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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Bandoneón

Have you ever in your life done some cooking or baking which you thought was coming along good or great? Then you innocently throw in an ingrediant that you knew would be good for your concoction but it isn´t until after you´ve thrown it into the mix that you realize how much life and flavor this one ingredient has added. And in that instant, your concoction has gone from good or even great all the way to............UNBELIEVABLE!!!!

That is exactly how I've been feeling the past few days after getting the fabulous opportunity to post Vanessa Winn's "The Immigrant's Tango". The poem was already strikingly beautiful in itself. But now seeing it added to this blog which has the theme and backdrop of Buenos Aires and tango, the sight of the poem there leaves me breathless every time I read it. Vanessa´s poem is like a dream ingredient or spice that unexpectedly has brought a whole new flavor and life to "Making the Same Difference". Not to mention the fragrant aroma too!

My favorite part of the poem is the line about "echoing the bandoneón's pull, push" And I want to add another layer of depth to the experience of reading the poem by explaining to our non-tango readers what a bandoneón is. A bandoneón is an instrument that is used in milongas and tango music. At first glance, one might think that it is an accordion but a closer look reveals that the the bandoneón comes from a very different family of instruments.

I found a really neat article on the history, use, and purpose of this instrument as well as it´s significance. The article is called "The Bandoneón, tango´s breathe of life". I recommend reading the article and then reading "The Immigrant's Tango" once more. There is no doubt in my mind that doing that would add another layer of depth to your experience of reading the poem. There is a quote from the article that nicely sums up the bandoneón's role.....

"The bandoneón is not only an instrument. The bandoneón is the intangible, raw passion of tango encapsulated in an inanimate object. It’s the lungs that fill and empty in cadence with its dancers."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Immigrant’s Tango

Sitting amongst refrains of nostalgia
rooted in past shadows
A walled flower

Eyes meet,
in trespass or invitation?
Her vined legs unwind
from the seat of familiar

With one arm they embrace,
their other stop-sign hands clasp
marking a joined border
of resistance

Transplanted onto this dance floor
soiled with memories,
they negotiate the boundary
of their new, shared space
With each haunting call of the bandoneon,
compelling their circling steps
into now

The insinuating rhythm
unites them with one pulse
and yet
the eternal push, pull
hiding, enfolding
Clinging to the music’s strains
drawing them together, apart
this tensile arrival, separation
never quite pausing
in past or future

Just a timeless heartbeat
of sinewed silence
before the music propels them on
Moving as one,
the dancers seek freedom
through their locked embrace,
escape without departure
Echoing the bandoneon’s pull, push
Leaving, returning
Mourning, uniting

Into a finale flourish.
Then the tango begins anew.
(dimly remembered past seasons
litter their feet)
yet they dance on
singing for freedom
calling for home

(this poem was written by writer, tango dancer, and author of "The Chief Factor's Daughter" Vanessa Winn)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Many Flavors of Success

Seriously, I cannot staring at the number that the counter for this website reads. I almost want to pinch myself to check to see if this isn't real and the numbers on the counter aren't really saying 400!!!!!! The support has been unbelievable!

What I have learned in the past few weeks here in all this is that success comes in many flavors. It is like an ice-cream shop with a wide variety to choose from. Some flavors are deep and rich and powerful and strong. While others are light and simple. Some flavors are classic and traditional. Yet others are a result of the latest ideas and inventions in an attempt to find creative new ways to attract consumers.

But what I will say is the success I am experiencing in my life right now is the best kind of success. Because the success that I have right now, in both my projects to teach english and with this website is success that has been earned rightfully. I have witnessed people gain success through various mediums and in ways that aren't honest.

The success I am having was not given to me on a silver platter, I did not inherit it. I'm not experiencing success simply because I was born into a certain family name with power and prestige. I did not get this success by sucking up or appeasing to certain people. There was no political game involved. I didn't have to tell any lies or manipulate or contrive anything to get where I am right now. And no one can say that they've gotten used or hurt as I made my way up the ladder of success.

Everything i have right now is a result of right actions and choices based on respect and integrity. There were times in my past where opportunity came to take a short cut but I refused to cut corners and i have no regrets whatsoever. I don't have to lie on my bed at night and justify any deceptive actions that I have done to get where I am. Because this is the kind of success that has been worked hard for and rightfully earned.

The flavor of success tastes so good right now.At times it felt so long and that it would never come. But the moment is so worth the wait when God breathes life into the dreams and visions of your heart and you see it come to life in a way that you could never imagine possible.

But there is only one thing in the world that makes the flavor of success even sweeter and stronger and that's when it gets shared with others around you. On this note, I would like to make the announcement that here at "Making the Same Difference" that I'm going to start a project to try showcase and share this space with the works of other writers who have had success themselves.

As usual, you can expect nothing less than the very best of writers who not only have talent but who know how to connect and writer for an audience as well as for themselves. I believe that making this space available to proven writers and authors will bring a fresh vibe to "Making the Same Difference" and give you a chance to be expose to talent and success of a different flavor :)

Breast Cancer Tribute

So I'm really having fun adding fun learning to add videos onto my blog posts. And as usual, I make sure that my site has nothing but the brightest and the best for you all. This is the third video that I've added and it is nothing less than breathtaking. One of my favorite shows is So You Think You Can Dance. A dance competition that showcases the very best. There were many memorable dance pieces but there has been one that has been the most talked about of all the pieces. In the history of SYTYCD, there has never been a more powerful or moving piece. It's a tribute to breast cancer and it is truly magnificent. Here is Melissa & Adye performing their stunning piece on "Ellen"

Miriam Larici & Leonardo Barrionuevo

So it looks like my new skill for the day is learning how to add YouTube Videos directly onto my blogsite. I've already posted a spectacular nature video of Dolphins making bubble rings to play with. But I'm going to add another spectacular video to this site. World reknown Tango dancers Miriam Larici & Leonardo Barrionuevo participated in a televised dance competition called "Superstars of Dance" last year. The video I am posting here is their performance in week 2 of the semi-finals. All I can say is that it is absolute "eye candy" and simply one of the most breathe taking performances I have ever witnessed. As well I think this video is an awesome representation of Argentine tango at it's finest. Enjoy!

Dolphin Bubbles

I was checking the site today like I normally do and as I was casually browsing, I noticed there was something on Dig 2.0 today about Dolphin Bubbles. So I clicked on the link and went to YouTube to try and find out what this all about. Animals fascinate me. What I saw was incredible. It showed videos at Seaworld Orlando that actually create bubble rings to play with. I couldn't believe my eyes and neither will you. Watch!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fill in the Blanks

Last night, during communion came an unexpected moment. There they were, the pastor and the leadership in front of the church holding the bread and the cup, ready to do communion. The pastor had a mic in his hand and was talking about how all these wonderful things are going on in the church and that they were going to sent off some missionaries to Ushuaia tomorrow morning. Then things took an unexpected turn. But to explain what happened, I need to update you abit. If you have been watching the news lately, you might know that the first ever gay wedding happened in Latin America in the province of Ushaia. So the pastor decided to bring that up a little bit. What he would have to say is something I would never forget but would be also something that confirms what I was already thinking about the way the church handles the topic of gay marriage or abortion or things like that.

The pastor said this topic has been a conflict for so many pastors and just like north america, is a controversial topic. They don't get violent or angry or extreme about it the way they do in North America but it has been a theme that people are very mixed about. But Guillermo said what a waste doing things like protesting and fighting are. It is not our jobs to go and define to other people the way they should be acting or to define to them the specifics of what being a Christian looks like. Our only job in the world is to love people, pray for our society, and do our best to make a difference in our world

If change is meant to happen in a person, God is really quite capable of touching someone and transforming them himself. He does not needs us to stick our noses in things that are none of our business and was never our responsibility. The belief system in this church is that our job is to be praying and putting things out into the realm of the spirit for change and transformation in people and in society. But it is not our job to decide what is right or wrong and what the change should look like when God touches society. Nor is it our job to decide what aspects of society need to be changed. This is the reason in their prayer meetings you will hear them pray against the darkness that is over the economy and for the darkness to be broken over our lives and our business and our friends and family and our nation. And you will hear them pray against consummerism and poverty. But you will never hear them pray specifically against people or pick out something that is of political interest and decide that God should support them in their views. We simply pray generally for God's presence to touch people's hearts and minds. But what specifically God deems as needing change or transformation is none of our business.

