yoghurt intern post

I didn’t know an A Rocha internship could include learning how to make eight liters of yoghurt! But what better way to practice environmental stewardship than to cut down on plastic containers and participate in hands-on food production. And what better way to embrace community living than by make wholesome food for fellow interns.

The process is fairly simple but takes around eight hours. The action is on the slow side–mostly checking the temperature and making slight adjustments to maintain optimum heat levels. The main action is actually done at the molecular level by the live and active bacteria added to the milk. Through a process called fermentation, bacteria metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk, into lactic acid. This changes the milk’s pH and molecular structure into the delicious breakfast food (or late night snack!) we call yoghurt.

So. Here’s a thought: somewhere in the yoghurt making process I think there is an analogy for community living. There are 12 of us interns sharing one big house at the A Rocha Centre. Sharing space and resources with others sounds simple enough, but living it out on the daily tends to be a bit more complicated. It can be hard to describe (is yoghurt a solid or liquid? or a colloid?). Things can turn sour (pun intended!) without good communication, flexibility, open-mindedness, and direction. It requires time and effort to figure out systems and rhythms, and the outworking of living together can take on various flavors and styles. There is no one correct way to live in community–or eat yoghurt. Some prefer coconut, raisins, and pumpkin seeds; others, banana, cinnamon, and peanut butter. But some people are allergic to peanut butter and would rather have lots of granola.

Entering into community takes time and sometimes the action is on the slow side. Doing the dishes, sitting and reading together, or making everyone a pot of coffee. While the daily outworking of community can seem a bit mundane, I think the internal workings are full of action. You learn to understand yourself better and how to process conflict and change. You learn that it can be too easy to underestimate other peoples’ (and your own) ability to understand. You learn to ask questions and be okay with the uncomfortable. It can be messy sometimes, but it can be good.

Now, to finish the story of my first yoghurt making experience: After a day of letting the newly made yoghurt cool in the Guesthouse refrigerator, my roommate Laura and I each began carrying a full 4 liter bucket back to the interns’ house. It was sprinkling and dark outside. On the gravel path leading home, the handle broke on Laura’s bucket, splattering half of the yoghurt on the path. We both mourned the loss, but very quickly laughed at the situation. Messes can be funny sometimes. We left the spilled yoghurt on the path hoping the rain would wash most of it away. However, the next morning we found it just as we had left it–except for a curious friend. A slug.

Unexpected things happen in community. Sometimes these things are heartbreaking. Other times, we celebrate. And sometimes they are just silly–like finding an inquisitive slug in a puddle of yoghurt. But, for those of us experiencing an A Rocha internship, all these things contribute to the larger community fermentation by transforming us from a self-oriented way of living into a community that listens, and forgives, and becomes a more wholesome, nourishing presence in the world.

– Christina Weinman, Brooksdale Communications Intern