Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Late To The Party But Here I Am


Okay I've been trying ALL DAY to upload my video. Oh.My.Word. Despite great instructions from Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee, I couldn't seem to make it work. So finally I sent S.O.S. smoke signals back to the U.S. to my son (okay, I'm a little more technologically savvy than that, but not much). And of course he came to my rescue.

I was beginning to think it just wasn't meant to be. That maybe the world wasn't ready for me and my large nostrils, or prepared to see me looking not into the camera but down at the computer (hey, just talkin' to myself on the screen). But with the son's help I'm posting it anyway. With a disclaimer to anyone with sensitivities of a nose(y) nature.
video
And now I can get back to having a LOT more fun checking out everyone else's contributions at Linda's Vlog Carnival "I See What You're Saying".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Random Thoughts & Dreams

I woke up frowning, the wisps of a dream teasing my mind. I had taken my grandchild (don't actually have one yet, so is this a dream of things to come?) to a favorite swimmin' hole back in Kentucky. We were watching our toes wiggle through the clear water (definitely got my wires crossed there 'cause there's no water that clear that I can recall) and having a grand old time when suddenly there was an old high school classmate with her grandchildren. And she looked at me and said, "You didn't hate us any more than we hated you."

And that's when I woke up.

Folks, I didn't hate anybody. But I do remember being disliked (I hate to think they actually hated me) by a good portion of the girls in high school. After attending both elementary and junior high in Michigan, I moved back to my home state just in time for high school.

And spent the next four years ostracized for the most part. The people who didn't mind hanging out with me? The ones who were too stoned to know any better and a couple of Christians who were actually trying to live out their faith. I'm sorry to say that for most of high school I leaned toward the stoner crowd.

Then during my junior year the Lord orchestrated some events in my life to direct me back to Him. For which I am, literally, ETERNALLY GRATEFUL.

But I've always wondered what it was about me that caused such an intense dislike by a large population of the student body? Was it the way I talked? Admittedly, the flat Midwestern way of speaking was in sharp contrast to their southern twang. But is that a reason?

Was it the way I dressed? Cut my hair? Laughed? Okay, the last one could be considered grounds for ostracization. Even some family members cringe when I laugh.

But overall, I was a pretty innocuous kid so their reaction has always puzzled me.

Anyway, odd dream and I can't blame it on the yogurt I had before going to bed. Nor do I have any idea why it came up now. It's not something I've ever dwelt on, particularly in light of the fact I've been able to make friends wherever I've moved since then. Which I've done a lot. Moved, I mean. AND made friends.

So.

The last few days were pretty busy with cleaning and painting. I'm going to have to put a second coat on one of the bedrooms. The paint rollers are interesting. Within minutes of starting to use one, it becomes a loose globby mess that requires some serious work to actually apply paint in an even manner. And the hubby had to buy a second paint brush after a couple days to continue with the cutting in, because the first one simply started disintegrating. We are not buying the least expensive products, people, but the quality sure indicates CHEAP.

While the hubby is in Buenos Aires I'm also going to work on stripping and cleaning the bedroom floors. We hunted high and low and finally found an ammonia-based product that should make stripping the old wax off a little easier. Gonna have to work on my mopping technique though. Here they use a large thick cloth (it's about 18" square) draped over a long-handled squeegy. I can't manage to keep the cloth on the squeegy yet. But I figure, like Spanish, it just requires practice. And I'll get plenty of that while doing the floors at the house.

Wouldn't mind y'all praying for the hubby as he navigates the customs ordeal process this week. The man who's going to help him believes it will just take a couple of days. Sure hope so! Besides missing the hubby a LOT, each day it takes will cost us more in customs storage fees. And the more they charge, the less we have towards a car.

And while I like the walks and it hasn't really been a huge problem because right now we're very close to a main avenue with multiple buses, the house is much farther from a bus stop and there's only one bus that makes that loop once-every-who-knows-how-often. And when hot weather hits, walking during the day will be nigh unto impossible. Hot is HOT here. So we would really, really like to be able to get a car in the next couple months. Which is why I'm asking you to pray that customs doesn't require any more of our car budget than necessary. Thanks for praying!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Saga of the Blackberry

I've shared before about the hubby's attempts to get his Blackberry to work here. He's been to multiple cell phone providers, including the main office of Personal in downtown Cordoba. But no matter what they tried, they couldn't get it to work.

Intense research followed, along with lengthy calls to Sprint in the U.S. (using our Vonage phone). He thought he'd isolated the problem on their end -- although they said the phone was unlocked, it was not, according to some diagnostic tests that someone posted directions for on youtube.

My husband has a quality I love (and sometimes find very frustrating) and that is excessive perseverance. He is like a dog with a bone that just won't let go. He ended up spending a total of OVER TWELVE HOURS on the phone with Sprint. The last call lasted over four hours and he spoke with nine people.

The ninth person, bless his heart, actually wanted to help! What a concept in the service industry. John (with a name like that you just know he's a good guy) began searching the internet while they were talking, having the hubby try different things.

And then a breakthrough! Not what we'd hoped for, but finally an explanation for Why It Will Not Now Nor Ever Work In Argentina.

It turns out that two months ago Argentina changed frequencies. Of the four frequencies that his Blackberry supports, none of them are viable here now. Oh it was a sad moment when the insidious truth reached out and slapped him silly.

John at Sprint said he's sending us a check for what we paid for the phone and he's taking off the early termination fee that they'd initially said we wouldn't have to pay but then put it on the bill anyway.

