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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Still true

Whilst awaiting the bus to take me to the plane to take me to another plane to take me to two more planes before landing in Cordoba, over a year ago, a friend asked a simple question.

"What do you think will be hardest for you to adjust to?"

I paused only a moment to say, "I know it's silly. It's really childish, but..

"I'm going to miss soft toilet paper."

She assured me that soft toilet paper still exists, but I knew, in order to be kind to the budget of four missionaries living together, we would have to get the cheap kind. The cheap, sand paper-esque, crumbles before it reaches the water, toilet paper.

Or worse, to realize that you would need to bring your own roll of the cheapo in order to clean yourself at all on long bus trips. If you don't, find yourself forking over another 25 centavos for 6 whole squares of something you never thought could get much worse than the kind that you should have brought.

Certainly other things are hard adjustments. Machismo, if you really wanted to know.

But you know what? When I landed this morning, I had to go to the bathroom. I nearly shouted an "Aleluya!" when I felt the 4-ply in my hand. I may or may not have rubbed my cheek with its fluffy softness, then smelling the hint of aloe vera also laced within.

I assure you that this is not all that important. I have had worse issues when it comes to overseas toilets (ahem.. squatty potty Russia.. ahem). And everytime, the job gets done.

But soft toilet paper, the luxury that it is, still matters to me and that is that.

Bye (since I'm in the e.e.u.u. for now).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Elias - the long of it

I thanked Steph and Joy for listening to my long story today. It was while I told it that I figured I should write it down. So here we go (inhale)...

About a month, month and a half ago, I had a blessed time with a little boy named Elias. I notice that sometimes, the boys in Las Violetas that come for our craft day in el Refugio behave well as long as you pay them special attention. Obviously, you can't always do that, but this week, I was able to. He even finished the craft early, and went on his way, showing everyone the paper bird we had worked on together.

Last week, however, Elias was not the best. It started with hitting a girl, and he continued with bad words. I told him that if he hit the girl or anyone again, he would have to leave for the week. Granted, the girl wasn't helping the situation, and I even had to discipline her at one point, but Elias drew back and slapped her in the face as hard as he could.

He knew what was coming because he immediately fell straight to the floor. I've never literally kicked someone out before, but there I was; using my feet to move him closer to the door.

I closed the gate portion of the door, and he peered inward as if the outside were jail. "Please, PLEASE, just let me come in!" he pleaded.

"Elias," I told him. "I asked you not to hit again, and then you did. You broke one of the few rules we give. You are free to come next week, but for the remainder of the day, you must stay outside."

He pouted.

"Do you understand why?" I asked.

"NO!" he shouted back. "LET ME IN!!!!"

I asked him to read the sign behind him. He told me he couldn't read, and since I honestly don't know if they are joking or not when they say that sort of thing, due to the lack of quality education in the area, I told him that it said "El Refugio."

"And do you know what 'El Refugio' means?" I asked.

He shook his head.

I gave the schpiel about how it's a place of safety. A place where, despite how dangerous it can be outside in the streets, when we come to this house, we choose to leave the danger outside. "Therefore, we don't fight, we don't hit each other, we refrain from bad words. We keep this place safe."

Elias whined a bit more, but eventually left.

On this day, several of the older boys also came in to bother the group that was halfway through their craft. We eventually had to ask them to leave as well, since they were only disrupting the others, and for some, tearing apart the hard work that the others had begun. These boys stayed in the street when Sol and I were closing up shop.

I was very tempted to go up to this group and give them a piece of my Holy Spirit induced mind. I want so badly for them to realize their great potential and how they have a choice to either explore that potential or destroy it. Yet, I held my tongue and walked the other direction. A little discouraged due to the lack of speaking fluidly, I at least practiced my speech in my head as I continued home.

On the way, I saw Elias and his older sister and thought maybe God wanted me to say something to him instead (though maybe He really wanted both). Two people are less intimidating, and so I tried. The words came, miraculously (thank you Lord!), and I was able to share with them again how much I love them and only stand by the rules because I want what's best for them. "You understand?"

They nodded. Elias even said he was sorry. We walked together a bit and he showed me where he lives.

Fast forward to today and Elias was late. Oh but rewind just a bit for a time with Gaston. Gaston is one of those older kids. He made his way toward one of the kids as if to hit him, so I quickly stated, "You hit him, and you will have to leave." Hit. Evil eye from me. Blank stare.

Gaston is the type that tries to use his age and size to break the rules. I did not back down.

