Wednesday, December 24, 2008

la Nochebuena

The good night:
And she gave birth to her firstborn son
and wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger,
there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2.7)

Monday, December 22, 2008

adviento 4: bienvenida

Greetings, favored one! (Luke 1:28)

Mary's story is about recognition. The angel sees Mary's courage, and she in turn sees the hope a child brings.

Mary's faith and courage are clear from the text we read during the final week of Advent. She makes her decision carefully, weighing up the risks involved.

Why is it then that we are often offered a submissive, silent image of Mary? As Brazilian theologian, Wanda Deifelt critiques:
Dominant male attitudes establishes the values and standard behaviour for men: aggressively; virility; success and power. What defines the standards for women is Mary-ness (the cult and idealization of Mary). Mary is the submissive, tranquil, introspective woman, the one that said yes. (Deifelt 2003: 108)

But what did Mary say yes to? Not purity, not submission; but justice and hope. Mary accepted the risks of unmarried motherhood because she longed for justice, because she wanted to sing of God's steadfast love:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1. 46-55)

How will we greet the world this week? How will we greet the people and possibilities that come to meet us? And what will we say yes to?

image: by Chicana aritst, Alma Lopez Coyolxauhqui Returns as Our Lady Disguised as La Virgen de Guadalupe to Defend the Rights of Las Chicanas, Acrylic on Canvas, 24" x 24", 2004 For the merging (and domesticating) of Latin American goddess figures with Mary see:
Anzaldúa, Gloria (1987) Borderlands/ La Frontiera: The New Mestiza San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books

Deifelt, Wanda (2003) “María ¿una santa protestante?” en RIBLA46 (2003/3) Quito: RECU/ Editorial DEI, pp. 98-112.

This weeks readings can be read here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

if I hadn't come to Argentina...

I may never have:

tasted locoto and maracúya

failed to learn Hebrew for the third and fourth time

adjusted to the evening starting at 11, 12 or 1am

remembered how frustrating it is to be stuck in a rubbish lecture

taken film-going advice from Mark Kermode

been flooded five times

become a café regular

tangled up my 'oi's and my 'hola's

become addicted to 'facie-bookie,' as the Brazilians call it

discovered how beautiful Argentina is

longed to be as persnickety as Veronica Mars

woken up at the sound of rain to watch the storms roll

Monday, December 15, 2008

a perfect palermo morning

Just as I like San Telmo because it feels so Buenos Aires, I like Palermo because it doesn't.

Palermo is full of ex-pats and exclusive boutiques. The skyline is yet uncrowded and the parks are green. One of my favourite cafés (oh, there are so many...) is there - Mark's. So this morning I went first to Miles CD and bookstore, where I finally bought La Pasajera by Perla Suez. And then onto Mark's for a frozen and fresh limonada and choc-chip cookie (if you were to do a comparison with yesterday's post, you would see a pattern emerging).

I crossed the rail tracks, sizzling in the heat, and into Palermo Hollywood, where I met a friend for lunch at Arevalito. We like this small, fresh vegetarian café, but agree it's not the same since it moved from behind the orange door.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

an evening in san telmo

I'm doing the farewell rounds, and that includes saying goodbye to my favourite barrios.

A couple of my friends don't like San Telmo and hardly ever visit. True, there are crumbling buildings and dark corners, and it's overrun by gringos. But it feels like the heart of Buenos Aires to me.

I went first to Walrus Books and, after a leisurely browse, exchanged one paperback for another (Well I have to have something to read on the plane.. what, I already have 50-odd books to fit into my baggage allowance? shush...). From there, I walked past the South American Explorers Clubhouse which I first joined way back when in Lima.

I popped into Cafe Notorious music store and once again the older man and the younger man who work there selected the perfect CD for my requirements. This was the store where I cried on hearing Maria Betania's Pirata album. No tears this time round, just a discussion of whether the English think Argentines eat rubbish potatoes (I know - how random?!) which then moved on to wondering what the English ate before they stole from Latin America: potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, etc.

It was time for a last ice-cream from Nonna Bianca's. Mint and lemon, with white chocolate and sugared orange peel. A read of the paper and a look out on the evening street.

I walked up to Plaza Dorrego and stood in the crowd gathered to enjoy the weekly milonga. First the couples danced chacareras then tango under the street lamps. They danced in killer heels and sharp dresses, in jeans and pumps, in sombreros and suits. Some forgot the steps, some chatted, some performed to the crowds, and some leaned close and danced as if it was their last night on earth.

I walked past Origin café, waved goodnight to the waiter there, and waited for the 126 bus to take me home. Maybe it's that I often take it at night through the quiet back streets, maybe it's the hope of catching the disco-bus that sometimes runs this route, maybe it's because it drops me off half a block from home, but this is my favourite route.

adviento 3: bálsamo

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1)

The 3rd Sunday in Advent turns around John the Baptist, who survived in the desert on locusts and wild honey (Mark 1). It seemed fitting therefore, that this week I met again with Alicia who teaches beekeeping at the University of Buenos Aires. We first met in the company of beekeeping friends visiting from England and, on the day after the first snow in Buenos Aires for 89 years, we donned hats and nets and peered into the frost-covered hives where the bees huddled together to keep warm.

Alicia's passion for beekeeping is a delight. We talked about the devastating impact of genetic soya on honey production; examined tiny sting-less bees native to Missiones, in the tropical north-east of Argentina; and discussed her advisory support for several projects working with pueblos originarios (original communities) in the north-east, including GESER, which supports rural women in a range of activities, including herb cultivation.

This time round, we also talked about the traditional healing properties of honey and how closely (in language, life and theology) healing is connected to salvation. Similarly, through her work with African-Brazilian traditions, Silvia Regina de Lima Silva writes of God as the one who soothes and heals, in many ways including medicinal herbs and teas, songs and dance, care and conversation (de Lima Silva 2005: 243).

A few years ago I read Sue Monk Kidd's novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which has just been released as a film (see trailer below). The book is about the hospitality of three African-American sisters towards a runaway white girl and her African-American carer. The sisters keep bees and make honey which is sold in jars bearing an image of a black Madonna. This image of Mary is part of their spirituality and at the centre of the community that gathers at their home. Honey and wax are used as a salve both to maintain the wooden statue of Mary and to sooth and protect her faithful followers.

Once again in this week's readings, we hear the prophets telling of God's saving grace and desire for the healing of ourselves and this broken world.

Silvia de Lima Silva (2005) “Fe y “Axe”: sanción como experiencia de encuentro con la fuerza que nos habita.” in Ecce mulier Homenaje a Irene Foulkes, San José, Costa Rica: UBL, editorial SEBILA, pp 231-45.

The readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent can be found here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

what scares me about going home

I'm scared I'll forget all my Spanish (especially since three people in recent months have told me my Spanish has gotten worse!!)

I'm scared I'll be too cold when studying - even after being so so too hot this week, and even with my trustworthy pink blanket (everyone should have one).

I'm scared about negotiating my way back into my family's and friends' routines. Jetting back over the past three years for a couple of weeks here and there, I've been treated like royalty. I've been the star of the show - everyone rushing round after me, ferrying me about, fitting into my schedule. I need to ajust to normal pace.

I'm scared of loosing momentum and focus on my thesis. And scared of my thesis - full stop! But as Alicia today, Muriel a few months back, and Elaine many times, have told me - it won't be perfect, it won't be the definitive word, it just needs to get done. Good advice.

I'm scared I'll never go riding in the Andes again on a crillo horse called Martina. Nor learn to jump under the watchful eye of Grace or Julia.

And I'm traumatized at the thought of no more Spanish classes with Cecelia. Best. Spanish Teacher. Ever.

I'm scared I've not done everything I set out to do these past few years.

I'm scared of all the books I haven't read in the library. And that absolutely essential reference I will have forgotten to photocopy which is unavailable in England and which I'll have to fly back to Bs As just to copy..... (this is a good idea to write down all these fears and see how silly some are!)

I'm scared I'll talk to Dad and Jon less once we stop using Skype. And how will I managed without Mum's emails which always start 'This is the second time I've sent this. The first one disappeared.' But with less punctuation.

I'm scared there will be less space to talk about my thesis, hopes and ideas with friends and family. I'm loosing the distance that emails and this blog give me to be honest. Why is is harder to be honest when talking face to face?

I'm scared of how much a hair cut costs in the UK! And that I'll disgrace Debs with the state of my clothes after three years of the ISEDET washing machine. Well, it won't be the first time I've disgraced her in public!

I'm scared of never getting a job. Ever.

I'm wondering how Mum and I will ever choose the books for our club. So many to read!

I'm fretting about living in a town without 24 hour public transport and the loss of independence that means.

I'm scared of having a TV again. Although I have found other ways to time-waste admirably via youtube, fanpop, etc.

I'm scared of not being the glamorous (ha!) girl living in Buenos Aires.

I'm scared, along with all my family, about exactly where another load of books are going to fit. Everyone is making suggestions for sneaking in a few books here and another shelf there. I fear a cull.

I'm scared of expectations, my own and others.

I'm horrified at the thought of no more maracuyas!

Most of all, I'm scared of how excited I am to be coming home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

adviento 2: consuelo

The second week of Advent encourages us to reflect on the prophets, their passion for justice and their courage to speak the truth. But when I turned to this week's Bible readings, I stopped at the first verse.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God (Isaiah 40:1)

It is good to be reminded that the prophets didn't only speak of God's righteous anger; they also spoke of God's compassion and abiding love.

In the film, Junebug, a recently married couple visit his family in North Carolina. In the clip below, we see the varied responses to the son's singing of the hymn, 'Softly and Tenderly.' Surprise, delight, brokenness, and longing are there.

This week's readings tell us that God has not abandoned us. Indeed, God is close at hand.

Believing in God's faithful care, we find a way home - the place we long to be.

This weeks readings are available here.

And, p.s., since I've just finished watching The OC, this clip is particularly fitting...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

adviento 1: aguanta

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down (Isaiah 64:1-9)

The first Sunday in Advent was a Saturday for me. I spent last weekend staying with a religious community in Rosario, and we went to misa on Saturday evening in the chapel of the school-that-was-once-an orphanage where my friends live. It was one of the sister's birthday and so after the mass, a crowd gathered at the house for birthday cake, tea and maté. Someone played música folklórica on the guitar and others danced between the kitchen and the hall.

In the middle of the festivities, I chatted with one of the sisters. We talked about the limitations placed on women by the Church - some subtle, some more upfront. We wondered how to discern when we should wait and when we should act; when to keep our head down, and when to speak out.

The theme of the first week of Advent is hope, or more accurately, hopeful waiting. It is not an endless, fruitless wait but a time of preparation for what is to come. In the reading from Mark 13, Jesus warns his disciples to 'Keep awake!' They, like us, are to be wired up, alert to change, and ready to act.

So how are we to know when to hold on (aguanta), and when to act? We know that to preach (hopeless) patience is often to be complicit with injustice. Instead, God calls us to watch for the tearing of the heavens, the coming of justice. More than that, God calls us to be justice-makers.

This week,
May we hope for God's coming (this, this is Christmas).
May we discern God's call for peace and justice.
May we hold on to each other.
And may we act with love, tearing open a way between heaven and earth.

Bus Shelter Nativity, Church Advertising Network
This week's Bible readings.

Monday, December 01, 2008