Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mapuche Trip, Day 2

I woke up relatively early and got in line for the shower. During this time I talked to some of the other people, most of which only knew Spanish. This was not an easy task first thing in the morning. I tried to shower and get ready as quickly as possible, then grabbed a quick breakfast, then we had a little devotional time before we split up and headed out. We walked to a different bus station with another team who was headed in the same direction, piled on, and were off. We stopped several places along the way, and people got on and off. What was interesting was that the bus was over sold, so for about an hour the aisle was filled with people who had no where to sit. I'm used to that happening on city buses where you only ride for a few minutes or a few stops, but a country bus, where it's at least 20-30 minutes between stops was an interesting sight. The other team got off, and we headed on for another hour and a half. Our team went the furthest of the three. We were actually very very close to the border of Argentina. I slept a lot during this bus ride, but when I wasn't sleeping I was enjoying the scenery outside. The south is beautiful, and I was enjoying seeing the countryside. I don't get a lot of that in Santiago!
We got to our stop around 1:30, and we were pretty much left off in the middle of no where with all our stuff. It was a dirt road, and I saw no houses in sight. What on earth were we going to do? Walk. Yup, we picked up our gear and headed off. However, the house was just over a hill, so it wasn't really that far at all. Some of the people had been to this house before, so they knew the people. So they had a good time catching up. We pretty much sat outside in the shade for the rest of the day, talking. This was a difficult time for me. I didn't really know anyone on the team at all yet, and I had an even harder time understanding the people we were staying with. Eventually I had the opportunity to talk to some members of the team separately, so that was a bit easier. We were waiting for the last member of our team to come so we could eat. He had stayed back in Victoria to buy our food supplies for the week, and then was driving in his truck to us. We expected him around 4. He didn't get there until at least 8:30, I think, so we were a little bit worried. But he got there, no problem.
Since nothing else really happened that day, I'm going to describe the living situation a little bit. (I also have pictures to show you, and I'll put up a link in one of these posts.) The house was very very basic. There were four rooms, all of which were relatively small--a living room, a kitchen, and 2 bedrooms. I stayed with a family of 6, the parents, an 8 yr old boy, a 6 yr old girl, and twin 4 yr old boys. They were wild! The house on the outside was aluminum siding, and the inside was basic unfinished drywall type material. Since they've only had electricity for about a year, all the cables and wiring were on the outside of the wall, not behind it. The electricity was pretty much only used for lights, although on occasion they played the radio. The heating and cooking were accomplished by wood stoves, a small one in the living room, and a full blown stove in the kitchen. The kitchen sink was outside and was basically a wooden trough with a hose attached to it. This is where we did everything from the dishes to our laundry to washing our hair and teeth. The "plumbing" was an outhouse at the back of the yard. This particular outhouse had seen better days. One corner of the roof would flap in the wind, the door was locked only by a wire that we wrapped around a nail (and the wire would often fall off), there were holes in some of the walls, and the fourth wall was only about half there. It was quite breezy! The actual seat was very low (I think due to the fact that they had small children), and since it was wood, soaked up anything the little boys didn't make into the hole. Gross? Yes, but that's how it was. I was in outhouses that were nicer--with a higher seat with a lid and all four walls--and outhouses that were worse--with a door that had fallen off its hinges and had to be rested in place, and that wasn't tall enough for me to stand up straight in. That brings me to another point. I was pretty much the tallest person all week. Even among my team members. One of the pastors was about my height. Other than that, I was the tallest. All the benches and chairs were on the shorter side. I felt like a giant!! I felt like I stood out even more than I do in the city. At least in the city there are other foreigners, but in the country I didn't see any others. And the Mapuche are even darker and shorter. It was an odd feeling to stand out so much.
We actually lived pretty well during the week. We each had our own bed with plenty of blankets. They weren't nice beds or nice blankets, but I was warm and comfortable, so I didn't care. The family cooked every meal for us and rarely let us do the dishes. Some of the other teams had to live in tents all week and had a hard time finding kitchens to cook in. So we were living in luxury!
It was very interesting to have most of my life in Spanish. It was difficult at times, very difficult. But I was never completely in the dark, since I could speak in English to a few people. Although I tried to keep most of my conversation in Spanish. I learned A LOT, but it wasn't easy!
Ok, that's about all for now. I still have MANY days to write about, but I need a bit of a break. :o)

