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San Martin de los Andes:

It has long been a personal struggle of mine the amount of significance that I attach to seemingly unimportant events. I walk by a blue fire hydrant and suddenly become convinced that there is no set order to the universe, that my wife is going to leave me and that our friends have sold our cat and moved to another country without telling us.  At the same time, sometimes it really is these small things that really do carry the world in general, the behavior of people, and why I like the weird stuff I enjoy so much (i.e. wearing one rock with a hole in it at all times). Without rambling anymore, I think that balancing the tension between over and under analyzing events in my life is a significant part of what I’m up to lately. One such important (?) event occurred today.

This afternoon, I decided to get money to do our laundry. This is always more of a task in Argentina than the average person in the states would believe. Quite frequently, every ATM in a given city will run out of cash and begin dispensing, instead, pleasant apologies. I had already encountered two such machines and was waiting in a twenty minute long line to try my luck with the last remaining ATM in San Martin when the lady in front of me told me to go ahead of her in the queue for, seemingly, no reason at all. After declining several times, I finally relented and moved ahead of her. We began discussing the shortcomings of the argentine banking system and I learned that she was from Buenos Aires which led to a discussion on how much we both liked it there which is to say not very much at all). The conversation meandered and I clumsily tried to piece together a sentence to swat down a compliment about my Spanish, but discovered that my Spanish was too bad to deny that my Spanish was good. Sitting on some stairs in an idyllic town in the Andes, I found myself marveling at the openness of the people here. It wasn’t just this woman either. I realized that, in just a couple of days, I had met more people than I could count who had showed me this kind of openness, engaging a stranger as a person and as a pleasant part of their day rather than a distraction from life. In part, this is the reason I came to South America. The idea of this kind of mentality is very attractive to me; I find I truly love the concepts of relationship and community and it seemed when I left for this trip and still seems now that these ideas are alive and strong down here. Furthermore they seem to extend not only to life-long relationships and the community of town or country, but also to relationships with strangers that they may only know for the twenty minutes it takes to wait for an ATM and to a community that includes those from countries that they may never even see. At peril of sounding like a smoked-out cheeto junkie, “it was deep”.

Back to the point and also staying on the topic of smoked-out cheeto junkies, the insignificant event that really got me thinking about the nature of Life, The Universe, And Everything happened a few hours later while sitting in a coffee shop. I was contemplating nothing more than whether or not to use the bathroom for the fifth time today and risk ridicule from Sharon, when a song by Jack Johnson started playing in the café. Within the familiar hippie, beach-bum rhythm and lyrics, Jack asked me, “In the true sense of the word, are we using what we’ve learned?”. From a pragmatic, theological, or philosophical paradigm, I think that this question is one of the most important to answer. I’m always learning stuff. The world is a constant flood of information washing over us and no matter how much I’m able to soak up as it rolls over me, I question its usefulness if it doesn’t affect who I am or the things I do and think. Have the things I’ve learned about relationship and community ever affected the way I treat the people I encounter each day? Perhaps a bit cheesy or trite but it got me thinking about if I have really been interested in people at all for the last few years or simply the idea of people and the concept of how they form community between each other.  Each year, I find that my social circle shrinks to exclude people that I don’t think that I’ll know for very long or people that (it sounds even uglier typing it than thinking it) people that have different ideas than me or have different ways of thinking than I do. Framed as such, it’s pretty easy for me to see that I’ve put myself in a position where the kind of closeness with others and the kind of community that I’ve so enjoyed thinking about have been an impossibility for me. Que triste. Nevertheless, I think that finally recognizing this puts me in good position to finally work through it, and that’s a good thing in my book (which of course is a book all about me *smile*).

Anyway, for those of you kind enough to be praying for me, that is what’s rolling around in my head as of the now. As for those of you who are kind enough to read my tedious blog…that is what’s rolling around in my head as of the now. As always, I hope my ideas find y’all well and that you’re all working on some generally difficult ideas as well. Shoot me an e-mail or comment here and I’d love to pray for you whenever I get word of what you’re up to. Until then, I’ll keep you all in my heart and mind so try not to get fat…I’d hate to have a heart attack or stroke down here.

Much Love,

Tyler

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HappyFuzzys

Small victories. Sharon told me that Christmas isn’t going to come this year if I can’t think of something that God’s teaching me each and every day of advent. Because I don’t really like Christmas, I was going to try to hold out and not learn anything until then but I slipped today. I realized today that I’m learning to enjoy small things …a lot. Not to enjoy things like kittens and my wife and things that are actually, physically small and adorable, although I do enjoy those things quite a bit (anyone wanna buy a cat that’s not small and cute anymore?). I’m learning to enjoy people being too loud to allow me to sleep. I’m learning to enjoy buying tape. I’m learning to enjoy making someone laugh.

