going home op-ed

While I fluctate between hyper-ventilating over all the packing and bureaucratic paperwork and being utterly bored out of my mind because there is nothing to do but pack, my mind has been racing with a myriad of things I wish my adult ADD would allow me to write down. So since I can’t get it together, here are about four or five posts all blobbed into one.

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We are leaving Argentina in four days! It feels good. The kids are happy and so am I. We miss our old life back in the States, and we can’t wait to be home.

We are leaving the mission field for the homeland. “Repatriating” someone recently said. I didn’t even know there was a word for it. We were here a year an a half [You can read from the beginning here.]. I consider this quite an accomplishment, not a failure, and I’m overall glad we have done all we’ve done. But the scales have tipped for us into the negative outweighing any good we are doing, so we have decided, for the health of our family, that we are leaving.

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I will be leaving South America after a total of almost five years living here: a year in Ecuador, a year in Brazil, and three total here in Argentina. I’m not an expert, I only know my own experience. So this is is my op-ed post on leaving the field.

[Translation: this is solely my experience, it is strictly my own opinion, and it is not open for editing. I am aware that many have had overall better experiences on the mission field, as well as better expatriate experiences here in Argentina. Mine has been a mixed bag. You could say South America and I have a love-hate relationship.]

I will not miss Argentina.

I will not miss the mission field.

It’s true.

Why? Missions has been crazy hard. My kids don’t like it here and never really adapted. We have never been sicker in our entire lives. I can’t imagine living here for the rest of my life. I just can’t. Black widows, flies that lay eggs on you, volcanic ash… not for the faint of heart. I can’t imagine doing this for even a few more years.

Other things have happened. We have seen a lot of ugly along this missions journey that has affected us deeply. Ugly poverty, ugly suffering, ugly in other people, ugly in us, ugly in other Christians, ugly even in the church. It’s been intense, and honestly, it makes me want to aspire only to a 1 Thessalonians 4:11 life,

“that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands”

And, by golly, that’s what I plan to do.

A strange thing also happened to me during this mission stint: I hit middle age. It’s hard to believe, but I’m on the other side of 40 and I swear I am going through some mid-life thing. Few seem to believe me, some even scoff, but I know I am. My mom started to experience peri-menopausal symptoms at 40, so it’s possible. Something strange is happening to me, one of which is this mysterious weight gain. I joke to Tony that I am now one of those fuller-figured middle age women (ha, for me, anyway) who now just wants to sit around and knit with her cat on her lap. This is weird – former world-traveler and adventurer that I used to be – but this is who I am now. Who went and changed me? I’m not sure. It’s very odd, but I am honestly looking forward to settling down (finally, Mom, I really mean it! God finally answered your prayers! lol), planting a garden, a small orchard, raising some chickens, and learning to knit.

Our plans for the future are to find a house, settle down, and do some homesteading therapy (okay, that last part is mine). So don’t come knocking for about a year, I’ll be canning or feeding my chickens. Processing, getting settled in, finding furniture, acquiring wheels, a job, recovering, tending to my family, pursuing quiet. We’ll be busy. Good, quiet life busy.

This may be my last post here on inpatagoniaargentina. I deleted Facebook six months ago (never regretted it) and will soon be a non-blogger. I am very much looking forward to going off-grid. Blogging takes an immense amount of time, and my kids are growing up. I have a teenager now. In five short years he may want to move out. It really does pass like the blink of an eye. I never would have believed it when they were in diapers and I was baggy-eyed and sleep deprived, but they do grow up fast. We need to take advantage of this time.

So what’s next now that we will be retiring from full-time overseas missions? (and yes I said ‘retiring’). What God has for us once we’re settled back in I do not know, but I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, it is good.

And I know many are wondering, and some have asked but, no, we will not be returning to the church we went to for ten years before moving here. I think we will be taking a break from organized church for a while – maybe visiting churches, maybe not. As Ann Voskamp says, “All’s grace.” I think I’ll be doing her 1000 Blessings thing… I need to regain an attitude of joy and thankfulness I used to have that all of our trials have made a dent in. Also, I’m pretty socialed out, and so are my kids; so socializing is something we will only be doing if we want to, not because we “have” to. Pursuing quiet is pretty high on my list. Having fun and hanging out with their friends is pretty high on my kids’ list. They need that. They are missioned-out. It’s been a lonely year and a half for them – pretty much an eternity in kid time.

