Monday, November 23, 2009

9 People + 4 Continents = 1 Brotherhood

Monday started off early too. I rode the Santiago subway for the first time. They were really nice and cheap too. We got up early because we were going to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. They are beach towns on the west coast. We wanted to get the most out of our day so we left pretty early. Our group was Fatso (Ruthie's pet name for Paul) and Lucy (Ruthie), Koos Koos (Greg Koos), Destiny's Child, and me. We were able to get seats on a charter bus for the hour/hour and half bus ride to Vina. It was really a beautiful drive. They all said that it looked a lot like California, but since my one journey to California never ventured outside LAX, I can't vouch for that. We passed several beautiful vineyards.

When we got to the bus stop in Vina, a woman saw our badges and stopped us. She was deaf, so Destiny's Child tried signing to her, but Chilean sign language is somewhat different. They think that she studied for a while, but wasn't a Witness. About that time, the local brother, Miguel Peralta, showed up. I think he said he was 27. He reminded me a lot of my group of friends at home, so that was nice. Despite the fact that Ruthie corrected his English several times, his English is as good as mine. That made for a much easier tour to listen to than we were used to during the previous parts of our trip. He really wanted to squeeze as much into our day as possible, which is my kind of day too.

After a short bus ride and walk, we made our way to the water. We chartered a small "tug boat" for a circle around the harbor to take some pictures. There was a battleship and submarine in the water. They told us we couldn't make pictures of it. That made me want a picture even more. Anyway, I obeyed the law. I already felt like that tug boat was the perfect opening scene for an episode of "Locked Up Abroad" so I didn't want to push it. When we got off, the owner of the boat warned us that there were two men at the top of the pier that were known to prey on tourists. That was like telling us not to look at an eclipse. We moved around to the other side and made our escape.

On our way to breakfast, we met some more brothers and sisters from Spain. We ate at a nice little cafe that reminded me of some of the coffee shops in Nashville. After another short bus ride and walk, we made our way back to the water. I told them all that it was my first time to see the Pacific Ocean. When we walked down on this rickety pier, they even insisted that I get down and put my hand in the water like on a movie when someone sees the ocean for the first time as their dying wish. The funny thing is that I believed that I had not seen the Pacific myself until the time of this writing. I guess I somehow forgot out the 6 hours I spent in the Pacific Ocean at the Great Barrier Reef and going to Bondai Beach in Australia. So for the sake of simplicity and honesty, I'll say that it was the first time I have seen the eastern coast of the Pacific Ocean. When we walked up from the pier, there was a grumpy old guard pointing to a sign that said we weren't allowed on the pier. So we played it cool and apologized.

After a short walk on the pier, we made our way over to Daniela's (Miguel's fiance) apartment to change into beach gear. We met a couple from Germany and South Africa that were visiting there too. After we changed, we made our way to the beach. The beach there is great. The sand is similar to Miami, and they had plenty of waves. The girls laid out while the guys played football with a rugby ball. I was on the "World Team" with the brother form Germany and the brother from South Africa against Miguel, Koos Koos, and Fatso. After my long run for a touchdown at the beginning of the game, I was pretty much useless. After we roasted for a while, we talked to some more brothers we saw on the beach walk, and went back to the apartment.

The next couple of hours are sort of a blur. It's amazing how much you forget in a week. After a quick stop at the Kingdom Hall, we dropped off Koos Koos and Destiny's Child at the bus stop to return to Santiago. Paul and Ruthie made their way to Miguel's apartment where we were going to spend the night, and Miguel, Daniela, and I went to a cookout at the apartment of a local couple. I didn't eat much because it seemed like I had done nothing but eat since I got into South America. The couple from Germany and South Africa were there too. I actually had a lump in the throat moment in their house. They rolled back the carpet for some dancing. At one point, I was sitting in a Chilean brother's apartment, next to a couple from South Africa, watching a German couple salsa dance. What other religion in the world is going to offer that kind of diversity and brotherhood? That morning, I didn't know a single person in that room, but within 12 hours, I wanted to return to Vina del Mar someday and definitely visit my my new friends in South Africa. I even got a number for a brother in Durban, South Africa, where the convention is going to be for my friends to call when they get there to ask about some local sites. What a small world it is in the truth.

About 1:00 a.m., we made our way back to town. On the walk to Miguel's apartment, we remembered that Paul had the only key to the apartment with him inside. So we had to ring the doorbell and wake them up to get in. He stumbled his way down and let me in. When I was laying there reflecting on what seemed like a 100 hour day (we did so much in one day!), it was truly surreal. Miguel hadn't moved in yet; he was still living somewhere else. He was nice enough to lend his empty apartment for Paul, Ruthie, and I to stay in. The brother across the street had lent us coffee, breakfast, towels, etc. What a brotherhood. I was laying there in an apartment of someone I didn't know 18 hours before, and he was lending his home to people that he didn't know 18 hours before. It was like a taste of paradise, when we will be able to travel the earth and stay with new friends along the way. Even in a foreign place with no t.v. to distract my brain, I was asleep in about 30 seconds.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Good Tired"

Well, Sunday was not an exception. It was a great day too. It started off with a quick breakfast, and we headed to the convention. I really wanted to go to Santa Laura Stadium that we went to on Saturday. The brothers and sisters there were so amazing. I asked a local brother if that was just in my head or was there a reason for it. He said that a lot more of the rural/outskirts brothers and sisters were assigned there, and they tend to be even more humble and loving than the "city" people. But, I followed direction (faithful in little, faithful in large) and got on the bus to Monumental Stadium. Our bus was a little delayed, so we got there a little later than we were supposed to. By the time we made it through the crowd to where the American delegates were supposed to sit, there were no seats. So we went around to the other side of the stadium to find seats. Even though it wasn't under cover, it was a little shaded for an hour or so, and the sun would be at your back until lunch. We found some seats about 10 rows up from the bottom, which was good because we could actually see the stage area. It was like a sea of umbrellas. They all came prepared with beach umbrellas that they taped to their chairs. You couldn't see out, but at least you were protected from the blazing sun.

Ruthie bummed around until she found a sister that would give her some coffee. They all seem to use instant coffee down here; even in a lot of the restaurants. She poured her a cup of boiling water from the thermos and gave her some coffee. I was just looking around, and I heard Paul scream, "What are you doing?" She had spilt that whole cup (not coffee cup, but like a coke glass) on his leg and her skirt. If we weren't getting much attention before that, we certainly started to get some. It was all down his leg, and she had a spot about the size of a soccer ball on her black and white skirt. I looked back about 5 minutes later, and she was rubbing it with a Tide pen. She asked me if I knew of something that would work better than that, and I told her a washing machine. The people in front of us looked at us like we were crazy. It looked like she was coloring her dress the color of coffee with that pen.