The dream died but not without a fight. And I have a funny feeling he's going to try and find some poor Personal employee to trade phones so he can have one that works.

Meanwhile we did get cell phones. I am the proud owner of a cute little Motorola with some pretty orange accents. Since I don't speak enough Spanish to burn up the lines with conversation, I'm doing the prepaid card plan. The hubby, who does spend considerable time on the phone due to ministry and the business of life, has a monthly plan with his second-hand phone. The customer in front of him was buying a new phone and Ivan bought his old one. Saved a little money and gives him some breathing room to check out what Blackberry-like phone options are available.

I can call and receive calls, but haven't figured out the texting thing yet. Most people text rather than call, to save money. For voice calls it costs 70¢/minute with the monthly plan and $1.60 pesos/minute when you use prepaid cards. Translated: 24¢ to 53¢ per minute. NOT cheap!

We're also getting a landline. Had not planned to, but that's how we'll be getting internet AND maybe even more importantly, security service. We're not dog people so having a dog for security isn't gonna happen. And I guess it's pretty important to have something as a deterrent to would-be thiefs. Our co-workers have suggested the company they use.

So hopefully all these points will converge in the next few days. The hubby had tried again and again to pay for the landline, following the directions he'd been given by a phone company employee. There's no office to go to, you can only contact them by *surprise!* phone.

Anyway, you pay all your utilities and services at little places called rapi-pagos (literally translates rapid pay). He made many calls to the phone company and trips to the rapi-pago, all for naught. Then yesterday our co-worker stopped at the house and suggested checking the mail box [since we've only been going over to clean and paint we hadn't thought of checking the mail box yet]. Sure enough, there was a bill from the phone company with the right number to use when paying!!! One last quick trip to the rapi-pago and SUCCESS. So now we just wait for them to actually hook us up. We're really praying that will take place in the next few days.

This long rambling post to simply say:
The hubby's Blackberry doesn't work in Argentina,
We now have cell phones.
We will soon have a landline, and accompanying internet and security service.

I sure use a lot of words to communicate very little, don't I. It's worse when I'm tired. Sorry folks, but if you've made it to the end of this post, pop a little gold star on your forehead for PERSEVERANCE!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Conclusion #5

Missed one this morning.

#5 God had us spend a year in the African bush so we would appreciate what we have in Argentina. Otherwise it would be tempting to constantly compare HOW MUCH EASIER (almost) everything is in the U.S. But now I can just be happy that we HAVE electricity and running hot water...

Creak, Creak, Groan

That's how I sounded getting out of bed this morning. I ache in places I'd forgotten I had. After a day of cleaning and painting we have barely scratched the surface. And have come to several conclusions:

1) This house is dirtier than we thought.

2) We are older and slower than we used to be.

3) Expectations have been lowered DRASTICALLY due to #1 and #2. We will now be happy if we can finish the bedrooms and the kitchen this week.

4) Not bringing a lot of furniture is turning into a blessing. Little furniture = more clear space so it won't be difficult to paint the bathroom, living and dining rooms next week when the hubby returns with the container.

And that is all I have for today. I am going to take my creaking bones and groan my way back to the house for another torturous fun day of cleaning and paint.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cleaning Day

I'll be out of the office all day...

Actually I'll be cleaning at the house so I can HAVE an office! We're down to the wire here since the hubby leaves Saturday night, heading to Buenos Aires and the task of getting our container through customs. When he returns, hopefully it will be with all our STUFF. So we really, really, really want to have the house cleaned and painted before he goes.

And life has just kept us busy with other things. But today we are getting started! Our co-workers will pick us up shortly and take us to buy paint and the remainder of the necessary cleaning supplies. Our original plan was to walk to the paint store and take a taxi from there to the house, so this saves us both time and money to have them help with transportation.

I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat with anticipation about what colors we'll be using, since I made a big deal about being able to choose them. We're going to use...WHITE. I know, I know, Boring Big Time. But the house, except for the living room with its two walls of windows, is dark -- only one window per room. AND the floors are black. So we really do need some white to brighten the place up.

I figure we can add color with furniture and accessories. Okay, with accessories. Unless somehow I end up with that lipstick red couch I've been daydreaming about for years. The few pieces of furniture we brought are all off white. Sensing a theme here? It's called "Let's play it safe with neutral colors until we know what we're working with..."

I prefer to look at it like this: The house is a blank slate just waiting for our creativity to perk it up and make it a unique space that feels like our home. And I do have ideas! Yes, indeedy I do. So stay tuned for further installments of Creating A Home From Scratch In A Foreign Country On A Very Slim Budget And Limited Options In Furniture Of A Comfortable Nature.

This is what I want. But I'm afraid I'll end up with something like this.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going To The Disco

What would you say if you knew a missionary who got a tattoo and went to the disco?

I don't have the Tattoo yet but we have been to the disco multiple times. Disco grocery store, that is :-) And isn't that Tattoo just the cutest thing? I don't know why Ford doesn't offer them in the U.S.

I doubt we can afford a Tattoo anyway. We have Tattoo tastes on a Fiat Uno budget.

Attended my first fiesta yesterday, a birthday celebration for Graciela. She is part of a group of women who are good friends with my co-worker. And like women everywhere -- any excuse for a party!

