What is life like in Aru? What is it that I do everyday? Well, in truth, each day’s schedule is unique, but I have attempted to provide a rough outline of my daily activities.
6:30am- Mass. But really mass begins at 6:25 or 6:20, in fact, I think it is the only thing on the entire continent that starts earlier than it is supposed to. So I aim to be there at 6:23 so that I am usually right on time, although sometimes I am a bit early and sometimes I am a bit late
After mass- Breakfast. Our daily menu is bread with peanut butter and tea. However, since a recent shopping trip to Arua and the arrival of the Italians, we have been offering an expanded menu that includes jam, nutella, and honey with bread.
After breakfast- this is where the daily schedule really starts to fall apart. 2 or 3 mornings a week I work at the library cataloging French books. But in reality I only spend maybe one morning at the library because it takes me forever to prepare for every class I teach and teaching preparation time consumes library time. All my morning classes are at Adia Lemi, the girls’ school where I teach the first form for 6 hours a week. Sometimes I take tea with the teachers before or after class. The rest of the morning in spent on preparing for class. Saturday is my day to cook lunch and be at home doing whatever household tasks need to be done during the morning.
Lunch- We eat lunch more or less as a community, depending on work schedules. Someone or other does the dishes.
After lunch- Ideally, this is siesta time. But some days I have to go teach directly after lunch. I like nap days more than go-to-class-right-away days. On Wednesdays we have French class for an hour, which really cuts into nap time, but is also proving to be vital for communication here. All my afternoon classes are at Aiti where I teach the 4th and 6th form for nine hours a week. Friday afternoon is our community afternoon where we usually sit around trying to decide on a community activity until Sr. Daniela comes at 4:30 for formation.
After teaching- I do this or that until dinner time. If it is Saturday, I cook dinner. Other days I watch or maybe even help the person cooking dinner. On Wednesdays we join the St. Michael community of sisters for evening prayer and dinner.
After dinner- Community prayer time and then hang out- reading, movie watching, games, and enjoying each other’s company until far into the night. Far into the night being around 9:30 here. Sometimes on Saturday nights we stay up really late, maybe even to 10:30!
10:00- Lights out (unless they have already gone out because we ran out of solar power, in which case it’s just get into bed time)
Sundays, or the weekend (although I am not sure that one day qualifies as a weekend) I sleep into the slothful hour of 9am. Mass is at 10am and lasts for approximately 1 ½ hours. In the old days, we ate lunch with the sisters, but our new, expanded community will be eating at Chez VOICA. This means one person is obliged to go to the early mass at 7am so as to be able to make lunch for mid-day. And so, once every six weeks, I will be attending the 7 am mass, which last for approximately 2 hours, and then be cooking lunch. Sunday afternoons are for sleeping, reading, bike riding, walking, watching movies, and doing absolutely nothing. Sunday evening we join the St. Joseph community of sisters for prayer and dinner. Then the whole thing starts over again on Monday morning.
This week, however was totally different. It is the end of semester at school and so the students have exams. Since I am not exactly capable of giving exams in French (I know this to be a fact because the week before exams I somehow found myself in my English class giving two exams in French. As I wrote the questions on the board, the students kept coming up to correct my pitiful French spelling), I have essentially had the week off. I’ve been working more in the library and finding ways to keep busy in the afternoon, such as measuring the farm with Clara. This was a real experience as we had a 50 meter measuring tape to measure a farm that somewhere around 300 x 500 meters. We had to tramp through lion-type tall grass, deep mud, jump some streams, and traverse the Savannah, all 50 meters at a time. It was one of my most interesting afternoons here.
I also spent a day or so in bed with what my blood test claimed to be both Malaria and Typhoid Fever. But really, is it possible to have 2 tropical diseases and not even break a fever? I suppose I am proof that this is, indeed, possible.
So there it is, my life in Aru. There are some other things I do, like work in the bakery occasionally and go the market. There is also a rumor that I might begin teaching an adult English class at some point, but goodness knows I have know idea when or if this will happen. Schedules here are a fluid thing that are constantly evolving, but this is how it is, at least for the time being!