Monday, March 22, 2010

A Few Thoughts


My entire community has been in residence at Chez Voica for one month now. Actually it’s been less than a month because we were recently joined by yet another member. His name is Etienne (French for Steven) and he is a kitty. He’s really cute, as you can see from the pictures. He’s fun to play with and I enjoy watching him romp around pretending to be a lion. So here we all are: Lydia, Matteo, Stefano, Etienne, Tomas, me and Clara and below is Etienne.

The new community has brought a significant improvement on the food front. As is turns out, Italians know how to cook. We still eat eggplant, potatoes, and eggs everyday, but the Italians have a knack for making these things new, exciting, and tasty. Italian cooked food comes out delicious all of the time. This is in contrast to me when the food comes out delicious maybe ¼ of the time. They make things I have never thought of or don’t know how to make. Hopefully I can pick up a few ideas from these Italian master chefs and come home knowing how to cook delicious eggplant!  

Communication in this multi-cultural community continues to be an interesting challenge. Most of the time we speak what I like to call Fritalingalish(Czech). That’s French-Italian-Lingala-English (Czech). We don’t really speak Czech, but I threw it in there because Tomas speaks Czech and you know he reads this. This makes conversations around the dinner table alternatively hilarious and confusing. And that brings me to my next subject:


My time in Congo has taught me something very important about myself. I have NO talent for learning languages. Some people are able to listen a bit and after one or two days can miraculously start speaking a foreign language. Not me. I’ve been here for nearly 4 months and French still bewilders me. I have been told that it is easier to understand then to speak and most people can understand a lot more than they can say. If this is true, I’m in big trouble because I understand virtually none of what people say to me. My favorite phrase is “Je ne comprends pas” or “I don’t understand.” I use it every day, every hour, in fact, I use it whenever someone says something to me in French. And if someone is saying a lot in French I sit there trying so hard to listen but really panicking because I have no idea what this person is saying. I’ve missed a few community decisions because I don’t understand what anyone is saying. I’ve decided it’s time to renew my efforts to learn French and I’ve broken out the old French books. I hope more study will help because the you’ll-learn-when-you’re-there-and-everyone-speaks-French method has so far been a failure.  

The End of Something from Home

This week saw the death of two imported food items. Whenever an imported food is finished it’s a bit sad because there isn’t going to be anymore, and it’s especially rough when 2 items go in one week. Both the balsamic vinegar and Jif Peanut butter ended their lives in Congo this week. This has been particularly difficult for me because I love both of these things very much. And there isn’t going to be anymore Balsamic vinegar or Jif Peanut butter. It’s just gone. When we run out of, say, Glucose biscuits (some type of food that holds a rough resemblance to a type of cookie or a graham cracker) it’s no problem because we can easily get more. But not so with Balsamic vinegar or American peanut butter. It makes me realize that I am far away from many familiar things and truly living in a very different place.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Floppy Carrots

You know how when you bite into a carrot it gives a satisfying snap and then you crunch, crunch, crunch it? Carrots here don’t do that. They are floppy. Floppy carrots don’t crunch, they sag. Imagine what would happened if a carrot went to a yoga class. It would get all bendy, right? African carrots take yoga. This creates a major problem when it is time to peel a carrot. It is virtually impossible to peel a yoga-going carrot. The peel is either non-existent or and inch thick. So we end up eating half peeled, mutilated, floppy carrots. But there is hope. The other day as we were leaving the convent, Lydia and I spotted a Mama selling what appeared to be crunchy, snappy, carrots. Lydia literally ran home to get some money as I kept watch over this Mama with her carrots. We jubilantly bought a whole pile of them. And we were right to be so jubilant, because these carrots were a joy to peel, a joy to cut, and a joy to crunch. Unfortunately, we bought so many carrots that we could not eat them all in one day. There must be a yoga center around here, because the following day our carrots had taken on a decidedly bendy physique. The next day, they were downright floppy. Next time we find some un-floppy carrots, we will eat them all right away. Or we’ll root out the nearby yoga center and shut them down. That is all I have to say about carrots, and congratulations to everyone who was actually able to read an entire post devoted solely to carrots.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Finally, a few pictures of Congo.  Enjoy!!

The Avocado Massacre.  This is what's left of the avocado tree in our backyard :(

Views of the farm

This is Clara measuring the farm.  She is 50 meters away from me here

On the Road to Bunia with Sr. Carmela, Madre Tina, me, and Tomas

Bunia- Lydia and Tomas on the roof of the youth center and library

On the Road to Butembo, Here we are in the land of mud


Lake Albert