Three Days in Miami

“They were three intense days in Miami,” I thought to myself as my plane taxied to the runway at Miami airport. Recapping over the events I realise that in retrospect it would have been wiser to have arranged more days here in the United States. But then my thinking was, “how much time does it take to buy a computer?” Apparently a lot more than I first thought.

Upon arrival in Miami, after settling into the YWAM base and getting to know the people, I had headed out in the afternoon and bought the laptop that I had waited two years to get. A MacBook Pro and various accessories were now in my possession, and I was very happy about it too. Everything seemed to be going really well.

The Apple Shop in The Falls Shopping Centre

The problem came not with these items but rather with all of the requests of others back in Argentina. Not only this, but every item that I purchased needed to be tested and proved to be good before I took them out of the country or else any warranty would be lost and the item would be an expensive anchor. So after each purchase, I removed the item from its packaging and proceded to use it until satisfied that it was fully functional. That took quite a lot of time as some items required learning how to use them first before I could actually test them or know if they were working as they should.

So with the first day going so well I expected everything to be over by the next morning, but it was not to be. The store that should have had the camera did not have it, and everything else was a long way away. My memory of where things were was very compressed based on previous experiences only being in vehicles, so when I decided to “wander” up to the store “nearby” little did I realise that it was about 6 kilometres away (4 miles).

Distances are a lot further than they seem in Miami (the bus lane)

After over an hour of walking in sandals that caused blisters on my feet, I finally and tenderly arrived at my destination. It did not have the camera that I needed. The thought of returning by foot was too much, so I took the bus and travelled right past my stop until finally reaching a centre that sold the camera I had been asked to purchase. Returning triumphantly to the YWAM base I was pleased to have finally purchased everything on the list and was happy to now be able to rest.

On the last day there is a sudden last request. Somebody wants a laptop and there is a couple who can take it with them down to Argentina in the next couple of days… so I race out in the morning to buy the laptop. Thinking that it would be a quick process, I am stunned to discover that the Apple Store has some sort of technical failure of their equipment and had to use the old imprint system for the purchase, using a pen to rub over the paper and produce the numbers because even the old imprinter did not work. Of course I then need to check that it works properly.

Apple Store: The only way we were able to complete the purchase... old technology

Mobile Hands is a service that I have started to provide to those who need it. Loosely termed a ministry, it is basically just me wandering around the place helping people out in any way I can. YWAM Miami needed a new website. The rest of my time with them I spent working on their website, creating something that would work for them using the system that they currently have. Unfortunately, after so much hard work, we discover that there is no way of being able to publish this new design. It remains saved but unseen to this day.

Just then the engines roar into life and I am pushed back into my seat. We are taking off. My time in Miami has come to an end. Although there were plans for some time at the beach and to hang out with the YWAMers here the time slipped away too fast. That is why the next time I stop somewhere I will be sure to make it somewhat longer than just three days. Three days seems a lot on paper, but I discovered during this visit that it really is a very short time.

Flying out of Miami

Now I am on my way. El Salvador is only a few more hours away.

Now in Miami

After a long flight and a few hours sleep I finally arrive here in Miami. It is warm and humid, a far cry from the brisk late winter of Chile.

Looking out over Miami Golf Course
Looking out over Miami Golf Course

Travels and More Travels

This year has been an unsettled year, with one journey following another. Since the beginning of this year the time I have spent in my home base between travels has been less than 8 weeks, and it does not look like slowing down for the rest of the year.

Mobile Hands in Buenos Aires
What have all of these travels been about? Each one seems to have a different reason and focus. Ushuaia was to renew my visa and get in touch with Rix, the man in charge of raising up the new YWAM base down there. Now in a few days I will be heading to Buenos Aires once again to help build some walls and fit some doors for the YWAM Counselling ministry in preparation for their soon-to-start school. This is a part of the (unofficial) Mobile Hands ministry.

Wedding in El Salvador
Upon returning from Buenos Aires I will have two weeks in the base before heading to Chile to take a flight through to El Salvador. Two very good friends that work in our YWAM base in Puerto Madryn are getting married; Paul is from Peru, and Maricruz is from El Salvador. It was one of my desires to be able to be present during their wedding, as Paul is probably my best friend on the base, and I am very excited to be able to be there, made possible only because I had accumulated sufficient air-points from my travels before reaching Argentina in 2004.

