Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wrapping up 2011, Welcoming 2012

Happy New Year!! This has been a different week, closing out a very different year!

Fair warning… this one’s long! Out of the office, and on the go, it’s much more fun to describe our outings than talk about wrestling with some equipment, software or spreadsheet in the office…

It’s been some time since we both had time off between Christmas and the New Year! And with offices closed this week, everyone except us and Thea have “flown the coop!” Monday the 26th was the first day of the small job I’ve been asked to do each morning this week – feeding the 2 goldfish in the tank in the CILP building where I work in the afternoons. After doing that, we filled our time relaxing around the house but, since we had been graciously granted permission to use a vehicle, we just had to use it! So we decided to explore Derqui, the town past where we live. It’s small and, I think, a typical Argentine town; nothing too memorable, but at least we’ve seen it!

On Tuesday, December 27, we decided to take a longer drive to see the Basilica of the Virgin of Lujan, less than an hour away. First, though, we spent the morning taking down our borrowed-from-Cindy Christmas tree and stowing the ornaments and the few decorations we’d put on our living room shelves and walls. We had an early lunch, asked Thea to go along, and headed out. This was in a different direction than we’d seen before and a different countryside – horse farms, polo clubs, small towns on the way. Dan checked Google Earth and brought our GPS with the location already entered, so we had no problem finding the church, even with some roadwork going on in Lujan. 
What did happen though, as Dan gathered up his camera, GPS and water bottle, he locked the keys in the truck! Wanting to solve the problem sooner rather than later, Dan poked around the truck to see if there was any other way to get in. To help, I walked a few steps to a nearby restaurant with workers outside by their patio tables. Dan needed a piece of wire so, after I looked up that word in my trusty diccionario, I asked a man for a piece of wire and actually explained that our llaves (keys, say “SHA-vehs” in Argentina!) were inside our vehicle. He went into the restaurant, called La Bendicion (The Blessing!) and came back out in a few minutes with some wire. It wasn’t real heavy wire, but Dan folded it a few times to make something strong enough to shove inside the truck door. But it didn’t work. The man who supplied the wire  suggested that there was a locksmith around the corner! As Thea and I headed in that direction, he said it was 5 blocks around the corner… We started walking and saw nothing for blocks! Almost ready to give up, I ask for a cerrajeria (locksmith shop, a word I was pleased that I already knew) and was told that it was a half-block to the left from the corner! 

It was funny as we tried to explain our problem (especially since I did know the make and model but not the year of the truck) and where the truck was. But the men understood and told us to get into the car across the street with one younger fellow who put his tools in the trunk. They’d already told us it would be 200 pesos (almost $50 US) to help us and I explained that mi esposo tiene los pesos (my husband has the money)! I called Dan by cell phone to make sure he still needed help and to make sure he understood how much it would cost. The fellow had no trouble prying the door a little and popping the lock – success! We thanked him and paid him and got those keys out of the truck! Then we were finally ready to tour the Basilica!

It’s a beautiful old cathedral, large and very ornate. Gorgeous stained-glass windows were all around, high up, but lots of work was going on, with sections sealed off and scaffolding. We took photos and walked around quietly, as quite a few other people were. I think, though, that this was a small crowd, since many people are visiting family for this week and not sight-seeing. Of course, when we were finished, we had to eat at La Bendicion before we went back home! Thea had a meal, while Dan and I had helado (ice cream, a slice of one of the favorites here, Neopolitan). No one can say we don’t have adventures! (and God heard and answered each of our prayers.)

Wednesday, we took it easy in the morning, then decided to explore Tortuga Open Mall, a shopping area toward Buenos Aires, but farther than known bus routes. It is definitely great to “have wheels.” It’s a very nice, upscale mall with an impressive variety of stores – department stores, luggage, computers, children’s wear, kitchen, clothing, sports equipment, movie theaters, food court, and nice restaurants. After a couple of hours of walking around, we decided we’ll have to go back for a movie one day soon!

Thursday, we checked with Thea about her plans for the day. She needed to do some laundry and the washer for the apartments was busy, so we offered to let her use our washer and dryer. Since she’s going back to the States for a few days for a medical consultation and leaving for the airport about 6:00 pm, we invited her to join us for dinner later. In the meantime, we planned to find another shopping area we’d been told about, west of Pilar. It’s really quite close and we found it with no trouble. It’s called Paseo Champagnat and, although it’s smaller than Tortugas, it’s quite new and very nice! It has a medical center and a health club, among other things, on its upper floor. There’s a good variety of stores on the ground level – bookstore, artisanal pasta, appliances, designer shoes, along with the usual upscale clothing stores, pretty classy. Two stores even carry yarn, so I’ll have to get back there someday soon, when I finish the summer sweater I’m working on. One of the “anchor” stores is another Carrefour (and we were going to get groceries on our way back anyway), so I dug out my grocery list and we shopped. I really liked this store, as it seems to be set up more like stores in the States (or maybe I’m just getting used to the stores here!) so we’ll shop here again! We made it back home just in time to heat up some leftovers to enjoy with Thea before her ride to the airport. Now we’re really alone here in the compound!

