October 6, 2011

week one

I don't even know where to begin to describe Buenos Aires. Except to say that I honestly don't know how anyone can live here. I don't know how I did. It's crazier than New York, even Tony thinks so. I'd live in NY before I lived here in Buenos Aires.

This week I've been riding around in cars holding my baby on my lap - no carseats here.

Been sick to our stomachs, but you don't want the details to that, I'm sure.

We wake up to someone's rooster crowing. And a horse trotting down the city street drawing a rickety wood cart behind it.

The people. They're everywhere. 13 million.

Have had to hold my breath going into public bathrooms, and then could kick myself when I realize I forgot to bring my own toilet paper (it's BYOTP here, for the most part; we did see TP in the Burger King we found downtown today, though - score!).

Oh, and don't forget to throw the TP in the little trash can next to the toilet. The waste system does not process paper waste, so you can't throw it down the toilet.

When people come to work on the house (we're staying at my sister-in-law's), we have to close up the suitcases and hide them so nothing gets stolen. That takes like an hour since we have so much stuff.

When we're out, I've mostly had to change diapers with baby standing up, while trying to make sure my bags don't touch the icky floor.

Oh, and plenty of boobs hanging out here, nursing boobs that is. No one bats an eye. It's just the way it is.

Speaking of boobs, the television here is nasty. And it seems that in every house we go to, the TV is on - which is so draining. The other night there was a full-on strip tease on public television. I thank the Lord the kids were asleep and didn't happen to be walking by the TV. It's really hard being in other people's houses... what do you do? Turn their TV off? Ask them to watch something else? Leave? Awkward social moments, a few.

It's so noisy here. So noisy. Dogs barking, roosters crowing, motorcycles speeding by, your neighbor blasting loud music at any and all hours of the day, car alarms going off, buses, people yelling in the streets...

We've almost been hit by cars crossing the street, or at least avoided being hit, several times.

Breathed in plenty of diesel exhaust, which turns the inside of your nose black.

Been chased by a few dogs.

Have had to get used to watching where we step when we go out for a walk. When there's a sidewalk. Sometimes it abrubtly ends in dirt or rubble or trash or sad tufts of grass.

The stores are so small you can barely move.

So are the rooms in the houses.

You have to be buzzed into, and out of, some stores for security purposes.

My niece was robbed at gunpoint right outside her house. She told me this last night, at her house. She was sitting there on her cell phone, someone put a gun to her head, and stole her phone. Fortunately for her that's all he took.

The sodas are still served in glass bottles. And they taste so much better.

Dinner's at 10pm. 8 or 9 is early. [The kids are doing surprisingly well with it, though. God's grace, the only reason.]

We're not getting fat from eating 4 times a day (breakfast, lunch, tea/snack time, dinner) because we're walking A LOT. And we have those stomach issues... but I mentioned that.

The food here is delicious, it's just a lot of meat, white flour, white sugar, and fat. Not a salad in sight, unless you beg. Which I've had to do. It's surreal when you get strange looks for asking for a salad.

We started our paperwork this week. What a nightmare. Talk about bureaucracy. No paying bills on the internet, no errands that last only 10-15 minutes, like in the bank and out in 5 minutes. Everything takes hours. Sometimes half a day.

I wish I knew how to transfer the pictures from my cell to the computer - I'd show you the lines we've had to stand in. Everywhere you go you stand in lines. Often for hours. Today we saw a line for an ATM that was at least 100 people long. At least.

I don't have any pictures to post at the moment. Hubs won't let me take the camera out of the house. Let alone stand there in the middle of the streak gawking like a tourist snapping touristy-like shots of all the crazy things one sees here.

Yes, I used to live here. But that was a long time ago.

We visited a bank today to open an account. We are not permitted to because we are not residents. Even though Tony is a citizen, he does not have a job or a permanent address here with bills to prove it, so sorry - no bank account for you. They said that the central bank here in Argentina imposed stricter requirements several years ago on opening bank accounts in order to crack down on money laundering. Yeah.

Which means a huge headache for us, because we have our container coming and no money to get it out of customs, since it's all in our bank account at home. Praying for a way to be able to transfer it down here somehow. I keep telling Tony not to worry, it'll all work out. God is with us, right?

The good news: we're all still alive. At least bodily. I'm only holding onto a shred of sanity by God's grace. A really thin thread of it. I can't wait to get out of this city. I really do not like it here. Never have. Pretty sure I never will.

Interestingly Tony is experiencing some serious reverse culture shock. He was about to lose it in the bank today he was so frustrated with the system. Welcome to Argentina, we joked - although we weren't really laughing.

My culture shock is coming in other ways. Mostly having to do with dealing with family. It's a totally different culture. Totally.

We are finally feeling the full-on shock of where were are. We're definately not in Kansas anymore, Toto!

Someone posted a picture on FB today from back home. Ahhh, home. It was so pretty. It's SO pretty in the States. It's so not pretty here. It's just not.

Anyway, my apologies for a choppy, poorly written post. It reflects my state of mind: overwhelmed and completely scrambled. I can't seem to process much right now, it's stimulous overload.

How are the kids? My boy broke out in cold sores all over his mouth, like all over, from the stress and change in food. Poor thing. He's still doing his math every morning, though. I think he's just craving something familiar - even if it's math!

My daughter came bawling her eyes out the other day after her shower, "I just can't take it anymore, it's so overwhelming here." She had taken a cold shower because she didn't know how to work the hot and cold water, and it sent her over the edge.

My baby is no longer half-potty trained, but regressed totally and wants to "go home" to go to bed.

IT'S HARD. I won't lie.

