Well guys, my volunteer debut has come and gone, on the whole, I am going to say it was a roaring success. When Friday morning arrived, the jet leg had finally hit me hard (I am still not on a regular sleep cycle, I am up at all hours of the night, it is painful) and I had made the rookie mistake of overdosing myself with caffeine in preparation of my big day. By the time I got to the convent, I was SICK. Like really, really, really sick. I honestly thought I was going to pass out. Kath walked me around and introduced me to some of the Sisters and a few other volunteers. Kath has been at the convent for a few years now and has received a very prestigious promotion (a promotion no other volunteer has ever gotten, so she was in a different area.) My new boss assigned me to vegetable duty (which I had anticipated). What I did not anticipate was being asked to chop seven onions- in my mind, onions don’t even exist, that is how much I dislike them. By the time I got to the third onion, I couldn't take it anymore. I was dying. The Sisters are not allowed to look at themselves, so I couldn't access a mirror, but I am certain I resembled a raccoon, I must have had so much mascara running down my face (that is the first and last time I wear makeup to the convent). I was still extremely nauseous and I almost mustered the guts to ask the man scrubbing the floors if I could switch him jobs (if I puked, I wanted to do it quietly and clean it up quickly- gross but true. And this is the only time in my life I have ever wanted to scrub a floor). Lucky for me (and the people about to eat my food) I held it in and my boss the Sister noticed my struggle and switched me to tomato chopping duty. I stopped bawling and by this point my stomach started to calm itself. After chopping about fifty tomatoes, they moved me to fish frying, where I fried thirty fish and finished my shift.
I must say, I actually like the cooking (that is kinda rare for me) but the highlight of my day came from the interaction I had with my boss the Sister (who is from India and close to my age) and this other volunteer. I don’t know how old this lady I was working with is, I am going to guess around 80 or 85 but she was the sweetest, most adorable, four foot thing I have ever seen. She spoke almost no English, and I of course speak zero Italian, but- she does know how to say “I love you” and the WHOLE time she kept saying to me, “Say-ah (that is how Italians pronounce my name) I LOOOOOVVEEEE YOOOUUU” with this huge smile on her face. I wanted to melt, my heart was so full of love. I would grin back and tell her that I loved her too- and this is the best part: I really do love her and she really does love me, despite not speaking the same language and only knowing each other for a few hours. There are some people you meet who are just filled with so much love and joy and the power of the Holy Spirit (and some people you meet who are definitely not filled with these things) and this lady was just so pure and joyous and I do love her so much already. I love her because this encounter was an experience I will always remember and I could very intensely feel the love of Christ coming from within her.
I knew before I left for Roma that my time at the convent would be spent doing grunt work, i.e cooking, cleaning, household chores (my mom is laughing, I never do these things in America) but it is extremely important to me I show the Sisters I am there to work hard and be highly helpful to them. I realize I am not performing rocket science, but if I am going to chop an onion or fry a fish, I want it to be the best fish fried and the best chopped onion the Sisters have ever seen. The work they do is so very important and they are dedicating their precious lives to helping others, bettering others, taking care of others and spreading the love of Christ to others. On my way out (I left when Kath did, we are not in the same area but we are a team!) my boss said to me “you did very good job today.” I was so proud and happy because I believe I conveyed the message I had intended to carry to her. I also know she would not have said this to me had she not actually meant it. The Sisters are filled with the love of Christ, but they are also quite stern and they don't mess around (as Catholic school
victims attendees know!)
If I had to sum up day one with one word, it would most certainly be LOVE.
This is totally besides the point, but I spilled frying oil all over my Nikes, I am trying not to take this as a sign I need to purchase the pink ombre pair I have been eyeing at the Foot Locker right next to Kath’s house….This is what service work is about, helping others then going and buying yourself a present, right?!! ; ) JUST KIDDING!!! I won't buy them.
I took some photos of the convent, but I don’t think I was supposed to do this, so out of respect for the Sisters I will not post them. Their convent is BIG and I can see why the Pope comes by to say hi. They have a beautiful statue of Mother Theresa in the courtyard, along with a chapel next to it. I did ask if the food was donated and my boss said it was purchased, so I assume she means it was purchased by the Vatican. Kath and I will go back on Sunday morning to attend mass with the Sisters and the women who live at the convent. They go to St. Monica's about thirty feet across the street. St. Peters is another 100 feet to the left of the convent.
Kath and I walked around the city the other day, I will post photos once I upload them to my computer.
There are literally thousands of souvenir shops around town, please send me an email or leave me a comment if you would like something from Roma- I want to bring home presents for my friends! And somebody better not say, “I want a Prada bag” lol, I won’t even be getting one of those for myself. If no one asks for anything I am going to assume no one is reading this- except for the Steele's and my parents!! I know they are ; )
Miss you all. xx Sarah