Thursday, September 19, 2013

Learning childlike humility...and how to use the oven.

It has been over a month since I left my home of Cleveland, Ohio and I can honestly say that time has FLOWN by.  I have been living in La Plata for almost three weeks…what??!!  Before arriving here I had a fear of time passing slowly and missing home.  Now, I fear time passing too quickly and that I’ll be back home and missing Argentina before I know it.  I think it’s a bit irrational of a fear, but it’s irrationally present.

I think time is passing so quickly because I still feel so new to this place.  Everyday is a constant, yet beautiful, struggle to learn and get accustomed to the world around me.  I’ve always been a bit of a child when it comes to the amount of sleep I need, but now it’s just downright pathetic as I find myself so mentally drained by the end of each day.  It takes an incredible amount of energy and focus to simply try to keep up with the conversations taking place around me.  All day, everyday…yeah I need a bit of sleep.

Before traveling here I purchased a Spanish/English Bible that has been one of the greatest resources in learning new words.  Each page has two columns: one side with verses in Spanish, the other in English.  This morning I read Matthew 18 with a very new understanding.  Verses two through four state, “And He (Jesus) said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I’ve never truly understood what it means to be humble like a child, and I may never completely, but I think I’m getting closer.  I am nowhere near receiving the “Greatest in Heaven” badge.  That’s not at all what I am trying to say nor can I praise myself for being in a situation that the Lord placed me in.  However, those of you who know me, know that I like to think that I’m always right, that I like to have control over the situations taking place in my life, and that I think I can achieve most things that I want to on my own, without the guidance of others.  I’ve really had to step out of those roles that I’ve created for myself these past few weeks.  I praise the Lord for showing me what it means to realize that I am not okay on my own, that I do not know everything (in fact, I know very little), that I am so in need of grace and guidance and the joy that only comes through Him.  I am but a child.

Even beyond such realizations, everything has continued wonderfully here.  I am continuously growing in friendship with the people around me and with my level of comfort with my surroundings.  I am learning more of the language everyday and continue to have my ups and downs. 

One thing that I have really learned is to celebrate my accomplishments, no matter how small.  I’ve made steps in my cooking abilities here, learning to use the oven to make granola, cookies, and empanadas and I’m proud of myself for doing so.  (I’m going to continue working on my empanada skills so that we can have an empanada feast when you get here, family.  Get excited!) I find joy in carrying out full conversations and using, “Qué?,” only a couple of times vs. every other word as is often the case.  I can’t help but secretly pat myself on the back when I interject one of my new vocab words into a discussion.  These little joys are so motivating throughout my day.  They are proof that I am learning something despite often feeling like I’m running in circles. 

There are a lot of other small things that I’ve had to learn and grow accustomed to.  The biggest of the “littles”?  Eating dinner between 9:30 and 11:00 each night.  All of my previous roommates in the US know that this is my typical bedtime.  There has to be a really good reason for me to stay up past 11:00  and there aren’t many.  Sure, some people will eat an early dinner here….at 8:30 pm, but that’s for wimps. One night I ate at 9:00 pm and my roommates laughed at my early hours.  My stomach has been really struggling with this new schedule for some time, but I’m working on it.  And by working on it, I mean that I have a large dinner-like snack at 5 pm to get me through the rest of the day. 

There is one other thing that I struggle to be grow accustomed to.  My first nights here I kept hearing horrible screams that sounded like someone being tortured.  I was very concerned, but no one else seemed to be.  When my roommate noticed the distressed look on my face, she laughed and said, “El teatro (theater).”  You see there is a theater within the church building and attached to our home, which puts on classes and practices (what are apparently very violent scenes) until very late. Now, I have the pleasure of falling asleep every night to the cries of someone dying.  Part of me wants to get comfortable with this so I can sleep easily through it, and part of me feels like it’s wrong if I ever do. 

I am slowly beginning my work here and am excited to share with you as I continue to get involved.  However, I am going to wait to share about such things for one more week. There’s only so much I can write and there’s only so much that you want to read within each post.  One week at a time (or a little longer in this posts case)…

All of you back home will continue to remain in my thoughts and prayers!  Thank you so much for the prayers and support that many of you have been providing me up to this point.  If you feel called to continue to pray for me, I ask for prayers for open eyes and heart, continued learning, and the energy I need to be truly present and understanding throughout the day. LOTS of energy!

Much love,


I talked about maté in my last post.  This is one example of a maté, although they come in many shapes and forms.  The "straw" or bombila has a mini filter at the end to keep one from drinking any of the yerba. 

Cookie, round 1. Somehow all the cookies just ended up being one very large cookie.

Cookies, round 2: A little flour....much better! It's the little things that make me happy:)

Speaking of little things...isn't she just the cutest??? Little Morita posing in front of the Catedral.

So I'm a little in love with her.  But during the very rainy past week we had here, nothing made me happier than a good book and a sleeping pup.

This was a gift from, Iara, the cousin of one of my roommates.  She liked me solely based on the fact that I spoke English.  At only 6 or 7, she surprised me by interacting with me in a little English of her own.   Nothing better than a bilingual "I love you" sign. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bienvenida a La Plata

I’ve been living in Argentina for two beautiful weeks.  The first ten days were in Buenos Aires, where I stayed at a seminary with the six other YAGM volunteers.  We learned about the country, the culture, and took classes in Castellano (Spanish, but with different grammatical additions, words and sounds).  By the end of orientation I traveled from Buenos Aires to my site placement incredibly grateful for the seven other volunteers and our coordinators, Krystle and Ignacio, all of whom who have become like family away from home.  If you’re reading this, I love you all!

