Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Tomáš was reading my blog the other day and he complained to me that he is not mentioned very much. I told him I would write a special post just for him. So here it is, all about Tomáš. Tomáš is a seminanian from the Czech Republic. As you can see from the picture below from Christmas, he is about 1 foot taller than me. He is also ridiculously skinny. We probably weigh in the same neighborhood despite the foot of height difference. I recently discovered that he is my age. It turns out his birthday was just last week, although he did not bother to tell anyone about it until 2 days after the fact. This was disapointing because he robbed me of an excuse to have cake. We have the exact same sense of humor so I find him to be very funny (except for the not telling us about his birthday joke because I really love cake). In fact, because we so often think of the same joke in a given situation, we have divided jokes into evens and odds- I say even jokes and he says odd jokes. Let’s see, what else is there? He works in the Cyber Cafe all the time, but never talks about it, so I don’t really know what he does all day. He likes to eat three things: potatoes, eggs, and pork. In fact he made potatoes and eggs every time he cooked for himself for the three months prior to Lydia and my’s arrival and still insists on this meal at least once a week. He is very excited to start cooking pork, which will happen as soon as he can find the mythical man that sells what we have been told is “pretty good pork.” The only directions we have to find this mythical man is that he (and his pork) is “la-bas,” which means “there,” but since we don’t know exactly where “there” is, we do not have pork. In truth, Tomáš is not very excited to begin cooking pork, even if we are able to find this mythical man, because he never gets excited about anything. In fact, he claims he has never been excited in his life. Since I've only known the guy for 6 weeks now, I think that basically wraps up all I know about Tomáš. I hope you all (especially you,Tomáš) have enjoyed learning more about Tomáš. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Road Trip!

This past Sunday I experienced my first Congolese road trip. Sr. Daniela, Lydia, and I went to Ariwara, another town about 30 miles away, to visit the community there and check out the sites of the city. 30 miles might not seem like such a significance distance as to designate a road trip, but this relatively short distance took us over two hours. That is because the roads here in Congo are really special. For those of you who have been to Disney World or Disneyland I can descibe the trip like this: think of the dinasaur ride at the Animal Kingdom where you travel back in time to pick up a dinosaur or the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland- both of these rides take place in a big bouncy jeep-like vehicle. Now strip away the darkness and the dinasaurs and Indiana Jones and make the ride last for 2 hours. That is the trip to Ariwara.

When we arrived, dusty and shaken, we were heartily welcomed by the kind sisters at the Ariwara community and shown around the convent. The sister’s there run a “big” hospital that we toured. The hospital is basic with many people crowed into each ward, but it is the biggest in the region and provides the only health care. My favorite part of the hospital was the maternity ward where there were several brand new adorable babies. After the hospital tour we had a tasy lunch of...goat meat! Mmmm. We also had cake!!

After lunch one of the sisters took us to the Ariwara market. Ariwara is bigger than Aru and the market there is huge...they even have almost real stores. They have all sorts of food, clothes, shoes and many other things. The market was fairly quiet since it was Sunday, but even the quiet Sunday market was much bigger than Aru’s daily market. It was enjoyable to stroll around and see the sights, but Ariwara has a different feel than Aru. Aru is small and friendly whereas Ariwara felt much bigger and more stand-offish. I can only imagine what a Safeway will feel like after 2 years! When we returned from the market the sisters insisted that we eat some more cake before leaving.  Which made me very happy because cake is my favorite food and I don't eat enough of it here.  Then it was time to go home so we climbed back in our Indiana Jones mobile and bounced along for 2 hours.  

The drive back was glorious, the sun was setting over the African savannah and I would swear you could see a lion peeking out of the tall grass waking up from his late afternoon nap. Although Ariwara is only 25 miles away, the landscape transitions from the mixed forest-grassland of Aru to to the desert, so the drive offered a variety of breathtaking panoramas. I enjoyed seeing a bit more of the Congo, but I also fully realized how difficult it is to travel in this country. This is such a shame because it’s incredible beauty could be so much more appreciated if it were accessible.  It was a nice treat to get out of Aru and visit another community, although the strain of travel has me looking forward to spending next Sunday at home! 


Enjoy a few pictures!!  I would like to add some pictures of the house and surrounding area soon, but I left my camera in Ariwara for the sisters to use and I only have these Christmas pictures saved. 

The Christmas Eve with Lydia, Diggy, Tomas and Sr. Angela

My Community- Tomas, Lydia and Me

Culinary Delights

Okay, here it is. The number one question that has been on everyone’s mind. What do I eat? 

Rice, beans, pasta, eggplant, avocado, potatoes, bread, peanut butter, and eggs.

That’s it. I hope you have enjoyed this post.  

Okay, we also eat pineapple, magoes, and papaya. But really that’s it. The food here is, shall we say, limited. And so is our ability to cook. Our kitchen consists of a 3 burner camping stove on which we are supposed to make food for 3 (and soon to be 6) people using little more than the above ingredients.  
Our conversations for dinner go something like this:
“What should we make for dinner?”
“Hmmm...maybe (insert potatoes, eggplant or eggs)? And maybe some (insert rice, pasta, or beans)” 
“How should we cook it?”
“We could fry it. Or boil it.”
And so we do.

Cooking here is fun. And eating here is boring. Saying that I am tired of the food after 1 month of a 2 year stay would be a bad sign for the rest of my time, so I’m not going to say that I am tired of the food. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to my feelings towards food. But to suffice it to say that the only time I am moderately excited to eat and moderately satisfied after eating is on Sunday mornings when we break out the JIF peanut butter to put on our bread rather than the local natural peanut butter we have every other day for breakfast. As for lunch and dinner, every day we just eat different combinations of the above ingredients. And there are not that many different combinations of the above ingredients that one can make, especially when it all has to be cooked on the stove top with a rather nasty version of cooking oil.  

Looking over this post I realize it has a bit of a negative spin. There are really many other things available to eat, such as floppy carrots (but my feelings towards floppy carrots deserve their own post) green pepper, spinich, spinich’s bitter younger brothers (which I call non-spinich spinch), squishy tomatoes, green onions, cabbage, and...I think that about exhausts the market. On a positive note the avocados here are AMAZING and we have TWO avocado trees in our yard. Meaning that in a few weeks time, I’ll be eating guacamole everyday with every meal. Which is about as exciting as it gets here. 

Life is cruel. Between the time I wrote this and was able to post it a man came by our house and cut all the branches off the avocado trees. So now we have 2 naked avocado tress and no avocados. Sigh.