Monday, December 7, 2009

Well here I am in the village of Aru and am truly happy. I am surrounded by colour, people full of life and beautiful scenary. The people here are full of joy. When I arrived I was embraced by a herd of boarding school girls who gave me 3 kisses on the cheek and began to laugh at me because of how tall I was. They were practically at my chest which added to more laughter. Then when I arrived at the volunteer house 4 girls who live in a hostel right behind the house greeted us in song and dance and drums of course. The word Karibu means welcome in Lingala and was the only word I heard all day from everyone I met. I felt very much a part of a great community. The children greet me with handshakes and say bonjour with the sweetest little voices. The young girls seem to giggle a lot whenever I try to speak French with them, maybe they are laughing at my accent. The common greeting here is to say either bonjour or bonsoir followed by comment ca va. It is easy to feel welcomed here with these people. The Sisters here are very hospitable and I feel as though I have 10 mothers here. I am told that if I dont eat, Africa will eat you, that I need to make sure I have my hat on wherever I go, and of course that I need to get good sleep. Sister Daniela is in charge of the volunteers and is the youngest Sister here with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and youthful spirit. She has so many projects and goals for the community and she actually starts them and sets goals which is really inspiring. As for me in light of these projects Sister Daniela has in mind, I have been appointed to work as an official Physiotherapist. No matter how many times I tell Sister that I am not an official Physiotherapist, it doesnt really matter here because I am already qualified for African standards. So, I am going to be having my own clinic! I cant believe this! I was hoping I would be able to use my skills and knowledge here, but not to this extent. Sister Claire, who is the head Nurse, told me that I will have lots of opportunities to work with paralyzed children, doing massage and of course many people who have difficulties walking. I am so excited about this. Sister Claire even wrote out a list of all the supplies that I would need for my clinic and will get them all for me. I am still a little bit in awe of this. And this is not all, I am also going to be able to teach sports to the kids in the afternoons and set up a volleyball court. Also, Sister Daniela has in mind to create a mini Olympics where all the classes and schools will compete together and form teams and she wants me to organize it. This also makes me very excited for my adventure here in Aru. I couldnt have asked for any other better projects than these which are my 2 passions. Oh, and also there is a youth centre and library that can be painted creatively which Sister Daniela also asked me to help with. I am excited to see these projects unfold and the beauty that will come forth from them. 
There truly is much beauty here in Aru. The Eucyliptus trees blowing in the wind, the smell of Gloria flowers, the sound of crickets and fluttering butterflies, and the distant rhythm of the drum. I wake up to the sound of the beating drum and either fall asleep to the sound of crickets or rain bouncing off the tin roof. Lightning flashes brighly across the night sky frequently here and it reminds me that I truly am in the Congo, which has the most lighting storms in the world. The stars here glitter so brightly that they almost look unreal. The constellations jump out and stun you as you crank your neck all the way back to absorb their entirity. I truly am in a different world here. For one, I have seen more insects in 1 day than I have in my entire life. To wear a watch here is not considered a good thing. What I considered to be corn rows, or African style braiding is far beyond this. Hair can be braided in the most elaborate patterns I have ever seen. The Congolese traditional hair style for women looks like antennas sticking off their heads. I am astounded by the way women can carry kilos and kilos of wood, coal, fruits, vegetables and much more on their heads. I am surprised to see more cars here than I thought I would. Also the roads here in Congo are non-existent. When leaving the roads of Uganda all of a sudden they completely disappear into a washboard road of red earth. Karen and I took our first bike ride today after much effort. We found one bike that was functional, and then found another one which needed alot of work. We took off one brake pad since it was actually keeping the tire from spinning. Then after this we had to pump both tires and the find an appropriate wrench to change the height of the seat. Finally we managed to venture out on our first bike ride with one squeky bike and the other without any brakes at all. It was a lot of fun! First I almost got hit by a car because my feet werent fast enough the stop my bike. Second, my front tire slipped on a garbage bag on the dirt road and I fell of my bike. And third, we managed to take the wrong dirt road and then encountered some little boys whose only English words consisted of I will kill you. It was a really great way to see other parts of Aru and pass by different huts, and shops and see different landscapes. I am excited to be able to bike around and get places.  
My first Sunday mass here in Aru was very different. The mass lasted almost 2 hours and was so full of people that there were people outside with chairs. The music during the mass is so joyful and everyone sings along and claps and sways. I wish I could speak Lingala though so I could sing a long. I wore my first African skirt to mass which kept coming loose during the mass which made me feel even more out of place. At the end of the mass, the chief head of police for all of DRC spoke to the congregation saying how he is proud to be Catholic and that if he could be anywhere to share this, it would be Aru.
I have made friends so far with one of the girls at the hostel who studies under the light of the volunteer house. I shared a Haribo candy and gave her a skirt which she really really appreciated. I also made friends with 3 mothers who saw me painting. We got talking of course and they wanted to know how I got my curly hair the way it is. I told them it is natural but that I put a little hair gel in. Then they immediately wanted this hair gel so we walked together to my house and I gave them my bottle. Their hair though was the traditional Congolese hair style that looks like antennas and I was in awe of it as well. One of the girls is 24 and has 2 little babies, which were cuddled against her back the way the do here. 
So far everything is very enjoyable here, except for the fact that I have seen more insects here than in my entire life. I am not much of an insect lover so it has been a little challenging. I hope to keep you all updated as much as I can. I will upload a few photos soon. 
Greetings to you all!!!

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