And then in a surprising turn, he casually said the one of the church's prayer groups meets in the home of gay couple. That one caught me off guard completely. CCNV has hundreds of prayer groups that meet throughout the country in people's homes. It is somewhat like the house church movement in China. What he said meant one of two things, either the couple has opened up their home for the church members to use but aren't involved necessarily in the group. Or the couple might be participating in the prayer group. But whatever the set up is, it isn't the point.

What I love about CCNV is that they focus on their energies on what really matters. Feeding the poor, taking care of orphans and widows, AIDS benefit concerts, making sure that every one of the people who call CCNV their home church is taken care of and covered in prayer (and there is more than 30 000 people). Basically, they are so busy getting right in there and helping the needs of society that for other things that I think for topics that we deem important in our society (gay marriage, abortion, creation vs evolution), they actually really don't care. Developing some kind of creed or deciding what their official stance is isn't a high priority for this church. This is the reason when people come into the church, no one has a little mold ready and tells them "This is what your Christian life should look like". They don't do interviews, or background checks or give you rules or do any of that kind of nonsense. Instead, the attitude is alike "OK, God is going to use our church to impact your life however he decides." We tell them that the basis of Christianity is love and a desire to reach out to the world but beyond that, it's up to God to fill in the blanks of what each person's life should look like specifically or pressure them into anything. It's not the church's job or role.

Which makes me only respect them all the more. You see, Argentina is not an information based society. They are not like North America where we have education and have new information thrown at us all the time by by arenas of both science and politics. So there is no way that we could ever have an evolution vs creation debate because people here don't have that kind of information and alot of them don't have the interest in that kind of information. Information doesn't play a huge role in this society the way it does in hours. People lead very simple lives. But what I love is that the church just does not touch what they don't know and I don't think these kind of topics would ever be of interest to them.

There is so much to do in our world. Seriously! The church and I are more alike than I realized. Honestly, I don't like the way that people get so into the end of the world and trying to figure out the last book in the Bible. If you were to ask me what I believe, like this church, I wouldn't have an answer because I don't care. Because on this earth right now there is so much that needs to be done. One day in time and eternity, we're going to have answers for all the things we've ever wondered about. But right now on our planet, there is so much brokeness and suffering. I don't know about you but making a lasting change on this planet is going to keep me busy for a very long time :)

The Missing Link

So I am sitting here in front of my computer having a day of rest after a full day of activity yesterday. Actually, the activities started the day before yesterday when I went to a fiesta at church to send off some missionaries. The party began at 8pm at night. I met up with some friends and we hung out at the party until 12 midnight. It's a good thing we left at the time that we did because I needed to be up early the next morning to catch the bus that would take me back here to the church where another bus would be leaving to take a ton of us to the picnic campgrounds.

They sky was dark and cloudy and we did have a light drizzle but the spirit were high and that was what counted. I am so glad that I went this time. There was volleyball, futbol, meat roasting on an asado. As well as wars where groups of people would take cans of mousse and spray some unlucky passer by. I got pretty covered and soaked myself and so did a bunch of other friends who were innocently standing around, completely unaware of the danger lurking nearby.

If you have read previous blogs, you know that I was initially abit nervous about hanging out with Christians, having had many bad past experience. But yesterday was a really great step in building and trusting again. And being there at the picnic also gave me the chance to spend time with people that I had been wanting to get to know better.

But my day didn't just end at 7pm when the picnic was over, me and my friends decided to go for "Santa Cena" which is communion in church. So after getting back to the main church in Agaces, we took another bus straight to Centro on Florida street where the church service was happening. The service was crowded and filled to maxium capacity that night. But the usher was somehow able to get me into a seat.

The service that night was a little bit different than all the others. Not just because we would be having communion, but because it would be the pastor Guillermo himself that would be giving a message on keys to unlocking change and making a difference in our world. Guillermo is such a great preacher and even though I don't understand everything that is being said, what I do understand makes it well worth it to have taken out time to come. I hope to meet him one day and introduce myself as the teacher from Canada. It didn't happen that night but I know it will happen at the right time.

But as he was preaching, I had some thoughts cross my mind. My thoughts were on how me coming here turned out to be exactly what they needed. You see, during the process of all of this I learned that one year ago, Guillermo had tried to encourage the congregation to learn english without success. As pastor, he knew that this is something they badly needed and was vital. Now I see the reason why when I told him I wanted to bring english, he jumped on it straight away. He has known the whole time. But even more importantly, God knew the entire time.

Before this trip, I was at a crossroad in my life. I didn't want to be in customer service any longer but I didn't know what I could do. I didn't have anything in my hand except this one ability to teach english. But sometimes what's in your hand is all that it takes to change everything. In coming here I fulfilled Glady's dream of learning the english language. And in this project is going to be fulfiling the needs of a church and a dream that was birthed in the heart of a pastor.

I'm the missing link!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Respect Mah Authoritah!

Respect Mah Authoritah! For those of you who don't get this, it's a very famous line from the infamous cartoon "South Park". And no, I am not a fan of nor will I be putting a picture of south park characters or adding the link to their official website. But I did think that quote seemed quite appropriate for the theme of my blog today as I reflect on all that has happened within the last 5 or 6 weeks and especially the last 2 weeks with the success of the website. Some days, I get up and I look at it and I can't believe that those are my blogs (I actually wrote those!), that is my website, and the counter that counts the number of different individuals that have been there read 385. And I also can't believe that we are officially on Google's search engine. Both seeing the website and my vision to teach english come to life takes my breath away every single time I think about it.

This experience of working with the church and seeing how they transformed my idea into a living, breathing, reality has done so much inside of me. The area that I think I've experienced the most healing is in my relationship with authority. Like some of you out there, I've been hurt by authority and I've seen the idea of authority abused in my family, in churches I've been in , and even in places that I have worked at. So it would be natural for me to be abit nervous when presenting my ideas to leadership in a foreign country in a foreign language in another culture.

When all this started, there was a part of me that did not want to share my idea at all and maybe keep it as something personal where I'll just teach english casually to a few of my buddies. It is easy to see the reason that I feel this way. I can sum it up in one word.......FEAR. Fear that someone is going to hear my idea, take it, and then go on a power trip and say "You can't do this" or "You can't do that". And tell me what to do, not for the safety or benefit of people in church but just because they want control. Or even worse is when authority tries to control me personally and tell me who I can or can't make friends with etc. It makes it even harder when they tell you that biblically they have the right to do this.

Again, I chose to give this church a clean slate and shake off my past experiences and give this a shot. And I experienced quite the opposite. People were kind, open-minded and treated me with respect. I literally got told "You are exactly what we need in this church" Internally, they are very well organized and efficient. All they wanted was to take this idea and make it the best that it can be. No more and no less. If trust were a bridge, then I would say that my bridge has been broken many times by people wanting to chop it up and make it into firewood for their own purposes. Before, I feared being part of team meant that I would lose a vision that is special to me due to abuses to authority. They have a healthy and strong team mentality here and people are very direct, open, and honest and quick to get things implemented. But now, everything is being realized in a way that goes beyond my wildest imaginings as a writer.

Being in a country where people have much less I think does make a difference. Having little money and houses with much less things for entertainment and being a culture where entertainment is not a big thing, I do find that people have less distractions. But I think that not having those things keeps them in peak mental, emotional, and spiritual conditions. I tell them that here in North America, people will come home from work and be like "I'm so tired. I know I should pray or I should study or do something to better myself." They they'll look at their huge 64 inch plasma screen and their gigantic stereo and be like "I'll do it tomorrow." Whenever I tell this to people, they always burst into peals of laughter.

Another thing that has really helped me heal is the way that this church, the people do exactly what they will say. When they say that they are going to set up a meeting or something is happening, they mean literally that. They don't say things that they aren't going to actively put a plan to. I have had a history in which I feel like for me, I feel assured by another party and get told "It will be fine." or "I'll take care of it". And long story short, the ball gets dropped and I have to take charge. I feel in my life that I keep having to take charge and take over things that were never meant to be my responsibility or I took over something, thinking that it would be short term but I ended up having to take charge for a much longer period than what I initially thought.

I'm actually quite the opposite character. It is very rare that I tell you that I'm going to do something or "this is what will be happening" and then it doesn't happen. The moment I tell you that I'm going to do something, I almost immediately from that moment begin putting my plan into action, organizing and getting things ready so that what ends up happening is that my reputation for keeping my word is stronger than steel. Basically I will go to the ends of the earths to keep my end and make sure that whatever i tell you would happen, actually happens. And it is fantastic working with people who are like-minded.