We have received a lot of encouragement lately from people. Thank you. Some missionaries in Brazil recently wrote us a very encouraging email reminding us that we are not “leaving the mission field”. We are missionaries wherever we are. This is true. We are testimonies no matter what corner of the world we live in.

But our overseas missionary activity, at least in this capacity, is coming to a close. Perhaps in the future we will participate in  overseas missions in some way. Perhaps not. I don’t know, and I don’t feel the need to know either. We have ideas for the future – short term stuff – but that, if it ever happens, is far in the future. I can not see past the right now, and right now my conviction is that I need to focus inward, spend more time, if not all of it, on the testimony I am being to my own family. We are dealing with a lot of stuff, and we need to stop and regain our focus. I do believe that would please God.

Now that we have done this missions thing, I have to say I have the utmost respect for the long-termers. I don’t know how they do it. I just don’t. I couldn’t do this long-term. It must be a special call, a special grace, or maybe they are special personalities? I don’t know.

Someone recently shared a helpful analogy with us: The Church, like any Army, sends some to the frontlines. But those on the frontlines don’t stay on the frontlines forever. At some point they retreat because they are wounded, tired, spent (some dead), or they are called home. Others move forward to take their place. In war, roles and responsibilities shift. There is a time for fighting and a time for rest. You’re moved up, you’re moved down, your commanding officer moves you around. Those on the front lines move to the back, then perhaps later send supplies and support up front to those receiving the first darts in battle.

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There is a lot more I’d like to say, but we are losing internet here soon. I will say I think I lost several more years off my life this week in bureaucratic nightmare paperwork. We also dealt with a root canal, excrutiating toothaches, a migraine, AND as the movers were coming to collect our boxes we also had to paint the entire house. We had one friend come help us, but other than that we were on our own, so had to hire someone to help us. It was super stressful, but now the house is empty (and beautifully painted) except for our suitcases. God, as always, is, was, and will be our strength and help. He gets us through.

It’s Saturday morning and the movers just drove off with what’s left of all our wordly possessions. I sit here on a small Coleman lunch cooler as my chair remembering what a young man who offered to help us paint the house this week said to us, “Please, I can’t accept money from you. If I do I will have received my reward here on earth from men. I prefer to have my reward in heaven – it is much greater!

:)

weekend ramblings and other stuff

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this is a phone booth

I wrote this a while ago. I can’t seem to finish anything these days. I start one thing, then get distracted by a million others. Transcontinental moves. I feel like I’ve been here before. My life is one big flash back novel. You’ll have to use your imagination on this post, it’s confused like I am.

It was a hot one today. Over 90, 83 in the house at 9:30pm. And humid: 40% – unusual in this desert climate.

Listening to Jeremy Camp “Reckless” on internet radio… “I wanna be reeee-ckless

Haha. Ha. ha.

Been there. Done that. Could sell the T-shirts. I don’t really want to be reckless anymore. I am cured.

HalleLUya!

The neighborhood chilluns came over again today. They love to yell “Ho-LA!” out their window when they see us in the pool. I even went for a dip today. I hate swimming. There is something extremely not right about that shock of going from 100 degree skin temps to FREEZING. Feeling like a total useless slug from the heat was too much, though, and I was forced to get in just to deal. Then the son of the guy who is working on the new house across the street’s wandered over. We found him standing at the front gate like he needed something. So social etiquette dictates I say, “Hola! What are you doing? Do you wanna come in? Do you wanna swim? Come on in!”. To which, of course, he obliges. What a sweet kid, adorable, funny. Just one of those good kids. He had my DD10 laughing a lot. They were yapping away, joking around in Spanish about stuff that seems funny only to ten-year-olds. Her accent is so good; lacking a little fluency, but, man, does she sound Argentinian. M, the 6yo neighbor girl who invites herself over has mellowed a lot in the last year. Now I hear, “Will you give me some grapes? Can you hold this for me? What’s that? Who is at the gate? What are you doing??” only every once in a while – she actually swims and plays and has a good time most of the time now instead of demanding the world non-stop the entire somewhat exhausting time she is here. Last summer she drove me crazy. She hasn’t been over since then, though – we think Mom may have banned her from coming since she used to lie to us outright. Once she quickly and mysteriously excused herself and left with something hidden behind her back. She didn’t come over again after that. But, man, she is SO cute, we love her anyway.

