En Familia

Thanks to those who have welcomed us back, thanks also to those who have left us alone… We are indeed back in the UK, and this week has been mostly about family; since we arrived there have never been less than ten people in the house, at times up to the mid-twenties, and currently we are thirteen resident in the Baldock Hilton. We start our programme proper this Sunday with our first church presentation, and normal service re blog-writing,responses to emails and suchlike should be resumed around then. Thank you for your patience.

Distribution of scarce resources

I remember writing a philosophy of education essay on the subject of “distribution of scarce resources” which was about having to decide where to blow the limited budget; on the brightest kids who might go on to push the boundaries of scientific discovery, or on giving the best chance to the kids with the most disadvantages, or on making sure that the maximum number possible achieved their statutory five c-grades; and having made that decision, find a way to sell it as a good plan to the parents of the kids you left out.    That was twenty years ago, and luckily for the future of the world and its children I’m not the minister of education for anywhere.  Today I’m making decisions not about money or education, but about a resource so scarce, it would be worth more than any precious metal if we could figure out how to mine it; that elusive teacher that kills all its pupils; time.

Parenting two pre-school children on different and sometimes conflicting daily routines is an effective exercise in learning to fill the unforgiving minute while juggling plates with ones elbows, and occasionally being floored by decisions such as “the kids are both asleep, do I do a bunch of jobs because they need doing, do I take this opportunity to do something that I wanted, or do I go to sleep just to see what it feels like?”  Right now though, my logistics exercise is to plan a programme of church visits for the UK so that we can make the most of a short amount of time without causing the kids to drive everyone else crazy in the process. 

Continually under pressure to raise our support (sorry to disillusion anyone who thought that mission wasn’t about money), the temptation is to prioritise people according to finances; who gives the most, who might give more if we encouraged them a bit.  (Scandalised?  How many churches do you know where the richest members don’t have any sort of leadership role?)  Meanwhile, juggling the knowledge that we won’t be allowed back if we haven’t raised enough, with what’s left of our principled belief that mission isn’t all about money, we might then prioritise congregations who are already mission minded, or maybe concentrate on folk who might become more mission minded if we encouraged them, or maybe think about returning some generosity to some who have been particularly supportive of us personally.  Budget in the factors that most people will be on holiday for at least some of the time, that there are only four Sundays to a month, and that half of my emails seem to disappear into the ether of the spam filter.  Cover the diary with several layers of scribbling and tippex.  Give up and decide to fill the blank bits with people we’re looking forward sharing a pint with, and voila; a programme worthy of any education minister.  Old Speckled Hen anyone?

You have to say Wow

(Reproachfully…)  “Mummy, you didn’t say Wow.  You have to watch me and then you have to say Wow!”  That was on the climbing frame in the plaza the other day.  Now I’m trying to teaching him to ride his “big boys bike” (with stabilizers) which we acquired second hand from a neighbour.  It’s too big for him, but he’s been asking for one for a while, and by the time he’s stopped being in excited awe of it, it’ll probably be about the right size. 

There’s probably loads to write about, but mostly I think things are chugging along as normal…

The project in Quebracho Herrado has mostly fallen apart, as the person we’re supposed to be working in partnership with has a heavy schedule of giving workshops on the importance of working in partnership.  Actually the project hasn’t completely died, but we just made a decision to stop renting our room.  I expect it probably will die, but I’m planning on plodding on with it for a bit longer, and given that I wasn’t fully in agreement that we needed to rent a room in the first place, one might say that the project is now at the point which I would have started from except that it’s taken us three years to get here. 

I’ve spent too many hours trying to resolve a conflict with Pay Pal, which is probably a waste of time since they’re far to big to care.  Their problem is that my bank is located in the UK, while the residential address attached to my account is in Argentina, and their set up doesn’t allow for people’s details to straddle more than one country.  Ironically my bank themselves have never had a problem with this and I can’t believe that out of Pay Pal’s 250 million account holders (which you get to read about a lot of times if you spent the hours on their website that I have this week) I would be the only one.  But I’m guessing that most of those 250 million are in the USA which is a big country with a large population of whom only 17% have a passport.   Whatever the socio-geographical explanation might be, the fact remains that Pay Pal manages to be a humongous corporation operating across the world and yet having all the multi-national awareness of a 17th century cow herd, which is quite an achievement particularly in the banking sector.  At least their guy in my latest phone call had the honesty to admit that probably the only solution was going to involve either moving house or changing my bank.  Their final move was to email me a questionnaire asking how likely I would be to recommend Pay Pal to my friends.  I answered it. 

Friday night we held a peña to raise money for the Scouts.  Peñas are Argentina’s answer to a ceilidh; folk music, dancing and alcohol; good clean(ish) raucous fun.  We served up locro; tradtional stew with a basis of maize, pumpkin/squash, and an assortment of bits of dead animal.  The best ones are boiled for several hours in a metal dustbin on a wood fire in someone’s back yard (in our case around the back of the barn) for a wonderfully tasty winter brew.  The carousing and cavorting goes on into the night and we crawled home in the wee small hours (4 o’clock).  Sadly Danny seems to share Joni’s opinion that the day should swing smartly into action in the morning no matter what time you went to bed, so sure enough one appeared at seven, and the other at seven-thirty.  It’s been flippin freezing here (literally) this weekend but we’ve done the round of Scouts, prison, church some bike-riding on the patio, and Gonzalo did a fine parillada (BBQ’d organs and innards, it sounds gross in English) for lunch today.  And tomorrow’s Monday again.