Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 things I am thankful for

Sunday was Thanksgiving here in La Plata, Argentina.  The nice thing about celebrating a holiday in a country that does not actually celebrate that holiday is that you get to choose when you want to celebrate it.  So I made Thanksgiving on a Sunday afternoon.  I was blessed with the company of roommates, various friends, including friends from the comedor, and two other volunteers, Erin and Josh, who travelled from Buenos Aires.  We had a lovely day of food, games, music and mate in the park.  The only thing that was missing was turkey.  Turkey is not widely sold here, and the ones that are fall outside my price range.  So we had a turkey day minus the turkey.  But we did have some delicious chicken cooked outside in the parrilla (pic below).  It was a hot day which made it extremely fun to be cooking with the oven, stove, and grill all day (NOT). Even with the heat, we enjoyed the day all the same.

AND in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to take some time to share what I am especially thankful for this year:

1.)  I am thankful for my family (including those not shown in photos, all Nyland and Zollos clan, you are a blessing in my life!)...

My parents, my beautiful sister, Katelyn, and my brother-in-law, Brad, have all been an incredible support throughout my life, and especially within my time here.  I am who I am, because they are who they are.  I think they they're all pretty great people, so I hope that means I'm turning out okay...  

I am thankful for them even though they like to send me pics of themselves doing fun things without me....such as eating at my favorite restaurant...

 ....and taking Thanksgiving hikes in the woods.

This year I give thanks for two members of my family in particular.  Within this past year, my family lost both of my grandparents on my mother's side.  While it was very painful to have them leave us, I could not be more grateful for the 22 years I had with them both.  They taught me about life, love, faith, and family.  A saying by Mother Teresa reminds me of the life they lived together.  She said, "We cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love."  Nothing they did was extraordinary from a worldly view, but they lived out each and every day doing small things with great love for their friends, for their church, for their family, and for their Lord.  I had the blessing of feeling that great love each and every day of my life and I give thanks.  

2.)  I am thankful for my friends.  Once again, I'm thankful for all of you, but a few particulars this year....

One crazy friend who went on a big adventure with me.  I'd say I'm lucky to have someone that I still consider one of my greatest friends after almost 3 months of traveling together and almost 2 years of living together. 

These two, Aimee and Kelsey, have had my back since grade school.  I think Aimee and I may have been born friends, because I can't recall a time without her in my life.  I could not be more thankful for their friendship and support.  We were attempting to star gaze during the meteor shower in this photo.  We also look slightly high thanks to a really bright flash on a really dark night. 

All these folks here +Erin.  They have been such wonderful friends and support throughout my time here.  I love the moments we get to spend together even though their few and far between.  Can't wait till February!

And last but certainly not least, I am thankful for my friends from La Plata.  I am really bad at taking photos, so unfortunately I did have enough to display all the people who have been such good friends here, but here are some recent ones:

At the IELU churchwide assembly with the San Timoteo reps and my good friends Caro and Cristian.  

Drinking mate in the park after the Dia de Gracias festivities.

3.) I am thankful for children.  Not my children (I won't be thankful for that for a long while), just children.  Yes they can be so incredibly annoying at times, but how great are they?  They have such joy and energy for life.  I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with the kids at the comedor each week.  I hope that I am having some positive effect on their lives, because they are having a positive effect on mine.

4.)  I am thankful for the food on my table each day and those who grow it.   I love everything about food.  I love cooking, I love eating, I love the places where it is grown and the plants and animals from which it comes.  But I also think it is important to be conscious about the food we are consuming and the way it is produced.  I give thanks for good food, especially good food produced in good ways.

The organic farm on which we had our retreat in Uruguay.

Farm tour!

Breakfast during our retreat.  Most of the food was grown or produced on the farm.  

5.) I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow within a new culture.  I feel so blessed to be where I am right now.  I am blessed by both the good days and the bad.  Maybe even more so by the bad days since those are the ones I find myself learning and growing the most from.  I give thanks for the beauty of culture and the beauty of inter-cultural relationships.

6.) I am thankful for the beauty of creation. I think we live in a pretty amazing world.  There is so much beauty in nature and I love taking the time to explore it.  Unfortunately, living in a city, I do not get quite as much nature time as I would always like, but I am still thankful for the parks, plazas, and green spaces that fill La Plata.  Below are some picture of the natural beauty of my "home(s)".
The Metroparks of Cleveland with Caddis (my sister's dog).

A sunset on Lake Erie while home in Cleveland, Ohio.

On my way to La Plata from Buenos Aires.

