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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fiesta de la Luz

Missing: Giuliano and the Quinteros clan
The Fiesta de la Luz is like our Fall Festival. A safe alternative for kids in place of Halloween. The irony was that the neighborhood had picked the very same day and the exact hours of our planned fiesta, to cut off all electricity (cut off the light, if you will).

I could see the look of disappointment in the eyes of those who had worked so hard to plan each part of the event. Andrea, in charge of the games, trying to find a solution for how to accommodate for so many children. Eva, who had directed the play, thinking of alternatives for the various features of the play that needed lighting and microphones. Coco, who had baked so many cakes, thinking that no one would come to enjoy them.

I reminded them of what had happened before, during the Día del Niño, when we arrived to our designated location only to find the political parties throwing their own shindig without having asked the neighborhood council's permission like we had. In the moment, we switched plazas, and ended up having even more kids than planned. "God knew what He was doing then, we can assume He knows what He's doing this time too," I told them.

And sure enough, the hour in which the planned light's out time passed. I guess someone must have forgotten!

Mily and I were paired up to lead a game. Within this, was another milagrito, as I call it (translates to little miracle), but that wasn't understood by me until the moment had already passed. Back up. Not only was I in charge of a game, but I had to make the tree for the play as well. Reality strikes yet again at the fact that I would have to make this tree out of scraps/trash as we were working on a budget and that budget was nil. So I collected all the cardboard boxes and green pieces of tissue paper I could find, forked out a mere 2USD for some high quality tape, and had Javi make a scrap-wood stand on which our lovely tree would rest:
...and something you could easily throw away when done.

But all this to say that I also lost time preparing for the game. The game was simple: two kids would need "crowns" and the rest of the kids would need "jewels" to throw into the crowns. The crowns were easy because I would just make some poster board jewel-less drawings of the coronas and then tape them to some ice cream containers that are large enough for the kids' heads. The jewels was the issue. And as is part of my personality that I don't necessarily deem as procrastinating, simply, thinking too long upon the subject/forgetting, I never got around to buying or finding something suitable.

After all, these pelotitas would need to be jewel-esque and small, but not to hard that someone could get hurt.. cheap if I were to buy them.. and actually available. The last one is the most difficult part. The night before, I was still joya-less. My friend asked what I was to do, and I didn't know. Shrugging, I just said I'd figure it out in the morning.

"But it starts at 3pm! What if you don't find them?" she asked. (A valid point when everything closes by 12 or 13 hundred hours.)

"I'll just have to figure something out I suppose."

To be perfectly frank, I wasn't worried about it. If I couldn't find anything in the morning, I would have to be flexible and maybe change up the game or something. Not like we haven't done plenty of that already.

During the night I had a dream where I was talking with my mentor Andrea. It was a conversation we had already had a week before, and she was telling me about a woman who gave her husband an entire bag full of necklaces. My dream then fast-forwarded to the part where my very hand was holding this bag and putting it up with the costume jewelry that we have in the back, but not realizing what was inside.

I woke up remembering that I could probably just take those necklaces, cut them apart, and use those as "jewels." When I went to the back, it was actually a bag of assorted beads of the very jewel-esque quality I was aiming for, that were to be used to make necklaces. I came back into the house where my friend was sitting and asked me what had happened. She was in awe of how simple it all was.

The most important part of the day however, was when two strange cars parked by the plaza. OUR BOYS FROM THE INSTITUTE GOT TO COME!!! Sergio, Gabriel, Matias, Rodrigo and Nico all came piling out and I got to give them a big hug to welcome them! They played very well with the rest of the kids, and I was extra surprised by Matias' behavior--much better than normal.

Any way, another great event in which all of the church had come together to serve. Perhaps another of the highLIGHTS of the day. Chau!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Como se dan los chistes

So I went to the local ferreteria.. that is, the hardware store.. I needed some sticks for hanging curtains as they are literally called, as well as some tape. I forgot the tape, but thankfully the walk is short. Additionally, I needed what is called a factura so that I could justify spending OM's money for some ministry needs, and they didn't have one at the time. A second trip was necessary is what I'm trying to say.

