Am I studying abroad or participating in an adventure travel group? A little bit of both.
Here's to jumping off mountains,
Am I studying abroad or participating in an adventure travel group? A little bit of both.
Here's to jumping off mountains,
I can remember my ballerina days, few though they were. We stood in front of a mirror while some nice lady clapped her hands and pointed her toe. I tried to keep up, but really, choreography can be so complex. So, I made the tough decision to hang up my pretty pink flats and leave the studio.
Flash forward more than a decade, and the young would-be-ballerina went to college. At new student orientation camp, I realized that the pressure to dance, socially and in performance, was back. How could this be? I selected a Baptist university! Oh well, such was my lot--back to the stage I was destined to go. I have learned adaptive skills to make it through Pledge Dance, an Honors Line Camp leader performance, and two intensive All-University Sing seasons.
But still, friends, I am the little girl, staring at herself in the mirror and wondering where everyone else found "the beat."
And now, friends, I am in Argentina, home of the legendary tango, and auditing a course entitled "Social Dance."
Twice weekly, my classmates and I practice our folklore and tango skills under the instruction of a rather intimidating dance instructor. After four weeks of this drill, I felt a slight sense of confidence in the basic "pasos," there are only 8, after all. Well, yesterday, we had an unusual class session... with a professional dance company. As the novice students tango'd with the experienced dancers, my clumsy ways were suddenly exposed. Ah, well, this is no surprise, and no shame either. Some people will be paid to dance, others to teach, write, sell, buy, communicate. I will never earn my keep by my artistic abilities, but I just might stay afloat by other means ("Student" is a job classification, right? Stipends and scholarships are a salary?).
If you need a cliché to take-away, I'll say this: dance like no one is watching, and when people are, stick with a smile and stay in the back.
Reflecting on First Corinthians Twelve,
It was a simple class assignment: write a dessert recipe in Spanish and bring in a sample to share.
It was a complicated endeavor: hindered by differing ingredients and miscalculations.
I decided to prepare chocolate dipped pretzels. With their balance of salty and sweet, these gems are always a hit, and I have helped my mom make them on many occasions. Not to mention, the recipe is very short including three principle ingredients: pretzels, chocolate, and sprinkles. Well, I stopped in the neighborhood grocery store and scouted out the chocolate. Nothing was marketed for dipping. I found something that seemed to be baking chocolate, and a bar of milk chocolate, and proceeded with my shopping. Like a silly American, I walked up and down aisles looking for the pretzels. Realizing there weren't any, I quickly re-coursed and grabbed a few bananas to dip instead. Snagging a bag of sprinkles, I headed to the check out, and back to the kitchen. A mild disaster awaited me. Burnt chocolate, bad chocolate and lumpy batches of bananas included. Fortunately, one bar of chocolate melted well and sprinkles cover a multitude of culinary sins. After a few hours of freezing, I felt a little better about the dessert, but goodness, I am sorry, Mom, it didn't live up to the family name.
In other news, I had a very relaxing weekend. Our group visited the thermal pools of Cacheuta after another intense, Saturday morning hike. Last semester, I purchased my first pair of hiking boots and I have sense walked miles in them. Each mountain adventure reminds me of my childhood family vacations to New Mexico and Colorado. From the Rockies to the Andes, little has changed.
Enjoy the photos of chocolate and mud. Apparently, chocolate is for the soul and mud is for the skin.
Life lesson: when hiking, you plod forward, one foot in front of the other, until you are shy of shear exhaustion. Then, you rest. One minute, two, five if you must. Accompanied by deep breaths, these little breaks make the trail bearable, indeed, enjoyable. We often laud the "mountain top experience," but oftentimes I find the moments of respite more meaningful than the accomplishment of the summit.
Such little rests, remind me of the Sabbath. This time that we set apart for Christ, to reflect on his goodness and worship in his glory, enables us to persist in harships and allows us to delight in our circumstances. We are anticipating a time yet to come, yes, but we may also dwell in His peace today.
These thoughts are accompanied by the pictures below,
They say the spirit of Argentina is pessimistic. According to many, times have never been worse and things will never be better. All of the houses have bars on the windows and all of the youth leave their houses for bars.* University classes are often cancelled for protests and without compulsory attendance, many students fail to attend even when classes are held. And yet, family meals are consistent occasions of celebration and friendship is a prize to pursue. Without confidence in public systems, personal relationships assume heighten importance. You trust your grocer if not the government and your doctor if not the departamento. Is there a lack of social trust? Yes, but there is also a remarkable depth to intrapersonal relationships. As these friendships prove, regarding the human spirit, the Argentines are remarkably optimisitc.
