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.