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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Resurrected outlook

Everyone knows the story of the prodigal son. I've heard it countless times, and even those unacquainted with the Bible know a little something about a lost son who comes back home to a father with open arms. Recently, I've heard the story about 4 different times through a variety of avenues.

It wasn't until last night that something new clicked (although each retelling had something special that touched my heart).

So you know that part where the son asks for his inheritance? In those time to make such a request was to say that the father was dead to you. After all, it wasn't until after he passed that one would receive his/her reward. This part wasn't new to me. But then I read the final sentence of the story..

..the part after the son comes back with a repentant heart
..after the other son complains about his father's behavior
..the father says..

"We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again..."

You catch it?

The father wasn't the dead one. The son was.

While the son tried to tell the father off, he couldn't. The father remains alive and well. By leaving the love of our Father, the only one who dies is us. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

The story of victory is when we too come to realize that our only life comes through the father, and remaining in Him.

And that's pretty sweet. Chau.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What did we do any way?

At least 300.

Well, there were a LOT of these...

And on Tuesday we had over 110 kids...

Every day featured your typical, alfajor and mate cocido...

And there were workshops like baking bread, making periscopes, making clown puppets, sports, learning about instruments, and oh yeah...

the workshop Eva and I was in charge of...

You betchya we looked like a bunch of fools out there. This was one of the ways we warmed up--walking around on all fours. Not exactly my favorite, but definitely got the blood pumping. What was neat about the week was using the gifts (thanks pops for those hips that don't lie) and talents (white girl's got rhythm, say what?*) to get kids excited about coming to church. We would do silly things, like be mirror images to Irish jig music (great mental picture, no? hehe) or stretches that brought our feet behind our head(!), etc. etc.

It was a week long event during winter vacation. Something the church, that the OM team is involved with, puts together every year. I would describe it as an Argentine version of Vacation Bible School. From 2-5pm, the children gather for games, the aforementioned workshops, a Bible story (told by an amazing teacher!), and snack.

I got close with a couple of girlies, and this one in particular was, how shall I say it? Pegahosa. That is to say, she was stuck to me like white on rice.
The sad news is I didn't get to see her or her cousin Martina the last day of the week. I had planned to sit down with them and pray with them. I guess God has other plans. But if you could pray for Florencia, Martina and Martina's two brothers Franco and Rodrigo, it would be much appreciated.

It was a lot of work, and I was glad to be a support, but once again, I'm glad to be back to get to work with my teens again! Until next time, chau!

*Went to a gym this morning for some Latin dancing. The instructor commented that I got the moves down better than some of her clients who have been coming for years! haha

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bs. As. tour guide. That's me!

Sol and I had all day Saturday after our work with the kiddies (more on that upcoming) to visit the capital of her country, Buenos Aires. I've now been here thrice, which is amazing in itself, but something I most enjoyed on this trip was being the foreign tour guide.

I thought of it as if Sol were to show off Washington, D.C. to me, except for having a Pink House,
..we have a white one. Never had crossed my mind before. I asked her how she felt about seeing the capital of Argentina, but she just kind of shrugged. She wasn't outwardly enthusiastic, but we had much to talk about afterward, and said she loved seeing all the sights.

We started in Puerto Madero where to spice things up for me, we entered the frigate known as Presidente Sarmiento. For the equivalent of 50 cents, you can see the ins and outs of this world-traveling ship. Then came the tour of the political house we've seen many a time by now (though I still lack a night shot, which is quite cool). I was surprised here in that they've opened up more rooms to the public--so.. more new stuff for me. Woohoo! And then of course.. the obelisk. hehe.
We hit up everything I knew, minus La Boca and Recoleta. We tried to take a tour of the famous Teatro Colon, which would have been a first for me, but it closed fifteen minutes before we showed up. There were the typical demonstrators in the streets, the typical street vendors (from which this time they enticed us both to buy hats:
Mine is this dark green with hints of black, hers is a lighter green. The flower, that you can't see that well in mine, is gray for hers. Any way, 25 pesos seemed worth it when you get to watch the woman selling them work on the next one in front of you.), and the typical McDonald's on every corner. Wait..

We ended in San Telmo, where I found a few more odds and ends for the family and supporters. Found a really cool postcard this time too, which helps one grasp truly how large this city is. I have so much more to see, but I will just have to try to hit up new hot spots next time. Chau!

