Friday, November 4, 2011

Settling in... our first 3 weeks

SAM Region Logo
Our current tasks... here is a brief description of our assignments here followed by some of the details of our first 3 weeks as we are settling in.
Dan: I am being kept busy with a variety of projects that are using my IT background and related skills.  The details aren't important but I am enjoying the diversity of work from sorting through equipment to detailing out of some hand drawn building plans in preparation for some office moves next year, to cleaning up and revising a web site.  Of course this all has to begin with learning about whats here, who to work with and how things are done as well as finding and learning or relearning hardware and software tools to make the job easier.  Call me crazy but God knows this is the sort of stuff I enjoy and He does promise to give us the desires of our heart...

Gate House sign
Janet: I have 2 job locations and numerous assignments!  In the mornings, I work under the head of Finances for the South America Regional Office. There have been staff reductions, due to economic situations in the church here as well as all over the world, so the people here are really stretched and overloaded. So far, I’m helping with balancing accounts and reviewing regional income and expense records for accountability and accuracy.  I’ve also seen the reports of the offerings of the people of the Nazarene Districts of South America. We don’t stop to think about it, but – just like us in the States – they give to special offerings like Alabaster and World Evangelism Fund and they support their seminary in Quito, Ecuador, as well as their LINKS missionaries!
Luana - 10 Months old
The head of Finance is a beautiful and bright woman named Liliana. She’s completely dedicated to her job, her church and her family. She leads devotions for the staff each morning. Upstairs from Liliana’s office, I share an office with Mirna, who lives in this compound too with her husband and their 10-month-old baby girl, Luana. Luana comes to work often and has her own little corner with playpen and toys. It’s not uncommon for the youngest missionary children to spend time in the offices of their parents!
ICL offices
In the afternoons, I work with Carlos and Noemi, a couple who have spent their lives in pastoral service! They are currently heading the International Center for Leadership, one of the larger buildings here, and have an incredible list of responsibilities!  They handle all the South America publications (from printing to shipping all over the continent).  They lead the staffing for all the building and property maintenance for the compound.  And they direct all aspects of holding conferences, receptions, and other events here (almost every weekend!) – planning, housing, food, clean-up.  Those are just the big categories!  They’ve asked me to help with record-keeping for all the buildings and vehicles and document income and expenses for the lodge and other buildings that are maintained and rented out. I’ll be arranging the shipping of Nazarene publications to other countries.  I’ll handle timecards and payroll for the gatehouse guards, and create calendars for organizing the schedules of the drivers – all in a combination of Spanish and English!  Noemi has asked Dan and me to update their website ( so that it will be more appealing to church groups looking for a retreat location. I’m even going to take some new photos to add to it.
Saturday 22 October 2011
Thea, Sarah, Cindy & Janet
We sure had fun today! Cindy Downey, missionary and Dean of Students at the Semario Nazareno, took us (and Sarah and Thea) to Tigre today – field trip!! Tigre (say TEE-gray, with a rolled r, of course) is a town about 45 minutes from Pilar, on a river off the bay that is inland from Buenos Aires. It’s a hub of commerce and shopping and dining, quite a destination for some fun! We got there a little early for the usual Argentine lunch time but, since we were hungry, we were some of the first guests in an open-air restaurant. Cindy and Sarah have been here before; we ordered our Cokes and steak sandwiches (beef is a staple here; I read that Argentines eat an average of 139 pound of beef each year – wow!). We shared the large portion of French fries too; it’s a good thing we were going to spend the afternoon walking and shopping!
Tigre market street (one of many)
It would have been hard to imagine the diversity of shops, even if someone had told us before we got there! An incredible variety of goods is offered, from lamps and furniture, children’s toys and home goods (one place reminded me of Crate and Barrel), to clothing and wooden objects, mugs and mate (MAH-tay, their national herb tea), fruit and garden plants. Mid-afternoon, we just had to try a treat – a pastry with dulce de leche (“DOOL-say day LAY-chay” = caramelized milk) filling, dipped in chocolate… oh, my goodness!
And, late afternoon, we really needed to sit a while and drink a café con leche (with milk)… What a fun day! It was a real treat to have an indulgent day, just enjoying this unique place!

