it's oh so quiet...

"Where is everyone?" I wondered, peering out of my window at the empty streets below. It's cold this morning. Cold, quiet and foggy. Foggy weather equals smelly weather, as the city's refuse decomposes and the damp air holds everything down.

Feeling like everyone else was in the know, I reached for my guide to Buenos Aires and, with a sinking feeling, confirmed that today, 9 July, is a national holiday.

Now once upon a time I loved holidays. But these past three years have put me right off them. Holidays in another country are often lonely and frustrating days. Holidays in Argentina mean for me:
  • No heating - I only get heating when the offices downstairs are in use.
  • No-one to sort out my hot water heater - it worked Monday but has now packed in.
  • No library! - no-where warm and comfortable to work.
  • No friends to meet up with - everyone is busy with family.
  • Shops open only part of the day - thankfully I endured Disco supermarket yesterday ( maybe that was why the checkout queue was over 30 minutes long - then again, that's normal in Disco).
Actually, I'm feeling fine today - off to a more lively part of town and taking my books with me for a lovely afternoon in my favourite cafe. Then a festive trip to the cinema.

But my dislike of holidays has given me an insight into the loneliness of Christmas, Easter and other occasions for those far from home. And that's no bad thing.

Welcoming the stranger who lives amongst us is one of the duties of Christians, Jews and other people of faith. Indeed, the experience of being a stranger in a strange land is fundamental to the Jewish people and it is by reminding them of this that God calls on them to offer hospitality and care to the stranger amongst them:
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Befriending the lonely, reaching out across national and religious divides, enlarging our circle a little more. All these are good things to celebrate today and everyday.

¡Feliz día de la Independencía!