It just seemed like yesterday that I found myself casually suggesting to some of the church members that it would be great if I could give some english lessons informally just to help them out abit. 5 weeks ago, a simple idea popped into my head to maybe email the pastor of the church, introduce myself and share my heart to teach english to the people. 5 weeks later, after multiple emails and various meetings, I sit here on the very eve before the pastor is going to announce the new program we are developing to the congregation Sunday morning tomorrow. What started as a dream and a simple thought in my heart is now having life and breathed into it by this church body. They caught this vision that I have, and took it farther than I ever dreamed possible. And it is only within the last day or so that I realized that I was no longer jobless. But instead, I would begin a respectable new career as creative coordinator of english development starting April or May.

One of the things that I've always been taught in the Christian faith is that sometimes, you will go through a season in your life where you feel like God is asking you to honor the vision of another person and to help them and support them. And when you show character and humility and commitment in pouring your best into another person's idea or project, one day you're going to be given your own vision that you will see brought to life. Because you were faithful during that season where you were "underground". Nobody knew your name but you gave your best into a vision that wasn't your own. Then one day, your days comes.

For many years before this I was involved in many situations that would test my character. And I came to Buenos Aires being assigned to one person to teach them english. I gave it my full commitment and taught it successfully. The plan was that after 6 months, that would be the end of my journey. But it looks like I've gone from being entrusted with teaching english to one person to being entrusted to a whole community of people. And I think it is safe to say that my day has come and I am coming into full bloom.

But it is more than just is about justice and fairness being implemented. The girl who was once shamed, mocked, and ridiculed is now in a place of honor. I had people who in my life have made patronizing comments to me, took stabs at the integrity of my character, and subjected me to "put downs". But I didn't retaliate or raise my voice or try to take cheapshots back. In my mind, they have had their day. If they want to feel all powerful for that very moment, they have got their only reward. Where once I felt powerless and in the dark with no voice, now with the crazy success of the website, I do have a voice and everyone is listening to what I have to say. The ugly duckling really did become a swan who is now gliding beautifully through the air for all the world to see! It all comes full circle!


p.s. A blog that I think would be a great tie in with the one that I just wrote here is a blog called "From Birth to Conception". It is a blog I wrote after a milonga my friend Kikki held at her and Eduardo's new studio. The theme of the blog is about watching dreams come to life and that nite at the fiesta, I was watching Kikki's dream come to full conception with the opening of the studio.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Ugly Duckling

Recently my thoughts have turned into who I have become, not just after living here in BA but as a whole. My whole life I felt like I was some kind of misfit. Others were out shopping and talking about what they wanted to buy next while I volunteered my time and donated money to charities both locally and internationally. I sat at nights with a spanish grammar book while my friends parties, went to restaurants, and watched TV.

And as touched as others were by the way I was living my life, I really felt like the Ugly Duckling, out of place completely. But everytime I drove my little sister home after volunteering my time with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, I would tell myself that this was all part of my development. And that I was actually toning my mental, emotional, and spiritual muscles to get ready for something. And every single time after I closed my spanish grammar book, having chosen to be home studying voluntarily instead of doing what most people in their 20's and 30's do and going out and having a good time and spending their money.....I would just tell myself that it would all pay off and that my day was coming. And you know what? My day came with a BANG!!!!!!!! You know how when someone works 8 hrs a day and when they receive their paycheque, they receive money for every hour that they have worked. Well, in a sense, all the friends I am making now are my "earnings". They are what I have earned for all those hours I spent working hard at learning the language.

But that is not the only "wage" that I am receiving for all my hard work.I just said earlier that I was developing into someone very different than the people around me and even my family, my community, and my culture. It is hard to become a person with a big heart in a society that is really consummeristic in North America. And I didn't get here all at once. I took baby steps. But the more I gave of my time and of my money, it got easier and easier and easier until it became second nature. That's nice you may say...but what does that have to do with my destiny?

Here is the catch, I didn't fit into my community back in Canada but when I joined Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida here in Buenos Aires, the person I had become is EXACTLY like the people here. The person that I had become fitted into this church like a glove. Over in Canada I may have been an Ugly Duckling but in CCNV, I am a big beautiful swan who is spreading her wings and flying gracefully through the air. This is why the title of my blog is "Making the Same Difference". Because I enjoy making a difference in our world. And you know that saying "the same difference", meaning that it all turns out into the same thing in the end. So I thought "Making The Same Difference" would be a catchy original title that would really be true to the heart of my life story. Because everything that I've done that makes me different in one culture, made me fit in and be the same in another culture and in this church.

These people and I are exactly alike. All they every think about is getting out there and making a difference. In fact, in reality there is only one sermon that gets delivered every week and it is always the same message. And the message is this "There is a midst in our society that is stealing hope. But we can change the world and we can be the difference" Seriously, I have never attended a church that really only has one sermon. And they don't just sit around talking about how nice it would be to give hope to others. They actually get their hands dirty and are often the first ones to jump into the action. For example, earlier I wrote about a trip to a little cowboy town 1.5 hours away from Buenos Aires called San Antonio de Areco. This summer the water level rose, flooding homes and destroying buildings, leaving people without food or shelter. And I am so proud of a church that jumped in without hesitating to deliver food and supplies and to aid the community in rebuilding.

CCNV has taken all the growth and character I've built up while in Canada and brought it to a whole new tier and level when it comes to wanting to giving and loving on others. I was watching TV once and someone who worked as a cook was saying that in a restaurant, a good kitchen is one where everyone is just working together quietly as a team together. The people who are making the soups are doing their job while the people who cutting the meats are doing what they are supposed to do but everyone just works together with a nice ebb and flow. And it results in well formed and beautifully crafted dishes that come out on time. In a good kitchen, the team can handle little orders as well as big orders that come all of a sudden.

Well I would say that the people here in CCNV are like a team in a kitchen that is working well together. The truth is that, you could throw anything at these people and they would be able to pull something together in the blink of an eye. I've seen them do it so many times. They did it with me. When I came along, it was a first for many of these people to have someone now who has spanish as a 2nd language. But these people were so well versed in the art of loving that they didn't skip a beat. Not being able to speak a word of english did not deter them for even a split second from making someone feel warm and welcome and at home. They make you feel like you've always been here and that they love you so much that they couldn't imagine their lives without you. They are living proof that language barriers don't exist when it comes to love.

It's all about making the same difference!

Monday, February 15, 2010

d: day in Argentina


So there has been this interesting question that almost always comes up at one point in my conversations with many of the church members here. And the question is "How did you discover our church?" None of them really speak english and although their name is well known within Argentina, they are virtually unknown outside of Argentina.

Honestly, how I felt when I discovered them must have been what it felt like when Christopher Columbus discovered the new world. They are growing church network of more than 30 000 people that is spread all across the country and is heavily involved in social justice and social reform in this country. They maintain good relationships with people at all levels of society, ranging from a government level all the way to people on the street.

It seems like every time I turn around, they've got a new project on the go, whether it would be feeding people on the street, arranging a benefit concert to create awareness about AIDS, bringing aid to a town nearby that's been affected by flooding. In the time I have been here, I have seen them send out 3 families as missionaries. So now we have 3rd world people who already live in a poor country sending out their people to other 3rd world countries even poorer than Argentina. CCNV sent a family to Ushuaia, which is in the south of the country in the region of Patagonia. Then the other two families got sent out to Uruguay and Bolivia, countries who's economy's are way worse than Argentina.

One their website states their mission. It literally says "Passion for people". And there is really only one message given every sunday. And the message is that there is a great cloud over society that is stealing hope. This is where the battle is against. Their battle isn't a political one where they stand up and protest outside abortion clinics. To them, their battle is against poverty, it is against hopelessness. It is against human trafficking in this country. It is against the things that are stripping people of their humanity.

But back to the question? How did I find such an amazing group of people? That story is very interesting. Long before I knew I was coming here, I already had developed a keen interest in Argentina. There is a popular Christian rock group named Delirious that I'm a fan of. And before I go further, let me comment that these guys play actual music and are professionals They break every stereotype that pops into your head of what you think Christian music is. If they weren't amazing as they are, they wouldn't have been asked to open for Bryan Adams or Bon Jovi. Just making it clear between you and me here :)

Now Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida has an event called Rock & Vida. It is concert with a variety of rock musicians to create awareness about AIDS I actually went to Rock & Vida this year and wrote a blog about it. The blog is titled "Rock & Vida". In 2006 they invited Delirious to play for them. It was an unforgettable night, so unforgettable that one of the youth pastors at CCNV decided to write a blog about it and put it on the Delirious website.

Along comes me a few years later, wanting to visit Argentina. Out of curiosity, I wondered if Delirious has ever toured in Argentina. So I go through all their travel diaries and look at all the countries they've been through. And sure enough, here is this blog about their nite at Rock & Vida in Buenos Aires in 2006 along with the name of the youth pastor as well as the name of the church. And the rest was history!

