I’ve been back in Buenos Aires for almost a month, so it’s about time I wrote a blog post! Nate and I came here around this same time in 2015, after hiking in Patagonia for a few weeks, and spent three weeks exploring the city and visiting our friends.
As our year of world travel was wrapping up, I began to dream about this unique time that I had ahead of me: there were renters in our home, it was winter in Boston, and I had no job to return to – all reasons to maybe stretch this travel thing a few more months. At the time, the refugee crisis in Europe was all over the news, and I began to ask myself, “how can I be generous with this unique time I’ve been given?”. Nate was excited to get back to Boston to work on a budding project with his former boss, but I had no such opportunity awaiting me. I began to pray and research like crazy: where could I be used? After following a few paths of connection and conversation that could have landed me in Europe working with refugees, I ultimately decided, with difficulty, that the few months I was able to give wouldn’t be as beneficial to the crisis as I’d want them to be. While the thought of taking off and handing out supplies/cleaning bathrooms/teaching English or whatever I could be doing was quite romantic in a way, I realized that I was already invested in serving in several places like the Dominican Republic and our neighborhood back home. And so I felt led to ask: how can I double down somewhere I’m already invested?
The answer came clear as a campana: Get serious about your Spanish!
As most of you know, Nate and I have been leading a team from Boston to work in on-going partnership with a church in an impoverished neighborhood called La Mosca outside Santiago, Dominican Republic since 2008. Luis and Reina Vargas, who pastor the church, and their sons have become like family to us over the years. While our Spanish is good enough to have some bumpy conversations with them, I’ve never taken an actual class and so felt stifled in my ability to grow my communication skills.
Nate and I travel once more to the Dominican for our ninth annual partnership trip in July. We’re currently raising funds to support our travel and the ongoing work there. So I’ll take a pause to ask – will you consider supporting our trip? It’s an especially stressful year for us to be preparing for this trip since neither of us are currently employed, but we are stepping out in faith because it’s where we are committed to encouraging and supporting our dear friends in La Mosca. This year, we’ll provide a medical clinic and do some much-needed construction work, as well as continue to strategically plan for the future there. If you’d like to give, you can do so quickly and easily online. And here’s where you can learn more about the story of our partnership. This is why I’m here in Buenos Aires, away from my husband, my friends, and my home. And it’s absolutely worth it in order to deepen my friendship with the Vargases.
…So here I am, living in Buenos Aires for two and a half months, taking classes 20 hours/week, and overall trying to live my life in Spanish. I have a wonderful community in the Saddleback Church plant here and am blessed to go to a small group conducted in English with other expats each week to talk about how our lives and our faith intersect. But otherwise, I’m doing my best to grow and learn in Spanish every chance I get.
In some ways, my time here feels like a simple extension of our world trip. We planned to travel for 12 months, but here I am, away from home for 15 – so be it. But, since I’m here for an extended period of time, there are many things that feel remarkably different. I’ve had the opportunity to settle into a routine, gather a community around me, and live in a neighborhood where I am the only gringa for blocks. I’ve learned the subway, and I use the intricate but super efficient bus system every day. I’ve gotten an Argentinian phone number and figured out how to charge my phone with data. I’ve found my cafes, my workspaces, my people: the guy with the best avocados, the woman who has giant bunches of cilantro. Whereas before I mumbled my way through my vegetable orders, now we interact each day with ease. The waiter at the cafe I frequent waves to me as I pass by on my way to the bus stop in the morning. There’s a handmade pasta shop around the corner. I have big, beautiful floor to ceiling french doors in my room that open onto a balcony that looks down onto a smelly, gross park. Very porteña. It’s been difficult, remarkably isolating at times, and not without a major panic attack on my first night alone here. But it’s invigorating and incredible, too.
One thing I missed terribly during our year of travel was worthwhile work. I could never have imagined that I would miss working. In fact, I was very much looking forward to having none of it for a long time, but in reality I struggled without a concrete long-term purpose to work towards. And now – I have it. Each day, no matter the temptations to do something else, I know my purpose: to soak in as much Spanish as I can. Luckily, there are endless ways to do that here that are really enjoyable. I’ve had great luck meeting with conversation partners I find online and attending weekly “Spanglish” events at a bar where small tables of expats and porteños converse in Spanish for five minutes and English for five minutes before switching groups. This goes on for two hours and it feels like two minutes! I’m still getting used to the fact that dinner starts around 10pm and a night out may end around 5am or simply slink into breakfast, but I’m embracing it as much as I’m able.
Hasta la proxima vez! Ahora es el tiempo para estudiar…