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Published: August 16th 2008
Reading to kids at Dondo
I now have a very prolific vocabulary in Portuguese related to lizard races. That was their favorite book.
This morning Warner Woodworth, a BYU professor in international development, left for home. He’s been here with us the whole time, although usually doing different things. When I went to the meetings with villagers, he was the one I went with. He’s a pretty interesting guy. Remember Oulessebougou, Mali? He was instrumental in starting up that whole thing. He is involved with the church’s international aid and with various microcredit organizations, and similar stuff. He lives on half his BYU salary and gives the rest to similar kinds of organizations. Hmm, I remember when I was planning on doing that. The guilt-meter is starting to buzz. The only problem with the guy is that he’s a Democrat.
In the morning we went to Dondo. We helped repair a decrepit swingset that has probably injured as many orphans as it’s entertained. I read my Portuguese books to the kids several times. And we delivered a bunch of stuff to the kids—a quilt for each, and either a school kit, doll, or car, depending on the age and gender of each kid. We had a little meeting where we handed each kid their stuff and took their pictures to remind ourselves
of how swell we were. One of the orphans stood up and gave a very nice thank-you speech to us. It was gratifying to see them playing with their new stuff. Right after we gave it them and the somewhat self-congratulatory meeting broke up, the kids took their loot into their rooms. I watched them spread their new blankets carefully on their beds and smooth out the wrinkles. It was touching to watch—much better than the meeting, which kind of felt like one of those corporate awards ceremonies with lots of polite applause and a long list of awards. I shouldn’t minimize it by putting it that way—the stuff really was great and the kids were obviously very happy to have it.
While at Dondo, I met a Brazilian who was next door testing children for malaria. He said that one in 30 African kids dies of malaria. I didn’t realize that it was that bad. As I was reflecting on that, and on my experiences here in general, I thought about the fact that people here live with that sort of thing and move on and do their best. I guess that I kind of assumed that they’d
be sitting around miserable all the time and thinking about how much their life sucks. But people endure. When they’re sick here, they either suffer through it and get better, or they die. When their kids die, they endure it. When they don’t have money for the necessities, they do the best they can. The kids play together and look happy. The wives do their work and visit with each other. People congregate in the markets in the late afternoon and visit. They live their lives, just like you and me. And I’m pretty convinced that they’re no less happy than people in America. Their problems are utterly different (and often make our “problems” sound stupid by comparison), but they just handle them the best that they can, like we do.
The cops here are worthless, from what I’ve heard. Apparently people have little choice but to take justice into their own hands. In the case of stealing, the mob will kill you if they catch you. Last week our security guards had slacked off and were not out front like they’re supposed to be. Ryan went out front to see if he could find them, and got robbed.
A new blankee and a car
It don't get much better than that.
The guy took his cell phone. Apparently the next day, some people in the neighborhood caught a guy trying to steal a cell phone and killed him. We don’t know if it was the same guy. But that’s a pretty desperate situation. My first thought was, man, death is a pretty dire punishment for robbing someone. Then I thought, how desperate do you have to be to rob someone for literally a few bucks, when you know that if you get caught you’ll get torn to pieces by a mob? There must be a lot of desperation here under the surface that I really haven’t been exposed to directly.
It seems like everything in this country is broken. I’ve talked about the condition of the buildings, but it applies to machinery and everything else, too. Things just don’t seem to get maintained or fixed very often, and I can’t see that very much new stuff is getting built or installed. There’s some, but not much. I don’t know if it’s a poverty thing, or a cultural thing, or the way that the economy is organized, or what. Maybe they don’t have access to spare parts for anything, or they’re
Checking out the new school kits
Note the new quilts in the background too.
just so used to crappy stuff that it doesn’t bother them any more.
This afternoon some of the team had to go buy a bunch of food and building supplies, and there was nothing for the rest of us to do, so we went to the beach. The weather was gorgeous and San Diego-ish. I got in a little. There were lots of clams. They’d get washed up on the waves and then quickly dig themselves into the sand. There are decrepit buildings nearby—a four-story hotel that is mostly gutted and empty, some bungalows also gutted and empty, and a single beach house where some Mozambicans were sitting on the balcony enjoying the afternoon. I bought a bunch of bananas from a guy on the beach for the going price—20 cents.
When we got home, a Care for Life employee named Moises (I think I told you about him—we went on a ride right after I got here) came by. I had promised him to help with photos, or at least he said I did. I’m sure he’s right—you know how good I am at remembering stuff like that. I printed out some pictures that I’d taken of
him when we went to work on the farm together back on the 17th. At his request, I also printed a couple pictures that I had taken of the bus driver that same day. They were very grateful.
Tonight we went to the baby orphanage again. The boss was gone, so things weren’t quite as organized as they usually are. There were 30 kids crammed in the TV room that I described to you a while back. Many of them were hollering, and others were just being loud toddlers. The TV was blaring a video. Shortly after I got in there the single fluorescent light tube went out, and it was dark except for light from an adjoining room and from the TV. It was like the seventh ring of hell in there. I walked in and several of them immediately came up to me with arms outstretched. It’s depressing to have to pick one or two out to pick up and reject others. They don’t go up to the nurses and ask to be picked up. Presumably that’s because the nurses don’t pick the kids up much, at least not to hug them or show affection. Tonight one
of the kids, maybe six or seven years old, came up to me and said “sou seu filho,” which means, “I am your child.” I said okay, and kept him/her (I think she’s a girl, but I’m not 100% sure) on my lap until the nurse came to get her at bedtime. The more time I spend in the baby orphanage, the more I think that it’s best to pick a few kids and spend 10-15 minutes with just them, holding and singing to them. I suspect that’s the kind of attention that they just never ever get. So that’s what I do.
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