at the river

Tony took the boys from the home to the river. A real treat. They have no car there at the home, no way to get out but to walk or take the bus, so this was something special since the river is miles away. The tíos (caretakers) went, too, for crowd control. These are rowdy boys.

They drove to a spot that can only be reached by car, crossing a bridge, driving through a little village (which looks like a shanty town),

and winding back along the river through big stands of poplars and fruit plantations.

searching for lizards in the desert bushes

 

they found one

What did I do? Nothing. As usual. Since losing our health I just stay home all day with my kids. It’s boring. I should be homeschooling them (but that’s another post I may never write). The first year here I did so much, we did so much. Our kids were involved, we did missions together. Now we don’t, and it’s boring. But we lost our health and I’m not willing to risk permanently losing it. I don’t feel called to be a martyr, so at home we stay. I don’t know what my blood pressure is these days. Although it finally came down to normal, I’ve been too scared this month to go get it taken to see if it still is (I need one of those blood pressure things so I can take it myself – here I have to go the pharmacy or clinic). I’m afraid maybe it’s gone back up. So I just stay home and try to stay calm, keeping my kids away from germs and danger. Silly, I know. I hope people don’t think we’re superhero missionaries. I hope people don’t think what we do is particularly amazing. Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes it looks dreadfully ordinary and not so amazing. Like staying home – it’s so boring. I don’t know what to do most days, so I just cast myself on the mercy of God. There’s enough grace for that, right? I wonder if Moses was bored in the desert. But, it is what it is. The cookie has crumbled this way, our second year here. Not the way I planned, not the way I want, and I’m certainly not happy about it, any of it. At least Tony is still doing stuff, he does a lot. He does everything now, really. Thank God he does so much, it makes me feel at least justified being here when I feel so useless and my kids aren’t even all that happy. It’s great for Tony, but boring for the rest of us since we only have one car.

Did I mention how bored I am? Yes, I think I did.

the boys took pictures of each other

and themselves

When they got back to the home, they showed Tony the petrified wood they found on the property. Patagonia is a geologist’s dream. It’s so cool – dinosaurs everywhere, petrified wood in your back yard, fossils and post Ice Age fluvial deposits everywhere. A rock geek’s dream.

petrified tree

{I don’t know why wordpress labels all my pictures “SWEET” or why it stretches out some of my uploaded photos and not others. I don’t seem to have much blog luck here. I do wonder if it’s our internet connection. Today my pictures uploaded lickety-split, I felt like I was on US high-speed! Ah, third world internet, such a fun adventure.}

some vines and some grace

The neighborhood dogs have begun barking their little heads off early today. No hawks, though.

Last Monday was a holiday; I don’t know which one, there are so many here. One thing Argentina is good at is holidays. There is at least one a month; one three- to four-day weekend when everything shuts down and everyone has off. We find it fantastic, and the one thing missing from American culture: more holidays and more rest. Americans work themselves into the ground, many living for retirement and some “future” rest. I’m not so sure that is how God meant for us to live.

Our kids like the States better; one is okay with living here, one doesn’t like it here at all, and the other is too young to notice either way. We try to find fun things to do with them and for them in an attempt to make life better and more positive here, although it’s challenging. They often say there is nothing fun to do here. There isn’t much, I agree. Life is very, very different here. Pickings are slim. Last Monday we decided to go on another field trip (last month it was the art museum) to a vineyard. We picked a vineyard where a dinosaur was found during excavation and left encased in glass right where it was discovered. How cool is that?

On our way out of town we stopped at an ATM. There was no money in it. We drove to another. There was no money in that one, either. At the third one, halfway across town, and with a car-less family we picked up along the way also looking for money (they were very appreciative for the ride, the dad kept smiling), we found an ATM with a line – a good sign. We finally got some money out for gas and we had a very nice day walking among the grape vines listening to nothing but the sound of the wind in the poplars. Ah, sweet silence. So rejuventating. I had forgotten what silence sounds like. It was good to get away from the noise of the city.