Welcome to the greatest show on earth.. sort of.. but really cool, truly..

Great payaso (clown). Lovin the pants!
I find it appropriate to tell of the tale of my first ever trip to the circus! I laugh because it's an international thing, but Barnum and Bailey from the States usually is the must see. They were in Chicago when I was a senior in college, and Ariel and I had decided to go.. and then we didn't. I guess my first time to the big top would be with Maria Sol instead.

Circo Rodas is the name, and it's not your typical spiel. I guess I always figured to find a ring in the center and lots of animals walking about. This one had no animals, but it did have its fair share of acrobatics and scantily clad ladies. Sol overheard one kiddo ask, "Aren't those women cold, daddy?"

A famous contortionist. Truly, blown away.
"Yes son.." as we all took a moment to look out our exhaled breath.

She asked me afterward about circuses for US, and I replied that I had never been, but I think they might be a little bit more covered. With the exception of those that appear in Las Vegas.

Moving on.. the phrase that seems to continue to come to mind is "Que impresionante!" Or, "How impressive!" We started with a juggler, then the clowns, then the people who do crazy stunts with fabric hanging from the ceiling (is there a shorter name for that?), then families who do acrobatic craziness together (seriously, there should be a unique name for this one too), etc. etc.

The whole cast.
There was a guy who sang in English. Sol turned to me, "Is he singing that correctly?" I chuckled back, "Not quite." Then there was a knife thrower. Then these two guys from Chile who went round and round in some sort of.. well I don't know what to call it:
Yeah, that thing.
But the most incredible was near the end: the contortionist already pictured in this post (the one with the bow and arrow being aimed with her feet!). I was in so much awe of how controlled she was, and how she could stay in position for more than just a few seconds, supported only by one hand most times! Buenisimo!

The show's final moment included 7 motorcyclist in a tiny ball. You can just click here to see it.

In conclusion, we were blown away by every part. I hope to include more circuses in my lifetime, and I am even more enthusiastic to teach juggling starting in August! Sol and I in the meantime are going to work on becoming clowns. It just looks like too much fun to skip. Chau!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On my way...

Back to Córdoba. I am very excited and have many more photos of beautiful Buenos Aires to share. I also found some gifts for people back in the US of A. Woo!! Thanks for all of you who were praying for a safe journey and for a quality time with the kiddos in Quilmes/Wilde (names of the barrios). Love and chau.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


By the end of this short message, be prepared to say the title again.

When I was a little girl and would go on trips with dad to South Texas to visit his side of the family, I didn't have much to say. I'm not talking about how I couldn't talk because I was a baby, but the times when I'd learned past the prattle and constructed legitimate sentences. Even at an early age, I recognized the disconnect between my great-grandparents and me.

They only spoke one language, and it wasn't English.

Entering middle school, I was quick to take up the 2-year Spanish program, even if it meant that I only learned how to conjugate verbs in the present tense and vocabulary centering on grocery lists and introducing yourself. But I was proud to prepare those flashcards, eager to study for every quiz and yes, be the Spanish aide my second year for first year students.

It all boiled down to that question the teachers would make you answer the first day of class: why do you want to learn Spanish in the first place?

Here was my advantage over other kids. I had family members, my very own flesh and blood, with whom I could not converse. And that was motivation for a long while, until the great-grandparents passed away.

No, that wasn't the only reason I stopped taking Spanish after freshmen year of high school, but it was a factor. Then, it never really hit me until planning for Argentina that learning Spanish wasn't all for naught. My grandmother is bilingual; how cool would it be if we could speak in her first language? What if I could actually respond with a gasp while watching telenovelas together only to find Miguel cheating on Francesca?

When I went to Iguazu Falls, I decided to send some postcards, and was intentional upon writing in Spanish to Grandma Zulema. Just today, I received a response. A lovely, handwritten message in Español from the Abuelita. A little piece of my childhood came back to me--memories of visiting great-grandma and great-grandpa in South Texas. Eating migas and watching the two hobble over to the kitchen table. Then there was that bingo-esque game where for some reason all I can remember is the picture of the mermaid.

