Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arriving in Argentina

Friday 14 Oct 2011
Our Flight
We made it! A very nice, bilingual lady was willing to swap seats on the plane so we could sit together on the 10-hour flight. We were served a nice dinner (chicken, veggies, pasta) and a breakfast of egg-biscuit, yogurt, juice and coffee. We landed in Buenos Aires just a little later than scheduled; a tailwind helped make up for a late start from Atlanta. Having sat in the back of the plane (last ones off!), it took some time to get through Customs and retrieve our luggage, but Thea Hansen was there to meet us – how good it was to see a smiling and familiar (from Skyping) face! She had arrived 2 hours earlier with driver Ricardo (who we remembered from our participation with Extreme Nazarene Ministries here almost 4 years ago). Our ride to Pilar took over an hour but some of the highway ride looked familiar. Ricardo happened to mention coffee and, finding out that there was a new Starbucks at Las Palmas (the shopping center closest to where we’re staying), we decided to get revived before we actually got to our new home.

Regional Campound (Campo)
Ricardo pulled up to our house in the Officina Nazareno (the compound where we’ll live and work) – it’s very cute, two-bedroom, A-frame house called the “Alpina” – and we brought all our bags in, leaving Thea to go back to work. Quite a few people had gotten together to clean the house and stock our refrigerator with breakfast and lunch groceries for the next couple of days, so I made lunch in the middle of our settling in (ham and cheese sandwiches, banana, apple juice). Amazingly, it really didn’t take long for our things to find a logical place to be! And, of course, I started making a list of the groceries and other things I’d like to acquire… We’d had thoughts about taking showers, but the gas for the hot water heater hadn’t been started yet so that could wait!
This gated compound is full of a wonderful assortment of houses, 2 office buildings, and a hotel. We walked over to the Regional Office building to find Thea and be introduced to others we’ll be working with. First, we ran into Sarah Leiendecker, an American missionary who we’d met before. We met a few others and asked about getting some help with hot water. It wasn’t long before Pedro showed up to get the hot water heater started up! So I worked on my lists and Dan worked on computer set-up in the house.

Home Sweet Home
We made plans to go to Jumbo (say “ZHOOM-bo”), the large grocery store at Las Palmas, with Thea and Sarah (they each have an apartment in the 4-plex next door to us) – as soon as we could get a couple of quick showers! Thea had purchased bus passes for us, so we were ready for public transportation! After meeting the guard at the gate of our compound, Sarah and Thea schooled us on what we should know, as we crossed the road to the bus stop to head east. The ride wasn’t long; soon we were at the large intersection at the Semario Nazareno. Our first stop was inside the seminary, walking around the campus where we’d most recently worked on the Bruno Radi Convention Center! There’d been more changes in the last 4 years and it looked great! We met Cindy Downey, an American missionary who teaches there and is dean of students, then crossed the road to Las Palmas.
The Jumbo store is great, with almost as much variety as a Super Wal-Mart! We walked through, getting lots of tips from Sarah on the contents of each aisle, whether the prices were best here or at a local market. Checking out was easy, as they take credit cards! Since we each had several bags to carry, we opted to use a taxi (instead of the bus) back to the compound – only 20 pesos (about $5) for any number of people! After sorting out the bags from the trunk, we paid and went home to put away our groceries, agreeing to meet again in a few minutes to ride the bus east to a parrillo (say “pa-REE-sho”, but roll that R!) – it means “grill”, for dinner. It was before 9:00PM on a Friday, after all, so we had the little restaurant all to ourselves, since Argentines eat dinner quite late! The girls ordered a grilled meat dinner to share, so Dan & I decided on the plato de dia (that night’s “special”) – filet y mixto which turned out to be 2 huge-but-thin, breaded and seasoned fish filets and a side of mashed potato/squash. We each ate about half of the huge meal and will finish off the rest another day!

Back home, we checked our email and went to bed about midnight, sleeping VERY soundly!! God is SO good; He got us through our first very long and satisfying day!

Saturday 15 October 2012
Our first night was great, we slept like rocks… until there was a knock on the door at 9 a.m.! We had discovered, before we went to bed, that we couldn’t get the pilot lights lit on either our stove or our wall heater, so I’d left messages on the Internet and Post-Its on their doors for Sarah and Thea about that problem. This morning then, Carlos arrived to save the day, as we really wanted to heat water for coffee! Carlos is so helpful (we laughed when he said the switch on the heater is “kaput” but he could get it started anyway). Breakfast was coffee, juice, and yogurt with cereal – just enough! As soon as Sarah and Thea were available, we were ready to go shopping again, this time in downtown Pilar. We took the bus farther than before, left past the big intersection at the seminary. We followed Sarah past a wide variety of stores, bought more bus passes, and found a kitchen store where we bought placemats, knives, baking pans, a whisk… then headed off to find wonderful “health food store” where we bought oatmeal in bulk and corn meal and popcorn! Next was the plastic store – it has everything you could possibly need for your home! We bought a dish drainer, waste basket, hangers, storage containers, pitcher… we are SO set now!