Mapuche Trip, Day 1

Well, I'm back from my trip down south to work with the Mapuches, a native tribe here in Chile. It was definitely an amazing trip, and I learned a lot--about cultures, about God, about Spanish. I'm going to try to post all about it, but since it was about a 10 day trip, I'm really going to have to abbreviate some things!
It all started on a Friday, January 18th. Melissa and I lugged my bag to the bus station downtown to meet the other girl that I would be traveling with. I was so self conscious about my bag. It was huge, but it wasn't packed full. But still, I looked sooo high maintenance! It didn't help that so many people made comments about it along the trip. Haha. So Whitney and I get on the bus and start our 8 hour bus ride to a town called Victoria where we would be meeting the rest of the people. About 45 minutes into our trip our bus broke down. So we had to wait about an hour and a half for a replacement to come along. That was fun! :o) The rest of the trip went relatively smoothly, except I banged my eye on the chair in front of me at one point, and was surprised that I didn't get a black eye. Also, when we left the bus at the end of the day, I found that my purse was drenched in juice. Someone behind me must've spilled. It was not pleasant. Whitney and I had a great time talking and getting to know each other. It was funny because neither of us really had any idea of what was going on in the trip!
So we got to Victoria around 8:30pm (about 2 hrs later than scheduled) and headed to the house where we'd all be staying that night. Since we were the first ones there, the hosts gave us the bedroom with beds. Nice! Then we walked around the town and got some dinner as we waited for the rest of the team. They eventually straggled in from different directions starting around 11pm. They had all been at a camp that week, so they all knew each other. I was a little worried how I was going to fit it, especially not speaking much Spanish. It took awhile for me to find out any details about what would be going on. I finally found out what group I'd be with. There were 26 of us altogether, and we'd be splitting up into 3 groups. There were 3 Americans (including me), 3 Germans (all of whom spoke English), and the rest were Spanish speakers (mostly Chilean, although there was at least one Mexican...a few of these people spoke English to varying degrees). One one team was all three of the Germans and the American who was in charge of the whole thing, Whitney was on another team, and I was on the third. They were joking about having to have one foreigner per team. So that was interesting. I did find out that the leader of my team, a girl named Cote (pronounced Coat-AY) spoke English fluently, and later not too much later I discovered that one or two of my team members spoke very basic English. So I wasn't completely lost!
After finding out at least a little bit about my team assignments, I decided it was a good idea to go to bed. So I did. And that was it for day 1.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


So today was an interesting day. I found out that vacation plans have fallen through. My immediate reaction was disappointment and self-pity. I'm such a selfish human. Something that I was very much looking forward to do, and that I thought was going to happen, has changed completely. There is an outside chance that it will still happen, but it's not likely. It's probable that we'll do something else, not quite as nice, but still something. And then it's possible that nothing will happen at all and everything I've been looking forward to will be for naught, with no time for me to come up with my own backup option. When I found this out, I was very disappointed, to say the least. And I'm still not sure what's going to come of it. I'm just kind of waiting for them to figure things out, then let me know.
It's all very disheartening.
And I've been in Chile long enough to know this was highly possible. And I was warned that it had happened many times in the past. But I was just so excited about it, that I didn't care. You see, quite often in Chile, plans aren't for sure until everyone actually shows up. This can be a challenge. They can be the most well-intentioned, loving people, really good friends, but it doesn't matter. It's not about that. They don't see it as anything offensive; it's just the way the culture is. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and I have also met people like this in the States. But it can make planning very difficult!
This week I've started a study in James, and I've been going through the first 12 verses of the first chapter. As you may know, it's all about trials, wisdom, and perseverance. Now, I certainly don't want to blow this whole situation out of proportion. The word "trial" is a bit too strong to describe it. :o) But the same principle applies. I've learned a lot this week, but one thing really stuck out to me. It's impossible to get through trials, ask for and use wisdom, and persevere and learn through the trial, if you can't have joy throughout it, a right attitude. And you can't have a right attitude without focusing on God. (This all makes so much more sense in my head. I just can't communicate it very well.) No matter how big or how small the trial is, I need to endure it, I need to ask for wisdom throughout it. God wants to teach me something. And for all of that to be possible, I have to have a positive, Christlike attitude. I can't be bitter, I can't be self-pitying, I can't be selfish. All of that is too distracting from what we're supposed to learn. It's too disheartening to allow us to endure. When we have a Christlike attitude, we're open to the strength God gives us to get through, and we're open to the lesson we have to learn.
So, all that to say that I'm just going to pray for joy and patience and understanding, and trust that what God wants me to experience with my Chilean friends, I will experience.
I'm sure that I could have written this much more eloquently, but there it is. This is what happened today, what I thought about, what I learned. I just wanted to share it with you all.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Christmas vacation over, now on to summer vacation!

