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.

what we’re doing and where we’re going

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We’ve been missionaries in Argentina for 18 months now.

We moved here thinking it would be long-term, otherwise we wouldn’t have brought all our stuff. We thought we’d be here for two years minimum, five or ten if God enabled and opened the door. About six months after we got here it became clear that we probably wouldn’t be retiring here. About a year in, I was beginning to wonder if we’d make it another year at all.

The cost of missions has been high for our family. We never counted on how much it would affect our health, our marriage, our kids, even our faith. Our time on the overseas mission field has rocked us to the core. As someone said to us recently, “Everything seems to happen to you guys.” Mostly we are just thankful we are still alive and our family and faith is still intact. Those are the truly important things. And as Tony’s uncle encouraged us recently as we were passing through Bahia Blanca, “God made the institution of the family first, then the church.”

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Yes.

Here’s a great piece on the reality of how missions can and does affect marriages. I could’ve written this. But I didn’t. I’m glad to know we’re not the only ones.

If you’ve been following our story over the past year and a half or two, you know all we’ve been doing. What I haven’t gone too much into depth about here or in our newsletters (if you signed up for those) is how it has affected us.

We have lost our health, sometimes I wonder if permanently, and we have both at different times experienced a crisis of faith and family that shook us both to the core. I don’t feel it necessary to get into the nitty-gritty here – and by God’s grace are doing well now – but know one thing: missions is hard.

We feel privileged to have been able to serve the Lord and the lost and the church here for a year and a half, but it seems clear that the Lord is now directing us to return to the States for the sake of our family. What does it profit to gain many souls but lose our marriage or our kids, our family – the most precious thing God has given us here on earth? Giving out so much has burned us out. This has been ten years of illness and evangelism and trial and adventure packed into a mere year and a half. We need to take time out and care for us now. Priorities must be: God, family, others – in that order. They must.

It’s been a really hard decision in some ways, but a really easy one in others. Hard in that this is not what we had planned. Easy in that Yes, let’s leave, I don’t want to die or lose a child or our marriage, thanks. We started on the same page, but somewhere along the line all our experiences here began to affect us all differently. Tony would like to stay here, but the rest of us are ready to go. I do not believe the Lord would lead us to continue down a road we are all not in agreement upon. He does not guide that way. A house divided can not stand.

We’ve talked and prayed, shared and received counsel and lots of prayer, and we’ve made the decision to move back. Our plan is to wrap things up, pack only the necessary things, and give everything else away as the LORD leads, hopefully by the end of March, 6-8 weeks away. We do hope to be able to sell the van since it would cover our entire move back, but aside from that, are happy if we could bless others with many of our earthly belongings. We know He can use even this time to reach others.

We have learned so many things here. That God is faithful, He is Good, and He never fails. He always provides and has never left us alone. We don’t have to worry about the future, and we are trusting Him. He led us here, but He has every right to lead us somewhere else, and at any time. He reserves the right to redirect our paths. We don’t follow a call, but a Person. The need doesn’t necessarily equate the call. As I’ve said before, perhaps not here, but that I don’t necessarily feel the call to martyrdom. I believe I am of much more use to God and my husband and children (and others) alive rather than dead, at least for now. And I know that His plan is always the best, better than our own. Our idea was to stay for years, but His idea seems to be different. And that’s okay. We have grappled deeply with this, but we are now feeling peace about our decision.

We are very pleased that we were able to do almost everything we set out to do. It wasn’t a failure at all, we did it. We left it all, we came in faith, God blew our minds, people heard, some got saved, and many were blessed. And we didn’t do it alone, so many people helped and were a part of it. It is just as much their mission as ours. I know God will reward them as well. We are thankful to have been a small part of what God is doing here in Patagonia. The work is His, not ours. He will continue it, and He can bring others to water the seeds we, by God’s grace, scattered.

He is God of All, and no matter where we are, we still follow and obey Him.

There is so much more I could say, but for now that’s all. Thank you for following along with us and for being a part.

Grace and Peace.

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Thanksgiving in Patagonia (2012)

*Now that I finally downloaded the pictures off the camera, here is our Thanksgiving Post, three months later. :D

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This was our second Thanksgiving in Patagonia. The first one we were able to actually celebrate. It was unique, fun, and memorable. We have much to be thankful for.

We spent the morning trying to get a hold of someone at the U.S. Embassy, then at the kids’ new school talking to the director about what paperwork we’ll need to enroll them in the fall (February) [UPDATE: not doin’ that. decided to still homeschool. long story…]. It is apparent that this is going to be a two-country bureaucratic nightmare. I’m sure it’ll work out, though. It has to.