My girls have spent all week playing with plastic trash bags. My poor deprived MKs, making toys out of trash bags. They made “little birdies”: ripped up flaps of plastic which, when tied to the end of a string “fly” as they ran around the house outside. It kept them busy all week. At the supermarket they only give you three or four bags for your groceries, and won’t give you more even if you have tons of groceries. I remember the first time I went food shopping here feeling shocked, confused, and wondering how on earth I was going to get all the stuff home. They suggested boxes, and fortunately went hunting for some for me from somewhere in the bowels of the store. To this day I still forget to take my own bags and usually end up doing the same thing: scrounging up some boxes at checkout.

Both of our older kids speak Spanish now conversationally. There are still many things they cannot say, but my son recently Skyped in Spanish with his cousin who lives in Germany. A year ago you couldn’t get “Hola” out of him. I’d say this is significant progress.

The boys at the children’s home now ask the director, “Cuando viene el tio?”. [When is Uncle Tony coming?] They wait for his visits now. When he goes they ask him, “Can you take us for a ride in your van, tio?” They think our conversion van is the greatest thing. “Can you bring more movies, tio?” “When are you going to take me to your house, tio?”

The boys open up more and more as time goes by. It’s truly unbelievable some of their stories. Sergio’s father was killed in prison, 17 stabbings with a knife. His mother doesn’t want him. She abandoned him at the children’s home. At his father’s viewing, he saw one of the stab wounds on his father’s face. Sergio sits with Tony and says, “I just want to see my mother. I don’t want to be here. I just want a family. I don’t want to be in this place.” Sergio has tried to kill himself several times. He is 12 years old.

Esteban says that someone stole his money. He gave it to one of the caretakers to hold for him like he’s supposed to. But one of the tios left his job at the home, taking Esteban’s money, jacket, and sneakers with him. How are the kids supposed to better themselves with that kind of example? When Esteban was nine he saw his mother commit suicide. He has not been well since then.

Cristian was taken away from his mother because, at eight or nine, he was already stealing in the streets. His mother sent him to do it. He also used to watch his mom have sex with men in front of him.

Ale and his sister were abandoned at children’s homes when they were very little. Their father was in prison for killing their mom’s lover. He’s out now, and the kids go visit him on weekends. But Ale doesn’t want to go anymore because “things happen there”.

Both of Andres’ parents have mental problems. Andres has two sisters, one older, one younger. All have been abused one way or another in every way imaginable.

Victor’s story is the same as Andres. Abused, beaten, abandoned.

Martin and Pablo left the boys home and are now living with one of the tios. They seem to be doing well and say they are happy there. They tell Tony they always remember the things they talked about with him, things he said to them.

Nico is now in a home for boys who have abused other boys.

Overall, in spite of all the challenges, things were going well with the boys. They were making progress until Victor came. Victor has mental problems and is constantly creating conflict. He has changed the whole environment in the home. He fights and hits and causes problems day and night.

It is into this environment that Tony steps several times a week, sometimes for half the day or more. It is very hard to work with these boys. The only time, Tony is told, that they are quiet and still is when he sits down with them. They become strangely quiet and actually listen to what he has to say.

This is Grace.

They talk about relationships and God and family and what it means to be a man. They work on Bible verses, they watch movies. They loved the Prince of Egypt. Loved it, and asked for more like it.

Two weeks ago the boys all gathered around in a circle and opened up about their lives. They were all crying. Some prayed for the very first time. An amazing moment, arms draped around each other’s shoulders, crying, praying. The tios often hang around when Tony comes, watching, listening, not saying a word.

Friends and native missionaries Damian and Marta stopped in unexpectedly the other night. We want to get back to Chos Malal to help them some more, to follow up on our last evangelistic event there. I had been filling a box with clothes and supplies for months, set aside specifically for mission trips. I was so happy to pass it along to her. After rooting around some more in my kids’ closet, we filled many more bags with clothes, an entire Torchlighters set of DVDs, some tracts and booklets given to us here by CCC, and a brand new soccer ball. We know they will use it all. It feels good to give. We have never been in a position to support missionaries, so it’s nice to be able to do so now – if not with funds, with valuable and costly, hard-to-come-by supplies in this little corner of the world. Something is something. We had a nice time talking with them, as well – they are a wonderful couple, sincere, hard-working, faith-filled, and dedicated. Very dedicated. An example to us. It is a pleasure to be able to help them.

