Volunteering and traveling in Argentina to proclaim God's great love, and hopefully not getting sick along the way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A "Where were you when.." moment

three N. Americans, two Argentines and a Cuban
When my friend Kathryn was in Italy in 2006, I could hardly imagine her delight when the country took home the World Cup. She had told me about wearing the flag as a giant cape and going through the city streets enjoying the celebration.

Then in 2010, at the prospect of going to Argentina, having never paid much attention to soccer in the first place, I began to do some "research". I think that was when I first fell in love with Messi.

Now, there is something in the air, and it's one of those things worth remembering.

First game, I had to take the pre-teens to their respective homes before I could join some friends (first pic) for the game. What a difference in the quantity of cars in the streets before and after the starting whistle! I'm pretty sure the only people outside of their abodes were female. I had even passed one home where they placed their tv outside and all of their neighbors were gathered around.

I missed the first goal, but I almost feel like it didn't count any way since it was assisted by the other team.

Then you have to remember the half-time choripans. Only in Argentina... :P

My mom's surprise visit left us to watch the next game in the hotel. I caught the goal (go Messi!!) while hanging out with mom and a German friend.
just two hinchas in love with some Argentines. hehe

The next game, accompanied by one more North American, one Argentine and two English folk, was the crazy back-to-back scoring where we gals were actually in the kitchen most of the time missing the action.

Then I watched the US game with Andrea and we just talked about other stuff the whole time. I'm telling you, my attention rate to fútbol increases exponentially by the presence of Lionel. Así es...

The Argentina-Switzerland game I got to watch with a good friend in her home. We about had hard attacks when Angel Di Maria (assisted by Messi!) finally got the goal. The announcer went nuts, talking about the spaghetti, the thumb and the pope. Perhaps I should clarify:

Pulgar - Thumb - nickname for Messi
Fideo - Spaghetti - nickname for Di Maria
The pope is the pope.
For other future reference, Pipa is the nickname for Higuaín...

On with the show because today, July 9th, marks Argentina's independence. Today, Argentina played a grueling match against Holland that ended with a fantastic team effort. While everyone in the back of their mind had a nervous feeling about the game with the ugly 7-1 German win over Brazil in home territory yesterday, they were excited to see the team coming together. And yes, the goal by the Pipa should have counted!

No one likes penalties, but Romero (which also happens to be a fantastic last name) was a boss. Cristian showed a new side tonight as well, driving us around the small town, yelling the Argentina cheer. Everyone was honking and waving flags as they made a circle of cars around the town plaza. I couldn't stop smiling and hoping for the best this Sunday.

A rematch against the Germans who stopped Argentina 4-1 back in 2010. It will be a tough game, that's for sure!

Vamo vamo, Argentina
Vamo vamo, a ganar!!!
Que esta barra quilombera
No te deja no te deja alentar!!!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

7-month Fiance Visa process in FF

(written to give you an idea of what has always been at the back of my mind for these past months, as well as trying to help anyone involved in the process themselves. Note: this is a case that took place in Argentina, 2013-2014.)

In November 2013, I sent what is called the I-129F to the Dallas Lockbox (which just so happens to be located in my hometown). They received it and sent me a message saying that they would send that to the National Visa Center pending acceptance.

Included in the packet:
- cover letter
- check to cover cost of submission
- I-129F filled out
- G-325A filled out for Cristian and for me
- passport style photos of each of us (in a ziplock bag stapled to a piece of paper. labeled.)
- my birth certificate
- signed and dated letters of our intent to marry
- proof of having met
- proof of ongoing relationship

Proof means a plethora of receipts and photos and knick knacks (photo copies because they keep it) that show we spent time together on a regular basis. My first set of proof included a short list of items on a piece of paper and following that list the different items (again, photos, movie stubs, receipts, etc.).

Also, there is an option that allows you to receive notification via email as to when paperwork has been received. It is free and helpful!

Two weeks later, they had sent the dreaded RFE, or Request for Further Information. In one sense, it is dreaded because it requires more work. As I always like to look on the bright side, I was thankful that they didn't straight up reject us, and were giving us another chance. Plus, they sent it with about two months time to gather as much evidence as possible. Very helpful.

