Natalia’s Bocaditos

Bocaditos translates to “little bites.” My friend Natalia makes this ridiculously easy fifteen-minute dish.



One small tomato
4 large lettuce leaves
Half of one large bell pepper
Half of one medium onion
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 lemon wedges or some lemon juice


Finely chop the tomato, lettuce leaves, pepper, and onion. (Oh man, the bell peppers in Argentina were so huge and juicy, and the produce was so fresh and cheap, sold in verdulerías every few blocks. Sigh.)


Throw everything into a bowl and beat in three eggs.


Stir in the salt and pepper.


And the flour.


The eggs and the juice from the tomatoes should mix with the flour to form a consistency like runny pancake batter.


Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on medium heat. (In Argentina, everything is fried in heavy quantities of vegetable oil. But I prefer olive oil, for obvious reasons.)

Once the oil is hot, drop in spoonfuls of the vegetable/batter mixture.


Once they are golden brown underneath (after about 2-3 minutes), flip them with a spatula.


Once the bocaditos are cooked on both sides, drain them on paper towels. Continue frying all the mixture, adding another tablespoon of oil when the oil in the pan runs out.


Once cooked, serve the bocaditos over rice and squeeze a little lemon juice over them.

As we say in Argentina, ¡Buen provecho!


And now a little of Natalia’s story.

I met Natalia on my very first night in Argentina. It was twilight, and she was sitting on the front porch of her house, which was perched on the very edge of respectability and safety; another kilometer down the road and it would have been part of the abajo, the part below.

(All dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods in Argentina are down in the river bottoms, and the houses flood every August and September in the springtime. Only the middle class and the wealthy can afford to live on higher ground. The casitas del gobierno, tiny cinderblock two-room houses issued by the government, are usually built right by the river, on the poorest cheapest land.)

But Natalia’s house was nice enough: it was painted pretty pale yellow, and inside it had a real tile floor, not just rough concrete like in the casitas. There was a spacious front room where Natalia ran a kiosco, a little store. The front door was always propped open to the women and children (and sometimes men) who stopped in to buy candy, cooking oil, diapers, maxi pads, and other sundry items that Natalia stocked. I was to learn that this was customary: the fourth or fifth family on any given street in Arentina operated a kiosco out of their front room. The hours of these little businesses were always irregular, but one thing was certain: all kioscos would be closed from about one o’clock to five o’clock, when the entire country shut down so that people could eat, nap, watch fútbol on TV, or whatever else they did during siesta.

The night that we met Natalia sitting on the porch in front of her kiosco, she told us through tears of her current situation. She had a ten-year-old son with a man named Marcelo. Marcelo didn’t value Natalia enough to marry her, and he could always be seen with other women. But even though he was toxic to her, Natalia had been seeing him off and on for the last ten years. The most recent drama was that she had let him back into her house for a few days, and now she was pregnant again with his child.

It seemed so obvious to me that Marcelo wasn’t worth his salt and Natalia didn’t need him, but over the next year and a half I was to learn that her situation was far too common. Too many Argentine women were, paradoxically, the strongest and weakest people I knew. Having babies in their teens, leaning on their own mothers for support, they were determined to “salir adelante,” to come out ahead and give a good life and a good education to their children. They worked tirelessly running kioscos, sewing soccer balls, baking and selling pizzas. With the money they earned, they kept their children fed and clothed and they built their own houses out of cinderblock and concrete, adding on rooms as they could afford them. They were superwomen.

But when it came to men, they were absolutely helpless. From the fathes of their babies, or from new lovers, they bore patiently laziness, drunkenness, battering, and infidelity. But these women would not leave their men; or if they did, it was only temporarily. They were strong and determined in taking care of their children, but in standing up for themselves they were powerless.

As we visited Natalia over the next month, she seemed stronger than the crying, confused woman I had met on the concrete steps that first night. She was full of hope for the new baby to be born. I was optimistic that this baby might be just what she needed to break free from the unhappy cycle she had been in for the last ten years.