The attempt to communicate was difficult and caused my head to hurt but everyone applauded my efforts. They're a very patient bunch! [But it helped me realize that trying to cram verbs into my teflon brain won't work. Instead I'll concentrate on a few verbs each day, creating real sentences to use the verbs in various conjugations.] Graciela's daughter brought materials so each of the ladies could make a paper flower to put in her hair (MUCH better than a party hat!). Un dia perfecto! The sun was shining (I didn't realize how much, so now I have a sunburn on my neck and nose), it was cool but not too, and the park where we met was right by a small river where some of the braver souls enjoyed dangling their feet (no, I am not brave and I do not like the water much when it is cold and it was muy frio ayer). We were both busy taking pictures all day but I'm glad we stopped and had someone take one of the two of us!

We played games (I am truly terrible at Jenga) and I was reminded of an Argentine's resourcefulness when I saw the various homemade games folks had brought. One mom filled three water bottles with different colors of water and placed them in a triangular formation, covered open circles of cardboard with pretty paper, and she had a fun ring toss game for her girls.

We also ate a lot of food, talked and talked, and sang...

One of the men plays guitar and harmonica, primarily folklore music so there was some folk dancing too. It reminds me of colonial style dances when the women and men face one another from several feet away, women in one row and men in another, and the steps are uniform. Each type of song has different steps. Folklore music and dance are very integral to this part of Argentina. video

And we finished off the day with a few hours downtown, handing out tracts to some of the 90,000 young people who descended for Dia Nacional de la Juventud, always held on September 21st, the first day of Spring. Not sure how long it's been going on, but enough years that it's now Tradition with a capital T. They've had up to 150,000 attend in the past but I guess this year the economy kept some away. The city brings in a number of bands to perform throughout the day on stages in four different areas.

The hubby is attempting yet AGAIN to pay for the telephone service so they'll hook us up. This will be the fourth try since Friday. There are places around town where you can pay for all the different utilities and services. But the information the telephone company gave hubby is not working when he tries to pay. I'm leaving the whole thing up to him, since he not only speaks the language but has way more patience than I do. Getting anything done seems to be so complicated I'd be frustrated in no time flat. He'll also try to get the electric into our name, since the strike is over.

And I have a lot of homework that needs to be done before we head over to the co-workers' for our weekly planning session (a thinly disguised reason to get together and EAT). Meanwhile I'm also listening to Argentine TV. Marcela told me about a channel with cooking and craft shows. Not understanding much at all yet, but since I like to cook and craft, this should help increase my vocabulary in ways that will be truly helpful. But it's also making me hungry.

Excuse me while I go raid the fridge.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Beautiful Day To Be In Carlos Paz

The sun came out and that fresh-earth-after-rain-smell is intoxicating. I'm feeling so refreshed! [The coffee from YPF may have helped, too.] I spent most of the morning checking out some great Spanish websites and printing out verb-related info. If anyone is interested in learning Spanish, these are very helpful: spanish.about.com, studyspanish.com, and spanishbooster.com.

My hubby made a most delicious lunch. He peeled and sliced some orange squash (calabaza) into a casserole dish and poured a mixture of egg and milk over it and then topped with some sausage (a substitution for the bacon we'd normally use) and baked until done (about an hour). Yum! Plus a salad to go with it.

Now he's off for an afternoon at the aerodome! I'm so excited for him. Marcela knows a veterinarian whose hobby is flying so Ivan stopped to meet him this morning and Luis invited him to go along this afternoon. I guess Luis flies just about every weekend. And from experience with the hubby, I know these guys just love hanging out around airplanes.

I'm taking a break for tea and chocolate before going back to "mis verbos". And maybe a walk, too. The day is too beautiful to let it pass by without a walk. Ah, life is good!

I'm Baaack!

I didn't intentionally take a break this week. It just sorta happened. The energy level just plummeted after we made it back to Carlos Paz and I've spent the last couple days resting a lot. But I'm going to take a shower this morning and the sun is shining and *yawn* hopefully I will actually get something accomplished.

Mainly Spanish.

My greatest frustration is not being able to recall the right verb and conjugation so the plan is to write out all the verbs I use regularly and figure out the most used conjugations and drill on them until they are THERE.In.My.Head.

That's not my only frustration but it's the greatest one. Increasing my vocabulary is also critical. Again, drill, drill, drill. I need to be reviewing my little self-made dictionary more frequently.

And then finally, just get out there and talk, talk, talk. Something I love to do (normally) and need to do more of, in this case. Marcela has suggested I join a group of some kind with folks who don't speak English. So the search is on! We have a couple of ideas and need to follow up on them.

We took a lot of pictures on our trip but I've just selected two to share with you today. The only time most Americans ever see a poinsettia plant is in a pot at Christmas. We had a poinsettia bush by our house in Uganda and the thing was five feet tall! It was also a little scrawny since that was a pretty dry climate. Well, in Resistencia where it's humid just about all the time, they grow up big and lush. Isn't this gorgeous?! Although we took a number of group shots, they're all so posed. So I decided to share a photo the hubby snapped during one of our times-around-the-table. This is how we really were most of the time. We were pretty much always around a table that had food on it. I'm not in the photo, I was off to the side by the kitchen counter, right in front of the chocolate scones. Of course I made chocolate scones. In this culture it is expected that you bring a gift of food when you are invited somewhere. In this case, it was perfectly acceptable to make it on site. Our hostess is a fellow chocolate fiend and gladly turned over her kitchen for the Cause :-) It was only 47 degrees yesterday. And it rained all day. Which was good because we needed the rain, but between the cold and the rain I sure didn't want to go anywhere. So I didn't. Except upstairs for Spanish. It's going to be cold over the weekend (down in the 30s even!) but should warm up into the 70s by the end of the week. I am SO ready for Spring!!!