UNIQUE TO OUR CIRCUMSTANCE, but something to consider, is the mail system. Sending in the I-129F, I used the general postal service available to the country. Due to exchange rates (and not being on a deadline), I paid the equivalent of 15 dollars to send these important documents to the correct office, and it arrived in about three weeks. For the RFE, which is on a deadline, I sent through FedEx to guarantee its safe arrival.

The return messages were the downfall. While technically, the RFE was sent to me two weeks later, it did not arrive until 4 or 5 weeks had passed. "Or", because I happened to have been on vacation with my boyfriend when it finally made its way to my Argentine home. In addition, the rain had seeped through the poorly made mailbox and let's just say I used a hair dryer to get me out of that mess.

Moral of the story, what is your courier situation? If you are applying for your fiance while overseas, maybe the return address should be to someone you trust in the States who can send you the needed information must faster (the original RFE had to be included in the packet). Some information, as noted, is sent to email, but not all!

Now to the RFE. The RFE packet included:
- original RFE (made a copy for my records!)
- cover letter
- clearer information on circumstance of our meeting
- clearer information on on-going relationship
- subsequent proof

While the I-129F included a list of about 10 things as proof of our relationship, the RFE included 9 proofs from the meet cute alone, then 41 proofs of our on-going relationship. There were maps, credit card invoices (with a description of each purchase), more pictures (and this time with his family!), receipts, bus tickets, blogposts (practically like a diary!), and memorabilia from a conference we went to. Putting these in chronological order, labeling them well, highlighting the most important info (dates, proof that we were together in the circumstance described, etc.) took plenty of time. Not to mention, I made three copies of everything.

1 for the government, 1 for me, 1 for my (at this time) fiance.

Anything in Spanish was translated by a friend who majored as a translator, since I was not allowed to do them myself. She signed and dated all of the translations.

My debacle was due to the fact that I officially received the RFE after vacation; a mere two weeks before it was due!! Hence the further need for FedEx to get it there on time! Then, since you are given what is called a WAC number, you can daily check online for the status within the office.

In only 4 days, we were accepted!!!! In 3 weeks, we received the email about the next list of things to send, this time, to the embassy. In about 6 weeks, I finally received the letter explaining the acceptance. See what I mean about courier issues??

Thankfully, I had told Cristian about all of the vaccinations he would need and he had started all of this in October-November 2013. Our acceptance would last 4 months, or until June 27th, meaning the list they asked for would need to be turned in as soon as possible.

This is the list:
- DS-160 online confirmation (not the whole packet, just the confirmation)
- more passport style photos
- fiance's passport (any previous if they exist)
- birth certificate
- any previous marriage certificates/death certificates/divorce certificates
- any military record info
- police records
- court and prison records
- physical exam
- evidence of support
- evidence of relationship (again??)
- fee payment
- translations (this time outside of English or Spanish since it is going to the Embassy within the country)
- DHL registration

Once again, the embassy is really nice in this aspect. They thoroughly explain what they mean by each item on the list. Special notes include the need to legalize any official document (such as birth certificates or police records), so please include time to getting those signatures. Take note of how long a police record last. Some last for a year, some 30 days, and in our case, only 5 days. Passport style photos need to be current (don't send the same ones as for the I-129F).

MOST IMPORTANT!!!! Support and the physical exam. Let's go with support. Make sure you send in the document they ask for. There are two affidavits of support out there. One is for the visa process, one is for if and when the person already in the US wants to work. Include the bank letters, perhaps a letter from the employer stating how much one makes, life insurance policies (if necessary), W2s and the previous year's tax forms. Check the percentage of how much money will be needed to support the incoming visitor!

The physical exam. Will cost a little more money (as well as the fee.. woohoo... sarcasm..), and there are designated doctors for this kind of work. It will probably take a day to take care of this part of the list as there is a chest x-ray, blood tests, and a general look over. We were there from 8am to 3pm. It finishes with a packet that Cristian will have to carry with him on board the plane!

Two days after turning in our documents, we were sent an email of when the interview date would be. Other than the obvious of being on time, they might ask you for a few more documents. Bring a copy of the previous list any way.

Cristian described the interview process (as I was not allowed to accompany him). They get your fingerprints, double check your documents, ask you a few questions (in this case, focusing on how we met), and then hold on to the passport. Approved!