Miami, The States, and Computers
An unexpected bonus from this flight is a 3 day stopover in Miami. It has been almost two years now since I felt God ask me to give my laptop computer away. During these two years the work that I have been doing on computers has actually increased until during this year alone I have built over 8 websites for different YWAM bases and ministries here in Argentina. Working without a computer has been difficult, often involving using anything available at the time with a portable USB drive that has all of the programs I use installed on it, and paying for time on internet and computers where a local computer is not available. The prices of computers in the USA are much lower than South America, so my stopover will allow me to once again get another laptop.

Meeting Friends in Chile
Returning to Chile at the beginning of October after the wedding in El Salvador, I will be catching up with someone I met in China who happens to be flying in to Santiago on the same day, before heading back to Puerto Madryn for my longest stay this year. If no other travels arise during this time I am looking forward to enjoying almost two full months back in Puerto Madryn.

Land by the Beach (well, 5kms near)
This extended time will actually be very useful too. Some other amazing news is that I have just placed a deposit down on a 1 hectare (100m x 104m) block of land just outside the city of Puerto Madryn. This is something that seems almost too much to believe, and if you had asked me only one month ago if I thought it was possible that I would be the owner of some land here in Argentina I would have simply laughed and walked away. Of course, there are still ongoing monthly payments before I actually own the land outright, but there it is in my name. An amazing event that still has me reeling.

So the two months that I hope to spend back in Madryn will be helpful to begin the process of clearing, fencing, and starting to build on this new land. Naturally all of this takes money, and right now I have no idea where this will come from but the one thing that I do know is that what only a month ago seemed impossible is now a reality today. One of the most exciting things about this for me is that I have always wanted to be able to bring people that I have found on the streets home to offer them a place to stay while they need it. Having my own land and home will give me this opportunity, and I am very excited about it too.

Visiting Australia
Finally, for those of you living in Australia and nearby, I am heading back there early December and will be in that area of the world for three months, traveling a little to visit you guys.

And thus ends a year full of travels.
Regards, Rob.

Earlier Travels
PS: The travels during the early part of the year?

Well, there was 2 months in Peru with the project, “With Peru in the Heart” where we were working with different churches all over the two northern cities of Chiclayo and Trujillo.

Then 3 months were spent in Bariloche helping to translate for their first Discipleship Training School and build and improve the house where they were living. During this time was also one week in Buenos Aires building mezzanine floors for the YWAM Counselling ministry.

Then the two weeks down in Ushuaia.

Back in Madryn – But Going Again

I guess it has been a while since writing something here. Life in missions seems to get really hectic at times. Even when I was travelling there seemed to be more time to write than now-a-days. At the end of every day, when I normally write something, I am exhausted and just want to sleep. Yet it is right at this moment that the people in whose house I am staying want to talk with me. So another hour or so of chatting and finally I collapse into bed, exhausted. The next day it starts all over again.

With each day like this, time for getting to the internet is limited and when I do get there, it is normally only enough to read my emails and answer just a few. The time available to write something more involved is just not there, and although a laptop would make things easier, I am yet to enjoy that luxury. So for now there will remain a 2 month gap. The events of Peru will have to remain written only in ink in my daily journal.

Now that I am back again in Puerto Madryn, there is more time to be able to write. However, in a couple of days I am on the move again. Bariloche is my destination, where a new YWAM base was opened one year ago. In Bariloche they are starting their first Discipleship Training School, which I will be helping in, and we will also be building a new room onto the house to help out with their need for more accomodation.

So here I am in Puerto Madryn, and three weeks later I’m off again. No wonder I love this life so much.

Heading Northward – Arica and Tacna

Arriving in Arica was a welcome relief to our tired bodies, tired of the travel and hungry for some decent food. So the first thing we did was store our backpacks and head to town for a hearty meal. Arica has some lovely beaches which are very tempting, although we only ever got to see them from a distance. Lunch was our priority.

The beach at Arica
The beaches of Arica, Chile.

Lunch was a hearty meal in some small restaurant in front of the local train station. Only two trains leave per day so our restaurant was not even remotely busy when we stopped by. A huge plate of rice, meat, salad, and fried potato chips combined with Peru’s unique Inka Cola softdrink went a long way to appease the hunger that we all had. Some icecreams afterwards helped fill up any remaining holes.