Sunday was the hottest day. It was already hot by the time the session started. The good thing there is that the humidity isn't as high as at home. So even though it was 85, when you did get a little breeze, it was cool. You just had to be careful not to get dehydrated because your sweat evaporated pretty fast.

All I had to protect me was an umbrella so a family down row a little bit asked me to sit with them under their larger ones. I sat next to their daughter. She was a little older than Peyton. Anytime I get warm like that, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Especially after 10 days of 5 hour nights. Its just hard to go to sleep because my body is telling me that although its 1:00 a.m. here, its 10:00 p.m. at home. So needless to say, I snoozed a little during the morning session. Without arms on the seats, that's a little tricky. I woke up once, and I was leaning over looking down at the lap of the girl next to me. She moved over at lunch.

At lunch, I didn't have to walk around as much to meet some local brothers. Since we were sitting on the opposite side that wasn't reserved for us, we were pretty much the only foreigners in the area, so I could just meet the ones around us. It worked out good because they were all pretty familiar with Vina del Mar, which was where we were going to go Sunday night to spend the night with some brothers. I did walk around a little and pass out a few gifts. When I came back, the brothers around us shared some of their food with us. They all come so prepared. The sister next to us had frozen some lemonade soda, and it had melted enough by lunch that it was ice cold. That was so refreshing. I saved one of my white dress shirts to use on Sunday, so that helped with the heat too. There was such a good spirit there. Despite the heat, no one complained. We were all there to encourage and be encouraged and that stayed as the focus of our thoughts. When the session started back after lunch, there was a family from Vina del Mar sitting in front of me named Galleguillos that asked me to sit with them under their sea of umbrellas. They kept me in candy too. As they sun moved, they would move, and I would move with them. I didn't get as tired in the afternoon, because every time I closed my eyes, she fanned me. Can you believe that? There were so many people there that they ran out of water in the morning. Everybody just kicked in and shared what they had. Yes, I took another step out of the comfort zone. I must have really looked hot because one of the families I met in the morning about three rows behind me passed a water bottle down for me to spray my head and neck. By telling you this, I don't want to you think that it was this horrible experience that I'm complaining about because I'm not. It was a wonderful day because I got to see the brotherhood in action. Working hard to use what we all had to take care of each other and still enjoy the program.

The afternoon session was great. The drama was good. The Spanish version is much more dramatic. Especially the mother's part where the son leaves home. They gave some good experiences too. They gave some experiences where a young person had taken it upon himself to witness to several public officials. They gave one experience about someone opposed who had learned the truth and 40 of their family members ended up learning the truth. You should have heard the roar when they announced that there were 59,000 at our stadium, and there were 100,091 at the three stadiums combined. There are only around 70,000 Witnesses in the whole country, and this number doesn't count the conventions that are going to be held later in other parts of Chile. That large number isn't because of the foreign delegates because I believe they said there were only about 2000 foreign delegates, 1300 being from the U.S. They had I think 721 baptized at the three conventions combined. Brother Losch gave the last talk. The stage was set up under a covered soccer goal. it was really nice because after his talk was over, he came outside the cover onto the field, and waved at the crowed on all sides with both hands. It was a nice little personal touch.

After the final prayer, the crowd went wild with applause. They have a custom of waiving goodbye with handkerchiefs. The other side was just a sea of little white flags. They had huge banners that came up telling us all bye and that they would see us in paradise. There was one whole area that held up a good by message in Wheel of Fortune fashion (each person holding one letter). That took a lot of organization. The throat was pretty lumpy that that point. Then they stared playing the vocal version of new version of "I Want To." That's when all of the kleenex came out. I got a picture of this girl about Parker's age sobbing in her grandmother's arms. Very emotional. When I got my composure back I looked back to say something to Ruthie, and she was still doing "the little girl who dropped her ice cream cone" cry. The cheers and applause went on for about 15 minutes more.

When things died down, we talked to the Galleguillos family a little more while we got our stuff together. There's a tradition at the international conventions that the locals will trade their convention badge to get one of ours as a momento. I didn't make it very far with mine. Roberto Galleguillos, Jr. asked for mine. He is a very nice brother in his early twenties. So for the rest of the week, I went around with a badge that said "Roberto Galleguillos" from north Santiago. Remember that because it led to some interesting looks and conversations that I will mention in future postings. We hugged them all bye and headed up the steps. The stadium is dug out of a hole kind of like a bowl in the ground. So we had to walk up about 40 rows to get out. As I was going up the stairs, brothers just stared stuffing my pockets with gifts and cards and thanking me for coming to Chile. Once I got to the top of the steps, all the cameras came out. I had an older sister ask me for my tie for her grandson, so he now has my skinny plaid tie. I was all out of my information cards, but I had saved a few of my postcards to give out. I had taken some post cards that they can peel off one side and stick a picture of their own and mail it back to me. So I started handing those out. When the friends saw you had something to hand out, they swarmed. The great thing though is that they weren't wanting gifts. They were just mostly wanting your contact information or a card with your info for a moment. So many of them want you to come back to stay with them. And it isn't one of those "ya'll come back now" goodbyes. They mean it. I had one sister come up to me and ask me if I would come over and say something to her mother and let her take a picture. So I broke away from the mob, and snuck round the side of the outside wall. There was a little old sister that looked about like Grandmother Brewer sitting in a folding chair. She still had long, dark hair, and her eyes were sky blue almost like a Husky dog's eyes. I talked to her for a couple of minutes. We made out picture together, and I made my way back to the hallway.

When I rounded the corner, there was a little boy and girl that I met on Friday. They wanted me to meet their grandmother. So I made my way over there, and we got another picture made. After about 10 more stops, I knew I had to get going because everyone would be waiting on the bus. When I made my way out to the parking lot where the bus was, I felt like I was being trailed, so I turned around. There was a sister and her son following me. She wanted to know if she could get our picture together. I told her absolutely. She asked if was there anyway she could say goodbye to my fiends. I said absolutely again, and brought her and her son on the full bus and introduced them to the bus and let her say goodbye. They snapped some pictures and exited. When I made may way to the empty seat in the back, there was a young brother from Chile with our captain that wanted to address the bus. He wanted to convey the love from all the Chilean brothers and sister to us for taking the time to come down to encourage them. It was a very nice speech. We were the next to last bus to pull out (I promise it wasn't my fault). As we left, hundreds had lined the lot to wave by with signs. One sign said, "Learn Spanish and Come Back." As we went down the road, the hundreds walking to the bus stops waved and blew kisses too.

