Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all! I just wanted to let you know that at this moment I am incredibly happy. I know its a miracle right? The reason?...60 men.

Mary and I are currently teaching a two week intensive English course at a seminary in the city of Kupang, which I believe is the capital of the province where Mary and I are staying.

I can only say that these seminarians are so warm, friendly, and fun. Mary and I celebrated New Years here and it was simply a blast! We watched skits by the seminarians which were funny even though I didn't quite understand all of what was being said.

After the skits and the "ball drop" we danced for two hours. Yes I danced and loved it! The guys showed us some traditional dances from their islands in Indonesia and of course I was bad at all of them but I didn't care and neither did they. They tried to teach me two step dancing which is supposed to be easy but of course I couldn't do it. Give me credit though for trying. Anyway, we also danced regularly (club dancing without all the dirtiness). I was complimented on my dancing. I think the guy was just being nice. I will say that I let loose with these guys. I danced more freely and I was happy. I only have one week left and I hope to make the best of it.

I hope all of you are well and I hope you start the New Year in a positive way. By the way I will have regular internet access for the remaining week I am in Kupang so I might possibly be able to answer your e-mails more quickly but for one week only folks.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quick Stuff

Yeah I know it's been awhile. Bear with me.

The rainy season has begun. It has rained incredibly hard here and our house has flooded once. We have three leaks on our roof as a result of the rain. We also have water in the well now which means we now have water in the house as the well water gets pumped into our water tank giving us wonderful glorious water. I thought I was a water conservationist before well when I come back to the states I'm gonna be a psycho about it. Going without running water is something that I do not wish on anybody but unfortunately it is something virtually every person in this region deals with. Please conserve your water and remember some people have to carry bucketfuls of clean water from a communal well up a steep hill to their homes. The majority of these people are small children who do it as a part of their daily chores and by small children I mean children ages 4 and above and this is no exaggeration.

Okay now onto something fun. So part of the things I like about being here is that I am forced to try new things and I mean FORCED, out of need and not desire. This is one of the reasons I chose to go abroad. I knew I would do things I would not even attempt in the States.

Well one of those things I was forced to do was ride on the back of a motorcycle three times yesterday. The first time I was terrified convinced I would fall off, the second time I still had some fear and doubts and the third time I was perfectly relaxed holding a shopping bag in my lap as we rode. We means me and the driver for hire which they refer to as an ojek here. For the price of 3,000 Rupiah (the local currency), the equivalent of $0.30 in the States you get your own motorcycle driver and a ride from point A to point B in the city. I recommend it but with a helmet if possible. I went without, not because I was feeling reckless but simply because helmets are not usually provided for passengers by ojeks. This was one reason I kept silently praying "Please God don't let me fall or die."

Okay so that's it for today. Hopefully another post soon but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day To Day

Okay my little sister has complained that no one knows anything about what I'm doing because I don't write anything here. In my defense I have limited access to the internet and when I do have access I usually only have a few precious minutes to send e-mails.

Today Mary took on the responsibility of doing the food shopping so that I could have a little more time online to tell you a little more about this place and what I'm doing.

I am in Nurobo, West Timor. It is a small village in the hills. It is very small and not much goes on there. Mary and I teach English several times a week to the girls at the local vocational school, to the sisters at the convent, and to the aspirants (those wishing to become priests or join the convent). Teaching English is a difficult task because I have no clue what I'm doing. As I have said many times speaking English does not necessarily make someone qualified to teach it but, oh well, I'll improve as teacher.

Mary and I are also supervising the local guy band group. We have to just be present while the music teacher gives electric guitar, bass, and drum lessons to some of the guys. We actually start with the band today. We will be doing more with the community as time goes on. Right now we are just trying to adjust.

Life here is not greatly difficult. It's not as convenient as living in the U.S. but it's not unbearable. Presently we have no running water at the volunteer house because our well is dry. We have to carry buckets of water from the sisters' convent to our house so that we can bathe and do our laundry and wash our dishes. We get dirty water from this other well which is not safe to drink so we just use that for toilet flushing.

