Saturday, February 11, 2012

Numb With A Purpose

   Preparations for my upcoming adventure to Africa are in full swing and I've already begun packing with almost five weeks left before I will be airborne. This is so far out of my comfort zone and beyond my wildest dreams that I'm pretty much numb. Not paralyzed, mind you. Because my days are filled with phone calls, emails, shopping for supplies, fiddling with my new camera, fund raising, writing thank you's, and packing, weighing and repacking the fifty pound bags I will be taking with me.
   The numbness comes into play when I try to even imagine what it's going to be like to actually fulfill a lifelong dream PLUS come face to face with three African children who have invaded a large part of my heart. This is where I cannot seem to get past the technicalities of a journey of this magnitude and into the heart of why I am going in the first place.
    Like I said....NUMB.
    I imagine this will all change once my husband leaves me at the airport and I'm settled in my assigned seat for 18 hours of nothingness. I foresee plenty of time for it to become real and for my emotions to return to life. Pity my seat mate.
    Having said all that, please allow me to introduce you to the three sponsored girls I am traveling so far to see.
    Mary is nine years old and will turn ten about a week after I meet her. Her mother and father are both deceased and she now lives with her grandparents, along with her 11 year-old brother Isaac and 13 year-old sister Mueni. Her letters to me are always written in English. This is most likely her third language following her tribal tongue and Swahili, the local language. She has a best friend named Lucky and Mary wants to be a teacher when she grows up. I chose Mary from a line-up of children simply because she shares a name with one of my very best friends. And Mary was an orphan, who in her first picture was wearing a rumpled pink dress that was unfastened and stained.

    Elizabeth is eight years old and lives with her parents and six year-old brother, George. She always thanks me for the stickers and photos I send to her and says she is proud to have me as her sponsor. Some children do not get any (or very few) letters from their sponsor and I imagine with what she receives in the mail from me, she must know how much I love her. Elizabeth's best friend is Mercy and she writes that she wants to be a nurse when she is older. I plan to tuck a play medical kit into her bag of gifts to encourage her towards that dream!

   Roseline is ten and lives with her aunt, most likely in Maasailand. Even though they are one of the smaller tribes in Kenya, the Maasai are the most well known, thanks to the tourists who stalk them for photo shots of the men with their spears and the women's beautiful bead work jewellery. Roseline is the only one who has requested that I come see her. I sent her some money for her birthday and she wrote to tell me that she "bought a sheep in hopes that it will give birth to many lambs." She loves "mathematics" and does her homework as soon as school is out for the day. Roseline wishes to be a doctor.

   Compassion will escort the girls to Nairobi where we will have one whole day together. I have a back-pack for each of them filled with the things I most want them to have: toothbrush, soap, dresses, underwear, socks, a bracelet, doll, jump rope, school supplies, blanket, stuffed animal and a photo album.
   I also have a bag of gifts for the family which will include basic food supplies and extras for the siblings.
   Here again I am talking about all of this in terms of who, what, where and when. I cannot seem to begin to put words to what it might be like to hear their accents and laughter, ask them questions about their lives and hold them in my arms.
   A friend of mine, who lives in Kenya three months out of the year teaching English, told me that when the girls return from their visit with me back to their villages, they will be welcomed as celebrities. When your American sponsor travels across the ocean to visit you, well, your status just rose a few notches. My status upon my return to the states will undoubtedly remain UNDISCOVERED. But I am going to come home one very rich girl, having had the privilege of meeting Mary, Elizabeth and Roseline.

  There is another little girl, only six years old, who is unexpectedly and miraculously included in my itinerary for this trip.  Her story is up next!