As the morning progressed, I couldn’t figure out why no one was calling me back from the Embassy Emergency Line until I realized it was… Thanksgiving Day. Duh. American holiday = Embassy closed. It was about noon when we realized this, so decided last minute to go ahead and scramble around for the necessary food stuffs to do Thanksgiving. I had scratched the idea previously of bothering with Thanksgiving when I realized I had about ten suitcases to pack in the next five days, and felt it would be too stressful to try to hunt down a turkey, cook, clean, and possibly host – all when it’s 90 degrees out.

But it turned out to be an unusually chilly day, and the kids thought it was a great idea – so off my girlie and I went to the biggest, most overpriced supermarket in the city; the only place turkey’s have ever been spotted in Neuquén.

They were out.

So we settled for a good sized chicken, a loaf of white bread to cube our own sage stuffing, and ingredients to make creamy garlic mashed potatoes, baked sweet corn, and fresh satueéd asparagus. We skipped the pumpkin pie (I was not about to boil a squash and drive all over town to hunt down ginger), so we settled on easy-to-make Russian Tea Cakes for desert. The entire meal had at least a pound and a half of butter easily. And you know what Paula Deen says, “Everything’s better with butter!“. Our poor livers.

My DD said it was the best Thanksgiving ever. When I suggested we invite some people last minute so they could experience a real American Thanksgiving, the kids said no we invite people every year, let’s just have it be our family. It was very last minute – I didn’t even start cooking until 1pm. We finally ate, famished, at 7:30. If we had invited an Argentinian family I’m sure they would not have wanted to eat that “early” and would have shown up at 8 or 9 anyway just based on experience. Maybe next year we’ll do Thanksgiving “lunch” at 2 or 3.

We went around the table and had each person name ten things they were thankful for. It was funny and revealing. As I was naming mine, my 3yo interrupted no less than three times to suggest I be thankful for her “byoo-fah-yul-ness”. DS12 is thankful for God and marine reptiles (?). DD9 is thankful for God and her kitty. And DD3 is thankful for “me” and “pink, sparkly, princess ruffles”. Tony named people. Lots of people. All by name. (He likes people.)

I spent from 12:30 until 9pm in the kitchen, but it was definitely well worth the memory of making and enjoying our first actual Thanksgiving meal in Patagonia.

YUM-O!

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THANKSGIVING DAY in PATAGONIA MENU:

Roasted Chicken with Sage Stuffing and Onions

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Baked Corn Casserole

Asparagus sautéed in Olive Oil

{MIA: the Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Marshmallows, and Pumpkin Pie. It was still fantastic! }

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really dumb (or brave, depending on your perspective…) dog taking on the sea lions in Necochea

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street kitty who adopted us – he survived two months on the streets without us. Turns out our neighbor is providentially a vet – he fed him and got him all cleaned up for the girls. They are happy.

We have internet again now! Hence the pictures; I can finally upload, and download, although it still takes five minutes per photo. They are few and random, but I’ve been bad at taking pictures lately. I’m rather enjoying blogging without pics – enjoying not taking pics in general. The digital world can be all too consuming at times.

Our fairly decent internet provider finally came out after a week and several visits to their office. When we suspended our service back in December, they made us hand in our modem and said, don’t worry, it will be quick and easy to hook back up.

But they gave our modem to someone else and didn’t have one for us when we came back. And there aren’t enough modems to go around, so you’ll just have to wait until one comes in. Tony just laughs at the ridiculousness of it all. Living ten years outside of his own country was eye-opening for him. Anyway, a week is pretty fast, all things considered, for getting our internet hooked back up. And the connection is fast! All things considered, that is. Ah, to be connected again.

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Ugh, wordpress changed on me again. Can’t. Get. Posting. Pictures.

We were in D.C recently again…. back at the Argentine Embassy getting Tony’s Argentine passport renewed, it expired while we were in the States. They wouldn’t give us Teenage Boy’s, even though he IS our son and IS Argentine. The name on Boy’s Argentine Birth Certificate is my maiden name, not my married name {um, their mistake, not mine hello}… so they can’t be sure I am who I am and his mom is, um, ME, the same person. See our marriage certificate? My maiden name, my married, same person?? Um, no. So we’d have to go back to Buenos Aires to get that fixed first, they said. Sigh. Whatever. Boy entered Argentina as an American. Dual citizenship is complicated.