The electricity here is pretty consistent. Except that it goes out practically everyday for a little while which I don't mind so much since we don't use the light during the day since we have many windows in our house. It is only when the lights go out when we are making dinner that I get upset. Mary and I end up burning food because we can't see. We also leave food on the counter because we can't see it which attracts ants and bugs in the following morning.

Speaking of bugs there are many here. Ants come in all the time as do cockroaches and scorpions and giant fist sized spiders. The cockroaches, spiders, and scorpions usually die as soon as they enter the house because we have sprayed bug poison everywhere.

Mary and I awaken on a daily basis to cocks crowing and pigs snorting and two horrible little children that cry as if they are dying every single morning! The children are not starving or ill by the way, I've checked. Apparently, they're just "spoiled" kids.

Every morning after being unpleasantly awakened in one form or another Mary and I attend daily mass which starts at 5:30 am which is not really as horrible as I originally thought it was going to be. The entire village wakes up by 6 am which sucks, so sleeping in for us usually means waking up at 6:30 am at the latest. Trying to sleep later is kind of impossible. We usually go to sleep by 9:30 pm since we get up so early and are exhausted by 7 pm anyway.

Oh about bathing. Mary and I pour clean water into big buckets and use a water scoop to pour over ourselves to bathe. The water is cold of course and it always leaves me gasping with the shock of the first scoop of water. We call this kind of bathing a mandi.

About learning the local language of Bahasa Indonesia, just don't ask. It is a relatively easy language to learn as there are no conjugations but as it is nothing like Spanish or Italian I find it difficult to remember the necessary words. I have hopes that within a year I'll be able to speak it with little difficulty, though.

Okay I think that's it for today. Let me know if any of you have any questions. If I remember next time I'll tell you about how cheap everything here is...well mostly cheap.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Hi everyone! I'm in my mission village of Nurobo, Indonesia now.

I was in Jakarta for about 3 days. Jakarta is a very humid and crowded city where the driving is even more insane than that of Rome. It is also very Americanized.

Anyway, I start teaching English on Monday at the all girls school. There's a few more things I'll be doing too but those things aren't yet clear to me. The Sisters at the convent are nice. They mostly speak Bahasa there but the Mother Superior wishes them to start learning English so Mary and I will be teaching the Sisters at the convent as well.

Not much to tell yet as I've only been in Nurobo for about 3 days. The journey to this place took about a week with almost a full days travel from Rome to Jakarta, 3 days in Jakarta, then a flight to Kupang on the island of Timor with a one day stay there and a drive of 6 hours to Nurobo.

I will unfortunately probably be unable to post pics for a long time because I don't have internet access at the village. I must travel 40 min to an internet point in the near by town of Atambua and that I can do only once a week. I would attempt to upload pics here except that I'm told these computers are full of viruses and I do not wish to infect my laptop with any viruses by way of a flashdrive or something. Anyway that's it for this week. I'll write more as life gets underway here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Indonesia Here I Come!

Hey all, just thought I'd mention that I will be going to my mission in West Timor, Indonesia next Wednesday. I will be flying into Jakarta and staying there for 3 days while I wait for my connecting flight to another Indonesian city. From there I will be driven 6-7 hours to my mission. Do not fear I will not be traveling alone. I will be going with Mary my roommate.

I am a bit nervous about the trip but I am putting my trust in God. I will update and post pics one more time before I leave next week.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pictures and Outings

Here is a picture of some of my housemates: Mary, left; Rebecca, center; and Tomas (refusing to smile), right. Missing: Martin

This is nightlife in Florence.

This is Piazza Navona, I think.

This is a bad picture of the Pope.

This is the view of St. Peter's from my bedroom terrace.

Sorry about the bad pictures above. They'll improve...I hope.

There's not much to tell at the moment except that I'm growing ever frustrated with Bahasa. I cannot understand the language because Indonesians clip the last letter from all words. Here's hoping that things change and soon.