That night, threw a farewell dinner for all 1300 of the American delegates. Being the last bus worked out well, because our table was right in front of the stage. I didn't have a good seat and wanted to take some video, so I went up to the front of the stage and sat on the floor. When they said they were going to put on a show for us, I was not prepared for it. It was probably about an hour and a half long. They did a bunch of local dances and things that looked like fancy square dancing. They had a live 10 or so piece Chilean band with a chorus of about 10 sisters, all in their native dress. All of the performers and musicians were brothers and sisters. The lump came back again when I saw them doing all of that with their native clothing and convention badges on. It was just amazing to think that although our lives and backgrounds are so very different, we have the only thing that matters in life in common; we worship Jehovah together.

David Patterson was at the dinner so I got to talk to him for a few minutes. I thought I might see a few other Tennesseans, but I didn't see anyone else I knew. About 11:00, we made our way back to the hotel. We decide that we would get up around 7:00 a.m. and head to Vina del Mar for the day. Sunday was such a reminder of what this trip is all about. The purpose of these international conventions is not to vacation. It is to experience the brotherhood firsthand. But more than that, it is to go somewhere and encourage those that need to be lifted up. I hope that I was able to encourage someone, but there is no way I had the impact on them that they had on me. It's a unique feeling when a total stranger hugs and kisses you and says they can can't wait to see you again in paradise. And they truly mean it. Needless to say, by the time I made it to my room, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. But it was definitely "good tired".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Time Ticks By...

its 322 in the morning on wednesday. im typing this out like a first grader because i am on the computer in the lobby with the guard looking at me like im crazy for being up and using this latin keyboard. i cant find any of the buttons. ive been in the lobby with a few friends dreading to go up and pack, and im too cheap to pay the three dollars for the hour of internet in my room. anyway... there has been so much going on (good) in the past 48 hours that i have not had time to write anything. i probably wont be able to update everything until i get home. we leave out tomorrow night around 6 from the hotel. as with the last time, i made some of the best friends in the last couple of days of the trip. im going to try to type everything up on the plane so i can post it when i get home. to give you an idea of how sunday went, there were 59000 at my stadium and a total of 100091 for all three stadiums here. they only have 70'000 publishers in the whole country. over 720 were baptized. more info to come... definitely will be worth the wait. caio.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Invitations Keep on Rolling In

Five o'clock came early today. I snoozed it a few too many times and didn't get to eat breakfast. There were a few not at the bus yet, so I ran upstairs and grabbed something resembling a piece of chocolate cake from the breakfast room. We were assigned to a different place today. We went to the Estadio Santa Laura. Its a soccer field for a local college. They had concrete bleachers similar to what we have at the fairgrounds. The two sides that run along the field had been retro-fitted with what looked like red plastic booster seats. They allowed the delegates to get those first. I felt really guilty about that, but that's part of latin hospitality, and it's rude not to accept it. There was nothing under cover, so all of the umbrellas came out pretty quick. Try sitting in a booster seat, holding an umbrella, looking up scriptures, and taking notes. Another reminder to never complain about our conventions or assemblies. I had to take a Benedryl this morning, so needless to say I sure could have used an arm rest. I thought I had myself fixed and propped until I jumped in my sleep and hit the sister's umbrella in front of me with mine. I did pretty good for a while, but I found out later, Paul and Ruthie were behind me and he was holding my umbrella still for me.

I really, really, really liked going there today. The brothers there were even more welcoming than at the other stadium. My tan isn't helping my case on getting some attention though. I have figured out that I can put my stuff people give me in my shirt pocket instead of my bag, and people recognize easier that I am not local. My hair is a little lighter now and that has helped. I even got a little attention when I was with Destiny's Child for a while today. I found David Patterson today! It was nice to see a familiar face. For those of you who don't know him, he is a brother from Paris that I grew up knowing. He serves at Wallkill now.

I met so many wonderful brothers and sisters today. I met a sister from Brazil that I know is at least 6'6". I know she's taller than Jonathan. I can't wait for you to see our picture. These people down here have the cutest baby's I've ever seen. I had these three little kids come up and greet me in English. There was a boy about 7, his brother about 9, and their cousin and she was about 9 too. I got them on video. I'll tell you more about them later. A sister and her daughter serenaded us with a kingdom song. I got that on video too. It was beautiful. They were so passionate about it too. The friends really appreciate the effort and money that we spent to come down here. They understand that for most of us, we have enjoyed the trip, but we don't look at it like a vacation. We came to encourage and be encouraged.

I saw a lot of people there today in casual clothes which tells me that their invitation campaign was a real success. I can't wait to hear some of the experiences tomorrow.

When I came down a set of stairs, I saw Destiny's Child and Ruthie talking to these two brothers about 20 years old. When I walked up, Ruthie was enunciating the sentence, "You look a hot mess." She was teaching them how to say that! I got it on video. I invited them over to sit with us at lunch. They are named Lionel (pronounced Lee-oh-nell) and Esteban. We invited them over to our hotel on Tuesday to swim. You should have seen their faces. They don't know it yet, but we are going to take them out to eat that night. I'll tell you more about Lionel later.

I didn't get to each lunch today for talking to the friends around us. There was a brother and sister from Buenos Aires that I talked to for about 15 minutes (my Spanish is really clicking down here). They live in a part of Argentina that I didn't get to see. I am going to try to come back next year to see them. I'll tell you more about them later too.

The session today was great. They have a part each day with reports from other countries. They had the one from USA today. I don't have my stuff here to write accurately about it, so I'll write about it later. I do remember that they said in the US now there are congregations and groups serving 40 different languages.

They tied us into the other stadium where we were yesterday for the last talk today by brother Losch that was the release of the new book about Acts. There were 49,000 at the other stadium. We had 17,000, and I think the other stadium had over 20,000. I'm anxious to see how many show up for Sunday. They didn't tell how many were baptized at our stadium today, but I would estimate around 200.

After the session today, no one wanted to leave. They did the wave for a while. They did various claps and yells. One area sang a song. The couple I met from Argentina came up to tell us bye. They made us promise we could come back. She took off all her jewelry and gave it to Destiny's Child to remember her by. They gave her their earrings and something else. She wouldn't let go of them. Her and her husband both gave me a kiss on the cheek bye. Those Argentinians and their cheek kissing. We had heard about it, but we didn't meet many brothers in Argentina when we were there so we didn't experience it until the convention.

