Tuesday, May 1, 2018

On sojourning.

Outside Migraciones, just moments after I was handed  my TEMPORARY RESIDENCE status.

Dear Readers,

The other day I was reading an article for a class I’m taking, a class which kind of escapes definition. It goes along with my internship, so I guess you could call it a seminar, but it seems kind of like a business meets econ class, and this Spanish major spends most of class writing down terms to google. The reading due the other week was finally at my level, though, and I was captivated as I read an anthropologist’s writings on what it means to be a sojourner.

To sojourn is so much more than just to visit, but also not quite the same as to live. It’s a kind of temporary abiding in a place, a time of getting to stand in wonder in the streets and unashamedly eat too many alfajores  and take more pictures outside museums than maybe is normal. It’s a time to get to explore and learn the best bus routes by trial and error and to feel honored when you ask the bus driver where you’re going so many times that when you arrive to your stop half the bus shouts, “This is the one!” It means you’ll inevitably get lost, and get confused, and spend a lot more time alone than maybe you thought you would, but it also means every day brings another chance to figure out how to find your way back home and maybe, on the bus there, you’ll meet someone who will invite you to their house for dinner. (If you haven’t figured out by now, all of these things have happened to me). Sojourning has a bit of permanence that tourists don’t get. It means you get to find your own favorite spots in the city and get to know the people who make the same commute as you and slowly find what community looks like for you here, there, wherever you are.
Finally learning to recognize reference points, like this bridge that I think is gorgeous. 

My weeks are filled with the most wonderful internship at Fundación Brincar por un autismo feliz and weekend moments with dear friends from my church community who I get to live life with after six years of being facebook friends only. I’ve discovered that in the midst of so much new I absolutely crave normalcy, and have finally carved out a bit of a routine for myself that brings me so much peace. So often I discover things I want to do here, people I want to know, projects I want to be a part of, and I just leap off towards them without even planning my journey. That’s fun for a while, but pretty soon I found myself desperate for something in my weeks that was permanent. This is what marks the difference, to me, between a tourist and a sojourner.

I love that volunteering with Brincar has given me such sweet friendships!
2 de Abril: the world day for Autism Awareness. These clowns visit
the public hospitals in Buenos Aires bringing joy. They were so kind to my friend and I! 
On Mondays and Fridays I run with another international student who has become a dear friend to me. We explore the city by randomly finding new side streets, and neither of us have great aspirations of being marathon winners, so we leisurely make our way through our runs, always seizing any chance we have to stop and photograph another building, a sunset, a cute dog. Sometimes we go sight-seeing too, and always laugh at the large groups of obliviously loud Americans, glad that we aren’t tourists, haha. I love these moments that feel like home.

El Rosedal in Palermo with sweet friends Sophie and Ali!
I’ve also started going to a weekly tango class. I’ve been a part of the class for over a month now, and it’s simply delightful to enter into a space where I know everyone by name and they know me and we know that this Tuesday afternoon hour is a date that won’t change.  I can do “el ocho” now, which is apparently pretty fancy. Youth group on Saturday nights is another permanent part of my weeks, and slowly I’m getting to know people there, too, and they’re so kind to make me feel seen and known.  Every time I come back to his house, Renzo greets me with a squeal and runs into my arms, gazing up at me lovingly. He makes me feel at home.  

Sojourning has another side, too, though. It’s equal parts non-tourist and also non-resident. I think the most frustrating part of my time here is how I’m so dependent on others for everything—I don’t have my own apartment to invite people over, so if I want to spend time with you I have to wait on you to ask me. And if you do ask me over for dinner, there’s a good chance I’ll have to spend the night, because it won’t be safe for me to travel back alone after.  Or I’ll have to ask you to drive/accompany me. I want to speak encouragement, but often it falls flat because this language isn’t my first.

I find myself so desperate to find SOMETHING, ANYTHING that I can give to them. This tango class I go to is technically a therapeutic class for people with Parkinson’s. I admit that part of the reason I first braved the unfamiliar subway route to get to the class was because I thought maybe I could at least do something for someone else in this class. The truth is, this class is full of the kindest abuelitos, many of whom dance tango REALLY well, and have taken it upon themselves to teach me how to dance it, too. I spend the hour of the class with brows furrowed, eyes trying hard not to stare at my feet, ears intent on understanding each different set of instructions with each change of dance partner. In the first few classes, I often stepped on Alfredo’s feet. Pretty ironic, and hilarious, that even when I go out in search of a place where I can do something else for my fellow man, Argentines find a way to do something for me.

This past week I went out to lunch with a dear friend, and I told her some of my thoughts on how hard it is to always be the one who is helped, not the one who does the helping. She looked at me with such gentleness, but didn’t hesitate to firmly tell me to just let that go. Reminding me that I’m new to this country, simply sojourning, so this semester is a season where they get to help me, she said.

“It’s just so frustrating because for all these years I’ve been dreaming of coming back to get to do something for YOU.” I confessed, the truth of my frustration. She just smiled and reminded me that there are seasons for everything, teaching me to let it go, to accept this wonderful season, to stop putting so much expectations on it.

I never stop laughing with these dear ones! 

I have big dreams for Buenos Aires, and that hasn’t changed. Every conversation I have about disability here leaves me longing to do more. There’s so much need. But this semester is one to plant roots, to learn, to slowly start the wheels turning in my own head for the possibility of ministry opportunities here, and in the heads of those around me who could start something. I’m confident I’ll be back, because there’s so much more.

In the meantime, I want to embrace everything about this season more fully, from the beauty of getting to sojourn and adventure and revel at all the things that are every day normal for people who live here (guess not everyone gets giddy about their instant coffee in the morning??), but also the parts of sojourning that are harder for me to accept, the moments where I don’t know where I’m going or what words to use and I have to accept help.

What a huge gift I have in this semester. How thankful I am to sojourn!!

Your blogger,
Claire (or Clara or Clarita or Clayre or Clarie or Cler or Cliaer..it's all the same here) 


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