Leaving Uncertainty

I cried quiet peaceful tears when we pulled out of the bus station, We were blessed with 9 incredible months and many sweet relationships in that time.We made it home to the States exhausted, yet with renewed excitement for things ahead. We turned our backs to the Springfield, MO airport and moved one step further away from Argentina on the midwest roads winding through blankets of snow. It was immediately apparent the hot sunny dessert of San Juan was behind us.

I have left a lot a things behind in my life time. I have left some by choice, and others by force. For the past month and a half I chose to leave a stable place to call home, makeup, and so many other pressures of society behind as Taylor and I ventured into Argentine Patagonia.

It’s been a simple beautiful time of life.

We explored. We hiked our hearts out. We fell deeper in love. We praised God for leaving us speechless and for letting our eyes see the most beautiful places we have ever known. We reflected on a year of both challenging and gratifying experiences.

Our trip to Patagonia was eye-opening, life-changing, and restoring.

I have more stories from the past month than my lips can speak and I smile because I know I can boast in  no one but the Lord for everyone of our encounters or challenges. No matter how difficult the situation or how perfectly serendipitous the moment, my lips could not stop singing of His goodness.

We are home now and I feel like a yellow legal pad overflowing with things to do and responsibilities to reassume is pressing on my chest.  But, my lips are still singing of the goodness of the Lord.

We found a place to live in memphis. We have been so lovingly embraced by friends and family, and I am  being constantly reminded to still keep my eyes on the beauty around me in the midst of the stress (and today- a very nasty stomach-bug).

God has not left me. His peaceful loving consistency is with me even when I know nothing of what lies ahead. We aren’t sure what life will look like after we unpack our things in memphis in two weeks. We aren’t sure of most things. It is these uncertain moments of life that we humans toss and turn like the waves. After swallowing lots of salty water and fighting uncertainty I am almost always found in the arms of my dear husband and it is often there that I realize that I   have a God who loves more perfectly and powerfully than I could ever imagine. I don’t need to know anything more.1477497_10201188489216614_2050117676_n

Taylor, Thank you for sharing life with me. This song couldn’t say it better.

“To love another person is to see the face of God” Victor Hugo

Shawna

The Roller Coaster Series 5: A Home/ Bunker

A Home/ Bunker

Numbers:

21.) 2b

5.) Siesta…

28.) Zoom Zoom Zonda

2b

To have a place to retreat to whenever you are overwhelmed is something that you should never take for granted. We all need places to go and just be quiet. Our apartment has been that safe zone for me in San Juan. It has also been too quiet at times and held me in like a cage keeping me from the people around me. (The fact that our apartment has bars on the windows and storm shutters for the powerful winds enhances its cage-like qualities dramatically)

Our apartment is the biggest space we have lived in as a couple. We didn’t see it before we moved-in and were surprised at all of the space inside of our 3-bedroom place. It is furnished with the bare bones. Several chairs, a wine barrel, a table, a TV, beds, plates cups, and cutlery. (Oddly no bowls, but thankfully we brought our camping bowls!) We have had several things lent to us and I bought one or two necessities (ie. a cork-screw!), but overall things are very simple in our ample space.

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Learning to simplify has been a rewarding and sometimes challenging lesson for Taylor and I. We don’t have a can opener, so we buy dry materials and soak our beans overnight. We don’t have a washing machine, so we wash our clothes by hand and  praise God that we live in a dry desert that dries our clothes on the line quickly. We don’t have a dishwasher, so we talk while one of us cooks and the other washes the dishes. We don’t have a colander, so sometimes pasta gets all over the floor and we laugh and want to cry at the same time. We don’t have a veggie peeler, so I have gained awesome knife skills. The list goes on and on. The truth is, our place is simple, not overly simple, but it is simple in a way that is teaching me a lot.

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Before we moved to Argentina I had begun to feel so comfortable in our little apartment in Fayetteville. I had so many things and was pretty focused on filling our little home and making it just like I wanted. From an espresso machine to chopsticks, I had whatever little thing I may want to entertain guests and make things comfortable.

One time here in Argentina we had people over for a holiday lunch. I was worried before they came that I had no tablecloth, a much more commonly used item here in Argentina. I got really worried once I realized that no one had brought along bowls like I had suggested. This meant I had to ask them if they were okay to share a plastic camping bowl with another person to eat their locro (soup). I had no big spoon to spoon the soup out with, so I used a coffee mug to serve it into our pathetic orange and blue plastic bowls. I offered coffee after the meal, but with only two coffee mugs (one still dirty form being used as a serving tool), I was glad only two people accepted my offer!

