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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Detalles

I had watched the Stephen Colbert commencement speech for two reasons. Colbert is hilarious and I have an over-the-top love for my alma mater that may or may not have more to do with color than how good they are in sports (though on that note, go lacrosse team!).

I liked the speech. He was funny, simple, and brought out the best of the word brothel (I know, I didn't think it was possible either). I particularly enjoyed his description of the 7-day journey via sailboat that he had taken--the grueling effort to cross the Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda. This journey was followed up by an hour or so long plane ride back to where he started. Colbert explained that where he was in life and the giving of this important speech is like taking that plane ride.

It's impossible to explain everything he went through in a short time. The exhilaration, the moments of defeat, the satisfaction.. additionally where he is today as an award winning comedian can not be explained in twenty minutes. It's something to experience.

If I were to add anything, I would say that it's in the little things. I know, I know.. I'm only a few years out, but as I have been reflecting even just on this day, I can't help but find the satisfaction that every moment brings to fruition. What do I mean?

8am: alarm goes off, say a quick prayer that God will help me get out of bed by 8:30am.
8:27am: eyes miraculously open and I enjoy the final three minutes of warmth before exerting myself into the day.
8:43am: having taken care of the essentials, as well as putting a couple chairs by the faux fire, devotional time commences.
9:22am: brain exercises of the daily crossword and sudoku. Clean and put up dishes. Check email and all those other shenanigans that those of us perhaps a little too obsessed with the internet take part in.
10:13am: bike ride to grocery store. Fun balancing act on the way back.
11:53am: make lunch for Joy and I: mac and cheese with some chicken and sauteed onions thrown in for kicks. Listened to a couple sermons from Mosaic church in L.A.
12:45pm: make a couple dozen tortillas to have for the week. Used whole wheat for flavor and health.
3:30pm: head over to el Refugio to teach some kids basics in origami. We make a frog, dog and crane.
5:50pm: home to put laundry on the line and work on a craft for Escuelita. Read a little of Sense and Sensibility. Shared maté with some visiting friends.

And you can add that I began blogging, that we have a prayer meeting in an hour, and I'll be chatting with my lovely parents after.

I dunno. I'm just thinking of how Colbert quite possibly felt every minute of being on that sailboat. He took care of the various maneuvers to make sure they stayed course, didn't tip over, etc. etc. It's all part of the trip. Kind of like how I view all of the chores I take care of to help maintain a house for the four of us who live in it. They aren't mundane busy nothings--they are essential to life (bueno, maybe not the internet obsession).

A wise teacher puts it this way:
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.

A little later he adds:
Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil--this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Colbert talked about dreams changing. About how we may not achieve what we expected. It made me think of Scott Harrison and Blake Mycoskie. I too, can be included here, in a way. The truth is we can't know how things will pan out, and that is okay. I'm not going to say "make every moment count," because those moments will pass with or without you. The question is whether or not you allow God to open those ojitos of yours to enjoy them. And what can be said of my two linked friends is that they find their purpose in serving others over and above themselves. Just like Colbert had mentioned.

Okay. Busy day tomorrow. Looking forward to it! Also, Whitney is here from Chile!!!

Chau.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The sights, the sounds...

Last night I went to Maria Elena's for dinner. Before we could get started, Johnny, whom I often refer to as hermanito, asked,

"Sharayah! What's your team?"

"Umm..."

"Belgrano, right?"

[dumbfounded silence]

"Bueno, it's Belgrano."

I am afraid to pick a team. Green Street Hooligans has scared me from forming an alliance with any (non-national) futbol team, especially in a country that actually cares.

I responded, "What about Talleres? or Boca? or River?"

Johnny tilted his head, "But your hermanito likes Belgrano."

Pause. I could feel my arm twisting. "What colors do they wear?"

"Celeste. The color of Argentina, the color of the sky--"

"The color of my eyes?" I smirked. I was laughing on the inside at my subtle submission to picking a team for childish reasons.

"The color of your eyes!" he agreed.

