Write a blog

My list of things to do today said “write a blog” (as well as go to supermarket, go to Quebracho, talk to social worker, buy nappies for disabled kid, take my own kid swimming, etc). All the other stuff’s either been done, or can no longer be done because the day’s finished and everyone’s gone home. So that leaves “write a blog”. What to blog about?
Life? Well there’s the supermarket… Actually, there’s a change shortage on here of late. That means that when you go to the supermarket, if you don’t have the exact money (and whoever goes to the supermarket knowing in advance that their bill is going to come to $54.37?) then first you have to convince the till operator that you don’t have the exact money “no, really, look, I haven’t got any coins at all”, and then you have to queue up at the far end of the till until she’s made enough change from the people coming after you in order to reimburse your sixty three centavos.

Theology? Haven’t done much thinking about that of late despite the fact that we’re supposed to be Christian workers. In fact I deleted an email from a Bible college today that I had been thinking about doing an MA with, but one, we can’t afford it, and two, another overseas qualification isn’t worth anything here anyway. At the moment I’m intrigued by the suggestion that the only place that John Mark might feature in the gospels is in Mark’s own account where “a young man” is mentioned running away naked as Jesus is arrested. Why does that intrigue me? Well I’m not exactly sure yet.

Work? I bought those nappies, but didn’t see that social worker, nothing unusual there, except that it was my fault rather than hers this time; car was double booked so I didn’t get to the village. Apart from that, I was looking at the guys at the special school yesterday and wondering if we could get hold of an old-but-functional computer and think about inventing some sort of single-switch access for it without having to spend zillions of dollars on “proper” hardware (or software come to that).

Other stuff? Martin just got back from the prison and went off to the mens’ group. He reckons the prisoners are more switched on in general than the men from church; he’s been using a lot of the same material for both groups. Our kid found a bit of fluff on his bed and became convinced it was a bogey (he says that very clearly), and then bizarrly became equally convinced that the bogey wanted to eat his trousers. Too much Dr Who I say. I wrote a bunch of emails and tried to get my head around various forthcoming events… Scout training on Sunday (the kitchen and bathroom both need cleaning, motivation for same not as high as last time I did it), Scout camp next weekend (not done very much towards that yet, nobody else thinks this is a major issue except Mrs European me), Latin Link Argentina team conference/retreat starting two days after Scout camp, and then Frost family retreat to England a few days after that… As last year, we’re happy to share a beer with anyone who’s willing to travel to Baldock to collect it.

Is this long enough to be a blog yet?

Weekend mode

Life’s quite busy, I’ve got quite a few half-starting projects and ongoing things to think about, but my brain-cell’s gone into weekend mode, so today’s blog isn’t going to be about any of it.
Today I bought my kid a ball. It’s a plastic green thing, to make up for the several others that have been punctured by the dog’s over-enthuseastic football-playing. It cost five pesos fifty, which is a bit less than a pound, so it won’t matter too much if we soon have to buy another one. Joni loves it, we had to take it out in the car with us this afternoon, and he kept touching it and saying “that’s for your birthday” (you and your are his favourite all purpose pronouns).

My first thought was “what evil parents we are that our kid thinks it must be his birthday because he’s got new stuff”.

My second thought was “fantastic, how many years can we keep this up?”

My third thought was “if we can raise a kid who doesn’t need to measure his worth or our love by how much stuff he gets, then we’ll be doing something right”.

At the moment he’s only two, and we don’t have a TV, so the hard bit’s going to come later. Just to show that we’re not perfect parents (in case you don’t know us very well) this evening, he put a plastic bucket over my head and announced “Mummy, you’re a Dalek”! He watches Dr Who back-episodes on Daddy’s lap, and he loves it. Like father like son.

Ball games

Four years ago Martin was nursing his broken neck and I was well into the world cup on the loaned TV. This year I haven’t managed to get the hang of it at all, maybe because we don’t have a TV so we’ve got used to doing other things with the time. Not necessarily more worthy things, just in case you’re worried that we’ve gone saintly or anything, just different ways of occupying ourselves. In fact, I completely forgot there was an Argentina game on Thursday to the extent that when I went out and found San Francisco resembling a ghost town, I wondered if there was a bank holiday on that we didn’t know about (which does happen quite often). In fact it turned out to be even better than a bank holiday because not only was the supermarket open, but it was also completely deserted and I did all the shopping in five minutes flat and still had time to go home and walk the dogs, so they were pleased too.
I’m not the only one who hasn’t managed to get into the world cup this year, judging by the lacklustre England performance yesterday. I did manage to see half of that game, and it was so boring that I abandoned the patriotic attempt and went out visiting instead. A fellow mish in South Africa who saw the match writes on his blog… “I love it when England play because it allows the rest of the English footballing fraternity know what it’s like being a Palace fan” which pretty well sums up the half I saw at least.

Apart from lack of media, I’ve frankly been far too busy for watching grown men playing ball games. Four trips to the hamlet of Luis Sauces, two trips to the village of Quebracho Herrado, one hospital visiting session, seven trips to the Cottolengo (site of the special school), not to mention the usual stuff of kid to nursery, swimming, walking dogs, playing in the park, supermarket, Scouts etc, and it becomes clear why we’ve never missed that TV, and why I’m looking forward to Monday, which is a bank holiday that we actually managed to find out about in advance.