After a little bit of arguing, he was out of el Refugio, but waiting at the door. He slowly tried to inch his way in, letting his feet touch the tile floor. "Gaston, all the way out," I explained. Another bit of arguing over details, until he finally was all the way outside. "Fine," he huffed. "I'll just climb the roof." I chose to ignore this part, and surprisingly, he was back at the door a few minutes later. I walked up to him.

"Gaston, two rules was all I gave you. Don't hit, and you hit. Go outside, and you do everything you can to come back in without permission. I want you to come inside and finish your craft. Really, I do. But I have to know that I can trust you. If you can not keep two, easy, simple rules, how do I know you won't do something worse the next time?"

He looked at me.

"I will gladly invite you back in if you can wait another two minutes outside."

He waited, and I invited him back in. In comes Elias, as previously mentioned, late. He is rambunctious, and so I have to give him a warning after a hit number one that he needs to be good.

"If you promise me to be good, I will let you stay. But once you break that promise, I will ask you to leave. Do you promise?"

He nodded, but I wanted to hear it. "Yes or no, Elias." After a minute or two, he finally had the strength to say "Si."

He survived, for awhile. But eventually, threw down the scissors, almost hurting another kid, and out of rebellion to Sol who had already asked him not to do so. Before he acted in this violent manner, even Gaston said, "Elias, be careful or you will be asked to leave!"

"Out!" I shouted, mainly out of disappointment.

Elias instead put himself under the table. I explained as I had similarly done with Gaston about the possibility of coming back in, but first he would have to show obedience by going outside. Nothing. "But I promise to be good from now on!" he moaned.

"You already broke the original promise," I replied.

Still nothing.

So I looked him in the eye and told him that I would talk to his parents if he didn't come out by the count of three. "One..."

Gaston was exasperated. "Just go outside Elias! It'll be okay!"

[smiling on the inside]

"Two..." I pleaded with him some more, and expressed that I wasn't afraid to find his parents (though I actually was*).

"You don't know where I live!" he shouted, but then paused. "Oh wait..."

"Three!" I marched out the door.

Maria Sol later told me that everyone's eyes got really big in that moment, and that when I continued out they all were talking about whether or not I would actually do so.

I'll tell you now that I had my doubts. But Elias' reaction confirmed my every footstep. He was literally racing home so he could talk to his mother before I could. Well, actually.. first he ran to the corner and hid behind it. Waiting to see if I'd actually follow through. After that, he raced onward, and by the time I got to his house, I could hear him explaining to his mom that he didn't do anything wrong, no matter what the teacher was about to say.

I patiently waited outside, making the culturally acceptable hand claps to get the attention of the owners of the house (when there are no doorbells). No one. Clap, clap, clap...

Elias made his way out with a giant smirk. "She's not going to believe you," he coaxed. "I already told her everything."

No response on my end. Clap, clap, clap...

"Doesn't look like she's coming," he smiled some more.

"That's okay, I can wait."

Eyes widened and mouth agape. But to distract himself, he ran off with some other friends.

I decided to shout "Hola," and this got his mom to come out. I explained who I was and what I was doing, and started by saying that I know that Elias is a good kid. "But I had given some basic rules, and everyone knows that when you break those rules you must leave for the day but are welcome to come back the next week." I then continued with how Elias had broken the rules, and she responded, "Ohh... what a liar he is!

"Don't you worry, I'm going to find him now and talk to him."

Even I was scared for Elias, but I thanked her and walked back. Elias' sister asked if she could come (as she was standing nearby) right as Elias walked back. He seemed surprised to see his mother outside too. He shouted at me that he wasn't coming back ever.

"Elias," I sighed. "Don't you know that I want you to come back?! I just want to make sure that you behave well because I know you can. You are a good kid."

He didn't have any words to that.

Back in el Refugio, Sol had a chance to talk to the boys that remained about Jesus. We were making a Christmas themed craft, so she linked it to the purpose of Christmas, and it was relieving to hear them all know the basic story. I had never heard them go that in depth with us before either. Shellshocked.

Elias' brother Lucio was there too. While curious about my conversation with his mom, I told him that it was to be kept between me and her and Elias. He, often a little wild as well, behaved really well for the rest of our time. Gaston too, for the most part.

I was praising Jesus to have this time with those boys before heading back to the States. I continue to pray for consistency and wisdom. I pray that they can know how much we love them. I pray that they can learn to behave well not just for the sake of behaving well, but so that they can become great young men.

Important names of those from el Refugio: Carlos, Gaston, Lucio, Elias, Erik.

Thanks and chau.