We're off to YPF for some great coffee and a little headline homework. I'll be posting more later today or tomorrow. Y'all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Love Those Crazy Headlines

Yes, I admit I'm a news junky. But not just any old news. I like the truly weird and crazy stuff. Today's perusal of cnn.com netted a funny one about the burglar in Knoxville who tried to tell police he was a "special agent of the United States Illuminati". Gotta give the guy credit for creativity. Maybe he's hoping for an insanity plea?

OOP

No, not oops! but OOP for Onfield Orientation Program. The Argentina team is developing one for new missionaries and we'll sort of be the guinea pigs. I personally think OOP is a great acronym since newbies do spend a lot of time saying 'oops!'

Another topic our field director brought up is the need for an emergency contingency plan. "We must be in good physical shape," said one of the older missionaries, "So we can run, run, run!" "And swim!" added a second. "And re-learn how to play 'hide 'n seek'," chimed in a third.

Although we enjoyed a good laugh, it is something to think about, especially in light of what missionaries in neighboring Bolivia face right now. So we're thinking through what we could/should do. Not just us personally, but the whole team. We serve in different parts of the country and what might be best for those in northern Argentina probably wouldn't work for us, so we do need individual "plans" but it's a good idea for all of us to be on the same page so we can work together to ensure everyone's safety.

The hubby remembers times when missionaries were somewhat concerned about the stability of the country but he doesn't think there's ever been a need for any of them to actually leave Argentina. While we don't think this is something we'll ever have to face, we aren't ignoring the possibility.

I just hope that if it ever comes to that, buses don't go on strike or gas stations shut down or roads get blocked or...

We took an overnight bus from Resistencia to Cordoba with plans to catch a commuter bus from Cordoba to Carlos Paz. But arrived in Cordoba to find the inter-urban buses were on strike :-( We ended up taking a taxi home which was an unexpected and unwelcome expense. Oh well. At least we did get here!

You'd think our team was trying to out-do one another with bus adventures. One couple found out after they were on the bus and in their comfortable first class seats that the person who sold them their ticket had written the wrong date on it, so they were booted off! They had to take a later bus and the only seats left were the scrunchy ones in back.

But the best is the missionary wife who went into the bathroom at a terminal during one of their stops, and the bus drove off without her! Her hubby thought she'd gone to the bathroom on the bus so you can imagine his horror when he realized that wasn't the case. Happily, she was able to take a taxi and catch up with them.

So there you have the travel adventures of our hapless crew in Argentina. I'm glad it's not only us newbies saying "Oops!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Live From Resistencia

We spent two years living in a condominium complex where we were the only Gentiles. It was my first exposure to being a minority.

Then during our year in Uganda, no matter where we traveled we were routinely reminded of our minority status by children shouting, “Hey, mzungu!”

[But to be honest, reverse culture shock upon our return to the U.S. left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable, suddenly surrounded by all those white people.]

I was once again in the minority this weekend, which we spent with two other missionary families. All the children are, of course, MKs (missionary kids). But so are half the adults. Each missionary couple includes one MK; two grew up here in Argentina and one in Bolivia.

It’s been fun to get the other MK’s perspectives because it helps me understand my hubby a little better. I mean, I knew he wanted to come back to Argentina when I met him 30 years ago. But it really helped to hear the MK who grew up in Bolivia share how he struggled with total surrender to God as a young person because he was afraid God would ask him to stay in the U.S. after college. Can you imagine, that was his worst nightmare!

This made me realize what a struggle my hubby must have had when God shut the door to return to Argentina back then. AND how excited and relieved he must have been when God opened the door again a few years ago.

That -- plus the food -- made the trip worth it. We’ve just about eaten ourselves silly this weekend. Familiar foods as well as some new ones. Have y’all ever had ricotta cake? Let me just say one thing. Oh.My.Word! Like a coffee cake but with a creamy sweet cheese filling that’ll just send you into a swoon.

And then there are the chipas, little melt-in-your-mouth cheesy bits of baked bread made with yucca flour (aka casava flour in Africa). Chipas are typical in this area where yucca flour is a common staple. I’m already planning a stop at the grocery store before we head home, to buy a few bags since it isn’t so easy to find in our neck of the woods.

Oh, and let’s not forget the sopa paraguaya, the only solid “soup” in the world. It’s hard to describe, but the closest I can come is it’s-sorta-kinda-a-little-like cornbread. But not really. The primary ingredient is finely ground corn meal, but it’s loaded with fried onions and cheese. I could have eaten half a kilo all by myself without stopping to breathe. But eleven of us shared a whole kilo, along with some of the best grilled chicken I’ve had in a while.

It’s been a fun weekend of getting to know the missionary family in Resistencia who is hosting us. We have their little casita all to ourselves and are quite enjoying a double bed we can both sleep in (I’ve felt like we were in an old I Love Lucy rerun the past month with our twin beds). And the bathroom has a clearly designated area for showers so we don’t have to wipe down the entire bath after showering (or move the toilet paper out of the bath so it doesn’t get soaked in the process).

Remember that cold snap I predicted for Resistencia?

Oh yes, I was SO right! I reckon it was hotter ‘n a Texas bar-b-q just a couple days ago. Then we headed north and the weather headed south. It was a frigid 40 some degrees when we arrived and I don’t think it got up past 60 that first day, or 65 the second. We were all huddled in our coats during the ladies meeting on Saturday and for church on Sunday.