*Note: actually, the "previa," an at-home pre-game for late night outings is culturally prevasive, so youth enjoy resources within the home before further refining their dancing and sommelier ambitions in boleches.
Yesterday, I had the most Argentine of days. It began with a look around a vineyard and ended the next morning after much feasting.
Our group from Baylor took a trip to the beautiful Argentine countryside. We rode horses, sipped characteristic Mendocino beverages, and ate hearty portions of carne. The "Brazilian steakhouse" is common in the States, but those who know best will seek out an Argentine asado. An asado is a barbeque characterized by the continual delivery of meat in all varieties of cuts. The flavors of fresh empanadas, seasoned bread, poached pears, and dulce de leche torts set the asado apart from the Brazilian tradition. All of this, we enjoyed in the presence of tall mountains and bright sunshine.
After our feast, a few friends and I forged a path across a small river and through a thicket of thorns. In the midst of this wilderness, we celebrated the joys of friendship and thrill of adventure. Though any mountaineer would surely scoff at our excursion, for us, wet feet marked a wild feat.
When I returned home, I learned that my host family was already roasting the meat for yet another asado. Though I can scarcely recall a time when I was so full, or tired, I savored the meats once more, and retired to bed after our meal concluded with dessert at a little after 1:00. Only in Argentina...
Enjoy the photos here posted, courtesy of Clara and Kaylin.
Sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat... the cycle of life in Argentina. I was happily enjoying this routine of good food and long naps, but knowing that I could not purchase a new wardrobe here, I decided to work out.
Quite a few students from our Baylor group joined a Wednesday running class at the university. Today, however, we ran late, so we ran to class and then ran. And now, I rant. It was an excellent work out, even when walking. Imagine hiking through a cool desert with steep hills of rocks. Now, imagine running through the same terrain (and picture me trailing behind the group in earnest effort but with a slow pace). Incredible. The perfect weather, beautiful views and sense of accomplishment accounted for the level of difficulty. Yes, I will go again next week.
In addition to physical exercise, today I also began my Spanish classes. I had a Latin American history course and a literature course. With a ratio of four students to one excellent teacher, the classes were entirely enjoyable. The homework is fun too. Especially when you do it with el helado in hand and share it on your blog. We had to write a poem describing ourselves in Spanish. Now, I am not a poet, but perhaps you are not a Spanish speaker, so maybe you will be impressed by my foreign words and confused by Google's translation. If you are a Spanish speaker, well, I ask your forgiveness for this disgrace to the language:
Con ojos viejos
Decido que deseo creer
Well, my summertime travels have commenced. The season of adventure was inaugurated last Wednesday, when I boarded my first flight and observed my first seatbelt safety demonstration. Five days, four cities, three countries, two habitaciónes and one tired Bonnie later, I am an expert at seatbelt snapping. Put me in the exit row, folks, this girl knows how to fly.
The days of travel began with researching my senior thesis project in Lima and terminated with my present stay in Mendoza, Argentina, for a language immersion program. Let's just say, the English words appearing on my iPad screen are a marvel after all of the Spanish I have heard and (haltingly) spoken in the past few days. Watch out, by July, this blog will be for Spanish speakers only (jajaja).
Preliminaries aside, let's take a moment to reflect on the nature and purpose of a blog and an explanation of why I am Perúsing once more. I blogged last June when I served as a summer missionary in Perú. It was obvious at that time that I needed a space to reflect on the joys and sufferings that I observed and experienced. Everything seemed to be of spiritual significance, and I wanted to share it with my church family. This summer, I am not in Latin America as a "missionary," but as a "student." Given this shift of roles, I thought I might not publish my thoughts and reflections. But this definition of myself as a missionary or student assumes a wrongful duality of sacred and secular, wherein my missional activities are sacred and necessarily distinct from my secular activities as a student. But, I don't believe that at all. Learning, in the classroom and at church, is an incredible act of worship. And living in the Spirit occurs in the midst of a busy and bustling world. I must remember that Christ lived an incarnational life, of the Spirit, in the flesh, and so must I (hope I don't sound like an Apollinarian!). So, you have the opportunity to read my rambles for the next few weeks, you lucky duck.
Let's start with five favorite conversational moments to date:
1. Reuniónes en Lima: Meeting with the Director of Buckner Perú and the Organization of American States Representative to Perú allowed me to better conceptualize my thesis and provided avenues for better research. Planning a meeting is hard, planning a meeting with busy people in a foreign country is even harder-- praise the Lord these meetings worked out!
