Sunday, June 19, 2011

Never Thought

So hopefully Pat isn't reading this because he will then be yelling "HEY-OOOO!" at me all day long, but yesterday something happened that I never thought would ever happen.  I translated.

Now, I've helped people along with conversation,  helped people understand the basic concept of a sermon done in Spanish, little things like that, but yesterday Eliott was teaching a piano lesson to a teenager who didn't speak any English and Eliott doesn't speak much Spanish. (that being said he never learned any Spanish before this trip and he has been working SO hard on it and is doing amazing well and I am soooooooo proud of him! he's just not quite ready to teach an entire lesson in Spanish, but I bet in a couple of weeks he could :) )

Anyway, it was Brayan's first piano lesson, but he did have some music background. He was a fast learner and very patient with my Spanish and helped me out a bit with some words.  I learned a lot of musical words and Eliott is a fantastic teacher with a fantastic pupil.  It was so much fun to watch them together and to be able to be a part of it.

I know better jobs have been done, and that I will continue to work on getting better in regards to my Spanish and translating, but it was just such an exciting experience! Not much else to be said :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mi Primera Fin de Semana en Argentina

Hola de Pilar!

I know I said I was going to be in Buenos Aires, and I sort of lied, but I didn't.  I now know that we are in Pilar, which is a ring around Buenos Airies.  There are many rings around Buenos Airies, kind of like how Tigard, Happy Valley, Gresham etc. are all around Portland, have their own special bits but are still a part of Portland (sort of). Kinda like that, yeah?

So what we're doing.  There are four of us in our group of Americans.  The lovely Katie, who is my roommate. She's from SNU and is currently singing Muppet Treasure Island in the kitchen.  Pat (also known as Pato) has just graduated from ENC and Eliott attends the University of Charleston in West Virginia.  Katie speaks some Spanish but the boys haven't had any Spanish education but are working so very hard on their Spanish. They are doing beautifully and we are so proud of them!  The kids have decided that Katie will teach them how to speak English, Eliott will teach them math (¡genio!), Pat will play soccer (fútbol) with them and I will be the mama.

We've been working during the day in the regional office, doing odd jobs and just helping Robin get a lot of stuff organized.  We're going to be working in the office a few days a week and then in the evenings there are Bible Studies we will be attending and helping out with. There are women Bible Studies on Thursday, we attended this last one and we all watched the Jesus Film together. Friday nights is a drama group for teens and pre-teens. That was so much fun! We did an improv bit and used our language barrier for it.  Eliott was an American in a Spanish speaking airport and had just lost his girlfriend.  He was trying to communicate to the waitress (Rosio), the guy who tried to steal his wallet (Edgardo), and the police officer (Santiago) that he couldn't find his girlfriend. It was hilarious. We were all laughing hysterically.  After theater practice there was another Bible Study.
There are two very important cultural traditions that we have learned so far. The first is that when you greet someone and when you say good bye you kiss them on the cheek. And when you come into a room you kiss everyone. If you pass someone by it is very rude, I almost forgot to kiss Cato yesterday but fortunately I think he realized that I was just being forgetful.  The other (and a rather favorite of mine) is mate.  There is mate cocido, which is a tea (té) in a teabag that you can drink any time and many times is brought out during Bible Studies at the church in pitchers and passed around.  Carlos says it doesn't always happen but when it's cold it happens more.  The other is just regular mate.

  This is mate.  It is a very strong tea.  There is a small cup (this is one example of many, there are silicon ones, wooden ones, metal ones and all with a variety of designs) that is filled about 2/3 of the way (or something along those lines) and then hot (not boiling) water is poured into it. The server drinks first through the metal straw. 

The bottom of the straw keeps the tea leaves from coming up through the straw, although you still get some bits in your mouth from time to time. Once the server has finished, they refill the cup and pass it on to the next person.  They then drink, pass it back to the server, who refills it and then passes it to another person.  When we were watching the Jesus Film on Thursday there were three cups going around.  You can go slowly when you drink, but you can't take too long otherwise people will start teasing you and telling you that it's not a microphone and you have to give it up.

My plan is to bring home some mate and so if anyone would like to experience it you are more than welcome to it.  Mate is a very social tradition and is done among friends and sometimes to make peace between to people who have had a row.  Robin, if you're reading this and notice I've gotten anything wrong please correct me!

