Monday, November 30, 2009

Ciao, Roma

This is my last day in Rome. Tonight at midnight Lydia and I will leave Rome heading towards Aru via Addis Ababa, Kampala, and Arua. We will arrive sometime in the next few days, although it is still undecided if we will be taking the bus across Uganda or the significantly shorter plane ride. Although the estimated time of arrival is unknown, I am excited to start the journey and I will be happy to get there whenever I get there and begin settling into my drastically new and different life.

The last week has been a wonderful ending to Rome. Almost every night of the last week was some kind of feast. On Sunday my parents returned from their travels around central Italy and we feasted American style at the Hard Rock Cafe. I truly enjoyed my delicious American hamburger with onion rings and will miss that food. On Tuesday we held a fiesta with all the fixings kindly donated by some friends who work for the American Embassy to the Vatican. Our fiesta involved lots of quesadillas made with yellow cheese (a rare treat indeed), tacos with American lean beef (most of the cows here are rather on the fatty side), and corn chips and salsa. I am happy to report that the fiestas will continue in Congo with the seasoning packets I just received from the U.S. On Wednesday we were officially sent off with a beautiful mass. Mass was, of course, followed by an Italian pizza feast. On Thursday we celebrated a fantastic Thanksgiving (Part II) and introduced Matteo to the glory of family gluttony. All the traditional foods were presents, although chicken had to step in for difficult to find turkey. We also had to experiment with the green bean casserole since cream of mushroom soup is MIA in Italy. Overall, it was a memorable and lovely Thanksgiving. I am always excited to export Thanksgiving because I think it is such a wonderful holiday- family and food, who could ask for more? On Friday we feasted again on pizza. On Saturday I never wanted to eat again, but still managed to down a tasty panini for lunch and a plate of ravioli for dinner. Although all of our feasting included massive amounts of food, truly it was centered around being with each other. The community here was only improved with my parents being here to share the last week with us. I am so grateful for Sr. Angela, Diggy, Lydia, Trisha, Matteo, my parents, and all the sisters who created an atmosphere of joy and love. Because of these people I leave for Congo full of peace and ready to serve.

The last 2 1/2 months is Rome have been a helpful transition for me. Rome gave me time to reflect and look into myself as I prepare for this service experience. It also allowed me to learn to live in community and in a different culture while still enjoying many of the luxuries of modern life. Rome has been a wonderful formation experience, but I am fully ready to go to Congo and excited that the time is finally at hand. Whenever I leave a place I have been living for a few months I like to reflect on some of the things that I will and will not miss. So first, the things about Rome I will miss:
1. The wonderful community here with Diggy, Matteo, Trish, Sr. Angela, and whatever volunteers and visitors are coming or going
2. Gelato, cannoli, tartufo (chocolate ice cream wrapped in chocolate), and all manner of tasty Italian desserts
3. Italian cooking lessons with the convent cook, Rosa
4. A view of St. Peter's whenever I step outside
5. Stumbling upon ancient ruins on a daily basis

And the things I will not miss:
1. Trash. Rome is the dirtiest city I have lived in
2. Being cold all the time. This house doubles as a meat locker
3. The 982 bus. It's the only one that goes to our street and it's late when you are in a hurry and early when you are late
4. Soaking the floor whenever I shower in the curtain less shower
5. Being confused at the grocery store. This will probably not improve in Congo. Or maybe it will because there aren't any grocery stores at which to get confused.

I don't know when my next post will be, since I d0n't know when I am arriving in Congo. There is a Cyber Cafe in Aru run by VOICA volunteers so I will have access to Internet and will keep you all posted on life in Aru!

I wish you all a belated Happy Thanksgiving!!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hello, Good-bye

I will begin with a math problem:

On Thursday there were 5 volunteers and 2 visitors. On Friday 1 volunteer and 2 visitors left and 1 arrived. On Saturday 2 more volunteers arrived. On Sunday 1 left. On Tuesday 1 arrived. On Wednesday 1 arrived. On Thursday 3 left. How many volunteers are there now?