*One reason I'm not sure of what to do when it comes to talking to parents, is I don't know how they treat their children for misbehavior. Do they ignore the problem? Do they physically abuse their children? It's a scary prospect at times, but I'll just have to let the Spirit guide these moves.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Catholics - not half bad (wink)

I invited my good friend Noemi to dinner at the OM house this week as she was unable to come for our normal morning tea in the city center. I made a tuna tarta and steamed some broccoli and carrots together and only make note of it because it feels like an accomplishment sometimes when you can cook for others. Oops, too long of a sentence. Here is your chance to breathe.

Encouraging: having a much older woman ask you for advice about the Bible. We talked about all sorts of theological debates; from one-time salvation to the need for confession, to the immeasurable mercy of Jesus. Certainly, I am no expert, it's just fun to be included in these more heady discussions when one feels very young (someone thought I was fourteen today--HA!).

Noemi also made a point to share with me about visiting a friend's church last week where she supported the confirmation of said friend's daughter.

"You would never guess," she said to me. "But at this Catholic church, not once did I hear them pray to Mary, and everything the priest said about the Bible was accurate as far as I could tell."

I smiled, but understood. While I've discussed this fact before, that Cordoba, heck Argentina, isn't all that Catholic, it is interesting to hear about a Protestant background person who still thinks that all Catholics have it wrong. I explained to her as my mom had once explained to me:

"Not all Catholics go to heaven. But certainly not all Protestants go to heaven either!"

If you'd like a Biblical reference to this sort of thing, you can check out Matthew 25:34-46 as well as Matthew 7:21.

She at once agreed, and we continued the discussion. How are you and your feelings about other denominations?

Chau.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I don't know

..how to tell you again and again how much there is to say, and simply too little time to do so.

For one, there's the fact that we were caught off guard yesterday to find that all of those staying at the girls' institute will be leaving this week!! I felt like I was in those T-bone car accidents you see in the movies. I didn't know how to say goodbye. How to hug Gladys and do my final little dance move I've taught Maria Luz these past few weeks. How to hold back the tears when little Tamara hugged me with all of her might.

Add to that, despairing for Maria Luz who does not have a mother who cares for her. She and I were playing, but at one point, she went to Gladys to have her hold her. "Ma-ma.. ma-ma!" she cried. And without a bat of an eye, Gladys did not even turn to her. Sol and I tried to distract the girl, but to no avail. Heartbreaking.

Before hand, I had a good time with Fabrizio, which is a first in several months. He stopped coming with us when we visit the boys' institute. I always made sure to say hello, but in general, he never was much of a talker. Yesterday, Javi had prepared the craft and on top of that we had visitors from Buenos Aires helping, so I stayed in the back to chat with my man Fabri. We talked about video games, and his family (I still remember the first time we met, and talking about his father Diego). I learned he has two brothers and one sister, but he doesn't hear much from them. All in all, lovely to get to focus my time with him.

There's the fact that we've had guests in and out of the house over the past week and a half. Yet another reason you haven't heard from me lately (and perhaps for the best, as I was pretty stressed, and I might've slipped in some complaints!).

The fact that it's already super hot, that while I know it won't be so cold when I go to Texas in less than a week (!), it will still make a whole lot of difference.

I'm reading Leviticus presently, and am thinking of preparing a sermonette about how Argentine asado probably smells a lot like our sins being taken away, while the panaderias are the smell of our guilt offerings. hehe.

I don't know what else to include, because it's all so important, and yet so very much, I couldn't possibly express everything I'm feeling and learning etc. etc. Mas que nada, God is wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better life! Chau!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Holy Guacamole

It's November.

That means several things. In two weeks, I'm making my way toward the great state of Texas. When I return, I have invites to Rio Negro, Neuquin and another part of Buenos Aires (where I will hopefully get to see a polo match!) for December. I have the end of the world to go to. I am waiting to hear about what summer camp I will be attending (Chaco or the south with the Bs. As. team???) in January. All of the end of the year events to plan--with the boys' and girls' institute, with my teens, with the church...

So I spent the day preparing for this fairly lengthy road ahead by organizing my room and putting away the gifts I've bought the family in one of the suitcases. I still have a few more to buy for, so I need to make time for that.

Oh yeah, and SARAH BRYAN IS ENGAGED!! WOOOOO!!!!

Oh and what? I'm speaking fairly fluent Spanish now? I've had quite a few new friendships formed in these past few weeks where it's not until a couple minutes into the conversation that they realize I'm not from here. Sick!

That is all. A fairly simple post, which had a lot more to it, but I'm simply exhausted. Chau!