Hello, everyone from my first post of 2008! Who knows what God will bring us this year? I'm looking forward to finding out!
My month at home was so wonderful--exactly what I was hoping for. I spent hours with my family and friends, talking and laughing, catching up and reminiscing. I was able to fit in almost everything I wanted to do and see almost everyone I wanted to see. It's amazing how fast time can fly, and eventually I had to face my departure. I went through many interesting emotions the few days before I left. I can honestly say that it was actually harder to leave this time than the first time. Sound backwards? Let me explain. The first time I left it was an adventure--I had no idea what to expect but was ready to jump right in. This time I knew exactly where I was going and what it would be like. Still an exciting adventure, but one that I was familiar with. And having been back with my family and friends, I realized how much I had missed them when I was gone. Part of me wishes I could combine both worlds....but I suppose I can't have my cake and eat it to, as the saying goes. :o) In other words, this time when I prepared for my journey, it felt more like leaving somewhere than going somewhere. Does that make sense? Needless to say, it was more difficult than I anticipated. But I had a sneaking suspicion that once I landed in Chile and got back into the swing of things, I'd be completely over those emotions and would realize how much I had missed people here while I was gone. I'm pleased to announce that I do know myself at least a little. :o) Once I got back to Chile, it felt like coming home again as well, and I was excited to get back into life in the Southern Hemisphere.
I didn't really have much of an idea what my summer would be like when I landed in Chile. School doesn't start until February 20something, so I knew I had plenty of time. I knew about the trip I'll be taking next week with Campus Crusade to work with the Mapuche Indians. I had no details about the trip, but I knew that I was going. So I decided to ask about what I would actually be doing! There are several parts to the ministry, but I'll mainly be working with the Vacation Bible School they'll be putting on for the Mapuche kids. This should be interesting, since there will be something of a language barrier (as with many aspects of my life down here). But there's a secondary language barrier. Many of the Mapuche speak their own language, and not Spanish. So there will be a translator, but most likely the translator won't know English. So if I can't figure out how to say something in Spanish, it will have to go through one of the other Americans to be translated into Spanish so it can then be translated into the Mapuche language! Yikes! Luckily I know of at least 4 other English speakers going, although for the most part they'll be Chileans. As far as the living conditions go, I knew we'd be roughing it, but I've found out more details. Let me just say, as a not very experienced camper, it should be interesting. We'll be sleeping in tents or on the floors of mud huts. The days are warm but the nights can get down near the freezing point. The bathrooms, unless we're surprised by something more luxurious, will be outhouses, and our showers/baths will be the river. Yes, the river. Now, many summers in camp when it was too hot to take hot showers we would just bathe in the creek...but that was many years ago. So, I'm highly expecting to have many "miserable" moments on this trip...uncomfortable sleeping situations will make me ache and tired, and the plumbing situation is inconvenient at best. HOWEVER, I'm SO excited to see what God will do with the week. It will be unlike anything I've ever done before and I'm sure God will teach me through it. Hopefully I will be able to minister to the Mapuche people regardless of language differences.
After that, if all goes according to plan (and I really hope it doesn't fall through), I will be traveling with some of my Chilean friends throughout southern Chile for three weeks! I'm so excited about it! They don't speak English, for the most part, so it will be a solid 3 weeks of Spanish, plus the week with the Chilean Campus Crusade students. So hopefully after a month of that much Spanish my comprehension and vocabulary will grow immensely. That's one of my goals! I'll keep you posted on the plans for everything and how it all comes together.
Well, that's about it for now. I just wanted to catch everyone up on what's going on with me. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement, and for being so interested in what's going on in Chile. I love talking about it and I appreciate when you ask. :o)
I hope you all enjoy your winter...It's been in the high 80s all week here! :o)
Until the next time....