Tierra Santa in Buenos Aires

Wailing Wall

A couple of weeks ago we went to a Bible based theme park in Buenos Aires called Tierra Santa. A friend mentioned it at church and so we decided to jump on a bus and make a day trip. We were there on opening day for their winter hours this season. That means that they were open earlier in the morning and close earlier than they do in the summer. For us that works out well since we didn’t want to be out too late on public transportation.

Aren't we a cute couple?

When you first arrive you are hooked up with a tour group by going into a manger scene and watching an animatronics rendition of the nativity. Though having live actors would have been much better, this wasn’t bad. There was a dramatic soundtrack with nice music (they ended the program with the Hallelujah Chorus in English). The lights were done in such a way as to draw your attention to where it needed to be at the moment. The theater itself was inside their “Mt. Calvary” so we had to go through a cave entrance to get in.

Our boy as a Roman soldier

That program runs every 15 or 20 minutes. As soon as you walk in the gate you are instructed to form a group to go into the manger program. This funnels all the visitors into groups that get led through the park. We were given an overview of what we would see through the park by our tour guide (dressed as a Franciscan monk). We stayed together as a group for about 30 minutes as he walked us through the streets of Jerusalem and showed us the highlights.

At the end of the tour we were taken in to see another dramatic program which was the scene in the upper room. Again, the program was well done, but I would have preferred live actors.

Our daughter in front of the Bleeding Heart Jesus

After the upper room scene we were given about an hour to eat lunch and free time to explore the park before we were to meet our guide again. Somehow we missed the group and spent the rest of the day wandering around by ourselves. The guide was to take us to one more show as a group before setting us free. We were able to get in on the rest of the shows throughout the park without any problem.

It is not a huge park, but they have maximized their space well. There are something like 35 or 40 different Bible scenes depicted using fiberglass and stucco figures. There were several restaurants which weren’t too badly priced.

Mt. Calvary
Mt. Calvary

It has a Catholic slant on things. So there were some exhibits and teachings that are not in the Bible at all. There were even some things that were taught from an authoritative position that I did not even know were Catholic teaching. So I learned something new about their beliefs.

I just checked the Tierra Santa website and see that the ticket prices have gone up a couple of dollars since we were there a week and a half ago. Currently the cost to get in is $40 Argentine pesos per adult. That is $10 USD.

Christ on the Cross

One of my favorite parts of the tours and shows was listening to the narrator. He spoke with a generic Spanish accent (certainly not an Argentine one). But it seemed like he was probably originally from Spain. Even though there was no definition in his voice, he still spoke with a slight Spanish lithp.

I showed my American pride at one point. Fortunately it was not in front of a group of other people. Just the family knew at the time. There was an exhibit commemorating Martin Luther. I wanted to get over and see that one to see what the Argentines had to say about the man. I was a little surprised to see a short, plump white man in a bath robe. My mind kept thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr. when I read the name on the exhibit map.


Fun With Cell Phones

There is one industry which has consistently been a poor performer as far as customer service is concerned: the cell phone industry. I have had my ups and downs with various providers. Mostly it has nothing to do with the quality of actual cell phone service. The majority of it has to do with the way they treat their customers.

The best cell phone coverage and customer service I have ever had was our cell phones in Mexico. We used Telcel as pre-pay customers and did not have a monthly bill or contract. If you were a casual cell phone user, it was actually cheaper to buy pre-pay credit than to have a contract or a monthly plan. For heavy users it made more sense, but not for anything we ever used the cell phones for. Because we were pre-pay users I never had to deal with their customer service.

My experience in Argentina has been disappointing as far as customer service goes. The actual cell coverage and ability to make phone calls has been as expected, but the customer service has been pretty typical of the industry.

I signed up for a monthly plan in October with Movistar. This is not a contract, so if I decide to drop at any time I am able to do so. They have no hooks in me to make me stick with them. This is the situation in which a cell phone company should bend over backwards to treat their customers right. I have two other major carriers I can sign up with if Movistar does not make me happy.

Since October I got a bill in November the day after they were going to cut off my service for non-payment. Fortunately, they sent me a text message alerting me to the fact that I needed to pay my bill. Since that bill I have not gotten any bills sent to my house. I have only received the text message telling me to pay my bill within 3 days or they will cut off my service. Each month I contact them and ask them to send me a bill to my house. They check the address every time to confirm they have it correct. However, it never arrives.