We have had our moments of laugher in experiences like this, but overall this big open space that fosters resourcefulness also provides me quiet to think and to be still whenever I am frustrated with the world outside its walls.

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Siesta…

There is no time I am more thankful for our home than during siesta. From about 1:30 until 5:00 pm San Juan shuts down. Close your eyes and envision a ghost town with a twirling tumbleweed, and you have San Juan during siesta. The streets are empty and the shops are closed. The closed stores, and the incredible heat (100-114 degrees F in the summer) force you to spend that time in your home. Thankfully we won’t be here for summer!

Some days we go to the park and run or we hit up one of the bigger grocery stores that are open during this sleepy time (There are always smaller lines during siesta, and the lines here can take a long time to get through.). We feel like we rule the town as we walk with our grocery bags for blocks and blocks on our return home.

Other days we actually sleep the siesta. Before moving here I was embarrassed when I took a nap or felt like I was wasting time when I napped. Here, due to the way things are scheduled (Work at 8:00 or 9:00 am until 12:00-1:00 pm/ 2:00-5:30 lunch and siesta/ work from 5:30-9/ dinner anywhere from 9:30 – 1:00 am) a nap just becomes a normal part of your sleep schedule. The hot temperatures during the day, as well as increased atmospheric pressure due to the dirt that sucks the oxygen out of the air also make you unnaturally tired. I have come to like the siesta time, and although it is frustrating to have to wait to get things done until the evening, the pause has taught me to just take it slow. Going back to the quick pace of the US is going to be a shock for sure.

Lately during siesta we have converted 2b into our own gym. We have water bottles that are now weights, and we watch free online fitness videos whenever the internet actually works. Our siesta work out plan was in hopes of getting accustomed to not sleeping at all during the siesta in preparation for our return to the states. So far the working out has been very successful, unfortunately the napping has been successful too.

Zoom Zoom Zonda

Every window in the house clashes and rumbles. The storm shutters are shut on our barred windows in 2b, yet I see dirt flying into our home. The dusty fine earth coats my nose, my mouth, and my lungs. I let out a cough as it steals the oxygen from the air that I so desperately need to breathe. My head aches and my mouth opens to yawn.

The Zonda wind is nothing short of horrible. I have written about this wind before, and it may seem as though I am exaggerating, but it is unreal to experience. Zonda, not to be confused with the nearby town named Zonda, is a wind that comes off of the pacific and rolls over the Andes into the towns of the pre-cordillera like a hot blow dryer on your face.

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(that was the real dust cloud that blew through our town during our first Zonda)

During Zonda the doors clash and bang in the apartment even when they are shut. You are forced to stay in the house because the dirt flying outside attacks you and your eyes burn as the dust hits them. During stronger Zondas trees are knocked down, windows are broken (specifically our window) , debris is strewn about and schools are closed. We heard about Zonda our first week in San Juan and anxiously waited for it to make an appearance. We actually got excited the first time it came. During the first Zonda, we were so curious to see what it was like that we went out in the elements out to get food. This horrible idea resulted in a nasty case of bronchitis in the days following the wind. I stay inside now.

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There is also south wind, which is cold, but also kicks up the dust in the air. There is simply a lot of wind in this town. It comes at you from all directions and it is sure to carry dust with it every time. You can sweep twice a day and still have a dust layer on the floor!

I have learned to cope with the wind, but I am so thankful for our apartment that keeps us safe from the elements. I praise the Lord to have our little bunker and am more aware than ever as to what a blessing it is to have a comfortable place to lay your head. So I encourage you to give thanks for the roof over your head today. What a blessing it is!

The Roller Coaster Series 4: The Edge

The Edge

9. The Dog on Sarmiento 

14. Queres un Cafe? Una Medialuna? Una Factura?

15. Pre-cordillera

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If you are anything like me, life often times gets best of you. In these times you feel worn out, you feel like you have no idea why you are where you are, you feel under appreciated, over-exhausted, and simply frustrated. Some days I feel like a wiry haired faded-face monster from Where the Wild Things Are. I just want to make a big dog pile of friends, fight my frustrations out, and fall asleep.

