This blog post was guest written by Habitat Wake Senior Director of Construction, Brad McHugh.
It is always special to be a guest in another culture, and open yourself to new experiences. I try to enter these experiences with curiosity, hopefulness, respect, and positivity even if all foreign travel comes with a level of uncertainty as to what to expect or a basic appreciation for how out of place one can feel. After a week here in Argentina, I have been very happy with how awesome this city and culture are, how warm and inviting the people are, and have learned so much in a short time about their history to better inform in the future.
Our team has been awesome and come together well on sites and on our cultural activities. A week of exploring the city of Buenos Aires has been very educational, especially with the help of our local host affiliate staff both on the work sites and walking through the city. Millie has set our itinerary up very well to give us a wide range of experiences from dinners, tango lessons, and city tours. Rodrigo has been an excellent job site leader for us to instruct us and keep us all on task (a job I can relate to very well back home at our affiliate in our Construction Department). Bere has been amazingly patient and helpful with us on site and translations. Maria has been a great ambassador for our team in helping us every step of the way through our experience, we don’t know what we would do without her. Diana and Gabriel and all the other staff have been so welcoming and a pleasure to work with.
Most importantly the families have been such gracious hosts, opening their homes and sharing their food with us. Our team has felt very welcomed into the communities by our host families (Yesica, Juan & Reuben; and Romina, Lucas, Lucitas, Christian & Aure). Working side by side with the families as they guided us as the real experts of the construction of their new homes has been a humbling opportunity. In one particular instance I was able to share with Aure, the grandfather of one of the families and once he learned I had a lead role in construction at our local affiliate we sat down, no language barrier to stop us, and shared stories of construction through photos and Spanish-to-English construction terms, and sipping a cup of mate. It was a small moment in time but I feel like one we both won’t forget for quite some time.
All this is to lead to today’s project, as for the first time on the trip, that uncertainty crept back for me as I felt out of my element somewhat in learning that we wouldn’t have a full day of construction but rather would have a day within the community of our two families. This consisted of visiting the local kitchen/cafeteria for the local school children out of one of the matriarchs of the community’s home. She had a story of having lost her own children in the past & serious illnesses herself and she dedicated her life to serving the children of the neighborhood. We became her prep team for feeding dozens and dozens of kids that day. All the children were excited to come get their food as well as meet us, the visitors. We spent time together learning & trading some basic translation of words, and also as an art activity project helping them to make friendship bracelets and color pictures in coloring books. It was a change of pace from the rest of our week, although we continued to help with some construction while their, as our team also helped repaint the interior walls of the home while there, as well as to help them remove a loose cabinet falling from a wall overtop of the hot cook top where the lunches were being made. It brings a new meaning to if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
We finished our day at the local elementary school where all of the students had prepared a large presentation of their culture for us, with stations around the schoolyard of each region in the country by sampling local foods they had helped make, pictures and maps they had drawn, music, and information their teachers had helped them gather to showcase for us. We were able to play games with them like soccer and basketball, as well as juggling. The teachers also gave us a tour of the school and all they are doing to try and improve the facilities to help nurture the kids’ thirst for knowledge.
Today was an amazing day of education for our team, proving you are never too old to go back to school and learn something. We all continue to learn and absorb our surrounding environment. It was a peaceful day of simple gestures that made us feel very welcomed into the community and to show that in some small way our work here has hopefully left an impact on them, as it certainly has on myself and my team.
Muchas gracias Argentina.