(Mara, thank you so much for your comments -- I hope we can connect when I'm back in Canada -- the Care office is actually right next to our project here, but the folks there are away right now).
(And thanks to everyone else who's commenting -- knowing someone's listening brings my fingers to the keyboard, and this is how I make my meaning).
There is a hotel full of people today, a big regional budget conference. All Africans, dressed in smart suits, including Mr RDC, the giant moose of a man who visited our kids last year and made them feel important.
I'm particularly noticing them because I'm sick today, felled as expected after a week by intestinal slime. Spent most of the day sleeping fitfully between distasteful jaunts to the toilet, rising only long enough to give my input to the high level questions for our budget meeting. Carissa took the administrative bullet of the two hour meeting with the process-loving probation officer, the guy who has the responsibility for the welfare of children in the district. The required paperwork to get the project fully on track administratively is as long as the road to kilembe (that is, far on foot, fast by car), and should have been done last year, but it's a minor thing, really.
The fact that I'm staying in bed instead of being with the kids tonight is confirmation of the depth of my physical crappiness (npi). We'll say goodbye in the morning, with a little cake, after a conversation with the exec director of our partner NGO who's been a little too awol on this project this year and is now scrambling. He felt that perhaps we shouldn't dismiss our ops director "because he was sorry" -- another dip in the shared meaning that requires the constant dance between going directly forward and giving airtime and respect to the people we need to keep on our side. So much patience that I don't have when I'm scowling from swallowing pepto bismol.
We've made so much progress, though, it's unbelievable. Understanding the need for three different budget streams (ops, schools, development). Understanding what the kids actually *need* for pocket money at school, and what's they use it for. Getting the dire need to buy the big girls "knicker pegs." Realizing that none of them has a towel -- that they bathe and put their clothes on. I reviewed their report cards last night, and am glad that baba got green (excellent) in "praying" but kiisa got purple (fair) in toiletBlair will nod in affirmation at that. Surprised that Smith can be 9th in a class of 145 with what looks like a low B average to me. Worried that Abdu didn't do so well in first term, so his frets about his O level exams are probably fair. The tiny details that make us their parents, and the huge questions about how to keep the project advancing.
The people at the hotel are sad we're leaving, and want to know why we won't stay for christmas. "Next year," I say. "That's what you said last year," mocks Godfrey.
So many ways to not let in the fact that we leave in the morning, and the 5 minute tight hugs from Anitta, Innocent, Deheri, Joy-with-the-newly discovered hearing problem, the kinyarwanda words Abdu and Saphra are teaching me, (the first was "I love you" -- Ndagukunda), the plastered-to-my-side smiles from Derick -- the never huggy Melon sitting on my lap for 20 minutes. All ending.
Focusing on the paradoxes, the fact that so much of the money for this project comes from fundraisers whose participants are mostly gay men, in a country where "aggravated homosexuality" carries the death penalty, and garden variety homosexuality is illegal and is supposed to be reported by neighbours. The deep understanding across context and the realization that the closer I get, the more I realize I don't understand. Constantly looking for interpretation (corporal punishment in schools is equivalent to what North Americans viewed as acceptable 60 years ago) and realizing that all of those interpretations are approximate (that doesn't mean Uganda is 60 years "behind," it's just a point of connection).
Last night here, last night in this home not-home.