Still no cell phone service here at the house. Kind of a huge annoyance since we don’t have a landline. Who knows when they will erect that fallen cell phone tower so I can actually make a call. That would be nice in light of all the black widows and bees around these days – you know, life threatening stuff and all.  [UPDATE: My phone rang today! First time in a month, I couldn’t believe it! I was like, What’s that sound?? Ohmygosh, it’s the phone! Quick, where is it?!?]

We also got MagicJack! That means we have a phone hooked up to our computer and can call and receive calls over the internet just like if we were back in the States! So cool. Too bad we didn’t figure out how easy it actually was until a few weeks ago. The poor Magic Jack pluggy-in thing sat in our junk drawer for, well, I won’t say how long, because we just didn’t get it. I read the directions, I did… I was probably just thinking about how to survive life or something…

But, don’t ask for the number, I don’t like to actually talk on the phone. Tony has already called a lot of our friends. He even called my mom before me. He LIKES to talk on the phone. When most men wake up Saturday morning and are thinking about washing the car, this is Tony: “Hey, let’s call your mom! Hey, let’s call my old boss! Hey, let’s call that guy I used to work with like ten years ago! Who can we invite over tonight?! Let’s call them!” He’s like a Golden Retriever puppy, so cute and yet so annoying. I’m usually like, “Can we NOT call all these people? I’m kind of busy.” I still don’t know why I don’t like to talk on the phone, I just don’t. I like to talk to people in person, when normal life crosses our paths. The phone just isn’t… normal.

Tony worked this weekend. They made him get blood tests done, though, to make sure he didn’t have any “communicable diseases” after they found out we had the flu in the US. They didn’t seem to get what the flu is and that even though our kids got it two months ago, Tony is not carrying it, or any communicable viruses. We just kind of laughed at how ridiculous it is. The many-days bureaucratic nightmare of getting an appt., getting your blood drawn, going to pick up the results, making another appt. to have the results evaluated, then finally… weeks later… presenting your clean bill of health to your job is just pretty much a colossal waste of time. For us. It’s like when I went to the neighbor’s today to talk to him about kitty and said something about his vaccination record, he [the neighbor vet] said yes i have that…. I waited to see if he would offer to give it back or tell me when he would get it to me. No, no specific time frame offered… he would just “fix it up and get it to me”. Shrug. Okay.

{Fast forward a few weeks…}

We are finally making a nice dent in packing. Once I got over the initial tug of, “But my STUFF! I want it!” and let go, it’s been very freeing. It’s amazing how quickly we accumulate stuff.

We came with a 40 foot container, a car, our furniture, 250 boxes. We are leaving with no car, no furniture, and maybe 50 boxes. Fifty boxes still seems like a lot, but most of it is clothes, my kitchen stuff, sentimentals, and our small library. The important things.

We are running into problems selling our van. We are praying we can. All imported cars in Argentina have a limitation put on them by Customs that they can not be sold for the first two years. We have been here a year and a half. This is a blow because selling the van would cover our move back 100%. If we can’t sell it, it will have to sit in storage and Tony will have to come back in December to sell it. Sigh. Still praying though. God knows why he does things and why they work out the way they do, we don’t always.

This has forced us to plow ahead with selling all our furniture. We had wanted to give most of it away to needy people, but now kind of have to sell it so we can afford to get ourselves and some of our stuff back to the U.S. Fortunately our stuff here is worth a bit of money, so we are lowering the price to make it accessible, and yet it will still help us a lot to sell it.

Juan, the guy who tractored our overgrown lawn (and survived a black widow bite) came by today. He wants to buy a few of our things. I brought him in and showed him all our stuff. It was hard for his eyes not to widen. This always makes me feel weird.

Tony and I were finally only able to buy a bunch of new furniture after ten years of marriage. We got a nice income tax return one year that wasn’t eaten up by bills or broken cars, so finally bought most of what is now in our house. We are not rich, but down here we look it. It’s a feeling I never get used to.

And there you have it. Weekend ramblings and other stuff. Not in any particular order.

missions, penguins, and mr. kitty

I’ve been a bad blogger. And even worse newsletter writer. Both take a lot of time. And motivation. Not sure which one I’m missing.