Monday 24 October 2011
This evening, after we arrived home from work, we walked the ¼-mile down the road to the closest tiendas, the small local stores. La Esperanza has a produce section and a meat department. And there’s no self-service here; you ask for exactly how many apples or carrots or ears of corn that you want.  You just don’t walk into the small produce department – the produce guy gets them for you.  (This is great practice, as we have to use Spanish food words and Spanish numbers!)  These items are bagged up and weighed and you are handed a small slip of paper with the total bill written on it. You take your produce to the meat department and ask there for pork chops or chicken breasts or steak or ground beef (a kilo, or half kilo) and they weigh and bag those too!  The lady at the register has been smiling as she listened to me struggle with the Spanish.  She added the numbers together, on paper – then puts in the total. We pay in cash, say Gracias(thanks) and Ciao(good-by), and walk back home!

Tuesday 25 October 2011
Carlos has graciously offered to take us to a different grocery story this evening. He says that this place has better prices than Jumbo and, on Tuesdays, there is an additional 15% discount.  Did I say that the Jumbo grocery store was like a Super Wal-Mart? It‘s not quite as big as this Carrefour store! This store even sells appliances, clothing, home goods… that’s before you ever get to the cleaning supplies, personal sundries, and a huge variety of groceries!  Feels a lot more like shopping at home, even though we’re reading Spanish names of things! The spices were a challenge, not something I had even tried to look up. I’ll go next time with a translated list!

Friday 28 October 2011
Weekdays have settled into somewhat of a routine and there is certainly some comfort in that, given that we’re away from home, in a different culture, with different work, different language, different shopping and cooking, different church services… Routine gives some, well, routine to the vast array of different things in our lives these days.
We get up and shower, fix breakfast and clean up the little kitchen. We walk to work and begin the day in the lobby of our office building with staff devotions.  Liliana’s compassionate voice reads from scripture, then from the book of petitions – prayers that have been asked from the staff for their friends and family.  As she reads each one, people respond as to the status of each need; as prayers are answered, she crosses them off and says, “Gracias a Dios” (Thanks to God). It’s a great way to start the morning, although we don’t have the language skills to understand all the requests.  After someone closes that time in prayer, we greet one another with Argentine cheek-kisses and go to our offices to begin our work.  We work with some pretty special people, all dedicated to their work and their families and friends, and to God.
At 12:30 or so, we walk home for an hour of lunch preparation, eating, and cleaning up. Then it’s back to work until 5:00.
As our confidence grows and our business skills are used, we are depended upon for a little more. It’s gratifying to be accepted and counted on.  And it’s very special to be able to have these experiences with my best friend!
Saturday 29 October 2011
Parts of this past weekend were so fun!  And parts were just kinda hard! 
Friday evening, we decided to invite our 3 lady missionary friends over, make popcorn, and listen to the World Series game on ESPN Radio online. The invitation got reversed, however, and we took our popcorn over to the seminary, to Cindy Downey’s apartment and got to actually see the Cardinals win on Direct TV!  That was the terrific, fun part!
Saturday, Dan spent the morning re-learning some video editing software to polish up the recording we made Friday morning to send to our church for our first Sunday morning update!  I had made pancakes for breakfast and caught up with emails and current Facebook news, but needed to get up and move around after a while! So we decided to walk around the compound; it probably takes 4 or 5 times around to make a mile! But, on the first round, we noticed that our friends German and Patricia were moving from house #5 to house #1, so we offered to help for a while.  They speak some English, so we tried to practice Spanish too.  We learned some new words (piso is floor and techo is ceiling) and enjoyed their company until they needed to take a break for lunch! We also needed to have lunch and finish that video, so we excused ourselves and did just that. Later, we walked some more laps around the compound!

Sunday  30 October 2011
Bus stop just outside the gate.
Sunday church services were hard to handle this week. After catching the public bus to attend the church that is near the Seminary compound, we spent 2 hours in the morning, listening to things we couldn’t understand because they were explaining a community event that was planned in a couple of weeks.  Intellectually, we totally understand that we can’t pick up a new language in just 2 weeks. But, emotionally, it’s difficult to be so limited in our understanding.  These are such nice people that we want to get to know! And Sunday evening was two more hours of the same as they were promoting the community project and asking for volunteers to help.
After we got home, the thing that saved Sunday night was an email from our friend Edna – a note full of news and love and missing us.  It was just what I needed!  It sure is great to have friends!

