Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Packing List

A friend of mine went to Ethiopia about a month ago to bring home her beautiful baby. To my delight, we have become friends, and she has helped me develop a packing list of things that might be helpful to have for The Big Pickup. I thought I would post it here; maybe someone else will find this useful or will have something to add.

These are just some ideas for packing for our daughter, who is six months.

> Bottles--2-3 bottles, plus a box of 50 ct. 9 oz. drop ins, which are just plastic bottle sleeves/inserts; you load up the formula, add bottled water and serve. When the bottle is empty, one removes the drop-in, and the bottle is clean. (It would be difficult to sterilize them otherwise.) I realize I may sound liek a total neophyte here, maybe everyone already knows, but Drop-ins are ... http://www.csnbaby.com/asp/show_detail.asp?sku=PTX1001&PiID=2006909&refid=FR51-PTX1001_2006909. I thought this was brilliance.
> A plastic, pre-measured, three-or four-sectioned formula dispenser. (Apparently, we will be spending quite a lot of time traveling in the van and so won't easily be able to fuss with scooping formula out while en route.) A link: http://www.epinions.com/reviews/Munchkin_Powdered_formula_Dispenser
> Nipples--2 slow flow and 2 medium flow. (I have been told that some CHI 6-month olds still choke without 0-3 nipples.) I guess I will just rinse my nipples out with bottled water while we're there.
> Disposable diapers--10 per day; we can donate whatever we don't use to the orphanage.
> Bibs-- Vinyl, so they're easy to wash and dry. (My friend brought but never used them, but I'm bringing two just for kicks. (Everything is so small! Why not!)
> Onesies--3 per day. Extra, just in case there are any intestinal issues, however we are also sure that we can have anything washed and returned by the next day, either through housekeeping or by just rinsing them in the sink and hanging. Ethiopia is so dry, things should dry fast.
> Burp cloths-- From 3 to 10. The word is, one can never have enough.
I had asked about a car seat or stroller, but apparently we will not ever use them in Ethiopia. Just a baby carrier or a sling is best.
> Baby drugs--Infant motrin, tylenol, benadryl, and mylicon
drops (for gassiness). We aren't bringing insect repellent.
> Socks--one pair per day. easy to wash and dry if soiled. Also highly recommended: Robeez shoes for 6-12 months (for our six month old). They help keep socks on.
> Sleepers--seven total (for four days) The type that snaps all the way up are recommended.
> wet wipes --one to two large packs should do.
> Blankets--2 light weight, 1 heavier weight
> One small rattle.
> 15 ziplock bags to store wet diapers and wet clothing on the road.
> Small small bottle of baby shampoo.
> Butt paste.
> Salve/lotion for her skin
> A good baby carrier. (We have the Beco, which so far has been working great for my little cat to get carried around in, but I also like the Ergo and probably will get one of those, too. The beco is just so pretty!

Anyway, just some ideas! I'm sure there are a million ways to do this.

Take care!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who is going to Ethiopia?

For a while, almost all information about adoption and absolutely even the mention of Ethiopia was scratched from this blog. That is because a kinda scary note went out a few weeks ago saying that if we had any info identifying our child on our website, that our file would be closed and no baby! Forever! No appeals and no exceptions! (This very, very sadly happened to a couple a few months ago; I think they had photographs posted, I am not sure. But Ethiopian government saw their blog and said, basically, 'sorry, you broke the rules.' I can't imagine the heartbreak; I'm sure they didn't even KNOW the rules.)

Until the big letter went out a few weeks ago, I think all us "bloggers" thought the ban was just on photos, but it turns out it was anything identifying our baby, so, her age, even, or our her gender or our court date, maybe ... who knows what's identifying?! We decided to take no chances. I think we were all pretty alarmed, and most people with Ethiopian adoptions (who had not had court dates yet) just made their blogs private. Now I am out of all the loops, I don't know which families have what going on or who is progressing. It is sad for me, but mostly sad because I would really love to connect with anyone who has the same CHI travel date as ours. There should be three or four other couples, I would think, who we'll be grouped up with.

