Trip Start Jun 18, 2008
24Trip End Aug 17, 2008
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A week after I arrived, Nyanza spent the night at the orphanage. Apparently this is something some of the volunteers do before they leave. To be honest, when I first heard this idea, I was not enthused. Nyanza did not improve things by joking, "It's a good night if you don't get peed on." I am a high maintenance sleeper. The children already sleep two to three to a bed, so it definitely could be a crowded and germ-filled experience. Sometimes the bedrooms reek of urine, why would I want to sleep there? Shortly after Nyanza spent the night, the children began asking when I would I. I chose to laugh at them and tell them I had my own bed. Before Michelle left, she stayed the night too. I still was not sure this was something I was up for doing. Michelle can sleep anywhere while I envisioned a night of looking at my watch and wondering why I had not slept in my bed. I did not want to be annoyed at the children the following day because I was grumpy. However, as my final week winds to a close, I want to spend as much time with the children. I found myself actually wanting to spend the night despite the potential crowdedness, germs, lack of sleep and urine. This is how much I have come to love them all.
Michelle, Nyanza, and Jessica (a volunteer from last summer that spent a week with us) all said Gloria will tell you who to sleep with so not to worry about waking up in a wet bed. If I was to spend the night, Jessica informed me that Happy and Joy are bed-wetters, so strongly advised against sleeping with them. I was disappointed with this news as they would have been the ones I would want to sleep with the most, but perhaps not that badly.
I opted to sleep over on my last Tuesday in Mwanza. I had never stayed at the orphanage past 6:30 pm as this is when the sun begins to set. It was fun to stay and watch their evening routine. Several of the older boys and Margreth played football, while the girls and the younger children opted for their now favorite game, MushPot. When they grew tired of this, several of the children grabbed buckets, frisbees, and bottles banging them quite well in support of the football game. As the sun dipped under the horizon, Stellah sang songs so the younger children could play musical chairs (well not chairs really, but buckets and anything else they could sit on).
I was very excited that dinner was rice and beans (and not ugali), and we sat outside in the dark eating our food. The children began to get very quiet as we finished dinner. I knew that a church service is held every night. As it was very dark at this point, I am not sure if church was beginning inside or if some of the children began to pray outside. After all the plates had been collected, the children gathered around Salome and under the half moon began to sing their songs of worship. I have heard the children sing before and was once more struck by the beauty of their voices. After the singing, the children loudly said their prayers. I have no idea what they were saying as they talked very quickly, but it was obviously intense. This went on for quite some time, and Judy and some others began to cry. I do not know if they were overcome by the emotion of their prayers or if they prayers were for their parents causing them to be upset. As their voices dwindled, Salome began singing again and the children joined on. The service wrapped up around a little after eight pm, and we headed inside for bed.
Gloria suggested I sleep with Lina and moved Lina's bedmate, Pendo, to another bunk. Lina is five, but apparently not a bed-wetter. Happy and Joy asked where I was sleeping, and I pointed at the bunk bed next to theirs. I could tell Happy was not crazy about this, but at the time she did not seem too upset. Happy, Joy, and Margreth are the only siblings that sleep together and the three of them already crowd into one twin-sized bunk. Any regrets, I had about sleeping with the twins disappeared when Margreth laid a large piece of plastic in Happy's spot.
I was not yet asleep but daydreaming contentedly when I heard Joel yelling. The older girls answered and I heard the words, "Happy" and "Mama Ginger". I pulled out an earplug, heard Happy crying and asked Pendo what was going on. "She's upset because she is not sleeping with you." I have rarely seen Happy cry and not for more than a minute, so I was quite surprised. I crawled out of bed and stuck my head under the mosquito net where the twins and Margreth laid. Happy lay between Margreth and Joy. I apologized and rubbed her stomach. In Swahili, I told her that Mama Gloria told me to sleep with Lina. I asked Margreth to tell her there was no room in their bed for me. She rolled over crossly and with my heart breaking, I climbed back into bed with Lina. Pendo took Happy to the bathroom and when she walked by, I pulled her into my bed. I thought we could cuddle for a bit, but she just sat there breathing heavily trying to calm down. After several minutes of her sitting awkwardly, I picked her up to put her back in her bed. The moment I sat her on the foot of her bed. She immediately started sobbing and refused to lie down between her sisters. Apparently counting to three is universal and Margreth angrily counted, "Moja, Mbili, Tatu!" Pendo walked over to try to smooth things out while I sat there feeling awful and saying "Pole" (Sorry) over and over. Pendo then asked me if we could scoot Lina, now sleeping, over, so Happy could sleep with us. I did not have the heart to say no. Then as Happy climbed into the bed without her plastic sheet, I asked myself if I loved her enough to wake up in a wet bed. Without a doubt, the answer was yes.
Again she sat on the edge of the bed and I realized she sleeps in the middle. I slid over to the edge, and she
crawled over me and into the empty space. Exhausted from crying, she fell asleep almost immediately. I, on the other hand, clung to the edge of the bed as she tossed and turned in her sleep. Her little elbows grated into my back and my neck, but I was glad that she was happy. Just after midnight when the lights were finally turned off, she wrapped one of her legs around my waist. "She is totally going to pee right on my back," was one of my final thoughts before I was able to drift to sleep.
At six am the lights came back on. I had repeatedly woken up throughout the night and was very tired. However, I looked over at Happy and Lina and knew it was totally worth it. The bed was dry, but I think even if it were wet, I still would have smiled.