After only five weeks in Córdoba, I was sent out to a little town in the country for about five months. When I moved back to my old neighborhood in Córdoba, I was determined to visit Natalia and make sure she was okay. But she wouldn’t open her door to us.

We did, however, run into Marcelo one day in downtown Córdoba. He was arm in arm with another woman, and he pretended not to see us.

From neighborhood gossip I learned that Natalia’s baby was to be born within just a few weeks. The ladies of our church congregation were busy arming a giant gift basket filled with diapers and baby clothes. They would deliver it to Natalia when the baby was born, along with a few freezer meals she could use as she needed them.

Finally the baby arrived. The church ladies couldn’t wait to present Natalia with the gift. But when they went to the yellow house, it was Marcelo who opened the door.

He had moved in a couple months before when he was needing a place to live, it turned out, and he was still living there when Natalia had her baby. In typical Marcelo fashion, he was none too friendly. But the women did manage to ask him how Natalia was doing, and what she had named her baby, before Marcelo shut the door in their faces.

I was anxiously awaiting news of Natalia. After their visit, the ladies of the congregation relayed to me the news that the baby was a boy. And Natalia had given her new son the name Marcelo, after his father.


God is still a god of miracles.

December 5, 2011

God is still a god of miracles. I know that because I left General Paz
with a lot of tears–a lot of bittersweet tears, sad to leave members
I loved like family not knowing when I would see them again, and also
sad about Patricia. Patricia, our dearly beloved investigator, hadn’t
arrived at her baptismal date because of a lot of complications and
her inability to quit smoking. The whole thing went up in flames
literally an hour before her scheduled baptismal service–the font was
filled and everything.

So I went to Rosedal, another barrio on the other side of Cordoba, to
work with another hermana for about ten days while we waited for our
hijitas to arrive from the U.S. (they had been delayed because of visa
problems). Near the end of the ten days, I got a call from my old zone
leaders. “We have good news,” they told me. “Patricia quit smoking and
we interviewed her today–she’s ready to be baptized. Will you
organize her baptism?”

So from the other side of Cordoba I flew into action, baking brownies
and calling the members and planning the talks and the service.
Although it was thrown together in about twenty-four hours, it was one
of the most beautiful baptismal services I’ve been part of, mostly
because of the look of pure bliss on Patricia’s face.

A few short hours after Patricia’s baptism, I picked up my new
recruit, Hermana Vicki Adair from Mesa, Arizona, at the mission home.
We boarded a midnight bus to Catamarca, about seven hours to the
north. We arrived in Catamarca on Sunday morning and hit the ground
running. We are opening an area in Catamarca, and we are the first
hermanas here in almost twenty years. Add to the mix the fact that my
compañera was brand-new from the U.S. and spoke little Spanish, and it
made for a few…character-building weeks. 🙂 We’ve gotten lost in our
area a lot and we’ve been so exhausted by the long dusty days and the
Catamarca desert heat.

But the Lord has been really kind to us, and we’ve been able to find
some truly elect people here in Catamarca. One such is Norma, who knew
that Joseph Smith was a prophet the first time she prayed and is so
determined to get baptized that she is in the process of separating
from her live-in boyfriend of eight years to be able to do so.
Francisco and Silvina are two others who we surely knew in the life
before. We first talked to them one windy afternoon outside their tiny
cinder-block house up in the cactus-covered hills; they let us come in
that very moment and we instantly fell in love with their young

I see the Lord’s hand in my life; and I know that the difficult times
will only help me to become more like him. I feel such a profound love
for these people. I know that they are my spirit brothers and sisters
and that before this life I made a covenant with the Lord that during
my mortal life I would do his work, missionary work, the work of
bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His spirit
children. I want to keep doing this work for the rest of my life.