Last month they said they would send December, January and February bills to me within 15 days. Never arrived. This month they said they will send January, February and March bill to me within 10 days. We will see what happens, but I don’t have much hope. Interestingly, the landlord’s phone bill arrives at our house with the exact same address as our bill. So we know that the problem is not that they cannot find the house to deliver it.

I want to pay my bill. What I don’t want is to be hounded with a text message every month which says that I have to pay within 3 days or they will cut me off. It makes me feel like a bad customer. I use the paper bill as a reminder that the bill is due.

That brings me to yesterday.

I went to the Movistar office to talk with someone face to face. Up to this point I have talked on the phone a few times, but mostly chatted with a customer service rep via Twitter each month I have had a problem. I thought going to the office would give me a chance to see a real person and show them that I am an honest guy who really does want to pay their bill.

The gate keeper at the Movistar office door told me that I could consult my bill on their computer terminal since I have not received a bill in the mail. I told her I was not interested in looking at a computer screen. She then sent me to a receptionist who printed out a copy of my bill. After explaining to him that I was more interested in fixing the problem than just getting a new printout of the bill, he told me to pick up one of the courtesy phones to talk with a representative. I explained to him that I have trouble communicating over the phone since Spanish is not my native language. Even though there are 20 customer service representatives standing around in the same room we were in, they were not able to talk to me because they only deal with signing up for new plans or for changing plans. Their job was not to fix billing problems.

So I took the newly printed bill and asked him what window I needed to visit to pay my bill. He told me I could not pay my bill there at the Movistar office. I had to go to a kiosk around the corner to take care of it.

I spent an hour to go downtown to the office in which the man printed out a bill for me (which I could have done from their website) and then could not pay the bill while I was there. I accomplished nothing in the whole process other than getting my blood pressure up.

I am paid up for another month. But if Movistar cares to keep getting my money each month they are going to have to shape up between now and next month. Argentina has recently implemented number portability. I can walk across the street to another provider and get set up with them. I am sure they would be glad to have my business.

Why I Finally Unsubscribed to Buzz Out Loud

Buzz Out Loud has been one of my favorite podcasts I listen to for various reasons through the years. However, there have been times when I have been frustrated with the show. Today I finally pulled the plug on them.

I became aware of the show when Molly Wood first appeared on TWiT with Leo Laporte in March of 2006. She has an amazing ability to rise to the top of the IQ scale based on who she is in the room with. She easily proves she is the smartest person in the room when she is on TWiT with Leo and the gang. When I found out she was part of a daily tech podcast, I immediately went and subscribed to Buzz Out Loud.

Buzz Out Loud is a technology news program. Their tagline is that they are a “show of indeterminate length.” This comes from the days that they were trying to keep the show to just a few minutes a day. When I started listening, the show was between 15 and 25 minutes consistently. Like most podcasts, the length started getting out of hand. While I did not like the move to 30 minute shows, I stuck with them. I knew that would eventually be part of the reason I would drop the show. With shows now being 45+ minutes, 5 days a week, I can’t keep up with them and still enjoy all the other shows I want to listen to.

While I did not start listening to BOL because of Tom Merritt, I certainly grew to like his thoughts and commentary. I was sad to hear him leaving to join Leo at TWiT full time. Breaking up Tom and Molly from BOL was another nail in the coffin for my continued listening.

Though Molly has been an on-again/off-again host the last couple of years, she has been there enough to keep me listening to BOL. She easily displays her ability to be the smartest person in the room. However, her IQ also drops to just above the level of everyone else. Therefore, if her co-hosts are not very high quality, neither is Molly.

BOL has changed in the 5 years I have been listening (5 years to the month). I know things rarely stay the same. This show is almost nothing like what I started listening to BOL for back then. I wanted tech news that gave me the facts with a little bit of commentary to put it all in perspective. Through the years it has changed to being a few facts about tech news and a lot of commentary. Much more than I want out of a news show.

Then, there is Brian Tong. Everyone has their own personality. I don’t begrudge Brian of that. His just grates on me. And, Molly’s incredible ability to rise or fall to the IQ level necessary to stay just one step above her co-hosts means that BOL is a show that now has more appeal to a 14-year-old listener than one who is 40.

