Greetings from Aru!
I hope you are enjoying changing colors and falling leaves. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Good news! All six boxes of books have arrived! I am delighted and somewhat surprised that they all made it here. From the postal tags, I can see that they had been sitting in Kampala since the beginning of June. In any case, I am glad that they're here! I'm still expecting a couple of boxes of educational magazines to show up eventually. Thank you again to all who helped with this project!
Sr. Daniella and I have been discussing the idea of beginning a library/reading room to give people access to books and to keep the books safe at the same time. There is some space available in an existing building where we could house the books and start a pilot project. If the people's response shows us that such a library fills a need, we may work to build a new structure to serve as a library. The lack of availability of reading materials here is striking. It seems that most houses and classrooms contain no books, magazines or newspapers.
I am adjusting to life here day by day. Most of the time I live in the fog of partial understanding due to language and cultural issues, new jobs, etc. There are plenty of opportunities to learn.
A typical day begins for me at 5:30 when I get up about the same time as the sun, tie up the mosquito net, take a cold sponge bath and prepare for the day. Mass in Lingala begins at 6:30 at the big parish church next to the mission. At 7:00, the sisters and I eat bread buns with jam and drink tea with milk for breakfast. By 7:30 most of us are on our way to the apostolate/work. For me, that means teaching English at the high school, teaching music and English at the nursery school or working on the VOICA projects.
At 1:00 we have lunch prepared by Papa Joseph on the wood stove. We eat rice, potatoes, beans, cabbage, squash, eggplant, polenta, pasta, and sometimes meat or fish. The conversation is mostly French and Italian with some Lingala and English mixed in. We have passion fruit, bananas, avocados and mandarin oranges for dessert. Try mixing lemon juice with mashed avocado, banana and sugar. You'll find it a bit like ice cream☺
After lunch, some of us take a short break before starting our afternoon work. For me the afternoons usually consist of preparing lessons, developing curriculum or working on VOICA projects. At about 6:00 it gets dark and the sisters have prayer. Sometimes I join them. At 7:15 we have soup, plus food similar to what we had for lunch, for dinner. We do the dishes and enjoy the electricity produced by the big generator by using our computers, watching satellite TV in French or videos in Italian. Sometimes, I get some guitar or flute playing in instead. The electricity goes out about 9:30 and it's time to let down the mosquito net and crawl under the covers.
Apparently, I have some learning to do as far as avoiding mosquitos goes. A week ago, I tested positive for malaria and started the treatment for it. My symptoms have been very mild, a bit of fever and headache. I'm glad we caught it early and hope that the treatment does the trick.
Last Saturday, September 15, the Aru community celebrated fifty years of Canossian missions in Congo. It was quite a party despite the pouring rain. Mass began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 12:00 noon, but we just stayed in the church and sang and danced until 1:00p.m. to avoid getting soaked. It seems that singing and dancing are some of the highlights of Congolese culture. Drums are used a lot and the people often break into three and four-part harmony even at daily Mass. The high school students sing the Congolese national anthem in harmony, too. It's delightful.
I've had a couple of adventure-filled treks across the African countryside lately. In many places, the scenery is marvelously picturesque with green fields of rice, sweet potatoes, peanuts, corn and manioc, palm and banana trees, thatched-roof huts, goats, chickens . The roads range from well-graded and drained dirt roads (on the way to the gold mine) to slippery, pot-holed, flooded roads (on the way to the mission in Ariwara) to single track and grass cover "roads" (on the way to where to cows graze). I really admire our chauffeur. Everyone consistently prays together at the beginning of each journey. I think this is reflective of both the condition of the roads and the people's faith in God.
The internet connection at the convent has been down for about three weeks. I have been able to connect at the internet center across town. I'll try to check my e-mail about once a week.I have tried sending some text messages without much luck. I'll keep trying.
Thank you all for your prayers. I know that they have helped me be at peace as I begin my life here.
You remain in my prayers.