We make our way to the hall, and our bus captain asked us to get moving toward the bus. About that time, a couple from south Chile stop me to say hello. I talked to them for a while, and they want me to come to help them. They work in a rural area near the mountains. They said they have a big house on a ranch to stay at. The pictures of it were beautiful The are both pioneering, and he is the only elder in their hall. I told them that if I make it back down to Argentina, I'll try to head down there to south Chile before I come back.

I got moving again, and got stopped by a couple my age who wanted to make a picture. I talked to them for a while. They are from an area right outside Buenos Aires in Argentina. We talked for a while, and they want me to come stay when them when I come back to Argentina. Can you believe all of this??? So we said goodbye, and you know that that means. More kisses.

I get moving again, and who's there with his whole family to meet but Lionel. So I talked to them for while. He is wanting to help out in English in Santiago. His English is very basic but good. He can't find the hall though that does English. I told him that I would find Kylie tomorrow at the other stadium and give her his number. He gave me a big hug, made me promise to email him, and off I went again. But, who was standing there yelling my name? The three kids who came up and greeted me in English in the morning. They wanted to know if I could come with them and walk for a while. It killed me to tell them I had to go. I knew everybody was on the bus already. So I to give each one of them a hug, then they wanted a group hug. Tomorrow I'm not rushing out of there even if I have to call a taxi.

I grabbed Destiny's Child, and we headed toward the exit trying not to make eye contact. I felt so bad, but I knew there were 40 tired, hot people waiting on a bus to get back to the hotel. Then we couldn't find anyone we knew or the bus. They were gone. Then I happen to spot the sister from Santiago that has been in charge of our bus. Her and Devon came back one more time to look for us. Then we spot Devon yelling for us on the other side with these little kids yelling "Will Smith, Will Smith". He does look a little like him. We follow her and book it back to the bus. We got stopped twice on the way. We made it fast. As always, everyone was waiting patiently on the bus smiling. No complaints about where we had been. They knew. We had to circle the block that the stadium is on to exit the area, and everybody waved as we went by and blew kisses. Things like this are why I already have taken almost 500 pictures. What a brotherhood. How many times in your life have you driven down one city block and had 500 different people wave at you and blow you kisses?

We went to a restaurant tonight in the same area. Ruthie had a sister tell her today that she has always wanted to eat there, but never had the money. I hate to bring up Oprah again, but oh how I wish I had her money. The things I could do with it.

At the restaurant, I had THE BEST tres leches cake I have had in my life. There is a sister in our group that hates that cake, and she said this one was wonderful. We hoovered it down in about 2 minutes. On the walk back, we stopped to talk to several of the brothers and sisters we saw with badges from Brooklyn to San Diego.

Well, tomorrow is our last day of the convention. I don't know how it can top today.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My "Welcome to the Convention" Speech

I ran down this morning for a quick breakfast. There were so many trying to eat in the conference room, they sent me into the restaurant. It worked out good because they had a better selection. Evelyn (Janie Hill) was sitting by herself, so I sat with her. I asked her what she did last night. She was telling me that she was here for an international convention 16 years ago. She said that she met a Chliean sister at that convention in the food line that couldn't speak any English. The sister gave Evelyn a native hat, and they exchanged information. She said they kept in touch by mail for a few years, but eventually lost touch. She had kept her name, and a brother helped her use the internet to do a search on the internet for the sister. They found her name and address. Last night, she had a brother take her over to her house and surprise her. The sister remembered her. She still doesn't speak much English, so her daughter came over to translate. She said her son was a little boy at the time, and now he is all grown up. He is going to dance in a show that they are going to put on for the some of the groups this weekend. She is supposed to go over there I think tonight to have dinner with them. That was a great story to start the day.

The weather was great again today. After we got there and got seats, I decided I would try one more time to walk around with Destiny's Child. It didn't work. I couldn't give my stuff away around them. I ditched them fast. I told them I should have gone to Africa. I decided that i would have a little fun. I saw "Alma" working her way through the crowd. I went over to her and said "Hello, sister, how are you? Welcome to Chile?" in my best Spanish. She threw her arms around my neck and said hello. I whispered in her ear, "I'm from Tennessee." She pushed me back and looked at my tag. She's from Ohio, and we had a big laugh. After the candy started coming out, I got a little attention. Especially when they knew I could actually talk to them and understand them. I had this one sister come up to me and told me that he son wanted to tell me something. He was about 7 or 8. I squatted down where I could hear him, and he rattled off a "Welcome to the Convention" speech in great English. I had him do it again so I could video it. Another lump. I think that was one of the highlights of the day.

Before lunch, I was sitting there looking down waiting for the next talk to begin when I heard the brother start the talk. I looked up really fast because I thought he sounded just like my Circuit Overseer David Arencibia. It wasn't him, but when I looked back at the jumbo screen again, at the bottom it said, "Hermano Pedro Arencibia". It was his brother! I made my way out and down to the chairman's office to talk to him. He was as nice as David. A little older I think, but he definitely was an Arencibia. I wish I could have gotten to meet his wife because his wife is my C.O.'s wife's sister. Complicated I know. It gets better. There are three Arencibia brothers that are married to three fleshly sisters, and all three brothers are Spanish C.O.'s in the United States. Talk about some proud parents.

They interviewed a missionary couple from Korea that are serving as missionaries in Chile. They said that in their first assignment, many of the homes allowed their pigs and cows to roam free, entering and exiting the house during the study. She said that she could see the fleas jumping on her during the study, and she was covered in flea bites from head to toe. She said she must have developed an immunity to it because they don't bother her anymore. She said that she was in the Faulkland Islands and met a woman from Chile that was visiting there. She had a good conversation with her and left her a Bible Teach book. When she returned to her assignment seven months later, she met the woman again. The woman had contacted the Witnesses in Chile to request a study and had progressed so fast that she was already a publisher. So you never know what happens to your placements. Her husband said that the Chilean culture was hard at first. He said that where he is in Chile, the men greet each other with a handshake, a hug, and another hand shake. The women greet each other with a kiss. He said their was no contact on a greeting in Korea. She said that once they got used to it, it was hard for them to go back to the old way when they visited Korea again.

Brother Losch gave the final talk today which was the release of the new songbook. I have to say I think some of the new songs are even more beautiful in Spanish. I have to say, I had more than a lump in the throat when they played the new version of "I Want To". I don't know how we are going to be able to sing that song. The new songs are so emotional. The sister next to me was sobbing. I made it ok until the husky Chilean brother in front of me took off his glasses to wipe his face. There were 42,000 there today, and a combined 75,000 at all three convention sites. Tomorrow, we will be at a different site to meet different friends. We pulled out of the parking lot, and made our way down the street. The car and busloads of Chileans all waved at us. Some of them were in old Dotsun trucks with a bed cover with 6 or 8 in the back or in a loaded up mini van. Another reminder not to complain about anything on this trip.

