As inevitably happens each time I keep a blog, I have lost my initial enthusiasm over time and have started to slack on keeping my blog updated. For that reason, I have a lot to catch up on! Here's an overview of the last two months in bullet points and photos:
- March 29th: David H. (not to be confused with David R.), one of the new El Arca assistants, arrives from Bogota, Colombia. David worked as a musical therapist in Bogota for two years before joining El Arca. Here he is (center) with Julio (left) and Maxi (right) at the April El Arca spiritual gathering.
March 31st: Easter! Santo Sacramento offers a special Easter breakfast complete with Easter crafts made by the kids. Here are some of my “students” playing outside after the breakfast: Camila, Selena, Aymara and Yamila.
- April 6th: Katrin, the other new El Arca assistant, arrives! Katrin is from Germany, but she spent the last six months volunteering at a school in Brazil! Katrin worked in a hospital in Germany for three years, and this experience has really come in handy in the home! Here she is with Yanet:
- April 13th: El Arca celebrates Osvaldo’s 65th birthday! Here he is with his best friend, Dani Guerrero.
- April 19th: El Arca participates in the Special Olympics at Colegio Newman, a private school in the neighborhood with which El Arca has a special relationship! Here’s Maxi competing in the long-jump. He won third place and is so proud!
- April 26th: El Arca visits an educational farm with lots of cute animals! Here are Dani and Julio with a friendly and energetic goat!
- April 30th: El Arca celebrates its favorite artist Yanet’s 21st birthday.
- May 1st, Labor Day: The El Arca home enjoys an excursion to Temaikén Zoo.
- May 4th: I visit “Teatro Ciego” (Blind Theater) for the second time, this time accompanied by my El Arca friends Kait, Katrin, David and Belen.
- May 5th: Gabriella, a student from the United States who contacted me expressing interest in getting involved with Santo Sacramento, comes to Villa Ballester to participate in Santo Sacramento’s weekly worship and activities.
- May 9th: Maru Botana, a locally famous chef with her own cooking show, came to El Arca to teach a cooking class! We made chipas (a Paraguayan baked good made with yucca flour, butter and cheese) and scones. It was quite the event!
- El Arca celebrates the inauguration of its Spirituality Center, located in a former convent in the partido of Olivos, not far from the home. Dozens of friends, sponsors, and volunteers join the El Arca acogidos for a celebratory mass presided by not just one, but six priests and the Bishop of San Isidro. Sandra read the scripture, Dani and Yanet collected the offering, and Maxi proudly and enthusiastically sang alongside the guitarists. Afterwards we all viewed the 2012 Institutional video: http://www.elarcaargentina.org/demo/node/17 and sang the Community Song, which has become a classic at El Arca gatherings complete with hand motions:
It’s me, it’s me, it’s me who builds community (3x)
Chorus: Rolling over the ocean, rolling over the sea, everywhere I go I build community (2x)
It’s you, it’s you, it’s you who builds community (3x)
It’s us, it’s us, it’s us who build community (3x)
It’s God, it’s God, it’s God who builds community (3x)
May 11th: The day Maxi had been eagerly anticipating for months arrived: his 21st birthday! We decked the house in River colors (red and white) for the occasion and held a birthday bash in Maxi’s honor, complete with pizza, the presence of Maxi’s mother and siblings, and an inevitable performance of “Sweet Maria” (the song written by Padre Dani that Maxi and I always sing together). I gave Maxi a River-themed card and the DVD of “Hotel Transylvania,” the movie we saw the theater together last year.
I had the pleasure of bringing a special guest to the party- fellow YAGM Emery from Montevideo! In fact, it was Emery who took the photos of Maxi’s and my “show.” It was cool to introduce a fellow YAGM to my volunteer placement and vice versa for the first time. Maxi’s brother Ariel snapped this spontaneous photo of us at the party, which actually turned out really well!
After the party, Emery and I went to La Boca, a famous tourist destination in Buenos Aires known for its history, colorful houses and tango. Surprisingly, neither of us had been there yet! La Boca is an old neighborhood by the port that was settled by Spanish and Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. Leftover paint from the ships that the immigrant workers painted was used to give La Boca’s houses their signature array of bright colors. La Boca is also home of the famous soccer team Boca Juniors, of which Osvaldo is a huge fan.
May 12th-May 15th: With the expiration of our 90-day tourist visas fast approaching, Kjerstin, Emery and I embarked on a mini adventure in Uruguay in order to get our passports stamped and enjoy some quality YAGM time while at it. We spent two nights in Las Termas de Dayman, which are hot springs in northwestern Uruguay near the Uruguay River. Our hotel was really cozy and reasonably priced, complete with a delicious breakfast buffet and soothing hot pools.
On Tuesday, Kjerstin headed back to Buenos Aires and Emery and I took a bus to Montevideo so I could visit the city and get a glimpse of Emery’s daily life (Kjerstin has already been). I met Emery’s housemates, who are all super “buena onda” (good vibes) and even played “manzanas con manzanas” (apples to apples) with them! On Wednesday, my only full day in Montevideo, Emery showed me his favorite spots around the city, and we tried our best not to get blown over by the intensely strong and cold wind.
For more details about Uruguay, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post (oh the suspense- now I’ve got you hooked, ha ha!)
May 19th: The residents of the El Arca home, plus Rosi and Dani Guerrero, attend worship at Santo Sacramento! We had been planning on this for a while, so it was exciting to finally see our dream realized! It was especially beautiful to witness the joyful reunion between Claudio and his El Arca friends who miss his presence at the workshop so much (Claudio is a member of the church who I accompanied to the taller for a while last year, but extenuating circumstances have prevented him from continuing). The El Arca acogidos showed him so much love, and vice versa. A group photo at the church is pending as it was taken with Rosi’s camera!!