Does anyone have our court date? Please email us or introduce yourselves somehow! (wildmile@hotmail.com).

Our travel date is official (our court date went through) and it is April 14th to pick up our baby from the Thomas Center.

So, it's interesting: Now that our court date has gone through, of course Ethiopia does not consider our little one to be an "orphan" anymore because they've officially recognized us as the parents. So we can post to our hearts' content. Which means photos. But Eric and I both were very surprised to find out that we don't want to post any! Oh, we have them! And they are fabulous! We love this baby so much. But she is this sacred little thing and all ours and we just can't bear the thought of ... I don't know .. her being so exposed or something, just her little precious face in cyberspace. Is this odd? This might be the first sign that we will be the super hyper protective parents we SO don't want to be, who make our child wear a helmet in the house and will never leave her with a sitter. Dunno. But for now, this is where we are.

BTW, I got even BETTER tickets to Ethiopia, I went straight to the Ethiopian Airlines website and paid $1550 each for very direct flights with reasonable arrival and departures from Ethiopia -- just a 40-minute layover in Rome and not even getting off the plane; much better and cheaper than any of the big flight search engines were putting out. (Two hours later, I realized this.)

Take care,


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Straight magic

There are so, so many fabulous blogs out there, and I have a list of some of my favorites off to the right of this page, but here is one that I love especially. It is by a woman in the northeastern US, waiting to adopt Ethiopian child(ren) and writing all sorts of hysterical (like, funny hysterical. Not ranting) and meaningful things in the interim. Reading her blog is a lot like chatting with your best friend, being advised by a very hip Bodhisattva, and reading an Ethiopian almanac. She also has a lot of helpful links.


Another helpful link is called Asklenore.com. It has great information on something I've been very interested in, adoptive breastfeeding. Yes, it can be done, and the protocol is not too difficult -- some birth control pills but no, like, hormone shots or anything. I found the data to be very straightforward and evenhanded, and I am working through the protocol she lists. It is not very physically stressful, and I just thought, you know, if I can do this, I'm going to! I think it would be fabulously great for Dessi and for our whole family! But if it doesn't work, it's not so much work or so difficult that I'll feel too sad about it or feel stressed or like a failure straight off the boat. Whateva! Please feel free to email me privately for more information, and here is the link to that great website:


OK, I am off. It's 4:12 am here and I am ANNOYED because two days after the fact I just got an email that our Ethiopian flight (which we paid for on Friday night) has expired without being ticketed (because they were off for the weekend and didn't check their email until now! Happy Easter To Me!) So. Now the flights are much more money and I am spending another two hours processing the details. This is because my normal airfare consolidator guy was on vacation this week, so I used ATI travel website. Don't use them!!

Oh well! I really don't care that much!! At least everything that is important is under way.

:) :) :)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Court Success!!

Ehiopia has officially official-ed our adoption!! WAHOO!! We are a family! Nothing else can delay the process or go wrong; she is our baby. Now we wait until April 14th (the day after her six-month birthday) to pick her up forever!! (Our agency needs to apply for her Ethiopian passport and finalize her US visa. But it's just paperwork, no big deal.

It was a long day. At 6:30 am I rolled over to snuggle with my sleeping husband until I was finally able to accidentally wake him up by whispering "It's 9:30 in the morning in Addis right now." We had a good laugh and spent a few minutes reviewing how ridiculously lucky we are.

Then Eric went to work, and I sat and waited.

I was going to go to the orphanage this morning but I couldn't pull myself away from the computer, so I learned how to make a DVD for my friend's daughter's first birthday videos. At around noon, I figured out how to make my computer beep each time I receive a new email, and so at that point I was able to leave the room to shower and fry an egg for breakfast.

