Day 21: Corrientes, Argentina.
A ten-hour flight and 11-hour bus ride brought me to this place on the other side of the world – a province tucked away in the Northeast corner of Argentina. I had come here to spend time with my friends Alisha and David, and to help facilitate a prayer retreat for a few missionaries who had committed their lives to serving the Criollo people there. But more than anything, I needed to taste of life beyond my life.
We traveled along muddy unmarked roads to the Ibera Marshland, danced on floating islands and longed to hug the families of capybaras that made their home there.We journeyed to the Shrine of Gaucho Gil, a popular saint who, along with Saint Death, receives sacrifices as the worshipers beg for safety and blessing. Even on rosaries, Gaucho Gil receives preferential placement over Jesus – the stories of this former Argentine soldier who became a violent renegade are legendary, and even the smallest of children learn to light the red candles, hang the plaques, and stack the wine bottles offered as prayers.
But it was in the daily things – the Tuesday purchasing vegetables from a cart outside things and the walking Eli to gymnastics class things and the Wednesday visiting families in the Jardin barrio things – where the life I longed for became real.
We stood outside the small one-room house on the quiet dirt road where more horses passed by than cars. Alisha pointed to the window. “The curtain is outside – they’re receiving visitors.” And then she stood at the edge of the road and clapped loudly. “This is how we announce our visit.”
Lorena smiled and waved us in to the home she shared with her husband and four children. Boxes became chairs as the little ones snuggled up to share their milanesa with Alisha. Then Gabriel, the father, smiled and joined us with a thermos and a cup of mate. The strong yerba tea is a staple here in Argentina, and sharing it is like taking communion. Drinking from the hand-hewn cup with metal straw is an invitation to friendship.
The camera was set aside. The cup was taken. And I drank in the life that matters.
So how about you? When do you lay aside your plans and receive what life has to share with you? I’m still learning…