Lazy Sunday


We are in lazy Sunday mode!  Danny is watching Mike the Knight re-runs for the zillionth time.  Joni is getting annoyed with his mecano on the kitchen table.  Teen and Baby are away for the weekend.  Martin preached this morning and awarded himself the rest of the day off.  I have organised Sunday school for this evening and some Scout stuff for the week ahead and am working my way down a pot of coffee.

I’m currently reading Radical Hospitality by a couple of United Statesian Benedictines.  It threatened to be brilliant.  Then when I started it, it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Then I realised that actually it is brilliant, just not what I was expecting!  It’s short, and it doesn’t have any technical language, but you can’t read it quickly, so I’m using it as a kind of devotional.  Try these for a couple of examples of quotable quotes…

“Hospitality has become safe and cosy, even productive, rather than revolutionary, risky, and world-rattling… The missing virtue of our era has been turned into a social grace that neither disturbs nor transforms”

“What is dangerous to the child is not dangerous to an adult.  You drive a car now.  You live away from home.  You use knives to chop vegetables.  You drink a Scotch and water.  Why do we remain locked up in our fear of strangers?”

“The stranger helps us locate our favourite lies.  The stranger helps us see the absurd in our culture and ourselves.  The stranger opens our eyes”

“Gratitude is the leading edge of joy.  It happens when the big reality hits you.  You have no more right to be loved than anyone else.  Your children have no more right to health and security than the children in Bosnia.  It is all a gift.  Every single molecule, every smile, every taste of sunshine is a gift.”


And now it’s time to get ready for church.  There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.

Less is more

I’m not a natural minimalist as anyone who has ever seen my desk would testify.  Actually not many people have ever seen my desk, it’s not currently possible to see my desk, that’s the point.

But Martin did a miraculous job on the garage a few weeks ago, and now I’m motivated to do something similar with the toy cupboard.  I’m sure my kids probably have far less stuff than their average European counterpart, but I am fast coming to the conclusion that it would be better to have a few toys that are loved and played with, than a whole heap of stuff crammed in that rarely gets touched.

So, I tipped it all out into the garage, then we called in the carpenter to add some shelves and now I am gradually sifting everything into keep, donate to Scout jumble sale, donate to baby’s nursery, and chuck.

Then we probably need to do something with the books.  And the office…

Suitcase and guitar in hand

“I’m sitting in railway station got a ticket for my destination mm-mm…”

(Simon and Garfunkel; Homeward Bound)

Actually it’s a bus station (for the literary and musical pedants) to be strictly accurate.  In Rio Cuarto, six hours by bus from home.  We go in for imaginative names in Cordoba Province.  The most important river in Cordoba is Rio Primero (First River) and the city that strings along its southern bank is also named Rio Primero.  The second most important river is Rio Segundo, and the city that strings along its bank is also named Rio Segundo.   So Rio Cuarto…. took me by surprise.  I was idly staring out of the window when we crossed the bridge and found myself thinking “oh that’s nice, they have a river…” Doh.   In my defence I did have to crawl out of my bed at four in the morning in order to catch the bus.

The secretary at the entrance to the surprisingly-large-for-a-small-city university campus (think Warwick) might have been short of a few hours’ sleep too.  She started trying to explain where I should go, realised that she had lost both of us, dug out a map, realised she couldn’t pinpoint her own office on the map, handed me the map and said “good luck” as she pointed me out of the door.  I thought this inauspicious introduction might not bode so well for an establishment purporting to work with intelligent people.  However, once I had tracked down the Academic Secretary, courtesy of the map, some signposts and a helpful passer-by, I found him more than helpful.  He now has photocopies of the whole heap of every document that might be relevant to making any progress with my academic qualifications in Argentina.  And I have been collecting papers for a few years now; that was one heavy rucksack.  They will be considered by a committee, and he thinks I should get a basic general response on a possibly/not level within a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile I am still waiting for a decision from Buenos Aires on whether they might be willing to give me a secondary school certificate.  That was a whole other story last week.  I was about to write that the secretary at the gate this morning would maybe find herself at home there, but I’m wrong; they would have her for breakfast.  Having been made to wait for four hours, then put through a grinder and spat out the other end, including one staff member complaining that it was so long after my appointment time(!), I was told I should hear in three days.  That was a week last Friday.  Fortunately I have kept in good contact with the friend I made in the education ministry in Cordoba, and he says he will intervene if too many more days go by.

The municipal nursery where Baby goes in the mornings have been on strike (along with most other municipal services) for the last two weeks, so getting anything done at home has been a challenge, but I have just had a message saying that they are back to normal as of tomorrow morning.  Hooray.  And starting yesterday we have put up a new colourful family job rota with everyone on it (apart from Baby) which we are hoping will increase the level of participation and decrease the level of whining at being asked to participate.  It got off to a fine start yesterday with both Joni and Teen tidying and cleaning their rooms –the first time in months that we have seen all her floor at once.   So I am waiting with hopeful anticipation to see whether there are more good surprises when I get home today…

Home where my thought’s escaping,
Home where my music’s playing,
Home where my loves are waiting (probably not very) silently for me…

The week after the camp before

I left Danny’s coat on the bathroom shelf and had got as far as trying to hang the toilet roll in his wardrobe before realising that I have finally lost the plot.  Something to do with two consecutive weekend Scout camps sandwiching a busy week in the middle.