We were waiting for him outside the embassy, across the street. It was such a beautiful moment to yell for him and see him give us the thumbs up!!! We're gonna get married!!!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Full of surprises

Due to miscommunication and the long distance, my mom is coming to Buenos Aires for a couple of days. While the reasons (visa related) are unfortunate, I have a personal policy of making the most of our opportunities.


So please pray for the visa, my mom's safety, and our time together. I am sorta excited about getting to show her a little of the gigantic country capitol, Buenos Aires. And the fact that she gets to meet Cristian and his parents is also on the forefront of my mind. Fascinating...

Friday, June 6, 2014

One of a kind

Every day has become a tic mark. I have numbered the days, 99 till I am a Romero(!!!!), and in some ways it helps me make sure I get errands done--gifts for all supporters, check--but in others it has made me weary. Fridays and Saturdays are spent indoors with one or two souls, sharing a meal and maybe a movie. Going out means spending the money that I need to live for the next couple of months during the transition.

And then there are these unique experiences that I do not even know if I could explain them to you. The only other time where I had to get an official visa was when I went to Russia. The company with whom I went, took care of that paperwork. This time, my parents from afar, and I from more or less of a distance, without a lawyer, have to help not one, but three people obtain a visa for the very stringent US of A.

It has been a long process. A relief, that Cristian's parents now have theirs. But now we wait for at least 8 more business days to find out when Cris can have his interview and be given his first and only visa. We are on a clock, as the plane tickets have already been bought, the wedding date set, the approval for the visa lasting only until the end of June. I shouldn't worry, especially when verses like these, appear in my morning devotionals:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart..

The Lord is your security..

The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness...

Nevertheless, I wait. We wait. And waiting, waiting while an entirely new world looks upon us in two short months. English, wedding prep and wedding, honeymoon (what?!), married life, first time on our own apartment, living by the sweat of our brow... culture shock and reverse-culture shock all in one. More paperwork.

This will be a ride, and it will require a new blog. But for now, I make comments on the day to day life in fast forward (and no particular order) mode:

Preaching about Michaelangelo and James Dean
Reading about Jesus with the girls in the institute (three weeks left!!)
Birthday party madness with Rocklet pancakes, great friends, Betos and Awkward
Bracelet making (55. my IQ?)
Visa configuring and meeting a woman from Mendoza
Hearing friend's testimonies for the first time
Pre-teens experiencing Jesus

love and chau!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tranquilo che

And now, a little boring, but important account of the past few days...

Day 44: Saturday I tried to sleep in. Eva and I had watched Memoirs of a Geisha whilst (in her case) crochet-ing and making bracelets. We laughed, cried, enjoyed the beauty of that movie for a calm, popcorn and mate Friday night.

But the world was against my sleeping in. Various groups had gathered for ministries in the morning that I was not apart of this time, so I was awake by 8:30. Bleh!

Worked on a surprise video for the birthday gal Eva. It's gonna be great! Then I met with Ale and two of her sobrinos to watch The Muppets 2. It was pretty good, but not nearly as fun as the first. Well, I might have lost in translation some of the jokes as all kids movies are only in our favorite castellano.

Walked home. Talked with Cristian, later the parents. Bed by 11 (a rarity these days!!).

Day 43: Church in the morning with Laura and her cousin Cami. Then I raced home as I had completely forgotten about the movie with the pre-teens at Mike and Andrea's! Quickly made all the phone calls, ate lunch and went over to set up. It was a fantastic time despite being rushed. The movie, To Save a Life, really hit home to the girls despite the major cultural differences!

Church and home.

Day 42: Trying to do all sorts of odd jobs. A major cleaning of the kitchen. As I was in the kitchen, I then took advantage for lunch:

you have no idea how delicious!
Then there was wrapping up some camp stuff. Putting visa paperwork in order. Sermon preparing. etc. etc.

I am thankful that my computer still works, so I can work and enjoy some good tunes mientras tanto.

love and chau!

Friday, May 16, 2014

How could I possibly..?

Here we go:

Day 58: An incredible day of teaching some important communication skills to our future missionary friends! Watched Downton Abbey surely!