And the natural beauty of a few other pretty amazing places I've had the opportunity to visit this year:

Plitvice, Croatia




7.)  I am thankful for my church communities, both here and afar.  I do not know where I would be without the Lord in my life, and it is largely thanks to the churches I have been apart of, that my faith has been nurtured  and grown.  My childhood and family church (and school) Messiah Lutheran continues to support me to this day while I am here in Argentina and I could not be more thankful.  I thank Purdue Christian Campus House for showing me what community and living out your faith means.  And I thank San Timoteo for welcoming me in and caring for me throughout my time here in La Plata.

8.) I am thankful for my education...

I have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity of education.  I have grown to realize how valuable education is on all levels.  This brings me back to family, because I would not be thankful for my education, if it were not for my wonderful family who pushed me and sacrificed so that I could have the education I do.

9.)  I am thankful for animals of all kinds, probably a little too much.  These are a  few that are especially close to my heart:

Mora, professional pigeon hunter and our pup here in La Plata.

And my three favorite pooches of the world, Max, Buck, and Caddis.  They have been a wonderful part of the the Zollos family for years.  Well, Caddis hasn't but she quickly worked her way into our hearts and is slowly working her way into Buck and Max's.

10.)  I am thankful for those who have a heart for helping others. I have come across some pretty amazing people this past year, with servant-like hearts that have been so incredibly inspiring.  I've met people who everyday stand up for people without the means or ability to stand up for themselves.  I've seen people open their homes and lives to others in need, and making great personal sacrifices in doing so, because it is the right thing. I am so thankful that there are generous and humble people like that in this world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A brief and scattered life update

Sooo.  Here's the thing.  I was gone all last week on a tech-free retreat with my wonderful YAGM Argentina/Uruguay family and I leave tomorrow for another computer-less week in Buenos Aires.  I'm going to give a quick update of my life, and I'll expand upon the details when I return!

1.) My church here, San Timoteo, celebrated Reformation Day with a special service and a celebration with some treats after.

Most of us together after service.

I decorated a cake with some help from roommates.  I don't consider myself very artistic, so I have to admit that I was pretty excited this actually turned out pretty decent.

2. We also had a small Halloween celebration at the comedor.

Holding our ghost suckers high and proud.  My wonderful roommates helped me make these for the kids.

I gave a little talk about the origin of Halloween.  But let's be honest, the suckers were WAY more exciting.  

 We got into costume by decorating some masks of different characters and animals.  This is my other cat friend and I.

3.  I spent a week in Uruguay for a retreat with my YAGM family here.  It was a wonderful spanish break spent with some pretty wonderful people....and animals.

I love cows. Well, I love all animals, but I really do love cows.  This is me with the baby of the farm.  Each day we enjoyed fresh milk, cheese, and dulce de leche compliments of her mama and the other gals.  

Getting a tour.  All the food grown here was organic...and delicious.  So. Incredibly. Delicious.

A little volleyball fun with the crew.  Our days here were filled with learning and sharing, but playing as well.  Futbol, frisbee, volleyball.  So great.

Nothing better than a group bonfire accompanied by songs and stories.

4.  During a long weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Recoleta, a rather well-known cemetery in Buenos Aires and the planetarium.  

Katie, another YAGM volunteer, taking some photos amongst only a few of the many monuments that make up the cemetery.  It's almost like a little village with small streets that wind through the graves and monuments of different shapes and sizes.

The skyline was filled with angels and crosses in all directions. Rather beautiful, but slightly eery.

The planetarium glowing in the night.  

Well, it's past my bedtime and I need to wake up early to head to Buenos Aires.  I will include more next time and put a little more time and effort into the post.  I would also like to add that I'm doing without spell-check and grammar-check so don't judge me too harshly. 

Thank you for keeping up with my life!  I pray that wherever you are reading this, health and happiness are with you.  Everything continues to be well here as I continue to learn and live within this new country and culture.  Until next time!



Friday, November 1, 2013

A musical sampling!

One thing that I love about the where I am is the music.  Every weekend there seems to be a festival or celebration of some kind in a park or plaza, where music is being played and listened to free of charge.  Everyone brings their mate and sits in the grass, enjoying the day and entertainment provided.  Pictured below was a festival celebrating the the cultures present within La Plata.  Traditional dances and music were performed in one of the plazas.

A few weeks ago on Colombus Day, or Dia de La Raza as it is known here, I had the opportunity to attend a  free concert held at the Estadio Unico, La Plata's largest futbol stadium.   I was able to attend thanks to two of my roommates Liseth and Caro (see photo below).  It was an a great opportunity to experience more of the culture through popular music, so I thought I'd share a bit of that with you all.