You may have noticed a little d: symbol at the top left of this blog. That is actually the logo of Delirious and if you click that symbol on the top left of the blog, it will take not only to their website, but you will be able to read the actual blog that was written about their concert in Argentina. This is the very blog that led me straight to the people here at CCNV. Interesting huh?


p.s. I found an AWESOME picture taken of the d: boys during their time here in Buenos Aires. I've put it at the bottom of the site. This picture of them was taken in Puerto Madero and it has 4 of the 5 band members standing tall and strong LOL Also I've made it so that if you click on the picture, it will take you straight to the official website of delirious ?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cindy Davis & Soda Stereo

Hey so I'm still at my friend's place. This has been a casual lazy afternoon that all of us have been enjoying. And I had a few thoughts and suggestions I want to share with you for suggestions on ways you can discover something new while you're here. As I said in blog earlier, I stuck on the YouTube gadget so that you could do some of your own searching around and personalizing the experience of being here.

I'd like to give you some suggestions of artists that you are less likely to hear about but that doesn´t make them any less fantastic. The first artists is called Soda Stereo. They were one of the most popular hit bands in the 80´s in the latin american world. The lead singer´s name is Gustavo Cerati. The band decided to part ways in 1997 but came back for a reunion tour in 2007. Soda Stereo is basically the U2 of the latin american world. I discovered them in the midst of learning spanish about a year ago and I was hooked instantly.

My favorite song by them is called "La Ciudad de Furia", meaning "The City of Fury". They did a really great edition on it on their live album that is available in video called "La Ultimo Concierto", meaning "The Last Concert" I just suggested to my friend a minute ago that I think I should do this and she thought it was a fantastic idea. It´s a shame that Soda Stereo's music never went international but I´m glad that now I get a chance to share my thoughts on this awesome band.

Another favorite of mine is a girl I went to school with who has become an extremely popular artists and favorite of many. And that is Cindy Davis! If you haven´t heard her debut album "A Year or More" It is awesome. I am so proud of my classmate and all her success that she is having. My two favorite songs are "Philosophy" and "Where am I?" Her music and shows have a stripped down, raw and intimate beat to it. Many of the musicians on the project are not only people that I know but who are skilled professionals as well who have played for artists like "Tegan & Sarah".

So with your cup of "coffee" today, my suggestions for sides or accompaniments are a dash of Soda Stereo for those who love to rock. And for those who like to keep it abit more raw and intimate, a sprinkling of Cindy Davis makes the perfect accent to any classic beverage. And for your convenience, I 've just added a mini playlist on the site here for your listening enjoyment.

The songs on the playlist are: "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta w/ Kelly Rowland, "Empire States" with Jay Z and Alicia Keys, "La Ciudad de Furia" by Soda Stereo, "Inside Outside" by Delirious, and "Clumsy" by Cindy Davis. One interesting thing to note is that the version of the song "La Ciudad de Furia" by Soda Stereo when you click "video" is very different that the version you will hear audio only.

This is my playlist for now. It is not necessarily my favorite songs for personal pleasure but these are songs that I though would accompany this site well. If you can think of any songs that you would like to suggest that fit well with the sight and would be something visitors would enjoy listening to, please by all means let me know. I'm open to any and all suggestions :)


p.s. the trick with the setlist is that if you want to listen to the whole song, click on "video".

Chicken Cerviche

I am writing to all of you from friends house this lovely Sunday afternoon and I am having the absolute time of miy life. There are videos of some Latin American artist I´ve never heard of playing in the background. And best of all, I just got treated to a home made meal of my first ever taste of Cerviche made from chicken! This morning I wrote to you a little article on taking a pause. I am in no way exempt from taking my own advice! Come to think of it, I love taking my own advice I would love to hear about ways you in your life have learned to take a pause or if my website helps you take pauses, I would love to hear that too :)

Let me tell you my pause and "selah" moment looks like today. Once again I found myself in the house of a friend that I had spent time with yesterday. All of got well rested after having fun the night before (although the movie "Wolf Man" is a total waste of money) in the city. At one point she beckoned to me to come over to the kitchen. So I came over and that´s when she told me she was making us a quick lunch of Cerviche. She is from Peru and it is one of the most popular dishes in the country. But it would be Cerviche with a twist, it was going to be made from chicken instead of fish. Up until now, I thought Cerviche is strictly fish but she told me that wasn´t true. And in fact Cerviche made from chicken is popular amongst locals because chicken is so much cheaper to purchase than fish. And MUCH faster to make. I think that the total time spent preparing it was about 45 mins before it was ready to eat.

She showed me how she was doing it. Pieces of chicken in the juice of 6 lemon. Sliced onions. There are some other spices she added that I had never heard of. She also added brown chunks of a vegetable that I´m not sure what the word is in english but I think it might be mandrakes. Diana handed pieces of it to me and the taste of it in my mouth was sweet, delicious and light! 45 mins later I sat down to my very first meal of chicken Cerviche. Who knew that such simple ingredients could yield something so tasty in such little time. Literally, the total amount of time that she needed to marinate the chicken in the lemon juice was half an hour. Then add some white rice to your meal and VOILA! Lunch today is chicken Cerviche!

Gung Hey Fat Choy!

I am sitting in front of my computer here on the first morning of the year of the Tiger feeling very refreshed and content. Not only did I have a wonderful nites sleep but last night was simply a fantastic nite spent together with friends just having a good time. To update you a little bit here, the picnic for youth that was meant to happen today got moved to next week. But I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad that happened seeing as I got to bed at 4am this morning after having gone to a movie with friends. And there is no way I would have been able to be up for the 9am bus that will takes the youth from the church to the picnic grounds.

If you've ever lived in Latin America or know anything about the culture here, you will know that latinos love the night! Even at my church, when they throw a fiesta it usually doesn't start before 11 and then goes until 2:30 in the morning. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a friends house resting after a whole week of doing nothing but spending massive amounts of time working on this site. So when she invited me to her place it was absolutely perfect timing.

I badly needed to get out of my room and just hang out and do something else. It is so amazing that during this whole trip, I have everything that I need just when I needed it. People here have busy live's too but I think the difference between people here and people in North America is that people's here know the art of taking a moment's pause in their busy lives. A pause to breathe, dance, think, reflect, and tell someone special that you love them.

In North America, even on weekends where people have free time I don't think they are actually taking a pause on their free time. They get so busy caught up in buying things, trying to look good and impress others, or they get distracted by things that don't matter. This is one of the reasons I created this website, it is a place where people can take that pause that they need. Few of us have the time to take the time of break where we go around the world in 80 days. Some of you out there due to work reasons find yourselves glued to the computer all day long without end.

The culture of the people here in Argentina has taught me so much on how to just take a moment for me. Any given day here, you will see people lazing out on a park bench or near a 100 year old statue lost in a book. I've done that myself and what I will tell you is that doing that is truly addictive. Wasn't it the president of Google that said in a recent speech that we've become so wired that we don't know when to stop? And that we need to get out and enjoy all that life has to offer? I couldn't agree more.

For me, I reached a point in my life where I needed a life change very badly. So I made the decision to pack my bags, give up a very well paying job with lots of security in the midst of this economic crisis, and come here to Argentina. And this culture has taught me so many things that has been lost in North America. Not everyone will get an opportunity to have this kind of a life change. And not everyone would want a life change in the way that I did it. For some, what a "pause" means to them looks very different than what a "pause" looks like to me.

For those of you who love being wired and love technology and being here on the web, this place was created so you could have a rest, read some fantastic stories, and indulge yourself in some of the goodies that are on here. When creating this place, I had to be very careful about what I chose to put on the side bar. It took alot of thinking. I had to ask myself, it this going to entertain and relax someone or is it only going to be another technological gadget that distracts them?

Some of the blogs are light and funny and some of them are deep and intense but all of them are from my heart. You can read them over and over again the ones that you particularly enjoyed and relive the experience each time. And in this manner there is always something for you here even when I'm having a pause from writing myself. As a writer, I go through seasons. Sometimes here you will see 3 new blogs added in one day. And there have been times where I've gone weeks without adding anything new. As a society, we always feel like we need something new or need the latest buzz to keep us happy. Here at "Making the Same Difference", I really want you to learn the art of reading something, feeling it, experiencing it and drawing from it. And then reading it again another time and reliving it but in totally different manner. I think that people in our society aren't looking so much for things that are new We have more than enough of that. I think that they are looking for things that are well done and good.