I couldn't talk to them, but this letter encourages me to keep going. I teared up to read how she is proud of me. Te quiero mucho tambien, abuela!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Pretzel

It's just rare enough to be an object of curiosity, and it's just bland enough to not throw off the Argentine taste buds.

How do I know?

Out of one part boredom, and two parts stomach growling, I decided to tackle the pretzel again, this time adding some parmesan cheese on top for extra sabor. Ate lunch, and then packed the rest to carry to the neighbors. Specifically, Romina and Flor.

First stop, Romina. Daniel opened the door and welcomed me in as I waited for Romina to get up from her nap. All three (including their son, Fabri) hesitantly looked at the, how do you say it again?, and took the leap. I was flattered when they immediately responded with wanting more. Then we shared maté and I ended up staying for 3 hours in which we caught up with life, and she invited me to dinner this coming Saturday. We're gonna make pizza!

Afterward, I carried the other set of pretzels to the Quinteros' place. In a way, I felt like Red Riding Hood visiting her grandmother. In place of a basket was my North Park backpack(ito). Any way, I arrived and they welcomed me in for a tea or coffee. They devoured the pretzels, and Silvana wrote down the recipe. Daniel (number two) kept raving, and everyone commented on the unique shape.

The funny part was that everyone who tried them, including Inti from yesterday, talked about how they looked like the food that Homer Simpson always eats. I had to explain the difference, especially how pretzels are normally, though not always, salado, or salty.

What I've learned is it's best to share N. American food that doesn't stray to extreme on flavor, because Argentina doesn't either. They don't eat spicy foods, and I've only seen one Asian restaurant in the city. They talk of the schwarma you can get at Mega Doner, but I'm skeptical. Plus, when I offered some Jif Peanut Butter, it killed me how much they literally despised it.

The other comment is how fun this part of ministry can be; I like just going over to someone's house and talking, well, mostly listening, about said person's life. It makes me think of the importance and the opportunities that exist for all of us. We all have neighbors, and if I remember correctly, Jesus talked about loving them. What would it look like to not overthink the neighbor concept and just knock on the door next to ours?

Just a thought. Chau!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Latest conquests

Yes, ladies and gents, I have made my own pretzels!! I even had Inti over to come and try them out. He ate three, and then asked if he could take one home for his mom to try.

"Sure! Take one," I said.

Short pause. "Can I take one more for me too?"
Sugar cookies aren't that big of a deal really. Unless you have our oven. Plus, these are the first cookies I've made since being here.  First batch better than the other two. They also dried up pretty quick, but still delicious!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chatty Cathies

Can you pluralize Cathy? I suppose I just did.

Friday night, I invited a couple gals over for a sleepover. I made a few prior inquiries to see if this was something girls typically have and I got an overwhelming similar response: nope. The few that do have sleepovers for one call them pijama parties (not a misspelling), and for two don't actually wear the full pajama sets that a lot of us are used to. They just wear regular sleep clothes like a tee and sweatpants or shorts.

So after a Skype date with Sara, I finished up some homemade sugar cookies and prepared the rest of the junk food (have I ever mentioned the "cheetos" they have here? So different!), and then put all of the mattresses from the house in the meeting room. Mariela, Sol, Mili and Flor all came and we had quite a night.

The first lull of silence came after dinner, so I told them we could play some cards or start watching a movie if they preferred. Then, out of nowhere, we just began talking. About all sorts of things--family, school, surprisingly NOT boys, and cultural differences. Everyone had a turn to share what was going on with them, and it was so cool. I was thanking God for how great it was to get to know one another better! Sure, it's easy for girls to talk, and yet, this felt different.

Today, I was invited to Mili's house by her mom. She knew I am alone for the week, so she offered to spend a few hours sharing maté and getting better acquainted. I think I'm sensing what the Latin openness is all about, as I learned all about her marriage, her family and kids. We talked about our relationship with God and the many things He is teaching us.

I came home to spend another hour with Fany as we talked about her new job for the Evil Empire. No, I didn't call it that to her face.

And to be honest, it's not as though I do a LOT of talking. My speed of Spanish is still lagging, and that's okay, because I can hear and understand quickly enough. It made me think of my preconceptions upon coming here. I was excited to get to listen more because I couldn't say as much. It still stands, even if sometimes I wish I had more to say. Bueno, I can at least say the most important thing:

I love you, Lionel... jeje


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thanks, Mom

So I'm sitting here in the house.. finishing up some of the laundry from the crazy slumber party we just had.. watching some How I Met Your Mother.. when all the lights go out. 