There is too much singing and dancing. Too many sexual innuendos, if not outright bedroom talk, that I no longer feel comfortable listening to the show. The level of goofing around and swearing on the show has gone up tremendously. They are no longer competing to bring the best of the daily tech news. It seems they are trying to appeal to an audience who wants to be entertained. I am not looking for entertainment, I am looking for technology news. That is what I came to expect out of BOL. The entertainment factor has superseded the useful information I am getting from the show.

It is time to close the door on 5 years of Buzz Out Loud. It is hard to believe that a show which has provided so much good information to me through the years has now become irrelevant to me.

Long Trip – Good Fellowship

Saturday I had the opportunity to preach in a deaf church on the other side of Buenos Aires. It only takes about 1.5 hours by private car to get to the church. I was taking a small group of people from our church with me. Those who went with me are interested in deaf ministry and are taking the sign language classes we are teaching. This was a good opportunity for them to see a different type of ministry in that I was going to be preaching in sign language instead of interpreting what someone else said.

Bus #1
We took a bus to get to the bus station. Fortunately, while we left 30 minutes later than I wanted to from the church, we were able to get a bus immediately upon arriving at the bus stop. On Saturdays it sometimes takes 45 minutes or more to catch a bus. We were able to get to the bus station relatively easily.

Bus #2
There was a bit of a wait to get on the main bus that was to take us across town. This was a direct-ish bus from our city to a city about 40 minutes from our final destination. We were going to be on the main highway most of the way. There would still be stops along the side of the road, but we weren’t stopping at every other street corner to pick up and drop off riders.

Just before we got to the highway our radiator sprung a leak. We all had to exit the bus and try to catch whatever bus came along behind us.

Bus #3
The first bus that came by was not going to the right destination. The next bus was going where we wanted, but it wasn’t a direct run. Even though we knew it would be slower, we decided that a “bus in the hand was better than two on the highway” (or something like that). This bus ended up taking much longer than we had hoped. While I buffered in 2 hours of delays into my travel times, each one of the issues that cropped up ate away at all the extra time we had.

We finally got to the town where we were needed to jump on a train to get us close to the church. The train trip was uneventful and took us where we needed to be. The only issue was that it was packed and our group of seven had to split up a bit to find a place to stand. We got to our stop a few minutes after the church service was supposed to start.

Instead of catching our final bus to the church, the pastor came and picked us up. He only has one car, so we weren’t sure how that was going to work. But there was another family visiting the church from another town too who had a car to help us get from the train station to church.

Since none of the congregation had arrived yet, the fact that the pastor left the church to pick us up was not a problem. In fact, after the pastor dropped us off at the church he went and picked up the church folks.

We had a good church service. There were only two Deaf in the service, but we had other hearing visitors. It was a good experience for the people from our church to be there. We also had good fellowship exchanging ideas and goals in the ministry. It was not until 11:00 when we started the trip back home. Thinking that it would take 3 to 5 hours to get home, we were not really excited about the trip. But, the pastor and the visitor from another town graciously offered to give us a ride home. This meant an almost 2 hour drive for them each way. While we would have never asked them to do us this favor, we are glad they offered to take care of us.

Just another reminder that getting around without a car is not impossible, but it sure is inconvenient at times. I don’t miss paying $4 a gallon for gas though. Each time I ride my bike by a gas station I have to think that I have a little more money in my pocket for other needs.

Shocking and Disappointing Revelation

I knew it was time to write a new prayer letter for our supporting churches. While I have tried to maintain a schedule of writing one at the beginning of certain months, or setting reminders in my calendar to help me get a new letter out, these reminders never seem to keep me on schedule. The reality is that I usually just write a letter when I remember it and hope that I remember every 6 to 8 weeks.

This week was one of those weeks I began thinking that it was time to get a new letter in the mail. I went to my ministry website to read my previous letter and see what I wrote so that I can pick up the new letter from there. I was shocked (and saddened) to see that the last time I wrote on the site was back in the middle of November. That was three and a half months ago! Sigh.

I did update the site today with a little snippet of news. I also wrote the first draft to the new prayer letter. I will try to polish it up by Monday and get it in the process of being mailed next week. I need someone who will send me a reminder every so often to help me stay on top of this. Any volunteers?

If you do not get our prayer letter by email, you can go to dpeach.com and sign up using the little box in the right column.