Well, enough for today.  Later tonight Katie and I will join Carlos and the boys at the church, where there will be some services and a small celebration for Támara, who is turning 15 today!  Turning 15 is a very big deal in many Latin American countries.  She is a lovely girl and I am excited to know her better!

Ciao, mis amigos de los estados unidos.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Training Camp

As most of you know, I left for El Paso on Wednesday, the first.  For the past few days my team (who is rather awesome) and several others.  We did a strength finders test a few months ago and have spent time going over those with our teammates, had seminars on poverty, working with kids, running a Bible study and lots of other things. There are a lot of little things to share but the most amazing thing is what happened last night.

Last night we had a very special dinner. One of our sponsors, Norm, sent us into the dining hall one by one and gave us all a number which coordinated with a space in the room.  3 of us got to sit at a fancy table and had a several course meal.  4 of us sat at a table and had soup, some sort of potato and meat bowl and bread, I think.  7 of us were restricted to a taped space on the floor and were served rice and beans with water to drink. And then the rest of us (9) sat in an even smaller space on the floor and were given a plastic bowl of rice and a cup of water.

I was in the last group and this was an amazing experience. We gave thanks for our food, understanding that this was more than some people were getting to eat in the world and then passed around the bowl, taking one bite at a time and then the cup, one sip at a time.  At first the two boys, Ross and Nelson, did not want to eat any of it because of the slideshow we had just seen telling us many different facts and statistics about hunger and malnutrition in the world.  However, after we talked a bit more they decided that if they were in a situation where that truly was all the had to eat that day (we had had breakfast and lunch earlier) they would take advantage of that and eat it.  After everyone had had about 3 bites we gave the last little bit to the two girls in our group who are going to India, because they are taking malaria pills and not eating would cause them to get sick. 

After we had finished eating we started talking and playing games.  However, Marty, another one of our sponsors had to constantly come up to us and tell us to be quiet because we were disturbing the people at the tables or "in the other countries".  We also had to sit down, because that made us too noticable, even though the floor was making our butts sore and there was barely enough room for us all to sit in our little country. We were, however, allowed to stand up one at a time for about a minute.

After everyone was done eating (some took longer than others, obviously), we got to talk about our experiences.  We shared ours and the team who had rice and beans shared how they gulped down all of their rice and beans, even though one of them hates beans as much as I do (and that's a freakish amount) and one girl dropped some on the floor, she picked it up and ate it.  She wanted to understand as much as possible what some people go through.  When you don't have enough for your whole family to eat, you don't let anything go to waste.  The group that got soup had a very hard time.  They had tried, but were not allowed to share with those of us sitting on the floor and did not want to eat, but knew it was how the simulation was supposed to be.  However, when we had looked over during the mealtime my darling teammate Katie was crying, so we tried not to look at her so she wouldn't feel worse.  Both the group with the soup and the group with the several course meal (it was 4 or 5, I'm not sure) had the hardest time, I think.  They wanted to share food with us but could not.  When they were full the extra food was put into a trash bin that was in the center of the room.

Kai, was at the fancy table and told us that she could feel God's heart breaking for the way we have screwed up this world. The world does indeed produce enough food for everyone one to be nourished. However, it is not distributed correctly.  I know that there is not a ton a single person can do but I know that if we are all a little more conscious about what is going on, change can happen. If we can feel the grief for our friends who we see barely eating anything for one night (and yes, three bits of rice along with a few sips of water truly was my entire dinner last night) than we can and SHOULD feel the grief of our brothers and sisters around the world who aren't even getting that. 

I know that this is going on a bit long, but I have one more exciting thing to say.  That night when we had our evening chapel-ish service thing, I felt God's presence undeniably, as did many, many others.  While I didn't mind it, because of the reason for it, I was very hungry.  But even though I was hungry, God was with me. And it felt like God was saying, "See? You're hungry and I'm with you. You know when you're in pain? I'm with you then too. When you're scared, when you're lonely, when you can't sleep, I'm there with you? Remember when I told you I didn't care about all the crap you've done and if you were willing to try again so was I? (totally in the Bible, best passage EVER) I meant it and I told you I would be there. And I am."

Then we sang this song.  There was this song about God's love and then it said that we could be the "carriers, of love and compassion".  There are many things I do not understand about the world and many things I don't understand about God. The thing I do know is that God wants all of us to be loved and one of his favorite tools to use is each other.  So now I know that the next time when I am presented with the opportunity to give food to someone who has none I can show them that love and I can also tell them what I have learned, that if you ask God to be with you he will never leave you, even when you are hungry.