I had a hard time concentrating and trying to interpret what Spanish I could because I kept thinking longingly of all those winter clothes I unpacked from the suitcase the week before we came, and put in the container instead. Cozy warm pants and sweaters, thick socks and my winter coat, all nicely packed in boxes and bobbing up and down in a ship somewhere on the Atlantic.

While I shiver in my thinest pants and sleeveless shirts with my pretty but impractical crocheted sweaters, and Spring coat in a lovely shade of green that will be great next May but doesn’t quite cut it right now.

Today we begin the mini-conference with the other missionaries from our mission serving in Argentina. The rest of the folks from Buenos Aires arrive this afternoon. There are six couples altogether. Half are from the U.S., two from Uruguay and one couple includes an Argentine and an MK from Uruguay who grew up in Argentina. All the Uruguayans came out of a very missions-minded church in Montevideo. I’m the only one who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish so once again I’ll be in the minority.

Not a place I want to stay. Hopefully this year of language study with Marcela will move me out of that minority.

NOTE: In order to scientifically select a winner in the Give-Away I asked one of the kids to pick a number and she choose #4. So Elizabeth, you're the winner! I'll be sending the wallet to you once we get back from Resistencia -- but no guarantee how long it'll take. Actually, it will be helpful to find out how long the average piece of mail takes to get from here to there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago

NOTE: Tomorrow we head to Resistencia in northern Argentina, and we're not sure if there will be internet access on this trip. A change of plan moved our departure from evening to noon. So the Give-Away will still end at noon but it may be next week before I can announce a winner. Just so you know :-)

Back home folks are remembering 9/11. Here in Argentina they are remembering former president Sarmiento who greatly expanded the public education system over a century ago, by giving all the teachers and students a day off. A day of mourning there and a day of celebration here.

On the original 9/11 we were in Uganda and even out in the bush we received the news within minutes of the attack. I learned what had happened when our son called and, wonder of wonders, actually got through (an unusual occurrence). The hubby was at the nearby hospital waiting for someone, so he decided to visit a friend who worked and lived on site. That friend had his TV on, watching the events unfold so the hubby joined him just as the collapse of the second tower was televised.

Within hours our embassy had e-mailed all U.S. citizens to stay put and not venture into Kampala until notified that it was safe. All the Americans at Kasana and Kiwoko gathered at our friend's house that night to watch the news. We saw dancing, cheering crowds around the world celebrating the attack on our homeland. And we saw the towers falling again and again.

Was it only seven years ago? It seems a life time ago. So much has happened since then and now I find myself in another foreign country on yet another continent.

I thought I was doing okay with the changes in my life.

But it would appear I'm not handling stress as well as I thought. The hubby informed me that I'm doing some serious teeth grinding at night so out came the bite guard again. It's been a month or eight since I last used it. Because it's not the most comfortable torture device dental aide, there's been an avoidance issue. But the aching jaw and toothache are even more uncomfortable.

A big part of the problem is due to my control-freak-tendency which has been seriously short-circuited this past year. Losing even the illusion that I have some modicum of control has not been easy. But God knew I needed to be reminded that He's not only in control, He is all-sufficient.

I'd like to say I've got it already it but the teeth grinding would indicate otherwise. You'd think more wisdom would come with decades of experiencing God's sufficiency. And you'd be wrong. *sigh* But this journey of faith is on-going and it's not too late to learn the lessons He is teaching.

Thank goodness. [Or how it sounds with the bite guard on, "Thingoooneth".]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teflon Brain

My political vocabulary is sadly lacking -- in Spanish, that is -- but I understood "escandalo" in the headline this morning and asked hubby to translate the rest. Basically the article was about the "scandal of the suitcase" which is big news here. Don't you find political scandals especially amusing? This one has to do with a suitcase full of money (to the tune of 8 million) being transported in 2006 by a man who claimed it belonged to a company owned by the woman who is now president of Argentina. Back then she was just the wife of the president. Yes, she succeeded her hubby in the position. And the president of Venezuela is somehow implicated, too.

Anyway, didn't have time to read the entire article so I'll have to go back to YPF later. But it has caused me to play "imagine if..." which is a favorite game of mine. I like to try and figure out news stories just by the headlines, and then see how close my supposition is to reality.

You mean not everyone does this?!

My Spanish tutor said today that she's seeing improvement. I'm glad because I honestly feel like I'm spinning my wheels. So many new vocabulary words and I cannot retain them all. Or even a fraction. I find it necessary to look up or ask about the same words again and again. It's like my brain is comprised mostly of Teflon, and things just keep slidin' right off. *sigh*

After class I came back to the apartment and started cleaning. The little blue fuzz balls are still appearing but not in such huge quantities. Thank goodness! I just tried NOT to think about Spanish for a bit because my head hurts from so much concentrating. Now after a morning of cleaning and cooking I'm ready to buckle down again to my Spanish studies.

On Monday morning the hubby spent several hours trying to get utilities turned on and put into our names so the bills would come to us. Why would it take hours, you ask?

Well, at the gas company the man said he couldn't do anything without a copy of the rental agreement. Like it might be dangerous to start sending the gas bill to just anyone? Yes, their office had a copier but no they could not make copies there. It was 7 a.m. in the morning so it took a while but they eventually found an open photocopy place. And had four copies of the rental agreement made, just in case.