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While I hate these moments, and am often uncomfortable confronting the frustrations that arise around me, they remind that many of the most wonderful lessons are those that arise from knowing when to accept and when to confront  our monster days.

The local street dogs teach me this everyday. Taylor and I look for them in their specific hang outs and call them by name. There is One-Eyed Joe, the one-eyed watch dog, Dread, our dreadlocked rasta-friend, Cheech +Chong, the stoned dogs on España street, Stretch, one confused combo of a mutt, Sleepy Gonzalez, who has been MIA for 3 months, Gimpy, our friend with a broken ankle, and Tanin, the all tan dog that we later discovered is really named Batodo and belongs to Taylor’s Cuban Employer. They are filthy,pathetic, and down on their luck, yet they always bring a smile to my face. They are content with being wild things.

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( Meet One-eye, Stretch, and Dread)

Then there is the dog on Sarmiento Street. This dog lives on a patio of a second story apartment. We first met him one night as we were headed home from a movie. It was nearly 1am on a weeknight, and the streets of our sleepy neighborhood were completely abandoned. We turned the corner to the instant threatening barking and shiny gnashing teeth of the evil one  that was descending on us from above. In that moment my heart stopped and I prepared to assess my injuries from my very first dog mauling. I looked up and realized I was fine, but our new pal on Sarmiento was doing everything he could to bite my head off as he poked his head through the rungs of the balcony. Talk about a monster.

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(He  looks far less threatening during the day)

I still jump in shock every time I pass this dog. However, there  is a worse nuisance, an unnecessary monster, I pass every day on the street: piropos.  Piropos, cat calls, are more annoying to me than any man-eating dog. From the kissy noises and whispers to car horns, the cat calls here are incessant. (To be clear: I am aware that not all men in Argentina do this , and I have met many kind and respectful men!)

I know that you may be thinking, “It’s no big deal. Get over it. “. You may be right, but they have began to bother me so much that I change my path when walking down the street. To clarify any thoughts you may be having about my vanity levels,  just about any walking creature with longer hair and hips is confronted by these ridiculous comments. I know they don’t really mean much, and they don’t scare me, but I would much rather walk quietly down the street. I never acknowledge the men, because I know that then I would be acting like the dog that they are treating me like. And as tempting as it is, I have yet to respond with foul words, or a certain finger because I like to think of myself as a classy lady. But to be honest, in the words of King Curtis, ” I am coming to the edge!

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(Click on the picture to watch King Curtis)

Even though I am more frustrated than King Curtis when he got his bacon taken away, I am learning its okay to be a wild thing sometimes and that I must confront the world’s monsters with grace and patience abounding.

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While piropos are something I will gladly leave behind, the coffee shop chat will be much harder to part with. Talking with someone is much better than being talked at, especially on a down-trodden day!  The cat calling population is small here, but the majority of the population enjoys a good conversation over a coffee. Coffee shop talk is common in many countries and cultures, but there is something distinct about Argentine coffee shop time that I really like. When you buy a coffee, in a tiny little espresso cup, you normally get a small orange juice and a carbonated water. You may also get some delicious media lunas. These half-moons (croissants), or facturas (pastries) are so tasty and make any coffee combo better. One place in San Juan even gives you cookies and popcorn with your coffee! It makes you feel quite distinguished to have so many little cups and plates in front of you.  Unlike in the US, when you finish your treats, you can can sit talking with your friends as long as you would like with out feeling pressured to leave.

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People here are quick to invite you to coffee or to offer you a little after dinner nescafe. Although I’m not fond of the taste of nescafe, the sharing and conversation make it taste a little bit better. Most importantly, there is nothing like a deep conversation over a coffee to assure you that everyone has their own monsters and monster moments. You are not all alone.

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The first day we came to San Juan we sat outside in someone’s lawn and ate facturas. While i enjoyed the conversation and flaky pastry, what impressed me the most was the view. San Juan is at the foot of the Andes, and nestled by what is called the Pre-cordillera (the mountains that sit in front of the Andes) . I have never lived so close to mountains, let alone, some of the most majestic mountains in the world. Every day I can look out the window of our third story  apartment and stare at the mountains. In fact, I can see a mountain out of every window in our apartment. Mountains are humbling. They are calming and impressive. We have been able to climb them, to pass through them on a winding road into chile, and to trek along their rocky peaks.