A MISSIONS UPDATE

  • Tony has been in the slums a lot, visiting, checking up on people, seeing how they are doing. People really appreciate visits here. If Argentines are one thing, it is social. The kids of all the adults he meets with were waiting for him one Saturday when he said he’d come back for a Movie Day. He projected Joseph King of Dreams. That one always makes me cry. ALWAYS. The kids loved it. I love it because it’s about forgiveness. It’s history, it’s the Bible, it’s a great story. The lesson being God can use the bad things that happen to us in life, things out of our control, tragedies, for our good, and for the good of many. A good reminder for us all.

  • We are working on giving away ALL. THESE. CLOTHES. Sometimes I look around this cluttered little house, piled high with still full suitcases, overflowing boxes, stuff, and am tempted to leave half of it on the curb so someone will just take it away. And I tell Tony I will if he doesn’t start giving it away yesterday.
  • Returning to the boys’ home was rough. They have so many problems, it seems overwhelming most of the time. They each got a Good and Evil book, praying.
  • We found a home for a few of the bikes. One woman came looking for help last December. I gave her (translation: lent it permanently) one that had a kid seat on the back. Probably worth 200-300 bucks here. I think we paid $75 on Craigslist. But we gave up bike riding. Too dangerous here. She can keep it. Which she has. She offered to pay me, I said we’d talk in February. Of course I never heard from her. I don’t care too overly much about things – and I don’t care at all about the bike. I do care that she never called. She did stop by yesterday and said her husband is riding the bike 18 km roundtrip to his new job downtown. I’m glad they can use it. She didn’t offer to pay for it, and I didn’t mention it either. God is working on all of us.
  • We decided to sell some of our furniture. People started asking and so we said sure, if you want it, we’ll sell it to you. It will help pay for our return tickets. What we can’t sell, we are giving away. You’d think that after doing this many times before, giving away most of our earthly belongings, it would get easier. It does and it doesn’t. Beginning to pack up my kitchen stuff, it’s amazing what I don’t really need. I mean, love the big roasting pot with the glass lid and all, but when was the last time I made a casserole?? Not in the past year. Bye-bye roasting pot with glass lid, I don’t really need you. We have been trying to figure out what to give to whom, praying, asking God. It’s coming along. Not nearly as fast for my liking, but welcome to Argentina. Everything happens so slow here.
  • We have been distributing the Good and Evil Illustrated Bibles. We left quite a few in Bahia Blanca at Tony’s uncle’s little church. Some to the ones in the church here who work with kids in the school and slums. Others to a young couple we had over for dinner last week – she works with kids, and he used to accompany Tony to the kids’ home. Everybody thinks the bibles are awesome. We agree. We gave some to the neighbor kids. Their parents just separated. Have other hopes on who to pass them along to, it’s just a matter of meeting up with people over the next month. I really love these Bibles because they are missionaries that cost next to nothing to support. They take their message wherever they go and to whomever picks them up. Good stuff.

ON THE HOME FRONT

Starting to very much feel the effects of being back in country.  My peace disappeared about Day 3 {poof just like that}. My MO should be peace and love, but it’s more often living with my heart in my throat, fighting anxiety, fear, on the defensive, looking over my shoulder, who is around me, what are they scheming, are they scheming anything?, not trusting anyone, praying without ceasing about ev.er.y.thing. It’s a completely different life. Fortunately we haven’t seen any black widows since we killed them and fumigated. I’m thankful for that. Praying now none crawl into our boxes and show up back in the States. That would really not be fun. Please pray with me?

Recently took the kids to see the penguins for a few days.

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I really didn’t want to go (it’s complicated), but we had promised them we would go for Christmas. But we unexpectedly ended up in the States, and detouring to see the penguins on the way to catch our flight was too much. Then detouring on our drive back last month was also too much. Then when the A/C broke and it was 100 in the van I said no way, let’s wait a month until it cools down. Fall is coming, almost here. It’s is now down to 50 at night; 45 later this week. At least we can sleep now.

So we escaped to the coast for a few days with the excuse of celebrating a birthday, and we’ll regret it if we never go, and it was on our dime so we can’t not go… (which – speaking of it – feels pretty good to be slowly weaning off support, which has sort of dropped off a little lately, and becoming more self-supportive as we transition slowly back to “normal” non-missionary life. What doesn’t come in we make up ourselves. It is what it is, and I’ve ceased to try to figure it all out. God provides no matter what. I’ve learned that pretty well these past two years.]

Can I say the trip to see the penguins was almost a complete disaster?

