Interruption to service

I’m off to scout camp in the morning. At five o’ clock in the morning to be precise; to avoid travelling in the heat. Joni is coming with me, and Martin is staying home (just in case you were thinking of breaking into the house… why not, everyone else is). Today has been a day filled with mummy-toddler conflicts in between trying to sort out our sleeping bags etc for a week’s summer camp. Here’s hoping that’s not the pattern set for the next seven days, otherwise there may only be one of us on the bus home next weekend.
Since I usually do the content while the technical guru has his mind on loftier concerns, blogging may or may not happen in my absence. Whatever, have a good week, and hopefully normal service will be resumed next Sunday. (Assuming I’m the one who makes it onto the bus home.)

Revenge is a dish…

I know why parents embarrass their teenagers; it’s the long-awaited revenge for all those times when the toddlers embarrassed the parents.
A thirty-five degree day with powercuts to boot, this afternoon we rounded off the errands by calling in to the ice-cream / coffee house. Coffee was off the menu owing to lack of electricity. Luckily they have a lot of good ice-cream flavours. We normally buy a pot of three flavours and all dip in with a spoon.

Joni sat very nicely until the ice-cream was gone, then he climbed down and roamed around the shop which he normally does. What he doesn’t normally do is realise that the people on the table behind us still have ice-cream, and clamber onto a spare seat at their table to take his chance. Indulgent grandmotherly lady then started feeding him her vanilla ice-cream. Encouraged by his success, he reappears at our table to collect his spoon, which he presents to his newly adopted complete strangers, who co-operate fully to feed him the rest of their ice-cream.

Will ten years be long enough planning time for an appropriately matching response?

Rally driving

In Argentina it only has to look like it might rain at some stage today for everything to be cancelled and no-one to go anywhere. There have merely been clouds in the sky at times when I’ve been the only person show up to a meeting and the organiser has expressed surprise that I turned out “in this weather”. “What weather?” I say, deciding whether it’s worth explaining yet again how much it rains in the UK and yet our economy still manages to creak along.
The clouds became heavy and black towards midday, and the kid who I need to deliver home lives ten kilometres down the Ruta (officially the equivalent of an A road, think just-about B road for quality), followed by two kilometres up a mud track. So I thought if we set off right now we might just be able to get up the track and back out again before it turns into a swamp. I collected Joni from nursery and off we went. The ruta was pretty dire, a lot of surface water but passable, if you’re OK with the lorries from the other direction periodically sending a sheet of water cascading across the windscreen. Luckily everything was going slowly, which is quite unusual here.

Knowing that mud track well, it’s the same one I was stuck in a couple of weeks ago, I deliberately turned in a couple of metres ahead of where I knew I’d get beached again. I didn’t get stuck, we skated across the surface of the not-even-remotely-hard shoulder and came to a halt at a jaunty angle with two wheels hanging over the grassy bank. The judges awarded 8.6 for artistic merit. At that exact moment Martin phoned my mobile to tell me he thought the weather was too bad and that I should delay leaving till it stopped a bit. So I was at least able to agree that the weather was indeed too bad….

I got out and clambered gingerly around the car before concluding that it was stable if rakish and that the kids would be safer in than out. AA and RAC are but distant memories. Critical as I may be towards those who cultivate their helpless female personations, there are times when. So I stood at the edge of the ruta looking wet and needy, next to my piruetted vehicle, and predictably the world stopped to pull us out.

Cue lots of thanks and no harm done. The car’s getting used to its regular layers of mud. Learning outcomes for the driver; 1. I am not called to Rally driving. 2. The hard shoulder is not called the hard shoulder in Argentina because it isn’t. 3. Despite my good British upbringing, there are some things that just don’t work in the rain.

An ordinary weekend

Weeks are busy at the moment, Joni is at pre-school in the mornings, and I’m at the summer scheme, so the afternoons are juggled between taking life at two-year old level, and hoiking him around to do the grown-up errands that have to be done in order to maintain some sort of normality.
Weekends are less structured, so anything might happen and frequently does. This weekend the scouts were making a hundred dozen pastelitos which are little pastries filled with quince jelly (click on the link for recipe in Spanish or a photo in any language) to raise money for our forthcoming summer camp, so we made 30 dozen or so on Friday evening, before heading to Bible study group, which then turned into “drumming finger nails on table-top” when no-one else turned up. Saturday morning I was back at the scout HQ at 7 o’clock to put together the other 70 dozen. That’s a thousand two hundred pastelitos. No wonder we’re all sick of the sight of them.