Sometimes I feel like I live at Grand Central Station. Here's why: volunteers and visitors are constantly coming and going from this house. In the past week so many people have come and gone that I honestly can't keep it straight. Our community fluctuated wildly every day with new people coming, going, and staying. Although this means a lot of work because we have to make and remake beds and clean rooms constantly, not to mention the mental strain of keeping who is coming when and from where strait, it is also fun because it means that I am constantly meeting new people from all different places and hearing about their varied experiences. The past week's transients have included a volunteers returning from West Timor and Congo (from U.S./Malaysia and Hong Kong), visitors from Louisiana (one via Hong Kong), 3 Italians, and a fellow American.

I could go on for some time about all that has transpired since the VOICA house has become a bed and breakfast, but I'll just share a bit. First, Lydia and I got to meet 2 more of our future community members! Clara and Stefano came to visit us from Northern Italy. They will join us in February with Matteo for one year of service. They both work so they were only able to stay for a week, but it was great to meet the people I will be living with for a year. My knowledge of the Italian language also increased as Clara and Stefano's English is a bit shaky and they tend to speak in Italian to each other. This means I've been hearing a lot of Italian and sometimes even understand what is being said (sometimes being maybe for like 5 minutes in the past week). But I have a feeling living with 3 Italians for a year will improve my skills. I have also learned that I talk fast and use a lot of slang. As is turns out, Matteo (whose English is quite good) can understand about 10% of what I say and the others less. So I am now trying to make a concerted effort to speak slowly and with words that are actually in the dictionary. It's hard. We also welcomed Celia back from a month of service in Congo. It was great to see her pictures and hear about her experiences. Meeting the future community and hearing about Celia's service has made me more excited to get to Congo, which is good because I'm leaving in 2 1/2 weeks!!

I will end by giving the answer: 5 (until tomorrow when my parents arrive, then there will be 7, but 4 will leave Sunday, then 2 arrive get the picture)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween: Convent Style and Other News

We all know Halloween as that fanciful holiday at the end of October where little children and often times adults dress up and merrily go about their neighborhoods picking up tasty treats. However, in Italy, Halloween was just another Saturday. We spent the day cleaning the house and doing this and that. I attempted to see the church that contains the body of St. Catherine of Sienna (just her body because her head is in Sienna) although it was closed for unknown reasons. So basically just the same old same old. We were just about to settle in for a Saturday evening movie when Sr. Angela bounced into the room brimming with excitement "You must dress up!! It's Halloween! That's what you do in America (and Canada). Dress up and come up to the convent for treats!!"

Well, okay. We all like treats, so let's go. But what shall we be? Hmmmm. We are in Rome, maybe we should do as the Romans do...we'll just put on a couple of togas and be good to go. So that's what Lydia and I did. We got a couple of sheets out and pulled up some leaves from the garden. She was Nero and I was Julius Cesar. Diggy put a little more effort into making her costume scary with make-up and all and ended up being some kind of psychotic killer person.

After we put on our awesome and carefully thought-out costumes we went up the the convent to trick-or-treat. The sisters kindly invited us in, complemented our costumes (they said we really looked like Roman senators) and fed us oven roasted chestnuts. We also got a little key chain for a treat. It was fun to be able to share our North American holiday with the sisters and enjoy their company as well as some tasty chestnuts.

And now for the news. My ticket for the Congo has been booked! Lydia and I are leaving at midnight on December 1 for Kampala. Once in Kampala we will take a bus up north to Arua where the sisters will meet us and take us across the border to Aru! It's very exciting to have the tickets booked. The time in Rome has gone incredibly fast. I felt like I had so much time at the beginning, and now I only have a few more weeks before I'll be settling into Africa and there is still so much to see and do here.

In other news, we have a new friend here at the VOICA house. Matteo, an Italian who will be volunteering with us in the Congo for one year starting is February, is here for a month of formation. He spent 1 month in Aru this summer with one of VOICA's short term projects, so he didn't have to do the whole 2 month training. He has been able to share some of his experience in Congo, which is helpful as we prepare ourselves for a major lifestyle change. He also cooks!

That's all for now, but the next few weeks will be very busy with seeing the rest of Rome, making preparations for Congo, and enjoying my parents visit!