Our first year here looked a lot like we imagined it would. The second, not so much. Letting go of what we would like things to look like, and just doing what God puts before us, what we can. Offering sacrifices without the camp.

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not
have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Heb. 13:12-16

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he
will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

the last of the non-missions photos: evil hawks

It’s been nice to take a break for a month here from talking about missions, at least directly. I needed it. There is much to share that’s happened in the past month, but I thought I’d throw the last of the non-missions photos up before I attempt to write down any of the pretty normal, always intense, missions stuff which is always going on.

As soon as the evil dogs stopped yapping, we started being bothered immediately by savannah hawks. It’s just demonic, and we just laugh, almost crazily now, because what is there left to do? A couple nested on our roof – we had never seen or heard them before – and started attacking our windows every morning, and all day long. They’re obviously not very smart and can’t seem to figure out that their reflection is not another hawk. They make quite a racket pecking, clawing, attacking and throwing themselves at our windows every morning as soon as there is a hint of light in the sky, when we want to sleep just a little bit longer. We get up and open and slam close the windows to scare them, Tony even crazily running out to spray them with the hose, but they come back every time, sometimes diving at us like we’re the enemy. Whatever. We give up. Quiet, we are sure, is something that only exists in the United States.

psycho hawk

Non-mission Photos, Week 4: field trip day

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes [National Museum of Fine Arts]

We recently took the kids on a field trip after our long, hard winter indoors. Attempts at homeschooling must go on. There is an art museum here in town. It’s small, but nice. The paintings are European and 19th and 20th century Argentine. Very pretty. Very, very refreshing to weary eyes. The kids were ho-hum about it. Except maybe the one with the completely naked lady. They found that one particularly interesting.

“You know, music, art – these are not just little decorations to make life prettier.

They’re very deep necessitites which people cannot live without.”

~Pablo Picasso

public bathrooms, squatty potties, and BYOTP

Public bathrooms are extremely hard to come by here in Argentina. They’re as rare as dinosaurs, and businesses are pretty strict about only letting paid customers use their often times less-than-clean restrooms. Every once in a while you come across a kind shop owner who will let you use their restroom, but it’s wise to plan ahead of time. As in, plan on not having to go because you might find yourself in a very public place and plumb out of luck.

This pottie was a rare treat: a PUBLIC bathroom. I spotted it in Puerto Piramides – as in the Peninsula Valdez Puerto Piramides. Never heard of it? Of course you haven’t – it’s in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Hence my shock. I even remember exclaiming to my daughter, “Ohmygoshareyoukidding? A PUBLIC bathroom? I can’t believe it! Let’s go check it out just for fun!“.

We trudged over, searched for the not-so-well-marked entrance to the Damas [Ladies] bathroom, and were met with a surprisingly clean squattie pottie {Bring-Your-Own-Toiletpaper, of course. I always do.}.

When we travel – meaning, anytime we leave the city limits – I ALWAYS have an ample supply of Toilet Paper. Kleenex works, too. And a trash bag because we don’t litter. And water in bottles to rinse our hands (you can’t count on the faucet to actually work and supply water, no, can’t count on that). And germ gel; used to hate the stuff. But in the States we always had access to clean running water. Not here, no sirree. Here we have germ gel stashed all over the place: in the front seat, in the back seat, refills under the kitchen sink. I really never cared about germs and never even made my kids wash their hands before eating. Strange, I know – considering my grandmother was a nurse and my mom her assistant. They were different times. Tony was all about washing hands, and the kids do it because of him. But now I’m as germ allergic as the next mom. I miss the good ol’ days when I didn’t care, or have much reason to care, about germs. I often think I am so ridiculous – it’s not like we live in malarial Africa or anything. I mean, chillax, Chris. But I Can’t. Won’t. Wouldn’t be wise… considering our health history here. And our public bathroom issues. And now squatty potties.

happy day :)

First I need to clarify something before I tell you about our very happy day. In my last post I probably made it sound like we told our neighbors to shut up – we didn’t. You’d have to understand Spanish a bit more I guess to understand fully, so let me explain. The Spanish verb callar means “to keep quiet, to be silent, to silence, to hush” and can {depending on your tone} in the colloquial mean to shut up. Which is what I wanted to say, of course, in a red-headed moment, after having had to listen incessantly to the crazy-making, non-stop barking for weeks, months, a year.