Kicking it in Rosedal

November 7, 2011

Until my hijita arrives and I go to Catamarca, I am kicking it in Rosedal (okay, we are working hard) with Hna Frias. She is from Salta, so today we got a bunch of the elders together and she showed us all how to make empanadas salteñas. Last week, to say goodbye to the Flia Juarez in General Paz, Norma Juarez also showed us how to make empanadas salteñas (because she is also from Salta). So basically what I am trying to say is that, with two rounds of practice, with real salteñas to teach me, I am pro. Both Hna Frias and Norma insisted that real salteñas didn’t have olives or raisins, but did have lots of beef, boiled egg, onion, green onion, cumin, and garlic. But I still like the best the salteñas/bolivianas border empanadas the best, with raisins and olives. In Argentina every province has their own kind of empanadas, with slight variations (more onion, or with raisins or without, sweet or spicy, etc.). And they’re all really proud of their empanadas, and they get really mad if someone tries to alter them (put carrots in empanadas salteñas, for instance). But when I go home I’m just going to make the empanadas with whatever stuff I like, ha ha. And I’m excited to try what empanadas catamarceñas are like when I head up north. 🙂

I really sincerely enjoyed my last few weeks in General Paz. Maybe my spirit knew before my brain did that it was almost time for me to leave, because it was like I was drinking in and enjoying everything. All my senses were heightened. The rain-soaked grass down in the villa was more brilliantly green; the crazy people were crazier, and the kind people were even kinder; Hermana Farah’s cooking was even better, and I was really so happy to be there.

I cried and cried and cried to say goodbye to Sonia, to Hna Farah, to her daughter Karina, and most of all to Nora Peralta. But I promised them all that we would see each other again, when they dedicated the temple of Cordoba.

Funny story: there is this crazy woman named Mariana who shows up to church in General Paz about every other domingo. She says the most ridiculous things and interrupts the spirit of the class and everyone tries to be nice to her even though she’s literally mentally ill and should probably be in some kind of institution. Anyway, Hna Chehda was giving the class in Relief Society; Mariana was there; and out of the blue she interrupts the class and shouts out, “¡Los Testigos de Jehova se van al infierno!” (All the Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to hell!). I almost died trying not to laugh, while Hna Chehda tried to go on with her class, and while Hna Farah, who was a Jehovah’s Witness for years before she got baptized, actually did lose it and bust up laughing. Good times.

I love you guys. I miss you a lot. I can’t believe that in less than SEVEN MONTHS I’ll be home with you! But in the meantime I am enjoying the craziness and Cordoba and soon Catamarca too.

Dallin’s Despedida

The most spiritual and awesome moment I have had in General Paz so far came in week 1 when the bishop of Puerreydon (the other ward we share the capilla with) called us and asked us what we were doing that night and invited us to the despedida (farewell) of his son, Angel or Dallin, who was about to leave for his mission in Buenos Aires Oeste. He told us that many of Dallin´s friends from school, members and nonmenbers alike, would be there in the capilla, and many lived in the boundaries of our area. Naturally we jumped on the opportunity–so many nonmenbers in the capilla! We were stoked.

That night we arrived at the chapel at 8:30. We were already exhausted from a long day of proselyting, but we knew that it was an opportunity that we couldn´t miss. Everyone was standing around, mingling, and I was trying to figure out which kids were the youth of Puerreydon and which ones were the nonmember friends from school (all the Gral Paz youth were there too, but I know all of them, thank goodness!). After asking around some, we realized that all of Dallin´s nonmember friends were chilling outside the church at the front gate. So we went out to find them.

When we went outside, there was a group of more than ten eighteen-year-old kids standing at the gate, talking amongst themselves. It was obvious that they were a tough group of kids, too cool to come inside the church, doing their own thing. My first reaction was to be intimidated–I´d been proselyting in the dusty street all day and didn´t have a hairdo, and I was just a nerdy sister missionary from the Estados Unidos–what was I going to say to these hardened, fashionably-dressed, porro-smoking kids?