Eric called twice for news, so that broke the day up a little, and I researched flights to Addis from DC. They are expensive, and that made me sad.

But we both had a feeling that today was going to be a good day for us.

And now it is! I can't believe the relief. I had no idea how much I had been carrying around with me until we were cleared -- there seems like there has been something to worry or fuss over (although probably a lot of it was unnecessary) for three or four months now, from the moment we were first told about Dessi -- some reason to check my email as soon as I got home or woke up or just simply hadn't checked for more than an hour. And now it's all over and I can't help but think, "Well! That really wasn't so bad!"

Truly, I think this now. :)

OK. Now we are going to buy our tickets to Addis and have a nice glass of wine.

Here are our plans for the rest of the month:
> > March 28 - return to DC for a week,
> > April 4 - Leave Francie with our fabulous friends
in DC, fly to ethiopia for seven days of sightseeing!!
> > April 14 - pick up dessi, spend four days doing
court work and legal paperwork, hanging out
together, whatever.
> > April 18- fly to DC, pick up francie and get a
good night's sleep.
> > April 19 - fly to Montana, hang out, readopt Dessi
in Montana so she's a US citizen, apply for a
passport, maybe kayak and definitely hike a little,
and pretty much just do whatever little Dessi wants.
> > May 16 - fly to DC, "pack out" (meet with the
movers who will move all our things to Senegal),
maybe rent a condo and meet my parents in DC for a
few days so they can meet Dessi!!!
> > May 20 - fly to Senegal

And then we should be sitting relatively still for a while, which will probably make for some pretty dull blogging, just the baby the baby the baby :)

How thrilling!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Saloum Delta

Eric, Francie and I traveled south along the coast this weekend to a place where the Saloum river enters the Atlantic. It rocked!! We turned off the main highway and the pavement gave way to washboarded, red-dirt roads passing through villages that only recently got electricity and where there are more horse carts than cars on the road, but actually not many of those, either. Our destination was a little room in a baobab tree -- literally, a tree house! -- overlooking a lagoon.


There were nine other little tree houses and river huts scattered around, and a little pool for swimming. The food was delicious and interesting, and it was so still there that the guests spoke in hushed tones throughout the lunches and dinners, as if no one wanted to disrupt the quiet.

In the middle of the night an animal woke me as it tried to tunnel and dig its way through our locked door, which reminded me that I had to pee, and as I clambered outside and down the tree to pee (and yes, the novelty was wearing off a little bit at that point, but only a little), I realized that the wind that had been raging since 8 pm had laid down completely, the stars were just nutty bright, and I felt like I was the only one around for eons.

lagoon with hut and salt huts

There's not much to do there (the hotel's website mostly shows people laying in hammocks), and we had a good time just sitting still, watching Francie clamber around the baobab (see her in the tree, to the left?)


reading our books, and staring at the view from our porch.


But we ALSO went horseback riding!!!


It was SO fun! I haven't laughed that hard in at least three months! Unfortunately, I mostly was laughing at Eric, who does not like horses and only agreed to this because he didn't want me to have to go by myself and because I wouldn't stop talking about it. He looked so uncomfortable, bouncing all over the place. He was a very, very good sport. (However, we have this ritual where every night we lay in bed and say what was our favorite part of the day. That night, he said his favorite part was getting off the horse. Which I thought was hysterical.)

We rode along the ocean, which, except for the garbage strewn all over, was like a commercial,


through a few villages,



along the Sine-Saloum delta


and then back home.

The next day we were going to go for a pirogue ride along the river but instead opted to do a nice hike along the river and the salt flats. We borrowed the canoe to cross the lagon, but we had to return it right away, which meant that one person had to swim back across. That would be my hero, Eric.


We also had no paddle, so someone had to swim and pull the canoe.


