What I appreciated the most, especially in these weeks when I was alone as the only IDEA Onlus resident at Dr. Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital, is that in Kalongo you can’t really feel alone.
I have built a good relationship with the colleagues in the hospital that allows us not only to confront and talk about the most hard and unusual cases, but also to downplay and laugh in some circumstances, as we have known each other for long time. We don’t share only the long days but also the tea breaks, the cuts of the cakes during Christmas time and the eating of candies to keep the blood sugar concentration high. They immediately considered me one of the group hugging me at the end of the umpteenth day in which, thanks to everyone’s effort, the highest number of critical children were transfused; but they also considered me part of the group by including me in the lucky dip for the Christmas present.
Even outside the hospital, however, I am never alone. When I have a walk, surrounded by the seasonal green vegetation of Kalongo, I always share the path with someone. I start the walk with some children who drag water tanks and who, intrigued by the tool I hold in my hands, pose to obtain a photograph (and burst out laughing contagiously when I show them the result). I continue with families who return from the Sunday Mass and invite me to visit their home. Along the way it happens to enter the courtyard of houses populated by at least three generations of the same family, each one engaged in a different job or all reunited to celebrate the festive day with dances and local music that you cannot help but appreciate (and immortalize!). To my great surprise, even without planning an activity (something unthinkable for the western standard of living) it is still possible to carry it out in the company of someone: this is how I explored the mountains near Kalongo with three kids that are used to climb those mountains even barefoot; this is how on January 1st, with only two hours of sleep, I climbed to the top of Mount Oret in the company of Emmanuel, Alice and Alice.
And now, that the next Italian volunteer has joined me, I was able to cheer him up and tell him that even if I said goodbye to Kalongo, he won’t be alone. Welcome Paolo!

Ilaria Fumi, resident in neonatology and pediatrics