Thursday, September 15, 2011

Things I have learned so far

Today marks exactly two weeks since I have arrived here in Montevideo, Uruguay.  Craziness! (To see where my new home is click here) There have been a lot of transitions and waiting and confusion and learning, at times it has been a bit rough, but overall it has been going really well! I figured that I should share some of the things I have learned so far, some silly and some serious. So here goes!

Kari and me on our first full day in Montevideo!

•    Just cause there is an empty bus at the start of the line, waiting to leave, doesn’t mean that it will let you on, it may just drive away and leave you standing there…

•    Smiling and nodding can get you a pretty long way when you don’t understand what is happening…but sometimes smiling and nodding doesn’t work, like when the fruit guy yells at you for touching the apples after he already told you not to and you smiled and nodded in agreement…

•    I never knew how much I appreciated shower drains and their placement in the bathroom until now, when I have to squeegee the bathroom floor after my shower

•    You should probably know more than the general direction of the beach before attempting to walk there, otherwise you may walk for an hour and a half to find one and later discover that there is one a 25 min walk away

But sometimes wandering has its benefits, like finding this place after 1.5 hours of searching.

•    Even though you are purchasing things in a large store, they may not have the right change to give you and may get mad at you for not having closer to exact change

•    That the Spanish words for push me more on the swing and stop pushing me sound very similar, and are especially hard to distinguish when you are standing behind the kid pushing them on the swing

•    Just because you already know 2 or 3 Spanish names for something doesn’t actually mean that you know the name they use here

•    Uruguay has the biggest cows I have ever seen!

Giant cow!
Big momma!

•    That what I really should have been doing these last couple years to build up my forearm strength for pitching is push small or not so small children on swings for hours, it really builds up your muscles

•    Another good workout for your legs is to teeter-totter with kids who weigh a 1/3 or ¼ of what you weigh

•    That mate is so popular here that they need to have signs in the buses saying not to drink it there because of the dangers of the hot water, bombilla, etc

The wikipedia image of mate, a drink to which I am already getting addicted to.

•    That gas ovens cook very differently from ovens in the US, but that chocolate chip cookies taste amazing no matter where you are and what kind of oven you are using

Yum yum!
•    No matter where in the world they are or what language they speak all kids really just want someone to love and care for them

•    It is crazy how fast a place can feel comfortable and like home!

Monday, September 12, 2011


 "In the conflict between the powerful and the poor/disposed,
to want to be neutral is to ally yourself with the powerful."
       ~graffiti in Montevideo

Which is worse: the wealth disparity in the world or the fact that we don't think we are rich?

Thoughts from Chicago

I know that I am already falling behind on my blogging…oops. But here I am attempting to get caught up. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed by everything that I want to write about, so instead I am going to try to focus on some important things and not write about absolutely everything.  So here goes…

Chicago was a packed week of awesomeness.  Though at times it was a bit of an information overload, it was all good stuff that will be helpful in this next year. But I think the most useful thing that we gained was the strong YAGM community both with our fellow volunteers and with the alumni that were there all week serving as small group leaders and hanging out with us. I have already begun depending on this community as I have begun my time here in Uruguay. It is really comforting to know that I have a solid group of people behind me who I can talk to about struggles and good times here, and who will really understand what I am going through. As supportive as people at home are (and thank you everyone for your support, I love you all!) it is impossible to fully understand this experience until you yourself are put into it.

It was pretty crazy to see how close our community was after only spending a week together! It feels as though I have been friends with some of them for years already, rather than days. The intensity of our time together combined with the strong emotions that many of us were feeling helped to build deep relationships faster than might normally happen. It was really hard to leave that physical community behind.  Because we are serving all over the world we left at different times throughout the day on Thursday (plus Nicole earlier in the week). It was a surreal experience watching other country groups leaving one at a time, moving the countdown closer to my own departure. 

My emotions had been running high the second half of the week, alternating between excitement and freakouts.  I was able to hold it together (mostly) until it was our turn to leave. As each group prepared to leave, those who were still around surrounded the departing to lay hands on them and say a final prayer. That was when I lost it and the tears began to flow. It really hit me that I was leaving this community that already means so much to me behind. I know that I still have them there behind me, supporting me, but being physically separate is a daunting thought. I was feeling very overwhelmed by everything that I knew was coming. Even now sitting here and writing this I can feel all the emotions that were swirling around then.

But obviously I survived and ventured out on the journey. A short flight to Atlanta (where we had a short freakout when we realized we had no address in Argentina to put on the immigration forms), an elevenish hour overnight flight to Buenos Aires, a short line to pay for the right to enter the country, a very long wait to get our passport stamped (where the lady didn’t believe my passport photo), and a taxi ride to ISADET later and we had arrived at our next temporary home, in BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA!

My awesome small group!   
Going Cajun dancing downtown Chicago
YAGMs in the Bean!
Waiting for the L
Leaving our mark on Chicago
Hanging out downtown
Swimming in the lake
One last hug goodbye, miss you guys!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I tremble on the edge of a maybe

As I finish my third full day here in Montevideo and prepare for my first day at my placements tomorrow, this poem that my country coordinator Kate shared with us at orientation is on my mind.

I Tremble on the Edge of a Maybe
O God of beginnings
as your spirit moved
over the face of the deep
on the first day of creation,
move with me now,
in my time of beginnings,
when the air is rain-washed
the bloom is on the bush,
and the world seems fresh
and full of possibilities,
and I feel ready and full.
I tremble on the edge of a maybe,
a first time
a new thing,
a tentative start,
and the wonder of it lays its finger on my lips.
In silence, Lord,
I share now my eagerness
and my uneasiness
about this something different
I would be or do:
and I listen for your leading
to help me separate the light
from the darkness
in the change I seek to shape
and which is shaping me. Amen.
from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder, 1984