"Fine. Belgrano it is!" [High five]

Why the immediacy of choosing? Last night was an important game between Belgrano and River. We watched as we prepared dinner, and sure enough, my team won! Johnny had moments of near heart attack when River would come close to scoring. I told him that the way he was feeling is sometimes how I get when watching baseball.

"I don't understand baseball," he said.

I smiled. "And I don't understand soccer. So we're equal."

As soon as the game ended, I wanted to head home. The bomberos, or fireworks, were already going off all around the city as the people celebrated. At one point, I laughed out loud thinking about how it was actually fairly safe to head home at midnight this time, since more people were outside of their homes. The sights and sounds of Córdoba are so distinct.

Then this morning, I made the usual walk downtown to have tea with Noemí. We read the "Confessions" chapter in Blue Like Jazz together. She liked that very much, and apprehensive as it is a signed copy (I'm such a nerd), I let her borrow it for the week to see if she can read more.

On the way back, I had to pass over a dead dog laying in the middle of the sidewalk. I passed another stray.. oh but living.. that seems to have distinguished his territory as he is always within a block or two of the same place when I walk by. Then there's the street juggler. This time I decided to--

"Excuse me, where did you buy those clubs?"

He seemed surprised that I was talking with him, and slowly pulled out his earphones. Nonetheless, he greeted me with a smile and we continued to chat about a nearby circus store where you can buy all the necessary juggling supplies your heart could desire.

"Where are you from?" he asked.

"Los estados unidos."

"Oh, so you are studying here?"

Exhale. I felt the bold truth was better than just saying that I'm a volunteer. Not that that isn't the truth, but I hate the bitter taste "missionary" can leave on some persons' mouths. "Soy misionera."

His smile broadened. "So you preach the Word," he chuckled.

"Well, sometimes.. but mainly I just serve people. I live near Las Violetas."

That shut him up in terms of the joking. "What's your name?"

He says I'm welcome to join him any morning and he'll teach me how to juggle with clubs. I seriously hope that this happens, because having a partner will really help me persevere, as I know how frustrated I can get when learning. Mattias is his name, and he says he's at the same corner almost every day.

Passing the Sheraton, I noticed a long-distance bus parked at the entrance, surrounded by police vehicles and spectators. The further I walked away, the more I confirmed my speculation; my team Belgrano, had stayed there for the night. They drove past as everyone paused in awe and with shouts of loyalty. It was then I noticed little blue and white ribbons hanging from most license plates. Were these remnants of the national holiday (June 20th), or from the game?

Before I could come to the last leg of my journey for the morning, I had to say hello to Marta, who works at a grocery in the middle of the city. We gave the typical greeting and that was all, as she was busy with customers at the time.

Finally home. The sound of the gas oven whirring as it prepared the milanesas for lunch. I told myself I should write before taking my siesta, so there you go. Chau!

La Salvacion

"My boyfriend asked me... to ask you... what you think," Flor explained last week.

Like the walks I used to take with Sol every week, now I share maté every Wednesday with Florencia. I can not help that I'm a creature of habit, but it should also be noted that Sol is at cole (school, pronounced co-LAY) most mornings now, and with all of her homework, it's hard for us to find a time together. We do meet before youth group on Saturdays, but it's not like it used to be. I am pleased to note, however, that we should be going to a week long conference for kids in Buenos Aires in July!

But as I was saying, Flor wanted to know my thoughts about whether or not we can lose our salvation. I gave her a few verses to look over last week, and we discussed them this morning. Pardon me for not coming forward with my thoughts here either, as I prefer to let you look up the solution on your own.*

I was honored that Fernando wanted her to talk with me about the theological discussion. After all, she doesn't view this weekly meeting as a discipleship. Plus, I learn a lot from her, as she is very patient with me when it comes to the language. I have a weekly list of new vocabulary in my in-hand journal!

In essence, his pressing has upped the ante for our meetings, and this week we talked until 1pm! I'm usually at her house, a few blocks from our own, by 9:45am. We chat about the differences between the cultures, future travel dreams, her possibility of marrying Fer in the coming years, and so on and so forth.

