Later the same day, which seems impossible -- incredibly full day. After our trek to town and the internet cafe which functions because it has its own generator, but which therefore carries constant construction-level noise, we went back to the project. The kids had a full slate of Entertainments for us.
First, the little kids ran a race, 5 at a time, where they stuck their faces in basins of water, filled their mouths with water, then ran to the other end of the compound and spit the water into empty coke and fanta bottles. They ran back and forth, racing to see who filled his or her bottle first.
While we were watching this, Derrick peeled a mango for me, and kept grinning at the privilege. I gave him my swiss army knife and showed him how to use purell, but I'm sure it was more bacterial onslaught.
I feel like a human swiss army knife right now, since carissa and yarina still don't have their luggage. They're both wearing the single outfits they bought in kampala, yarina a white tshirt with a huge hole in the seam where she tried to rip out a scratchy tag, and carissa a kid's tank top with little elephants on it. They're both filthy and remarkably good natured, considering that they lack clothes, shoes other than flip flops, sunscreen, hats, deet, the video camera, moisturizer -- all of the little luxuries that cushion the culture shock. And here I am, pulling wipes, sunscreen, purell, a knife, instant coffee, extra camera batteries, a raincoat, pens, etc. out of my bag. They were particularly bedraggled on our wandering lost walk today, where it poured on us and people kept directing us to Save the Children when we asked where the Care office was. (No one knows our project, but it's next to Care). This is when the man stopped his car to videotape the phenomenon of us -- I have a great picture of Carissa asking for directions, covered in schmutz thrown up from her flipflops on the muddy road, while being videotaped.
Turns out that our social worker and her intern saw us lost, but just figured we were going to Save the Children, and didn't stop us.
I feel oddly confident about wandering the streets, even lost -- last year I wouldn't have walked, but this year I feel the community is porous. People might not speak english, or know how to help us, but they'll try. I'll try to figure out how to post pics, because the family that let us use their shelter was ... vivid.
As are our kids. After the coke bottle race, we had two hours of performances. First, a nikibasika anthem that someone wrote for us, which they sing standing up with their hands over their hearts. Then heartfelt songs of thanks, and the capper was a long (very long) play with the big kids, depicting the exemplar story of how the kids came to be with us. One of the big girls I hadn't met before (she was away last year) was the "star," the child who started out with a loving mother and daddy, but whose mother then died pitifully. The daddy professed to love her, taking a new wife who vowed to love her. The new wife abused the girl, hitting her with a shoe and loving her new baby -- a real baby, daughter of the cook, who was treated pretty much as a prop, set down on the side of the stage when her scene was done. She bore it well, investigating the water cups that were props from the loving time early in the girl's life. So the new wife beats the girl and won't give her food, and then her daddy dies of AIDS (news delivered by a giggling and self-conscious Brendah). Then she ends up on the street, eating from the rubbish, and a self-annointed "nigga girl." Eventually, after no one helps her, when she can't remember her name or her parents' names or her home village anymore ("I come from the street,") she finds nikibasika, and friends, and a shower, and the Canadians.
The play was far too long -- and the most important thing I've ever seen. It's really the core narrative of our kids, so far -- and making this play, telling their stories, is the work of our new and fabulous social worker, Tina. They've never had a safe place to talk about their histories before.
After the play, more of everything we do -- songs, poetry ("Corruption," intoned Madam Melon), drawing, netball for the girls (I'm awful at it), football for the boys (balls were bought at lunchtime). Posho, beans and greens, which we picked at, reminding them that they give muzungu too much food. Small, tight, full conversations with different kids in turn, reaching into the focus they crave. Answerng questions: "you have 45 years and you are without children? SURE? What is your religion? You don't go to church? They don't let you go to church because you don't have children? Sure?)
("Sure" means "are you kidding?" and is said like shu-ah? with an air of incredulity).
So many images -- Brian weeping with headache and fatigue after a few weeks' bout of malaria that prompted the director and social worker to take him back to his village to see the relatives Just in Case. Bolshie, cheeky mary: "where'd you get that hair," I asked, since she suddenly showed up with extensions, courtesy of the german woman who slips her pocket money but won't give us money for school fees. "A gift from god," she said. "Your red nails too?" I asked. Moses shying away from carissa until she pulled him to her and said "you know I'm always coming back, right?" Brendah and Baptista overwhelmed with the supplies special for them, the budding artists. The children healthy, more confident, more joyful, open -- all so much better, so much hope, so much gratitude. What the money and our support is doing -- it's working the way it's supposed to.
"I don't have children because I was supposed to have all of you," I said to Robina and Docas when they were quizzing me. They smiled their grins, and I remembered what Jimmy said to me when he lost his auntie -- that she was one of his mothers. I feel I am one of their mothers, to each of them, even for a few minutes a year -- they know we're going to keep coming back, that they are in our hearts when we're not here.