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In the past seven months I have soaked up the mountains. They have brought me back when my mind has started to wonder and think negative thoughts. They have also allowed me to get lost in my thoughts while quietly walking them. I am so thankful to have had them be such a great part of our time here in Argentina.

Some days I walk past street dogs, and men who act like dogs to get a cup of coffee with a friend. We sit in this mountain town and talk about life and language and cultures. We share. I stare at the mountains and am comforted to know that even though I am often times I am a mess learning to walk in this world, that dogs, people, and even the majestic mountains are all a little rough around the edges. It’s my choice to see the beauty in them.

The Roller Coaster Series 3: The Job

The Job

Numbers:

3.) Are You Really a Teacher?

26.) Three Day Work Week

22.) Fulbright Town

Suggested Listening: Cat Power, “The Greatest”

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Have you ever interviewed for a job that you really wanted?

Most of us have.

We hope, pray, and wait to hear  if we are what “they” want. If we are lucky enough to be what “they” want, then we go through the orientation process and we start the job with much anticipation and excitement. Much to my surprise, after a year of waiting, I found out that I was what “they” wanted here in Argentina. Little did I know, two years after I applied for the job, and six months into the actual work I’d still be figuring out what my job is.

I am an English Language Teaching Assistant and the National University of San Juan. I attend some of the classes, given by extremely talented and wonderful professors, and answer questions when they come up. I give conversation workshops  every week and presentations a couple of times a month (the presentations have been some of the most rewarding parts of the job!). I also teach conversation classes at another institute. I teach adults and 18-20 somethings (Starting to teach this age group meant that within the year of 2012-2013 I taught individuals from ages 2 to 50 !).

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(After our Presentation of the similarities and  differences in
the history of Argentina and the USA with Dr. Edgardo Mendoza)

The first months were hard. I was dropped in an English classroom by myself without books, or resources. I had to be creative and direct every part of my talents as an art teacher to paint myself as an English teacher. It was a challenge and many people gossiped or told me directly, “But you aren’t even an English teacher!”.  This was hard for me. I was chosen to be here and being a English teacher was not one of the requirements. I wanted to be the greatest ETA , but I had no hope with an automatic lack of respect.

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Although this frustrated me at times, I obviously knew that I was not an English teacher. (It’s incredible how much you realize how little you know about your own language once you have to try and explain it!)

I have tried my best with the training I have and, even if I am not a true English Teacher,  I know that the reason I am here is largely to be , as cheesy as it sounds, a cultural ambassador. My job inside and outside of the classroom is to provide a new perspective on situations, and more importantly, to learn the perspectives of others.  I have had a lot of fun showing people that your typical assumptions of US culture are not laws of nature, but simply stereotypes.

We don’t all eat McDonalds. We aren’t all fat. ( A girl once said to me, “But your skinny? How can you be skinny?” As if my country of origin destined me to be large. ) We don’t really eat bacon and 2 fried eggs with toast for breakfast everyday. I don’t live in a mansion. I don’t know celebrities. I am not some raging nationalist patriot.

My students teach me about Argentina too. They teach me about all the ways you can pronounce the “r” in San Juan Spanish. They reveal stereotypes about their culture and eagerly discuss them in detail with me. I have learned about food, fashion, conversation, and family. These conversations are the best part of my job.

With time my goal changed from being the greatest ETA ever,to simply being focused on letting students know that I am not just some weird girl from the USA who sits in class, I’m a real person. I’m a real person who is here to learn and to teach along the way; and If you have ever taught before, you know that you are destined to learn insurmountably more than you teach.

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I posted a title called “Three Day Work Week”. What do I mean by that? I mean that this semester I  only go to classes three days a week. Some of my days start at 8 am and end at 9:30 pm (with siesta in-between), but overall I have a fairly relaxed workload.

I spend a  lot of time planning the other days or use them to take long weekend trips. Taylor and I have also taken on some extra projects that busy our days. Overall, I really appreciate the relaxed schedule and opportunities I have had to travel , but I have come to realize that I am a person who thrives on productivity and business. I have been forced to assess a lot about myself in the slower moments. I have had to learn how to schedule my personal time, to motivate myself to work on self-inspired projects, and to simply be okay with sleeping-in!

I have learned so much from this experience, and one of the most valuable things that I have learned is that I do not always have to be so hard on myself. I don’t have to be the GREATEST. I do not always have to be busy. I can rest. The world won’t end, and I was utterly selfish to think that I need to be going all the time in order to keep the world spinning. Many of you may also define your identity by your schedule, your job, your productivity. I encourage you to take a step back and assess what it is that you are allowing yourself to be defined by. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but trust me, its worth it.

