Sunday, January 20, 2008

Back to School and a New Library Too! (Almost)

My grandmother was what I like to call a "pre-Vatican II Catholic." Back in the days before 1965, when the pope gave his flock an inch, from which they subsequently took a mile, good Catholics obeyed by the rules -- all of the rules. And my grandmother was a by-the-book, "good Catholic." That explains why she had ten children in about ten years.

She lived in a time before Target, in a time before convenience had yet become the mantra of the masses in our great nation. With a little help, but not much, she cooked, cleaned, and ran a household by herself, one that more often than not resembled a human version of Noah's Ark more than a place where a "Welcome" mat would fit in on the front doorstep. I wasn't around to observe, but something tells me the words "free time" didn't hold much meaning to her: as intangible as an emotion, as illusory as the sight of a soft, fluffy cloud ready to catch her should she jump through the window of an airplane, "free time" was something that my grandmother just could not grab a hold of.

She had ten kids. Big deal; TFFT has 67.

Hunter definitely is the woman in this relationship.

And Hunter and I are the only two doing the raising for the time being. Who had more on their hands?

I feel like this could be a sitcom, our lives. Wasn't there a show back in the day called "My Two Dads" or something? Just combine that with an exponentially increased African Brady Bunch set up, and that is the world of the two people on the ground for The Foundation For Tomorrow< in this, our first year as a fully-functioning NGO. We may not do all the things my grandmother had to do for her children, like cooking and carpooling and disciplining, but we've still got to go shopping for them during the Back to School rush. And there ain't no Wal-Mart or Target on this continent yet. Isn't that hardship enough?

Have you ever shopped for 67 kids whose sizes you did not know? Have you ever done this in Africa? No and no, I see. Well let's do some math. Sixty-seven kids means:

  • 134 pairs of underwear
  • 201 pairs of socks
  • 67 mosquito nets
  • 134 pairs of shoes
  • 67 pairs of pajamas
  • 201 Solex locks

(one of which was subsequently dropped by one of the kids into a hole that I honestly think goes to China...)

  • 67 metal boxes

(which we forced our guests, Norah and Jehan, to fill for us...)

  • and a lot -- a lot -- of other things that must be purchased in multiples of 67.

Sixty-seven kids and only two dad's. That doesn't leave a lot of time to catch your breath when you get back into town two or three days before school starts up again.

Moving, grooving, and moving some more. That's what it has been like pretty much since the New Year for Mwindaji and I. But it's been great. The worst part about our jobs is what Hunter always refers to as "playing God" -- choosing which kids receive an education and which kids do not. I hate that part of my job. But the best part, well it almost completely makes up for the guilt generated by playing God, and that's what we've been enjoying in tandem with the daily shopping sprees and exchange fests.

The best part is getting all these little guys situated in school, which is the entire point of TFFT's existence, now isn't it?

We placed 32 young ones in Usa River Academy this January, evening the teams with Fikiria Kwanza Academy, which also has 32 TFFT children enrolled for the 2008 school year. Three others from towns and villages far from Arusha -- Lushoto and Karatu -- round out the kids we've been able to sponsor this year.

Seeing the smiling faces on the children bound for Usa River -- quite a departure from the scene at Good Hope Orphanage, or in Nkoaranga village, or a children's home in town -- was a much appreciated, belated Christmas gift.

Seeing all our dawgs at Fikiria Kwanza again, after about a month of separation, was even cooler.

And being pleasantly surprised by the pace of our library construction project on the campus of FK? Well, that was .... a pleasant surprise!

"The roof, the roof, the roof is almost on!"

Things are slowly starting to settle down. We're almost 100 percent caught up on getting all the stuff our kids still need, things we forgot to buy in the initial rush of Back to School mania. Soon we'll start teaching part time again. All that in a little bit; I'm going to put my feet up for just a hot second so I can catch my breath.

This parenting thing can be brutal.