. At 3:31am, I surrendered in the form of writing in my journal and reading some of the Bible. No sense getting angry--just use the time doing something productive, right?

I began making a physical list (rather than electronic) of different people in my life that I want to pray for, by name, each day. A list of people from Northwestern, from Colorado, friends from other states (of course Texas), family, and those I have met in Argentina. As I prayed for each one, it only conjured up even more names to add.

Only God knows their true needs. I realized that I'm not always sure how to pray for people even when I  have talked to quite a few of them and asking for what they need prayer. Nevertheless, I still do not know the root of an issue. I am thankful for the God who can answer prayers, and the ability to give it all up to Him. At the same time, 'if only I could pray more specific prayers,' I thought.

I finally fell to sleep around 5:30 in the morning with a dream where I was in the game Age of Empires. I pictured everything similar to my times of playing with my brother: building castles, hiding men to keep building houses and cutting trees, and naturally, trebuchets... Within the dream I kept telling myself how glad I was to be asleep, even if the dream was vacuous.

Then the story didn't end there.

The next day for my walk, ending up much later than planned (considering I needed to catch up with sleep), and almost not happening at all (LAZY!!), I ran into the director of the girls' institute we visit during the school year. It was one of those, I-recognize-your-face-but-can't-seem-to-place-exactly-where-so-if-you-keep-talking... a HA!-moments.

She described where some of the girls were these days, how some of them were safe with extended families, but others were in more difficult situations, and they weren't sure how things were going for them. It was as if God said, "You wanted to know how to pray for these girls--here you go!"

It's not just a responsibility we have to pray for people, but to really believe that God can transform us. There's that paragraph in Romans that talks about the Spirit interceding for us when we know not what to pray. Then there are times when we know exactly what we ought to pray, and we don't. Prayer is not just a privilege, an opportunity to talk with our loving God, but a weapon. We use our swords, swift and sure.

Not that we ask God using special words to get our way. We don't manipulate our language to make Him do what we want. And I want to be very careful about not letting gossip get into my prayer request time. But knowing more specific situations, particularly about my girls, makes me all the more excited when I see an answer to prayer come to life. It's not a "I prayed for that," but a, "Hey God! We totally talked about that. How cool that you wanted me to be a part of the conversation!"

Make sense? Any way, I still can't get over the other interesting part. No, not the dream. But the fact that I woke up late due to the restlessness. Almost didn't walk at all. But because I did any way, I got to see someone I haven't seen for a month and a half to hear news about some of God's special women.

Chau.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Water water everywhere

I would like to propose an experiment. First, you will have to go to your kitchen cabinet and take out a cup. Step two, pour water into cup from the sink in your kitchen. Finally, take a nice big gulp.

Did you have any hesitations with taking a drink?

I'm a huge fan of groups like Charity:Water and Blood:Water Mission. Hmm.. just made the connection that both like to include semicolons in their names. Fascinating. Any way, I love how much both groups raise money to bring clean water to places that don't have ready access to healthy drinking water (as in, having to walk for miles, or providing purification processes for rivers and lakes). Most need the education on where to build wells, as well as financial support to make that happen. I not only encourage you to get involved, but check out their websites linked above. It's so neat how the process works, and how the people who receive the water are involved in the construction work; something in which they can take ownership and in general feel more invested.

But let me add something to the conversation. There is so much water on this earth. Water is essential to life, and yes, both organizations help to bring water to communities in desperate need. Both organizations however, focus on the countries with little to no access.

What I am thinking is that there's another issue. We don't realize how good we have it in the US sometimes when we can drink straight from the tap. Sure, there will be places where there the water can taste a little funny, but it's nothing. It's drinkable. It is still healthy for you. Part of me actually thinks it's a giant scam that they have us paying for something we can otherwise get for free! (Just like bookstores when there are these things, have you heard of them? They're called libraries.)

In Germany, you are encouraged to never drink the water from the tap. My mom had gotten very sick from doing so. In Russia, in the capital city of Moscow for crying out loud, you can't drink the water either. Much less brush your teeth with said water. One of the things I've learned about traveling in Europe is to check which countries are safe for drinking water, and in which do I need to buy bottles.

When I first arrived in Córdoba, I was told the water was safe. Maybe some of you haven't followed this story for very long, but the short of it is I was sick for my first month and a half. Something like a sinus infection, that is, more mucous than I care to remember. So I experimented by ceasing my tap water intake and switching to bottled water.

Cured.

For this city, we get our water from a nearby manmade lake. After researching reports, I found that there is algae in the water. At first I thought about the Argentinians, but upon closer inspection, we realized they don't drink it either. Just like the Germans and Russians.

Which means, even for countries that have access, not all of it is good for drinking. Much of it is our own fault through negligence and disobedience to care for God's earth. Had we taken better care of our water reserves, had we the knowledge to separate where we take a bath and where we drink (see Walter's work for the Chinese in The Painted Veil), maybe we would be better off.

At the same time, there are places without pollution problems, but either the technology isn't there, or the resources themselves are insufficient. Such as the marshlands from which most of Russia pulls its water.

So what do we do about this?

I put extra thought into this situation while drinking boiled tap water so I could have tea. At least this way, it's in a smaller dose, and I hope the algae is dead from the heat. I don't know though. It's just, we ran out of our weekly supply of water and I don't have much other choice except to buy more bottled water or wait until we are replenished tomorrow morning. Truly, the US doesn't realize it has it so good.

I ask again: What do we do?

Risky business

I started reading Jeremiah. Now, I haven't exactly just been reading the Bible as of late, as I'm using another study technique. But then I started getting this cramp inside that told me to read something I haven't read in awhile. In order for the cramp to go away, I decided to pick a prophetic book.

Is it just me, or do those who read the prophetic books often prefer Isaiah? I know it's not a happy go lucky read, but it seems much better than the other prophets, especially with chapters like 40 and 53, as well as so many prophecies concerning the Christ. Jeremiah on the other hand, is known as the "Gloom and Doom" prophet, and no one is thinking they will be encouraged.

Then I read the first chapter last night and thought of Aslan. Twice, the Lord says to Jeremiah, "I am with you and will rescue you."

"Is he safe?"
"No. But he is good."

What a promise. You, Jeremiah, are in charge of sending messages of the ugly truth to Israel. The people are going to want to kill you. Other nations will rise up against your people. But the Lord is with you. He will rescue you.

It seems to me that what the Lord is saying (especially with more context) is that Jeremiah will be in the midst of the battle, in the middle of all the trouble. He will come to several near-death experiences, but just when you think it's over, God's got his back. Like all of those marvelous adventure stories: just when you think Athos is done for, Mordaunt's body arises from the sea; just when you think Lois Lane will fall to her death, she is caught by Clar--I mean Superman.

God isn't just about keeping us alive. A large part of these near-death experiences is to remember our mortality, and to remember how much we need to trust in Him. Trust specifically, in His love for us. I have much more to read in Jeremiah (wow, it's really been a long time), but I'm glad to have started here. Many times I think about some of the strange things I've been through, about my own unforeseeable future, and I just have to remember the Lord is with me. I don't have the same promise of being rescued as Jeremiah, but at least because of His great love, I know He's worth following. Even unto death.

Chau.