I was pleased by her desire for truth. We talked through the various verses, making sure that we understood the context, and when we read parables, knowing who represented who. She responded with awe, realizing that she had based her ideas on what people told her, not on what the Bible said.

"That's easy to do," I told her, thinking of growing up in the Baptist belt. "We have to keep begging the Holy Spirit to show us what the Scriptures mean, as well as know what is most important for our lives."

Twas a beautiful meeting (and aside, I seriously love maté). Chau!

*For those who are truly interested, here are the verses we used:
Luke 14:15-24 (Matthew 22:1-16), Luke 20:9-19 (Matthew 21:33-46), Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 7:15-23, Hebrews 10:26-39, 1 Corinthians 3:10-16 (16-17)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why Sunday siestas are the best

I can go for a bike ride on all the main streets with casi nadie (almost nobody) around to run me over.

No seriously; sometimes it even feels like the apocalypse.

I stopped at Nuevo Centro for a peli (movie).. I picked Priest with Paul Bettany (I still call him Chaucer) because it had looked like a commentary on the church and that almost always intrigues me.

Very predictable. A little weird in mixing a western genre with end of the world, but it's based on a graphic novel, so what can you expect?

More importantly, it was re-lindo (so lovely) to leave the house and sing some classic Beatles whilst roaming Colon and Duarte Quiros. "Hey Jude..." Not gonna lie, I might have felt a little hipster. All I lacked was a boom box attached to the back, some Ray Bans and tight jeans.

love and chau.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Surreal

There are so many moments that feel surreal. I take a hard look, rub my eyes and make sure that I'm not dreaming.

I spent the night with Maria Elena after youth group. The OM house is currently full*, and since I had ridden my bike earlier to share merienda with Fany, I figured it would be easier to ride back in the morning.

One o'clock struck, and we both made way to the bed that takes up the whole room that normally ME and Carlos share. The boys and Carlos were in the adjoining room, which is next to the kitchen/dining room where one even as short as me can feel like a giant. The house is tiny.

We lay there, covered in about 5 layers of blankets as it is now winter and the house has no heating system. 'Still better than being claustrophobic at the other house,' I thought to myself. We talked about the day and things we notice about life. I couldn't believe how quickly time passed as we ended the night with prayer and I glanced at my watch: 2:16am.

I didn't exactly sleep, as the rooster began crowing a few hours later, and I was just lost in the moment. Riding back, too, felt more natural even though I've only had Rosita for a week now.

This evening, youth group had to meet outside due to the conference, so there were only the 6 of us playing soccer in the local plaza. It didn't seem like a story I would ever tell. "Remember when we played futbol with that ragged old ball, the Rodriguez sisters squealing about, a guy on a bicycle shouting 'Hermosas!' at us as he passed?"

Or the part where Caro's friend had come too, and we got to talk about what I'm doing here. She seems intrigued, and I do hope she comes again.

I rub my eyes and see that it's still real. Thank you Lord. Chau.

*OM is hosting a missionary course, and many folk from different parts of Argentina have come to take part. FULL house.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The quinceniera doll

Steph and I have had the room to ourselves for a couple weeks now. We are both pretty chill, and in and out of the room at opposite times due to differences in ministry.

One day, I went to bed and noticed that this doll that was given to me during Abi's 15th birthday party was moved to Steph's side of an adjoining book case. 'That's odd,' I thought as I moved it back to my side.

Two weeks later, again, the doll had moved. This time the lamp that we use at night was also moved over. 'Maybe she thinks the doll is hers,' I thought, and decided just to leave it because I was too tired/lazy.

Yesterday morning she mentioned something about the doll. I explained that I keep it as a reminder of the night, as well as the fact that people take the 15th bday very seriously here.

"Yeah," she mentioned. "It's almost a bigger deal than weddings." Steph and Joy went to a wedding earlier this year.

"I was wondering," I began. "Why it keeps appearing on your side of the bookshelf."