My housemates and I went to a lunch today thrown by a couple of very nice Singaporean women I met at the American Catholic Church last week. They served delicious food and we met two priests and another sister. One of the priests is a Jesuit who works for Vatican Radio. The other priest has done missionary work in Africa and the sister has lived in Rome for 3 years and does not care for it much.

Yesterday, our group made lunch for three of the Canossian sisters, Sr. Pat, Sr. Angela, and my Bahasa instructor Sr. Joanna. It was a delicious lunch 95% prepared by Mary. One thing that didn't please me about lunch, however, was when Sr. Pat asked Sr. Joanna, given a scale of 1-10, how would she rate Mary and me as students, Sr. Joanna responded a 7. I am very upset and I suppose this means I should study more.

Well anyway, after lunch Mary and I went to the Galleria Borghese to view Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures and I must say that we were not disappointed. Both were amazing and I am continually awed by the work of both. I am happy that I finally got the opportunity to see some of their work in person. I have admired both artist and sculptor for several years now and yesterday's excursion only served to increase by admiration. I suggest visiting the Galleria if any of you are ever in Rome. Not is the Galleria amazing but the Villa Borghese, the park in which the Galleria is housed is a treat. It is pretty large and is a great place to walk, bike, or paddle (yes, they have a small lake).

Well that's it for today. I know this entry didn't flow well but that's only because I keep losing my work because of the bad wireless signal I am stealing from the Sisters at the convent. Hopefully my next post will be an improvement.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Surprised I'm Not Dead...Yet

In response to some complaints, okay one complaint, I now provide the following entry.

Here are some things to note about Rome:

1) The drivers here are insane! The rules of the road are mere suggestions no one takes. Weaving in and out of traffic is the norm and signal lights are rarely used. Nuns are no better than the rest. Sr. Pat, although I love her dearly, is a prime example. She weaves in and out of traffic with the best of them. "What do you want?" she shouts at a driver she just cut off. "I have the right of way," she shouts to a pedestrian. On approaching an intersection where she needs to make a left turn Sr. Pat does not wait patiently at the red light behind the driver that arrived first, instead she swerves around him into the intersection and waits in the middle of the to make the turn. Another driver follows her example. The driver we cut honks to make his displeasure known. Sr. Pat takes no notice. She also takes no notice of 'Stop' signs. She brakes slightly but it is barely perceptible. Again these signs are mere suggestions to Romans. When asked if the police pull anyone over for traffic violations she responds "Yes, of course." I am not convinced.

2) Parking. All Romans do what is convenient for them. If this means parking in the center median, so be it. If this means double parking and completely blocking a lane, no problem, everyone will go around. Parking in the opposite direction of the flow of traffic is done with ease. Completely blocking a street to wait for someone with tons of cars behind you honking because they cannot get through is yawn-worthy.

3) Crossing a Roman street is not for the meek of heart. I have yet to truly master this art. The best way to cross a street here is to simply jut out into traffic boldly. Cars and motorcycles will slow down automatically but if you hesitate they will continue on their way or simply give you a dirty expression for wasting their few precious seconds with your indecisiveness.

The above may explain why manual cars are largely preferred by Romans as I am told that with a manual car one has more control and braking is much easier. Although, the aforementioned is without a doubt crazy and chaotic (at least to a foreigner), I will admit it is a kind of organized chaos and I have not seen one traffic accident during my time here, although, I have heard the ambulances around here many times but I'm not sure what that means.

That is all for today's post. I will continue next time with my observations and complaints about the Italian way of housekeeping.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


So this past weekend we had guests. They were a Polish couple, named Sally and Chris, that had returned from their mission in East Timor. They were an incredibly cute and kind couple. They told our group about East Timor. They seemed to have been almost fluent in Tatu or whatever the language that is spoken in East Timor is. Did you guys know that East and West Timor have very distinct languages? East Timor's language derives greatly from Portuguese whereas West Timor has more of a Dutch influence. It's kinda weird because they're one small island. I know, I know, boring but I just thought I'd give you some cocktail party knowledge ( random knowledge to throw around at cocktail parties so that you appear smart).