We walked along the river, and the ground had dried in these strange ways, it was spongy and soft, and we left no footprints -- it was like walking on ... I don't know what. Sponges, I guess.


birds in saloum delta

Now we are back home, it is two days later and I am still sore from the horse!!! I'm sure I deserve it for laughing so hard this weekend -- Eric is not sore at all!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Haze

Senegal has what they call the Harmattan -- two months of windy delight as (seemingly) all the sand of the Sahara blows into town and clogs up the air. It starts in January -- just about when we arrived here -- and this year has been worsening until now it's really just shy of silly. Dust one end of the house and it's dirty again before you're through with the other. Look at the horizon over the sea and it just looks kinda grey and murky. Even our little cat has, like, snot-dust coming out her nose and filling the little crevases (I panicked and assumed she was dying. It took me two days to figure it out. I am probably not going to be a very good mother.) Yesterday I left the house without sunglasses and so had to walk across town with my hands over my face, looking out through the little cracks between my fingers.)


Some days it is terrible, like a bad fire day in Northwest Montana. Some days it is okay. I think it is much worse psychologically when I leave the city; in the vast, open spaces and you can really see how clogged the air is. The photo here was taken on a rather extreme day, driving back from our weekend trip to the Saloum delta.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Our daughter's name

Our baby's name is Dessi Alemitu Young.

We wanted her to have an Ethiopian name, but also to have a name that would be easy for Americans to pronounce and spell. We started reading lists of names, we saw 'Dessi' and loved it immediatelyt. It's an unusual but legitimate Ethiopian female name. I don't know that it means anything per se (although "Desta" means joy), but it is the name of a town in northern Ethiopia that Eric has traveled to. (It is sometimes also spelled Dese'.) He said it is a sweet little place, although I think he got a flat tire there.

Her birth mother's name is listed as Alemitu, and so in her honor and because we always want to hold that sacred link for our daughter, she is Dessi Alemitu. I'm sure I will always be a little bit sad about the obvious but somehow mindblowing facts of Dessi coming to us -- that we have her because someone else does not. Eric and I look at Dessi's photographs and are fully in awe. She is this sacred, perfect little thing, and we know that her birth mother saw and loved her as we do. I cannot imagine her heartbreak, and it makes me sad. But more overwhelming is this deep reverence I have for her birth mother, that she has allowed the lot of us to plug into to this break-your-heart-wide-open connection and love that I can see now most obviously must have been in the world since the beginning of time -- this motherhood and fatherhood and the almost awful power, responsibility and truth of it.

And then her last name, of course. Our name. Dessi Alemitu Young.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Patience, grasshopper

In November we had moved to a new apartment in DC so that Eric could work there for a few months. Even though it was winter, we were happy to see there was a little back porch so the cat could go outside and hang out. (It was on the second storey, about 25 feet up, so she wouldn't have jumped.) First afternoon, the sun comes out a little and warms things up to maybe 40 degrees, I take the cat on the porch, the door locks behind us, and voila. Three hours and 15 minutes of 40 degrees with a T-shirt and a cat to keep me warm, waiting for my husband to come home.

Oh yes, I suffered. And I wished and pushed and hated every moment that I was on that porch. (I didn't know Eric's work number, and although I did flag down a Comcast guy who offered to send a ladder up for me, I didn't want to leave the cat, and also a little bit I did not want to make a spectacle of myself, so I stayed put.) At any rate, reflecting on it the next day, I wished I had been a little more openminded. How would it have been to really explore the cold, to just name it and let it sit there with me but not to keep trying to do this impossible thing of getting AWAY from it. Would it have been as bad? Would it have taken less time? There had been lessons in it, and either way I was basically just going to be cold until Eric got home. But because I chose to keep trying to not be there, in a very real sense I basically just wasted all of that time.

And right now, (and this is a weird analogy, I'll admit it, but ...), I may as well be back on that porch. I have five weeks now before the baby comes, and I am wishing it away! What day is it NOW? How many days before next Friday, when there will only be one week before the court date and four weeks before we travel? If I can just get to Monday, then we'll be within one week of it beeing two weeks before the court date ...

