I'm pretty sure all of the blogs that Callie and I have written have been about kids. Of course I could talk about these children forever, but I also want to mention the truly amazing parents we've met on this trip.
First of all, the Neema parents. Penina is the house mom at Neema and Phillip is the dad. They are both amazing with the kids. I love watching Penina with the babies because, even when they're in the worst mood, she can always make them smile just by saying their names. Even the two month old smiles when he sees his mom coming. When she sings they all start dancing. Manna wiggles her butt and Patience bobs her head up and down like guys in rap music videos. She has pet names for all of them and she always loved seeing the kids' art. Phillip is no less impressive. When he comes home from town all of the kids sprint outside (in their pajamas with no shoes) to meet him. Sometimes he puts about 8 of them on his bike (the bikes here have seats on the back) and slowly wheels them around the yard. He's quiet and reserved but, while the rest of us have to yell and spank kids, it only takes one word from him to make a child behave. They all want to please him so badly. I can't imagine how hard it must be for them to give equal attention to forty kids while still making them all feel special. It must feel terrible to not even know all of your kids' birthdays because there are just too many to memorize. It's a huge responsibility to raise that many children, but after getting to know all of the Neema family, I can whole-heartedly say that they're doing an amazing job.
Most of the other parents who we've really gotten to know have been at the hospital. Usually while I'm in Sally Test I'm completely focused on the kids, but last week as I was leaving the center I saw a woman sobbing and screaming and repeatedly collapsing on the ground as nurses and other onlookers tried to hold her up and calm her. I watched, with the rest of the hospital as they started pulling her away from the building while she wailed. At first I didn't know what had happened. Was she from the mental ward? Could she not pay the hospital bill? I later learned that she was a mother, and had just learned her child had died.
After that I started taking more and more notice of the parents of the kids I love so much. I've gotten to be good friends with Mama Britney (most adults are addressed like that: Mama or Baba followed by one of their kid's names). Her daughter is the cutest little girl and if I already love her after just 3 weeks, I can only imagine her mom's love. I often go to pick Britney up from the ward and a couple of times I was too early and I had to wait as Britney's medicine was given to her through her IV port. When she sees the nurses coming she automatically starts crying and scooting back on her bed. Her mom has to calm her and tell her five year-old daughter that she needs to be tough.
Nick is another really great kid. He's 14 years old and everyone he meets likes him automatically. We recently found out that his condition is far more severe than he had let on and he had to have surgery to remove a fist-sized tumor on Saturday. When we went to see him he had tubes all over him and a breathing mask lying right next to his face, just in case. He was all swollen and could barely talk. He told us that it had hurt much more than he thought it would. His mom isn't allowed to stay in the post-op ward with him.
I think it's amazing how strong these parents are. I can't even visit Nick without crying but he's counting on his mom to be brave for both of them. She's always smiling and every worker in the hospital knows her and loves talking with her. Britney had her surgery a couple weeks ago and we see improvement day by day. It must be awful to have a sick child, but amazing to see your child get better. Having a child in the hospital might even be harder for the parents than it is for the kids. While it's painful for the children, the parents have to watch the people they care most for hurting. They're unable to do much, but they're all desperate to take all their child's pain for themselves.
While I'm on the topic of parents: Callie's are here! We're so happy to see them and I can't wait to see mine in just 9 days!