The first camp was for the patrol leaders from the three groups in our district, which was very good for my kids whose lack of self esteem means that they struggle to integrate outside their own neighbourhood.  And the following weekend we took seven of our own group by bike to Monte Redondo about fifteen kilometres away from here.

monte redondo

Following global trends, all our kids are overweight – where the rich do sports and have access to a decent diet, poor kids have neither, and it would be pushing a limit to describe some of their bent and brake-less contraptions as “bicycles”.  All seven have significant issues in their own lives, disability, economic disadvantage, family situations, and several are subjected to judicial orders as victims of abuse.  It was a fairly relaxed programme, they explored the woods, and cooked on fires, including demonstrating that it is possible to boil water in the plastic coke bottle without it melting, but be careful when you take the lid off!  Maybe should have written a risk assessment for that bit.  Or not mention it at all.  Ho hum…

Luckily this week isn’t proving to be too heavy so far, although I am going to Buenos Aires on the night bus on Thursday because I have an appointment in the Ministry of silly walks Education on Friday now I have finally (hopefully) managed to collect enough pieces of paper to prove that I did complete secondary school a million years ago in my country of origin.  At the moment I am thinking about the whole bureaucratic paper chasing thing in terms of an acted parable.  So far I think we have been called to act three parables, the first when the ex-prisoner and wife stayed with us for a year, the second in fostering Teen and then her Baby, and now this would be another.  Except that I think I kind of understand the first two, but I haven’t yet figured out what this one would be about.

Missing witty title

Too many things happening, and yet at the same time hard to quantify whether any of the tail chasing is achieving anything at all.  Hopefully this resonates with somebody.  Otherwise can someone tell me what I´m doing wrong.

I went to an intesting workshop last weekend on autism, hyperactivity and the over-pathologisation of children.  Which was interesting both from a professional perspective and also from a new point of view as parent of a child who certain professionals are desperate to pin labels to.

We walked away from the “psicopedagoga” (ed psych type – one of the fore-mentioned professionals), for a range of reasons related to effectiveness and ethics.  But we have found and fallen in love with the town´s music therapist who is completely bonkers in all the right ways and Danny adores him.  He thinks that the child doesn´t need any labels.  I said, good, now help me tell that to the school.

Teen and baby took themselves off on the bus to Cordoba for the day on Saturday, meeting up with boyfriend on route.  Various professionals thought that the whole thing was most irresponsible and told her so, although no-one has said anything to me yet.  I thought it was brilliant that she had the confidence to organise an adventure and see it through.  Between this and a few things happening at Scouts (health and safety with the accompanying culture of litigation have recently docked in Argentina and everyone´s getting a bit hysterical) I have been thinking about the vital contribution that learning to take risks makes to children´s growth and education.  What happens to a society after a whole generation of children have had their sense of adventure reduced to multi-choice bean-bag races?  Well, the UK is probably about to find out, and sadly it looks like Argentina may not be too far behind.

And now it´s Monday again.  I have achieved cleaning the house.  Now I need to get my head around what the rest of the week holds.  But before that, it appears to be time to collect the kids from school already.  How did that happen?



Herding Buffalos

In Water buffalo Theology, theologian and missionary Koyama writes about a traditionally rural view of the world as being essentially cyclical, following patterns of seasons, weather, and farming.  He suggests therefore that a major challenge to this worldview therefore is to introduce the notion of God acting in linear time – that history is in fact going somewhere and one day will reach a conclusion.   I might not be herding water buffalos, (although between my kids and the scouts…) but at the moment I find I have quite a lot of sympathy with a cyclical view of the world where the sun keeps rising and the rain keeps raining and it is easy to lose sight of the idea of any sort of linear progress.  Work, family, school, bureaucracy, Scouts, paperwork, meetings, church, preaching…  I think there is a discipline in learning to notice the blessings in an ordinary life, and in remembering that we aren’t called to be excited but to be faithful. 

Yesterday I took Danny to an appointment with the psicopedagoga (educational professional) who is trying to assess him for the school.   From the other side of the door, I could hear her asking him to tell her the colours of the play dough, and him answering her all in English, even though I know he knows the colours in Spanish.  So she asked him to say it “so I can understand”, and he went straight into an absolutely wonderful rendition of “speaking English to a foreigner” – loudly, slowly and with a comedy music hall Argentinean accent!  I was crying with laughter on the wrong side of the door, and it also caused me to conclude that this kid probably has all the personal resources he needs to do whatever he wants with his life; the real challenge is going to be how to get him through formal education for the next twelve years. 

