I’m finally posting this–after 6 unsuccessful tries. But I really like this post, and just wasn’t willing to give up.
Gone. Two of my best posts are gone, electrons blowing in the wind. There were things I wanted to say, so I’ll try again.
Monday morning we toddled off to Sele Enan orphanage. It’s just a small place, with about 24 kids, all small, maybe through the fourth grade. We did the usual drawing and painting, then tried something new for the foundation website—Charlotte drew a 12 foot square on the pavement in the front, and I got up high on a balcony with my camera set to take one photo a second for 5 minutes. We gave each kid a big piece of chalk, courtesy of Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong foundation, and turned them all loose at once. Charlotte will be able to make a 15 second time-lapse video of art exploding right out of the ground when she gets home. If it works, I’ll post it here in couple of weeks.
The special thing about Sele Enan for me was the staff. The women working there, from the teacher (who is called “Teacher” by all the students) through the cooking staff were just wonderful; kind, caring, involved, good-natured. We really had a good time.
Then we went to Kihane Moret, a large Catholic orphanage. Changes in state policy, which seem to be designed to increase the position of the state at the expense of the children, have seen their baby ward dwindle from over 100 to just 6 babies. They still have about 100 older children, though.
This was a very busy workshop—Charlotte, Shauna and I had the younger children drawing and painting, while Erik and Shannon were busy doing animation with the older ones. I’m always the Pencil King, carrying the sharpener to keep everyone working. If you just put a sharpener out, you don’t have one anymore, so it stays in my pocket until needed.
American men are often accused of holding their emotions in too tightly. If this trip has no other effect for me, there has been a decided loosening of emotion. I’m always drawn to the youngest of the children, and at Kihane Moret that turned out to be Gleff, a beautiful 3 year old who first drew my eye as she was simply hoarding as many crayons as possible—her hands so full of supplies that she couldn’t draw. When she let go enough to get started, her fierce little concentration kept her at work long after most of the others had lost interest and wandered off.
But when I pointed her out to Charlotte, I heard the full story: Gleff is HIV positive. Because she is in a good place, she gets the retroviral medicine she needs. And she has been adopted: Gleff is going to Italy soon. Why this made me cry for an hour I’ll never know, but there you have it.
Monday night, different emotions were working: I called the airport to check on my bags, and the stupidity, incompetence and indifference I received left me screaming at the phone. So I went out there. I don’t know if it did any good, but I was there for an hour and a half, and they must have been dying to get rid of me. Sitting in their office, smelling like a truck driver after a cross country run with a load of flatulent cattle and coughing like an 80 year old Appalachian coal miner, insistently saying, loudly, “WHERE ARE MY BAGS?” I had 3 of them scurrying around like they actually worked for a living, calling Cairo, calling their manager, poring through their email files. It was fun, in a cathartic sort of way, but my bags still aren’t here. Maybe later this morning. Maybe not.
On Tuesday, we went to the Kechene state orphanage—which Charlotte likens to Lord of the Flies. Many, many children, few staff. While everyone else was working with about a dozen of the older girls, doing an impressive collage, I got to keep the little kids busy and out of the way. If we let them in the room, the theft was too much to manage—we lost 6 paint sets anyway.
Taking of little children is easy and I like it. The little boys are easy; they just want some roughhousing and silly noises. I make a pop with my finger in my cheek that they are too little to work out, and they can watch it a hundred times.
The little girls are even easier—they just want to hold my hand. What a little (4 or 5 year old) girl wants is to hold Daddy’s hand and look at him. And if she is living in an orphanage, she isn’t overly picky about who “Daddy” is. Thinking about this, as I stood holding hands with 3 little girls, the waterworks started again.
I came on this trip for the adventure, and in the hopes of doing something worthwhile and repaying some of my good fortune. As many have found before me, these children have given me more than I could ever give them.