I’ve also been so blessed by the patience and understanding of the people I am surrounded by in my new home of La Plata. I’m living with six other “chicas” in the house connected to the Lutheran church here, as well as five “chicos” that live below.  They have been so wonderful in accepting me and trying to include me despite the fact that I am clueless about what is going around me half the time.  I really knew that I was living in the right place when on the first day, while taking a walk in the park, they decided to bring home the cutest puppy that a women was giving away.  We now have a house pup by the name of Mora (for those of you who previously met her as Pancha, the name has been constantly changing since). 

As kind and patient as my new roommates are, I cannot help but feel frustrations as well.  It’s as if I am again a child, learning everything about the world I am living in.  I want to be able to share my life, my dreams, who I am, with the people I am interacting with, but I can’t do that at this point. I can only share the surface of myself, and it’s tough.  For the first time in my life, I am the outsider, I am the dependent one, I cannot do everything on my own.  I need others to help me relearn things I have done my whole life.  Things like turning on the stove, washing my clothes, even talking. 

Instead of looking at these frustrations as a burden, I am working on seeing them as the blessing that they are.  At 22 years old, I have the opportunity to see through the eyes of a child.  I have the opportunity to relearn about the world around me in a new and different way.  I am struggling, but not without the kind and loving support of those around me.  I am an independent person, now forced to completely rely on others, forced to rely on God for the strength I need.  I haven’t had to that since I was a child, and I think it’s about time that I relearn that I need others and I need my faith in the Lord.  I was not created to stand alone.

Life is meant to be shared, it’s meant to be full of connections to others and that is such an incredibly beautiful thing.  Here in Argentina they have a custom that I think is such a wonderful illustration of this sharing of life and that’s the sharing of a maté (different than mate… that wouldn’t be so beautiful).  Maté is a tea-like drink that the people here consume CONSTANTLY.  Everywhere you go you see people carrying thermoses and maté.  Some drink it alone, but most often it is shared.  Shared throughout conversation and passed from one person to the next, one person constantly refilling it with hot water after each individual drinks.  You sit in a circle, sharing about your day, your life, or just sitting with each other, enjoying the day and the company.  It’s not rushed, but a tranquil time to just be with one another.  So wonderful. 

In learning the language I’ve already had more than my share of communication mishaps.  During my travel day to La Plata, when the youth of the Lutheran church traveled with me from Buenos Aires, I wanted to share with them how grateful I was for their kindness to me.  I stated many times, “Estoy graciosa,” “estoy muuyyy graciosa.”  Later while talking with one of my roommates, I decided to make sure that I was telling people I was thankful in the right way.  In fact, I was not.   Instead of telling people, “I am so thankful”, I was saying, “I am so funny.” They must have thought I was so full of myself, repeatedly needing to share with them what a great sense of humor I had.  Well, I do have a great sense of humor, but they’ll discover that without me repeatedly stating the fact:).

I would like to finish by stating that I have not made note of my work yet because I have not begun.  This first week was about getting to know my surroundings: the city, my roommates, the language.  It will take a little bit of time before I am completely settled into my weekly obligations, as I figure out my schedule and how to best divide my time. I am excited to get started but also grateful for a week of rest and exploration as I settle into my new life here in La Plata, Argentina. 

I hope all of you back home know that you are in my thoughts and prayers, and if willing, I ask for your prayers as well.  Prayers for patience, for a light-heart, and for the ability to laugh off my constant mistakes. Pray for eyes that see the needs of those around me, for ears that are continuously understanding more of the Spanish language, and for a heart that focuses on the blessings instead of the frustrations.  Finally, pray that it is the Lord that I learn to use as my greatest strength and support.  

Argentina/Uruguay crew awaiting our departure!

A lovely illustration of the Noah's Ark story (you better believe Spongebob and Patrick made it on the ark!) painted on the surrounding walls of a Lutheran church we visited while in Buenos Aires.

While visiting the church, a giant participation trophy (dating back to 1999) was awarded to us after a futbol match.  YAGM(er) Josh holds the trophy while checking out some Dragon Ball Z cards that his new friend wants to share.  It was a wonderful day shared with a wonderful congregation! 

A special thanks to Jen for leading group exercises during orientation.  Jen was a trainer at the YMCA before doing YAGM, and a motivation to exercise when we were lazy.

The flag of Argentina.  

Las Madres y las Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo have been marching weekly around the plaza since 1977 during Argentina's "Dirty War".  They began marching despite great risk, in defiance of the government's state terrorism, in hopes of learning what happened to their "disappeared"children and grandchildren.  While justice has since been carried out and information given, they continue to march weekly in remembrance of their loved ones and for other social causes.

Downtown Buenos Aires

The cathedral in downtown Buenos Aires

Josh helping prepare our first experience of asado.  It's like a cookout, but probably better, with soooo much meat.

Myself, Jen, and Elizabeth enjoying the asado cooking experience.

Soooo much meat...

Meet Mora!

Mora helped me unpack...or distracted me while I attempted to unpack.

My space decorated with the lovely "bienvenida" signs that welcomed me when I arrived.

The famous and beautiful cathedral of La Plata!