She looked at me with wide eyes. "I have been wondering the same thing!!" she squealed.

At first, it seemed to be a case of the moving doll, but I didn't stop there. "And is there a reason you moved the lamp?" I asked.

"I didn't move the lamp! I thought you did!"

We laughed, though paused soon after to contemplate.

"Ah-ha!" I mentioned, in my best Sherlock Holmes impression. "When Eva cleans the windows every now and then, she must move our things and doesn't know what belongs to whom!"

Steph and I agreed, and laughed again at the idea that neither of us had wanted to say anything, because it wasn't that big of a deal in the first place. It did make us wonder though. haha

Chau.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

le Rebuke

You know you have a good mentor when she says exactly what you need to hear when you need to hear it. Andrea has been challenging me ever since we started meeting together earlier this year, and I almost always come out of the meetings ready to begin afresh the following week.

This week, I felt a subtle, yet necessary, rebuke. The challenge was to take another look at the culture and note what is different. At first, I was abashed at the thought that I have been neglecting something obvious. Then I realized the adjective was "another." Almost nine months into my stay here, ten months out of the country entirely, I needed to be reminded that I'm not in Uh-merica. Well.. haha. I am, just not in the northern half.

Thankfully, I had started the day reading through an online Bible study on the book of Mark. It makes a fairly thorough analysis of the disciples and their understanding of Jesus throughout the 16 chapters. As I wait for permission to include the questions the study includes directly, I will simply link you to the site.

The analysis concludes that the disciples, although with the Son of God during his entire three year ministry on this earth, still did some pretty stupid, not-thinking-things-through, sort of things. Like that Chris Rice song:
I can get so clumsy,
I can get so foolish,
I get so stupid
and then I feel so useless...

One of the final questions is asking us to label the disciples, and one can't help but circle the final option. They are human. Just like you and me.

The best part is knowing He still loves me. Has patience with me. Provides a mentor for me to nudge me in the right direction.

I went for a bike ride soon after and made a stop at Maria Elena's. All I wanted was a glass of water, but she was able to give me some delicious lunch and I listened to her friends debate about soccer. She also turned to me at one point to say, "I wasn't expecting you, but now that I think of it--it's as if God wanted you to be here. You're timing couldn't have been more perfect!"

How deliberate God can be, as Maria Elena then proceeded to share some prayer requests and other things to explain why.

He's amazing. Chau.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike

Happy Birthday to me!!! So it's a couple weeks now and I haven't written about the amazing birthday party I had with all my friend's at Maria Elena's. I never got around to talking about how great it was to be constantly greeted with "Feliz Cumple!" and wonderful hugs, and lovely presents and birthday cards by the youth group of Santa Rosa (and a few others). Oh how we shared delicious empanadas and pizzas and fiambres! How we gathered in a circle and I received some encouraging words.

I also enjoyed on the day of a time with Sarah to say goodbye to each other at Il Gatto, where I had some deliciousness too good for words.

But.. well.. if I could rank them.. the bike.. no well, the bike comes third.

First comes my dad singing to Dora the Explorer to me. We had chatted the Sunday before and at the end he not only sang, but danced. He mimicked Sarah from this video, and all of us had a good chuckle.

Second is the fact that my little Nolan is walking now! And his first steps happened to come on the 24th. A truly priceless gift!

Then comes the beauty we see at the beginning. I mean look at it. Pink! A basket!! If it's not the perfect bike for getting around Córdoba, I don't know what is. hehe. Seriously though, it cuts my travel time to the boys' institute to 40 minutes there and back, as opposed to 1 hour and 46 minutes.

I have been warned not to ride at night. As Carlos, husband of Maria Elena, explained to me, "Riding your bike at night is like a 1,000 peso on wheels for robbers."

Maria Elena has already staked her claim on it for when I leave. Her son Johnny asked me directly after seeing it the first time whether it was mine. "Of course it is! Do you like it?" I responded.

"Nope - it's pink!"