Evangelistic openers

Top conversations from this week.
Discussing the world cup;

– What time are Argentina playing
– Eleven o’ clock
– Eleven? That’s a strange time for a football match.
– That’s because of the time difference from Africa.
– Oh, are they playing against Africa?
– Yes, the whole continent at once (actually I didn’t say this bit, the joke would have been wasted anyway)

Early Saturday morning, the phone rings, female voice at the other end;

– Is Martin there?
– No, he’s in the prison.
(Information digesting pause….)
– Oh. When he gets out, will he be going back to his old job?
(another pause while Hazel engages the braincell…)
– Are you looking for a different Martin? My husband’s name is Martin, and he’s a volunteer at the prison. (Martin is quite a common name in Argentina)
– You’re not the people who sell mobile phones?
– (phew) No, sorry about that.
– No, I’m sorry to disturb you….

Did Billy Graham ever have this trouble?

The future we choose

I do wonder quite often what it is that God wants from us here… every time someone or something reminds us about our dire financial support situation… every time I think about my “sleeves rolled up tackling the front-line of poverty” ambitions for my life… every time I think about the seven years I trained to gain the qualifications which Argentina doesn’t recognise… So why do we keep being here in a place where we can’t afford to be, where most people don’t need us, and where our mission may pull the plug on us at our next home leave anyway?
Well, apart from the fact that the food’s good, and our bi-lingual child is thriving, maybe this has something of an answer:

Asbo Jesus cartoon: We should allow the silence of the voiceless to shape the future we choose

Which I think is beautiful, courtesy of Asbo Jesus

Cotolengo Institute

I thought that there wasn’t a lot going on last week, except that when I look back at it, there was actually quite a bit happening, so maybe the lack of blog is more a reflection on the inspiration to write it, rather than a total absence of potential content.
Two mornings a week I’ve been going and helping out at the special school where our kid from the village attends. He goes with the littlies in the afternoon, but since our own kid is at nursery in the mornings, it makes sense for me to help out with the teens in the mornings sans offspring. As I suspected, it’s not the best educational establishment in the world. It’s on the same site as a home for adults, think Victorian institution; long wards with two feet of space between the many beds; forty in the women’s room, and probably the same again in the men’s (I haven’t been in the male wing yet). The grounds are large and green, with chickens in one corner. For some residents, I suspect it isn’t a terrible existence; there are a couple of cheery souls who can be found wandering the grounds greeting anyone they meet. One of the ladies takes on simple sewing jobs, and gets paid accordingly. The more disabled residents, I fear, rarely see the light of day. I’d prefer it to being homeless, but only just. But, credit where it’s due, it’s a charitable venture, in a country where “what will happen to my disabled offspring after I go?” is still a question which doesn’t have many answers.

That was a side-track, I’m not actually involved in the home, the school is a newer wing, I think it only opened last year. Most of the pupils have multiple disabilities, and usually from families with wider social needs. State-run special schools here tend to take the kids who would just about drop off the bottom of a mainstream school in the UK, so kids with more complex needs often rely on somebody funding them in a private school, or they don’t go to school at all (I think I’m still right in saying that in Argentina an IQ of below 70 labels you “uneducable”, certainly that was the case a couple of years ago). So, all power to the Cotolengo’s elbow for responding to a wide-open need. Hence we’ll gloss over the quality of the educational activities, and just mention in passing the comment made by a staff member that kid X “isn’t a child who we would expect to learn as such”, which I guess fits in with the <70 thing. I do find it more than slightly galling that technically I’m not qualified to teach here, since according to Argentina at least, I don’t have any recognisable professional qualifications, (nor have I finished secondary school). However, as an optimist, I’m still holding out a glimmer of hope that the qualification thing will be resolved at some stage before I reach retirement age, and/or that someone will see fit to employ me to do something, with or without the bits of paper. Meanwhile, I’m volunteering at the Cotolengo educational institute for these two mornings a week, and they’re giving me a free rein to do more or less whatever I like. Mostly I’ve been getting to know the kids, and thinking “if I was going to work one to one with you, what would we prioritise”, which is interesting in an academic sort of way. The really big need that I can see pretty much across the board is for alternative communication, which is conspicuous by its total absence; there seems to be an assumption that those who don’t speak don’t have anything to say. So I’m thinking about photos, picture cards, symbols, and whatever else I might be able to invent, and hopefully in the next few weeks we might even start to put a few priorities into practise.

Random Jottings

Welcome to the week.
It’s cold here. Luckily someone brought us a bunch of books. Those two facts are related. She said “my father was clearing out his garage and he asked me to take the books that I’d been storing in it. I said I’d get round to it, but he said he wanted them removed right now. So I’ve brought them to you to use”. Which roughly translates as “I think they’re rubbish, my father thinks they’re rubbish, but neither of us can bring ourselves to bin them”. So we’re burning them. Don’t tell anybody. It feels a bit sacriligious burning books, like in the old soviet union or something. But I wracked my brains and really could not find a good use for tomes on accountancy, economics, sociology and a whole bunch of other stuff all thirty years out of date and not in good enough condition to be preserved for any sort of posterity; some of them even have half the chapters missing. They’re doing just fine in our wood stove with the occasional poke to make air spaces between the pages.

I preached on Zaccheus on Sunday and everyone liked it. It took me a while to decide whether that was a good thing or not; like if everyone thought it was good, then should I have pushed further to be more challenging. But on reflection I think it was OK. For those who read Spanish, or want to look at the pictures, it’ll be under the “sermons” tab on the website either later tonight or at some stage in the next day or two.

Our kid is practising his first (and most important!) chat-up line; “Mummy, you’re cute”. You too babe.

And this is a link to an article that I was reading this morning, thinking about how much difference an attention to practical detail can contribute to success or failure in mission. It made me say “oh yes and how” a couple of times. There are a few people who I’d like to send it to direct, but I don’t want to be taken the wrong way, so if I put it up here, and people come accross it by accident, then hey, that’s just fine too, and maybe I didn’t mean you personally….