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!  

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