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)

Friday, October 11, 2013

The road to La Plata

Every 15 or so days I travel to Buenos Aires to work with the headquarters of the IELU, the Lutheran church here in Argentina.  About halfway through my ride back to La Plata I decided to document my trip with some random pictures out the window. They're really random, so don't expect any professional photography here. Unfortunately, I did not capture any of Buenos Aires, but this is what part the one hour ride between the two cities looks like.  Just a little taste of Argentina.  Next time I'll add some of the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.

If you look to the left of this photo there's a random horse hanging out by the road.  I came across a lot of them throughout my ride. Specifically in this area.  Not too many random horses in my area of town, unfortunately.

Starting to enter La Plata...

Futbol, lots and lots of Futbol...

This is the same bus as I take.  It's actually incredibly comfortable with seats that lean wayyy back and leg rests.  It's a good nap and reading hour...

A glimpse of the main government building.

 I've realized that writing takes a lot of time, and I often don't do it as often as I should.  But I figure I can start mixing my written blog posts with some photo blog posts.  Probably more exciting for ya'll once in a while anyways.  All continue to be well here in Argentina.  My weeks here are just flying by! I will share with you all again soon!  Hasta luego!

Un abrazo (a hug),


Monday, October 7, 2013

The Perks of Being an Outsider

I’ve talked a lot about the difficulties of living in a new country, especially one with a different native language.  I cannot lie, it’s very hard at times.  However, by only sharing the difficulties, I’m also not sharing the whole truth.  You see, there are several positives about being from outside Argentina that have surprised me along the way.

From my experience, Argentines are very welcoming to visitors and are very excited to meet outsiders. Before ever being called by my name, I am first known as “la chica de los Estados Unidos”  (the girl from the United States).  This is not said in a negative way, but with excitement and curiosity.  People are interested in learning about where I am from and why I am here.  I have yet to to come across any North Americans in La Plata despite there being a university with students from other countries in attendance, so I think being from the US adds to the curiosity. 

 In reality, I’m never called by my actual name, Kristyn. Within Argentina I have transformed into “Kris”, pronounced Krees with a rolled “rrr”.  Kristyn Zollos is a bit difficult to pronounce here.  It is so amazing to me that depending on the language you speak, different sounds are so difficult to make in a new language.  I’m still struggling to roll my “r’s”.  And I mean really struggling.

Wow, I’ve gotten off topic.  So, where was I? Oh yes, Argentines are very welcoming to foreigners.  People are excited to share with me their culture and are interested in learning more about my own.  While sharing with me things like food and pop culture here, in return they want to know if things are as they are portrayed on the television programs and what foods I eat in the US.  I’m very willing to debunk a few myths that television has created with shows like the Simpsons (which plays 24 hours a day here), and I’m sad at times that I cannot.  It was a disappointing day when I had to say, "Yes, we do have child pageants with ridiculous stage moms and girls who go by names like 'Honey Boo Boo” .  Luckily, I was able to respond to the question that followed with, “No, I never participated in such pageants, my parents chose to get me involved in other things.” And for that I am eternally grateful, mom and dad!

As an newcomer from the US, I also have an automatic “in” with a lot of people, especially children, who have an interest in the English language.  Most of the children learn some English in school and many enjoy telling me every single word they know within our conversation.  I love it.  They count for me and point out the colors in english.  They are just so excited to share what they know of “my” language.  What they don’t know, they ask.  And man, once they get rolling on asking what things are in English or what things are like where I'm from, they really get rolling. 

The first thing that every child wants to know is his or her name.  Some are easy…Azule,? Well that means Blue. Abril? That’s April. Ivan? You just sound it out differently.  But then there are the tricky ones.  Ismail? Uhh…  Ticiana? Well, let me think about that…  Do I break a small child’s heart by telling them there is no English equivalent to their name or do I try to make something up on the spot in avoidance of the horrible truth?  And let me tell you if I got to making things up, kids would be walking away with some ridiculous English names.  I’m no good with improv. 

These kids that I am referring to are from a comedor, or after-school (and before-school) program as it’s referred to in the US.  I originally was supposed to be working with a particular comedor that did not work out.  I was really bummed about this at first, but a friend, who is a social work student, mentioned this particular comedor that he has worked with in the past.  A call was made to the organization and the director was really excited to have me help out and asked if I could visit the following day.  The next day I was welcomed by many of the workers and volunteers at the organization who she had asked to be there to meet me.  I also met another social work student from the university who is part of a group of students working within the community.  She invited me to come along this past week as she and other students went around the community, to the school and a home for children.  This past Friday I also participated in the student’s classes on bullying that they helping put on within the school. 

I am extremely excited about being involved not only in the comedor but in the community.  I really love the idea about truly understanding the place a whole, not just a single part of it.  The kids have already touched my heart with their joy for both learning and teaching.  Learning in this context is so beautiful for me because it is all about sharing.  I need their help and they need mine.  Actually, at this point I probably need their help more than they need mine. Sometimes I think giving them love and attention is more needed than teaching, so I like to think I'm contributing in some way.  I am excited to share with you all more of my experiences within this community as I continue to get involved.

To finish, I’d like to apologize for my lack of pictures today.  I can never remember to bring my camera and to take pictures at the right moment.  I also feel like a tourist when whipping out my camera to document an event or place.  Another confession: if you look through any of my recent photos they are all of our pup.  ALL of them.  I have probably have five or so photos on my phone of her with feathers all over herself after eating a pigeon, but I lack a single photo of my recent trips to the comedor.  I’m going to take photos tomorrow and put them up after.  I am 80% sure this will happen. 

Overall, I find myself extremely content with where I am at and what I am doing.  I am meeting amazing people constantly and building upon those relationships already formed daily. I am experiencing new things, many of which call me to take some large but necessary steps outside my comfort zone. I continue to learn and grow everyday from both my struggles and my achievements.  Looking upon all of it, I know I have so much to be thankful for, including my wonderful support system from afar. Thank you for the continue thoughts and prayers!

Much love,