And on and on I go. I'm driving myself crazy. I actually wonder if some small part of me thinks that, without my constant urging, time might just get confused and stand still.

How great it would be to just enjoy this beautiful weather and these beautiful people and the sweet babies I work with every day. I mean, and I do. I do enjoy it all. But there is this substrate element to all of my thoughts and each of my moments, and it is: I am just killing time. I am just waiting this all out until the real fun can start. And that, of course, keeps me from truly seeing or listening or being present. Which is a waste of time.

Over and over, the lesson of my life seems to be that any given moment, for all intents and purposes, technically is as good as any other moment. (Supposedly, anyway. :) I have lately begun to realize how much of my life I spend rushing through one thing so that I can get to some OTHER thing, which is expected to be either more important or more fun or more likely to somehow involve eating. :)

My husband and I have five beautiful weeks left together without a baby. The last five weeks of our lives that will ever just be the two of us, one way or another. I have five weeks of yoga in the mornings and unfettered meditation time (not, mind you, of unfettered meditations), of staring at the wall while drinking my morning coffee, of not really needing to plan much of anything, and of really not having anything to worry about.

I don't want to miss this.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lac Rose

About an hour north of Senegal is Lac Rose, a shallow stretch of water that reflects intensely pink at certain times of the day (I've been told noon, I've been told dusk) during the dry season. It looks pink because of its high mineral content and micro-organisms. We visited the lake a few weeks ago, in late afternoon (a time no one had mentioned as being good). It wasn't PINK, but we got the idea.

boat at lac rose

There were some trees on the far side of the lake but nothing on our side. Just salt, blowing in the wind, crunching underfoot and leaving our hair feeling cobwebby. The salt had corroded everything there was to see, and the scene was barren and unnatural, sort of in a way that made me think about being dead or in the very least think about being in a David Lynch film. Adding to the weirdness were the constant pitches and tugs of filmy-faced women hawking bracelets and little homemade dolls.

I should say here that Lac Rose is widely thought to be a cool place -- the Dakar Rally usually ends here (but was canceled this year because of a terrorism threat -- don't tell my mom), that tours stop at Lac Rose and that people like going there. It's definitely interesting. Just weird.


Here I am with two vendors who asked me to take their photographs. I think they enjoyed seeing the instant digital image.

Just like in the Dead Sea, everything floats in the water, and it is supposedly fun to jump in and bob along like a buoy. Personally, I don't know who would ever voluntarily do this. I went in up to my calves and they and my feet were instantly itchy and weirdly flaky for the rest of the night; I can't imagine how it would have felt to have that salt water in any of my delicates. Eric would have no part of it, either, and he is pretty adventurous.

lac rose salt miners

And yet. Every day these men paddle the pirogues to deep water, plunge in up to their waists or sometimes their chests, and then with wooden-handled gardening spades they load up the boats. This takes hours. The men then lead the boats back to shore, and the women carry the salt in buckets on their heads from shore to the big piles you see here. Each pile or group of piles belongs to a certain family of miners. Each of the 25-pound bag sells for 500 cfa ($1.25).


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Baby Games

Here is Aminata, over her foot and mouth disease and feeling MUCH better, suddenly able to roll onto her stomach, grab toys that are overhead, and laugh like crazy when you tickle her. I mean, it is ridiculous. She's also eating all of her food again. Here's to happy!


Also in the photo is a child I call Sweet Boy. (His real name is hard to pronounce.) When I first met him, I was very worried. He wouldn't make eye contact, and even when I picked him up and rotated his whole body to face me, he would just turn his head again and again and again, avoiding me. What had happened to that little boy I couldn't imagine. Some trauma? Separation anxiety? Autism? Regardless, I made it my personal mission to hold him for at least 30 minutes per day, and after a week it turned out he was just shy! Now that we know each other, he smiles and laughs like crazy! Curiously, it's become a bit of a game for him and now he often PLAYS at being shy, but we both know the gig is up and that we're friends, and so after a 20 seconds of making me work for it he'll look into my eyes and then just laugh and laugh at our big joke. A sense of humor!

