First let me begin by saying how much the comments mean to me from here! I love hearing over and over again how much you enjoy taking this journey with me. Please don’t be shy about responding I like to know you are coming along.
I’m in my bedroom now. I can hear voices downstairs where the social people relax. I tend to disappear to my room after dinner for some head cleaning. There are many people staying in this house and it’s enjoyably festive. We have my group, and another family who are adopting alongside of us as well as the house manager, Julie and Patrick’s assistant Fiona. After a full day I need some solidtude and time to process all the new experiences and learning adventures of the day. So far, this trip feels like a full out sprint pace in a marathon race. It seems that I’d pass out from exhaustion but it is all so stimulating and energizing I am rising to the challenge instead. I have to believe at some point I will not gape out the window of the car and think that I’m still on another planet. It must become a degree of normal where I don’t feel that every minute is charged with sensory stimulus. Now I understand why tired babies get crankier when they are offered more toys instead of a quiet bed. I’m in my quiet space so I can organize my thinking and prepare for another full day.
Patrick, who manages Bridge Africa, has taken excellent care of us. When we go on a trip for shopping or like today, to the U.S. Embassy, he not only sends the driver I ask for, but also a guide to help me be safe, avoid cultural fauxpas and to remember the items on my shopping list when I’m distracted with so many unusual grocery items. I feel like I have a personal secretary and I love it. I’m never all alone which would be so frightening in this face paced foreign culture.
I began my day with a quick visit to cuddle Kira. Hiking up this steep uneven dirt road always provides me with nice surprises. I especially like to see the children so I can pull lollipops out of my bag. They think I’m giving it to them for their pleasure. But really, I just want to see a genuine smile and experience real time gratitude over something as simple as a sweet. The rains have washed away the putrid smells, thank goodness. Once on our way up Emily and I saw someone out in the open at the back of his house having a shower from a bucket. Thankfully he was far enough away for us not to show our shock and we realized soon enough to move to the other side of the road to give him some privacy. We couldn’t hold back our giggles though. I also see bodaboda drivers stopping for a whiz into the bushes. I won’t judge that because I recall a hilarious episode last year when eight mzungu (white) women wandered onto a lane very similar to this road to make some similar relief, but not without cackles of laughter to be heard throughout the village.
When I arrived I crouched down to her level and smiled into her face, and I thank God that every day she is happier to see me than the last one. I reached my hands towards her in an open position and waited to see if she would show any sign at all that she wanted to come to me. She flapped her little wings like a chicken and hooted like an owl. I picked her up and squeezed her tight thanking her for the gift of a warm welcome. She flung herself into me and I just have to believe it was a hug. We giggled together until I was fetched by George and Olive to go to the U.S. Embassy. We had to begin the process of getting her visa. The sooner the better.
The US Embassy is our home away from home so I shouldn’t be surprised that first I had to be granted entrance and given a bag. My friend, guide, Olive had to sit and wait in a covered area with many other Ugandans. I gave her my bible to read in case it was a long wait for her. She is devoted to God and thanked me for the offer. Next I had to relinquish all of my electronics and anything else, like my candy bag for the children, to an officer who locked it up in a locker and gave me the key. I signed an old fashioned register book. Revealing all the electronics in one’s bag here is equivalent to shouting out loud in America how much money you earn in a year. I was embarrassed. You know I have state of the art camera equipment. And then the blackberry, flip camera, pocket camera and flash drives. I could see everyone’s eyes making calculations in their heads. Then after I walked through the gate they must have whispered about the red head woman.
Through the gate I received a warm American welcome with a full body scan and another thorough bag check, finished with a blank stare nod to proceed forward. I wound my way up a path to another guard who allowed me entrance to a waiting room. The man there was smiley and kind, he offered me a seat. There were forty Ugandans waiting for their appointment which is granted to them as officially and rarely as we were granted our court date. I thought, great, I’ll be here all day long. I panicked that I gave away my bible! But then I realized I had my journal so I began to record the learnings of the morning. Every day is greeted with the promise of a many new learning adventures. I scribble notes all through the day so I can keep the stories straight and also to make sense of the returning themes. To my surprise I finished one page of notes and I was sent to the next available door. It seems it is good after all to be an American in our own embassy. I felt sorry though for those who waited. They are there to apply for a visa to visit America. They are most likely to be turned down. Everyone I have met has been declined a visa. I’ll speak more about that in later posts.