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One of the best parts of learning this job is the fact that other people are learning it with me. There are fourteen other grantee’s that are English Teaching Assistants in other provinces of Argentina. The other grantees are not just regular people. They are amazing people full of talent, personality, creativity, and intelligence. When l first met everyone in Buenos Aires, I quickly fell into great conversation with everyone in the group. It was so interesting to  hear about their backgrounds and areas of study. We talked for hours and I found myself really wanting to learn more about each and every person. To top it off, everyone is kind, helpful,and appreciative.

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We do not get to see each other often, but In June we had an enhancement retreat, alongside the amazing fulbrighters from Uruguay, in Montevideo. It was genuinely one of my favorite weeks of my time here. I stocked up on lesson plans for this semester, and I spent a week in uplifting conversation and company.  We laughed and we were wined and dined Uruguay style. We ended our celebrations with a roof top talent show that had me sore from laughter. I have made some great friendships and am so thankful to be sharing this experience with such an incredible group of people.

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Overall, I think I have a pretty incredible job. I have learned so much about myself and others through this experience. I have also learned that more than any project, research, or assignment, the most important part of the job will always be the people. 

Shawna

The Roller Coaster Series 2: The Sweetness of Marriage

The Sweetness of Marriage

Numbers:

1.) “Married? Did You Say MARRIED?”

7.) God, Taylor, Me, and Tim Keller

24.) A Little Thing Called Dulce de Leche

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“Is this your friend? Brother?”

“This is my husband.”

“Your WHAT?! ¡ Sos tan joven! (You are so young!) ….Do you have kids? ”

“No.”

“Oh…”

I have had this conversation almost everyday in Argentina and I am almost always met with the same response: disbelief. Many people even demand to know, “But,WHY?”

From the moment I got to the grant office I was pegged as the “married girl” by the staff. They forgot to help make any arrangements for Taylor’s stay in BsAs, or his travel to San Juan, but they sure did not let me forget I was married.

To be fair, not everyone that we have met has treated us with shock and harsh questioning. Some people have been very kind and supportive. Their calm response to our marriage could not be more welcomed! Despite the kindness of some, Taylor and I have still encountered obstacles in the way people interact with us due to our marriage.

Men play soccer with men here. No invitation to even go and watch is extended to me. Co-ed activities are much less common, and many young people just don’t know how to react to the fact that we are married. Gender roles are a bit more traditional as well. This is difficult due to the fact that Taylor and I have really tried to break the gender-role stereotypes within our marriage.  Sometimes it is really frustrating to have to assimilate to cultural expectations of the married couple. Due to our identity as “the married couple” , I believe we sometimes get fewer invites to things and we surely speak/have learned much less spanish than we would if we were here as singles.

However, the truth is that being married to Taylor and being with him here is the one of my favorite parts of this experience. We get to spend more time with each other than we have in our entire marriage. We get to travel together. We go through culture shock together and be humbled together. We are a team. I would be so devastated to be here without him.

Additionally, we have come to a place where we take joy in and laugh at the tone of impending doom that people take whenever they question us about our marriage. We always respond that, “Yes, we are young, but we have so much happiness!”. It has been nice to show people that marriage is not so horrible, and in fact a God-centered marriage is one of the most fulfilling joyful adventures you could ever partake in .

Did you know that in spanish, the word for handcuffs is esposas? Another meaning of the word esposas: wives. If only we could change the mindset that marriage holds us back. Marriage should be ,and I joyfully contest that it can be, the opposite of that.

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Valparaiso,Chile  2013 and 2009.

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Viña Del Mar, Chile 2013 and 2009

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One of the places that Taylor and I always felt comfortable and could easily hang out in a co-ed environment was church. Finding a church here is something that, although I hate to say it, we gave up on.

Extremes would be the best word to describe the churches we visited. Nothing felt comfortable or right for us.