They asked me where I lived, and didn't think I was a foreigner at first (woohoo! an extra point for me somewhere, right?), because their intention was to drop the factura off personally. I said it was fine for me to come back, as I have a lot of walking around the area to do any way. So I came by, and they forgot to print the official receipt. Pero lo que me llamo atencion fue como ya sabian mi nombre! But what most grabbed my attention was that by my second visit they already knew my name. Well, my middle name, but that's besides the point.

So I would have to come for a third visit, but this time mate was promised, so it wasn't so bad for me. hehe

When I arrived, the dueno of the hardware store was ready with mate in hand and a little joke to share on the side. Unfortunately, I didn't understand the joke so well, but when they explained it after, it was pretty good*.


A little later I had a flat tire, so off to the Bicicleteria it was! The man remembered me from when I had first come to fix another bike, and so he gave a nice hello. "I just need some air," I told him.

He asked if I needed regular air or the more expensive kind.

Unsure if I was hearing him correctly, I looked to Javi waiting outside with the, "I-may-need-your-help-after-all" look, but in time the man said, "Oh! I am only kidding!"

This time I was ready to respond: "Look, you can't just go throwing jokes at innocent little foreigners you know!"

We laughed together and I was on my way.


Noemi and I met for tea at our usual locale, where the waiter often doesn't even ask anymore what we would like to have. One tea with no sugar, one coffee with a small water on the side. This time however, Noemi had ordered some mini croissants because she had skipped breakfast.

After one bite, she stopped, as they were stale. A new English word for her. We called the waiter over and explained that maybe they did not come from a fresh batch, as they were a little dry.

"Okay," he said. "I'll go add a little water to them." Again, all in good fun.

I guess it's the season for joking, as all of these have happened in the last couple of days. Or maybe I'm just understanding a lot better. Or maybe it's a cultural thing. I would definitely say Argentina is on the sarcastic side. Chau chau!

*Since then, I've shared the joke with a couple of Argentines. They too, need help understanding the joke.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When you lay down the law

..sometimes, some really great things happen.

While some wanted to play soccer again, I looked up at the sky and saw some ominous clouds. And even though it didn't end up raining, I came prepared with two styrofoam cups, two pieces of cardboard squares, two sticks of about 5 inches in length, a ping pong ball and some tape.

Javi looked at me with skepticism. But we mounted our bikes (Rosita!!!) and took off. We arrived to a full house: the new Rodrigo*, Nico, Nahuel, Sergio, Matias, Fabrizio and Mariano. However, menos mal, digamos, Fabri and Mariano stayed in the back to play cards with Claudio. Bueno, the rest of us put together our own miniature basketball court on a table and played two v. two.

I let the kids make their own goal. I gave them the basic idea, but wanted them to problem solve on their own and discover their own capabilities. As well as waste some time. Then I told them that there are some important rules, and that if they broke them there were one of two results: a loss of a turn the disarming of all of our precious work because we would be done for the day.

Wow! They loved it! And while only four could play at a time, they paid special attention to everyone that was playing. A first. Matias was, well, the normal difficult Matias that he is, but the only one who really did any wrong. Then there was Nahuel who stole my heart again by cheering for everyone, and picking me to be on his team. He even wanted me to sit with him while we waited our turn again. In general, everyone was shouting in excitement, "So close!!!", "GOAL!!", etc. etc.

Sergio, I must say, is also a personal favorite. I know, it's a dangerous rode to love them too much when I have no idea how long they are staying, nor will I be here forever, but I think it's worth the risk. There's probably some poetic saying about that somewhere ;). Any way, I say this about Sergio because I had made a game for him not too long ago, and he made a point to say that he really enjoyed it. I had missed his birthday last week, so I told him I was sorry, but he gave me a huge hug and promised it was okay. Que tierno!

On another note, I feel like I'm thinking about these stories in Spanish so much, that it affects my English sentence structure. Oh well, asi es la vida a veces. More than anything, I was encouraged by todays' game time with the boys.

As for the girls, yesterday we made wind chimes. I'm wanting to say "from scratch," but that's not the right term. I'll explain later. Chau for now!

