Christmas 2013

A few days ago I made an English Christmas cake.  Actually I made two, the first one became a burnt offering, although the middle turned out to be quite edible having chopped a centimetre off all the way round and presented it to the almighty.  That was when I discovered that contributors to cookery pages on the internet are lovely, helpful people, belonging in their entirety to northern hemisphere cultures.  My oven is too hot what should I do?  Three million responses; buy an oven thermometer so you can find out how your oven is calibrated and then turn it down to the appropriate setting.  How about if my oven is only calibrated to two settings, on and off, and I don’t need an oven thermometer to know that on is too hot.  What else should I try?  No responses.  I stuffed a rag in the door to wedge it open slightly.  No points for energy efficiency, and we certainly didn’t need the extra heat through the house, it’s been forty degrees for the last week anyway.  But the cake turned out great, even though the royal icing didn’t set… any ideas there? 

Monday evening we dressed up as magi for a street nativity performance organised by the Christian book shop.  Some were more enthusiastic about dressing up than others, but it seemed to work out OK, and the feedback from the audience was that the message was clear and simple and the neighbours enjoyed it. 

nativity play   nativity play

Tuesday evening (24th) was the main family celebration for Christmas in Argentina, so we were invited by friends to join them for the traditional back garden get together;

kids on Christmas eve  kids on Christmas eve kids on Christmas eve

Wednesday (25th) is more like boxing day here, it’s a day off and people tend not to do very much with it, particularly since this year the temperature hit 41.6 degrees, so the newspaper delighted in telling us this morning.  We saved our family presents for the 25th, our main present from everyone to everyone was a three metre diametre “pelopincho.”  Pelopincho is really a brand name, but like Hoover and Sellotape it has become the generic noun for the product, namely family sized paddling pools.  So we spent the morning assembling and filling it, and the afternoon playing in it;

new paddling pool   new paddling pool   new paddling pool

Thursday (26th) Today isn’t a bank holiday in Argentina, so most of the country goes back to work, apart from anything government related which won’t go back till February.  Joni is doing a swim school for an hour and a half in the mornings, and Danny is at nursery still, so I am making the most of the hour or so each day to get the child-free jobs out of the way.  While the UK is being battered by floods and gales, we are having apparently the hottest December for the last forty years, and much of Cordoba spent Christmas without electricity, in parallel with the South East of England.  The main difference is that here this morning they wheeled out a spokesperson for the electricity provider who set about blaming consumers for not informing the electricity company when they buy new electrical products.  Obviously trained in the school of “leaves on the line”, maybe we could post him across (if only for his own safety)?  Fortunately here in San Francisco our power cuts have mostly been  sporadic and short. 

And guess where we spent the afternoon again? 

Didn’t even know his name

If, like me, you love a good paradox then the Christmas story is definitely the place to be (which obviously I’m illustrating by posting this Easter video!).   This week I’m reflecting on how the magi knelt before a baby for a first hand encounter with the most high God.   Back when I was a student (not quite as long ago as Matthew’s magi…) apologetics was the order of the day, partly, I suspect, fuelled by a fear that science was in danger of replacing God and that he therefore needed a bunch of spotty youth to defend his corner for him.  Thankfully most of us (hopefully) have moved on from such nonsense.  The bigger our understanding of the universe, the more in awe we must be of the God who made it, and the more amazing it becomes that the person who flung stars into space should choose to become not only a baby, but a baby carried by an unmarried teenage girl from a poxy village in the back end of no-where and subsequently born in a barn. 

Meanwhile, on the theme of teenage girls from the back end of nowhere (tenuous link), I was playing with my kids in a plaza a few blocks away and an adolescent girl came up and greeted me; "Hazel…!"  We are quite used to random strangers saying hello because we’re the only foreigners in the area, so I said hello politely, and she said "Do you know who I am?"   And I said "No, I’m sorry I don’t know who you are" and she said "E.., from the home in San Marcos…" No wonder I had no idea who she was, the home in San Marcos is six hours drive away from here in the hills on the other side of Cordoba province.  I used to go there once a week when we lived in Cordoba but now we’re another 200 km further away, and I haven’t been there since Joni was a baby.  E was nine when I last saw her, and now she’s fourteen.  She’s been transferred to San Francisco a few months ago, and of course she had no idea I was here and I had heard nothing of her for the last five years.  So, I went to the home here to give them my details so she can contact me, and the staff at the door said "Someone knows this kid….!"   It transpired that she’s been transferred without any information, no-one knows anything of her history, which even the little bit I know involves several children’s homes and even more families.  But the urgency is that the home here shuts for the summer (ridiculous in my book but there you are) so most kids get farmed out to whichever blood relatives are willing to have them, and then there’s a scramble to find placements for those who don’t have anywhere to go, so to cut a long story short, E. is coming to our house for a couple of weeks, and we’ve also managed to put her back in touch with another volunteer who used to visit the home, who lives in Cordoba, we all met up last Monday, and E is going to stay with her for the other couple of weeks.  I have long been thinking and praying about fostering and adoption as possibilities, but as foreigners in Argentina it is nigh on impossible.  And I don’t think I would have necessarily started with a fourteen year old girl as a first placement.  Fortunately we don’t have too many other commitments through January this year, so at least I should have a reasonable amount of time to try and figure out how to suit the needs and tastes of the three very different young people in our care.