Without Explanation

“An Englishman goes to church rather like he goes to the toilet: with the minimum of fuss, and preferrably without explanation” (our friend Bernie, opening a Bible study a few years ago)
Visitors to Argentina soon discover that every public toilet is attended by a Rottweiler, dressed up as a female person. Her main responsibilities involve handing a carefully measured length of toilet paper to each customer, in exchange for a coin; and saying “pa-se” when a cubicle becomes free. To be fair, if I’d been doing that for a few years, I can imagine that I might become a bit growly.

This week the Rottweiler in the minibus station has come up with an alternative diversion much more sophisticated than biting people’s ankles. She now requires each prospective toilet-user to announce publicly exactly what they are planning on putting into the toilet, so that she can then decide whether to point them to the cubicle where the flush uses a lot of water, or the one where the flush doesn’t work too well.

By luck or by the abundant mercy of God, just over the road there is a little coffee bar, where for the modest price of a small coffee, patrons may also use the toilet for free and for nothing, and most importantly without explanation. I am so English!

Readin’ Ritin’ an’ Rithmatic

Santiagome!the girlsGabriel
Luckily the journey to San Marcos is a nice one; a view of the mountains out of the right hand window, and a lake from the left. I have done it so many times I nearly know every bend in the road. Luckily the little buses have air-con.
At the moment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I am in the childrens’ home. I was originally just working with four kids, but then I started a new system of giving out a sweet or a marble for good work. And now I suddenly seem to have about sixteen kids lining up for extra school-work. I did worry for about two seconds about the ethics of whether I could be accused of bribery, until a friend said “How many kids do you know in the UK who would be prepared to do half an hour of school work in exchange for a toffee or a marble…?”

I have been using a lot of the material from Alfalit, and augmenting it with activities that I have invented, and some others trawled from the internet. I’m surprised at how little there is in Spanish on the web, given that Spanish is the third language in the world after Chinese and English.

This week I was able to give out proper Alfalit work-books to the kids who are working on basic literacy and numeracy skills. I was amazed at how delighted they were to receive their own books…. I’d never thought of a kid being pleased to own a text-book. Here’s a few photos that we took to send to the people at Alfalit…

The guy in the top photo is Santiago. He is about to do first grade for the third time, but we think this time is going to be different. He is one of my keenest students. He’s desperate to learn joined up writing, which wouldn’t have been my highest priority for him, but because he’s so keen, I’m teaching him and using it as a vehicle to teach him some other things along the way. Don’t ask why he’s wearing his T-shirt on his head: he’s a kid, I have no idea!

Then he took my camera from me and snapped some terrible shots of me looking like a crazy teacher. Least said about that the better I think.

The three girls are working together here on numbers, basic number bonds, counting on our fingers… not got onto toes yet. Somehow all three have managed to receive a “pass” mark for several grades of maths classes without learning that if I hold up two fingers and my friend holds up another finger then that’ll make approximately three fingers between us.

The guy in the cap is Gabriel. He is also about to do first grade for the third time, and he finds school work really difficult. Gabriel’s never owned a book before. When I gave him his, he just sat and stared at it for ages, saying “that’s my book”. Trouble is, he’s so proud of it, he doesn’t want to spoil it by writing in it, which kind of wasn’t the point…

What I hadn’t figured was that all the other kids were going to want a book. And when I said “you guys can already read, these books are too easy for you” they said “but we still want one”. So this week I’ve managed to get hold of a stack of little word-search books on special offer… I introduced word-searches to the older kids over Christmas, which they enjoyed, so hopefully these will keep them busy for oooh, about two minutes maybe….

Happy New Year

Martin and GiulianoHappy new year all. OK, I’m a few days late, but I do mean it sincerely. Christmas and New Year were spent eating cow with friends, and watching the fireworks at midnight. The photo on the left is of Giuliano aged 2 sharing his Christmas toys with Martin aged 47.
Prize for random conversation of the first week of 2007 goes to the waitress where we stopped for food on the way home the other night. We thought we’d have a large bottle of beer between us:

Hazel: … and a large Quilmes please (Quilmes being the usual beer in Argentina)
Waitress: I don’t have a large Quilmes
Hazel: Which beers do you have in large size?
Waitress: I don’t have any large beers
Hazel: OK, can we have two small Quilmes then please.
Waitress: Wouldn’t you prefer a large Quilmes instead?

I thought I must have misunderstood or misheard something, but no, I am assured that what I thought I heard is exactly what happened.

New year’s resolutions. I stopped making those at about the point where I became old enough to doubt that I might achieve any sort of saintliness this side of heaven. One very practical thing that I would like to do sometime soon is to put the rest of our website into Spanish. Funny, it was only a generation or so ago when missionaries were chastised for spending too much time writing letters and the like, now it’s pretty widely accepted that at least part of our “ministry” is about communication. Our friends and team leaders here, Hans and Priscilla have just written their first blog comment, starting by stating their intentions to be in better contact… it’s at www.saltasnippets.org Another friend, Simon, now working for WEC is writing a superb blog, which can be found at blog.simon-cozens.org One of his best entries is his discourse on why every missionary should blog (can’t remember what date that was… Simon….??). I also reckon that every missionary needs to be reading blogs, particularly blogs that are outside our own context/ denomination/ mission agency. Trouble is there’s a lot of stuff out there and if I try and read it all I’d never get anything else done and the old guys might end up having a point that “communication detracts from the real work” so I’m making myself a little list of a few good ones to keep up with… our friends Dean and Paula are doing great stuff in South Africa, they’re at dpfinnie.blogspot.com And if you are reading or writing a good-thoughtful-interesting-challenging blog feel free to hit the comment button and post up the link.