And then in an instant I thought of the FHE with the Bogeros, how when we started the FHE you could slice the tension in the room with a knife, and how by the end everyone–kids, parents, and Rosita–were laughing and playing the Lamanite game with tape all over their faces. I thought of all the houses I had marched into and called repentance to men, women, and children–and they had listened. I thought about how Hermana Masters said, “You know what´s cool? After the mission, after surviving all these awkward situations and building all these relationships with all these difficult people and doing everything we do–we won´t ever have to be intimidated of anyone ever again in our lives.” And I thought most of all, I have a placa with Jesus Christ´s name on my chest. I don´t have to be afraid of anyone ever again.

So I squared my shoulders, stood a little taller, and marched over to the group of jovenes, and learned all their names. And introduced myself. And joked and laughed and talked with them until everyone felt at ease. And talked to them about what they liked to do, what their life plans were. And a half hour later we were all still standing there, laughing and joking. And I said, “So you guys know that Dallin is moving to Buenos Aires for two years to be a missionary, to share with people about Jesus Christ. He´ll be a missionary and wear a placa like this one. And my companion and I are doing the same thing here in the barrio that Dallin will be doing there. We share about God and Jesus Christ with the people, about how they have a plan for each one of us. Can we take down your addresses to go and visit you in your houses share more about the gospel with you?”

And they all said yes. Every single one. We got the datos of nine eighteen-year-olds interested in learning about the gospel, who already had a friend who was a member. It was a miracle. But it didn´t stop there.

At about nine o´clock we all passed inside the chapel and the service began. It was a brilliant idea of Dallin´s dad, Obispo Peralta–he had contacted all of the ward and all Dallin´s friends and all the family and invited them, but Dallin didn´t know–it was a surprise. So Dallin thought he was coming to the capilla for a final interview with Pte Chehda nada mas. So we all took our seats in the chapel, and Obispo Peralta welcomed us and then they turned off the lights and waited in perfect silence for three long minutes. Then Pte Chehda led Dallin into the chapel and I think there was a song by The Fray playing in the background (Dallin is a sick talented musician, singing and playing the guitar–music is his life and I think the song had some significance) and then they flipped on the lights and Dallin saw that everyone–everyone–was gathered there. All his friends from school, all the young men and young women he had grown up with, all the members from Barrio Puerreydon and General Paz, all his immediate and extended family, us, the elders, everyone. Oh man, I´m getting chills just writing about it because the feeling of absolute love in the room was so strong. Dallin just kept shaking his head, like he couldn´t believe it was real.

And we sang an opening hymn and had an opening prayer, and Bishop Peralta (Dallin´s dad) conducted the service and it began by his mom sharing her testimony. Then Dallin´s dad. I couldn´t help but admire them, their fortaleza, their strength–I know that this last year can´t have been easy for them. Their 17-year-old daughter Claudia, the president of all her Young Women classes, the “ejemplo de todos,” always leading out the other young women in Personal Progress and always accompanying the missionaries, had gotten pregnant and was not too far off from having her baby. And all the regular pressures of being a bishop in a struggling ward of only 50 active members–I imagine that the moment was very bittersweet for them, with all the hopes for Dallin and his future mission, and knowing that Claudia´s hopes for her mission could never be realized. But nonetheless they were there, boldly delcaring their testimonies of the gospel and sacrifice and missionary work, lifting the rest of us up with their testimonies. I honestly don´t remember what they said, but I remember that I felt the Spirit so strongly and more than anything felt the pure love of Christ. I felt and knew that I was in the right place, in that moment, where the Lord wanted me to be. I knew that he loved us all and had a plan for each of us. And I knew that missionary work was the Lord´s work and the greatest thing I could be doing with my life right now, the greatest thing that Dallin or any nineteen-to-twenty-five-year-old boy could be doing with his life.