In the center of town is a plaza, a pretty green and shady park, with the main bus stop at one end. With instructions from the girls as to the proper fare for this length of trip (dos pesos), we were ready to ride back to the compound.

Back at our A-frame, Alpina, it was great fun to find places for all our new plastic and kitchen things! Now we can hang up our clothes! (It’s the little things in life…) And we have plans to go out for dinner with our new boss, Dr Christian Sarmiento, and Thea.

We met Thea outside her apartment and we walked to Dr Sarmiento’s house. He was ready, so we got in his car and we rode to a very popular restaurant, Siga la Vaca (Follow the Cow!). I’ll bet you can guess that it’s a beef buffet! The grill room, with 3 asadors (barbecue cooks), is full of meat and smoke and steam and, after choosing your table, you can go the counter of the grill and ask for anything they’re cooking! We chose some meat and ate it, then went back for more – their chicken is great too! We were brought some French fries, then checked out the salad bar! And, after all that, we found out that dessert is included too (*groan*)! I tried the flan and Dan had some almond cake… mmmm! We had talked constantly, getting to know one another, which just confirmed our idea that Christian is a wonderful leader! We’ll see more of him on Monday!

Sunday, 16 October 2011
It’s Mother’s Day in Argentina! We’re attending Iglesia Altos del Pilar today ; Sunday School is at 10:30 and is the only morning service. The Worship service is later in the evening. Meeting Sarah and Thea, we walk outside the compound, cross the road carefully (pedestrians aren’t highly regarded here, even though most people do not have cars) to the bus stop. Two other ladies who are going to the same place join us (they know Sarah, so there’s cheek-kissing all around) and we take the route toward the Seminario. The church is just a half-block off this main road and we’ve arrived 5 minutes early ( very few people are here yet!). Children and teens begin arriving, though, so we entered the large sanctuary for a time of energetic singing led by an enthusiastic woman and a worship team of young girls! We’ll learn the songs soon, as they’re repeated, but for now it’s just fun to watch all the people!

After a while, the teens were encouraged to sit with the younger ones nearer the front of the sanctuary; there’s a time of prayer before everyone is dismissed to their classes.

We were pleasantly surprised to see someone we know!! Christian Ventura is a good friend from international NYI events and he’s here! He works in a local company and it was his wife, Flavia, who was leading worship. She’s a kindergarten teacher and they have a new baby, child #3! It’s so good to know we have more friends here!

More adults also arrived for the adult class led by Pastor Herna'n Massacesi. Visitors are always recognized, so we were introduced and Christian was so helpful in translating the main ideas of the lesson. We’ve noticed that we recognize only a word or two at a time, of course, but (we’re told) we should notice more understanding in a few weeks. Some folks brought their own thermos of hot water, cup, and mate (say “MAH-tay”; we’ll tell you more about that later). Tea was passed out and there was a time of personal sharing. It was neat to see that men and women were comfortable to share their concerns and ask for prayer. We were all asked to pray for the upcoming national elections, to be held next Sunday (so there would be no Sunday School next week), that God’s will would be accomplished.

We also know another couple who live in the compound and also go to church at Altos. German and Patricia work in communications (we met them when they did the same in Costa Rica) and, besides offering us a ride in their car, invited us to have lunch with them! After helping Patricia with the salad while the guys went to pick up some fried chicken, we enjoyed our meal in their home right across the compound from our house. What fun it was to share a meal and conversation with them!

Upon returning home, we caught up with email, and got ready for church service at 6:30! Anticipating a long service, we made sure to have a snack before leaving. The girls have dressed up for church (as did we), so we caught the bus for the evening service. The band was ready, the people began to arrive, and the songs began! It was great to have the words projected on the front wall (just like in the States, except in Espanol), so we recognized some of the words. We did know one of the songs and will certainly learn the rest soon!

Pastor is a very good speaker, personable and enthusiastic. We’d been warned that he would introduce us to everyone at the beginning of the service! Sarah was helpful in writing down for us the main points of his message. At the end of the service and praying, all the mothers were asked to stand, and come forward, lining up in front of the platform. We were each given a long-stemmed rose and, at the end, the entire congregation filed past all of us, kissing right cheeks, and speaking blessings. Naturally, the church was slow to empty but, as most had left and some young men obviously wanted to spend some time with Sarah and Thea, we told them we could navigate the bus ride back home by ourselves.

Arriving home, it was 9:00pm and time for dinner! Even though it was late, I decided to (actually!) cook some rice and fry one of the thin steaks we had purchased at Jumbo. So far, I have 2 borrowed saucepans and 1 small aluminum frying pan but, so far, it’s enough. We ate, caught up with a little more email, and then went to bed, anticipating a full day tomorrow – our first day at work!

Monday Morning Sunrise...

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