Whenever you need a break from reading the blogs, there is other things on the site for your enjoyment. Even here on a website that was created to help you take a pause, there is goodies left for you so you can take a break and even while taking a break, you can "take a break within that break". Make sense? I hope so. At the bottom of the site, I have written a welcome message in both english and spanish welcoming you to the space and inviting you to sit down and take a drink.

Some of you may like your drink totally "decaf", completely unwired, natural and organic and would just be content to read only the blogs. There are others of you who like a little bit of a coffee "buzz". You enjoy the good well written blog but you enjoy sprinkles of goodies. That is what the stuff on the sidebar is for. And yet there are others of you who loves blogs and love getting a BIG "buzz". All I can say is go knock yourself out! I'm just happy that you are here and you took time out of your busy day to come to the site. That's why I've included features like Diggs 2.0 so that you can continue to feed that internal craving that you have to be constantly wired. But what I think makes this site unique is that you can have a really nice experience of reading some totally organic writing by me but yet have the option of playing with some "toys" left for you on the site after your read the blog or may even while you are reading the blog.

To tell you the truth, I think the goodies on the site are great. We've got a feed from a great speaker named Christine Caine who makes for a wonderful listening experience for me every week. Wife, mother, activist for social justice, she's got a huge heart to see social justice implemented with her A21 campaign against human trafficking. She's one of the speakers that are a great influence on me and shaped the way I think. Her feeds are never "preachy" but she makes you feel like you are literally having coffee with someone. Then we have the blogs of the band Santa Clara. A local band from Victoria BC who is enjoying a sudden and crazy amount of success right now and are touring all over the country.

It makes me feel really great that even when I'm not writing stuff or adding new posts, there is always some fresh here. Whether it's Christine Caine's latest feed, a new blog by Santa Clara, or something entertaining and informative that you'll find on Digg 2.0, the moment you click onto this site you know you're in good hands. You can relax, take off your coat, order your drink "decaf", "medium" or even if you want to go for the whole 9 yards and order a "full bodied" roast, just know that there is always something new and special awaiting for you around the corner. In Chinese culture, honor is a very high value to us. And here at "Making the Same Difference", you will always be our highly esteemed guest of honor :)

Gung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Year of the Tiger!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

another milestone

Over the past few days, I´ve written numerous postings thanking you for all your support and telling you how unexpected all this is. But as of this morning, another interesting milestone got passed. It is with supreme pleasure (and total disbelief) that I would like to let you know that that the amount of visitors I have had to this site surpasses the amount of facebook friends that I have. I am still in a state of shock as I write these words, also given that the site has only been up for such a short time. My facebook friends total to about 236.

At this point, I think I should find more interesting than "thank you for your support". However, I do want to thank you for something different this time. I want to thank you for your patience as I was experimenting with the format of the site and with different gadget. I have spent the last 5 days adding stuff, removing it, resizing, rearranging where it is on the site. If some of you noticed that the site kept changing while you were on it, it was me in a mad scramble to create the best possible environment for you.

As irritating as it must have been at times, you can be rest assured of two things. First of all, I'm DONE! I think I´ve got everything arranged in the best possible format and as well I've loaded the site chock full of goodies to fit a variety of tastes and backgrounds. And the second thing that you can be assured of is that I wouldn´t be so fussy about the site if I didn´t care about the people who are going to visit. It was for all of YOU that I sat in my room trying to create the best possible environment.

There is a saying that goes "Actions speak louder than works" and my hope is that more than anything in the world, my attention to detail and hard work on this site will be evidence of the care that is in my heart for every traveller passing through. Enjoy!

Centro Estudios Nueva Vida

I stared in wide eyed wonder at the clean cut modern surroundings. From the outside the building looked just as plain as any other building on that same street. But once inside, it was a totally different story. The woman continued her tour of the place, taking me to the 2nd and 3rd floor and showing me all the classrooms and facilities for students. I mentioned to her that what a blessing it must be to have found such a beautiful location for their college, Centro Estudios Nueva Vida in the middle of Buenos Aires. She then stated the fact that alot of buildings and facilities that belonged to the government were state of the art and modern but to get a location like the one they had privately owned, it was very rare indeed.

After a brief tour we sat down for a meeting to discuss bringing the language of English to Centro. She took out the books they had been using and showed it to me and let me know their course was quite basic. I then told her a little bit about my background, how I learned two languages successfully and was also able to teach deliver private lessons in english with fantastic results. I also then pointed out to her that I felt in the coming years, english would be a necessity for the church branch on Centro at 683 Florida ave, in Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires is the busiest city in all of Argentina and Florida ave, where the church was located is the busiest street in all of Buenos Aires. This church branch has got more access to tourist, visitors, and foreigners that speak english than any of the other branches in Argentina. They want to reach out and touch the world but at this point, their love does not translate to those who do not speak the language of spanish.

At one point in my journey here, I began to foresee that this my be a problem. What also was a problem at that moment is that there was very little interest in learning english. This is understandable. For a majority of these people, their whole lives are conducted in the language of spanish. Up until now, there is no reason for them to take the time and trouble to learn this language. They are completely unaware of the necessity of the english language or how important it will be in the years to come.

One of the hardest things you can ever do is motivate someone to learn another language. It takes time, commitment. It is alot of fun but can be very intense. To date, I am only aware of two people who are actually truly passionate about wanting to take on the task of learning another language. But the rewards of knowing a second language are endless. Job opportunities, travelling, making friends. Learning spanish was one of the best investments I made into my life. With one language, I have access to more than 22 countries as well as 330 million people who's first language is spanish.

And it is the exact same for english. I pointed out during our meeting that we need to make people realize that learning english would not just help them reach tourist and foreigners who pass by the way of the church, it would change their life if they knew this language. They would possibly be able to get higher paying jobs and better positions. Travelling would be less of a hassle without the language barrier. In short, they would be unstoppable!

But in the meantime, she did see another way that I could help them. She mentioned to me that they have a course in biblical english where they teach english vocabulary associated with biblical studies. She said it would be great if I could give a talk and teach some vocabulary as well as teach a little bit about the culture of the first world. This was another area that became quite clear that they needed assistance in.

As we chatted, I informed her that it would be important for the people in church to understand a little bit of the culture of the first world nations. Because some of their seemingly innocent actions that are a normal part of life here could easily be misinterpreted by a foreigner. I gave her an example. Here in Argentina it is OK for people to stand out on the street and try to hand flyers out promoting their restaurants, or their church, or their business.

I let her know that that type of conduct is looked down upon in the first world. In general, looks, appearances and reputation are very important so people do not do things like that. And the people who normally do things like that are viewed upon as maybe being in a cult, or homeless, or simply don't have a "real" life. And I don't want people to get the wrong idea of the people at Centro. They are doing what is normal and right for this culture. And if they didn't want to extend their love to other cultures, it wouldn't matter. But they do, in fact she told me that Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida might want to send missionaries to first world nations one day.
If this were to happen, it would be very important for them to see the differences in the culture between Argentina and the country they would be going to.

I could see it in the woman's eyes that she saw my point very clearly. She said that what she would like to do is talk with the other coordinators and let them know that I had pointed this problem out to them. The problem being that the people at Centro are going to need english but at this point, few of them were ready to learn or could see the value in it. We agreed to meet again at a certain date in the future where we would sit down and discuss all of our ideas and try to come up with a solution. What will happen? Stay tuned.....

Friday, February 12, 2010

YouTube Gadget, Adsense, Digg 2.0

All right guys, after much debate I have decided to add the YouTube Gadget. And I actually do have a good reason for it. It was something I wasn't sure about because I want to keep this place as organic as possible and provide an escape from a world that is just buzzed and wired with media.

But I was thinking that it would be a neat tool to have on the sight. Because you'll be able to do things like search for Argentine tango as well as see if there are videos of any of the places I am talking about. In that way, you're really personalizing the experience of being on this website and making it your own.

If you would like some suggestions on things you can search using the tool, I would begin with some Argentine tango. There are alot more videos of Eduardo Saucedo & Marisa Quiroga than the ones I've already got on my sites. Another great dance pair is Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo. They recently appeared on a dance competition in the US called "Superstars of Dance". They did some over the top tango performances during the course of the competition.

Other interesting searches might be to see videos of Iguazú falls that people have done. Like I said in an earlier blog, there is no picture or video in the world that can do justice to the experience of actually being there at the falls. But watching videos of the falls are a sure way to ignite that travel bug inside of you. And of course there are many other videos on YouTube that have nothing to do with tango.

