Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jambo! (Hello in Swahili)

This is what we shouted in greeting out the windows of the Prado as we drove to and around Bunia (200 km SE of Aru) the week after Easter. Luca, Fausto, Sr. Daniela, Sr. Pasqueline and I had a fascinating trip traveling the winding, muddy roads through the villages, forests, open plains and cultivated fields of Ituri. We were well taken care of by the Canossian community in Bunia, and from there made day trip to Lake Albert and the town of Beni. Every new curve in the road brought new photo opportunities and we came home with about a thousand pictures from the trip. I hope that that I can show a few of them to you someday.

Luca, Fausto and I also went with Sr. Angela to the prison in Bunia to pray with the prisoners (in both the adult and children's sections of the prison). This was a moving experience, and one of the highlights of the trip. I also visited the library in Bunia that is run by the White Fathers there. The director, Fr. Salvador (from Guanajuato, Mexico!) showed me around and gave me information that will be helpful when we start the library in Aru.

After returning from Bunia, I had some time to do some landscaping in the new yard, to organize the house, to experiment with making different kinds of cake for the bakery (banana, peanut butter, avocado, corn bread…), to help make and sell bread at the bakery and to prepare for the beginning of classes. Classes were to resume yesterday, April 14.

However, life is very difficult to predict in Congo. We had one day of classes and then the principal of the school announced a teachers' strike that will go on for an indefinite period of time, perhaps until the end of the school year. The teachers have not been paid for three months and have reached the end of their patience waiting for money to provide for their families.

This news brought singing and dancing from some students, but great disappointment in many others who will likely have to repeat this school year next year. The Seniors are understandably the hardest hit. It was strange today to see the boarding school students at Mass this morning without their uniforms, and later in the morning to see them carrying their bags (on their heads, of course) to meet the taxi "buses" to go home.

If the teachers' strike continues, I may be spending a lot more time at the bakery, working in the house, organizing the library and working on slideshow presentations. I've also thought about continuing English classes with a small group of motivated students. But in Congo, I find it's really hard to predict what the future holds.

I now have a plane ticket to Colorado. For now, the dates are July 2-July 28. This, too, may change. I'll let you know. I am really excited to visit! ☺

God bless you all!