Our Week in Ñeuquen

Trip Start Dec 07, 2005
Trip End Apr 10, 2007

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Our week in Ñeuquen

Here´s a post from argentina sorry for the delay.

We spent the last week in Ñeuquen, Argentina. It is a city of about 300,000 people (a little larger than Providence, Rhode Island if you´re keeping score) about 10 hours north of our last stop, Esquel.

On Tuesday morning we went looking for opportunities to volunteer at an orphanage or group home or youth program and we got lucky. We
ended up hooking up with two different programs and splitting our time between them this week.

In the mornings, we would go to a summer program for group home kids who ranged from 6 to 18 years old. We had a good time talking to them, answering questions about ourselves and the US and Mexico, playing cards, and just spending time. It was funny to hear them say that they know that they are economically bad off here, but they felt bad for the youth in the USA that are in group homes. They asked us if it was true that they don´t get held, or hugged, and babied when they where sick. This came form a group of high school aged youth. They said that all the hugs and care that they never got at home is what helps them out the most. On Thursday, we went with two of the older girls to have lunch at their house and got to meet their staff and see where they live. They told us that no one ever visits the older kids, but that if there are visitors they go to the younger kids homes. So it was a good feeling to switch up their routine a little, and be the first person to visit the olderst girl.

In the afternoons, we walked a few blocks from the summer program to ASER, which is a christian based drug rehab program. We met a group of nine guys, from the ages of 15 to 34, who are in the program, along with a couple of the staff members. We had a great time with these guys, who were all in the program voluntarily and working hard to take their lives into their own hands. All of the guys were warm and welcoming to us, and we were amazed to see how positively they supported one another and cared for one another. The last day we were there, we were waiting for them
to finish one of their groups and began chatting with one of the guys who had completed the program. We talked about argentina, about futbol, and our trip. Just before we went inside, he told us that it was meaningful to the young men in the program that we spent time with them, as no one ever comes to visit them, not even anyone from the surrounding neighborhood. When we left we exchanged email addresses and then strong embraces with each of the guys, and it was real clear that we had each been impacted by just a week of afternoons together.

Some of the highlights from our time with the guys at ASER include trying to learn (but not succeeding very much) an argentinian card game called truco, watching them play futbol against another local team one night, and talking about everything from cars to music to mate (daniela got a lesson in how to prepare it while i was struggling through a round of truco). oh, and
one afternoon i jumped into a futbol game with them and landed one assist and a goal...and i´m still sore two days later.

We´re both a little sad about leaving our newfound friends behind. I don´t want to be too corny or cliche, but the people we met this week--from the kids in the group homes to the guys in rehab to the staffers at the summer program who sometimes go weeks without seeing a paycheck because of local and federal politics--were very inspiring to be around.

We feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity, and amazed by how well both these programs and even the social ministry took us in.

In Argentina you are not only hugged, but kissed when you are greeted, no matter if you are male or female. The city itself was calm and welcomimg, too. We walked home at around 10 and regularly saw families out walking with their kids. The weather was a little more intense than we liked, it was over 100 on more than one occasion (this led to some of the most impressive lightning displays we´ve ever seen, though). Daniela felt thirsty and a little nauseous much of the time, but that all is forgotten when a little 7 years old boy comes up to you, hugs you and rubs noses with you. Or when you see what a supportive community the young men have, and most of all how loving the people were with us.
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