We made our way back to the hotel and ate at a seafood restaurant in the same market we have been eating every night. To tell you the kind of time we had, the lady at the table behind us asked us if we could hold it down a bit. We didn't tell her that the waiter told us when we came in that her group was coming and that they are somewhat unruly.

On the way back to the hotel, we met a man from Canada. Paul was having a good discussion with him when I came into the hotel. I'm anxious to find out what they talked about.

Funny story of the day. We had seats under the cover for most of the day. There were some huge pigeons that were roosting above the people about 8 rows in front of me. The got to "acting up" up there, and a CD fell out of their nest on the people below. I don't know how they got that thing up there. Everybody underneath them put their umbrellas back up. One of the birds moved about 10 feet over and dropped a #2. Everybody was still watching them from the CD incident, and there was hugh gasp from the audience during the five second drop. I didn't see where it landed, but some more umbrellas came back up.

Well, that's all from today that I can think of. I'm anxious to meet the new group at the other arena tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Lump in the Throat

Today was the day. Our first day of the convention. Today's session was only a half day in the afternoon, but I had to get up early because I had a lot to do. I had to wash out some pants for tomorrow, and get my gifts ready for the convention. I made little bags of jolly ranchers with my cards with my information on them to hand out. I'm rationing my gifts. I took a third today and reserved the rest for the other days. We had a really nice breakfast at the hotel, then we all met down in the lobby to leave. I think there are about 300 brothers and sisters staying here at my hotel. We were all in the lobby at the same time, grouping together by bus numbers. The lobby staff were all smiles watching all of us laugh and get to know each other. It was really impressive. There were two young (non-witness) dancers there staying at the hotel, and they were so happy to see all of us. They said that the city has been talking about us coming for weeks, so they were glad they got to meet some of us. It was also impressive how organized everything was and how smoothly everything went. For example, they needed to make an announcement, and it took the brother about 5 seconds to get us all quieted down, listening, and moving. Everybody clapped as each bus load walked out for their bus.

It took us about 20 minutes to get to the stadium. There are three convention sights. For all of you googlers, I am assigned to El Estadio Monumental David Arellano. It is a huge outside soccer stadium with the Andes Mountains in the background. When we got there they had a huge banner across the outside of the stadium that said, "Welcome, International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses" (in Spanish). We got off the bus, and walking in was so overwhelming. Definitely a lump in the throat. Everyone was so nice, greeting us as we went in. We tried to stay together, but that didn't last long. A few of us managed to stay together, but I had to ditch them. Rheya and Shawna (the to black sisters) where having flashbacks from Poland. Everyone bypassed us to touch their hair and get their picture made with them. When they caught back up to us, I told them that I know how that third girl in Destiny's Child feels; nobody even knows her name or cares what she is doing or wants her picture :-) After ditching them, I got to meet more people, especially when they found out I could speak Spanish. One sister told me that they hate that they can't welcome the delegates like they want to because of the language barrier. I told her that everyone understood, and appreciated all their hospitality. Many of the locals were handing out little gifts to everyone. I didn't get a single gift that wasn't at least in part hand made. Even those that you could tell had little money, did what they could. One sister had dried leaves and written scriptures on them. The best thing I got this morning was this little hand made bag from a little Chilean Parker. He had cut out a little paper necktie and glued it on the front. When I got to my seat I opened it, and he had put two pieces of candy in it with a hand written note with his name, age, and address. The note said that he is a publisher, and with Jehovah's help his goal is to get baptized. Lump in the throat getting bigger at this point.

When you walk into the stadium, you can see the snow capped Andes Mountains in the background. It was so beautiful. We managed to get seats in the shade. There is a section that is shaded in the afternoon, and they have reserved it for the international delegates. I feel guilty sitting up there. All of the ones in the sun came prepared, you couldn't even see hardly anyone down below. It was a sea of umbrellas and tent structures to block the sun. Today was a beautiful day. I think it was about 80 with low humidity. When their wasn't a breeze, it was warm, but there was a very cool breeze that came through every few minutes that would give you a chill. Most of today's session was the normal Friday morning session with the exception of the last talk. Brother Garrett Losch gave the final talk which was the release of the DVD about creation. It was interesting to hear his Spanish with a hint of a German-like accent. There were almost 38,000 at our convention site.

I saved all of my gifts to give out until after the convention so maybe I wouldn't get lost in the sea of gifts. They were a hit. The kids loved them. They all want their picture with you. I managed to get a few with my camera. There was this one little boy about Claire's age with a Yankee's cap on, and I gave him one of the bags and talked to his parents for a while. They wanted my picture, so the dad picked up the son for the picture. Before she snapped the one with my camera, he put his arm around my neck, and pulled me in close. Another lump.

I tried to pick out kids who didn't have much stuff given to them or looked like they didn't have much materially in life period. If I had thought about it, I would have had my sister make some bows and picked up some little ties at TJ Maxx; idea for next time. How little the brothers have down her materially is a stark contrast to my experience in meeting the friends in Sydney. Its a little overwhelming. Especially considering how happy they are. Definitely a life lesson. Their love shown to us is surely a lesson I will take back and try to display in my own area for brothers and sisters I meet. They were so happy to see us. I can't explain the way some of the friends looked at me today when I met them. The would grab your face, kiss you on the cheek, and look you right in the eye, deeply and sincerely, and tell you how glad they are that we came so far to be with them. Especially the older ones. I've kissed more people today that in the past 5 years. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the bus by 5:20. They can wait; it's worth it.

Some of us when out to eat after. Our waiter tried to stiff us, but you don't do that with three accountants, and insurance agent, and a bunch of pioneers in the group. Two local brothers saw our badges and talked to us for a while. They look about my age. There is a really nice area where we wanted to visit on our day off on Monday. They are going to go with us and work it out where we can spend the night Sunday night with some local brothers and sisters. (Ruthie brokered that deal) I can't wait. I have a feeling that is going to be a nice highlight of this trip.

A couple of side points. I finally met somebody from TN. I don't know their names, but I think they are in Brownsville Spanish. I recognized her from working with her at the chair factory in Henderson when we were making the chairs for the Assembly Hall in Memphis. For all you Minnesotans and MN trip buddies, I saw Kylie. I couldn't believe it. She said she has been down there for six months preaching in English.

