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Voices

I was reading my comments, and it's hard to explain how important it is to hear voices from the other side of the world in the middle of all this, even if completely surreal.

This is all africa as we expect it to be -- petty corruption, absolute poverty, having to fire the director who is, at the very least, ripping us off in petty ways, and at the most, may have somehow disposed of a kid and substituted his daughter in the kid's place in school. And all of the magic and most gritty life there is.

The big boys walked us home tonight, in the dark. I walked with Rafiki, and talked about how he was born in 1994 in Rwanda, during the year of the genocide, and spent his first years being carried on foot to Congo to hide and back.

I'm covered in baby urine. African babies are just passed around, 17 year old boys looking after them, 12 year old girls, 7 year old boys.

12 year old african girls snitch on each other and form girl cliques. But they can be diverted by dancing.

I tried to get middle-school kids to tell me today how they thought Danny could have got a baby without a wife or a girlfriend. Kagame thought he might have produced it himself, but he would have had to go to the hospital and have it cut out of him. Others thought his wife died in childbirth. No one guessed adoption, and they were sure that the baby's mother would come and take her back.

Muzungu Benson wryly told me "Africans produce like rats." So we talked about condoms.

The big girls told me they suffer from syphilis because of the toilets at school being dirty.

8 children took me to see the palace of the king of the bakonjo. He lives around the corner.

We went back to the hospital to pick up brian, and the little girl in the bed next to him had just died of dysentery. They just put her in a tiny, purple-wrapped coffin, placed her in the trunk of the car, and all piled in to take her to be buried.

A big man also died at the same time. Women wailed.

While we waited to pick up brian, Gabriel asked for 1000 shillings for an HIV test. Tina took one too. Just, randomly. They proudly showed me the negative results.

Abdu told me he thinks I love him more than anyone ever has, care about his future more. Brother to Rafiki, he told me passionately how much he hates fighting and will always step in to make people stop. I promise to take him to the memorial of the genocide some day.

Anita won't stop hugging me for a full 5 minutes. Derick folds the love letters from the kids into a careful pile for me. Everyone wants to carry my bags. Tiny things they can do to demonstrate how much it matters that someone in the world knows their names.

Blair is constantly draped with little boys ravenous for a big man to love them. When Moses falls asleep in his lap, this gay hair salon owner who has never imagined himself a parent tells me he feels like a father for the first time in his wildest imagination.

Yerina teaches the kids simple charade. Brendah gets "Cate" as her turn and just drags me into the circle, pointing. No one, guesses Cate, though "muzungu" and "woman with a baby" and "brainy person" (the glasses) are tried. Moreen is outraged, shouting "that's not acting!"

So much life, and so much management to this project. A disgruntled former worker shows up at breakfast. We meet with the social worker, the overseer, decide to fire the director, fix an earlier decision about a girl who slipped through the cracks in the program for the older kids. She left the project and ended up selling tomatoes on the streest of kampala. We call her back, get her agreement about studying procurement and logistics, arrange for her to reapply to university, computer course. Few lives have been so altered with so little money in so few hours.

It's huge and impossible and absolutely required. I'm too small, and I'm mother to the world, finding the right things to say to the big boys, the middle girls, the babies. I discover that the average ugandan lifespan is 48.

Magic, wholeness, life indeed.

Posted by CateinTO 10:56

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Comments

Cate: I continue to be blown away by your journey. What an amazing, daunting, scary, fulfilling, happy, and sad experience. What an emotional roller coaster. I'm so in awe of the important work you are all doing there and of the children whom you are connecting with.

by Janice

Cate, thank you fro the inspiring thoughts. I am thinking about you and sending you energy to slay any dragons necessary to accomplish what you need to.

B

by Bennett

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