"Good. Less chance that you'll steal it from me then," I laughed.

Just.. have.. to.. get used to riding uphill again. And of course, I'll have to think of a name.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Patience for Chechu ..and Ivan

I have brought to the reader's attention young Chechu on several occasions. He truly is one of the boys most cared for by the leaders of OM, as his struggle is external. We know that all of the boys at the institute have rough lives, but when you add the fact that his eyes do not function properly, it just seems so much the worse for him.

And so when JD left I had begun my prayers for Chechu specifically. We have never connected, as I seem to cling most with Nahuel, Rodrigo uno and on occasion Sergio. I prayed that God would help me know what to do and say around him, to encourage him better. I have already seen answered prayers in that these past couple weeks we have had some great laughs. Like the other day when we played Jenga in a group of four. I was nervous for him because he would have to risk toppling the wooden tower over on account of his impaired vision. On the contrary, he played quite well, and was able to last several rounds. When the time came in which all came tumbling down, I made sure to lovingly tease him, "Oh no Chechu! It's gonna fall.. it's gonna fall!" I chanted.

His guffaw seemed to come from Jolly old St. Nick himself.

Today however, we struggled. We played Uno in the institute this time, and ALL of the boys behaved very poorly. We said throughout our time there that they needed to stop the bad words, stop hitting each other, stop cheating...

Words will only be valued if their is truth behind them. Namely, that they would not receive their reward for the day.

And sure enough, when they all came filing up to us asking for the "premio" we had to explain to them, several times, they did not receive one today. "But what did we do?!" Oh, how our memories love to fade away so conveniently.

Chechu especially turned sour. He stole the Uno cards, while I tried to lovingly explain that I know he is better than that. Javi pursued him and had a long talk with him about the need to behave well in order to receive the award. I watched and prayed for patience. That Javi would be able to love well with firm words. Eventually, we got the cards back.

Then there's Ivan. He's new, and we think he has come directly from living off the streets. He says nothing of his family, and is always touching everything in sight: the water pouring from the sewer, the trash in the can in the plaza, etc. etc. It has been in these past couple of weeks that I find priority to wash my hands before leaving for the day.

He is also very affectionate. I am wary to return his desired affection, because I don't think he has a proper view of women. It is so hard to hold back a hug from him, but I honestly think it might be for his good. Of course, I will not neglect the typical Argentinian greeting. I just want to be careful.

Can you pray for these boys with me? There is much work to be done, and only can the Lord change their hearts! Thanks and chau!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fwah!*

Do you ever feel too young for something?

I think the first time it happened was when a mother asked advice about her 13 year old, pot smoking son. I was 21 at the time but felt much younger--a grown woman wanted advice on how to be a mother.. from me?

Today I met with someone seeking out whether or not he was supposed to marry a certain woman. Both of them are 10 years older than single, ol' me.

Then tonight a father was searching out what it means for his daughter to choose the life of a missionary.

If and when I give advice, especially these days, I usually still end up with the same three words. I don't know. I don't know what's best, slash, I may not have completely understood the dilemma considering you're speaking to me in another language. I can explain how I've felt with similar experiences from my past, or from friends (or even friends of friends), but ultimately you are you and I am me.

God, on the other hand does know. I think sometimes He will put into our lives very clear propositos, as they're called in Spanish. We English-speaking folk call them purposes. He'll make it very clear how one should respond to certain events in our lives. Sometimes it's not so clear: it's more "lamp-unto-my-feet-and-light-unto-my-path" sorta thing where all we can see is one step ahead (if that in some cases).

All this to say that you're welcome to ask me and I can tell you what I (think I) know. In fact, I'll be most grateful that you told me because it let's me know that you value me. But rest more assured that God knows and loves you more than I ever could and I hope you're encouraged to talk with Him about whatever it is. And to top that all off with a lovely, juicy cherry, I'll be praying for you! Chau!

*I had a conversation with a friend today about the sounds of the Argentinians. This is the sound of surprise or of being overwhelmed. I kind of love it!