Paul ready to eat
Paul salivating over our delicious lunch… after days of bus food.

After lunch we wandered through the city centre and looked around for some tax-free shopping. Iquique is the city with tax-free everything and after looking around we could not find anything that was truly tax-free other than stoves and fridges. Wandering through the back streets we find our way back to the bus terminal, grab our bags and then head off to the other, international terminal, to take a taxi to Peru.

The main mall of Arica
The main mall of Arica, Chile.

wandering through the streets
Wandering through the streets trying to find our way back to the bus terminal.

Crossing the border to Tacna was without any problems at all. I had expected it to involve a thorough search of our bags and other checks for duty-free items, but since Tacna is also part of the tax-free zone, we only needed to get our passports stamped and were through.

In the international taxi to Tacna
Riding in the taxi on the way from Chile to Peru.

Peru border crossing
Arriving at the Peruvian border crossing.

Upon reaching Peru, the prices of everything dropped considerably. We were all exhausted so we bought bus tickets for the next day and then found ourselves a $10 soles per night room in a residential setting. Our night involved a wander around the markets and the town centre and then going out for a big meal of wood-fire cooked pizza. It was delicious.

Everything closed at night
During the night most of the shops were closed.

Breakfast at the markets
Eating breakfast the next day at the markets.

The next day we returned to the markets and picked up some very cheap bits and pieces. I grabbed some stuff for computers, while the girls were more focused on the clothes and leg-hair-pullers and stuff like that. It was tough trying to find each other in the labrynth of small shops within the markets, and by the time we all got together again our bus was about to leave. So with packaging and bags flying everywhere, we all jam our newly acquired stuff into our bags and race out to the bus terminal ready to start the next leg of our journey… to Lima.

Paul happy with his purchases
Paul returning from the markets, very happy with his purchases.

The city centre
The only part we got to see during the day of the city, because of our rush to catch the bus.

Heading Northward – Chile

Here are a few photos and some descriptions about our journey northward. The most significant part of the journey was what we saw along the way, so it makes sense to let you see the photos rather than write much about it this time.

water bottle
One of the things you do while bored at midnight on the bus to Chile… play with water bottles and headlamps and then take photos of it.

Making the next bus
Arriving in Santiago, we did not even get our bags off the first bus before they were calling us over to this next bus as it was ready for departure and waiting for us.

First beaches north of Santiago
Some of the first beaches north of Santiago in Chile were beautiful and very inviting too. If ever there comes an opportunity, I can see a return to the old sport of spear-fishing again.

wind power
Wind turbines indicate that this place sees a lot more wind than we experienced during our trip.

Sleeping beauties
It’s probably a bit mean to put this photo up, but the reality was that Yamila and Lorena slept through virtually the entire journey. So it seemed appropriate to share it as part of our experience on the journey northward. Of course they missed out on all of the wonderful sights because they were sleeping.

Vegetation exists
Note how much grass and vegetation exists here. This is still relatively close to Santiago. It changes quickly however.

Seaside resort
An (almost) island seaside resort. It does look very inviting. No idea where it is, as we only found our map of Chile once we had reached Peru. So it has not helped us at all.

Local fishing villiage
A local fishing village, and the place where the bus almost left without us. I had visited the local loo, and when I returned to the bus, it had already pulled out from the platform and was about to take off. Fortunately the door was still open, so I dived inside before it closed. Somehow I suspect (hope) they were waiting for me in their own, rather rushed, way.

Barren household
Suddenly the landscape changes to mostly desert. This is one lonely house in the middle of a long drive to nowhere. It surprised me just how many people chose to live in the middle of nowhere… and I still wonder where they get the water they need to survive out there.

Not only barren, but also rocky
The landscape was not only barren, but also rocky and barren in some places.

The desert-scape was quite amazing in places as we looked out over the amazing mountains that surrounded us. Climbing up and over them caused our ears to pop frequently.

Greenery where there is water
Not everywhere was desert. In some places there were rivers that sustained enough water to reach the sea. Sometimes this water was a mere trickle, but the people built farms around it and dug holes to capture it. As a result there were a couple of places with really green farmland that stood out in sharp contrast with the desert lands surrounding it.

Sunset on our first day. There was still the entire night and half a day left before we would reach Arica, our destination city at the top end of Chile.