I honestly love local talent. We have a local band in Victoria, that is breaking out right now called "Santa Clara" For your convenience I've added the link as well as put a YouTube video of the making of Santa Clara's hit song "The Fool". If you haven't tried it already, go all the way to the bottom of the blogsite and click on the YouTube video that I have left there for your convenience. And of course, the gadget is something you can use for your own personal use and endeavors. The most important thing is have fun and be creative!

Also I would like to comment about something called Adsense. It is a thing where people who run these website can partner together with Google by allowing Google to use their website for some advertising. Some of it I control and some of it I don't. The part I do control is where on the site the ads will go. I have chosen to place them only on the sidebar because I do not want my readers to have had a beautiful experience reading a blog only to be confronted with some ad at the very end of the blog. It doesn't make for a lovely reading experience!

I've chosen for the ad to be placed on the sidebar so in that manner it won't be a distraction for those of you who came here to get away from all kinds of media. An important note is that I actually do not control what ads get shown. Google adsense looks at the kind of website that I have and chooses which ads to put on the site that would suit the type of blog I am doing. Whatever you see, it's not up to me. I only determine where the ads go :)

Also, I'm trying something new here by adding Digg 2.0 It is a highly popular gadget that seems to me somewhat like the frontpage of Yahoo where it connects people with the very best in news, entertainment etc. At the same time it has a search engine where you can look for the things that interest you. I am slipping it into a place on the site where it would seem most natural for something like that to be there.

Everyone who visits the site here has a different reason and a different walk of life. I'm doing my best to provide you with other goodies that you can have fun with during your time here that will appeal to a variety of styles and tastes :)

Thank you! Gracias! Obrigada! Xie Xie!

As gifted as us writers are with when it comes to the use of words and ability to describe things, there are few things in the world that go beyond the description of words. One of them being Iguazú falls. Standing there watching the glory, power, and majesty of Devil's Throat Canyon, it is in that moment that you realize that words are futile. Pictures are futile. There is nothing on earth you can bring home to your friends to even do justice to the experience of being there.

The second area where words fail me is far less dramatic but no less important. It is the feeling of what it is like to wake up at 6am in the morning, check the counter for this site and have the numbers "100" glaring back at you. Literally, I went to bed after coming home from church with the counter reading "85" and when I woke up and it said "100". I cheered and whooped and even while I was doing that, the counter changed from "100" to "102". Went back to sleep and when I woke up at 11am the counter now said "112"

I began the creation of this website on Monday Feb. 8th and though all my blogs got added, it has been a work in progress until yesterday evening when I felt that I had added as much as I needed to. It was just a few days ago when I went to search engine of yahoo and typed in the words "How to create a blog" and I slowly went through the process of starting an account, findng a name for my blog etc. This site has barely been around for 4 days but the responses have been overwhelming and the popularity of this site totally unexpected.


Your support of this site makes all effort worth it. I am working hard to create an environment that can act as oasis for people in the midst of their busy days. When I see the kind of response that I've been getting, it only makes me want to work all the more harder to make sure this place is in peak condition at all times. Creating the sight was not easy. I liken it to a film editors job where they have 100's of hours of footage and they have to choose 1hr of it and that 1hr of footage, they have to properly format in a way that is desirable.

Everything that you see here, the pictures, links, podcast feed, I had to choose it out of hundreds of other choices and even after knowing what I want, I had to experiment with the format and where I would put it on the site. And what makes it more challenging is with this website, there are hundreds of gadgets and extras you can put on the sidebar or where ever. I have to decide whether I'm going to say "Yay" or "Nah" to it. They all look so appealing!

But at last I think the site has a nice balance of extras that have been added. I made a decision to keep out anything that was too media orientated. All of us in the west have enough media, advertising, and stimulation thrown at us to the point that we feel wired like we're on some kind of coffee buzz. Consider this website your "decaf" cup of coffee. Yes it's got some media, entertaiment, and cool stuff on it but it's all been put together and designed in such a manner that it feels natural and where you can come to take in a breathe of fresh air. And yes, I am experimenting with promoting and advertising some things using this site but I want to trend very sensitively in that area and I want to make sure that whatever happens, it does not compromise the ambience that I am trying to create here at "Making the Same Difference"

This time of the year there are many events going on in our world right now. The most obvious one is Valentines Day. But this year Chinese New Year falls on the same day as Valentines day. Carnaval is in Brazil and people are getting ready with costumes that they have worked all year round to make. So whatever this time of the year means for you, I wish you a happiness, health and safety in all the celebrations. Valentines Days is about love, Chinese New Year is about honor, and Carnaval I think is about the love and honor of the very art of life and living. In other words...........HAVE FUN!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To Trust or Not to Trust?

This is my 3rd article in one afternoon. I must be on a roll here! But I'm having fun and I hope you are too. And I look forward to the fun of getting to celebrate the new year all over again on Feb 14th when we welcome the year of the Tiger. Chinese New Year is a time for festivity and family. I'm the year of the monkey and everyone knows that monkeys love to party! We are the life of the party! And this monkey intends to party well in the year of the tiger.

This Chinese New Year, I will be spending it with my buddies from church at a youth picnic. The picnic that they planned happened to fall on the day of Chinese New Year and Valentines day. So for the third time in this trip, I will be with people that I love instead of being alone. For those of you who don't know the story, I spent Christmas and New Years here and God was so good to me. I thought I was going to be all by myself both times but there were two occasions where I got invited over by someone I met only once. And it ended up being two different sets of people who invited me over for both Christmas and New Year. It is something I will never forget.

Actually, I am glad that I get another chance to go to this picnic. There was actually another picnic for youth that happened in Jan. but I didn't go even though my friends kept inviting me. Why didn't I go? Because at that point I was still having a hard time trusting Christians and allowing them to make friends with me. This comes from alot of the hurt I experienced in North America with church and Christians. For many of you reading this, these words are going to strike a cord very deep within you. The Argentine culture of church seems to be very different. Church is not a political thing. At least my church isn't. People here in this culture know how to have fun and be real. What I love about people here is that they truly live every moment. Being a Christian doesn't mean that you have to listen to Christian music or talk a certain way.

My friends had a really hard time understanding why I backed away from social events or letting people get to know me. It's like "Why doesn't she want to hang out?" It's just hanging out....right? They are kind of clueless of the concept that in North America, religious people sometimes are really nice when you first meet them but after you get to know them and open up, they change and this is how alot of people have gotton really hurt. I told them outright that in North America, I in general do not like making friends with other Christians nor do I enjoy the company of other Christians. It's taking them while but they are understanding that I am going through some cultural differences and feeling some old wounds from my past that are holding me back.

I must say, when it comes to causing damage in other people's lives, no one can do it better than Christians who live in North America. And they almost always have some bible verse on hand as some excuse for screwing you over and totally disrespecting you. Their classic line is always "Oh, I was just trying to be Biblical!" When the fruit of their involvement in your life is you crying in the floor, feeling devastated and hopeless and condemned and that you're not "good enough", trust me when I tell you that there is nothing Biblical about that.

But the hurt I've been through only draws me to the Argentine's way of doing church all the more. One thing I adore about these people is that they can be deeply spiritual and passionate in prayer but they truly believe their fight is within the spiritual realm, not against people. You will hear the prayer volume go up as people here prayer for their nation and prayer against the spiritual darkness that is covering the economy, their lives, and their families and their nation. Never will you hear them single out a people group based on sexuality, race, or political party and pray against THEM and blame them for the reasons that things are wrong in the country. They believe their fight is against the spiritual dark forces that are unseen. That's why you don't see people here going crazy and like doing exorcism on people personally or making them feel that their prayers aren't answered because they didn't have the faith. It doesn't happen here in this country and I couldn't be more glad of that. Bible verses are used as encouragment, not excuses :)

Part of me did want to go to the first picnic with all my heart but there was still a huge wall inside that came from so many past hurts with religious people. When they asked me to come, it was as if I changed into another person. I started to get quiet and awkward and seemed almost angry and defensive. It was like I had an automatic response inside of me that had been built up to keep me from ever getting hurt again. I didn't intend to respond in that manner but it just happened. But the great thing about people here at Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida have done an amazing job of making me feel safe and warm. I've been to church my whole life and this church has given me a bigger welcome than some churches that spoke my own native language of english in my own culture in my own country. They make you feel like you've always been here and they wouldn't know what to do without you. And what is even more incredible is that the church here knows exactly what is going on in North America, the judgmentalism and everything. And CCNV will have absolutely nothing to do with and they are doing everything that they can do be the furthest thing from what we call "church" in North America.

