No day has only one "major event." Today, along with the wrenching performance appraisal, we bid farewell to blair. Question on his last day: "we can't put toilet paper in the toilet, right?" "Um, sure you can." Pause. "Oh. I'm going to have to leave a BIG tip." In south america, where he's mostly travelled, apparently you can't.
Blair was heartwrenched himself, barely able to tear himself away from the child he'd bonded most with.
After we dropped him off, we had church with the kids. They lead it themselves, throwing themselves into prayer and singing more fully than anything else they do. Abdu led, but he's not a natural speaker, and he's sweetly earnest and halting. He called on us to testify, and we didn't begin with "praise god!" as the kids did, but they clapped anyway. We danced around in my favourite simple hymn -- Find somebody/say I love you/put your hands together/and praise the lord (appropriate hand actions and twirling required).
And the Elina spoke, the girl we'd "rescued" the other day from the streets of kampala, put back on track for education. I cried as she spoke, simple, eloquent, bare and present, about how she'd prayed to find a way to go to school, and now she was back here, and she vows to work hard, be a big sister to the younger kids, make her prayers worthwhile.
I felt again what I felt last year, that my own discomfort with religion and general atheism notwithstanding, the faith of these kids holds them strong. Another paradox.
Another paradox? The constant tension between knowing how much the $1000 to support Elina will transform her life and the ones she connects with, and discomfort with that power. Saying yes to her means saying no to so many others, so definitive in all cases, a lurking worry about the white/black, western/african balance, distaste at how much I have and can bestow at will.
I was realizing tonight that the remainder of my trip feels like it's in equally bad taste, in some ways. That travelling in what amounts to luxury in africa isn't how I need to travel here. After a week, I don't long for more comfort, I'm quite fine with the clapped out hire car that bangs against the road we're in while the suzuki takes blair to entebbe. I no longer wash my hands fanatically. I barely shrug at realizing I have to put a used tampon (well-wrapped) into my bag because there's no trash bin anywhere. Ants crawl out of the salt shaker and I brush them off.
I'm hardly "living in africa," and I still make a complete mess out of hole-in-floor latrines. I still don't want to get shistosomiasis, thankyouverymuch. But the divide is simultaneously more porous and more visible to me.