It might also interest you to know that I played soccer or futbol with Chris and Martin and Tomas. Chris was my partner and, I felt bad for him because of course I played badly. It was really my first time ever playing soccer. He was incredibly kind, however. I credit Chris, however, for my increased interest in playing soccer. I have played two more times this past week and have improved slightly but I am by no means a natural.

My newly found interest in soccer has not taken away from my interest in baseball, however. I would formally like to state that I am extremely disappointed that yet again, for the 12th year in a row, the National League lost in this past Tuesday's All Star Game. It really is pathetic when the President of the U.S. brings this fact to the attention of the nation. I apologize for the tangent but I am upset for the 12th year in a row!

Anyway after Chris and Sally came and went we received another guest, Sally's sister, Dagmara, who has worked on and off in East Timor for the past three years. She says the best thing about her missionary work has been the people and the worst thing she's ever had to deal with was the time when their was conflict in the region and all volunteers had to be evacuated. Dagmara said it was very difficult for her to leave because she didn't think it was fair that she should get to leave the island when the Timorese people had no way of escaping the violence themselves. She said she had refused to go with all the volunteers that were being evacuated but finally she had no choice and was forced to go with the last group leaving.

We have had many visitors in the VOICA house and they have all been interesting and inspiring. Okay well I gotta go cuz Martin is reading over my shoulder. 'Til next time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Housemates and Stuff

Okay, I'm not too sure what to tell you all in this post. It has been a week or so since my last post and no, I don't have pictures yet. I need a converter thing for my three pronged American laptop plug and as you all are aware, I can't post pics if I can't access the photos on my computer and I would rather not download pictures from my camera onto the house computer because then everyone would have access to them. I found a converter here in Rome at some store near St. Peter's but, unfortunately, the lady there did not know the price and told me to come back later. I attempted to come back later but Italy and its siesta hours can be so frustrating. A person doesn't know what stores will be closed during what hours.

So this past Tuesday, four of us went to this church on the outskirts of Rome called Eur. We went in Sr. Pat's car which is a small five seater but we fit quite comfortably. At the church we helped box blankets, clothes, and medicines that are to be sent to the Sudan in a few weeks. We help out this church in exchange for drugs, no, not the illegal ones, but medicines for the people of Africa. Sr. Pat received several boxes of medicines which we shall ship out in a couple of weeks also to the missions in Togo and Congo. Unfortunately, these boxes created a problem with space when it was time to transport them back to the convent with us. Because there were so many boxes Mary had the unpleasant task of having to sit in an awkward position on the laps of Tomas and Martin. Mary was none too pleased and it didn't help that Martin jinxed her half way through the car ride and she couldn't speak. It was hilarious.

Oh a little about my housemates:

Mary and Martin are from the U.S. Mary's from New Mexico but was born in Germany and lived there until she was 10 or so. She's 22 and just graduated from a university in New Mexico with a degree in Biology. She and I will be traveling together to West Timor and Mary hopes to help out in the clinic there.

Martin is from New Jersey. He's also 22 and graduated from Middlebury college in Vermont. He has studied abroad in China and Uruguay. He is half Spanish and half white and speaks not only English and Spanish but also Chinese and French and he's picking up on Italian pretty quickly which I find quite annoying. He identifies strongly with Latino culture and likes to speak with me in Spanish.

Rebecca just turned 30 on July 1st. She is from India but lived in England these past four years working for the Leimann Brothers bank. She's an incredibly kind person and the boys, unfortunately, torture her incessantly.

Tomas is our 22 year old Czech seminarian. He is very knowledgable about scripture and is kind for the most part, except that, as I mentioned before he insists on torturing poor Rebecca and sometimes myself. He is quiet when he's not being a nuisance and is very helpful to us all.

