Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas in Argentina

Querdio familia,                31 December 2012

Christmas was a little bit different here than in years past; partly because the people here place a higher emphasis on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas itself. So, on the night before Christmas we, Elder Waldron and I as well as the other two Elders that we live with (Elder Shararpata and Elder Garcia), went to have dinner with a family from the other branch. Earlier that same we had gone to their house in order to help them get things cleaned up (there was piles of sand and brick that were in the way and needed to be moved) before the festivities of the night came. During the afternoon, Elder Sharapata was able to get a guitar from one of the members and he wanted us to write a song for the family that we would be eating with that night; after all, it was something small that we could do for them since they were going to spend, what could be assumed to be, quite a lot of money for this dinner. The song was pretty simple in the end; the first verse and chorus written in Spanish and second verse in English,  following the melody of one of the more tranquil songs by Green Day, although I don't remember which. We arrived Later in the evening just after eight and still had time to wait before the food was ready. So, Brother Agonil played some Spanish songs on the guitar that Elder Sharapata brought with him with the occasional accompaniment of Elder Garcia.

Soon the food was ready and what they had prepared for us was an asado that had been slow cooked over a fire for about five hours. An asado is just an Argentine barbecue; meat placed on a metal grill that sits on the ground above a small fire. The food they prepared included tripe, chicken, half a pig, and cow heart, all of which turned out to be good. 

Once ten-thirty rolled around, it was time for us to return to our apartment. To finish the night, we decided to join the rest of the city in lighting paper balloons that fly into the air and eventually burn up. However, the tradition is to light them at midnight, so we had some time to wait. We went to the roof of our apartment, listened to Christmas music, and read the ´Night Before Christmas´ together as we awaited the first moments of Christmas.

Before long, midnight had come and brought with it Christmas day and a display of fireworks from all over the city. While all around us we could see balloons and fireworks ascending into the night sky, we were having some trouble getting our own balloons going. Deciding that it wouldn´t be something feasible from the roof, considering the wind that was present,. we went down into our balcony space to give the balloons the much needed shelter in order to light. We only had one lighter, so we were trying them one at a time, which ended up being better in the end because they were definitely a team effort. With a lot of effort and patience, the first balloon was lit and was sent into the air. Moments later, the wind took over and the balloon was sent into the neighbors tree where it caught fire and burned into nothing (the balloon, not the tree).

So the first balloon didn't quite work out and ended up causing some worry, but we went on to the second balloon, there being four in total. This balloon was approached with a bit more experience and was lit somewhat faster. We decided that the fuel source, a cube of a plastic type of paper, needed to burn for a bit in order to fill the balloon with a sufficient amount of hot air in order to give it strength to resist the wind. As the balloon took to the sky we cheered at what appeared to be success. However, this balloon also fell... right into our clothes that were hanging on the clothes line. Nothing was burned luckily. The third balloon went off with the same initial success of the second, but it to fell victim to the wind and landed on a neighboring roof. By now, we were a little preoccupied that these balloons were more trouble than they were worth if it meant setting the neighborhood on fire, but nevertheless we lit the fourth. Now in order to lit these balloons, we had been utilizing two sets of hands: one to hold the balloon steady and one set to light the fuel source. However, due to a breakdown in communication, the fourth balloon was released to early by one set of hands and it ended up catching itself in fire and burning up before it ever had a chance to soar. And thus it was with our balloons, but it was still a good Christmas Eve all the same.

We went to bed just after midnight, arising just a few hours later at eight in morning. Elder Sharapata and I were the only ones who had packages to open, and mine was actually half a package having opened the other half on the nineteenth. So we set up our cameras with timers and took some pictures opening up our boxes. I also was able to buy a couple things the day before to open this morning: a jersey from one of the more popular soccer clubs, Boca, and a jacket to protect me from the the rain that visits us so frequently.

The rest of the morning went like any other day starting with morning studies before leaving at ten to take care of a couple things that needed to be done. Before long, we returned to the apartment to make lunch. We then continued our day with our afternoon studies before leaving for the chapel. When we got there to make our calls home, there was another family already there that was using the phone to call their son in Peru who is also serving a mission. So, we had to wait a little bit, but we passed the time talking with President Alegre, the branch president, who was also there.

After I made my call, we had a meeting between us and the other leaders of the church to plan for coming month. Not surprisingly, only half of the people showed up, the half that was already there (Elder Waldron, President Alegre and myself). I don't why there was a meeting planned on Christmas, but that just goes to show that there is a higher emphasis placed on the parties and festivities of Christmas Eve rather than Christmas itself. All the same, we got our Sunday planned and ready. Elder Waldron then when in to make his calls home while I remained with our branch president.

This Saturday we had three baptisms: Hernan Galarza, Belen Gauna, and Exequiel Gauna. All three of them are under eighteen and therefore require parental permission to be baptized. So, we went to meet with Hernan's parents about his baptism and to obtain their written permission. During our visit with them, they had many questions for us about the life of a missionary as well as the church. This was actually the first time that we've been able to sit down with the parents of Hernan together and the first time we've even met his dad at all. The both expressed their gratitude that their kids were following in good paths and making good decisions. We ended up having a discussion with the parents and then left them with a Book of Mormon and a reading assignment. During this visit with them, Betty, Hernan's mom, made and offered us coffee. Before denying the drink or testing it, the question was asked, "Sister, what type of drink is this?" The answer came back as expected, "Coffee." Before we could even say anything, Hernan spoke up and said, "Mom, we don´t drink coffee." Had I been closer to Hernan I would have given him a high five in this moment because here he was, a nine year old boy, telling his mom that not only do the Elders, but also he himself, does not drink coffee because it is commanded that we not partake of it.

There was so much more that went on this week, but there just isn't enough time to write it all. I wasn't able to send pictures this week because the computer that I'm using doesn't have a working USB port, but I´ll send them next week.

os amo,
Elder Burt

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