Well I guess that's all for today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I have a feeling it will just be more good experiences.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chillin' in Chile (Really... tonight it's actually chilly)

Well, I didn't have time to write anything yesterday because we were so busy. We began another day at the crack of dawn, which my body clock is still based on home time which makes the crack of dawn about 2:00 a.m. We began our day with a really nice breakfast at the hotel. There is a sister in my group that reminds me of Janie Hill without the energy. She's really sweet, and I think this is her 6th international convention. I saw a seat in front of her at breakfast, and I asked her if I could take that seat. She said sure, and I went over and fixed my plate. When I came back over and at down, she gave me a really hard stare and smiled. She said, "I didn't recognize you all dressed up." So apparently I have looked rough up until this point.

We loaded up and headed to Bethel. When we got there, there were three bus loads of Uruguayan brothers in the parking lot. We thought they were there to meet us, and we were so excited. Come to find out, they all took buses there to take a 36 hour bus ride to Santiago, Chile for the convention. Another reminder to not complain about anything on this trip.

We had a very nice sister from Uruguay give us our tour. Her English had a British accent which was interesting. There are only about 25 bethelites at that branch. It is very beautiful. They have a beautiful assembly hall there too. The sister who was helping me at the dance hall in Buenos Aires to "negotiate" with the owner gave us a show at the assembly hall. I'll tell you her name is Ruthie because I have a feeling she will be in future stories. There were about 100 of us in the hall. She got up on the stage and pretended like she was telling an experience. Somebody turned on the microphones. She is Mexican, and she gave her experience in fake broken English (she is my age and grew up speaking English, and is from Chicago). She said that she learned the truth yesterday at her job at McDonald's, she is getting baptized today, and her 10 kids will be getting baptized at the next assembly. Her husband just at there and watched like it happens daily. The funny part was that the non-witness tour guide told her later how much she enjoyed her experience.

We got back on the bus, and immediately went for a city tour. I can't tell you much about that, because about 2 minutes after I sat down, I was asleep. I didn't wake up until my subconscious heard the word "beach". They ended the tour with the last stop being the beach. Their beaches are technically not on the ocean, they are where the Rio Plata River dumps into the ocean, and it is over 100 miles wide. To me, it looks like the ocean. It is really nice. Here in Uruguay, I fit in very well. There a lot of people with the same coloring that I have. No one has spoke to me in English, even at the airport. They have some interesting styles too. There is a haircut (not brothers) here that I have seen on men a lot. It is like a buzz cut with a 4 inch wide, 4 inch long rat tail like think in the back. I call it the Uruguayan Mullet. Some also have clipped beards that have a half inch stripe cut out that runs diagonally down at 45 degrees from each corner of their mouth, all the way down to their neck. I've even seen business people with these styles. For you Spanish speakers, their accent is different too. They pronounce the y and ll like and sh. So they haven't had as much trouble with my name as some. They also say vos instead of tu.

After we got back, we walked to their city market where they have shops, flea market areas, and restaurants. We chose a restaurant and ate there at the market. I heard some of our group laughing at the restaurant next door because we were eating outside. I went over there, and there was a local brother and sister from Montevideo talking to them that worked at their restaurant. They walk around the restaurant drawing characatures of the people in the restaurant. They were so nice. They did one of one of the sisters. I could not stop laughing at her later because she was not pleased with her drawing. He drew her forehead about 5 inches high and a really wide mouth. Jared, one of the brothers in my group, said, "They just exaggerate your features. You do have a little bit of an elongated forehead." She didn't find that amusing.

We walked around the market, then got a taxi back to the hotel. It was the smallest taxi I had ever been in. Imagine the smallest two door Kia you can imagine, then make it four door. I was the only one that spoke Spanish in the group. I sat in the back. We didn't notice that there was glass between the front and back seats when I got in the back. The driver couldn't hear me, and I couldn't hear him. The driver had already gunned it, and we couldn't change seats. It was hilarious to watch Jared try to communicate with him. He kept looking back saying, "What is he saying?" We were laughing so hard, I couldn't help him out much.

We walked around the area of the hotel for a while, and I went back to the room for a nap (yes, another one. I swear all of these are short). A bunch of us decided we would try to find somewhere to eat a snack and play cards. So about 10 of us went out to a little diner, ate, and played cards. Some got hot chocolate. Their hot chocolate here is like when you make homemade cooked pudding right before you put it in the fridge. It's really, really thick. We played a game called Salad (Sharla, tell your dad one of the brothers suggested Bid Whiz). I will have to look up the rules when I get back. It was fun and not complicated. (I won :-))

After we got back, about 10 of us sat around the lobby and talked. They had a grand piano, so I showed them my skills. After I got up, Ruthie's husband, Paul, sat down and played some complicated piece. I'm glad I went first.

The characature sister (Rheya) and her roommate (Shawna) are both black sisters. I tell you this because it lends to the story. They were telling us last night when we sat around that they went to Poland together the last time they had international conventions. Apparently, the Polish brothers and sisters had never seen any black people in person. So they kept coming up to them wanting to touch their skin and hair. She said that they would rub her arm, and look at their hand like the color was going to rub off. She said they couldn't even eat lunch because everybody wanted to get their picture made with them. She said this little boy and his mother came up to them, and the mother jabbered something to the son. Then he said, "My mother thinks your black... I mean.... dark skin is so beautiful. I think your dark skin is so beautiful." They had us rolling in laughter.

I slept in today. I just rested in the room, until time to leave for Santiago, Chile. Whoever suggested I take a neck pillow, kudos to you. That was the best $7 I ever spent at T.J. Maxx. After one time of sleeping with that thing, you don't care what you look like anymore. I sat between two weirdos (not brothers) on the plane today, and proudly sported my black neck pillow. I know they were jealous on the inside. Although I did feel a little weird when one of them told me to look out the window. I felt like whiplash victim with a neck brace. He hadn't said anything to me the whole two hours until he told me to look out the window at the mountains. I think he was snooping and saw all the scenery pictures on my camera as I was scrolling through them earlier and didn't want me to miss it. Every time I forwarded a song on my ipod, he looked. I thought about giving him the quick neck turn to catch him, but... the neck pillow. My dad would have really loved the flight. Santiago is in a valley between two sections of the Andes mountains. So when you get there, the plane banks hard and drops down to land like its running out of gas. When we got there, there were several of the local brothers and sisters there to greet us and help us get through the airport. There were some young brothers traveling together in another group behind me in line. One of them came to Houston County a few years ago to do unassigned territory. I still haven't met one person from Tennessee.