One Sunday we went to the Methodist church at 10:15. The front door said that service started at 10:00, but the doors were locked and no one was there. The south winds were blowing and we were cold and about to give up whenever a little old lady opened the door. I asked if there was church and she told me, “sure, we will have church for you two. Go sit by the heater and stay warm.” The pastor never came, but five other older people did. We sang a cappella hymns and a lady in the congregation gave the sermon. We drank port for communion and prayed for the community in our small white building with tiny stained glass windows. It was quaint and nice. At the end of the service some women approached me to sing some hymns in english to me. They also thought Taylor and I were just the most charming couple, which as you know is always a welcome compliment! It was nice and a very peaceful service, but it wasn’t a home for us.

Our other choice in church services are extremely charismatic or mass (we still plan to attend a mass before we leave).

So what does our lack of church mean? We have started to spend our Sunday mornings making breakfast and having our own church. Who gives the sermon? Without fail we turn to Tim Keller’s online sermons. Every time I am encouraged and challenged by the message he gives. Thank God for the beauty of technology in the sometimes isolated life abroad! I am aware that Tim Keller and scripture from a computer microphone will never replace the relationships with other believers that I long to have here, but I also know that seasons of community will always beautifully  ebb and flow throughout life.

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Dulce normally attends our Tim Keller services with us.

Dulce is not a friend, not a dog, not a cat, but a sweet delicious spread. Dulce de leche is a carmel-like sweetened condensed milk that Argentines (and all who come to know it) go gah-gah over. You can eat it with a spoon, put it on a cracker, or slather it over a cake. It also pairs extremely  well with bananas and apples.

Our latest creation: The dulce de leche, geen apple, and gruyere cheese crepe.

To not eat copious amounts of dulce while living in Argentina would be a huge failure. Therefore, I claim my dulce de leche experience as a major success.

Shawna

The Roller Coaster Series 1: Curing, Caramelos, and Caring

Curing, Caramelos, and Caring

Numbers:

23.) To the Pharmacy We Go,  

2.) Caramelos de Cambio,

16.) Todo Bien

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A cold? A virus? Bronchitis? Allergies? Bug Bites? Skin infection? Fever?

In US culture, when the nasty feeling of sickness hits, most people run to the doctor, for that required prescription, or to the over the counter medicine aisle at a  local pharmacy.In Argentina you have to bravely head to the pharmacy, wait in line, and specifically ask for (sometimes guess) what it is that you need. No browsing through Target’s colorful aisles of chewy vitamins!

While I can  very cheaply go to the doctor and get a prescription here, most of the time it is the pharmacist that doles out my medicine based on the description of my ailment. Describing the ailment in a different language is the challenge! On the days you are feeling timid, the greatest challenge is doing it in front of the ten other people who are waiting in line behind you.

Taylor has come to the house with fever (fiebre) pills instead of fiber (fibra) and I have gone back multiple times to try something new after researching the drug that I actually made it home with and realizing that it was not for my intended use.  This may sound scary to you, but we always do our research, go to the doctor, and stick to our home remedies when we can!

I share this aspect of life here as a success, because I feel as though Taylor and I are both at a place where we can confidently go to the pharmacy and get whatever it is we may need (without having to research too much vocabulary ahead of time, or hiding in shame as we describe our ailments). I also share it as a success, because I value this part of Argentina. It is so wonderful to have cheap access to health care and medicine. There is no worry of people turning cold-medicine into Meth or being denied necessary prescriptions due to a lack of insurance. Sure, there are problems with the system, but all systems have their flaws.

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Medicine, food,and many other things are pretty affordable here. However, when it comes to physically paying for things, I have found a system flaw. This system flaw, be it annoying at times, is often quite comical.

The last time I went to the pharmacy to buy Taylor some Ibuprofen to break his fever, I payed my 12.50 bill (only around $2)  with 14 pesos. What did I get instead of my 1.50 pesos change? Two aspirin!  The cashier cut the two little aspirin out of a packet that was sitting in a basket full of different little medicines and goodies. It was as if I had won a bunch of stars for being good in my first-grade classroom and now was the best day of the month: Prize day! My prize for buying Ibuprofen, Aspirin of course!!

The idea of prizes for change makes more sense once you realize that coins and small bills are hard to come by here. Yet, most places demand exact change of you, or look at you in disgust whenever you hand over a big bill for a small purchase. At first, Taylor and I were so confused by this and struggled due to the fact that I am only paid in large bills. It was a big enough switch for us to start only paying in cash and never using a card, but having to scrounge up exact change for our purchases has made us much more conscious about the exact amount of money we will spend before we leave the house.