We were rained out and completely unprepared for the weather. Although it was in the 90s at home, it did not help a bit that we checked the forecast and asked the Tourism Office before we made the three-hour drive further south AFTER the ten-hour drive to the beach. Long drive. Great time to read. I pulled out the Kindle and actually made a good dent in both Walden and The Quest for the Simple Life. Love. Heart. Heart.

The morning we headed out to see the penguins we were delayed an extra hour by a protest and road block, detouring through the desert bush. I was sure we would get stuck in one of the huge mud puddles caused by recent rain. It was a bumpy drive off-road in our not-off-road vehicle just to get around the protest. I was worried the two-inch desert thorns we were forging our way through would give us a flat. We did find barbed wire under the van days later. Tony later said he enjoyed it, felt like he was in a some movie adventure. I didn’t enjoy it. When I get accused of being The Cynic, I just point out I’m The Realist. You should have seen the 18 wheelers that got stuck back there in the bush. It was a mad house traffic jam, everyone trying willy nilly to get around the road block by flooding the almost roadless desert with their also not-off-road vehicles. My new line is, “I’m too old for this.” Last night I even drempt I was yelling at someone, “I’M HAVING A MID-LIFE CRISIS!. lol

There, on the remote peninsula of Punta Tombo, it was cold, windy, and rainy. It was miserable. And was it remote, good grief! I was a little nervous {understatement}. I think we saw one car the last hour drive on the dirt, gravel and slowly flooding road. I was happy to just make it out of there. Oh yeah, no cell phone signal. But that’s normal, too.

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A million penguins live in this colony, the largest continental penguin colony in the world. And we were there! We saw only about a few hundred. Not bad, I’m not complaining about that. I loathe to admit it though, but I seriously could have cared less and just did it for the kids. (Ever done that? Been really ungrateful for doing really awesome stuff because your kids made you do it and you did it for them and didn’t really want to be there at all? Am I the only one??). I wasn’t too happy when we were got soaked to the bone within minutes and was much too worried (Philippians 4:6 doesn’t work for me sometimes) about someone getting bronchitis {again} and croup {again} that we didn’t even make it over the hill to the actual beach. A few braver, better dressed peeps there did. The only ones properly dressed were the few obvious foreigners with their waterproof windbreakers with hood, long pants, and boots. All the Argentinians had flip flops and cotton sweaters on, no jacket. We took a few pictures of the ones we did see (yes, there are penguins as far as the eye can see. And, no, they were not bothered by the cold, wind and rain.). We didn’t even take that many pictures because the camera almost got soaked, too.

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But we did it. Hey, at least we did it! That’s what I kept telling myself and the kids – one who was “steaming mad” because she thought it would be so great and it wasn’t all she had dreamed of. Yeah, for me either. But a once in a lifetime opportunity, right? I think we’ll appreciate that we went a few years from now…

We got home last night and Mr. Kitty was nowhere to be found. One of the many reasons I didn’t want to go; I just knew something would happen to him. And it did. I knew when we called him and he didn’t come home. There were a lot of dogs roaming the streets, and several that all of a sudden felt comfortable to break in and roam our yard, leaving their evidence. One ate the cat’s foot I left out in an attempt to lure poor kitty back from his street cat wanderings. No pet care services or kennels here, people. The neighbor fed him. Nonetheless, it worried me to leave him on the street. People don’t really pet sit for you here. I’m not sure what they do with their pets when they go away, I really don’t.

We tracked Kitty down today, though. He was wounded and at a neighbor’s house. The neighbor (a vet) looked at him and said he is fine – probably fell, maybe from a height, and hurt himself. There is a lot of construction around here and too many dogs to escape from. He now stumbles a little, loses his balance, was nervous and skittish again even we got him home and indoors. He is now recovering and sleeping on his favorite bed.

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Yeah, I know, I’m turning into one of those cat ladies who only ever talks about her cats. Wanna see more pictures? :) It’s just, he’s become so important to us. When you don’t have a lot and life becomes hard and lonely, it’s amazing how you start to talk to animals and they become your friends, a solace,a respite, a part of your family. He so is.

We finally gave the neighbor our dishwasher. They have been so kind to help us with Mr. Kitty. Tony lifted it up on the kids’ wagon one day and rolled it on over there. I think they were happy. They’ve never seen one before. We had to explain how to use it. I don’t think they sell dishwasher detergent here, but they will figure it out, make it work. It’s really strange to think that it will probably now be a conversation piece in their house.