Mid morning I was back home, Miguel arrived from his village of Porteña as usual to accompany Martin to the prison, so I prepared a swift lunch and off they went. Two o’clock I was all washed up, kiddo siesting, and I was more than ready for some down-time with the computer so I locked myself in the office. Within five minutes the house was broken into, that’s not quite correct, the house was audaciously walked into over the back wall and through the unlocked back door. I didn’t hear them for a while so they opened a lot of drawers and cupboards but didn’t actually take anything; pretty sure kids looking for cash and they didn’t find any since I only had 20 pesos (about three pounds fifty) and it was about my person. Eventually I twigged that the noises were occurring inside my house so I went to see, which I expect is what caused them to leave. Flippin dogs never squeaked, going to stop wasting money on food for them. So then there was some clearing up to do putting stuff back into the drawers etc that they’d emptied (the kids not the dogs). Hoping they were sufficiently disappointed not to return.

Next we were off to deliver pastelitos to various people who had requested them. Hot and sticky on the bike. Home, played in the plaza with Joni, followed by dunking him in the bath and bed. Left him with our favourite teenage babysitter hoorah while we went and met some friends for a quiet half.

Sunday, we set the alarm for eight-thirty to be up for church. Boy doesn’t yet know about weekends, so he went off at seven-o-seven and that was that. The alarm went off an hour and a half later to remind us of when we used to get up on those pre-Joni Sunday mornings. I was on Sunday school duty so I missed the sermon, which was mercifully short, probably for those listening as well as for those looking after the off-spring of the above. Small dramatic moment when the fan in my sunday school room burst into flames. Not sure how we’d fit that into today’s story of Abraham, probably better suited to Moses, but still, the kids enjoyed it.

Afternoon, kid slept siesta, we had an English-tv-fest. Every so often we catch up on the kind of rubbish that we wouldn’t lower ourselves to watch if we were actually in the UK. Kid woke up decided he wanted to take the dogs for a walk so that was next, blisteringly hot, didn’t stay out very long, followed by a brief turn around the plaza, on a swings, a trip to the supermarket, and then off to see some friends who have children a bit older than Joni. He has a mixed relationship with them; loves to go and see them, and then doesn’t understand why every game doesn’t always go his way; the little boy is five, isn’t yet prepared to make concessions for the stroppy two-year old on his patch. More than bed-time, threw Joni in the car, him protesting that he wasn’t tired “no sleeping”, arrived home some ten minutes later and he was begging for his bed, so that’s where he’s gone, and that’s where I’m headed. Next week starts tomorrow.

Squash Cake

butternut-squash cake

Took up the challenge (comment two blogs ago) to make a butternut squash cake. I pretended that squash was carrot and proceeded accordingly. We’re all still alive, and it got a thumbs up from my willing taste-testers.

It contains:
lump of squash, grated (skin left on)
SR flour
Sugar (I’d use brown in the UK but it’s hard to find here)
walnuts, chopped
pinch of salt
ground cinamon
sodium bicarb (I’d use baking powder in the UK but it’s also hard to find here)

I think that’s all. Dump it all in a bowl and mix it up a bit. Pour into tin. Cook. Don’t ask me what temperature, my oven’s not that sophisticated. The filling is just a tangy buttercream; icing sugar, butter or soft marg, and juiced half a lemon.

Payment in kind

We seem to be having the ten plagues of Egypt here at the moment. A wave of water-bourne swimming locust-like things filled the city. It was followed by a wave of gold-coloured hard-shelled flying beetle-like things, and now we are in a wave of multi-coloured locusts. Combine those with the ants and the mozzies and someone will be presenting it as evidence that the old testament prophecies all point to the second coming for a tuesday afternoon in 2010.
Changing the subject entirely, Dave Burnett, anthropologist, lecturer at All Nations and generally good bloke, used to extol the virtues of missionaries making themselves vulnerable to the people they are working amongst. So, does arriving on someone’s doorstep with “I’m sorry I’m late but I had to walk the last two kilometres from where I got the car stuck in the mud” mean I am a good incarnational missionary, or merely incompetant?