Of course we took advantage of having to be in D.C. to do our favorite thing: visit the Smithsonian. We hit the Air & Space Museum and the Art Gallery this time. The homeschooling must go on. Everybody hemmed and hawed about going to the Art Gallery with me, but they all loved it. See, I know what I’m talking about. Monet is awesome and a little culture is good for the soul. Not to mention D.C is just beautiful. We were there three days before the inauguration, so it was neat to see them setting up for it. God bless America.

Tony’s in the slums now. Took some clothes and Illustrated Bibles to a lot of people we know who need them both. They’ll be happy – clothes are outrageously expensive here.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot – charity work. We were “accused” once of charity work here. What we were doing was “social work”, not missions work. It was really odd, seeing as it came from a Christian. Besides, helping people with material things like clothes is a very small part of what we do – we do a lot more than that. Doesn’t the King James Bible equate charity and love as being the same thing? Doesn’t it say that if we have two coats and we see our neighbor with no coat, to give him one of ours? How can the love of God be in us if we say ‘be warmed and go your way’ but we do nothing? The argument given to us is that this is the government’s job, and that’s what they do – give handouts. Well, that may be true here, but it’s really the Christian’s job to care for the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, the ones who don’t have a coat or pair of shoes. It’s God that gave the command to Christians, not to the government. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Either way, we enjoy helping people. God has blessed us, so we like to bless others. We are to give as we have freely received. Aren’t we?

Last night we took a walk over to the neighbor’s house. He’s a veterinarian and he was so kind to take care of kitty while we were away. He fed him and gave him all his shots. He’s even going to neuter him for us for free! So nice. We are giving them our dishwasher. They think this is over the top generous and not necessary – they took care of kitty for us “de onda” (not sure how to translate that… out of the kindness of their hearts or something like that). If only they knew they are actually doing me a favor getting the thing out of my dining room where it has sat, still wrapped from shipping, for 18 months. I hope they can use it and do take it! PLEASE TAKE IT!

Chatting with the wife, I mentioned that we found black widows. She said oh yeah we have, too. Three or four this summer. Yay. So it’s a neighborhood thing. Pretty bad this year. I’m SURE it’s the empty lot next door, it never gets mowed and there are probably all sorts of creepy crawlies in there. Shudder. Last night I drempt of black widows decending from the rafters and into our beds. I’m serious. It’s getting in my brain a little bit too much. I only go out to hang clothes if Tony is here. If I get bitten, at least he is here. If he’s not, I still can’t call him since we still don’t have cell phone reception here. Who knows when they will raise the cell tower that fell over, probably from the Patagonian winds. No one ever seems much in a hurry to get things done here.

As we walked home we realized we are used to the noises here. At least three or four dogs barking wildly, a motorcycle whizzing by, birds, lots of them, and I don’t know what else. Just noise. And it was 9:30 at night. You do get used to it.

an eventful, infested weekend

We are infested with black widows. Saturday morning we had the house fumigated – they only did the outside, the only place we’ve found them so far. After the fumes cleared Tony, ventured out and found a “big one”, and a few more, all crumpled up and dead along the fence.

Sunday, the next day, Teenage Boy was watering the trees that line our dirt and gravel lane when he found a black widow at the base of one of the trees, alive. He positively identified it because, when he was little, he was obsessed with all things arachnids, and for years. [I can trace most of my fears back to this interest-directed homeschool science study of his in the early years. I’ve  never been the same since. Ignorance WAS bliss. I miss it.]

When I asked if he was sure it was a black widow I got this: “No, it was an Australian Red Back (looking at me intensely as if I should know, Mom), closely related to the Black Widow of North America. Scientists have studied their DNA and found that the Red Back is the Black Widow’s closest relative here on earth, and just as deadly.”

Great.

So, did you kill it? That’s all I really want to know, thanks.

Yes. Papi and I squashed it with a rock.

Good. Any eggs sacks? You know you gotta squish those, too.

No, but I saw a male Red Back and I think they were about to mate. We caught them just in time.

Later, the neighbor stopped by to pick up her girls, who had come for a swim in our above ground pool. They couldn’t resist looking out their back window at the sparkling water and calling over, “Puedo venir?” When I told her we found black widows she waved her hand in the air nonchalantly, shrugged, and said, “Oh, they’re all over the place. You just have to remain calm. The other day I found one in my deposito [pantry].” Her big Hollywood sunglasses glinted in the setting desert sun.

