Ponderings on Argentina

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La niña de tus ojos September 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 4:46 am

So last Thursday I went to Retiro (the train station) with the girls for the evening. We left bearing hot chocolate and sandwhiches to help the youth there fight off the cold and their hunger on that cold, blustery night. As I left I (selfishly) felt a little sluggish. I didn´t really want to go; it would be so much easier to stay in my warm bed reading a good book. On the subway ride there I started prayingl, God I´ve heard someone say before that if we meet You we can´t help but be changed, and the Bible says that You are with the poor. God, I will be looking for you among and in them–please allow me to see You and to be changed.

It turns out that God was much easier to find that night than I would have expected. When I got to Retiro two of the guys that I have gotten to know fairly well ran over to greet me; I was excited that they were as excited to see me as I was them. At the begining of our servant team I always heard the Word Made Flesh staff refer to the youth at Retiro (who I will here on out refer to as the Ramigos–a cross between the words Retiro and amigos) as their ¨friends,¨ and I was definitely skeptical. Surely they weren´t really friend-friends. Maybe they called them that more for show. However, as time has passed I realize that friends are exactly what the Ramigos are to me. They are my friends–I get excited when I see them, and I care about how their lives are going (and vice-versa). It´s really a refreshing and life-giving experience!

So anyway, I was greeted by my friends, and then we all settled in on the subway floor and Tina broke out her guitar. At first everyone was just messing around with it, but then Jen dispersed words she had printed out and we all started singing worship songs in Spanish. This blog will never do the moment justice, but stay with me and I´ll try to give you a glimpse.

The atmosphere was electric. All of the joking around, the coming and going, the hustle and bustle of the Ramigos stopped and everyone was enveloped in the music, either singing or simply listening. We came to my favorite song and belted it out across the entire subway station. The song is called La niña de tus ojos and goes like this:

Me viste a mi cuando nadie me vi

Me amaste a mi cuando nadie me amo

Y me diste nombre–yo soy la niña, la niña de tus ojos

Porque me amaste a mi

Te amo mas que mi vida.

In English, the lyrics translate to something like this: You saw me when no one  saw me, you loved me when no one love me, and you gave me a name–I am the little girl, the little girl of your eyes (the apple of your eye), because you loved me. I love you more than life.

While we were singing this I looked around me at the Ramigos and saw so much hope and redemption because they were singing these lyrics. They are the forgotten, the unloved, the people no one sees. But there we were, in the middle of the station singing as loudly as we could–people were stopping to watch! It´s like the lyrics were becoming true by the very act of singing them.

And as I was looking around our group, my eyes stopped on Rosa–a beautiful, lively 3-year-old that we have gotten to know very well. She was sitting only inches away from the guitar, absolutely entranced, the stillest I have ever seen her and her eyes as wide as ever. I saw her singing along, as well. Her mom told us earlier that that song is her favorite, and that she will go around the house belting it out. What a wonderful message of beauty and hope for Rosa to hear and cling to. The Ramigos aren´t built up very much. they deal with scowls and glares of passerbyers in the subway all day, and rude remarks. Many are told from a very young age that they are ugly and wil never amount to anything. Hopefully they heard a different message Thursday night.

I think it was then that the drummer walked by. He was an older man with one eye swollen shut, 3 fingers bandaged in gauze, and a drum strapped to his back. We begged him to play with us and he set up camp and played 3 songs with us. After three songs he had to leave, but not before he sang us an incredible, heart-felt acapello solo. The whole time Isabelle, Rosa´s little 1-year-old sister sat on my lap dancing. It felt so normal, worshipping God in that subway station. So normal yet so revolutionary.

Thursday night was really neat because I prayed that I would find God and be changed by it, and God answered that prayer. I found him in the wide eyes of Rosa, the bandaged fingers of the drummer, the warm welcome from my friends when I arrived, the electric atmosphere of marginalized people audibly singing their worth into being. It just proves that if you are desperately looking for God, maybe you don´t have to go any further than the floor of the subway station.

 

There´s nothing like a good óle scrubboard September 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 8:19 pm

So a few days ago was my first night of washing my clothes by hand. Margi and I had been looking for a while, and we finally found and bought a scrubboard. I started at about 7 (pm of course), and set up my washboard in a tiny plastic container, and then set up a bucket to rinse my clothes in. I had a process going where I would have clothes on the line drying, clothes rinsing in the clean water, and clothes being scrubbed on the washboard–all at the same time! Being the horrible multi-tasker that I am, I was really proud.