Once they had finished laughing, kiddo’s mum and two of her brothers hiked back with me and eventually we managed to release jalopy from its muddy incarceration, which took quite a lot longer than we first thought. In fact I got as far as wondering if I ought to pay them for their services, but I kicked against the idea that I do everything for free and I can’t take a favour in return, it kind of smacks of the white guy / native guy power inbalance, except that the inbalance already exists because I could have afforded to pay them if I’d chosen to…. sometimes thinking too much makes life seem so complicated. I compromised… bought some bits from the supermarket, and picked a couple of butternut squashes. i could make myself at home in an economy based around marrow-like vegetables.

Butternut Squash Pigs

Wanted; one long-lasting and tasty recipe requiring 30 butternut squashes. I planted a butternut squash plant, known variously in Argentina as corianito, anco, or calabacin depending on your bit of the country. Then two more plants sprouted themselves from the compost heap, and triffid-like they took over my garden. They haven’t actually tried to eat anyone yet but it’s probably only a matter of time. I’ve given twelve away. I’ve made a pie filling. I’m about to try crystallising them in sugar solution. I have recipes for soup, salad, pasta sauce and hot-pot, although with temperature in the 30’s we might give the hotpot a miss. And there’s still several green ones left on the plants.
Made me remember a book we had as kids; Apple Pigs Which I just went looking for on the internet and found retailing for a hundred quid second hand on Amazon. Sincerely hope our childhood copy hasn’t been sent to a jumble-sale…

Happy 2010

2010 in sparklers

New Year’s resolutions for 2010; 1. Convert Argentina, and 2. Fix the car CD player. We plan to start with the latter.

Happy 2010, we hope you celebrated appropriately. The photo above is of us trying to write 2010 in sparklers which would have come out better if I’d known how to slow down the shutter speed. New Year’s resolution number three: learn to use that camera properly. We were up in Salta for a few days, medium sized city some 12 hours driving north from here, hence the need to fix the car CD player. Actually, Joni was extremely well behaved despite the lack of kid-music. We drip-fed him lollies, biscuits, cornflakes and all the major foodgroups, other combinations of sugar and additives. Front seat roles include driving and providing the cabaret; occasionally the cabaret rep takes a break by shifting across to the driver’s seat. Of the various Argentinian provinces we have driven through, Santiago del Estero is not the most picturesque, but it is almost definitely the most exotic (and probably the poorest). Road-kill (not by us) as well as the usual array of dogs and cats, included iguanas, tortoises, little green lizards (‘fraid we squashed a few of those, they’re so small), a pig, and a horse. Outside many of the little huts were makeshift stalls offering cacti, tortoises, pestles and mortars, and parrots. Think hunter-gatherer goes commercial.

Salta was fun, we had a rather “gringo” new year, actually it’s the first time we’ve been at an Argentinean festival without any Argentineans present, although we did gather outside with the neighbours for the traditional setting light to fireworks and tissue-paper balloons at midnight:

setting off tissue paper lantern

We also caught up with some good people who we don’t get to see that often, including a Welsh friend who Joni quickly promoted through the ranks of adopted uncles good for climbing on. It was nice to have the car in Salta too. Previously reliant on public transport, I’d done the city museums and coffee shops to death and beyond, so we enjoyed discovering some of the lakes and hills which are easily accessible by car just a few kilometres beyond the fumes and grime:

Joni and Martin by the lake

Now back in humid mozzie-infested San Francisco, I’m head-down in summer scheme, Martin’s head-down in UK tax-returns, and we’re starting to try and think about what this year might hold for us and where we should be concentrating our energies when we next come up for air.

The Perils of the Mobile Phone

I sent an SMS to our landlady the other day which read:
“Can you come at 7:00 p.m. to collect the rent as, until then, Hazel is in Quebracho Herrado”

However, what was actually received was:

“Can you come at 7:00 p.m. to collect the rent as, until then, Hazel is in the desire of your heart sweetie.”

She then received another text simply saying “Quebracho Herrado”

I am scared to send texts now!