Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Slowly slowly life here is beginning to take shape, and when I say slowly slowly I really mean it. It took from Monday until Friday to open the door of my potential clinic. Sister Claire lost the key to this room but found it 5 days later. Sister Daniella, who studied logistics in University in Italy, told me that when time is being wasted, she tells herself not to refer it as “a waste of time,” but of “love and patience.” So everytime I feel that the way things are done here is a poor use of time I just tell myself, no it is love and patience.Things are very different here in Africa. Sister Claire would not do too well in North America as a Nurse. Some days she doesn’t even show up, and the other Sisters have no idea where she is. She runs to the beat of her own drum. During this week when the “key” was trying to be found, I put myself to use in the health centre by dropping bon bons disguised with Vitamins and minerals inside, into little babies mouths. Sister Claire then followed by putting drops of Vitamin E and A into their mouths. She also was in charge of forcing screaming babies mouths open and shoving the medicine down their throats, literally. It was quite a sight. Drool, kicking legs, screams, frothing medicine and one big giant hand of Sister Claire grasped around their jaw bones. Another day I helped sort medicines, and even got to burn expired medications. This was quite an experience. Since there is no such thing as recyling here everything is burned, including medicines. I went with one of the Sisters and she dumped all the packages into a pit then light some grass on fire and threw it in. This was followed by spurratic explosions of the medications so great that they were blowing chunks of dirt up and even catching the nearby grass on fire. I proceeded to point this out to Sister Salome and all she did was laugh. She didn’t think it was dangerous at all, but I think she slowly started to realize that the fire could potentially spread. WOW! I couldn’t get over it. She slowly called over a worker and got him to put it out while she continued to laugh and laugh. Yes, things are different here in Africa. Another morning while waiting for my door to open, Sister Claire asked if I had a camera because she needed photos taken of the creation of a well. So I took my camera with Sister Claire and we spent all morning photographing the construction workers making a well. It was very interesting. Some men just stand around and laugh and makes jokes with each other. There is music coming from a radio close by and the hot hot sun beats upon us all morning and the work of these strong and lean men continues with much teamwork. Women come down to the river source and carry huge gallons of water on their heads and walk over rough earth and uphill which amazes me. They see me in awe and laugh with their beautiful smiles. Slowly slowly the well begins to look more like a well. Another morning while waiting for the “key”, Sister Pascaline took Karen and I on a tour of the farm land and all the property of the Canossian Sisters. The cows here are the saddest and skinniest beasts I have seen. You can see the Uganda border from the property which is pretty cool and in the distance are some rolling hills. On our tour we also passed by the school for the Deaf and Mute of the Township of Aru. This school was a saddening site. All the kids looked so miserable. Many were just staring blankly, others playing with garbage, and not one had a smile on their face. I can understand why because when I entered the school I found that not only do they learn in this classroom but they also sleep there also. There were about 10 cots in the back of the classroom all tightly squeezed together and right next to them were the school desks. These children seemed so segregated from the rest of the town but to the people here they see this school as good. I do see it as good for these children to be educated, but also it seems inhumane to keep them penned up in this boarding school far away from the rest of the town. I asked Sr. Daniella if I could help there in some way, but she said that it is difficult sometimes to offer your help because once you enter a place they want you to give money and support and the Canossian Sisters are already supporting so many different projects. We will see, maybe in the future I can go and visit the kids there and learn some basic sign language.
Most of this week actually hasn’t been so much fun.We are having 2 visitors coming to stay in the VOICA volunteer house which means that two rooms and the whole house needs to be cleaned. Before Karen and I arrived, Tomas our other community member was here by himself, and lets put it nicely, when a single guy is alone in a house he isn’t going to care to make it “tidy.” I have learnt lots in regards to cleaning. I have learnt that you can’t let the insects get the best of you. You need to be stronger than them and you also need to be okay with living with them. I also have learnt that I can only make the house less dirty, not necessarily “clean.” The red dirt is constantly getting into every room and bugs find their way no matter how much you try to get them out of prevent them from getting in. In regards to insects I would like to share with you all my wonderful encounters this week. I am sure you will be thinking, how could Lydia survive this because she is the one is always asking someone to come and get any kind of bug out of her room, isn’t that right Dad?
