Friday, May 20, 2016

Weeks 17, 18 and 19: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Catching up on Project 365, so this is a long post with three weeks worth of photos. If you don't feel like reading it all, just skip to May 17th for the funny bit.

Sunday, May 1

Our last Sunday with the group at Iglesia de Gracia Monte de Luz. We have so enjoyed their fellowship and have been blessed by each one!
They had a going-away lunch for us after the service, and I'm borrowing this collage put together by Vanesa (top left photo).

Tuesday, May 3

Moving Day! We moved out of the casita -- and mostly out of the garage -- to the Hoyt family home in Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. You can imagine it was not easy to drive away from our dear little casita. Just in case you don't remember, it looked like this when we bought it...
...and this when we moved out.
A lot of hard work, sweat, tears (many tears!), as well as some blood went into the transformation of the casita.

Saturday, May 7

We made a trip back to Carlos Paz to get the remaining things out of the garage.
I took a few shots of the inside of the casita before we left for the final time. Sad, but also excited for what's coming next and for the young family who bought the property and are making it their home now.

It was a looooooooooooong day! We left Sta. Rosa at 7 a.m. and got back at 9 p.m. I failed to get a photo of the trailer, but we had it loaded to the gills, and the car was filled too.

Monday, May 9

The house in Sta. Rosa is out in the boonies, in an area where we can't even get a landline. Only in the last few years did they run the city water line out this far. Our cell service is sketchy at best. We've discovered that if we go by the river, we can get a better signal.

Tuesday, May 10

Lots of gray rainy days since the move, but the occasional burst of sunshine sends us scurrying out the door for a walk. There are more deciduous trees out here than in Carlos Paz, and we are enjoying the burst of autumn color.

Wednesday, May 11

Marce, Stefi, Carlota and Tómas came to visit! We enjoyed merienda and then a few games of Jenga. So much fun!

Thursday, May 12

We went to visit good friends, Victor and Dori, who returned after some years in the U.S. in order to be closer to family. Victor is quite the woodsmith and built all the cabinetry in their kitchen (you can see some of it in the background).

Friday, May 13

My only photo today is quite blurry. Spent the day getting various annual exams done. So much fun. NOT!

Monday, May 16

Stopped at a store that sells pork products and they had a display of spices that caught our eye. We have a good friend named Wally, so of course I had to take a photo :)

Tuesday, May 17

This is one of those days that makes a good story -- after the fact! -- because it was one thing after another...

We had appointments for haircuts in Belgrano in the morning. As we neared the round-about on Route 5 in Sta. Rosa, two things happened simultaneously: the light for the battery came on the dashboard, and the car quit. Ivan pulled over, popped the hood and immediately saw the problem (the alternator/water pump belt had come off).

We coasted down the road at the round-about that goes toward our friend's tire shop. Got almost there when the grade leveled out and we couldn't coast any more. Pulled over, got our gear and walked the remaining block to the shop. Our friend wasn't there yet (learned later he was having trouble getting his car started) but Ivan reached him on the phone, and he told us to go ahead and take a work truck he keeps at the shop. So off we went...

Only to get stopped a couple kilometers down the road because we didn't have our lights on. It's a requirement here, and because on our car, our lights come on automatically when we start the car, we hadn't even given a thought about turning on the truck lights. We were just trying not to be too late for our appointments. Ten minutes later (and more story I won't go into now), we were on our way again, ticket in hand. We joke that it's a despedida from Argentina :)

Got our hair cut, chatted for a while (the stylist is an old family friend) and came out to find the truck battery was dead because Ivan had forgotten to turn the lights off. hahahaha  Is this starting to resemble a Laurel and Hardy movie, or what?!
Pamela let us use her car to jump start the truck, and we made it back to the tire store just as they were closing for lunch. Our friend helped Ivan tow the car to the shop and put it into one of the bays. The parts store was closed for lunch/siesta so there was nothing more we could do at that point. Our friend told us we could use the truck until things opened back up, so we headed home.

As we pulled off Route 5 onto the road that goes down to the river (and our place), I remembered that the keys to the house were in the car! Seriously?!?! 

Rather than go all the way back to town, we just crossed the ford at the river and drove over to Miguel and Mari's house. They are the couple who manage the property for us and live 1 km on the other side of the river. We ended up staying, having lunch and visiting with them for two hours... and getting their set of keys so Ivan could change into work clothes and drop me off at the house. Thankfully the parts store opens back up at 3:30 so he was able to get the new belts and get right to work on the car, and he had it fixed within a few hours. Not a quick or easy job since the belts are lined up, and he had to take off the first two before he could get to the alternator/water pump belt (he just changed them all while he was at it).

So grateful we had car trouble when and where we did, because the next day we drove over the mountains and back to Carlos Paz and then Cordoba. Can you imagine if it had happened out in the middle of nowhere?