Since I arrived here, I’ve felt a bit like someone who just awoke to discover that they were completely paralyzed. As Sharon noted in her last post, things are very different here. It’s been partially a language barrier, of course, and a feeling of being disconnected but it’s also been a mentality issue. People here just don’t think I’m funny. And I know you guys don’t think I’m funny either, but they don’t even pretend very often here. I’m so used to arriving in a new place and I may not have friends but I always can find people to laugh with. And I’m always the crazy one one. “Tyler! You didn’t come back till 3am! You need to take it easy, man!” Also not the case here.

So anyway, my wife went to the beach with her internship this weekend which gave me some time to do all the hardcore physically exhausting work and play that I normally feel bad for asking her to do with me. So after a whole day of stretching on my bed and 56 consecutive yawns without an actual word leaving my mouth, I rolled over. That was nice. I thought I might try it again later when I had regained my strength. For now though, I would need to sleep. The day had come and gone and night is for sleeping. Suddenly and without warning (de pronto), crazy loud music erupted from 4 blocks away. Not bad music at all, but very very loud. I tried putting a pillow on top of my head and closing the door to the balcony but I swear the doors down here are made of paper. You can hear someone turn on the faucet across the street through these doors and they were not gonna stop this noise…not in the slightest. The thing was, it really wasn’t that bad. I had some coke (the cola, mom), I had some Fernet Branca*, the night was cool and there was a breaze. I didn’t do anything spectacular like go out and dance at whatever wild party was happening a few blocks away. I think I mostly checked e-mail and read up on the changes that are coming to WoW (why are they ruining my favorite video game), but when the music stopped it was almost six in the morning and I had had a great night. I was a little tipsy, the music –it turned- out had been really good, and as a cool breeze blew across the balcony where I was sitting looking over the city, I found myself wishing that they’d play one more song. I didn’t really need sleep that badly.

Morning always comes. Getting up for school today was rough. When I got to the subway stop where I catch the train to class, I realized that I forgot my thermos. Maybe not that important to you the reader but I promise that the wrath I would have called down upon the world were I to have gone through a day without my thermos would have quickly changed your mind, and so I returned home. There was on old lady at the door to the apartments. I wondered whose it was. This old lady had obviously been delivered here. Should I just assume that it was mine? Best to continue on. Wouldn’t want to take somebody else’s old lady.

~Very quick Spanish from behind me~

¿Que?”

~She points to the door~

I realized that she didn’t have keys. This may not be my old lady but perhaps it would be okay if I borrowed it for a bit. I let her in to the apartment building, expecting the usual awkward attempts at speech that are always thwarted by my inability to comprehend or respond.

At the elevator: “¿Qual piso?”

“Seis”

We begin our ascent and then it happens. She asks me if I’m studying. Wait! I understood what she asked! I tell her yes and she asks what. I say Spanish and she asks if it’s just Spanish. I say yes and look embarrassed. We’re at her floor but she just opens the door so that nobody can call the elevator and we keep talking. When she finds out I’m from the states she tells me that her son works in Miami doing photography. This is going great! I’m feeling comfortable so I go for a small joke…I know I shouldn’t but I do anyway.

“Oh! Creo que lo conozco” (Oh! I think i know him!)

Yes I know. It’s not that funny. She laughed though and we talked a bit longer before I had to head out for school once again.

On the way home from school I stopped at a ferretaria (surprisingly not a store for purchasing ferrets but a hardware store. Go figure). The cord for Sharons laptop is breaking and I needed some electrical tape. Pretty boring stuff ensued. I asked if she had tape, and was presented two options of types of electrical tape. I was quoted a price, and I paid. We told each other thank you and goodbye. I left. Three blocks later I caught myself flipping the roll of tape like a coin humming a song I was apparently making up, and with a big dopier-than-hell straight out of the 1950s grin on my face. And do you know why? Small victories. I bought tape today. I made someone laugh today. I couldn’t sleep so I was forced to listen to a city, to look at it, to feel it until I could see that it was beautiful. Small victories.

Take care, loved ones and hopefully I’ll nab some more time to post in the near future.

-Tyler

*Fernet Branca: There is a whole genre of liquors originating from Italy that were originally marketed as medicine. Almost every village had their own type at one point. It seems this particular one was brought here with the Italian immigrants but I can’t say that I’m sure of that. In any event, this is one of the preferred hard alcohols of Buenos Aires and is usually consumed mixed with coca cola. It, like all of its kind, is disgusting, tasting akin to rubbing alcohol used to clean out an ashtray. But disgusting in a good way. Like how on road trips I have the urge to eat deep-fried macaroni bites from jack in the box. It’s THAT kind of disgusting.

 

 

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