*Rodrigo. Some of you may remember Rodrigo dos. As of Monday, he escaped the institute and we still don't know where he is. Please be in prayer for his safety and that he is able to find a place as well as a good family with whom he can stay. Or something. I don't know what to pray in an instance such as this, really.

The new Rodrigo comes with brother Nico and is one of five. All of his brothers and mother came to visit on Tuesday while we played soccer with them. I'm not sure of the whole situation, but I was told they were dropped off last Wednesday at the house and were left confused and crying.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hear no evil, see no evil

Javi preached yesterday evening about the things we see and hear--how we ought to be cognizant of that which enters our brain and more careful of what we allow in. Unfortunately, my rebellious self only wanted to listen to "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 and get my dance on. But it lead to another revelation: an observation of the teenagers from these past two weeks in Mina Clavero.

We had a dance party one night for the first group from Neuquin. It was limited to only 6 songs, and everyone (per usual) was surprised by my grand affinity for dance. Good story, I know. What I'm wanting to say is the teens who stayed to dance were "sin verguenza" as is said. Sarah had to literally get in the middle of a boy and girl making out. I had caught the guy make his way toward girl, and was in such shock of this 16 year old making such a beeline. I was pointing, mouth wide, but frozen; letting Sarah do the dirty work.

I had a conversation with Marisol before this second wave of camps. We were talking about the disco traps, and how bored teenagers pre-game and go dancing all night long. Not that it's such a cultural shock, as such action is pretty universal. But I had never really thought about it much before. Bored students equals the likelihood to explore some pretty life-threatening things. Yes, it's as simple as that.

The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy and it can start with one poisoned drink. I say that with a story in mind, as well as the countless pregnant teenagers I've seen since being here as evidence.

Needless to say, I was a little thankful we didn't have a dance party with the second group which already included three pretty touchy-feely couples (definitely a cultural distinction this PDA thing).

As for what we see, I've been thinking about the boys' institute. Several times we've hung out in the back room of the facility which has a few old computers on which the boys play basic computer games.

The desktop of the best working computer includes several pictures of a half naked woman. Betania, the brave one, asked why that was their background, and they shrugged, though looked at each other in such a way that suggested they knew why it was up. Through various other forms of question and encouragement, they finally changed it.

The list goes on (as always), but now it's time to run a few more errands for the day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How many..

How many OMers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Okay, actually it's changing a light completely, and it might have all started from a mistake of mine. I bought the wrong size bulb. Which led me to look for an alternative light fixture, which I found in the back.

Which is also the wrong size for the hole that we have.

But I read the instructions and watched a YouTube video. Turned off the electricity and was prepared to do all the work, when I got confused by the wiring. When you give a mouse a cookie...

So I called for back up: Javi and Adam.
The moment was hilarious for two, maybe three reasons.

First of all, Adam is still learning Spanish, and Javi is still learning English, so most of the communication was very caveman-like: grunts. "Si!" more grunts. "No!" hehe

Then there was the sharing of the culture and the various "changing of the light bulb" jokes that those from the US use.

And finally, before calling it a night, we went to flip on the light only to find it not screwed in all the way. After a couple more grunts, Javi just said we'd figure it out tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fruit salad

First, there's new vocabulary:

1. Que te iba a decir...? "What was I going to tell you?" I never realized how often I heard this phrase until after I started using it too. It's a great way to let people know you have something to say and they'll give you a minute to think. Normally, conversation moves so quickly, it's hard for us extranjeras.

2. Tengo mis pilas: "I'm all set and energized." Literally, I have my batteries.

3. Ensalada de fruta. Okay, actually, not new vocabulary, and for those of you non-Spanish speakers, I'm assuming you can translate this. Imagine me, hair down, curly (or wavy if you prefer) as it is naturally. My friend's mom tells me, "Wow! Sharayah, I love your hair! It looks like a fruit salad!"

Me: Umm.. what?

Friend: Yeah mom, what do you mean by that?

F's mom: You know.. it's so.. so...

[all laugh]

Exactly. Que se yo?