We got checked in here at the Crowne Plaza in Santiago for our final stay. I'm glad to be at the last stop because I really need to do a wash and organize my stuff. Ruthie took a nap, so she could takes us out on the town when we got there. Our group is split into two groups, and the other group flew out early this morning. We went out to an outdoor plaza that has shops and restaurants for a very late dinner. The food was great there too. Our waiter said that he got one of the invitations to the convention at his house during the campaign last week and plans on coming. We have already had several local friends see us out in town and stop us to say hello. It was a nice little appetizer for the first day of the convention tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Mad Cab Dash

So today we left Buenos Aires. Yesterday, the breakfast looked so good with ham, eggs, potatoes, etc., that I decided I would get up in time to go. I packed all my stuff last night in preparation for the 5:00 a.m. wake up call. I got up and went down for my hearty breakfast. Today's breakfast: we each got two plain croissants and coffee. I picked the wrong day to sleep in.

This is where today's saga begins. We take the bus over to the ferry to Colonia. I was standing in line waiting to check in my luggage, and I see this beautiful waterfall cascading down the wall. I wanted a picture, but my camera wouldn't come on. I LEFT THE CAMERA BATTERY ON THE CHARGER IN THE HOTEL ROOM!!!! NOT AA BATTERIES; THE SPECIAL FOR MY CAMERA BATTERY. I thought I was going to be sick. One brother said I looked like I was going to throw up. I couldn't imagine going through this trip without my camera. I couldn't go back because the ferry was going to leave in about 30 minutes. I talked to one of the local guides that we were using, and she rallied the troupes. The hotel went up to my room and found it, but they wouldn't bring it over; even though I offered to pay. So one of the guides got in a cab and dashed back over to the hotel to get it for me. He got back with about 10 minutes to spare. Needless to say, I gave him a great tip. Today, Diego was the man!

Despite that stressful moment, I slept through the ferry ride to Colonia, Uruguay. It seems like I'm sleeping a lot, but I want to enjoy everything so much when we do something, so I have been trying to take some of these down times to recharge my batteries (get it…)(I can laugh now).

Colonia is absolutely gorgeous. I would have really been sick there without a camera. It is an old port town where they have laws that prevent them from changing the facades of the buildings. So they still have all of these old Spanish buildings that are new on the inside. It would have been a great place to just get a bike and ride around the town. They still have the granite brick streets. We ate at a wonderful little cafe. I stepped out of the box again, and ordered the local fish. It didn't smell or taste fishy at all. Very fresh. Their desert was the best thing I have had on the trip. The took a crepe and filled it with dulce de leche (mild creamy caramel). Then they put sugar on the top of it and burned it like creme brule. Then they topped it with a light coconut vanilla ice cream. The burnt sugar reminded me of a roasted marshmallow.

We walked around there for a while, and took the two hour and half bus ride to Montevideo, Uruguay. I slept the whole way again. We are staying at the Radisson in Montevideo. It is in the town square between the old and new section. I can't tell you much about it because our tour isn't until tomorrow after we visit the branch in the morning.

We walked a few blocks over tonight where we had another wonderful steak dinner. They had an ice cream cake for desert that had ice cream inside with the consistency of cake. My bill was $650. It hurt to pay that much even though I knew it was only about $30 American. Just something about those big numbers freak me out. We get 20 of their dollars/pesos for one of our dollars. It was well worth it. I love going out to eat down here because no one is in a hurry. They don't rush you through your meal. You really get to enjoy each course. Its not unusual for it to take a couple of hours to eat out.

Well that's all about today. It may seem kind of like we didn't do much, but today is hard to describe without the pictures. I also used a lot of today trying to get to know the friends in my group. I loved going to Australia, but I really have bonded a lot more with this group. There are more my age in this group too. For all of you travelers, I definitely will have connections for us to travel just about anywhere in the U.S., and stay for free :-) Caio for now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Summer Donna Saga

Well, I missed breakfast today. It was either sleep an hour longer and eat my last Kashi bar, or get up. I ate the Kashi bar.

We went on a city tour today. I fit in pretty well here. A good portion of the locals have the same coloring as i do, but there hair is a little darker. Even when we went places on the tour as a group, most locals spoke to me in Spanish. I can really see how going somewhere for a while helps your Spanish, because i can tell mine has gotten faster just since I have been here. For all of you Amazing Race fans, we visited several places where they went. There are several on the tour that watch the show, and we pointed out the places to each other as we went by. We said when we get to Santiago, we are going to set up teams and see what we can come up with for our own race. We went to several flea markets. I bought a few shot glasses and a Yerba Mate cup and straw. It is the rage down here. It is a type of tea that gives you energy without caffeine. I have had it before, but not in one of these type cups. If you google Argentina and Yerba Mate, you should see a cup of some sort with a stainless straw. I got some video of some great local music there. Most really enjoyed the flea marks. You know the brothers… never pass up a yard sale. Most don't know how to bargain though. Hershel would have been proud me.

If you want to google some of the places we visited, you can google La Boca. It was one of the communities.

If you watch Amazing Race, you will remember a time where they had to race through this graveyard that looked like a miniature city made of mosolleums trying to find the place where the remains of Evita Peron are (the "don't cry for me Argentina…" woman). We went there, and saw her family's moseleum. I can see why the people here were so upset when Madonna was chosen to play her in that movie. They look at Evita like Oprah looks at herself. Speaking of Oprah, our tour guide kept saying "colored people" when referring to the history involving black people. The black friends in our group really got a kick out of that. We went around to all of the typical places like the government building, etc. I can't wait to show you my pictures. I can see several of these going up on my office.

We came back to the hotel, and most took taxis back to the flea markets. I walked about a mile over to the street where the normal stores are and bought a sweater for the nights. I got a great deal on a Lacoste sweater that I wouldn't have been able to afford at home. Then I came back and napped until time to go to dinner.

About 12 of us went out for dinner and dancing. We went to La Confetiria Ideal. If you google it, I'm sure it will come up. I saw Samantha Brown go there on her show when she came here. This is where the saga begins. We paid $18 pesos for lessons and dancing. They were playing typical Tango music, and we just watched. All of a sudden they played "Survivor" from Destiny's Child. We all got excited, and several got up to head to the floor. Then after about 15 seconds, the song faded out. Come to find out, they just play something drastically different like that to let the locals walk off the floor to get a drink for a second and come back to dance some more.

