Friday, March 16, 2007

Coming Home-January 2007

Coming Home

I know that I am home now because my feet never stay clean for more than an hour after I bathe. My coffee just doesn’t have that same taste and our mattress is on a slope. When we got off the plane in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania wrapped her loving arms around us in a humid hug. But by the time we got home to Bagamoyo she was blowing kisses on the strong winds that kept us cool since the power was out. It was such a lovely night. Now it’s been more than two weeks and the United States seems a bit like a fleeting dream. It wasn’t always an easy journey, but it was like when Dorothy and the gang got to Oz. Caito got new stuffing (6 kilos of it) and I got to take great showers and get cleaned up like Dorothy. We were energized by all the support we were met with, and deeply renewed of purpose.

Some observations that I can’t quite wrap up in a common thread, but I trust you to find for me:

My Aunt Mary was right when she taught me that poverty is relative. I grew up in middle class America. I often felt a sense of lack- the right clothes, better furniture, a vacation, but I lived in the absolute lap of luxury! Here, we are perceived by our immediate neighbors as being extremely wealthy. The feeling is contagious because I feel wealthy and thankful. When I go to the city and see other expatriates, however, I feel like a pauper. Some teenagers in the United States worried that we were abusing our son for deliberately raising him ‘’in poverty’ yet he has never known lack a day in his life. In fact, he lives at the Baobab Home which is the Disneyland of Bagamoyo.

The other day I tried to get work done in the afternoon and a neighbor girl named Mwajuma came over. She is in the second grade. Her mother, sister and brother all are HIV+. We have tried to do income generation projects with her mother, but they haven’t worked so we help the family with food often. Mwajuma had gotten the ruler smack and was kicked out of school for not having notebooks. She was crying and her mother sent her to me. I could have just given her the dollar for the notebooks but I had a little righteous anger that needed to get out. I went to talk to the principal about her educational philosophy. I needed to ask her how she thought a ruler smack would help a child who the ‘headmistress’ is a stern, unsympathetic soul, who had no answer for me but she said she’d put Mwajuma on the list of especially needy children (the no- beat list?) and that God would bless me. I wondered how she knew this.

Two nights ago we listened all night to the sound of neighborhood women drumming, singing and celebrating two girls becoming women. They played all night and I wondered if at some point the girl’s celebration had just turned into a big party for the women. Part of me wanted to drop in, but it was also nice to just listen. The girls are different now. They hold their heads higher. I hope the feeling carries on long past when the beautiful henna tattoos wear off their skin.

It is good to be home. We have three new street boys in our care. More mouths to feed, more school supplies, more hands to work, more love, and more joy in the house. We are going to make 2007 a very good year.

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