Well, remember that whole, I-like-organizing thing? Turns out, in the kitchen, we have a supply of candles for moments like these. Also turns out that someone used the "tuna"* to make herself some "tuna" and mac and cheese for lunch last week (so glad I have the Sunkist kind now). All that to say, an empty can readily available as well.

Why do I thank mom? She's the one that taught me to drip the wax of a newly lit candle into the bottom of a can so it will stand up straight and you won't burn your hand. Kind of important. It was a random phone call we had when I still had the Jeep (so high school) and how I needed an emergency pack in case I'm stuck in the car with no heat. Although now, thinking about how I lived in Texas, this sort of seems unwarranted.

Any how, I feel capable of taking care of myself and felt like writing about the experience. Or maybe I'm just silly tired. Being sola in the house for the next week will be Legend, wait for it..

Dairy. hehe.

*Why do I love that the Spanish for tuna is just putting the "a" in front? Answer: I have no idea.. (giggles profusely)

Operation Lumber Room continues

One of the first tasks given to me among the OM team was to help organize the back room. I would like to remind our faithful readers what it looked like before:
And now, ladies and gentlemen, let me get you up to date (with a shout out to JD, Sarah and Javi for their help):
First, let us take note that a floor does exist; that the golgotha is well hidden (phew); that there are bookshelves that even have some order to them (now).

The trick is to make sure and dedicate at least a day to this sort of thing. I mean, I've gone back there a couple of times to organize, but with as much traffic that can happen in a given week, it's been hard to keep things up to date. Thankfully, with a house to myself and most ministries on hold for the vacation time, I've been free to make this happen. And our (Javi helped, after all) eyes opened to another task. Before followed by after (surprise, surprise):

So you probably don't see as much of a difference this time, but I tell you that it's there. For one, I had the privilege of transferring that large stack of bricks. This led to me making many new friends--from cockroaches, to spiders, to slugs. No, I wasn't hungry after. haha. But seriously, we enjoyed a nice Arabic empanada meal at Javi's house in Las Violetas after. Perfect for refueling.

There are other major plans in the works to be continued next Monday. As a person who loves organizing, it was weirdly enough, a treat for me to feel like another large section of the house is well kempt (and cockroach free. Eek!).

In the evening, I was invited to Maria Sol's bday party. It was a small gathering where we played Mafia and Chancho, which is a version of Spoons without spoons. There was general hang out and lots of laughs. Sol gave a speech when the cake was presented, and it was an honor to be singled out as one of her new close friends. I am so blessed by her!

The group that was staying at Iglesia Santa Rosa for the night walked with me to my home. I chatted with hermanito Johnny about life before parting ways at the closest bus stop. It was the first time for me to arrive to a truly empty house. Surreal. A little scary, but not so bad. I fell fast asleep and awoke to the doorbell. Three packages arrived, and they all happened to be for me! Thanks mom and pops, and thanks to the Marlatts as well!!!
Hehe. Bottom left includes a wedding invite to Terra and Billy's wedding, that you know, happened last weekend. Hope they don't mind that I didn't get to send them my RSVP slash, didn't come. Chau!

Monday, July 4, 2011

President of Irony

Details of the most un-4th of July to come (yes. More un-independence day than that time I was in Brussels). But for now, I'm tired, asi q... che.. I mean.. Chau!

I'm back. So.. 4th of July..

Woke up thinking I was making lunch for everyone. But Joy and Steph had left for the States by 6:30am, and Eva was nowhere to be found. Alrighty then. Some good ole mac'n'cheese and broccoli it is then! Whitney and I watched a couple episodes of How I Met Your Mother whilst we enjoyed lunch.

Then made our way to the Omnibus Terminal before catching another bus that would take us to Alta Gracia (a whole 2.50USD)--childhood hometown of Ernesto Guevara. You may recognize his tshirt and/or bumper stickers, or his nickname, Che. Which... just so happens to be a slang term for "buddy" around here too. Coincidence comrade?

The point is, we were going to visit the most anti-US place we could, on the most US important day of the year. I thought it was funny. Until that is, I reached this room:
I don't know if you can see the picture in the background, or if you can recognize the names signed. I'll give you a hint. One rhymes with Cidel Fastro, and the other, Chugo Havez.