Here is a list of some of the fun things we have won, instead of our change:

  • Caramelos (These taffy-like candies are the most common gift. This is why the idea of getting prizes for change is often called, “caramelos de cambio”.)
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Lemons
  • Bread
  • Band-aids (How ironic? “Let’s just patch up the fact that we don’t have appropriate change by offering you some band-aids!”) 
  • Gum
  • Potatoes
  • Cough drops
  • Breath mints
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes 

blogcdcfotoAs you can see, It is always a mystery as to what you may get instead of change. I have an urge to one day attempt to make a purchase using band-aids, aspirin, and candy. Sadly, I don’t think it would work.

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The cashier at the store which you will buy your medicine, and also your prize, may ask you this question as you approach the register, ” Todo bien?”

To which you should reply, ” Todo bien.”

“Everything good?”, “Everything’s good.”

I used to respond to this question with an overly energetic “Sí !” until I found our that this was just a typical Argentine greeting. It didn’t take me long to learn how to respond, but it did take me a while though to develop a personal appreciation for this greeting.

It is similar to the English, Q: “How’s it going? A: “Good” in its superficial, “Let’s not truly say how we feel” sense; however, to my foreign ears the saying is always welcome. Every time someone asks if everything is good for me, I feel like they are checking up on me.

I also feel like they are reminding me of something that I should never forget:  the truth from a saying frequently heard in the Methodist church. The pastor says ” God is good.” To which the congregation replies, “God is good all the time.” and all together the church says, ” All the time God is good.” When I respond “Todo bien” I remember that God is always  good even the hardest of my circumstances.

During our first month here when our climbing instructor used to see that Taylor and I were struggling with Spanish, the actual act of climbing, or just a little separated from the group, he would always grin and ask us this. Now matter the frustration I was going through, I quickly snapped out of it because deep down I knew that everything really was good.

I also enjoy watching Argentines check up on each other with this phrase. The sharing, the caring, and level of involvement in friendship and family life are some of my favorite aspects of the culture.

The true asking of “Todo bien” is something I want to take back to the States.  I want to invest more in those around me. I want to not be timid to ever ask if everything is okay, and expect to not always hear that things are. I want to be there to say that “God is good all the time” to my friends while reminding myself ” That all the time God is good.”

Well, That is attempt number one of my series. I don’t know if you got much out of it. But I will tell you this: One day you may be sick standing in line at the pharmacy waiting to get your medicine and a little prize. Even if you are frustrated or confused I suggest just smiling and reminding yourself that everything is good. In fact, it is even great.
 
 
Shawna

The Roller Coaster Series

The past two days I have been in a

funk.

These horrible phenomenons happen to everyone, and in my experience, the frequency of these funks is heightened when one lives aboard. My biggest problem with funks, is that they are moods that come unexpectedly. They hit you from left field and leave you wondering how they tore down the walls of your normally upbeat self and came to sit, fester, and confuse you.

Unexpected emotions are all part of the roller coaster of life, especially of the 26-loop upside-down, standup, wooden, take-your- breath-away, roller coaster of life aboard.

This latest mood has inspired me to share some of my struggles and some of my successes that have composed my roller coaster here in Argentina. It would be too daring for me to take this on all in one post, so I will  be writing a little series of posts that include one struggle, and two successes ( positive thinking people!) I will cover three of these topics per post to make a total of 10 posts. This should also help me to post a lot more frequently in our final months here!

Here are a few of the topics I will be tackling:

1. “Married? Did You Say MARRIED?”

2. Caramelos de Cambio

3. Are you Really a Teacher?

4. Que Dijiste?

5. Siesta…

6. Meet you at Midnight…..for Dinner

7.God, Taylor, Me, and Tim Keller

8. How much does this really cost?

9. The dog on Sarmiento

10. Yerba Mate!

11. Comemos Asado

12. Is this Real Life?

13. Hello and Goodbye!

14. Queres un Cafe? Medialuna? Factura?

15. Pre-cordillera

16. Todo Bien?

17. A Hour, or Nine

18. Thank God for Alfredo

19.Puede Ser??

20.  Vos

21. 2b

22. Fulbright Town

23. To the Pharmacy We Go

24. A Little Thing Called Dulce de Leche

25. Friends

26.The Three Day Work Week

27. Vino, Vino, Vino

28. Zoom Zoom Zonda

29. Foot Travel vs. Bus Travel

30. Sundays for  Family

Let’s see how this goes…. !

Shawna