Introducing the bands: The Pastillas Del Abuelo (Grandpa's Pills), Las Pelotas (The Balls?), Dread Mar I, and The Autenticos Decadentes 

The concert was at the Estadio Unico, which is the largest futbol stadium in La Plata and home stadium to one of the local teams.  And that's me.  I have gotten a lot taller since I left so you might not recognize me.

The inside of the stadium prior to the concert.  Pretty big place!

Myself, Caro, and Liseth in the stands.  

They provided a lot of great pre/between show entertainment.  They had ramps set up all around where skateboarder, bicyclists, and motocross riders  were performing stunts.  The motocross stunts, as shown above, were definitely the most entertaining.

The stadium filling up!


This man has some serious dreads, in case you haven't noticed from this picture.  




I also managed to capture a few videos of the crowd.  Maybe it's the type of music that I listen to back home which results in me going to more laid back concerts, but I had never seen anything like this.  It was so cool watching the crowd move like this throughout the entire concert.  Cool from above.  If I had been in the middle of that I probably would have been crying... or having a really good time but it wasn't exactly worth the risk to find out.  The people here are certainly are a lively bunch of concert goers!

There is a lot more to the music of Argentina than these four bands.  This is just a sampling from my sampling.  It was a great experience to hear some of the well-known music performed live, and probably an even greater experience just being in the concert environment within a new context and watching the crowd around me.  I'll share more musical and cultural experiences throughout the year as they come!

Until next time!

Much love,


PS: I sent out a newsletter about my time thus far in Argentina.  If you did not receive one and would like to be added to the mailing list, please email me at!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The HERE and the NOW

“In life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.”
-Mother Teresa

I have quickly come to the conclusion that there is no sound more beautiful to my ears than a child’s voice calling out to me, “Señora!.”  I don’t know how to explain it, but that simple word tells me that even if just for that moment they desire my attention, my help, my praise (or at times to whine to me as kids do, but I love it all the same).  In those moments, I do not feel like the useless girl from the US still trying to navigate her way around a foreign place, as I often feel in my more frustrating language moments. I feel like I mean something, like I add something. 

My heart is completely full of joy during the hours that I am at the comedor (after-school type program for those of you just joining us on this journey).  Sometimes, I think on the these feelings of contentment inside myself while I am there and realize that all the other things taking place in my life do not matter.  All the other aspects of life that I find myself worried about or distracted by throughout my day disappear in those moments.  Within my time there, I know I am exactly where I need to be. I have found that this is one of the greatest feelings I have experienced.  I desire to be nowhere else, with no one else.  I want to be there with those kids, helping with homework, playing games, pretending I know exactly what they’re saying when they talk really fast, and hearing them call out to me in their beautiful little voices.

Finally, I have taken some photos to share with you all from trips to the comedor.  However, I am not yet comfortable taking out my camera to photograph all the time so they are limited.  The kids and I are getting to know each other and it just not feel like the right time to try to be taking pictures.  I want to share who all the kids are with all of you. BUT more so when they are completely ready to share who they are with me. 

As always, thank you all for the love and support.  I feel so blessed to be where I am, and am truly, truly happy.  None of this would not be possible without the wonderful people I have in my life, both near and far. 

Un abrazo,


This is the road I walk to the comedor after getting off the bus.  It's not open fields, but just getting outside the city with less people and more space, I find this walk to be so peaceful.  

"Compartiendo un Sueño" is the name of the comedor.  For additional info I think you should be able to look at their Facebook page.  They have a website, but it's all in Spanish and their Facebook page has more photos:

 After a day at the park (in which I forgot my camera) we returned to await parents.  The boys were all lined up to learn some Tae Kwon Do-type punches.  As you can imagine, they were really into it.

This is the outside of the classroom.  It's one room with a bathroom and a kitchen.  It's actually the garage of the woman who started it.  With time, she's hoping to expand.

As a special project, a volcano and town were built by the kids.  This was the exciting day of the volcanic eruption.  

Everyone gather round....

Success, for the most part.  Unfortunately for the project, fortunately for the pretend people living in the town, they lava flowed all over the table and floor instead of the "village".

After the previous photo my camera was passed around by the kids.  While they are all really nice pictures, many of them are similar so I won't share them all.  This one just goes to show that not everyone wants their photo taken all the time.  Some proof of why I don't always want my camera out...

My friend Eva and I

Finishing up the day with some games.  I lost.  Big time.  And if you know me, you know my competitive nature wouldn't let me lose just to be nice.  They won fair and square.
(Photo courtesy of Marina Ayala)