Still, my old wounds caused me to feel anxiety and fear about hanging out with Christians and at the time of the first picnic, I wasn't ready to go. My typical life experience is whether I show up or not, no one really notices. It's as if I'm non existant. I tried that once over here and later on my friend told me that all she kept thinking about was "Where was Angelina?" they do care? That's when I felt my eyebrow raise a little bit on this tough exterior of mine. Then she told me that there would be a 2nd picnic on Feb 14th. Maybe it was time to open my heart a little....

Argentines are pretty much literal. What you see is what you get. And I love it! People here can be totally be serious and spiritual and be into prayer and stuff but when they aren't doing that, they just like to have a good time. They don't create this culture where you have to have this religious personality and fake smile all the time. I think there are several factors that have been influencing the Argentine church. One is that this is that they are not a culture that is obsessed by entertainment or material possessions. So these factors are not a major influence. A really big factor is that Argentines use only the New Testament for life application and the old testament for reference. I cannot tell you how much this actually affects people's behavior. Being around the Christians here almost has an organic feel to it. I think Argentines would make a great social experiment of what happens to people when you take them away from money, materialism, entertainment.

It is really cool to see what people are capable of doing when they have a very organic real belief system that religion has no part of. For example, my church has had several fiestas. And like typical latin americans, the party started around 11pm and went until 2am. And my church loves two things that are considered taboo (or used to be considered taboo) by the North American church. My church loves rock and roll. And there are people in my church that love tattoos. They have no issue with it here and they actually think tattoos are beautiful and cool. And when I say that they like rock and roll music, they mean REAL rock and roll music. Not a watered down version of "Jesus music" that we have in the west. Church members I've talked to love AC/DC, metallica and anything loud. And some of the people who lead the worship music for the services really surprised me at the fiesta when they got up and did covers of popular hit such as "Stayin Alive". When they did the covers, they played incredibly. You should hear some of these voices! They are musicians who are well developed in their craft and are good enough to play at some of the hottest clubs and lounges in North America where people go to relax and have a drink. These people don't write or sing crap and then try to pass it off as Christian and say that it is OK because God is with them. They are true artists who bring excellence to their craft.

It is amazing to see that people can get up on stage and rock away with cover songs and hits until 2am and the next day at a church services, they can play church music that is deep and spiritual and they don't feel anything wrong about it. Being here has helped me heal and it is causing me to begin to trust again that I can build relationships with Christians. It brings me hope that the church culture of North America doesn't necessarily represent the church culture in every country in the world. And the Christians here are people I can be fun, real, and honest with and most of all be myself without having to fit into a cookie cutter.

To trust or not to trust? That is the question. A question that I'm starting to rethink really hard. That picnic will be me taking my first babysteps towards trusting once more....

p.s. If any of you are interested, on the site here I've included feeds of a podcast by a speaker named "Christine Caine". Those are worth checking out. They really vary from week to week and some of them may sound deep and theological and others may be more "fun" and goofy. But one thing they have in common is that they are down to earth and honest and encouraging the church to turn around in it's tracks and start being real and organic with the world and society. It is easy listening and I guarantee you that you have nothing to be afraid of when it comes to "Coffee with Chris Caine"

p.s.s. A blog that I wrote that would be a good tie in with the blog above was one that I wrote a week after I came here called "Tango From the Inside Out". Give it a go.....

Take Off & Reentry

So my last month in Buenos Aires has begun. Actually, I'm not thinking about it as the last month of my first trip. I am thinking of it as the first month of my 2nd trip. You'll find out what that means in a second. You must be wondering what I must be feeling. Sad? Happy? Mixed? When I woke up this morning, I felt two emotions that were actually trying to work against other and cancel out each other.

One emotion said "You've made it! You've done everything that you came here to do and now you can slack off a little." The other emotion and sense that I had was quite the opposite. It was the feeling that this month would actually be the most important month in Buenos Aires and everything that I have to be more alert than ever this month to make sure everything is set in place. Or I'm going to lose all that I've worked hard for in the past 5 months.

This is the reason I've titled this edition "Take off & Reentry". Because I liken this journey very much to the taking off and landing of a plane. The "taking off part" I did very well. I simply packed my bags, gave my notice and left! The "flight" I would say is relatively smooth with very few bumps, very much like my actual flight here to BA. But now it is time to prepare for reentry. Any pilot will tell you that reentry is probably the most important part of the journey. And there is a part of me that wants to be lazy and be like "Whatever, it'll be fine....i'll work out somehow." I can tell you right now that if I ever had a pilot with that attitude, I would never ride on a plane with that pilot again. Provided that I actually lived to book another flight after riding with such an idiot!

I don't know what ways that I need to stay alert but all I know is that I need to. I loved watching an interview with oscar winning actor Jamie Foxx who won an oscar for "Ray". During the interview, he was asked how he could keep up the momentum after his big win. It was brought up in the interview that alot of actors and actresses get an oscar and start to go downhill after that. Their movies and acting aren't as good.

He said something that I will never forget. He actually does not keep his award in his house. His manager actually has put it in a different office or location so that Jamie doesn't sit in his home and revel over this award while losing all his acting ability. He said in the interview that he appreciates the award but in reality, that reward represents that moment in time and it was for that time. But he's not going to park there and celebrate. Jamie Foxx knows he needs to keep working on his craft if he wants to remain in the spotlight in the coming years.

Those words echo within me in this moment. Before my trip, I got asked alot if I was excited. Truthfully, I was too busy to feel anything. I had to be on top of my game learning spanish while at the same time prepare to go from 1st world to 3rd world. All my spare time before my trip was spent learning a new language, learning about the city and do's and dont's of living in BA. Details! Details! Details!

Now is the opposite. I am preparing for reentry. Understand that yes, it will be nice to relax an holiday in a 1st world nation with many comforts that you don't have over here. But I'll be coming home with something I didn't have before my trip. And that is a whole family and community of people that I have a mission and a responsibility to teach english to. I know this is the reason I was brought to their church, to give people an opportunity that they normally wouldn't have due to restraints with time and money.

So hang with me as a shift gears and prepare for reentry. The other day I was watching "Apollo 13" in the student lounge here. A very timely movie for me at this moment although I am pretty sure that my reentry won't be carrying the dangers and possibilites of explosion or death due to a collision with the earth's atmosphere :0 You will see me touch down alive and well and better than ever with more to give and enrich your lives with than ever before. This isn't the last month of my first trip. It is the first month of my second trip and it is in this month that I am setting the stage for everything that happens when I return to BA.

A "selah" moment

I'm sitting here at my desk reveling in the events that have happened within the past few days. I guess you could say I'm having a "selah" moment. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term "Selah", it is a word in ancient hebrew that means "pause and reflect". It is most commonly found in the book of Psalms in the Bible. The poet who wrote the psalms would put the word "selah" right in the middle of the Psalm. This was to indicate to the reader that they were pause and reflect a moment on what they had just read before moving on and reading the rest.

So that's what I've been doing this afternoon, taking a "selah" moment to revel at all that has happened. The thing I've reveling over is how I ended up with more than 50 visitors to the blogsite in less than 3 days of launching the blogsite. THANK YOU ALL!!! Seriously, this was so unexpected. Literally, every single time I get on, I see another hit from another new visitor. I'm very touched that each of you would take time out of your busy day to drop by for a visit on the site.

And my commitment to you back is that I will always try and bring you my very best. The reason why alot of people don't like blogsites that normally the people that create blogs make it all about them. Only people that know that person will be able to relate or fully understand or even enjoy that blog. And yes, as a writer my blogs are about my experience, but I want it to be something that everyone can relate to. I myself refuse to read alot of blogs and blogsites because alot of the time, it's a platform for people to say alot of stupid stuff to people that they don't know. This was the reason why I was hesitant to start a blogsite, because the reputation of what a blogsite is in many people's mine.

But the way this got started was a little different. I actually did not hop on here presumptuous that everyone wants to know about my life. I had to be convinced by some good friends that I was a good writer and had something to share. My friends worked on me for a long time to push me to share my writing. I had been writing 5 months now and had many good responses by people BEFORE I decided to go public.

Going public would be abit of a challenge. The biggest challenge of all is convincing people that visiting this site is not a waste of your time reading the gripings and amateur moanings of someone they will never meet. My goal is to draw on themes that we can all relate to. That is my commitment to you with this site. We are all human, we all have dreams, hopes, fears, disappointments. And I want to create blogs in such a way that it touches the human experience. I don't want only 3 people who know me well to be able to enjoy what I am saying.

