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Snapshot of Argentina – The official language of Argentina is Spanish; Argentine Spanish is distinct in that it uses voseo instead of the pronoun tú. The indigenous language Guaraní is also spoken in the northeastern part of the country. Argentina’s population descends from immigrants that came from many different countries (mostly Italy and Spain), primarily during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Roman Catholic church is the largest religious denomination in Argentina, and continues to influence Argentine culture and politics. The country has several universities that are run by the Catholic church. However, Protestant churches have been growing in popularity in recent years while participation in the Catholic church has been decreasing. Argentina has a very urban society, with very little of the population living in rural areas. The country has strong traditions in literature, art, film, and theater. Tango music is a unique musical style that began in Argentina, though today cumbia, Argentine rock, pop, and electronic music are more popular. Many regions also have their own traditional folk music and dance styles. The most popular sport in Argentina is soccer, though basketball is also somewhat popular. One of the most popular meals in Argentina is asado, the Argentine barbecue. Beef is the most commonly-used meat, and the barbecues are also social events used to gather friends and family. Pork sausages are also commonly cooked at asados. Pizza, pasta, and salads are other common dishes, a result of Italian influences. Empanadas are popular snack items, and dulce de leche is used in many dessert dishes. Mate is a traditional drink in Argentina. A mate gourd or a cup is filled with yerba mate, hot water is added and then the drink is sipped through a metal straw with a filter called a bombilla. While the bitter drink is often drunk plain, sometimes sugar, orange peel, or other herbs are added for flavoring.
The Church in Neuquen is smaller than other parts of Argentina, but mainly because of the smaller population in this area. The members are strong and faithful. They are very involved and supportive of the missionaries. The closes temple to the mission is in Buenos Aires. The Neuquen Mission is one of 12 missions in Argentina.
Neuquen is known for its great orchards and fresh produce. It is a valley full of pears and apples. Of course fruit is not a main course for any meal, but the traditional Italian influence of pastas, meats and breads. Rice dishes are also a common dish at lunch or dinner. Portions in Argentina are greater than the normal advised serving size.
The water in this mission can be an issue. It’s important to boil the water, purchase purified water or use a filter. Many parasites travel through the water systems, which can cause severe medical issues.
The transportation is limited down in Neuquen because of the size. Route 22 splits through the city. In the city there are more traveling options and a major bus station that travels to other major cities in Argentina and Chile. There is an airport that flies to a few other Argentine provinces, but currently only flies within the country.
Neuquen is a very safe area. Moving throughout the city and the rural areas during the day should not cause any problems. There may be a neighborhood that is better for missionaries to avoid, and the members will help clarify those out. Holidays create reasons and opportunities for drinking. Be extra careful on the streets during these vacation days.
Neuquen is known for its agricultural heritage and “pueblos” or tribes, which were the first settlers in the area. This strong heritage is celebrated through festivals that showcase regional traditions, dances, food and artisan works. These festivals, though customary for the people of Neuquen attract tourists all over.
Bring warm clothes, because of the cold regions, especially during the winter months. Although it doesn’t rain often, it is important to have rain gear for the days and potentially weeks of precipitation.
The mail service is very slow. The distance between Neuquen and larger cities is significantly greater than, highly-populated areas of Argentina. Expect delays. If sending items from the United States, a “flatrate” package is the most efficient method.
Casilla de Correo 321
Straight from the Argentina Neuquèn Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“Peanut butter, tortilla chips, soft tortillas, tampons”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Meat, potatoes, and bread”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Pickled pig skin (I had to try it!!)”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Where the houses were. On my first day my trainer said, “lets knock here” and stopped at a inconspicuous door of what seemed like a huge warehouse-type building. But no! It was an apartment. We “clap” at fences at the front of houses instead of a doorbell or knocker or anything. That was very strange at first…after all that time I had a very loud, strong clapping ability!”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Argentina Neuquèn Mission?
“Just because people do things so differently and live in such a foreign manner to you, they are still the same. Same desires, worries, hopes, and challenges. And one can learn to love any type of people with a full heart.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“That a mission isn’t just a giving experience. The Lord refines you as an individual and molds you into a better person if you let Him. This includes relationships with companions, personal relationship with self, family relationships, and the relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”