Finally Dallin bore his testimony. He directed his remarks mostly to his friends from school, his non-member friends. He thanked them for their examples and for helping him be the person that he was, for being understanding and supportive of his living church standards. He talked about how much he would miss everyone. I looked over and saw that all of his friends were weeping with emotion (okay, we all were).

We finished the meeting by singing “Called to Serve.” All four verses (because Spanish is so much cooler than English so we get four verses of Called to Serve).

I felt so privileged to have been a part of that special moment, so blessed to have been able to feel of the Spirit and love that was present that night. After the service, everyone passed into the cultural hall for comida and a baile (dance), and everyone talked and mingled and hung out. I copied down the direction of one more joven who was a friend of Dallin´s. “Pero pasen!” he said. “Make sure you come!”

I am so grateful that Bishop Peralta thought to invite us to be a part of that evening, and to make Dallin´s despedida a missionary opportunity for his friends. I am so grateful for the Savior, and for Heavenly Father. I know that they love each one of us with an infinite love. A few special times in my life I have been able to feel a piece of that inifnite love. That night in the chapel was one of those times. That love is the reason we do missionary work. I know that this is the Lord´s work–going after the Lord´s sheep. I had to leave the ninety and nine that I loved at home to go after the lost sheep in Argentina. I am SO GRATEFUL to be a part of this work!

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Another Update

I hope you all watched conference and especially the part in the Saturday morning session when they talked about the saints in Cordoba, Argentina! Logan, way to rock the priesthood session. I thought it was cool that Orson F. Whitney was quoted several times. Conference here was a great experience–on Saturday there was no transportation so we caught this city bus with our recent convert Veronica and spent about an hour riding on the bus and then running through the streets of Cordoba to make it to our stake center on time. Sunday was even better–everyone from our little ward piled onto this rickety old bus and we all drove together to conference; then in between sessions all the families were drinking mate and eating their picnic lunches (of sandwich de miga, mostly) and then during the afternoon session there was this ridiculous rain storm and the satellite went out. It was a great time. And the messages were all good too, ha ha.

As a missionary I see miracles every day, and it helps me to know that we are all in the Lord´s hands. Several weeks ago we were teaching Veronica and I noticed that she seemed really upset. I asked, ¨Veronica, is everything okay?¨and she explained that because she had been out of work for nearly three months after being laid off from her job as a hospital waitress, she and her mom were going to be evicted from the house where she lived. She asked why we had to go through such difficult things in this life. I thought really hard for a moment and then told her about the promises that the Lord gives in Isaiah 58–that he is bound to answer our prayers when we pray in fast in faith. We planned to fast all together and I promised her in the name of the Lord that something would come up (intimidating!). Then we all fasted and held our breath, ha ha.

Then a few days ago we were going to teach a new investigator and we asked Veronica to accompany us to the lesson. But our cita (appointment) before went really late–we were 45 minutes late to meet up with Veronica and teach the other woman! When we finally got to the cita, the woman was their with her consuegra (the other grandma of her grandbaby) and wasn´t sure if she could attend us because she had company, but decided to anyway. We had a great lesson with them, and after the lesson we were all talking and the consuegra, Gloria, just happened to start talking about the hospital where her daughter-in-law worked. It turned out that the hospital was hiring waitresses! So Gloria gave Veronica her daughter´s name and the information she needed to inquire about the position. What if we had been on time to that appointment? Gloria might not have been there! What if we hadn´t brought Veronica with us to teach? She might not have heard about the job! And we had another lesson with Gloria and she committed to be baptized later this month!

Another miracle was with the family Peralta. They are this awesome family we taught but then weren´t able to find after that–whenever we went over they wouldn´t answer the door and we were afraid that the testigos de Jehovah had gotten to them or something weird like that. But one day we went to eat lunch at a member´s house but the member family forgot so we were walking back to the pension to cook something. We just happened to run into…Roberto Peralta! He told us that they would like to meet with us again and that his wife had been very sick. So we were able to get in contact with the Peraltas again thanks to our canceled lunch.