What's our home like here?
Another friend from South County church wrote me an email this week and asked if our house is modern. Well, I guess, not really, not compared to what we’re used to!  We're really enjoying this house but I guess most would feel like it's more like a cabin in the States. The floors are all tile (as are most floors we've encountered outside the US) except there's an unexpected, low-pile, green carpet upstairs in the bedrooms. The walls, since it's an A-frame, are slanted (except for the first 4 feet) and covered in pine planks. And, since the outer walls are slanted, there are lots of odd storage shelves all over the place. That in itself is great, though, as there’s a place to put everything. There's a whole wall of shelf storage in the living room!  In the front bedroom, we have a built-in wardrobe for our hanging clothes and a dresser and a double bed.  In the back bedroom, there's a closet with shelves, then more shelves other places, and plenty of room for 2 single beds!  So we can have visitors!

In the living/dining room/office, there’s a loveseat, 2 comfy chairs, a desk with chair, and a table with 4 chairs.  This gives us plenty of room to read, work on computers, eat, and knit. We have our Wii connected to a borrowed TV but really haven't had any time to use it yet.  We aren't willing to pay for DirecTV here, so it's pretty quiet! We sometimes listen to JoyFM online in the mornings and at supper have started listening to MSNBC online to keep up with the new in the states and world
Our little bathroom is all tiled, includes a shower (in the slanty part), toilet, sink, mirror and a couple of shelves - totally adequate!  Dan did install a small mirror in the laundry room for me for make-up.  The laundry room includes a window and the back door with a big window, so there's lots of morning sunlight for that job!

The kitchen is definitely interesting!  There’s a small double-sink in the a gorgeous black-and-white granite counter top, but it's quite small. We borrowed a microwave from another house (no one's living there now) and a computer desk (from the same house) to put it on and for more kitchen work space.  The bottled-water-guy comes around every Thursday afternoon so we can buy water for the dispenser on our counter. [Don't drink the water!] :)
We were provided with towels, blankets, pillows, sheets, plates, cups, glasses, basic cutlery, 3 pans, and a few cooking utensils.
The stove is gas and we have to turn a handle on the wall, then push in the correct burner knob, then light that burner with a match.  That probably wasn't unusual a few years (decades?) ago in the U.S., but I've never needed to operate a stove that way!  I'm a pro now, though, but I'll leave the oven-lighting to Dan.  He lit it for me last night so I could make banana bread - my favorite version, to use up a couple of softer bananas.  (I had Erica scan that cookbook page and email it to me!!)  Without my Kitchen-Aid mixer, I had to stir it all by hand!  And, I only have one baking dish that we bought the first weekend we were here, so the banana bread turned out to be an 8x8 cake instead!  Since the oven doesn't have any measurable controls, there's no way to tell what the temperature is!  But I kept checking on it and it turned out fine - yummy!  We took some to Thea (the young missionary who got here 2 weeks before us) at lunch time today, and then shared some with my smaller bunch of work-mates this afternoon.  They all enjoyed it and a co-worker named Graciela asked for the recipe - en español, por favor!  Thankfully, it's easy to find a translator tool on the Internet, so I was able to find Spanish words for all the terms I didn't know!

This toaster is much cheaper than electric.
Oh, and rather than describe our toaster, I'll take a photo tomorrow and have Dan post it here!  Maybe you've seen one like it, but I never had!

I'm REALLY grateful that I brought my favorite wooden spoon, a whisk, 3 hotpads, 2 dishtowels, silicone spatula, peanut butter, steak seasoning, some Tupperware containers, and a few Ziplocs. Zipper bags are few-and-far-between and expensive.  I think that people here, like in many other countries, simply cook what they need when they need it and don't have so many leftovers.  (Now, as for me, I love to have leftovers to create something new out of again!)  We brought a French-press for morning coffee, so we didn’t have to buy a coffee-maker.  It works great!

 We walked to the little tiendas (markets) after work tonight and bought some more produce and juice and homemade bread. Even if things aren't terribly modern here, it's really fun to enjoy the differences in the culture!

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