I actually liked washing my clothes by hand. It was a peaceful experience–just me under the dark sky, no one to talk to or entertain. It was kind of a redeeming process, too. In this consumer society we are so far removed from certain processes, and getting our clothes clean is one of them. Washing my clothes by hand allows me a chance to get up close and personal with all the dirt, stains, and filth I accumulated.

I´ve always hated it when people take an idea stretch it unnaturally, stretching the idea to it´s limit in an effort to make it into some kind of spiritual metaphor. But, for some reason, I´m going to be that person today, so if you hate that–skip to the next blog.

But as I was scrubbing my clothes, I couldn´t help but think that this is how God is with us. We, as sinful people, are stained and splotched and filthy, but God doésn´t simply throw us into a washing machine, refusing to handle us until we are clean. Instead, he grabs a scrubboard, soap, and clothespins, and jumps in to accompany us on our journey to cleanliness.

 

El Retiro, take 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — vanosdola @ 8:04 pm

Monday afternoon, after the grocery shopping extravaganza, we went to El Retiro (the train station where we hang out with the homeless youth). I must admit, I was excited but really nervous. Nervous that I wouldn’t understand whne they talked to me, nervous that I wouldn’t be able to relate to them, nervous that they wouldn’t want to relate to me.

We arrived at the train station and ran into two of Jeremiah’s homeless firneds and their children. They immediately greeted us with a kiss, which was exciting because it showed their acceptance of us. We talked for a while and then David (another WMF employee in Argentina), showed up with coloring pages and word searches, which they love. We all camped in a corner and sat on the floor with them to begin the coloring and word searching. The floor was pretty gross. It had gum plastered to it with a layer of grit; no one sits on the floor of the train station unless they have no where else to go. Sitting with them was really symbolic of the beautiful illustration that Larry gave us in Toronto: the “‘us vs. them”‘ circles. For those of you who don’t know, this summer i went on a pilgrimage of sorts with Access, the college ministry at my church. Larry, our fearless leader, guided us on a pilgrimage to understanding poverty.

One night while we were walking the streets of Toronto, around 2 am, larry decided to teach us about the us and them circles. He drew to huge circles in the middle of the side walk with sidewalk chalk, and played a sort of “stand here if…”‘ game. For example, we would stand in one circle if we normall eat more than two meals a day, and go to the other one if we don’t.

Well we stood in the circles looking at each other, and then looking at the other circle (there was no one in our group standing in the other circle, by the way). It showed the us and them mentality. There was a clear boundary marking the difference between the two groups–those that eat more than two times a day and those that don’t. That boundary can divide a lot of things: those who have money and those who don’t, people who have education and people who don’t, etc…. Whatever the boundary may be because, the problem is that the boundary exists in the first place.

“‘And so,”‘ Larry continued, “‘Do you know what you have to do?”‘ The moon lit up his face as he grabbed someone’s water bottle and began to splash water on the ground, dissolving the chalk. ”You got to erase the lines, erase the boundaries that separates you from them. you do everything you can to erase those lines. If you don’t have water, pee on it. I don’t care what you do…just erase those lines,” he said.

i thought of all of that as margi, jeremiah, David, and I all sat down on the gritty subway floor. We had so much fun spending time with them. Tina taught them how to play Egyptian Ratslap, one of my favorite card games, and we all talked for a while.

David brought word searches and math worksheets with him, because the youth love to do them. I was doing a word search with one of the women, and I noticed that she didn´t know how to read. So instead, whenever I would find a word, I would tell her the letters in it, showing her where to start circling and where to end. She kept circling all of the wrong letters, and I quickly realized she didn´t even know the letters of the alphabet. I think she is one of the first illiterate people I have ever met. I have to give her credit though, she did not let that stop her. She kept searching until she and I had found almost every word in that word search. She was determined.

There were also a few babies there, crawling around the station. It broke my heart because they were covered in filth and grime from crawling around the subway floor, one of the little babies had a rash under his nose.

But I didn´t only see illiteracy and disparity when I looked around at the youth in the subway station; I saw hope, too. I saw people of different economic statuses, cultures, languages, and races come together and step forward in bravery to erase those chalk lines that the world has drawn around us. I saw happiness, joy, and laughter in the youth. I saw hope.

Immanuel, Christian´s brother, is 21. He attended school through 8th grade, but got really bored because he already knew everything they were teaching him and dropped out. He is really smart and was talking politics with Tina and I, commenting on how many presidents value money and resources over human lives. He was passionately talking about how wrong that is, and how everyone has value–the same value–simply because we are all human beings. It was so exciting to see him recognize his own worth and how precious he is, because that is one of Word Made Flesh´s goals–to tell the homeless over and over again that they have value untill it actually clicks and they believe it. It clicked with Immanuel, for sure.