Then there's the fact that I went to a Cordoba Immersions camp again this past week and had a blast. I'm scheduled again for next week too, and it's a delight to know I'll continue working with teenagers. My favorite memory this time is teaching the kids ultimate frisbee. Naturally, the boys got into it, and one boy, Facu, was particularly excited. When I passed to him (one in which he would have to continue his sprint to catch the frisbee), he forgot about a bush in the way and completely collapsed. I was embarrassed for him, but he shook it off, and scored two minutes later. Then I was proud, because it's not every day you see a teenage boy able to keep going after a moment like that. Way to go Facu!

The second best moment was picking a name for our team. We were given the color yellow, so the students thought of the only things they knew in English that was yellow: Sunshine and lemons. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our team name was the Sunshine Lemons. hehe

Last, but certainly not least, today is Mother's day in Argentina. Therefore (asi que, quise a escribir), I would like to give a shout out to one of the best mom's in the world....

I know you can't see her face, but this is from Puerto Madryn where she was building a sandcastle and a bunch of little kids were impressed (as seen) and joined her. I love her kind spirit, her willingness to be a friend to just about anybody, and the way she encourages me in her daily prayers for me and others.

Thanks for everything mom! I love you very much!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Things I didn't know existed

It's called Cerro de los Siete Colores and it's located in Purmamarca, Jujuy, Argentina. We visited after camp (which I know.. I still haven't written about) as Andrea used the excuse, "We're only making a stop because Sharayah said she wanted Artesan gifts for her family." Haha. I'm pretty sure she bought more than me.

Any way, the idea is that these mountains vary from being bright red to bright green, and then there are all these crazy levels of other colors as well.
Not to mention that they come in all sorts of shapes as well. Love it how the sun hit just one spot on this one!
It was so beautiful, I kept taking pictures and saying, "Okay, I'm just going to enjoy the rest of what I get to see."

Two seconds later, my camera was out again!
Yep. Once again at a loss for words. If I get a chance to go back, I'm taking it, because wow. Simply, wow...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The creativity I'm looking for

Josh Crain had once preached about what "turning the other cheek" really means, and it has stuck with me ever since. I've been on the lookout for opportunities in my own life--particularly with a kid named Ivan--to think of unique ways to address violence in our world. As the ironic saying goes, to kill 'em with kindness.

Let me admit that I'm not very good at it.

Thankfully I did have a good hour with Ivan this week, as we talked and prayed. Mind you, the prayers were about ten seconds long and about weird things like being thankful for food we hadn't yet eaten, or about not getting hit by a soccer ball, but I suppose a prayer is a prayer...

Any way, I was encouraged by this story in which 120 mimes overtake the streets in Venezuela to deal with the heavy traffic issues. It's adorable; it's uplifting; it makes me want to laugh.

I want more of this. It's how I want to react to injustice. Lord, please help me! Ok thanks and chau!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Just a little note

I have to admit I'm a little embarrassed to share this story, but here it is.

Remember the story I told about my gym trainer? I was compelled to write her a card before my trip to Jujuy to let her know I was praying for her. I told her how I could relate, and I also thanked her for her help to get rid of my extra missionary pounds (haha). While I wanted to give it to her personally, due to schedule conflicts, I had Flor pass it on as she lives just next door to the gym.

When I came in this morning, I was running late due to taking out the trash and taking down my clothes from the line. I joined the group waiting for Ceci to come in and lead us in step (which was pretty killer by the way). When she walked in the room, she beelined to me, gave me a huge hug and kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you thank you thank you!" she exclaimed and then moved on to the class.

I could see a difference in her composure, but focused on not tripping up on the step :P

Near the end of the class, she announced it in front of everyone. That's the main part of my embarrassment, but I guess it was cool to know that my (most likely poorly written) letter to her made a difference.

"Chicas!" she shouted. "You have no idea what Sharayah gave me last week. Better than any cookie or pie that I've received before!"

Everyone looked at me, and I just sheeply smiled. She told everyone how it made her cry. "I loved it!"

One note. One message to let someone know you care can make all the difference. Who can you write to today? Chau!