Day 57: Rest to prepare for 3 long days.

Days 56 - Day 54: Said long days. English camp, that to be honest, WAS SO MUCH FUN!!! Here you can watch a glimpse.

Day 53: Rest to get over 3 long days. ha.

Day 52: Team Bible study and team meeting followed by random catch up work such as making bracelets for the wedding, finances and editing.

Day 51: An amazing time to watch our preteen gals have a personal encounter with God. Despite some rain, we enjoyed some away time in the Sierras concluded by silence time to listen to God. And he spoke!!!
oh Dara. jaja
Day 50: Church in the morning where I was once again inspired by some Bible translators. May it never be forgotten that God's word never returns void! Lunch with Laura, Eva and Samuel O. Mentor time and then I got to lead the worship solita on guitar at church!

Day 49: Slept in. Would have loved to meet with Noemí but I forgot to call. Spent some of the afternoon buying supplies for the girls. Then a meeting for CI camp to recall the good, the bad and the ugly... Prayer meeting in the evening.

Day 48: Girls' institute where we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5K and then walking on water within 24 hours! I loved when Talia said, "But how did he do it!?!"Lunch and prep work with Andrea G. Bracelet making with Mariela.

Day 47: Pre-teens Bible study followed by hanging out with Dara till she had to go to school. We are so alike and so dis-similiar at the same time! Nap and then girl's institute. I was going to hang out with Paloma but we moved it to the next day...

Day 46: A weird yet still good morning with one of the newest girls in the institute. We had a deep conversation about her past and how God wants to redeem the ugliness of the abuse she faced. I then quickly went to the center to meet with Paloma, and I realized yet again that we should have spent more time together. Very thankful for her!

More time in the center where I then could go to Laura's where we, plus Ale, did a very secretive thing!! I will share the secret in two weeks, when the work (the gift) is done. But for now...

Day 45: Today. I made it (though sadly too quickly in summary). We had our usual meetings. Except this time I asked the team to spend time sharing why they are thankful for a certain member. It was absolutely beautiful!! Perhaps I was most touched by Eva calling me her sister.

I must say, there are many times in my life where I do not realize things right before my eyes. Another one of those is that eventually, I have to go back to the States. Don't get me wrong, I am very excited. But I am sad about saying goodbye! This life is so amazing!!

love and chau!

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's already May

Well heck. (In my most southern accent possible)

Here I am trying to figure out how time is flying so quickly. It has something to do with trying to fill my days because I have so few left. It has something to do with trying to pass the time for when I see Cristian again. But this fast? Really???

Let's see.. there was Wednesday.. two Wednesday's ago. Pre-teens and girls' institute. The next day a thief tried to rob us. Everything is okay. They caught the guy 15 minutes later and we recovered the few items he had stolen. The main thing is that God protected us and that I stayed inside for the morning.

We had a meeting for the camp that starts this coming Monday. More meetings on Friday morning followed by an amazing motorcycle ride into the Sierras with my friend. I was meeting the rest of the CI team for some rehearsal camp schtuff.

Two AMAZING conversations with CI teammates followed by a two layered pizza created by yours truly for a Bible study prep with Andrea G. A Sunday of some rest before preaching about freedom.

A Monday morning of prep work for this week's OM missionary conference. Evening prayer meeting.

Tuesday, time with the gals reading the story of the Samaritan woman by the well. Then yet another meeting for CI (hey! there's a lot of preparation to do!). Wednesday morning pre-teen Bible study where everyone was absolutely too tired (and drained by the weather) to think. Another afternoon with the gals where we had our bracelet-making session.

What? Now it's May.

On Thursday (yesterday) I had the typical girls' institute time. Karla (1) actually stayed to work on a new invention of mine. Hers turned out very nice! For the afternoon, I was able to give a talk to the 9 participants about creating a support team for the missionary journey. Home. Bed.

Today, early to the conference to give a talk about writing your story. I had specifically mentioned that we shouldn't write lists about our lives. I recognize my hypocrisy. I also recognize that I am late in sending my update letter. This will unfortunately have to do for now. I hope you can understand. There will most definitely be more details at some time or another, because the Lord has been opening a certain person's heart lately!! Stay tuned!

love and chau. (Day 59)