Climbing mountains
The next day was more of the same, until we started climbing up and down many mountains and valleys such as this one.

Houses in a river-bed
Houses and properties built along the riverbed of a large valley. We had almost reach Arica by now, and came over the last hill to see hundreds of these houses stretching out along the dry riverbed. I guess it never floods in a place like this.

Houses along the riverbed
Looking out along the riverbed scattered with houses everywhere. They extended for a long way to the left also.

Coca-cola mountain
Coca-cola gets to etch its advertising slogan even into the mountains here.

Finally arrived in Arica
Finally we have arrived in Arica, the northernmost city of Chile, and right next to the border of Peru. It had been a long journey and we were all exhausted, so it was wonderful to know that we had made it this far.

Our journey northward in Chile was now over, well, apart from crossing the border that was.

Looking Around Mendoza

On Christmas day we borrowed the family car and took off for a trip around the city. Well, a trip about the main park anyway. Here are some photos of what we got up to…

San Martin statue
The San Martin statue on a mountain looking over Mendoza.

Proving we were there
A photo to prove that we (um, they) were there.

Paul being a statue
Paul showing himself as part of the statues in the park.

Me being a statue
Me being a statue in the park. Can you tell which one I am?

Resting down by the lake
Resting down by the lake, just before a storm comes over.

Going to Peru

Well, I guess I should add this note to say that as of tomorrow I will be on a bus heading to Peru for various months. Probably two. We stop in Mendoza for Christmas and then keep going using the cheapest way… or the way that has available seats during this crazy travel time.

The goal is to get to Lima by the New Year, and then head north to Chiclayo to meet up with all of the smarter people who travelled by plane to get there. Haha.

UPDATE: We are now in Mendoza enjoying Christmas with Lorena’s family. Today (26th) we continue our journey again.

The bus team
The four musketeers: Yamila, Paul, Me, and Lorena.

Bus travel
Lorena and Yamila at one of the many stops along the way to Mendoza.

Travelling again

Today I left Puerto Madryn on another journey. This time it was to Mendoza and then to Chile.

Bus to Mendoza
My bus to Mendoza. I sat just above the side door on this side.

This is the same route that I took just a little over two months ago when returning to Australia. This time however the snow was not a concern when crossing over the Andes mountains and a three hour wait in Mendoza was all it took before I was on the bus to Chile.

Santiago Mall
Santiago mall in the middle of the city.

Arriving in Santiago early in the morning from my overnight bus, a strong black coffee is needed to get me through the day. There are a number of electronic errands that are only possible here in Chile. The little township of Puerto Madryn has none of these services and Buenos Aires has exhorbitant prices that are truly unreasonable.

Free Hugs
“Abrazos Gratis” = “Free Hugs”

During my wandering through the mall, I came across a couple of unusual types amongst the throngs of people. They were just standing there with big smiles on their faces holding large signs in the air that read “FREE HUGS.” Most people walked right on past, some smiling at the thought, others commenting on such an unusual sight. Every now and then somebody would come up to get a hug, and the sign would be lowered for a moment. Each person that was hugged walked away with a big smile on their face. What a cool idea.

Road to YWAM Chile
Walking down the road to the YWAM Chile base.

At the end of the errands, a short bus trip took me to the YWAM base where I find Ricky and Rosy practicing for their wedding tomorrow. 36 hours of continuous travel, a day in the city withouth rest, and then suddenly I was roped in to help out with wedding preparations.

Wedding Preparations
Ruth and Louisa making candle stands. My job was finding the green stuff.

I didn’t mind. It was for this very reason that I had come.

Blessed with a Bici

The first six months I was loaned a car. That was great.

The next six months I spent walking everywhere. Not so much fun.

Now, I am mobile again… with a “bici” (bee-see) as they say in Spanish.

There is something nice about being able to move around the place with speed and ease. Even better is being able to dictate my own times and not worry about the bus only leaving three times a day… nor do I need to pay any more $16 pesos taxi fares.

Freedom at its finest.

The bike
The bike. Every part except the gear-changers and rims were replaced and it rides very smoothly now.

Track home
The track that I take home (with home in the distance) is away from the road and provides a quiet and interesting ride, free from the dust and danger of the main road.

Looking toward town
Looking back from the same point towards the town. 3kms is a fair way.