Wednesday, May 18

A day of despedidas with friends in Carlos Paz. From left to right:
First we had coffee mid-morning with Sabrina, our friend and trusted dentist. I am so NOT looking forward to finding a new dentist! Sabrina has taken such good care of us, and gone above and beyond what normal dentists do. She was also very careful about making sure I didn't experience any pain during various procedures -- and remember, I've had a bunch the last few years!, including three implants, multiple crowns, root canals...

Then lunch with Nestor and Graciela, who were some of the first people we got to know, even before we moved here! We met them in 2007 during a visit. Our first year in Argentina Graciela was such a help and encouragement as I worked on learning Spanish. She came over once a week to help me practice conversation. They pretty much adopted us and included us in family get-togethers over the years.

Eduardo and Mariana have been a huge blessing! Eduardo helped Ivan finish up a bunch of projects on the property before we moved; we couldn't have done it without him.

God has blessed us with so many good friends here!

Late afternoon we headed into Cordoba and checked into the Sol de Piedra hotel, chosen because it's a block from the clinic where we'll be spending a good portion of our time. The hotel has lots of photos of historical places in the city, and each room is named after one of the buildings. We're in the Paseo del Buen Pastor room:

Thursday, May 19

We actually started planning this little pre-anniversary get-away months ago. Who knew it would turn into a medical "vacation" instead? Since we wanted to get as much medical stuff done here as possible, it just worked out that we both had doctor appointments during this get-away, plus I had another test. All this to say we've spent a lot of time at the clinic over the past couple months and have the layout down pat, knowing where to go for what. Here's Ivan in the front lobby where we pick up test results.

The hotel has a very nice breakfast spread each morning, but not much on offer for the celiacs of the world. I had rice crackers and fruit salad with my morning coffee. Plenty of variety for Ivan though.

Another despedida this evening, with long-time Hoyt family friends, the Colles. We weren't able to see everyone, but did get to visit with Mirta, Roberto, Lorena and husband Miguel plus their children. Cannot even begin to tell you how much this family means to us!

Friday, May 20

Ivan went with me in the morning for my doctor appointment (I still don't trust my Spanish enough for important things like that), but I went on my own for the afternoon CT scan because he was stuck in traffic while running an errand that had to be done today (since we're heading back to Sta. Rosa in the morning), and it doesn't take much translation to get a test like that done. It was with a huge sigh of relief that I walked out of the clinic at 2 p.m. Done, finito, finished with the medical stuff (we hope!).

We met up at the hotel a short time later and headed to the nearby mall where they have a huge food court. We thought that by 3 p.m. the lunch crowd would have thinned out. Boy, were we wrong! But at least we were able to get our food fairly quickly, and eventually found a table. The walk back to the hotel was nice; the sun was shining and we enjoyed the sights. Cordoba is a happening city!

Pretty sure this will be my last post from Argentina. No internet at the house in Sta. Rosa and so much going on the next two weeks, it's unlikely I'll have time to do more. We still have projects on the house, packing, and more despedidas.

D-day (departure day) is fast approaching. We'll be driving to Buenos Aires a few days before we fly out, so we can get the title on the car changed into the name of the friend who is buying it. Hard to believe but we'll arrive in Chicago two weeks from tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Some Sad Goodbyes

It's just after 4 a.m. and I've been awake for at least an hour. This happens a lot lately; I wake up and my mind immediately shifts into high gear, thinking of all the things that still have to be done. The list has gradually shortened, but there remain many things still to be checked off.

Today is our last day in our dear little casita. Tears fall as I type this. Of all the places we've lived together (16, I think?), this will always be very special because we took it from a raw shell of a building and turned it into a lovely little home for the two of us. It helps that the family who has bought it will love it like we have. I love knowing that they'll make memories and their children will grow up calling this "home" and it will be a very special place for them, too.

Moving is hard.

Physically it is very demanding, and I've had to pace myself. I don't have the energy I had even four years ago when we moved into the casita. The trick is keeping the expectations reasonable, attempting to do one thing a day (in addition to the regular cleaning, laundry, cooking). One day it was cleaning the oven. Another day it was going through the wardrobe. Yet another it was scrubbing the bathroom tile until it sparkled.

Last week was killer. The push was on to deliver a lot of the tools and furniture we'd sold, as well as things we were giving away (almost my entire book collection!). We were completely and utterly exhausted by Sunday afternoon. It wasn't just the physical labor. The goodbyes are killing us. With some it is easier, because we anticipate they will visit us in the U.S. And we do hope to get back here for visits, too. But realistically? We know there are many we will not see again on this earth. Hard, people, HARD. All the other times we went to the U.S., it was with the knowledge we'd be coming back, picking back up our life here, our friendships.