They weren't able to get anything done at the electric company because the office was barricaded by four big tough looking men, arms crossed and looking vaguely like bouncers in a bar. It seems the electric company employees were striking. Because some of their brethren were involved in that protest in Cordoba last month when things turned violent and some of the protesters began breaking store windows and destroying things. So they were put in jail. And their union went on strike in retaliation. But never fear! They were released Tuesday and all charges dropped. (I wonder if their release had anything to do with the blackout that occurred Monday night in a large section of Cordoba?)

And after all that we learned that the gas and electric had never been turned off at the house!

Oh, and to show solidarity with the electric company employees, those who work at the provincial bank also went on strike. I'm still trying to figure out if they're all part of one big union? Or do some unions just naturally sympathize with other unions, regardless of the type of work they do?

Striking is a way of life here. If parents can possibly afford to, they send their kids to private schools. Because the teachers in public schools go on strike every year. And the strike at the electric company and bank didn't even raise an eyebrow, people are so used to it.

Obviously I have much to learn about my new culture. From scandals in suitcases to strikes left and right. Which would all be much easier to understand if I could just remember my vocabulary! How do you say Teflon brain in Spanish?

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Give-Away before noon on Friday!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAUGHTER!!!

Dear Daughter:
Twenty-two years ago my due date was September 22th and we'd scheduled the necessary c-section for the week before, on September 16th. My mom was flying down to help out for a few weeks.

It had been a rough pregnancy with you saying "Ick!" to just about everything I ate and making me throw it back up. So your early arrival was welcomed in more ways than one!

The contractions started on Monday but I thought it was false labor because the pain was so light, and then they stopped altogether during the night. So on Tuesday your dad got up and went to work as usual.

And then my water broke.

We knew it would take him two hours to get home so a neighbor kindly took me to the hospital where we met up with your dad. The staff didn't think I was really ready to have you and started talking about sending us home when the contractions started back in a BIG way.

Now I had planned to avoid the whole labor pain this second time around since we knew you'd have to be delivered by c-section. But even then it was in your nature to be in a hurry, rushing around :-)

At that time in Florida, because lawsuits were already a big problem, the hospital required that three doctors be in the operating room when you were born: my regular OB/GYN, his back-up, and the pediatrician to hand you off to the moment you were born. My OB/GYN had informed me (rather haughtily I might add) during my first prenatal visit, "I don't "do" babies." Well, LaTeDa! It took a while to assemble the assemblage so you weren't born until early afternoon.

When they brought you to me, the first thing I saw was the back of your head which was covered with thick dark hair. I groggily told them, "That's the wrong baby." Because I had been born blonde, your dad had been born blonde, and your brother had been born blonde. Where'd the dark hair come from?!

But as soon as they turned you so I could see your face, all doubt vanished. That smushed bull-dog face so familiar from your dad and brother's baby pics stared back at me. Dark hair or not, you were most definitely ours!

[Although we did discover that they posted a big sign at the nurses station warning the staff to be careful not to confuse you with another baby born with an almost identical name a few hours later.]

We came home from the hospital the day before your grandma arrived to help out, which was supposed to be the day before you were to be born.

You've never been one to sit back and wait for things to happen on schedule. If there's any way you can make it happen sooner, you do!

You have blessed us greatly over the years and we thank God for His gift of YOU!

We hope and pray that your birthday this year is one filled with happy memories -- and lots of yummy desserts!

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Year Blogiversary!

Wednesday is my First Year Blogiversary! It sorta crept up on me because I’ve been so focused on Tuesday, September 9th, when my “baby” turns 22!

In honor of both events I’m having a Birthday/Blogiversary Give-Away this week -- a leather wallet from Argentina! Nothing says “Let’s Celebrate” like a good give-away :-) In case you didn’t know, Argentina is famous for its beef. And where you have beef, you have leather. To enter simply leave a comment before noon on Friday. We’ll do this very scientifically and have the hubby draw a number from a hat :-) Obviously since I’m already overseas, the give-away is open to anywhere in “el mundo”.

Posting was rare in the beginning. I wasn’t sure what to write about and wasn’t taking the time to do it. But then a few months in, a personal goal to post twice a week soon led to almost daily posting. Blogging is, quite frankly, addictive! I’ve always wanted to journal but was never disciplined enough to do so consistently until now. This blog serves as my journal, a way to keep in touch with friends and family, and it’s just plain fun to be part of the Blogosphere!

Living in the southernmost part of South America, it’s doubtful I’ll ever make it to one of those amazing blogging conferences and get to meet folks in person. But I feel like I know a lot of bloggers just from reading their blogs regularly. If anyone had told me last year that I’d have friends all over the world that I didn’t personally know but communicated with regularly, I’d have looked to see if they were sprouting antennae.

But I’ve been inspired, encouraged and entertained by bloggers in the U.S., Indonesia, Thailand, Europe and Africa as they share the everyday ordinary of their lives. It’s like reading a serial novel with multiple characters -- you’re never sure what will happen in the next installment :-)

Thanks for joining me in this crazy blogging journey. And don't forget to leave a comment to enter the give-away!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Of Buses and Notebooks

It's been an exciting weekend of riding buses and buying notebooks, taking pictures of things that are wrong with the house and making the best chicken cacciatore we've ever had with fresh bay leaves picked right from the yard. Oh, and being without internet.

So how was your weekend?