Can you imagine my alarm when I realized the room I was standing in was commemorative of when these two visited the house of Che in 2006? Pictures on the wall showed their very large welcome party--the street of Avelleneda filled; people signing the guestbooks saying "God bless this place." I literally shuddered and told Whitney that I felt like a sinner. And then I asked her if she'd take my picture next to the iron cast of little asthmatic Che in the front of the house.

Fascinating how the light from behind seems to halo my hood. Note the Toms sweatshirt, the Chile tshirt, and the maté as well.

On a more serious note, Chavez signed "Patria o muerte" and this gave me pause. In another room, you can read a letter that Che wrote to Castro about how the only way to solve the problems of Latin America are through fighting, and then he signed with a similar phrase.

The final lyrics of the Argentinian national anthem are thus quite powerful:
O juremos con gloria morir.
Translation: Or let us swear in glory to die.

Patriotism or death, eh? Interesting how we can get caught up in land that we had nothing to do with in terms of its creation. God, in His great mercy and in accordance with His good, pleasing and perfect will, placed us where we are today. I am certainly thankful to be from the US, but I don't know how to fight for a piece of land very well. Maybe that's just me.

Any way, we moved on and followed the celeste, white and gold way: found a local park and enjoyed some maté. After awhile, we headed back home and concluded the night with more tv shows. No fireworks. No hotdogs. Oh, and bundled up because it's wintertime. Chau.

Sabores - Different tastes

Part of cultural adjustment is getting used to new flavors. After almost ten months of being outside of the country, there are new habits formed, and yet some tastes that I still desire (and may or may not do whatever I can to have them here).

1. Peanut butter. This is on my "please send me" lists for a reason. We don't have the same flavor here. I have bought manteca de mani, as it's called, but it is nothing close to the taste you can find in Jif or Skippy. I've given some of my friends a taste of the classic PB, but they all wince in disgust. They tell me about the pb they do like, called Mantecol. Which is good, but is a much, much sweeter flavor than you get in the States.

Once I even played a game with my teenagers involving eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and no one could fathom more than one bite of it. No one.

2. Dulce de leche. The typical sweet addition to everything, well, sweet, that you can buy. And it's no surprise considering "sweet" is in the title. It's sort of your caramel sauce, but.. well.. different. There are ddls specific to cooking, various brands to which we have already become loyal to a certain one, and as previously mentioned, almost any tasty treat you buy here at a local panaderia will have ddl included.

3. Water. I've talked about the water from the faucet before. How my sinuses can't seem to handle it, so we buy South American style Sparkletts to get by. In addition however, the drink of choice at the dinner table is not water. It's Coca Cola, Sprite, Pritty, or Tang. Thank you moon landing. I get weird looks when I ask for just water, but I've been so accustomed to just drinking water (well, and the fact that I don't like paying for drinks when I go out to eat) that it's hard for me to change.

I will say that the up side is CC and Sprite are much more delicious. There's something about the use of real sugar that brings out the flavor.

4. Empanadas. It's essentially stuffed bread, but the bread is suuuuuper thin. And they're filled with ground beef and veggies, or ham and cheese, or chicken, or tuna, or pretty much whatever you want to put in there. Every restaurant is bound to sell them--the hamburger of Argentina. But as I told my friends the other day over a round of maté, I'm in an empanada slump. For some strange reason, my little heart is perfectly content if she doesn't eat them again. How do I change back to desiring them?

Side note: in the previous paragraph I had to fix my English several times because I've lost a lot of it. They're. Their. There...

5. Mayonnaise. I'll keep this one simple. Basically, I'm the ketchup fiend of the house. The other pounds of mayo in the fridge are for the rest of our Argentine friends.

Why put electronic pen to electronic paper? The personal challenge as of late has been to allow God to open my eyes to the culture even more; broaden the perspective to see how I can better relate to the people here. It's a process. One that requires not only taking note, but aligning myself to the changes. The final step in the process is to adhere to the cultural differences, AND enjoy them. That takes prayer and trust, and it's a lot easier to start with the food than the other habits that require more internal transformation. You catch my drift?


P.S. Had a very successful phone conversation, in Spanish, today. SO encouraging!