Justifying our existence

For a few months I’ve been going out to the village of Quebracho Herrado, getting to know folk, particularly families with kids who need support at school, and a couple of disabled people. Mostly I’ve done all the running, relationship building, visiting, knocking, offering. Mostly people have been polite and welcoming, but not enthusiastically enough to come to me if I didn’t arrive at their door first. However, go away for a couple of weeks, and according to the old lady next door, there has been a stream of people seeking me out, and being annoyed that I wasn’t there. It will be interesting to see if any of them come back now I am there.
I’d written a little project to offer secondary school for adults and young people, which we thought was quite a nice way of offering something to the community, and, frankly, justifying our existence. However, go away for a couple of weeks, and come back to find that secondary school for adults is about to be offered through at the local primary school, starting tomorrow night. Fantastic that it’s happening, but in terms us defining something meaningful to offer to the community here, back to the drawing board.

There are a lot of statistics available about destitution in Argentina. Quebracho Herrado has a percentage of people who are probably fairly low down the foodchain, but very few people in real need as far as I can figure out. I’m torn between Hazel’s desire to be somewhere where I can roll my sleeves up and actually do something useful, versus the church’s desire to plant a church. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, obviously, but in this context I wonder if we are here under slightly erroneous pretences and if maybe we have to think of our self-justification exercise in terms of how close we are to planting a church, rather than how close we are to serving the community here… and of course the proper missionary would say that planting a church was serving the community… so at least some of our supporters will be happy, just not sure I agree with them all the way.

From home to home

We arrived safely home at 4.30 this morning after two nights’ travelling, all very smooth, just rather long. The plan was to sleep in and deal with the day when we got to it. However, no-one had told Joni about the time change, hence he was running around the house at ten to seven, so we sent him to nursery like a normal day, debated going back to bed ourselves, but decided to take a siesta later instead.
So here we are back in Argentina. The first thing we noticed was that someone had cut the grass; hooray. And the second thing was that the boiler didn’t work; boo. We’re getting used to the idea that leaving our house in other peoples’ hands here will always result in some minor disappointments on return; (different cultural understandings around the concept of looking after other peoples’ property), but in fact we have done quite well this time, bits of cutlery missing, no food in the house, but nothing requiring any major attention other than the boiler which in fairness probably would still have broken down had we been here.

England was good, felt a lot like a holiday, been a while since we had one of those, nice to see people, regretting not having seen a couple of folk, but time was short. A few days we did little more than walk in the woods, followed by finding some ducks (pigs, sheep…) to look at, and eating ice-cream. We struggled out for a couple of curries, and met up with friends for a pint or two. Most days included a reminder of how we aren’t quite as English as we used to be. Little things like “why is the glove compartment on the wrong side of the car?” or slightly more worrying “why is the gear stick not in this door pocket?” Traffic lights on roundabouts are quite a complicated idea and that is speaking as someone who used to drive them every day in my past life, I imagine that someone who has never been in the UK before might really struggle, especially since some of the signs and lane markings are ambiguous to put it politely. As well as doing several roundabouts twice having failed to figure out where to get off, one time we accidentally ended up on the M11, and boy are those junctions a long way apart, especially if you didn’t want to be there in the first place. However, the real winner that we never got our heads around was the fact that England shuts in the middle of the afternoon. Four o’clock in some places, most others at five, and six is considered late opening; Argentina is just about waking up for the evening by then. Yes we know all the good climatic reasons why Argentina is a siesta culture and England isn’t, but even English toddlers sleep in the afternoons. It seemed like there was barely a gap between junior waking up and the rest of the world knocking off for the day, we never figured out how proper English parents must organise themselves.

For Joni the delights were mostly culinary; cheese (cheddar and stilton), baked beans, popadoms with mango chutney, and blackberries. We were in the right season for those, and he demanded them every time we took the dog over the hill; “ba-bees, more ba-bees.” He is also now highly impressed by planes having been on several, so he was in his element at my parents’ house which is frequently under the flight paths for both Luton and Stanstead “pane, more pane”, although he was pretty fed up with the whole plane thing by the time we were boarding the third flight yesterday. When he moved into “kicking and screaming and throwing myself on the floor because I’m two so I can” mode yesterday, I suggested he might look out of the window and he brightened up a little… “Cows and horses?” he said hopefully, ‘fraid not babe.