Tucked into all the packing and cleaning and organizing are visits with the people we've come to love. Almost every day for the past three weeks we have met with at least one person or family for a time. Some days it's been several. Our goal is to end well, and that includes the hard goodbyes and the hugs and the tears.

Yesterday we met friends downtown for coffee mid-day. Marce started out as my Spanish teacher but has become such a dear friend. We love her and her girls like they're family. Fernanda is co-owner of the English institute where we've been helping with oral exams for the past seven years. She and her sister (our dentist) have also become good friends. Our time together, chatting about everything from what it takes to move overseas, to the economy and how it's affecting small businesses, to catching up on what the kids are doing... It was a snapshot of what so many of our recent visits look like. We talk about the things we have in common, the things that affect us all, the life we've lived together for the past 8 years.

We'll be spending a month at the house in Sta. Rosa. We have a few projects out there, and I'll be going through all our stuff one final time and packing all the but the last minute things. Friends are traveling to the U.S. later this month and will take two suitcases for us. We're hopeful that because of their help, we will be able to get by with only taking six suitcases ourselves. We could take up to ten, but we'd rather not if we can help it. Aside from concern for our backs, we have to be able to fit all our luggage and three people into the car so a friend can take us to the airport.

We also have some final medical tests and doctor appointments this month, interspersed with visits from various friends who will drive out to see us in Sta. Rosa, plus we'll be saying goodbye to our friends who live out there. It's going to be another full month, but not quite as crazy as April! At least we hope so. 

I am both very excited and very sad. How can such polar opposite feelings co-exist? I recognize it now as a normal part of being a global nomad. No matter where we live, we will always miss someone (and some things). Fifteen years after our time in Africa we still miss our friends there (and Bitter Lemon, a Coke product. ha!). As we repatriate to the U.S., I know we will miss so many dear friends from here (and asados and the custom of greeting everyone with a kiss). The entire time we've lived here we have missed our family and friends from the U.S. Once you've made a significant move, whether it's to another state, cross country, or overseas, it's inevitable that you will always have a longing for the people and things left behind.

I can remember listening to Sara Grove's song, "Painting Pictures of Egypt" shortly before we moved to Argentina. It expressed so well what I was feeling. And it does again now, as we prepare for yet another transition.

Painting Pictures of Egypt

[Verse 1:]
I don't want to leave here
I don't want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I've been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend

[Verse 2:]
It's not about losing faith
It's not about trust
It's all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn't perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn't milk or honey
But then neither is this

I've been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

[Verse 3:]
The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
To discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the Promise
And the things I know



If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?
And if it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time in the sand?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Week 16: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Sunday, April 24

For the longest time I've been meaning to show how GNC prices have risen since we bought our car. GNC (natural gas) is much cheaper than regular gasoline, but with its meteoric rise in price, it's not quite the deal it used to be.
In just over four years the price jumped from $1,499 pesos per cubic meter to $10,94. I wanted to get a picture of the whole sign so you could see how the other prices have risen, too, but the new signs with their digital lights just turn into glaring blurs unless you get really close with the camera.

Tuesday, April 26

We had planned to go to Sta. Rosa today, taking a load out and bringing the books and bookshelves back. But Ivan got sick on Monday so we decided to postpone a day. Probably a good thing, because we ended up having to get our car fixed. It went to two different mechanics for two different problems that took all day to resolve. It gave us time to get some other things done. Ivan's still going through his tools. Most have sold, and with several deliveries this week, he needed to sort out who was getting what.

Wednesday, April 27

The morning started way too early for me, when I woke at 3 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My mind kicked into high gear (not surprising since we have so much going on right now) so we didn't even need the alarm to get us up early to go for my final blood work. The idea was to get that done and come home for a nice breakfast.

But on the way back we decided to make a quick stop and see what we needed to do to get the '08' document which is necessary in order to sell our car. That quick stop turned into a three hour ordeal due to the fact that my initial Argentine ID was in my maiden name, since that's the way it's done here, but my final DNI is in my married name -- after they decided it was vital to honor my documents from the U.S., which are all in my married name. Anyway, we bought the house and the car before being issued the final DNI so even though the ID # remained the same, the change of last name has created a headache. In the end we did get it done, and finally had breakfast about 11:30 a.m.

Right after breakfast (or should we call it brunch?) we headed out with the fully loaded, quite heavy trailer. We loaded it the night before, thank goodness, so it was only necessary for Ivan to strap things down before we left. Sadly he got interrupted and side-tracked in the process and didn't quite finish the job, so in Alta Gracia we lost a small bin that fell off when we went over a speed bump. It only had one thing in it, but it was of great sentimental value: our African drum. Someone alerted us to the fact that something had fallen off but by the time we turned around and got back, we saw a man hopping back in his truck and driving off with our drum :( We turned around yet again, but never saw the truck. Es lo que hay.