I intend to make sure that the goods on my site are of the highest quality. People can feel it when someone's put effort into things. Everything that you see was chosen carefully, every picture, every link I have added to other people's site. The video clips I have chosen. I began creating this site on Monday Feb. 8th and it has been alot of work but is every bit worth it. In this way, I create trust with my readers and visitors. They trust that when ever they pop by for a visit, they are assured that I am bringing them nothing but the brightest and the best. And when I post a link or a pic, there is a good reason for it. It is my way of showing respect for people's time.

What makes it worth it is when I get a response from a reader that got touched by a certain edition. In the past 6 months, it seems like a majority of people had one particular blog that really stirred them just a little more than the others. For them, it struck a cord within them. Now that I've expanded and gone public, I pray that each one of you will find that one edition that moves something in your heart. And in a sense, you find yourself coming away from that computer just a little bit different than you were a few minutes before. That is my hope for each of you that visits.


Monday, February 08, 2010

The 5th Wheel

this is another blog that accidentally got left out. This is the special holiday edition I wrote for Christmas time and the experience of what it was like to do Christmas Argentinean style. I did this blog Dec. 26

"Angelina.......hay una problem."

"Angelina, we have a problem". These were the last words I wanted to hear as I stood there at the train station 10pm at night in the middle of the outskirts of Buenos Aires with my new friend Romina, whom I barely knew. Come to think of it, these are the last words that I think anyone wants to hear when they are in a foreign country in the middle of nowhere.

This adventure really began when Romina arrived at my door to pick me up to her place in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Immediately I recognized her as being one of the girls from my thursday night church group. We first took the bus to Agaces, that is where the main church is located. There was supposed to be some kind of meeting to discuss missions and outreach but it looks like that somehow fell through. So we decided to continue on our way and head back to her place. It´s a simple bus ride and then a train ride that will take us close to her doorstep. At least it was suppose to be simple.

After we got off the bus and stepped up to the train station, it became clear that something was amiss. She then turned to me and told me that we have a little problem. The train that we were supposed to take is not running tonight so we have to take a different line. Apparently this is normal in Latin America for something to not be working at the last minute. We crammed into an almost full train on a different line and off we went. To make a long story short, from that train we had to take another train and what should have been originally a short 45 min train ride turned into an almost 90 min journey stuffed into a passenger hold full of people. Though it was only 10pm at night, it certainly felt like I was taking the midnight train.

Finally when we finally reached our stop, her father was waiting in the car to pick us up and drive us to her house 5 mins away. Pulling up to her house, I realize that I was about to see another side of Argentine culture that people rarely get to experience. Up until now, I´ve seen the many different ways people live in Argentina. Whether in the city or in the country. I´ve seen wealthy neighbourhoods with buildings that are relatively new and I´ve been in houses that are much older in less ritzy parts of town. Now I would get to not only see but experience a very basic type of a lifestyle that I believe represent the lives majority of Argentineans. As you begin to go to the outskirts of BA, you begin to see many buildings made of brick for walls, concrete or bare floors. The clothes are most often hung outside to dry and in some parts of the house, there are only curtains to seperate the rooms.
The car pulled out and we got out. My accomodations would be somewhat interesting. You see, before in a text message she had told me they have room for me. In North America this often means a spare bedroom. But she explained it that I would be sharing a room with others. The house had two bedrooms, one for the parents and another room with 2 bunkbeds. When she told me that there was room for me, by that she meant that there was an extra bunk available. Altogether in this family there were her mom and dad, she has 3 brothers. Adding herself and me, that would be 7 people staying together in a house that was somewhere between 700-1000 sq ft. But i had no problem with this arrangment at all and am always open to new experiences and adventures.

Her mother greeted me and welcomed me into their home. As well, her 3 dogs (2 of them being puppies) gave me a welcome as well. Then they took some chairs outside and we sat down to have some pizza, coke and a salad. We ended up in a lively discussion along with some laughs as we started to get to know each other. I crawled into one my bunk that night and as I drifted off to sleep, I wondered what the next day would hold for me.

The next day as soon as everyone got up, we all had breakfast together. Like typical Argentineans, breakfast was very simple. A maté or a coffee and maybe some biscuits. Her family seemed delighted to have me as company for their Christmas. Romina explained to me that they will have a dinner on Christmas eve but Christmas day is pretty much a normal day for them to do chores and run errands etc. The whole rest of the day, I spent time playing with the dogs, chatting with Romina, and hanging around the house. One really fun this we did that afternoon is we went to the local neighbourhood to browse around some shops and stores.

When we arrived back, there was a big surprise waiting. Romina's brothers brought in some massive speakers. I think they had just purchased it. It was in that moment that I realized that one thing about Latin Americans is that they like their music LOUD!!!!!!! They hooked up the speakers and blasted music so that the whole neighbourhood could hear. And I could hear other people blasting their music so this appears to be a normal thing in this part of the world.

As night drew, an incredible smell wafted through the entire house. Now, up to this point I had eaten in several restaurants in the city and was quite familiar with an asado (BBQ). But this was going to be such an amazing opportunity to taste meats cooked right there in the family's own grill. The grill is nothing fancy, it's simply a grill that you put meats on top off and then you put hot coals underneath it to smoke the meat. I could see that there were several types of meat being cooked....chicken, steaks, sausages etc.

It must have been around 9pm at night when the family pulled their table out into the front of the house and began to set the table. We would be having an asado feast under the clear night sky. Once the table was set, everybody seated, and prayers were said it was time to begin. There were salads, drinks, and most importantly, the meat from the asado. There is nothing much to be said about the meats except that as usual Argentinean meats are well cooked and taste light and sweet. But there is nothing like good company and laughter at the table that made the food taste twice as good.

When dinner was done, it was time for the party to begin. The boys cranked up the volume on their new speakers and the family and everyone started to have a dance party latin style right there in their front yard. If I haven't told you yet, I will tell you now. Parties in the Latin world always start late and night and go into the early hours of the morning. And this one was no exception. We danced to the beat of the music out there under the open night sky. When it turned 12 midnight, the neighbours all around us ushered in Christmas with fireworks in the sky. There had already been a little bit of fireworks during the meal but as soon as midnight hit, the sky was bombarded by fireworks. Mixed with sound of the music blasting from the speakers at their house as well as from all their neighbour's house, there was only one word to describe it.......LOUD! It was around 2 or 3 am before the party ended and everyone started to settle down to bed.

On Christmas day, everyone woke up around afternoon so instead of having breakfast, we had lunch. We ate some of the remainders of last nights dinner. Then it was time for me to head back into the city. I thanked them and said it was a pleasure. They told me the pleasure was their's and they would love to have me over again. During these last two days, i feel like i have had more imparted into me by the Argentine culture. It amazes me how these people were willing to make room for me in their hearts and in their home.

On the 2nd night, Romina's little brother slept on the bunk on top of me. Then sometime during the night, her other brother gets home and just crawls on top of the first bunk with his little brother and they sleep there together. When I got up on the 2nd morning, everyone in the room was still sleeping except her little brother who was now wide awake. I went outside and sat there and watched as he played with his new toy pistol. Her other older brother had also arrived sometime during the night and had actually ripped off the mattress from the other top bunk and pulled it out into the middle of the bare floor in the livingroom and had slept there.

Romina's younger brother is quite mischief and I sat and watched as he started to rough house with his brother who was half asleep. Words cannot describe what it is like to see interaction between family members who don't care too much about their personal space. And that is what I love about this household. Everyone just shares everything and there is a real sense of community spirit. There is no attitude of " I want MY life MY way. This is my space so....GET OUT!!!!!!!!" The family members interact with each other in such a playful manner that is such a joy to watch.

This family taught me so much about making room for other people. There was no doubt in their minds that there was space for me in their home because even if they didn't have any space, they were going to create space! This is an incredible phenomenon that I keep witnessing in my life over and over again. I have been in alot of situations with people where they had a comfortable amount of space or money or both and when I came into the picture, it was like I was the 5th wheel.......unwanted and unneeded. Then I have met others of you who have so little when it comes to time or space or money in your world, but like this family you created room in your heart and said " We'll make it work!!!!"

It blows me away sometimes that people who I hardly know open the doors of their home or their hearts to me and there are people that I have known for a long time or all my life who give less of a welcome or feel "inconvenienced" when you start to get into their space or need help in times of trouble. For a girl like me who has always been on the outskirts watching happy families together, a simple act of hospitality like this speaks volumes to me and it is something I will never forget. In the same way I will never get some of you out there that in the same way this family made room for me in their home, you made room for me in your heart. And in doing so, you gave me the greatest gift of all this Christmas.........the gift of knowing that I would never again have to be "The 5th Wheel"

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas