Volunteering

Today I had a stranger pray for me. That is not entirely accurate. Today a stranger offered to pray for me and I stood there while he put his right hand on my shoulder and then grabbed my left hand with his left hand and he offered up a prayer to Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, God of all things, God of this here girl and I almost forgot to open my eyes when he was finished speaking but then he squeezed my shoulder as a gentle reminder.

Bowery Mission is one of the oldest missions in the country. It is the oldest mission, if one is to believe Leonardo, my fourth client of the day. When you pass it on the street, walking down Bowery Street, it looks like yet another old but beautiful church, somewhat small in size, and complete with ornate windows and door frames. Dark wood. Creaky, but noble. It is unique in that it holds tight to its Christian roots, and that is clear as soon as you walk in to the old fashioned chapel.

I am officially a lone traveler. Even though I came to Argentina by myself, I quickly joined forces with my trusty sidekick Zoe. It was inevitable, considering we live together, work together, and endured some family drama together. And it has been great, I was and am so lucky that Zoe turned out to be such a great gal and friend.
But Tuesday I went to the bus station on my own, purchased my roundtrip ticket to Iguazu, and loaded up early afternoon. Solita, as my traveling neighbor called me; little girl all alone.

An older woman walks by, she sludges by in her purple loafers, bracing her body onto a younger woman's arm. The younger woman is not young, but she wears pink tennis shoes and she has a barrette in place that keeps the flyaway hairs from getting out of hand. She is at least a foot taller than the older woman, and she wears a maroon skirt, even though it is breezy. I offer to vacate my bench just in case I inadvertently took their spot in this schoolyard filled with varying senior citizens, but they refuse, silently, with a shake of the head and a tranquil smile.

I come to the park where the old people sit.
I come to the park to sit with the old people.
The viejos.
There is a home nearby so at all hours of the day I encounter gentlemen and gentle ladies being pushed through the trees or sitting in wheelchairs next to the benches where the caretakers sit.
I come to the park to read my book and also to show off my electronic book to the old lady who listens to her iPod. I forgot my iPod one day and she looked as if she wanted to offer me a bud, the left one while she kept the right one, but she didn't.

LOST is the name of the Thursday night hiphop party at Arraoz Bar in Palermo. The bar opens at 12:30, but for the first two hours, there is no communal dancing, just breakdancing bandits that take the floor two at a time. The club is essentially one giant concrete room, bordered by bars and balconies. People such as myself and my three friends loiter near the bar or straddle the enormous speakers or crowd the short steps going down to the floor.

Last Saturday night, Zoe and I took the new volunteer Michael out on the town. We were all dressed to go hit the night scene in Palermo, walking to the bus stop near our house, when we passed an elderly gentleman coming out of an apartment building. He was slightly taller than average (which is still small), had a wispy covering of grey hair over his shiny pate, and his slacks were tight and pulled high. His shirt was a toss up between pink and coral, and it had a stiff collar to help corral his wayward neck.

Is both easy and hard. The reactions are the same whether I am in the U.S. or in Argentina. I am a vegetarian. Soy una vegetariana. The eyes squint a little, as if to probe the seriousness of my proclamation. The nose crinkles a little, feeling out my odor, maybe it's different, not bad, just different. The open mouth asks, "En serio? En Argentina?"

This is how you do it on a sunny Friday in Buenos Aires:
Grab two nectarines on your way to work. Enjoy the sweet summer juiciness in the middle of February. Consider moving every few months to follow the seasonal fruit that you love so much.
At the train station, buy a Peruvian savory pancake straight off the barbecue and in an accidentally demanding voice, ask the street vendor where he has been these past few weeks. (Turns out the guy sets up shop early and leaves when the dough is all gone, usually an hour before we arrive)
Smile and eat the whole thing.

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