We simply unloaded everything from the trailer into either the house or garage, then began filling boxes and more boxes with books. You might remember that when we moved into the casita, we took our bookshelves and books out to Sta. Rosa. Anyway, we ended up with 14 boxes of books and three bookshelves loaded onto the back of the trailer by the time we were finished.
Some books remained in Sta. Rosa for people to enjoy when they use the house, but the vast majority of our personal library was divided up and given to different people and organizations. We delivered the bookshelves and two boxes of books to one family and 7 boxes to another family before finally arriving home around 11 p.m. Long day, to say the least!

Thursday, April 28

Charlie came over in the morning to help Ivan load the trailer, this time with lots of tools, the workbench, and a door. Then we headed to Cordoba, where we made one delivery and had lunch with our friends, the Caseres family. Their girls were thrilled with the box of children's books I gave them and immediately started looking through to see what they wanted to read first.

Then we traveled across town to Eric and Karen's house where we unloaded the remainder of tools along with a couple boxes of books that they're delivering to a seminary for us. That saved us an extra stop. We left the door on the trailer while we visited with them, and then loaded some other things of theirs and followed Eric to a house they are getting ready to restore in another town. It reminded us a bit of what the casita looked like the first time we saw it. They are currently collecting building materials and supplies, and have a dream of creating a getaway spot that they can enjoy, and so can missionaries and pastors.

Before we left their house in Cordoba, Eric climbed the lemon tree right outside their front door, to pick fresh lemons for us to bring home. Most of the lemons were still green, but near the top there were some ripe ones.

Friday, April 29

It did my heart good to see this photo our friend took of the books we delivered Wednesday night, already unpacked and on the shelves!

A friend came by in the morning to pick up the tools he was buying, plus three boxes of books we were passing along, and stayed for lunch. It was nice to catch up! Hopefully the whole family will get out to see us in Sta. Rosa before we leave.

Late afternoon we went to visit Magdalena and Nestor. She has had cataract surgery on both eyes in the past couple months, the most recent one just a week ago. Between surgeries, she painted this gorgeous picture for us!
We gave her several photos and let her decide which she wanted to do. She chose this view of the Rio San Antonio next to our house here in Carlos Paz. This is the view we see every day that we walk. Nice, heh?!

Monday, April 25, 2016

T Minus and Counting

In the context of a rocket launch, "T minus" refers to the time before a launch. We're sort of feeling like that right now: Launching into a completely different life, with lots of unknowns, and hoping that everything comes together for a smooth lift-off.

A week from tomorrow we're moving out of our little casita. Between now and then we have to deliver several trailer loads of things to different people (primarily tools, but also some household goods). Initially we'd planned to take a load of things to Sta. Rosa tomorrow and bring back the bookshelves someone bought, as well as the books that we're giving to various people and organizations. But Ivan's feeling pretty rough today so we probably won't be able to keep to that schedule.

Both of our immune systems are quite low. Mine has been low for a couple of years (at least) and Ivan's been hit with one thing after another this year: herniated disks, that horrible (and extended) bout with food poisoning, head colds, and not sure what today. He came home after a long morning of running around with the new owner of the property (getting all the utilities changed over to their name) and immediately went to bed. He's feeling slightly better now but definitely not up to par.

I'm fighting a head cold (avoided catching it from Ivan the first time he had it, but not so fortunate this time) and stayed home in my pajamas yesterday, pumping plenty of Shaklee into my system. Today I haven't done much, but I did get dressed so I could take a load of laundry out to the dryer (it's in the garage) since it's gray and rainy. I also cleared off the bookshelf we use as a pantry in the kitchen. Since we sold all the bookshelves Ivan made, we need to at least put back the one dad made. Although we're giving away the vast majority of books, we plan to leave some at the house in Sta. Rosa for people to enjoy when they stay there, so we'll need a bookshelf.  

We literally had every day through next Tuesday planned with things that need to be done. Veering off schedule is just going to make the remaining days that much busier. Praying that Ivan bounces back quickly, and God gives us both the stamina and strength to get through the next chaotic eight days.

Sta. Rosa is two hours from Cordoba, and we'll have to make a few trips back to the provincial capital for more medical tests and to see our doctors one final time. We'll also be tackling some projects at the house, and saying goodbye to the folks we know in that area. We know just about as many people there as we do here in Carlos Paz, since it's where Ivan went to high school and there's still a Grace Brethren church in town.

A wrinkle in our plans popped up -- thankfully before we purchased airline tickets -- that is going to require we drive to Buenos Aires at the very end, so we can switch the title on the car into the name of Ivan's junior high buddy who is buying it. It was going to be too complicated and expensive to try and do that here, since he lives in Bs. As. That will happen the first couple days of June. José Luis is finding out if it will take one or two days, and we'll plan accordingly. But our target day for departure is June 3rd, arriving in Chicago on the 4th.

So T minus and counting: 39 days to launch!