Thursday, December 31, 2009

During the week before Christmas I have been painting the ceiling and walls of the girls who live beside us. I have also started visiting a girl named Mado (Madeleine) who has hydrocephalus. She has the sweetest smile and was overjoyed when Karen and I visited her. My first meeting I massaged her one hand which is really stiff. This really helped because after she was able to open her hand perfectly. Mado is one of 12 kids and is a very intelligent girl. Her Mom was very welcoming and when I first came over she brought out her photo album of her husband’s funeral. He was in charge of the whole territory of Aru and was a great political figure. I didn’t fully understand how he died with my limited French but I got the gist that it was something to do with the war. The Leader of the Congo Army was present at the funeral and there was a huge procession through the streets. All of the children are all in school, 5 of which are all studying in university in Kinshasa the capital. This is quite something here because most kids don’t go to university. 

A few things I have discovered here in Aru: the beer here is awful, when you want to buy a chicken there is no way to buy it dead, when you give a kid a tennis ball he will ask for candy and stalk your house making creepy Gollum voices until you have to give in and the average number of kids in a family is 8. The amount of children here is overwhelming. I especially notice them at Sunday mass when they wander in throughout the mass, oh yes and get in trouble by the Church Sergeant! They wear a boy scout kind of neck tie and patrol during mass to make sure people are behaving. For example it is not uncommon to see The Sergeant with his oval shaped withered head and drooping frown grab a child by his arm and make him stand up or even worse force the innocent child to be removed from his band of rambunctious comrades and stand next to the Sergeant with eyes constantly forward at the alter. Poor children! I would be petrified of this guy if I was them. 

I was also able to help with the malnourished children on the morning of Christmas Eve where I counted pills and gave out bonbons and biscuits. It was quite a sight seeing all the tiny little babies being weighed and measured. They were so cute! The mothers here are all so young and radiant with their babies, coming in with them nestled against their backs with their colourful skirts (they are called panyes here). Unfortunately there is not always joy in their situation especially when it is difficult to get enough food for their families which is reflected in their tiny helpless babies with their skinny legs and bloated stomachs. It was saddening for me. Their mouths just devoured the bonbons they were given as if this little bit of sugar is what will keep them going. 
After seeing this suffering in the mothers faces I experienced complete joy when I went to the Vigil Mass. It was if there were no troubles, no pain, no suffering, no hardships at all but the joy of Christ living in each person there. It was truly inspiring and made my heart rejoice in thanksgiving to our great God who never disappoints.
In regards to the Mass it was something very unique. I don’t think I have ever seen Altar Servers dance around the altar ever in my life and not only dance but dance with rhythm and style and majesty. It was something else! I also have never heard so much screaming, singing, whistling, clapping, dancing, or high pitch shrill noises in a Church in my life. I am pretty sure I was smiling the entire time. Wow! Africans really know how to show their joy for God. They truly put their whole selves into the Liturgy. I think for the taking the collection at mass it takes about 15 minutes because practically every person stands up and processes to the money boxes. It is pretty amazing how giving these people are when they have so little. The mass lasted only 2 and a half hours, I really thought it was going to be 3. Then once the priest left the Church turned into a disco hall; everyone was dancing, singing, playing drums. It was a lot of fun! After mass we went to the Sister’s place where they gave each of us a panye with St. Bakhita on it. St. Bakhita was from Sudan and was a Canossian Sister. She has a really interesting story and I recommend reading about her life if you have a chance. She was taken as a slave when she was a young girl and then finally was freed and of course much more. Of course more dancing was involved in the giving of our gifts which is always fun. Then our volunteer community had a wonderful Christmas dinner together which consisted of: noodles, fried plantane (a type of banana), eggs and potatoes I think. It was all really delicious and for desert chocolate pudding and fruit salad. Oh and I cannot forget to mention our amazing African beer from Uganda! It is probably the worst beer I have ever tasted and it was a sacrifice to try and drink it all. After our delicious meal we had shared our gifts. We decided we would have a “free gift giving” Christmas where you could give a gift if your heart desired it. It was a very simple Christmas but I feel like I received more than I ever have. I would like to describe one of my gifts I received from Tomas the other volunteer in our community here. It was a Skippy peanut butter jar filled with water, banana peels and old tea bags and then inside was plastic bag. The smell was absolutely awful and so I had to open it up outside. Tomas told me that I needed to open up the bag and so I proceeded in opening up the plastic bag to find toilet paper wrapped with layers and layers of Scotch tape only to find 2 more bags and more scotch tape, until finally in the last bag did I discover a little carved turtle. It was the most creative gift and it reminded me of something my Dad would give me. Tomas has his own unique sense of humour and his way of giving is not the common superficial way of doing things. Karen also got a carved turtle which was wrapped in the skin of an avocado so now all 3 of us have our own turtles to form a “community.”
I will continue later…I wish everyone a very blessed Christmas season and of course many wishes for the New Year! 

1 comment:

  1. Lyds. Everytime I read your blog my heart soars. I always cry at least once. I am so joyful that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It makes me want to pack up and go there after this year is done.

    Love you so much. I miss you tons and can hear your very voice reading this blog to me.

    Love you,
    Laura H.