9 months and counting!

This past weekend marked nine months since I’ve arrived in central Africa. It is encouraging to have these markers and to look back on how far I’ve come and all the amazing experiences I’ve had and what I’ve learned. Some things have become routine at this point so it’s good to take stock and remember to be grateful for this opportunity and for the wonderful people that I encounter on a daily basis.

I can’t write a post about being grateful and not start with the kids. They are usually the best part of my week, even if I only get to spend a few hours with them. Here are some photos from their latest shenanigans!

I also got to watch some more acrobatics at Bakanja Ville last week. The kids were awesome and if you check out the background the aspirants even got in on the fun!! There are four aspirants, aka Salesians in training, who do the day to day care of the children. They are young men in their late teens – early 20s and they do two years at the various centers in the Salesian network. After their time, if they decide that they want to continue with the Salesian life (and if the Salesians believe that they are a good fit) they then start their training in theology and religion. It’s a long process, 13 years in total if they are going to be a priest and 9 if they decide to be a brother including classroom work and various internships, but thankfully they get to have fun along the way!

20171017_171658[1]I’m so grateful any time I get to celebrate here. The Congolese are amazingly joyful and celebrations are a big deal – weddings, engagements, birthdays, baptisms, etc. are all reasons to get together and have a party! Since I’ve been back, I was invited to another Congolese wedding. Two co-workers of mine got married a few weeks ago and Michelle and I went to the reception. We clean up pretty nice if I do say so myself!

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One of my favorite parts of any Congolese party is when people start putting things on their heads and dancing with them. It has happened at least once at pretty much every party I’ve been to. The workers from the Procure had organized a collection to buy some household items for the couple and a group of my coworkers came in a procession with the various items. Below you can see Bienvenu grabbing the cover to a bucket from someone else so that he has something to dance with as he joins in!

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We’ve had a few new additions to our litttle group of expats here in Africa – Clémence (#2) and Andrew. Clémence is French and joined the other two French volunteers (Clémence #1 and Delphine) at Bakanja Ville. She works in the office with me running trainings for various teachers and searching for child sponsorships and partnerships with local businesses for the over 14 Salesian run centers (if anyone is interested in sponsoring a child, especially now during holidays, it is either $15 or $30/month but any amount helps!). She is still getting the lay of the land but I love to spend time with her because she always has really insightful questions and observations. It’s always the quiet ones who know the most about what’s going on. Andrew is American and is living at a training center about 20 minutes from the center of town. The picture below is after we spent the day at the prison and pretty much encapsulates Andrew’s personality. He is joyful and funny and very eager to learn. Even after spending the day at a prison he’s got a smile on his face.

I also have Andrew to thank for keeping me humble. This past Saturday we were playing soccer and I decided I was going to show off my goalie skills. You can see how successful I was below.

Immediately after this, the kids on my team told me to go sit down.

Lastly a big thank you to all those who have sent encouraging words of support or prayers. And to all those here in L’shi who have been shoulders to cry on, friends to laugh with and who have welcomed a stranger far from home into their hearts and lives. I’m so grateful to each and every one of you!!

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