Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cyber Café: At Long Last, Good News!!

After months of discouragement, the Cyber was finally overwhelmed with good news in August! It all happened at once so that, in just a few short days, Cyber became a completely new Cyber! (If you need a reminder on how Cyber is set up in 2 rooms with laptop/desktops, read my blog on Cyber here).

First, we painted and rearranged the Cyber to be more welcoming. The Cyber was due for a coat of paint not only because it’s been a few years, but especially because it is right on the main road where big trucks come by sending dust flying into every crevice. That is to say, the walls were dirty.

The new colors brightened everything up and, since we used all oil paint, we hope that it will be easier to keep these walls clean. Personally, I think the blue and crème color scheme is tranquil and creates a peaceful Internet surfing atmosphere, and it’s not just because they are my favorite colors. Here we are all painting together:

Katie, Dan, Orio, Me, and Clara (before)

Dan, Orio, and Felix (during, almost after)

We also rearranged all the furniture to include a welcome desk which is much friendlier. We used to stand in the back and wait for people to come in, look around, and be confused. This picture is taken from the door and you can see how far away Sr. Alba is:

Now people walk in and there is a friendly face at the desk, so there is much less confusion:

We also got a new specially made table for our 2 photocopier/printers that includes enough space to put down the papers you are coping and we have plans for a defined waiting area with reading material as well as a work table for stapling, collating, etc. Here is the new Cyber:

All this was enough, but then, when we had just started the work at Cyber we were Italian Surprise Attacked. This turned out to be fantastic not only because the Italians could help us finish painting the Cyber, but because they brought us new laptops! Since the theft in April, we have been limping along with the Cyber’s two computers that were fortuitously at home the night of the theft, plus 2 loaners. All 4 of these computers were temperamental and refused to work entirely as they should (and 2 of them were not ours so we had to be extra careful). Now we have 4, yes FOUR, new laptop computers to use for Cyber- that makes SIX total. Like 3 times as many computers as Cyber owned before.

So this is the new Cyber. I was very happy to see these changes implemented before I left because I put so much of my time and heart into working at Cyber and I wanted to see it grow during my time. There is still lots of room for more improvement at Cyber, but I have to leave something for future volunteers!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good-bye Congo

All of a sudden, I find myself at the end of my time in Congo.  It really snuck up on me.  Part of that is my fault though, as I was originally scheduled to leave on October 11th.  However, after a very difficult few weeks, I decided to leave earlier than planned.  My rescheduled flight leaves on September 11th.  So now, I have just a few more days left in Congo before going to Rome for a month of reflection.  Finally, on October 17th I will fly home and be back in Denver!

I am ready to leave.  I am very tired and each day wears on me, so going to Rome early is a relief.  I wanted to keep going another month to finish up my commitment, but I keep crashing and having to spend more time in bed recovering from work than actually working, so I am now at peace to leave here.  I also have a wonderful opportunity to stay in Rome for a few weeks to reflect on my experience and think about the next steps in my life.  I can start to see how Congo has changed me and my future and prepare for whatever I will be doing next…and do all this while taking hot showers and eating gelato.

The library is in good hands with Bolingo who I’ve worked with for several months now and Sr. Esperance, who I have had only a week with, but I have great confidence in her.  The Cyber is doing well and will survive, but might have some technical difficulties- but I’m sure someone will arrive to help them; probably someone much more qualified to work on computers than me!  I hope to write a few more blogs from Rome on the last updates of my project and life here, so check in again soon for some final reflections on my Congo life.

In closing, I’ll mention a few things that I will and will not miss about Congo.

What I will miss:

  1. Music at church- even daily mass has a fantastic choir, and Sunday mass is alive with joyful music and church dancing- how many times have you hopped up on the pews and danced for joy?  I’m afraid I might find myself out of line come Christmas…
  2. Cheap avocados- O to be able to make guacamole, curry, soup, egg salad, pie, and so much more for a mere 5 cents per avocado (or FREE from our trees).  I will die when I see the prices of avocados in America. 
  3. Fashion- I love pagnes.  My suitcase is bursting with African cloth that I’ve made into skirts, and some that I have yet to make into skirts.  I hope I don’t find a pattern that is relatively dull here to be too brilliant for the American fashion scene.
  4. Zooming around town on the back of a motorcycle.  It’s terrifying, and yet fun. 
  5. The friendliness, kindness, and generosity of the people.  Life is difficult here, and Aru is a very poor place materially, but the joy, patience, and love that people live with had been remarkable to watch and I hope that I can incorporate that attitude into my life in America. 

What I will not miss:

  1. Burning my trash- I have a vague guilty feeling that burning all that plastic is bad for the environment…and what about batteries?
  2. Cold showers- not even a little bit, not even nostalgically, not at all, will I miss cold showers, in fact I might just not shower until I reach Rome, it’s only 5 days away.
  3. The rainy season for all the mud…and the dry season for all the dust
  4. Being followed down the street by children yelling “mondele” (white person).   I mean really, you’ve seen white people before…get over it.
  5. Giant rats in the bakery, cockroaches popping out of shower drains, and un-dead spiders!  And termites- giant, flying, termites!!  And of course, those pesky mosquitoes that sent me to the hospital for a week.

On that note, I sign off from Congo…but I hope to sign on agian in Rome very soon!