The sun burns white dust today. Our last day. We do errands this morning to avoid thinking about tonight, saying goodbye to these kids.
One of the big things we need to work out is that we're not actually a legal entity here. We need to register, get paperwork, get each of the kids' guardians to approve a care order so that the kids are with us legally. The process is like one of those lion fences you drag together in the serengeti. The Impenetrable Forest. "First you need a letter from the head of the LOC council 1. Then you need a letter from the LOC council 2. Then you need a letter from the LOC council 3. Then you take these letters to the Kadde-Net." It ends with a visit from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. And only THEN can our director visit all of the kids' guardians to get care letters, 1 by 1.
It feels impenetrable, but the probation officer is on our side. And so is Mr. RDC, the head bureaucrat of the entire district. After our hallucinatory four hour meeting with him last week, we invited him to the house for a concert last night. To our surprise, he came. A honk at the gate, a pick up truck with a soldier with a rifle standing in the back.
A triumph. Declared himself 100% behind us, gave the children a little speech about growing up healthy, how AIDS was a kind of gift because we know how to look out for it, not like if a mosquito bites you. Talked about peace and how only with peace can we have people with good hearts come to help us. People who are not even the same colour who love the children like parents. We couldn't have asked for anything more.
The little boys slipped out of formation to harass the soldier, but the big kids heard. They know we are committed to them, that the community is there. We had the kids sing him a frayed version of O Canada we've been teaching them. We made up actions. They love to stand on guard, little salutes with one arm at the side.
While they stand on guard, in the background, our watchman becomes untrustworthy, trying to quietly disrupt -- disorganize us, as they say here -- because of his loyalty to the founder. As we drive back to the hotel, full of the RDC and community support, the feel of the little hands of the kids stroking our curious skin and hair, the littlest ones clinging to each of us like babies, we have to give the director permission to fire Ronny with his spear and his whistle and hire an auxiliary police officer for a couple of months. It barely causes us a ripple. The kids are all.
All day yesterday, the kids were slipping us folded pieces of paper. Love letters. Requests for pen pals. Letters To the Canadians. Complicated folds to make envelopes, colourful drawings. Passionate pleas. "Auntie Cate I love you so so so much." I cannot bear to think of leaving. I drained tears steadily while the RDC was speaking.
My sleep was feverish last night. The electricity was going on and off, and everytime I woke, I realized I was dreaming of the children. Wilson, grown up, the Mayor he wants to be. Baptista a doctor, his prized fedora still askew.
The mountains here are rounded, sensual, inviting. But Able is adamant that no one who could afford anything better would live there. The green ridges hide congo and all its chaos. They call to me to climb them, but I know that up close the paths will be slippery dust, few handholds. In this work, I climb those ridges, find my footing one step at a time, have to constantly decide where momentum will provide the most balance, where I need to steady myself after every step. This is the work.
Tonight, we bring cake and farewells. Promise them our commitment, again.