One of the suggestions for new missionaries is keeping a notebook to jot down new vocabulary, and here in Argentina you can easily find notebooks with alphabetical tabs. Throughout the weekend I've been transferring new words from my class notebook to the new one. I'm feeling all organized and efficient at the moment.

We knew there was a good public transport system but couldn't seem to find anyone who knew what the schedule was -- until Saturday evening when we hit the downtown tourist office. Finally, someone who could help! She gave us a phone number as well as a web address which allowed us to print out the different routes. There is no real schedule; the buses keep going around and around their routes and the times fluctuate, I guess.

Something we didn't realize is that there are three B-5 bus routes and we need to make sure we get on the one marked "ACA" or we could end up stranded on the other side of town, waiting for the right bus. Not saying that happened to us, but it may have. Leaving us rushing to catch a taxi so we could make it to church on time. Now we know that both B-1 and B-5 buses travel back to our end of town. As long as they're marked "ACA".

I've never had the opportunity to cook with fresh bay leaves before. Oh.My.Word. The smell is heavenly and the flavor is SO much better than with dried! We're pretty excited to try the fresh rosemary next.

And before we leave the topic of food, let me just say that next time I'll try to take a picture of the beautiful little pastries before we gobble daintily nibble them. One of the local grocery stores carries delectable little "masas finas" (fine pastries) of which we indulged in one or six for tea today. They're bite size for the hubbies in our life but we ladies can make them stretch for three or four. My favorite was an inch and a half high stack of cookie, banana, whipped cream, another cookie and dark chocolate -- the flavor somewhat reminiscent of banoffee pie from Ireland.

As to the pictures, the hubby found some disturbing things during his afternoon sojourn on Thursday. Like the fact that the kitchen sink is sinking because the cabinet is rotten. Among other things. So we're putting together a document for the home owner before meeting with her on Tuesday for a walk-through of the house. We agreed to clean and paint in exchange for lower rent but we didn't sign on for a lot of repair work.

So this is a matter of prayer. The home owner just moved to the area and bought this house as an investment. We are her first renters. Guessing that she went through and looked at the house like we did the first time, and has no idea what shape it's really in. Live and learn. Hopefully the end result will be something we can live with since we've already signed the rental agreement and handed over the money.

The antarctic blast is mostly over. Snow on Friday yet today was warm enough to get by with sweaters. But nights are still cold so I'm currently huddled under the covers. Looking forward to the heat of summer that most of you in the northern hemisphere are sweltering under even now.

By the time summer rolls around in January I should have filled up my first vocabulary notebook, don't you think? I'm feeling rather ambivalent about my Spanish. Some days I think I'm doing pretty good and other days I despair of ever understanding or being able to speak it. Another matter of prayer.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Spring Will Officially Arrive In 16 Days

But when we opened the door this morning...
video
I may be smiling but I.Am.Not.Amused. It snowed all morning and it was coming down much harder an hour or so after we shot this video.

We'd given all the space heaters, warm sweaters and coats back to our co-workers because the weather has had been so warm. They re-loaned them to us again.

I keep hearing how hot it will be in Resistencia, where we're heading next Friday. But I'm not so sure. My guess is they're in for a little cold spell come next weekend.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Bathroom Has No Storage

We finally signed the rental agreement today but won't get a copy of it until after the realtor has had a chance to have it "authorized" at the bank [yet another way to add to the expense of renting a house here]. So still haven't been able to get the gas and electric turned on but the keys are in our possession.

And first thing on the agenda was getting locks re-keyed for security. That meant the hubby had to stay at the house all afternoon since that left everything wide open. But the locksmith was true to his word and had them finished by 6:30 p.m. and within a short time the hubby and our co-worker had all the locks re-installed. House secured.

My Spanish lesson was rescheduled for the afternoon to accommodate the signing in the morning, so I rushed back here for that. Today we worked on family relationships. Prior to class I created a family tree. Then I (attempted to) explain in Spanish how each one was related to the others.

After class I made some hot tea and watched CNN. Either the weather has been the same for weeks (hurricane after hurricane) or my weather-related vocabulary is increasing because it was surprising how much I understood.

And speaking of weather, it was COLD today. The coldest it's been since we arrived. Down in the low 50s and several people told us it was snowing in the Sierras. Brrrr!

My co-worker and I stayed at the house while our hubbies went to pick up the locks. We walked through the house and talked about things that will need to be done. I knew the bathroom didn't have any storage but I couldn't remember if there was anywhere to put any. There isn't. If they hadn't stuck a bidet in there (very European in that sense; almost every house I've been in here has a toilet and a bidet) we'd have space for a tall skinny cabinet. But as it is, THERE IS NOWHERE TO PUT STORAGE EXCEPT HIGH ABOVE MY HEAD. The ceiling in the bath is quite high and it's only tiled to about the 6' level. So we could put some shelves or a cabinet above the tile. But how am I supposed to reach it?

The hubby said all his time at the house left mixed emotions. Primary feeling? "There is SO MUCH to be done!"

Yep, he's got that right.

But tonight I'm too tired to even think about it. So let's not.

Instead let's just say again how wonderful it is to be so connected. In the past 24 hours I've been able to talk to both my kids via the internet. Whoever invented Skype should be awarded a Nobel Prize. Or something. Because it is truly a WONDERFUL invention! The hubby snapped a photo of me talking to my daughter while I looked at her beautiful face. *sigh* God has been gracious and missing my kids has not been unbearable. One morning I did wake up pretty homesick for them, tears beginning to sting my eyes, but then I remembered how truly terrible the tissues are, maybe one step up from fine-grade sandpaper, and I didn't cry.