But, seeing as our neighbors are deaf, we had to write them a note. Our note reading more like “Quiet your dogs.” We definitely did not want to convey a nice-nice,“Can you please possibly consider quieting your sweet little preciouses?” but we did try very, very, very hard to not blow up and start yelling “SHUT UP!” (okay, me). We wanted to be clear, yes. And, you know, nice people get walked all over – at least in our experience. I suppose if Tony had let me march on over across the street I quite possibly perhaps maybe would have said “Shut your dumb dogs up! I can’t stand it anymore!” in my angst, but perceptive husband saw my agitation and went over instead. Good thing. I’ll have to ask him, but I wonder what the tone of his wild gesticulations conveyed exactly: “quiet” or “shut up”. Not sure if gesticulations can convey tone as well, though… Anyway, I wanted to clear that up in case anyone was wondering if we actually told our neighbors to shut up. It was tempting. I hope people wouldn’t think that we actually did {although I guess I did make it sound like we did}. And yes, if you are wondering – miracle of miracles – the dogs are quiet now, at least at night. But, alas and nevermind…

Back to our happy day. It was very happy, indeed. We received three, count ’em THREE packages in the mail today. Several people had offered to send us some stuff, and we took them all up on it. One needs much peanut butter when living abroad. Much. All three packages arrived on the same day. Tony went down to the Customs office with the notices that had been left in our mail box and waited in line for just about forever to get them out. He then had to pay 200 pesos (almost $50) in customs fees. But it was worth it. Very, very worth it, I assured Tony when he got home. It was Christmas in October. I wish you could have heard the girls screams of “OHMYGOSHMOMMY, POP TARTS!!!” or “OHMYGOOOOOOOOOOSHMOM, PEANUT BUTTER! LOOK AT ALL THE PEANUT BUTTER!!!”

Yes, it was a happy day.

Thank you Jo and Staci and Amanda and Dale & Vicki and Jon & Alana and Chris & Krista and anybody else that contributed. BLESS YOU! {and bless all the other kind people that support us in so many different ways}. You can’t imagine how happy it all made us. We have peanut butter for about a year (if I can keep the vultures away and successfully ration precious spoonfuls), tons of absolutely beautiful beads to keep the girls busy crafting and creating, and my precious, precious Tylenol that I cannot get here – and so much more. Brown sugar, the biggest bag of chocolate chips I have ever seen, M&Ms and a few perfect toys.

I don’t think we can receive anything else for a while, though. Although I definitely think it was worth it, we did notice that it cost $50-$100 just to send a small box. Plus what we paid on this end. Plus the fact that Tony’s had it with customs and was pretty upset with them when he came home. Every trip there takes up the whole morning waiting in line, and you never know if you’re going to get a nice person or not. Today he got a not nice person who said he had to pay 290 pesos just to get the boxes out, and you’re not allowed to send medicine through the mail (now how could we know that?). Tony informed her that he only had 200 pesos on him, so the lady said “Fine” and took it in an impatient huff. The receipt he was handed said “Books and Candy, Value 400 pesos ($100), 50% import tax = 200 pesos”. The value they arbitrarily assign themselves. If you want your stuff you have to pay up. Never mind that there wasn’t a single book in our boxes. Never mind that the other books we actually got they said we didn’t have to pay import taxes on.

But it was worth it. SO VERY WORTH IT. We are happy. And I think, if I’m careful, I can make the peanut butter and nutella and brown sugar and chocolate chips last quite possibly another year!

Happy day!

:)