She gave me a check list. She copied Kira’s birth certificate and asked me to email her when everything on the list is completed then we will have our appointment to finalize her visa. This process is why we are in Uganda for so long. Considering our ruling date is so close to Christmas, we will not likely finish these things until after the holiday. Hakuna Matata. (no worries)
We are all loving it here so much that we consider it an honor, and privilege to take as much time as we can get to embrace Kira’s culture. The boys began school today. Emily was thankful that I bought a teacher’s manual for Kevin’s math. I figured as an English major she would find that useful. They spent the morning doing their school work and they loved having Emily in her new role as teacher. She is truly gifted. Because her mother homeschooled her all through her education and then she did a similar homestudy college education to receive her bachelor’s degree in two years she is a natural at teaching. I love the easy way she makes everything a learning lesson. We sit at meal times and make lists of topics we are learning about and brainstorm together. For example, we listed all the things we have seen transported on motor bikes. We listed what we see women carry on their heads. We listed all the different foods we are trying. Each day we will add to our lists and create more. At some point they will write simple essays describing these topics.
After lunch we went to the baby home to play. They do not like the word orphanage, it has a sour taste for them. They prefer baby home. There’s a everlasting stigma to the word orphan that they would rather hide to protect the self-esteem of the child. It is cultural. In central America when we worked in an orphanage, the word orphan held no weight or consequence. The children rush to greet us now with their hands extended and say in an exaggerated way with an English accent, “how are YOU?” We hug and shake hands the Ugandan way which has three specific hand positions while pumping up and down vigorously.
I did some photography with the children that afternoon. I am trying to get some good portraits of each child to either email to the parents who contact me through this blog, or leave for their file so when they get the referral they can treasure some beautiful expressions and images. It is my honor to do this for the waiting parents. This sort of service with my camera is what keeps me energized with photography. I have refused to work for money, but instead prefer to call myself a “missionary’s photographer”. It is a special gift that I can give that comes from the heart and aren’t those the best sort to receive and give? I think so.
Someone built a fire in their field near the baby home which filled my already congested lungs and chased me down the hill to cleaner air. I didn’t have to leave without Kira though. This was the first time we brought her home for the night. I strapped her on a baby carrier and Emily and I shared our walk home. I am so thankful for the partnership with Emily. We mesh naturally; we have similar dispositions. We enjoy intelligent and thoughtful discussions about what we are learning. She’s a natural helper, funny and generous. Long ago I felt God poke me and whisper, ask Emily to come with you to Uganda. He has something to teach her here. I am in awe to watch these things get revealed to her.
She made it a goal to get one of the boys Bauer to smile. It was her afternoon pursuit. She succeeded! And I was there with my camera. As soon as I can I will email Bauer’s mama Sara the precious photo of her son as he is so happy here in this baby home. To all the mother’s waiting for their children, please be at peace to know these babies are not lonely or sad. They are having fun, loved, and doted on continually. They are never left to cry and they get endless cuddles from so many Aunties who volunteer their time. You are blessed, as I am, to receive a child from this orphanage. My heartache in all the waiting was I did not know this. My imagination ran away with all the horror stories we hear about orphanages creating an urgency and panic. The only one suffering is you because you cannot be with your baby. The child, you can be assured, is entirely blessed spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.
Kira was sleeping when we arrived home. So I laid her on my bed, then sat there to watch her and soak in the emotion and thoughts of the moment. Gratitude oozed from every thought and feeling. She popped her little head up suddenly and realized she was not in familiar territory. She looked around and then cried a little scratchy “ehhh”. She looked at me, and then I could see all of the muscles in her little body relax. Emily came in and we shared this moment together watching her as she realized where I go, she goes. Em took some photos, but I can’t share anything until after our court ruling. I hope my words are enough to feed you for now. You can be assured at some point you will wonder will she ever post anything without Kira’s picture in it.
At 6:30 pm she drank a few ounces of a bottle and passed out. I didn’t even get to put her pjs on because I had no idea that was her bedtime. It is 6:am now, and she is still fast asleep wearing her fashionista outfit with purple ruffled bell bottoms and a big purple ruffly flower on her top. My driver George asked me, “does your baby ever cry?” no. “that scares me!” and he laughed thinking I was the luckiest mama ever. I know I am.