words of the day, and stories

July 31, 2010

Isaac held my hand all the way to school today, sweaty and clinging tighter to me, pulling me to the side of the road, when the bodas passed and kicked gravel and dust up around us. I wiped sweat off my hand on my skirt while he waited, hand outstretched till he caught himself and wiped his hand too. 8 years old and an orphan adopted by his aunt and uncle, he sits with me at night when the electricity is off, and I convince Esther to tell us stories. Sometimes, I make Isaac find five things to tell me about his day. I say, "'fine' isn't enough," find five words - yesterday, it was "play, watch, sleep, run, eat." Good enough.

Morris asked me today if I'll return. We were sitting in a one room home, waiting for Joyce Katende to return so I could purchase some mats for her to sell in the states. I told him I didn't know - non chalante coming out, but it tasted bitter when I said it. I watched my bare feet on the ripped up mat covering Joyce's dirt floor, watched her granddaughter do homework on a dirty blanket, watched the kids in the doorway wanting to know about Mzungu, and what she's doing here. "If they need me," I offered. Then, I started thinking about my notebook full of stories, and the way my friend Gina quotes her mother, who often reminds her that we are all in the middle of a story, never the end.

After talking with Joyce, and putting in a deposit for her to purchase materials, we walked through an open field to get back to the main road to catch a boda back to town. We talked about microfinance as we walked, and the ways I could help from a distance. I had a meeting tonight about the products here - bangles, necklaces, african fabric, mats, baskets - I've begun to develop the idea of starting a kind of mobile store to sell products for the women here struggling with AIDS. I'd like to partner with the microfinancing going on here.

I want to know if Joyce starts a microfinance project, and whether or not her mats begin to support her grandchildren, and for someone to tell me if Safina's sponsorship clears her skin up. I'll be wondering if Alex finds the strength to start working again, and if Keneth starts to smile.

I'll wonder if Shaliwa's brothers are getting to go back to school, and if Rosemary has reached her dream of starting a vegetable stand in order to support her children. I'll want to know if Patrick learns how to handle money, and gets to start a loan, despite the Kisipe on the right side of his face.

I'll want to know Isaac's five words, and whether or not he pursues becoming a fireman, like he tells me he will.

I started sponsoring Cossy, who was born blind and with a cleft pallet, and sleeps alone at night while her aunt works as a prostitute. I'll want to know how her condition improves with regular food, and how long it will be until her AIDS develops enough to make her eligible for ARVs.

I didn't have an answer for Morris, holding onto his shirt as we skidded out on the side of the main road to make me laugh and hit him. I'm in the middle of a story too - one with school loans, family in California and a year lease in East LA. So I didn't think about it. Instead, I followed him to start another story about a man who just stopped working because of his battle with AIDS. I took pictures, I wrote, and I did what I could - today. And, on the way home from working at the school, I carried Isaac on my shoulders, and told him he's the tallest man in Wobulenzi.

Later tonight, I'll ask him for his five words of the day.


angela said...

beautiful and some of your best work. it's so real, so relate-able. i want you to go back . . . with me.