2. Park bench friend in the Plaza Mayor: While people-watching in the Plaza Mayor, my thesis director and I were drawn into a conversation with a Peruvian named Rafael. It included the awkward moment when he asked me what my favorite part of Lima was, to which I responded "Me gusta el parque de amor," which prompted him to say, "Oh! That is where you take all of your boyfriends? Sorry, shouldn't ask, no?" Um, no.
3. Taxi Talking: It goes without saying that riding in a taxi is an interesting experience. You are always 2 centimeters from death and twenty minutes from your destination. Well, one taxi driver add an unceasing narrative to this experience. The man talked about everything, from personal questions to quinoa prices.
4. Reunions in Lima: Spending time with friends from last summer was a delight. I am so grateful for the conversation, churro, and coffee that I shared with Kat & Lu, and the fascinating discussion of Peruvian history I had with Paco. Sleeping, I've learned, is for the planes.
5. "¿Te gusta [insert name of every cartoon every drawn]?": My family in Argentina consists, primarily, of mi mama, Susana, her daughter, Bernie, son-in-law, Juan, and their children, Nestor (8) and Juana (1). They are precious, and I am enjoying settling into life here. While multi-person conversations overwhelm me, I can make it a long way with a patient conversation partner. Nestor and I talked about TV and movies earlier... I think my preference for documentaries and chickflicks showed when he asked me about every cartoon and action movie ever released.
Congratulations, you made it to the end of the introductory post.
I promise to be brief next time...
Whenever someone returns from an extended stay abroad, the now well-traveled-culturally-sensitive-globally-educated individual is boundlessly obnoxious as he/she babbles on about the trip. I, for example, begin every conversation, comment or conjecture with "Well, in Perú...". The memories of yesterday are so vibrant, I feel I must share them today. There are sufficient tales for hundreds of blog posts, but this one will be the last. You have been a patient friend, dear reader. You waded through my emotions and supplied me with your prayers. You have heard many Perú stories, which seem to be personal parables through which the Lord revealed more of his good nature to me. Now, as I sit on my back porch in the sun's scorch, I offer you a final post, and a final story.*
Two friends from Buckner Perú accompanied my team and I to the airport on Wednesday evening. After checking our bags, we proceeded to the food court. Wait, why didn't we go through security first? Well, all of the restaurants are located before, not after, security. A frustrating design to be certain. My team and I wondered, "Don't people worry about missed flights while hurriedly eating?" Our Peruvian friends did not share our frustration with the layout. Instead, they described the food court as a place for a traveler to share a final meal with family and friends before departing. Getting through security is not the primary objective. The people matter more than the plane.
In coming home, I take this lesson with me. Do not board the plane, accomplish the task, depart from one day to the next, before taking the time to enjoy the relationships God has placed in your life. I miss my friends in Perú, I enjoy my family in Texas, and I look forward to seeing old & new friends in the days to come. Through all of the transitions in life, I will cling to the unchanging God who was yesterday, is today, and will forever be.
When I was in Perú...
*Disclaimer: If I see you in person, I reserve the right to share many, many, many more stories and little comments about Peru
The only men inside the orfanitorio are the security guards. 80-or-so children play within the fenced courtyard; they are shielded from outside dangers and void of inside comforts. The orphanage is an institution rather than a home. A 'mother' cooks for the children, but no mommy dotes on them. A man guards the door, but no father walks through it. These children were removed from fractured homes, but not given a replacement. In the midst of such circumstances, the children wonder as to their worth and struggle to define their dignity.
One gordita girl revels in our attention. Sitting in my lap is a particular thrill. While I was holding her today, she pointed to our team members and said, "buena, bueno, buena, mala, buena...". Then, she pointed to herself and asked me, "¿Buena o Mala?" I hurriedly responded, "¡Buena, buena!" but sorrow filled my smiling face. The same sorrow that burgeons when I watch the kids fight over worthless toys, when I hear them belittle one another to better themselves, when I sense their deep yearning for affirmation and affection, and when I perceive the utter lack thereof. Their wounds are deep, but even yet their future may be bright. Pray for these children, that the Lord's love would comfort them. Pray for the Lord's people, that they would seek opportunities to love the abandoned. Pray for my final day, that my team would love without abandon.
P.s. I am continuing the ministry tradition of Guy Cantwell by playing basquetból with the niños. It's fantastic because no one plays well... and I am at least 3 inches taller than the average Peruvian...