How Nahuel stole my heart (again)

Last year when I first met Nahuel in the boys' institute, I found a chiquitito.. a flaquito.. a little kid who was innocent and adorable. Over the year, he has grown, both in height and width, and has been negatively affected by the older kids of the institute in terms of attitude. I don't blame him. When you're constantly surrounded by those who also suffer from lack of familial love, what do you do but survive?

The good news is he has an interest in basketball, as I think I explained in an earlier post. So when we arrived yesterday morning to the institute, he greeted us with ball in hand. Another, Matias, came up to me, "Show my grandmother how to spin the basketball on your finger!" hehe. His grandmother, completely equal in face and build, visits every Tuesday morning.

Many of us left for the local basketball court. More than usual, and it made me give thanks for the many volunteers we've had recently. Flor, Betania, Javi, Adam and I. That means we can, or at least try, to keep more kids under control. It's still hard. Hard to watch the ups and downs that can happen within seconds for each one.

On our way over, I chatted with Nahuel and showed him some more techniques on how to dribble. I showed him how it's important to look up while dribbling, and we practiced a few drills along the empty streets. He was a little flaky when it came to playing the game with us, although I also must say it's hard for me to stay focused when half the time it's the uphill battle of making sure no one fights each other/runs away/says bad words/remains a ball hog/defies all basketball rules/has no patience for the less-basketball inclined... need I go on?

When Nahuel did play, he incorporated his new dribbling skills--even going behind the back a few times! I was so proud! At the same time, he passed to poor Matias too hard (and on purpose), which caused Matias' nose to bleed. He looked at me afterward with shame.

At the end of our time, I waited for each one to pass the entrance of the boys' home. I had arrived earlier than everyone else, because I was talking with Gabriel.. more on that later. To each boy, I explained for what reason I was proud of them, and then encouraged them in the areas that I didn't like and handed them their cookie. When Nahuel's turn came, I spoke highly of his improving athletic skills. He smiled.

"But you know what I didn't like?" I asked.

He looked down, but then back up. "When I threw the ball at Matias' face."

I agreed, and said that it would also be nice if he cleaned up his vocabulary a little.

"I don't want to do it again," he said as I gave him the prize for the week and then our parting hug.

I don't want to. What a confession. There are plenty of things that I don't want to do, and I still do them. Sounds very Romans 7 like. Once again, proof of our need for grace. So I suppose I'll tell the story about Gabriel here too..

Gabriel has a Ginoboli jersey, and he anxiously put it on when we leave to play a little bball. I didn't get much time with him on the way over, but on the way back I was able to ask him more about what his family is like and why he is living in the institute. He has 7 brothers and sisters, ranging from 4 and 5 years old to the mid-20s. He loves sports, and also has learned to play several instruments.

Unfortunately, there was an argument between two of his older siblings and he had to come here. Obviously it's unclear on the details, because he's also too young to understand everything that could be going on. But the part that got me most is now he's not able to practice the instruments he's come to learn. He has a guitar still, but it's not the best quality. I can't imagine what it's like to keep such a thing secure amongst all the others as well. But I digress...

I asked him if he believes in God. Where that question came from, I'm still not sure, but he responded with a yes so I came back with a "Why?"

"I'm Catholic," he said.

I took a moment to internally pray for what to say next and this came out, "So what does that mean?" Pause. "Why believe in God? What did he do for you?"

"He gave me a family," Gabriel responded.

Good answer. "What else?"


"Would it be okay if I shared with you what God did for me?" I asked.


I can't believe how the story of my cousin and all that God did through that history came tumbling out of my mouth. I tried to explain how I learned that God had given me a loving family too, but more than that is he has saved me from death and/or the fear of it.

"You see, I could say that I'm a Christian because I'm Evangelical," I explained. "But I don't think it works that way. I think it takes believing in what Jesus did for us. And while my cousin was innocent when she was murdered, Jesus lived a longer life and was innocent. That's incredible, don't you think?"

He agreed as we were arriving at the institute. I thanked him for letting me share and I asked if we could continue the conversation in the weeks to come, Lord willing we receive those weeks. Overall, it was cool to be able to say all that was said. I pray for more valor.. more courage to press on!