Some of us didn't eat dinner, so we asked if we could leave an come back. They said that was fine because the lessons didn't start until 9:30. We asked what we would need to re-enter, and she said not to worry about it because she would remember us. I should have know that was too good to be true. I could kick myself for believing her. We went to eat at a restaurant, and when we came back, they wouldn't let us in. I talked the woman into letting me go up to see if our friends were still there. Come to find out a scene happened while we were gone. The people that took our money left at 9:30, and a different group came in to give the lessons. You had to pay another $28 to a totally different company for that. There is a younger sister who is fluent (and not a pushover) that tried to work something out before we got there, but they wouldn't budge. She and the others that stayed paid the extra money. So I told her to go on with the lesson so she would waste any more of her time she paid for. I talked to the woman again, but she wouldn't budge. I thought we had it made because she went to get a calculator, but it was just so she could multiply $28 times the six of us. I have found out that the more frustrated I get, the better my Spanish gets. But I "Summer Donna" (simmered down), and tried to get the woman to just let us watch (maybe I should wear a convention badge everywhere I go at home). She said we could watch for $28. So, I gathered the troupes, and we walked out. Yet again, Hershel would have been proud.

So what do you do when you have stormed out of a Tango Hall? You go to the Shell station and buy ice cream. That's what we did, and here I am. Its probably a good thing, because the bus pulls out at 6:45 in the morning. Tomorrow, we sail over to Colonia, Uruguay on our way to Montevideo. Caio, Argentina.


Hey there! Several have asked about leaving comments. At the end of each blog entry, you will see something like "0 comments" or "7 comments". You click on comments, and the next page should allow you to leave a comment. msh

Saturday, November 7, 2009

El Emperador

Well, I know it's been a long day when I had to ask somebody at dinner what day is it. I can't believe it, but I'm about an 8 on a scale of 0 being dead and 10 being full of energy.

Where to begin… The flight from Nashville was pretty uneventful. I got there in time to say bye to Denice and Jonathan before their flight left for NYC. I was little nervous because I was going to be on one of those planes that is only four seats wide, but it was a good flight. I actually sat next to a woman that was studying to be a Baptist minister. She was studying and not in the mood to talk. That, though, could be because she had to look at me asleep with my mouth hanging open for the first hour. I even missed my snack!!! I forgot to bring any English literature. The worst part of the flight were the three women in front of me that were drunk… AT 8:00 a.m. One of them was wearing a Happy Birthday tiara. Our flight attendant (who looked just like Phifie) talked to them the whole way. I know more about her than the people on my trip. I know that she used to be a hair dresser. I know that she tried to be a flight attendant in the 80's, but weighed too much. I wondered if she tells that whole story every flight.

I got around JFK pretty well, but I forgot that you can't check your luggage in until 3 hours before the flight. So a lugged around that luggage from 11:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. I continued my streak of trips where someone says, "you look so familiar." Since my last trip I told some of you about seeing that show on Discovery where they morphed 10,000 men from around the world to see what he would look like, and he could have been my long lost brother. Well, I have continued that streak, but at JFK, I only had one person wave at me. I sat next to a man from Ireland for about an hour. He told me everything one needs to know about Ireland from how they start drinking at six years old to how wonderful their health care is. Of all the things he wanted to ask me about being an American was what did I think about Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and Oprah (he must have Sirius or XM). I spared him my real thoughts on each of them such as the fact that I truly believe that Oprah thinks she is third in line behind Jesus. I'm glad I did because he's a big fan of her millions donated to charity. I didn't want to burst his bubble by telling him that her giving away 100 million dollars is the net worth equivalent of me donating my glasses to charity when I get a new pair.

At five I made my way up to the check-in, and I started to see some convention badges. I hadn't been wearing mine up to that point because I felt a little conspicuous wearing around a badge that said "Keep on the Watch" around an airport. I have a great group. There are about 20 of us on my bus and 25 more from LA on another bus. I haven't gotten to know the other group much, but I really like the ones on mine. There are several my age, and several older ones. I think there are only 2 that are couples. There are some from Brooklyn, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indianapolis, Long Island, and others in my group. It seems like everybody knows somebody from TN. Believe it or not, there are very few in my group that speak Spanish. Many of the people that live here speak English, but I am trying to use my Spanish as much as I can. I have had to alter my accent a little though. They are a little harder to understand here. They have a much more slurred speech, and they cut off a lot of the words. They also say things like Caio (chow) instead of adios.

We came down here on a 767. They had a lot to do on the plane. They had games, movies, and seasons of shows like Friends and CSI. I looked through the book to pick out what all i was going to watch, and only made it through one episode of CSI. I actually slept almost all the way down here. I can't believe it. It's a good thing because I wasn't sitting with any of my group.

I thought we had a direct flight, but we had a very short lay over in Santiago. I'm glad the flight from there was only about 2 hours. I had to sit next to a stinky who had to use an extension to buckle his seat belt. Needless to say the armrest was folded up and I ate my sandwich one handed. The sister across the aisle was no help because she was about to get sick. The flight was very rough. We hit a 10 second air pocket. Stinky never flinched.

Our hotel is nice. If you google it, it is The Emperador in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Libertador Avenue. We went for a walking tour for a couple of blocks this afternoon. It is late spring here, and the trees are beautiful. The temperature is maybe 70. It was very cool when we first landed. I am going to have to go buy a jacket or something tomorrow.

Tonight we went to a tango house and had a three course meal provided by the travel agency. They had a live tango band that was wonderful. I had the veal and potatoes. I am determined to eat like the locals as much as I can and not stay in my comfort zone. I even chose Argentinian flan for desert (Dennis) instead of the chocolate mousse. I know… unbelievable. I even drank sparkling mineral water for my drink. They call it "agua con gas" or "water with gas". I still find that hilarious. I know; it's petty.

Some stayed at the place. They are going to have a tango show. Several of us went the cheap route. We came back to the hotel, and we are going to regroup and go somewhere that we can do the tango ourselves.

Well, I guess that's all for now. Tomorrow we are going for a city tour, and the rest of the day is ours. Who knows what will ensue… Caio.

PS - Don't forget that you can leave me comments.

Almost There!!!

We have landed in Chile! We still have to catch our flight to Buenos Aires in about 20 minutes. I have a great group. There are about 40 of us, but we don't meet up with the other 20 until we get to Buenos Aires. There are a variety of ages, but several are my age. I had my movies planned out to watch on the way down here, and slept almost the whole way... thank goodness. I'm about to go adjust my bed head before the next flight. I thought my badge would make me surely look like a tourist, but more so its the fact that its freezing and I have on a golf shirt. First purchase - jacket...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Hey, folks. I just wanted to let you know that I will be using Skype while I'm gone to keep in touch. If any of you don't have Skype, you can download the program for free at You can voice or video chat for free from any computer around the world. My skype user name is shaymus77.