December 30, 2011

life in car purgatory & Christmas in Patagonia

Our first Christmas in Patagonia didn't look like what we thought it would, or what we (okay, I ) wanted it to look like, but life and plans and many other things have come to an unbelievable screeching halt with our moved-to-the-third-world car issues.

Since our car has been released from Customs prison paperwork, it has entered Car Purgatory. It occupies this nebulous, undefinable place between Customs and not-actually-registered yet. Apparently, registration is not so quick and simple a task here. Nothing is, really. Silly me for thinking we were home free once we got through Customs. Ah-ha, not so fast there, gringita.

It may be another month before it's actually registered here in country. No one seems to know how long it may take. For now, we drive around town, we think legally {I mean, they did give us a paper that says the ban on driving it has been lifted... so, that means we can drive it, right? Even though it's doesn't have plates or registration yet... right?}.

Since we're not sure of the actual status of our vehicle (no one else seems to be either), we keep a look out for the police. Everytime we see one, we sound the alarm, "POLICIA!", and Tony takes a sharp left or right before we get too close to them. Sometimes there's no avoiding it, though. They've been doing a lot of check point stops over the holidays. In cases like that, we just pray, Corrie Ten Boom style - "Lord, make us invisible" - and drive right through the check point with our unregistered van, no license plates, waving and smiling as if all is as it should be. Christmas Eve, as we slowed through a checkpoint, the policeman looked after us as we passed him. We not sure if he was reading the verse on the back of the van, or wondering why we didn't have plates. Or he just thought our 99 Ford Econoline was the coolest thing he's seen since sliced bread. He didn't flag us down or do anything, though.

"Welcome to Argentina" Tony and I say to each other, smiling, as we speed away.

But this car paperwork business has seriously cramped our (okay, my - I'm impatient) style. We wanted to travel to Bariloche and do a Christmas outreach, but that, and most other mission-y plans we have, have been put on the back burner until the car is actually registered here in Argentina. We are still mostly stuck in town, treading water, waiting, waiting, waiting. It's frustrating. Very frustrating. Sometimes we make plans, but God has His own timetable.

(But, there are many other things we have been doing. Remember, I'm married to Mr. Social. More on that later, I'm kind of wiped out at the moment... over-socialized. must. be. alone...)

Christmas week I had a migraine, four days of a headache. I was in bed, out of bed, back in bed. In between nursing my head, we had a lot of people over. We are really enjoying getting to know the people (finally) at church. They are wonderful and awesome and we adore them already.

Tito and his family came over for dinner. Tito told me they are waiting for me to come to practice so that they can teach me the panflute. He and Tony have become friendly already (but no surprise, Tony's friendly with everybody). As we sat at the table eating tarta de humita and pascualina, our kids playing together nearby, Gladys, his wife, told me how her baby had Scarlet Fever a few months ago. These are normal converstation here these days. After Christmas we are going to get together to talk seriously about putting their music group and our projector together to do some evangelistic mission trips. I already have plans to drag Keren the Mime along with us, too.

Jorge and Monica, who do the Hora Feliz , came over, as well. They need help and a break from their every single Saturday outreach. They have been trained in some degree by Child Evangelism Fellowship, which is one of the ministries I've always wanted to get hooked up with. Our daughters have hit it off and are great friends already. They hold hands and run and giggle and ask when they can play again.

Keren and her sweet and adorable family also came over. Keren said the first time we came to church, she took one look at Tony and said, "There! There is our new Youth Leader!" She is a trip. No one seems to want to lead up the Young Adults for some reason. I don't know why, they're an amazing and talented and warm group of kids. We talked about taking her Mime act outside of just church performances and doing more evangelism. Friday we spent the afternoon at the river with her, her mime buddy in crime, and some of the youth. What a great group of kids, we had so much fun, drinking terere and listening to Tony cracking jokes. Tony and I agree that, even though we miss the States and our family and friends and life there, if we left here, we would miss the people here, too, and a lot. They have opened up their lives to us and welcomed us with such open arms, calling us friends.

By Saturday, Christmas Eve day, my headache was finally gone, and we took off to spend Christmas with Edgardo and his family. His sister has a chacra [farm] in a town an hour away. We prayed our way through several police check points, and spent a nice afternoon and evening with their extended family. They were so kind to think of us, with no family here, and to invite us to spend Christmas with their extended family. We drank mate, the kids played in the little pool, they played soccer and badminton and volleyball, we had dinner (again, at 10pm - ack! I was out back by the grill stealing food in an attempt to avoid another four day long hunger-induced migraine. I hate that, always scrounging food before anyone else has eaten, it looks bad and maybe rude - but I can't help it!). They even gave us gifts. So sweet. We made the hour-long drive back at 1:30am, praying for safety as other cars sped past us at 80 miles and hour, no shoulder, no lighting on the two-lane highway, sharing it with big trucks speeding by the other way with no lights on. Crazy.

It wasn't the way I wanted to spend Christmas, but we were thankful for the blessings of God's kindness and goodness to us, even if it didn't look like what we had planned. I told Tony today what I wanted was to... and he finished the sentence for me, "Be with the kids at the children's home." We're tired of the same old same old. Then he reminded me this is not a game, some of these kids could pull a knife on you. Keren, who has been visiting the home for two years now, was telling us about each one when they were over for dinner. Some are jealous of little Dani, the youngest in the home. One of the 9 year old boys said he's going to kill her. He has such hate and anger inside from abuse and the life he has endured, that it comes out in hatred towards others. These kids need a lot of prayer, and so do we, she reminded us, if we want to go in there. Tony reminded me that we do have to be careful and think twice about where we take our own kids. It's okay to put the brakes on and take this slow. Without properly registered wheels, we are are in a holding pattern anyway. *sigh*

So, yes, even though we wanted to do something different perhaps, like last year, we are thankful for friends and family, near and far. But more and more, with each passing year, we think of all the people that don't have anyone to spend Christmas with, all the kids that won't even get one gift. But next year, I imagine, we'll probably be so busy, busier than we want to be, and begging for mercy and actually hoping to just sit around with nothing to do.


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