We're staying with family here. That is probably the hardest part of all. It's craziness. But I'm a Christian missionary, so they're still alive. And should probably thank the Lord I have Jesus and not an oozy. Or maybe an AK-47. [Sorry. That's not nice.]

God? He's around here somewhere, at least I believe He is. I can hardly see Him. We are so totally and completely immersed in the craziness here and so totally consumed at the moment with taking care of the kids, paperwork/move-related errands, and staying alive that we barely have time to read our Bibles or pray. And we feel it. I told Tony if we don't leave BA soon, someone's gonna die. [Okay, I exaggerate. A little.]

Traumatized and culture shocked would be a good way to describe our first week in Buenos Aires.

I can't wait to get out of town and head to Patagonia! But you probably could have guessed that. Pray no one loses their life or sanity before we do.

I think Patagonia will be different, I really do. I think we'll be much better once we get there. Some space and some mellower people will do us all some good!


Laura said...

Hey Chris,

I don't know if you have time to read the comments. Just wanted to let you know that we're praying for you. Remember that "He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it" The God who sent you (and seems far right now) is the one holding you up and carrying you day by day. Our love and prayers to you all. Keep us posted so we can keep praying'!

Con mucho amor en Cristo,

Deb said...

Chris!! Pumpkin, I feel the SOS!! I am praying!!! I am praying for the favor of God to move you thru the paperwork/banking bureaucracy. You are God's kids, on His Mission Field and He will open up doors of favor for you, He will!!! I am praying for sickness to leave your bodies "now" in Jesus name. I am praying that in the din of all the noise, you, Tony and the kids will be able to come together as a family, even if its only for 15 minutes a day, to come before God and be still before Him... I am praying that the next week(s) in BA will fly by, and that you will soon be on your way. And I am praying that on the back end of this, when you are thru this upside-down transition time, you will know that He carried you the whole way and you will see the Goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and it will be worth it!

Love and prayers to you all,


Chris said...

Laura, I do read the comments and I often tell Tony, too. It's NUTSO here, prayers greatly appreciated! We miss you guys.


Katie said...

Your mantra needs to be "Neuquén is not Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is not Neuquén." I promise you that once you get out of the capital and settled into your own place and you re-establish routines for yourself and your kids, you will feel normal again. Until then, well, just ask God for the strength to deal with everything that life is throwing at you right now.

It shouldn't be a problem to access your accounts in the U.S. I withdraw money all the time from my account in the U.S. through an ATM. Just go every few days and withdraw the maximum amount the ATM will let you (it varies by bank).

There is beauty everywhere in Argentina, even in Buenos Aires. You're just too stressed out and overwhelmed to see it right now.

This part of the journey will end soon enough, and you will begin to see and understand why you felt called to come here.

Much love to you all, and if you need to talk, give me a call (I'll send you my local phone number here in Argentina).


Betsy Bell said...

Praying for all of you. It sounds a lot like China and I know how frustrating it is to adjust to being there some days! It will all even out, just keep remembering why you're there and try to let the annoyances go (yes, that is MUCH harder to do than it is for me to type!). The kids will adjust and be much stronger for it, so will you and Tony. The time I spent teaching at a preschool in China with just my two boys (they were 11 and 8 at the time) was one of the most difficult times in my life but it's also the time when I learned the most about myself and became stronger.


Anonymous said...

Oh Chris I'm praying for you guys! Ditto to what Deb wrote. You will be able to look back and see the blessings of the Lord in all of this Chris and Tony. I know it with every fiber of my being. Praying that in the midst of chaos that God will show you beauty. Praying that in the midst of painful homesickness that you will know God's peace and presence like you have never known it before. praying that as a mama you will have the extra love and wisdom to guide your kiddos through this. The beauty of it all is that even though God is hard to find doesn't mean he isn't there. Love you guys and miss you bunches!

Chris said...

Katie, thanks for the outside perspective. You are right, normal will return once we get settled in. And love the mantra - I keep having to remind myself of that same thing!

Betsy, I hope you're right! I will try to keep that in mind.

Aimee, thanks for praying! It's been a while since we've needed it so much as now!

Christy said...

I thought of you yesterday when I saw a whole 5 people in line at an ATM machine in Philly.
I totally feel for you and know that we continue to lift you up in prayer that you will be able to work out the financial situation, the container will make it down soon, that you will be able to get out of B.A. as soon as possible and that you would be able to have a sense of peace in the midst of this "storm".

Ben said...

hey chris, wait til you get to Neuquen! I can't even explain to you what I was thinking reading your blog. Call it crazy but I miss some of those things. I really liked being in Bs.As. even if I was never actually in the city for more than a few days at a time. I once tried every place I could find to get a yellow fever shot and finally after two days of trying i waited in a line 3 blocks long to get one. i know its not the same with kids and family but there isn't a day i don't think about being back there, even for a few hours. To sit down with my friends and drink mate until i have to pee so bad! hahaha. Not everything is bad there...there are good people there I know them personally. and all the bad that surrounds you is part of why you are there. por lo menos hablas castellano y tony se habla sin acento che!!! Aunque yo no hablo bien, no tuve miedo de toda la osuridad que hay...Dios tiene mucho mas para nosotros me parece. Las proximas semanas va a pasar rebien...no pasa nada che. Les mando un abrazo enorme, muy fuerte che...gracias para irse! nos vemos chris!

and please eat a ham and cheese empanada for me. or maybe 10. =)

Chris said...

Ben! Yes, you've been away a while. I felt that way too til I got here. Easy to romantize from cushy comfy clean and sparkly USA. Come on down, then, we are waiting for you guys. :)

We'll all feel better once we get our own place and get out of nomad mode. Intense stress affects one's ability to be positive just a tad.

And I've had a few empanadas de jamon y queso - SO GOOD! mmmmm

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