Wednesday, December 30, 2009

As things are beginning to feel more comfortable and less challenging I am realizing that where I am right now in my life is exactly where I want to be. I can see that I am meant to be here. The opportunities to serve the people here are exactly in the areas that I am gifted in. It gives me goose bumps to think that I came here with no expectations and when I arrived here I was presented with so many blessings. Patience really does pay off!
We had two visitors from Rome, Sr. Angela who is in charge of VOICA and Diggy who helps train the volunteers in Rome. And sure of enough they came bearing many gifts, most importantly my back pack with all my clothes as well as a parcel from my family that arrived in Rome the day after I left for Congo. Interestingly enough I realized that when I had “more” things I became more self-absorbed and returned to my old self where I would spend so much time thinking about my appearance. Before when all I had were a few things I was more free of these tendencies and one could say that I was even slightly more joyful. This was a really good lesson for me to learn: that having more does not mean you will be more happy. Living uncomfortably teaches you to be thankful for the little things in life that I have taken for granted, and this does not just mean clothing. I am thankful for my toilet at home that flushes with the push of a handle, a shower that can give me hot water, electricity that is always available as well as internet. But this does not mean I was not thankful for the things that I received. I was especially thankful for a pair of Chaco waterproof sandals since wearing Birkenstocks in the rainy season here is not very enjoyable. I was also thankful to be reunited with my glow in the dark Frisbee which I am excited to put to use here since it gets dark every evening here, as well as 2 volleyballs my mom sent. The volleyballs have been greatly appreciated by the kids here since they have no volleyball. My classes have been successful thus far since the girls are very keen to learn this new sport. I have managed to explain the rules decently in my French and once you explain things then you just need to get them to practice which isn’t so bad, well maybe I am exaggerating; it is difficult to practice volleyball skills with 2 balls and 16 girls, no net and no court just the red African dirt, oh and not to mention when some of the girls show up wearing skirts. The other difficulties teaching young girls in a foreign language is that you are prone to be made fun of. One class of girls kept repeating “comme ca” over and over again until I had to throw a few punches (not literally, don’t worry). 
During the mornings for the past week I have been helping with the handing out of mosquito nets to every family in the town here. This was a good opportunity for me to really see the people of Aru. There was a constant flow of people coming to get their precious nets. This is a really great thing for the people here since Malaria is one of the most common diseases here. These nets were so precious that it caused the apparently friendly natured people here to break out in violence, cheating techniques, lying and bribery. I enjoyed my work here where I was able to practice my French, and especially my counting skills in French.
An exciting adventure that I would love to share with you all is my bus ride to Uganda to the National Wildlife Park with 50 girls from the boarding school here. We were told that the bus would leave at 6:30am and that we should be ready at 6:15am. So of course us obedient (and na├»ve) people were promptly ready at the appropriate time. At 10:15am the bus arrived! When I refer to “African time” it really is above and beyond anything I have experienced. Apparently the bus got held up at the frontier crossing entering Congo. All the kids were just hanging around like this was no a big deal at all, like a natural everyday occurrence. I played a game of basketball with some of the girls while we waited and took some fun photos as well. The girls adore taking pictures of themselves and posing like they’re models, it was really cute. After about 4 hours on the bus listening to 4 Christian African music videos from the 60s on repeat on a fuzzy t.v. screen I was overjoyed when we arrived! The only problem was that we weren’t allowed into the National Park for some reason that my limited French was not able to understand. I think it had something to do with having proper documents and money or something, haha. So….instead we took a “promenade” (what they call a simple walk here), over the Nile River. I was quite disappointed we couldn’t go into the Park because it is one of the best in Uganda where you can see lions, zebras, elephants and giraffes and all the cool animals that you always expect to see in Africa. Us volunteers will go back again I am sure of so it’s not so bad. On our promenade we did see a hippopotamus poke its big nose out of the water a few times. All I managed to see where his nostrils followed by a loud snorting noise. We also saw some huge monkeys climbing in the trees. They were so majestic and moved along the tiny branches so smoothly it was almost like a dance. After our promenade we had a big picnic lunch of goat meat, potatoes, egg and bread. The girls here can eat soooo much! I was amazed! Teenage girls at home are all so conscious about their body image that they are too shy to eat a lot in front of people. I had a lot of fun with the girls just hanging out eating goat meat, sipping some Fanta and having some really deep conversations in French (I wish). Some of the girls finally built up enough courage to touch my hair. Once they touched it they really couldn’t let go and I enjoyed having my hair played with put into some fun hair does. The day was a great experience. The greatest part though was the bus ride home where for the last hour of the bus ride the girls sang their teenage hearts out and shook their musical shakers (not sure the name for them) until my head was throbbing. Despite my massive headache I was amazed by the amount of joy a simple bus ride and walk along the Nile River was for them. They don’t have many opportunities for outings and when they do have an opportunity they take so much joy in it and treasure every moment. I was thinking that if this was a field trip with some Canadian school girls there were have been endless complaining about not being able to see the animals, the length of the journey, the bumpy road (I forgot to mention the roads in Congo which do not deserve to be called roads and have the same motion as clothes going through the washing machine. My head smashed into the window various times), the annoying repetitive music and much more I am sure. What I learnt from this trip is that with little one can be happy and that joy is found when it is shared with others. Relationships are really the most important thing. 
Continuation to come…

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