And one of the coolest investigators we have right now is Sol. We contacted her on the street–she had funky pretty tattooes on each arm and her shirt off her shoulders and a don´t-mess-with-me look in her eye. She said that she wasn´t sure whether or not she believed in God, but it was funny how she talked about life having a purpose, using the same words I often use in contacting: ¨Life has a purpose; we´re not just here to be born, work, sleep, eat, and die.¨ When I testified to her that the purpose of life was to become like Heavenly Father, the Spirit bore witness that that was true. And it changed her–she no longer had that hard look in her eye, and she was more receptive. We told her that she could pray to know these things for herself because God was her loving Heavenly Father who knew and loved her perfectly. ¨Voy a probarlo,¨ she said (I´m going to try it), beforewe had even invited her to pray. Ï´m going to try it tonight.¨ Then she volunteered her address, ¨so that you can come back and see how it went.¨ What!

Our second lesson with Sol was just as powerful. We asked her how her prayer went. She said that the first time she prayed it had been pouring rain and she said, ¨God, if you´re there and you´re listening to my prayer, stop the rain,¨ and instantly the rain went from a downpour to a drizzle–it nearly stopped. She told us she had been praying every day since then. Then she had all kinds of questions, from everything to tattooes to the law of chastity. But the best part was when we gave her a Book of Mormon. Her eyes got all big and she held it close to her like it were some kind of treasure (it is, of course), and she asked, ¨Where do I start?¨ I know that she will get baptized because she has such a desire to know and because she acts upon what she is given.

Other random things about Argentina/my life in Argentina:

I wash all my laundry in a bucket.

Theft is a huge problem here. All the missionaries have been robbed at one point or another. It is not uncommon that we´ll lose contact with an investigator or member only to find out the next week that their cell phone was robbed. Robbery is common during the day, during the siesta when there aren´t many people out on the street. The first robbery I witnessed here was a couple weeks ago. We heard this woman screaming and then we got closer and saw two young men speeding away on a moto with a handbag. When we got to where the woman was she was crying and bleeding all over the street from where her arm had been cut in the struggle. She was in her fifties or sixties, Grandma age! So needless to say, we only carry a few pamphlets and a Book of Mormon to give away when we´re proselyting. Too many missionaries have had their precious mission scriptures stolen. Also, because of theft and lack of space, everyone here keeps their dogs on their roofs. It´s kind of funny.

So I told you about the cockroach in the canelone incident. But it gets grosser. My companion got lice (lots of people have lice here, and we have to saludar everyone with besitos), and we´ve had to comb through her scalp several times to try to get them out. And we found these little parasitic worms in our shower. Eew!

I helped out with one flier for a ward activity and now everyone–Young Single Adults, the Elders´ Quorum president–asks me to draw fliers for activities. I´m happy to oblige them during my personal time because it feeds my creative soul.

Argentina´s government is really inefficient, so it makes missionary work difficult. No one can get baptized until they get married. Getting married is an ordeal because you have to show up at 6:00 AM at a government office and sacar turno, or draw a ticket, to get married. But if you´re waiting for a dirvorce from a previous marriage, forget about it. Several families we are working with have been waiting for divorces for YEARS to get married. One man we are working with, Gerardo, has been waiting for seven years!

I make my companion wake up at 6:00 to go running with me in the mornings. I wanted to go every day but we have compromised on three times a week. We live down the street from an awesome bakery so sometimes we grab fresh pastries on our way back from our run. Yummy breakfast.

I feel like I died and went to food heaven. I have eaten the best croissants, pastries, and Italian pizza (Napolitana style) I´ve ever eaten in my life. And I am learning to like French fries, believe it or not (I´ve eaten them three times since I got here!).

I saw my first real Cordoba rain storm. Oh my goodness! It was like buckets poured from the sky! And the streets all turned to rivers!

I love you all and I hope you are well. I think of you, pray for you, miss you every day.