I just stared at her.

Calm?

Okay, see you later! She sped off. I stood there at the gate laughing. Calm. Haha. Yeah.

No one is afraid of anything here. What the heck? I wish I were like that.

The guy who cut our jungle of a yard down when we got home was bitten by a black widow once. He shrugged it off and kept working, until he felt ill and decided to drive himself to the hospital. He barely made it. He survived because God wanted him to. By the time he got there he was almost in cardiac arrest, could barely breathe, and was losing control over his body. He takes black widows a bit more seriously now. Thank God the hospitals have anti-venom here.

Surprisingly, I am not freaking out. Yet. Before our recent trip to the US I would have LOST it if we had found black widows. I never would have come back, I know it. I can only attest my calm to the prayers of the saints. Glory to God; I know it’s not me because I am afraid of A LOT: sharks, the ocean, bees, scorpions, venomous snakes and arachnids, flying, heights…

I’m a joy to be married to. lol I have a lot of problems I know, you don’t have to tell me… I still don’t know why God called me to the mission field. Most unlikely candidate ever, I’m beginning to think. I don’t know why I used to be convinced I could do this. I’ve never been good at estimating my own abilities.

All I know is what I read in my Bible,

“… and Jesus went before… and those who followed were afraid” Mark 10:32

A to the men!

*If you really want to see pictures, here are some found in our neighborhood two springs ago.

buggin’ n books

I’ve been killing spiders all week. It’s unbelievable how many insects moved in while we were gone. I’ll spare the arachnophobes pictures (not having any luck uploading pictures, anyway), but yesterday I killed the most monstrous one I’ve seen yet; a picture wouldn’t do it justice. I was closing the front gate, about to grab the chain to secure it, when I saw it six inches from my unknowing hand. It was big and green and yellow and brown and hanging upside down from its web next to the gate. It was as big as my palm. Of course, I screamed. The neighbors have heard me scream a lot this week. Earlier I yelped when a wasp came zooming towards me. It had made a nest in the bricks we laid loosely down next to the side door so as not to track so much dirt into the house. It didn’t appreciate being sprayed with the hose. [Mental Note: Don’t spray wasps with hose.] The dirt blows in any way under the door and floats in through the window, too. The dirt doesn’t care. I dust and within a few hours there is a thin coat of dirt again. This means our house is always dirty. I’m not much of a cleaner to begin with. My daughter summed up life here well, “After being in the States for two months, everything seems so dirty here. The US is so clean and sanitary, here it’s so dirty and unsanitary.” I want to say, “Don’t say that. Be nice,” but I have to agree. I never agree with those people who say, “But it’s dangerous everywhere!” No, it’s definitely more dangerous here.

We are back to the land of BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper), too. The drive back down to Patagonia was a crash course in that. When, in fact, there were bathrooms. No rest areas or service islands here, folks.

Tony set up the pool for the kids. It is summer here, but doesn’t feel nearly as hot as it was last summer. 108 was crazy – it’s only about 90-ish right now. Should cool off soon, too, as fall is on its way. A bright red spider, and I mean bright red all over except its beady black legs, was walking around the base of the pool near my feet. It looked venomous to me, therefore was quickly stomped upon. We let the giant wolf spiders live; someone told me they eat the venomous ones, so we show them mercy. I then watered down the ground around the pool – we were told watering will scare away any remaining black widows, who like dry, undisturbed places. It succeeded in flooding out lots of wolf spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and a nest of biting red ants that had made its home at the base of the house’s foundation.

It feels like an episode of Buggin’ with Rudd around here. [click at your own risk, this guy’s a FREAK with spiders, needs his head examined]

Thank you everyone for your messages and comments and emails and support. I haven’t been very good responding lately, so forgive me. We always appreciate your words and support, though. But we feel even busier these past few months than we have in the past two years, if that were possible. I’ve also been lazy about newsletters, but it’s more a lack of time than anything. Please know we are always blessed by encouraging words and support given.

Speaking of support, thanks for all the clothes and books donated! We emptied 5 of our 10 suitcases in the States, leaving all of our winter clothes behind, and filling them with clothes to donate to the kids home, the people in the slums, and the church both here and in the remote mountains. We also paid for an extra suitcase, so brought six suitcase total of stuff to give out as the Lord directs. We also are loving all the Good and Evil Illustrated Bibles in Spanish donated – they are always a BIG hit in South America. People that will not pick up a Bible will read these. I don’t agree with all the author’s stuff, but I don’t think any of his disputable doctrine comes off in the book. People really have no idea who Michael Pearl is, or John Piper, or Wayne Grundem for that matter. And for the most part they don’t care and won’t look into it, either. It’s a tool, like any other. And a very effective one at that. Tony is at the boys’ home now handing some Illustrated Bibles out to the kids. Hope to get pics eventually. But, if you haven’t notice, I’ve lost some motivation in the picture-taking department. 