I'll end this post by letting you know that I have started my Bahasa lessons and that they are going fairly well. The language is unlike any I have studied before because there are no conjugation of verbs. Mary and I mostly have to memorise words. This is simple enough except there is one little difficulty. Mary and I travel every Wednesday and Friday by train to Ottavia which is on the outskirts of Rome. We go to the Canossian Sister house there and meet with Sr. Joanna for lessons. Unfortunately, Sr. Joanna speaks no English. She only speaks Italian and Bahasan. Since Mary doesn't know any Italian I am left with the unenviable task of having to use my horrible Italian to translate what Sr. Joanna is saying to Mary. I also have to use my horrible Italian to ask questions Mary and I have. On the bright side I imagine that my Italian will improve, although, I have to work on my accent. (The different Italian employees of one of the local gelaterias are always able to pick up on my Spanish accent.)

Okay well that's all for today as another needs to use the computer. If anyone has any questions just ask or message me through Facebook.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

So Far...

Hi all, I'm sorry I haven't really written anything until now. It's been busy here and also I can't exactly access the internet from my computer but have to access it through a shared computer in the volunteer house.

Okay so as I said I am in the VOICA (Volontariato Internazionale Canossiano) Volunteer House which is on the same grounds as the the convent for the Canossian Daughters of Charity. I live with five other volunteers named Mary, Rebecca, Tomas, and Martin. I also live with our house mother of sorts, Diggy (aka Digna, she's Filipino) and two Canossian sisters, Sr. Pat and Sr. Angela. Sr. Pat is the program coordinator who will be handing over the coordinator position over to Sr. Angela later this year. They are both fabulous women and incredibly funny.

My daily life is full and will become fuller in these next few weeks. We start off the day with 7 am daily Mass which God knows is a struggle for me but with His help it is getting slightly easier. After Mass we have breakfast at 7:30 am and after breakfast at about 8:30 am we do household chores which mostly consists of sweeping outside. Major cleaning comes on Saturday mornings. After chores comes our first formation session which usually begins at 9:30 am. Formation sessions can be almost about anything but usually morning sessions are for speaking about spiritual matters and learning about the Canossian foundress St. Magdalene di Canossa. Morning lessons last for a couple of hours and then we start preparing lunch. We have a schedule of two people who are in charge of each meal. Luckily, I'm with Diggy and she really knows how to cook. I'm usually her assistant. I cut stuff up most of the time. We do kind of a formal affair for all meals except on weekends. We get out a tablecloth and set out plates and utensils. We pray before each meal and then we eat. After lunch we have 1-2 hours to ourselves which I use to take a nap or do stuff on the computer or do a bit of Italian studying. At 3pm we have our second session about various things also. Our schedule will be changing a bit, however as we are incorporating more volunteer work into our schedule. Once a week we volunteer at the local homeless shelter which takes one long, full and suffocating bus ride to get to. We also will be sorting medicines somewhere. These medicines will be shipped to various missions around the world. Twice a week we will have language lessons. I will be learning Bahasa or Indonesian since I will be going to West Timor (an island north of Australia, if I remember correctly). We will also have more informal Italian lessons as many of us have requested it especially after working at the homeless shelter yesterday. A lot of us experienced a sense of helplessness when people would request certain things and we could not understand. I'm at least fortunate enough to have a basic understanding of the language, others were not as fortunate and it resulted in some embarassing and funny moments. Later in the day after our classes or volunteer work or evening vespers we have dinner again prepared by two of us and then we are on our own for a very little while before we go to bed. Well that's my daily life right now. I like it all except the waking up early. I am willing to go to daily Masss of course but waking up so early ruins me for the rest of the day. I fight not to nod off during session almost every day. I know, however, that the sisters have noticed but they have not mentioned it directly and they understand that many of us are not used to getting up early. I am told that in West Timor daily Mass times will be much worse. Daily Mass will be held at 5:30 am and I do not know how in the world I will be able to get there on time without sleeping overnight in the church or chapel where Mass will be held. So I'll end this very long post with a request for prayers. Please include in your prayers that I not feel so tired on a daily basis. 'Til next time. -Cecilia