Another month went by

So many blogs were nearly written that now it is impossible to remember what I thought I was going to say.  Which may be a blessing for the readership.  

We learned some things about hospitality from a homeless guy from the northern corner of the country, who speaks Guarani, and is also Deaf, with some sort of additional learning disability, the combination of which made communication tricky to say the least.  There was a question mark over whether he might have been in prison, possibly ex-sex offender, which we never managed to verify in either direction, but we put some ground rules in place for everyone’s benefit.  We shared meals, clothes, footwear, and hot water for a month or so, and then he moved on again.  I’m not quite sure why we were called to walk this kilometre of our lives together, but some people have entertained angels without knowing. 

Other things chug along.  Life with a Teen in the house goes up and down like an electrocardiogram.  Sometimes I have to step back and see the bigger picture in order not to get totally lost in the jungle of today’s series of small dramas.  She is making progress, and Baby is thriving.  This afternoon we were looking at a world map together, and she was asking questions (what’s the capital of Argentina? What country is France in? Could a tsunami reach us here?) which caused me to realise that probably no-one has ever invested that half an hour to do something so simple with her. 

Danny is causing consternation at school.  The teacher wondered if he is autistic.  Everyone else who knows him confirms that is the most ridiculous idea ever, but we were posted off to a “psicopedagoga” (something like a cross between a special ed teacher and an educational psychologist) in order to prove it.  The psicopedagoga agreed that it is a ridiculous idea, and then came up with her own equally ridiculous alternative… he doesn’t speak Spanish because you speak English to him and children learn language from their mother.  Which is of course why there aren’t any other bilingual children in the world, and in fact no child ever learns to speak more languages than its mother… She didn’t say that bit, but it would be the logical conclusion of what she did say.  So now we are in the position of having a teacher who thinks she can’t do anything with this child, and a so-called specialist confirming that it is the fault of the parent.  The child in question is quite happy, takes life as he finds it, and enjoyed his fifth birthday yesterday for which I produced the rocket cake in accordance with request.  I have to make a expanded version of same for his party which happens on Friday. 

Joni participated in his first bike race last weekend.  It was freezing cold and blowing a hoolie, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself.  The course reminded me a lot of when I used to do first aid duty at motocross tracks with the St John Ambulance.  Lots of mud and lumpy bits to go over.  The funkiest feature was an old bus with ramps made out of pallets so the riders had to literally ride on and off the bus, with two tricky 90 degree turns in the process:


Three pictures from the week

Ruta 19

Yes, it’s still raining.  This is the Ruta 19, the main trunk road from here to Cordoba, the provincial capital.  At the moment a sizeable chunk of it remains impassible, with more rain predicted for tomorrow.  Martin and a bunch of blokes from church have a date on Saturday morning to go and give a hand to an old guy who has been wading around in five inches of water in his house for the last fortnight. 

scout leader training

This is the district Scout leaders meeting which I was at on Sunday.  There are some wonderful folk in the district who I enjoy catching up with.  And it is great to see our Scout group moving forward from “small, poor and irrelevant” to starting to look like a force to be reckoned with.  We’re the posse in the orange neckerchiefs on this side of the photo. 


Martin chased this character out of our front garden the other day.  And then realised too late that if we’d left him for another half an hour he might have finished the job of cropping the lawn. 

No photo, but at the moment most evenings we’re sharing food with a guy newly arrived in San Francisco from the north of the country looking for manual work.  Communication is somewhat interesting owing to him being Deaf and having significant speech difficulties, as well as a few other minor disabilities.  We realised that he can’t tell the time, so yesterday Martin hit on a workable solution; “When the sun goes down tomorrow, come to my house”. 

On the Twelfth Day

Christopher Robin lived at the very top of the Forest. It rained, and it rained, and it rained, but the water couldn’t come up to his house. It was rather jolly to look down into the valleys and see the water all round him, but it rained so hard that he stayed indoors most of the time, and thought about things. Every morning he went out with his umbrella and put a stick in the place where the water came up to, and every next morning he went out and couldn’t see his stick any more, so he put another stick in the place where the water came up to, and then he walked home again, and each morning he had a shorter way to walk than he had had the morning before. On the morning of the fifth day he saw the water all round him, and he knew that for the first time in his life he was on a real island. Which is very exciting. It was on this morning that Owl came flying over the water to say "How do you do?" to his friend Christopher Robin.

"I say, Owl," said Christopher Robin, "isn’t this fun? I’m on an island!"

"The atmospheric conditions have been very unfavourable lately," said Owl.

"The what?"

"It has been raining," explained Owl.

"Yes," said Christopher Robin. "It has."

"The flood-level has reached an unprecedented height."

"The who?"

"There’s a lot of water about," explained Owl.

"Yes," said Christopher Robin, "there is."

                   With acknowledgements to A.A. Milne.

After twelve days of rain, the forecast here today cheerily predicts that it will continue in similar vein till next Tuesday.