It has been several months now since I dedicated one blog to introducing you all to my community member Tomas and I figure it is time to tell a little bit more about my other community members.
I will start with Lydia since I have known her the longest. Lydia is a year younger than me and is from Vancouver, Canada. Being Canadian, she is, of course, very nice unless someone (like an Italian for example) tells her that Canada is just an extension of the United States. She doesn’t think it’s a funny joke (even though us Americans know it’s not really a joke ;)). I will say this about Canada: their postal system is far superior to ours. It has taken three months for one package from my parents to arrive here. In that same time, Lydia has received 5, yes FIVE packages from Canada. I wish the U.S. were really an extension of Canadian postal system. Lydia studied kinesiology at University which means that when she came here to Aru she was a qualified physiotherapist. When we first arrived here in December she was told she could have her own physiotherapy clinic at the Canossian run health center. She was very excited to get started and to see the clinic take shape. One week later she was still waiting for the door to be opened. 2 months later she was still waiting for a fresh coat of paint. In fact, her clinic opened about 2 weeks ago, four months after it was first proposed. In Africa is takes all of four months to put together a room with a bed and a desk. This ordeal was an incredible test of patience and a wonderful cultural learning opportunity for Lydia. Now her clinic is up and running and she is bringing physical therapy to the people of Aru. Lydia has an abundance of energy for all things, she is always willing to go for a bike ride, a walk, a hike, a run, or play with the neighborhood kids. Her energy is so abundant that she doesn’t even take Sunday naps, whereas I look forward to my Sunday nap with great anticipation all throughout the week. There is, of course, much more to say about Lydia, but I think that is adequate for now!
Next, I will attempt to describe Stefano. Stefano is my age and hails from Brescia in Northern Italy. He came to Congo for one month last year and after decided to leave his lucrative job in the construction sector and spend a year in Aru. He is in charge of various construction here including a new convent, the library (which I will set up once he is finished building), and other small projects such as building a brick oven for the bakery. Stefano, like Lydia, possesses boundless energy and he is often zooming about from one place to the other on one of our many bikes. However, unlike Lydia, Stefano has an almost uncanny ability to take naps. He falls asleep on the couch in about 2 seconds. One day, he actually fell asleep in the brick oven he is building at the bakery. That’s right, he fell asleep in an oven. That is talent. Stefano also eats a massive amount of food. For the average meal, he probably eats about 4 times the amount I eat. He has a large first helping, then a large second helping, then a massive third helping, and the finishes by eating whatever is left on the table. When I had malaria I ate one piece of bread per day. When Stefano had malaria he ate like a normal person. That’s how we knew he was sick. Stefano is also a very talented photographer and musician. He loves to make videos of himself and the community cooking, eating, washing dishes, etc. and then shows them to us. During these videos we usually die from a combination of boredom and laughter- they tend to be about 20 minutes of boring daily life activity interspersed with 5 seconds of absolutely hilarious happenings. It’s the closest thing we have to watching to TV. Other than video making, Stefano has offered the community many other entertainment ideas. For example, shooting spit balls at the world map on the wall (in the dark no less because the power was out). I could go on for some time about Stefano as a source of entertainment, but suffice it to say our community is greatly brightened by his presence.
Now on to Clara. Clara is Superwoman. She cooks, she cleans, she drives the tractor, she feeds stray cats and children…she does it all. Clara is also from Brescia and after her experience in Aru last summer decided to leave her career as a veterinarian and come to Congo for an indefinite amount of time. Besides her official task of running the farm, she is always doing something or another around the house. She cleans things I would never think of cleaning and does chores I would never think needed to be done. Our house is now clean and tidy because of her. Clara is also a wonderful and experienced cook. She is able to make amazing meals from nothing. Last Sunday the only food we had was 6 small tomatoes, a few potatoes, a bit of fruit and leftover meat (the gross meat that I had refused to cook the day before). From these meagre ingredients she made a fantastic feast featuring two kinds of pasta, a delicious potato and meat pie, and a fresh lemon cream tort topped with fruit for dessert. It was a miracle. It’s really a wonder we survived 2 months without her.
The last member of the community is Matteo. He is from Treviso in Northern Italy and joined up for one year after spending one month here last summer. Matteo is like the UN. He is very busy here, but I’m not entirely sure what it is that he does. I see him going here and there, but I don’t know where he is going or what he is doing. I feel the same about the ubiquitous UN vehicles that drive up and down the country all the time. Matteo is trained as an electrician so he fixes our broken electrical stuff and all the broken electrical stuff of people around here. He does various odd jobs and finds himself quite busy with…whatever it is he does. Matteo tips the scales of the community for those who like to nap (me, Stefano, Tomas, and Matteo) versus those who do not nap (Lydia and Clara), although he has yet to fall asleep in the oven or while working on the solar panel on the roof.
So that’s my community for now. Since I am here for 2 years and everyone else is here for one, I will have an entirely new community in the future. Even those who came several months after me will depart long before me, so you can look forward to a future installment of “Meet the Community.”