We don’t have internet here yet. Using the neighbor’s WiFi signal, until he gets annoyed that it slows his connection down and cuts us off. Getting internet hooked back up may take weeks.

We changed the chips out in our cells and bought some minutes, but we don’t have phone at home because there is no signal here in our part of town. The cell phone tower fell down, so we can’t make or receive calls when we are at home. So when Tony goes out (I haven’t been yet), we lose communication all together. And no internet or TV makes for quiet days. Just unpacking and cleaning has taken up our days. And, of course it’s summer here, so kids are on summer break. Still. I did bring some good books back for them, though. Like the Illustrated Tales from Shakespeare I scored on Amazon for a penny. Which they probably won’t read unless I read it to them.

The Kindle we brought back was a good investment – my gift to me with some Christmas money. I love to read, and reading is something I miss here a lot. The kids each have their own collection on my Kindle with their names on it and some free books I downloaded from the Internet. Everything published over 100 years ago is Public Domain, so my girl is going through all the Classics I dowloaded like Alice in Wonderland, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Through the Looking Glass. Boy is still not too much interested in Classic Literature. Just animals. And bodily functions.

We forgot to bring two things back with us: a filter for the wetvac, so may have to just shake and rinse down the one we have; and a rear view mirror for the van, which was sideswiped dowtown last year. We’ll make do. It’s a lifestyle.

“home”

After a week of travelling we finally made it “home” to Patagonia. Safe and sound, praise the LORD. A few rough landings in Peru and then in Argentina, but we made it. We ended up having to spend an extra day in Buenos Aires working on getting son’s passport. Figures the day Tony went, the embassy was closed. They no longer give you your passport the same day (only the emergency ones), but mail it to you if you live here in Argentina. Mail it to you? We shall see if it gets here. I have no idea why they trust and are using the mail system here… slightly worried and doubtful about this. We’ll see in 15 days.

Going from 20 degrees F to 100 was BRU-TAL. Not five minutes into picking up our van did the AC die a permanent death. It was so HOT. I tried not to complain, and fortunately things cooled off as we drove south out of Buenos Aires province into Patagonia. We stayed two days with Tony’s uncle in Bahia Blanca; it was too hot to travel in that car with no AC and the sun beating down, so we waited an extra day hoping and praying for cloud cover. Delay came in the form of 4yo waking up with a seal cough one morning – going from dead of winter to high summer was bound to affect someone. Fortunately the older she gets the better she seems to do with the whole croup thing. She can at least breathe now and it doesn’t always turn into an ER visit; it is true, they do grow out of it. THANK GOD. I hate croup. Tony says I really need to stop saying hate, but there’s really no other word for certain feelings. “Greatly despise” just doesn’t seem to encompass the sentiment.

It was SO HOT in Bahia Blanca I thought I would lose my mind. My daughter got out of the baking car at one moment at a pit stop saying, “When we move back to the United States I don’t think I am EVER coming back here. I’m NEVER coming back to Argentina. I don’t think ever!” I feel bad when she talks like that, and tell her that’s not really nice, but I silently totally agree with her. Buenos Aires was a hot, humid, baking madhouse.

The only way we made it through was to constantly be dousing our hair and arms and legs with water. All day long. We barely slept and were just drenched in sweat all night. Heat and dogs barking and cumbia until 2:30 in the morning. It took all I had to not ask his uncle how on earth he could live like that. I barely slept a wink there. The second night I could barely breath it was so hot, I sat on the edge of the bed in the back of his uncle’s little church and just panted, unable to breathe the heat was so oppressive. Got up and went outside to try to get some relief. It was breezy, but too warm of a breeze to help too much.

My sister said to me once, “I could never do what you do. I wouldn’t survive.”

Ha, I could never do what I do either. It’s impossible without Jesus.

Once 4yo was okay for the rest of the drive, we headed out. Six hours I rode holding a white towel between my leg and arm and the burning sun streaming through the open passenger’s side widow. The sun goes across the northern sky in the southern hemisphere, I was sitting on the wrong side of the car for our 15 hour drive, northern exposure. Close the tinted window and it’s 100 in the van; open it, I burn. The towel at least kept my white skin from turning crab red.

