The good, the bad, and the ugly

San Francisco is currently doing that thing where the temperature drops from 30 degrees to twelve with barely a pause for breath in the middle.  That blink was autumn.  Oh sorry, you missed it.  There’ll be another one going the other way in six months time; we’ll call that one spring. 

So what’s news around here?

The Good

While it would be difficult to justify calling Scouts a significant part of my “ministry” (whatever one of those is), it is probably the area of life where the most identifiable progress is actually happening.  On a personal note, I have sat through enough training days to gain my “wood badge”, meaning that I am now officially a Scouter.  This is good for insurance purposes, and also for my self-esteem; I have a recognisable qualification, therefore I am.  I suspect related to this, the grizzly old Scouter who had thus far failed to meet my eye, much less speak to me, and whose comments have suggested he struggles with both women and foreigners, greeted me like a long-lost relative the other day, and even gave me a lift in his truck.  I don’t know why it matters that he accepts me, but somehow it does. 

Away from the personal, our group meets in an old railway shed, just a few metres along from a couple of other old railway sheds, which house a whole community of otherwise homeless families.  As in the UK, Scouts in Argentina have traditionally performed a baby-sitting service for the middle classes, but our Scout group here for the last ten years has been trying to make inroads into the railway community, and this year some of their kids have finally joined us.  This brings its own challenges almost too many to list, but these are the guys who could really benefit from what Scouting has to offer, and if we can both keep hold of our existing members and integrate the new arrivals, the cross-fertilization process could yield manifold riches all round. 

The Bad

Our missing mother mentioned a few entries ago was located safe and well and working as a farm-hand about a hundred kms away from here, but has since apparently disappeared again.  As yet unconfirmed rumours suggest that she may now be in a different province a thousand kms north, and more worryingly, that she may not have gone entirely voluntarily.  What is certain is that she is vulnerable and therefore this is going to need checking out just as soon as anyone figures out how.  Finding one person in a rural area of a country eleven times the size of the UK brings a unique set of challenges, the first of which is to persuade anyone in authority to give a damn about a dark-skinned and uneducated female whose family aren’t articulate enough to fight her corner.  

The Ugly

Wrestling with a broken umbrella in the rain is worse than merely being rained on.  At that point the very existence of the umbrella ironically becomes the red herring, as we have to work through the whole frustration of “this is an umbrella, I chose it for a specific function, it ought to be performing that function, maybe I could get it to work if only I just try…” until eventually wetter, later, and crosser than if we’d ditched the thing and walked home in the first place, we are forced to concede that the effort has been wasted.  In the case of a shoddy local product, or an even shoddier Chinese import, the sensible solution would be to cut ones losses and buy a better one.  However, with this umbrella, we have the equivalent of shares in the company, an on-going relationship with the directors, and we also pay an annual “hire charge” for the privilege of using the umbrella.  On paper, this could mean we have a positive influence over umbrella design, and on a personal level to ensure that our model performs the function for which it was made.  Unfortunately in practise, the response of the management has been to assert that we were wrong in expecting the umbrella to keep the rain off and not to turn inside out in the wind.  The silence thus far from anyone else in the board room suggests tacit agreement with this position, lack of interest, or possibly just the hope that we might go away.  As a champion of “make do and mend” (I’d have been a poster girl for “dig for victory”) my house is full of stuff I’ve grown, sewn, fixed; and full of other stuff waiting for me to figure out how to fix it or make it into something else.  But there comes a point where even I have to concede that darning the previously darned is counter-productive and re-heating the previously re-heated is downright dangerous, so we have to ask how much longer it is possible, sensible, or realistic to keep going with our broken umbrella.  If you’re finding this all too cryptic, I apologise.  I’m trying to juggle wanting to write about what’s really going on in our lives, combined with not wanting to damage anyone else on route, combined with feeling nervous that pointing out that the emperor has no clothes on might result in the boy being put into the stocks rather than the scoundrel tailors.  “Complicated” might be a better word than “ugly”, but ugly fitted the cliché! 

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