The Argentinian economy has some interesting (as a foreigner) and difficult (as an Argentinean) quirks. Even people with full-time jobs in reputable companies sometimes don't get paid. It is just part of the system. Many of these people live on the very edge of poverty. Saving makes almost no sense because money will be worth less tomorrow than it is today. We have seen the dramatic effects of inflation in our time here. We knew one moderately well-to-do family in Rio Gallegos that told us that when they have extra cash they buy staples, like rice and noodles, or building supplies, like bricks and cement. The food you can always eat and the bricks you can always sell or use to add on to your own home. Those things retain value. Money does not! This leads to situations where people living on the edge easily fall off. I try to keep on top of some of the more precarious situations and make sure that people have food in the house so that children aren't going hungry.
We are also organizing activities in the branch to try to help people improve their economic situations. One of the members is teaching an introductory computer class. This is just a simple "how do you" class so that someone could work in a job that requires basic computer skills. Hermana Merkley and I are teaching an English class. El Calafate is a tourist town, being able to speak even a little bit of English is a skill that can help people improve their income. We had one young woman who came to the class and wanted to learn some terms for cutting hair. If she could give an English speaking tourist a decent cut, she would likely earn more money! We are also learning about teaching English as a second language. It is fascinating to understand that some Spanish speakers can't even hear the difference between "ship" and "sheep" or "bit" or "beat." The short "i" sound doesn't exist in Spanish and their ears are not accustomed to that sound. It makes me wonder how badly I mangle the Spanish language.
|El Chaltén juts abruptly out of the Patagonian plain.|
|Hermana Merkley and I had a great day when we visited El Chaltén. The views were spectacular!|
We are trying to organize youth activities. On Saturday November 15, we took 8 youth to El Chaltén and did a hike. Unfortunately, the weather the day we took the youth was not as nice as when Hermana Merkley and I first made the trip. (Actually, President Rogers would tell me that for a youth activity, the challenging weather was bonus, not a problem!) El Chaltén is a small village situated at the base of Mount Fitz-Roy (also known as El Chaltén). It is truly a breath-taking site. Many of the youth here have never made the three hour drive, and had no idea what the tourists here are actually doing. The youth were excited about going and that turns into excitement from the parents. My second councilor told me that this was the first youth activity in the eight years that the branch has been in existence. President Rogers told me that if we want to help the parents, do things to help the kids.
El Chaltén from Laguna Capri the day of our hike with the youth from El Calafate. I understand that this is a pretty common view for many tourists!
I've been trying to come up with something to post on my LinkedIn account to show how I'm spending these 18 months. I think our job description would be something like the following.
Position: Volunteer for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Duties: Feed the poor. Visit the sick. Care for widows and single mothers. Strive to strengthen marriages and family relationships. Listen to sorrows and grieve with those that mourn. Comfort those in need of comfort and search for those in need of help. Our motto is "Do Good!"