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) 


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Week one in Argentina!

Just minutes after stepping out of the Argentine airport (thanks customs for not making me live in the airport!)!
Dear Readers,

I’ve been in Argentina for one week today. (Well, I'm a little delayed in posting this, but just know I did write this on Sunday!)

My welcome meal...the best asado in all of Argentina.
This girl blesses me so much with the way she loves BIG. 

A week ago I woke up to the sunrise over South America, to the knowledge that I was only three hours away from the country I had only dreamed of for five years. A week ago today I swapped numbers with the kind Argentine student beside me who had just finished her study abroad experience in the United States and wanted to stay in touch. A week ago today I nervously waited in customs and officially exchanged the cold MS winter for the hot Argentine summer.

The first of many games of Sushi Go!

A week ago today I hugged my Argentine family for the first time and soaked in the fact that we were communicating without a dictionary or translation app or anything. I sat at their table and ate the most delicious asado, had the best café con leche in the whole world, and hugged my hermanito Renzo so hard it took him a whole day to decide he wanted to hug me back.

Renzo's laugh might just be the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.

I'll never get tired of laughing with you, Renzito! 

What a day. What a week. There have been so many beautiful moments. My favorite moments have been in the backyard, jumping in the pool with Renzo, Isabella, and Nico, playing Sushi Go more times than I can count, and cooking in the kitchen with Viviana and catching up on everything that’s happened in the last five years. I’ve loved learning so many new Argentine phrases and words and working on my Argentine accent. I’ve also loved sharing some of my favorite parts of the US with these dear ones—namely, quesadillas and chocolate chip cookies.

And just like that, Nico's practically an adult...so sweet to share time with her! 

Happy Summer :) 

I’ve started learning how to travel by Argentina’s colectivos (buses), and think I’m almost maybe ready to tackle them alone. Maybe. We’ve gone shopping, watched the trains as they come in, and played at the park in a plaza. We got to go to Renzo’s new school one day, and it was all I could do to not spontaneously exclaim, “I volunteer as tribute to work here! Would you take me?” the whole time his teachers were introducing themselves and asking his other little classmates what they loved to do. We’ve taken walks in the afternoons after the siesta that has happened every day and that I’ll so miss when school starts. One of our walks took us to a golf course, where Renzo ran and ran and ran and I strolled along, watching the sunset and chatting with Nico. Another night we pulled chairs outside the bright green fence separating their home from the street, and shared mate while people walked back with bags full from the carniceria or the verdureria and a group of young boys played futbol down the street.

 I’ve gotten to observe Renzo with his Occupational Therapist, and have delighted in getting to share in things he loves, like swimming, cuddling to morning cartoons, and watching all things that spin. Such a gift to get to do these things together.

There have been moments of confusion too, for sure (most of them happening in the supermarket.) Although I’ve picked up the Argentine accent and special conjugation forms (voseo) pretty well, a lot of the words and phrases I learned just aren’t used here, and it’s pretty dang humbling to say something and be answered with a, “Que?” Although my accent is definitely that of a yanqui (what they call people from the US here) and the rate at which I talk is so painfully slow, I find that I’m so confident when I speak, and I speak a lot. I owe that to this kind, wonderful family who gives me space to think through verb conjugations and lets me share my heart no matter how long it takes. 

On Tuesday I’ll leave this sweet home and move in with a kind woman who will house me for the semester. I’ll be living about a fifteen-minute walk from the university. It’s crazy because just when you think you’ve confronted the thing requiring bravery, then everything changes and you need to be brave again. I don’t even have any idea of what to expect for the week classes start, and then after that the week internships start. But this week has been the gentlest welcome, the most perfect ease into Argentine life, that I feel ready for whatever the rest of the semester holds.
In the months leading up to this, I often got asked, “Why Argentina?” I think the most perfect answer for that is in the actions of sweet little Isabella. The very day I arrived, she grabbed me by the hand and took me to the bathroom. “You can put your toothbrush here with ours,” she said, pointing to the already very full toothbrush holder. Later, she and Nico cleared two shelves for me to put my clothes on, and set my shoes up beside theirs.

This is why I chose Argentina. May we always be the kind of people who have room for another toothbrush or two.

Your blogger,