All bets are off once the Puffs arrive though.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I Heart Youtube

Because living overseas makes it hard to get the news in English, I can -- and do -- hop online daily to check cnn.com and foxnews.com. But there's little in the way of video available.

These days I'm like most people, curious about Sarah Palin, and interested in hearing her in her own words. Not some Spanish voice over.

And then today I realized youtube.com probably has plenty of footage, so I jumped over there. I listened to the speech she gave in Dayton last Friday after McCain introduced her as his running mate. The internet here is a little slow (REALLY slow in the evenings for some reason) so it was a little choppy but not too bad.

So far I like what I see. Tomorrow I'll go to youtube again to hear what she had to say at the Republican Convention tonight.

No reporter is completely unbiased. They bring their worldviews and experiences to any story. So I'm always a little cynical of what I read, whether from a "liberal" or "conservative". That's why I like going to the "original source". In this case, Sarah Palin herself. I'll be watching and listening to what SHE has to say about the things that are important to me.

And not paying undue attention to what the talking heads are saying about what she is saying. Or trying to extrapolate what they think she's saying.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Electric Bill, It Is Arisin'

It's fun to check out the newspaper from Cordoba whenever we pop into the YPF for coffee. I try to decipher as many headlines as possible with my limited vocabulary. One today caught my eye because I was pretty sure it was telling me our electric bill was going up.

I turned the paper so hubby could see and asked, "What does this say?" He began to read and muttered, "I don't know."

And I said, "No say 'no se'!"

I made a bilingual funny!

"No se" (pronounced exactly the same as "no say") means "I don't know" and I refused to believe my fluent hubby didn't know what it was saying. But turns out he really wasn't sure. He left Argentina when he was 20 and wasn't in the habit of reading (or even being interested) in anything of an adult nature. What 20-year-old cares what the utility companies are doing? And there is definitely a subset of vocabulary unique to each area of life.

But he tried to figure it out, translating for me as he went along. Sure enough, I was right, our electric bill is going up; 37% on average. Apparently the more you use, the higher the rate.

It would seem the electric bill has, up to now, been artificially 'frozen' at an unrealistically low rate. Concerning the higher rates, the reporter wrote: "If it is so, we are quite sure 2008 will remain on the calendar of the decade as the year of the thawing of rates, without anesthesia, a product of the political decision to go back to making the rates actual."

More bad news for the average citizen. This on top of news that property taxes are rising (by as much as 100%), pensions are being cut, and inflation continues to...well, inflate.

I'm also watching CNN in Spanish. It helps to be able to see what they're talking about but I'm still only catching about a quarter of it. It will be nice when my hearing speed catches up to their speaking speed.

La cabeza hurts by the end of the day.

Tonight we cooked dinner in stages, using the one pot, skillet, two-burner camp stove and toaster oven at our disposal. It was quite tasty if we do say so ourselves :-) Empanadas (meat pies) and a beet and carrot vinaigrette salad. Isn't that just the purtiest salad? I love the bright orange and purple combination.

I've never made empanadas before because I cannot make edible dough. It's weird because I do fine with biscuits but any kind of pie-like dough is beyond my ability. But here? You can buy empanada wraps at the supermarket! MY JOY KNOWS NO BOUNDS. The hubby is pretty happy, too. I conscripted him into service, to put the empanadas together. For your viewing pleasure and empanada education, here's how it's done:

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Monday, September 1, 2008

New Shoes On The First Day Of School

In honor of my first day of Spanish with Marcela, I broke out the new pair of Reeboks!

Growing up we always started school in the fall with a few new outfits, and definitely new shoes because our feet had grown over the summer and our "school shoes" no longer fit. I loved that feeling of having a whole new outfit on the first day of school, from underwear to new headband (hey, I'm a child of the 60s, what can I say?).

Other occasions for new outfits: Christmas, Easter, and sometimes Fourth of July. At Easter we also had new hats and gloves, white patent leather shoes to go with the new white patent leather purse, and when we were very young the underwear was the frilly kind. Remember the rows and rows of lace? Had to be uncomfortable sitting on all that bulky lace but what we women won't endure for the sake of fashion!

Christmas meant a new dress in red and/or green, new socks and maybe a hair bow. Fourth of July was usually a cute little peddle-pusher outfit and my favorite had a matching floppy hat and string purse. I was a totally stylin' 9-year-old!

Spanish with Marcela is going to be WONDERFUL. I love having the one-on-one sessions because sitting across the table, she can immediately tell by the blank look on my face when I'm confused. I can't believe how fast the time flew this morning! We'll be meeting first thing Mondays through Wednesdays, later in the morning on Thursdays and Friday evenings.

She said I could ask about learning specific vocabulary, and I've requested that we cover some hair phrases tomorrow since I really, really need a haircut and it would be nice to be able to communicate somewhat with the stylist later this week. The hubby will be with me and can help, but it would be better if I am able to describe what I want and not depend on him. Otherwise I might end up with a bowl cut. I can just hear him saying, "Hey, short is short!" And then trying to comfort me later, "But honey, it'll grow out!"

Well.

My hair grows VERY, VERY SLOWLY so that would not be much comfort at all. I once tried to grow my hair out. After almost four years it was finally down to my shoulders.

So, yes, hair phrases are very important in this language acquisition process.

Just as it was important to wear my new shoes today. How do you mark significant days?