Friday, April 12, 2013

Places, Faces, and Friends

It has been a high priority for us, as we transition and settle into our new home, to connect with our colleagues.  We've also been driven to learn our way around this big city and figure out all the small and large details it takes to survive overseas.  It has also been a joy to meet with different local leaders and learn more about the work that is being done in and around Argentina.  We had a recent visit with the Strategy Leader for the Americas and anticipate an upcoming visit with the strategy leader over us in the coming weeks.
Our family was invited to attend a special Resurrection meal at the "Messianic Center" along with some other colleagues.  We had a great time visiting and learning about how the Lord is using the Center to train and reach out to the many Jews who live in B. A. 
You may be wondering...what does it take to learn to learn to live and thrive in a different culture?  That is a great question!  There are many things involved...too many to mention in this post.  But, we'd like to mention just a few (in no special order).  One of the most basic things is related to food!  What's for dinner?  Learning where and what to buy can be a huge obstacle for a new missionary.  Figuring out what things ARE at a grocery store is a learning experience!  The meat cuts are different, all the dairy is pretty much different, fruits and veggies can vary a lot as well!  Then there's diapers, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.  But going back to food...when you live overseas, you usually HAVE to eat what is local (which is a good thing) and you have to learn to cook what is in season (also a good thing).  Here, so far, we've found a wonderful "verdulero" (vegetable vendor) around the corner with whom Eric is having many opportunities to share.  Since our fridge is small, we have to shop very frequently so he gets to see the vegetable guys about every 2 days.  Some of the local, in season, veggies we like are: "acelga" (swiss chard), "tomate" (tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes!), "rugula" (arugula), "zapallito" (small round varieties of zucchini), and "remolacha" (beets).  There are many wonderfully tasty fruits as well - right now, grapes (no seedless varieties here), plums, and pears have been the tastiest since they are in season.  Below is a picture of an "Asado" or an Argentine Grill.  We recently discovered a small grill in our neighborhood which, for a fixed price, serves all the grilled meat you can eat.  Of all the cuts of meat they brought us, plus all the innards (small intestine, thyroid glands, blood sausage, normal sausage, etc), our three youngest kept asking for more of "that meat over there!" pointing to a cut of meat neither Kristi nor I enjoyed growing up: the kidneys!  They kept asking for seconds!
Wonderful Argentine Beef!
So, if you were to go to the supermarket or meat market here, you'd either have to know the name for the approximate cut of meat you are looking for OR you'd have to know WHERE it is on the cow so you could point to that part as the cow meat hangs behind the counter.

OK, this brings us to another important aspect of surviving overseas: learning to drive and get around!  Of course if you don't have a car, you have to learn how to take a taxi, call for a "remise" (private kind of taxi) or catch the bus or subway.  Catching a bus may seem pretty straight forward as long as you know the number bus you're looking for but it really is more complicated than we realized here in Argentina (a LOT has changed since we were last here).  They will not let you pay unless you use coins (did we mention that EVERYONE is low on coins?) or unless you have a bus card.  (Where do you buy the bus card?)  So, unless you encounter a merciful person on the bus to help you out, you are really in for a frustrating experience.  We seem to under-estimate all the details of just 'getting around' when we move overseas.

If you drive, you have to quickly learn all the local laws for driving...the do's and don'ts.  Driving in B.A. is hectic.  Now we understand why our parents really dreaded driving in this big city!  :o)  Almost every time we get into the car, we stop and pray for safety. 

Beautiful Sunset driving back from La Plata before the flood
 A third important thing one has to learn (especially when you have children) is how to get into a routine.  Now this is really tricky!  Most of the world does not rely on a schedule like N. Americans do.  There are so many things you just can't depend on overseas that it makes it hard to do much planning at all!  This can get frustrating!  Of course, adapting to the local way of handling time is important but keeping some sense of normalcy is also just as important.  Figuring out a schedule and how long things take in order to plan accordingly is a daunting task!  Keeping the 'normal' things going like laundry, homeschooling, eating, bed time, etc. is crucial.  Figuring out our roles in the new country can be difficult.  However, having the servant's heart to sometimes go the extra mile is also just as important. 

Olivia and Sofia blessed us by helping with chores when it wasn't even required of them to do so.

We have tried to get back into our homeschool routine as much as possible.  Sometimes, when we've had to do paperwork or similar things, we have the kids take along a special journal in which they write and draw about the new things they are seeing, hearing, and experiencing.  This gives us opportunities to talk about the new things of this culture and process through the changes we are all living through.  Just today, Elias wrote about what he calls the "road registries" (tolls) that everyone has to go through and the pasta truck which he said is not commonly seen in the USA.  Olivia made notes about seeing gypsies, and encountering "intersection vendors" trying to sell tissue and candy bars. 

Homeschool - Scripture Copywork

Another aspect of learning to survive overseas (and thrive) is really easier said than done.  And that is keeping things joyful, lighthearted, all the while maintaining a heavenly perspective on things.  I guess it's kind of like learning to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes, learning to smile even when everything seems to be going wrong learning to be merciful and gracious and learning not to complain!  Staying focused on the Lord in the midst of it all is a priority which often gets set to the side.

Sof'ia likes to be in school as well - she likes her Scripture Tracework
Playing "tea time" together after a meal - having fun together

For us, some of the challenges of surviving and thriving overseas may be quite different than for others.  You may have noticed that we didn't mention language.  But, don't forget that we spent 8 (plus) years trying to learn Arabic!  And now, we find Arabic words coming out when we really are intending to speak Spanish!  (Never thought that would happen!)  We didn't mention "culture" but that is another huge obstacle sometimes.  Another obstacle we didn't mention is related to sharing the gospel of Christ.  Learning the culture, the language, and the strongholds often found in a new culture are important as we try to seek the Lord in reaching these people.  Again, there are many more issues we haven't even touched on.  And for us, returning to a country in which we grew up makes it a totally different experience than it was for us when we went to a Muslim country.  No matter the circumstances, we've found that it is crucial to maintain a learning attitude and a spirit of humility because, in the midst of transitioning to a new culture, God will continue His transforming work in our hearts and lives - often using the difficulties and obstacles of the new country to purify and mold us into His image.  To God be all the glory!

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