Tony turned 44 on that drive. Happy Birthday, Tony! We celebrated by driving eight hours from Buenos Aires south to Bahia Blanca.

Several near death experiences already. Yeah, the mission field will do me in. It will. Maybe I am done. Yes, I do believe I am.

I’m allergic to bees. Carry an Epipen. I hate bees. A four letter word IMO [that’s ‘In My Opinion’, for the older folks]. Somewhere south of Bahia Blanca one flew in my window at about 60mph and hit me on the cheek. I didn’t know what it was since it didn’t sting, until it bounced off me half dead, hit my seat with a pop and rolled down, fortunately outside of my shirt, and landed on the seat beside my recently extra-padded-with-donuts left hip.

When I looked down and saw it was a bee, stunned and maybe dead but I wasn’t sure, I screamed, jumped up so I wouldn’t sit on it and get stung, unbuckled really quick, screamed again, practically pressing my butt to the windshield trying to get away from it. I wasn’t about to squish it myself just to make sure it was dead, so Tony, forced to let up on the gas but still driving, tried to squish it and get at it while I was still screaming “AH! AHHH! BEE!” with my butt still pressed against the windshield. He told me to stop screaming so he wouldn’t crash. He squished and grabbed the bee with my white towel sun shield and threw it out the window. Right then we both saw an explosion of dust in front of us right as Tony managed to regain control of the car.

The 18 wheeler ahead of us blew a tire. It kicked up dust and rubber went flying. We just missed the flying rubber as Tony drove around it, now at maybe 25 or 30mph. 

And then it dawned on us. The bee and insuing commotion forced Tony to slow down. We would have been right behind or passing that truck when the tire exploded.

God sent a bee to save us from a potentially very dangerous accident. He knew a bee is the only thing that would have gotten me to carry on like that and force Tony to slow down. If the tire had exploded while we were passing, it could have flown in the window and hit me, or caused us to crash, God forbid.

Thank you, Jesus. And thank you everyone who is praying! I wish He had used something other than a bee, an angel would have been more comfortable for me, but hey, God and His ways, whose to understand them? He saved us, that’s the important thing. I still hate bees, but now I see God controls even them. I do pray He controls them never to sting me.

“All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord…”

But, Oh, it gets better.

We arrived “home” to a yard completely overgrown with waist high weeds and warnings from friends and neighbors to not walk it in. The house was miraculously not broken into. We were “very lucky” said the neighbor. Three houses down a house left alone for a weekend was immediately broken into and completely cleaned out. They even took the kids’ toys.

God is the Almighty. We prayed every day for our car and our house and our kitty. They were all still intact and alive when we arrived. This is miraculous. Oh yes it is.

We missed our beds. The kids missed “home”. Strange they think of Patagonia as home since the States is very much home, too. We quickly got Juan to come with his tractor and mow our jungle of a yard. Tony put on long pants, boots to help, and the kids were made to stay inside. Raid was in good supply, and good thing. As they sprayed and sprayed the spiders of various colors coming out all over the place, I walked around inside peering out windows to see what was hiding in their corners. The hugest black widow I’ve ever seen was nesting in a corner outside my boy’s window. Tony sprayed it profusely, and as I watched it die a much deserved death, I saw its red stripes. They are “red backs” here, no hourglass, but a red stripey thing on their backs.

How are we doing? Oh, alive. And that’s what counts here. Two, three months ago I would have been flipping out and packing my bags, but two glorious months in the States did me well. And prayer. Always prayer. It’s beginning to work. I still want to retire from the mission field, though. I very much do. Wouldn’t you? I mean, this life is nuts. Only for the crazies. I can’t believe my son slept one night with a black widow outside his open window. I can’t believe God sent a bee. I can’t believe the poverty and misery here, driving by it for days is depressing, the things people live with day in and day out. It’s just not dignified. It’s normal, though. At least here, and the rest of the third world. We are so blessed in the States, I don’t care what anybody says, we are. American missionaries get a bad rap for not being able to take it. They can’t hack it. They don’t last long. They certainly don’t last long here in Argentina, there are very few who stay long term. I’m beginning to understand why!

*apologies for no pics – my ancient laptop doesn’t have the greatest capabilities, it’s barely hanging on as it it and we don’t have internet yet here at home, hopefully by next week. i’ll see what i can do about better blogging and getting some pics up soon…