For our Friday outing, we’d chosen a museum to visit in Buenos Aires (all by ourselves), out of many that look very interesting. We noted the hours, put the address in the GPS, and headed down the PanAmerican Highway, about 50 Kilometers, after lunch. With the trusty GPS, we arrived at the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes and found a parking place on the street, only 2 blocks away and walked through 2 parks to arrive at our destination. We couldn’t get in the first door we tried, so we went around the building and went into an office area. I searched my brain and asked, “Museo es abierto?” (is the museum open) and the gentleman behind the reception desk said, “The museum is closed” – in English! So we found out that all the museums are closed this week between Christmas and New Year’s – nuts!!

Not to worry, we have a GPS! We did (at least Dan did) some more driving in BA city as we admired the European architecture and how large the city is (the metro area is home to 13 million people, thats one-third the entire population of the country of Argentina). Pretty soon, we came upon a 4-story mall called Alto Palermo, with a Starbuck’s!! The coffee and medialunes (croissants) were just what we needed to give us the energy to hit every floor of the mall and not buy anything!

We're really excited about Saturday night. One of my afternoon coworkers, Graciela, and her husband Juan Carlos (who is a pastor and works as a guard here too) have invited us to their home for an asado (meat cook-out) and the midnight fireworks that everyone says will make the Christmas Eve ones look small!!  Graciela doesn't speak a lot of English, but she corrects my attempts at Spanish (which I really do appreciate) and we tease each other all the time!  I'm not sure how we do it, but it’s fun and it's great to have her friendship. (Since we didn't get invited anywhere for Christmas Eve, I was thrilled when she asked if we had plans for the 31st and then declared that we were coming to their house!) They have 3 kids (ages 10-16). Her husband Juan Carlos has a little more English, but we will try to use as much Spanish as possible. The learning curve has been steep and difficult but, compared to a few weeks ago, I’ve gained lots in understanding and speaking!

Saturday morning, we drove to the little markets we usually walk to and bought large bottles of gaseosos (soda) to contribute to the dinner, then went to Jumbo to get a few more things. It may not have been the smartest timing (everyone else was getting groceries for their NYE dinners too), but it didn’t take too long before we were home having lunch. I baked some avena-chocolate galletinas (oatmeal chocolate chip cookies) to take too! We relaxed, showered and changed, and waited for 8:30 to arrive so we could go visit Juan Carlos and Graciela! They live less than a mile away and Juan Carlos had drawn a map for us! After greeting them and their children, we were taken to the back yard to watch Juan be the asador. He’s actually from Peru, while Graciela is from BA, and I think he enjoys Argentine food and customs even more than she does! The meat was delicious, along with a potato-carrot-pea salad and an atun rollando (tuna salad rolled in pastry sheet). 
When the dishes were cleared, a game of dominoes was perfect – just numbers and colors to match! Their 2 sons were much more interested in PlayStation, so off they went, leaving the 4 adults and 10-year-old Antonela to play. We played 2 games and soon it was midnight!! The noisy fireworks started in their barrio (neighborhood); that was the cue for a New Year’s kiss, then we headed outside to watch what the neighbors were doing and set some off too! An hour or so later, we landed back in the kitchen to talk. My brain wore out about 2 a.m., trying to cope with 2 languages and we got home around 2:30. What a great evening of Christian fellowship!

Sunday, 1 January 2012, the first day of the new year, the weather was beautiful, so we walked around the compound (6 times around gets us just over a mile) after a breakfast of pancakes. We didn’t want more than a salad for lunch, after that big meal the previous night! We had planned ahead to talk with our children by computer using Google-Plus so we could all video call together.  With 5 locations, 2 East coast, 2 mid-west and Argentina, it worked well and was quite an experience! 
Then it was time for church.  The service took on a different tone as the first of the new year. We were lead by song and scripture to Remember what God has done, Look forward to the new year under His leading and be ready to Do what He leads us into.  It was beautiful as the spontaneous testimonies of remembering didn't seem to want to end as more and more people were reminded of what they wanted to thank God for.
It has been a different year, but with God's loving guidance the differences are opportunities for blessings and growth.  We praise HIM for all He has done and look forward to all the new year will bring!

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