So here it goes: I found a gecko above my bed, a spider in my shirt while eating lunch, a GIANT scarab beetle in my closet, a jumping insect in my shower, a preying mantis the size of my hand infront of my door, little bugs in my oatmeal, and just the other day I saw a large bird eating the biggests frog I have ever seen in my garden...this was really disgusting. And of course there are spiders which I am slowly beginning to accept and maybe, just maybe will I begin to love them, hahah. 
The food here is good, but it’s nothing special. The vegetables we eat here consist of: eggplants, carrots, tomatoes, beans, cabbage, spinach and just the other day we discovered avocado. The fruits here are amazing: mangoes, papayas, passionfruit, bananas. The main meal consists of either rice, potatoes, pasta or egg. And for all of those who have lived with me it will be to great relief for you all to know that I eat peanut butter on my bread every morning here with bananas. And it is super tasty peanut butter which makes me happy every morning. I have also eaten locusts which was pretty cool. They weren’t too bad at’s all mental. But when Sister Angela began to hold the little locust in her hand and say “les yeux, les yeux” and wiggle the head with the wee little black eyes I decided against going for more. Sister Angela is quite a character. She has the most weathered skin I have ever seen. She is from Italy and is probably in her 70’s. She has Scoliosis and when she found out I was a “Physiotherapist”which I denied many times, she didn’t seem to care and proceeded to tell me all about her pain and her shoulders etc. She is hilarious. If I am walking anywhere in her vicinity she will wave and call me over and ask me what other exercises she can do. I can never escape her, haha, but she is super great!
Since my bag still hasn’t arrived yet I have been borrowing clothes from people here. It’s amazing how when you come with nothing you receive so much and especially here where people really don’t have much. I received a skirt from a young girl around 18 years old named Helene. She used to live in Uganda so her English is very good. My wardrobe is quite an assortment of brightly coloured clothes that are mostly too small or too big for me. The one pair of pants that I wore on the plane are called my skirt-pants because they are like pants but they are ballooning and sort of like a skirt. They are hard to explain, but anyways I wear them a lot because they keep the bugs out and they are breezy. Well my friend Helene tells me that when the people here saw me wearing these skirt-pants they were all laughing at me. Well thanks people of Aru. I thought they were laughing at my accent or the fact that I just was out of place, but no all along they were simply laughing at my skirt-pants. The good thing is that my skirt-pants are scaring away the local boys here. Karen has already been asked my many men to marry her where as me on the other hand have received no such offers. Praise the Lord for my skirt-pants and my height.
On Saturdays Tomas, Karen and I help at the boulangerie, or bakery, in the afternoons. This bakery was started by a past volunteer from Italy who was a baker named Lucca and they call the bread pain de Lucca. It is very tasty and we get it for free every morning for breakfast. It’s quite difficult to calculate prices in Ugandan shillings or Congolese Francs in French and count and multiply in French but I am getting a hang of it slowly. Saturday evening was my first power outage. At the beginning of December the rainy season usually ends but the rain is still sticking around. It rained so hard and the lightning here is the brightest I have ever seen. I feel as though if I looked at it directly it would blind me. So Tomas, Karen and I spent our Saturday night telling stories in the dark. This Sunday I attended my first “fete” for 3 new lay Canossians who are starting their mission with the Canossians. There was lots of good food and CAKE. I haven’t had a sweet desert since Rome so this was nice. The cake was carried in a procession of dancing towards the guest which was pretty cool. Then after eating music of course! It was a lot of fun, although the dance we did was kind of boring. Everyone just kind swung their arms and swayed to the music while going around in a circle for like 10 minutes or more. But when there’s music it seems to get everyone here excited. After my first fete I played basketball with Sister Marie Jean and some of the boarding school girls and Tomas and Karen as well. The basketball court here has been ruined by the rain so it is difficult to dribble the ball. “Carrying,” “traveling,” are not really rules here along with other things which I found interesting in the way they play. It was a lot of fun. We are going to play every Sunday afternoon. 

Annyways, that is all for now! I am at peace here. The Sisters here are really great and our community of volunteers are awesome. I will update my next one soon and hopefully one or two photos. I would also love to hear from you all if you have a chance; it is always great to hear from people

A tout a l'heure



  1. Lydia. I love it! Keep loving life and keeping me posted about it!

  2. haha. glad there are no boys who want to marry you1! lol. your storytelling flows so well and it is sooo funny. how you told about all the insects!! crazy!! take a photo of one.... i can't even imagine.
    love ya lots,