I started this thing where I don't take showers until after returning from the orphanage in the afternoon, because I just get spit up and pee all over me, and slobber in my hair, so why bother? Of course, my hair can look pretty kooky without a morning wash, but who's going to see me, right? Well. So on Day Two of this experiment, the PRESIDENT of SENEGAL visited the orphanage. That's right. He brought with him about 30 day-gowned women and a TV camera crew. The next day a the nannies told me I had been on TV the night before.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Being Prepared

We're ready!

There's nothing new and no adoption progress to report, but nonetheless, we're getting ready to go! Francie actually loves to be in the baby carrier. And isn't it the prettiest design ever? She hangs out and looks around while I make dinner or clean the house. (That's right. Both times.) She likes being in the middle of things, I think.

I try not to think about the adoption, and I sometimes manage to pull back into this very quiet, patient person, but then if I look at the photos too much or watch our stupid 41-second video of her more than 18 times in a row, I start to literally feel sick to my stomach. My friend said she felt the same way, and next thing she knew she was in Africa with her baby and then it was over before she knew it and now none of it matters.

This must be true. At any rate, it is an interesting little study in Buddha Mind and of the truth that our suffering is directly determined by our resistance to not getting our way. I see that. Totally. But I don't care! I choose impatience! I choose suffering! I want my way!!

I think it might be very telling that there is no news and nothing has changed or developed for three weeks, and yet every day I have a different emotion about it. How can that be?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Tres cher

The other day I bought red bell peppers for $18 / kilo. This is the most expensive country in Africa! Things are definitely cheaper at the street stalls, below, than at the large supermarkets, but the supermarkets are nice and peaceful and all the prices are marked, so if you're feeling tired or testy, they're the way to go.


Actually, maybe some price reviews would be interesting.

Quart of soy milk - $4 to $7
Quart of 100% juice - $2 to $6
1.5 l bottle of h20 - $.75 to $2
Chicken breasts - $16 per kilo (but the last time I bought them I threw up. I would be willing to pay more to eliminate this added feature)
Organic mint & thyme tea - $8 per box (but it’s so unusual and delicious!!)
Native hibiscus tea - $2.50 per box (and it’s really good, too!)
1 lb of pasta - $2
One month of birth control pills - $2.20!! Finally, a deal!!
Four-hour trip in a car rapide - $4. A deal, but the drivers are reckless and the passengers "unsavory," according to my Senegalese friend. They're sweetly painted, though! Below is a photo of one.


So, not cheap. And you might think I am simply not a good negotiator, but I assure you, I am. :) The problem is, the ground here is sandy and salty and apparently not good for growing a lot of things. So they import mandarin oranges ($3 / kilo) from Morocco and cheeses and wines from France. But it’s not just the food; we actually rent our one-bedroom downtown apartment for more than we were paying in DC! Here is a photo of our living room. The giant artwork on the wall is a traditional Senegalese weaving.

dakar apartment

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Talibes (Child Slaves)

Here in Senegal, there is the problem of the street boys -- big, often shaved heads, dressed in scraps, tugging on sleeves and knocking on car windows around the country. Asking that you please throw a few cfa in their beat up red bowls. Pincing the fingers and thumb together and moving it to their mouths, the universal sign for "I am hungry." (These boys here actually look much better than average (and they look pretty happy because I have just given them eggs). I actually wondered if they look desperate enough to make my point, or that maybe I should photograph some others?! But I decided that wasn't very journalistic of me, so, here's the photo.)


The thing is, Senegal is more or less a prosperous place, as Africa goes, and this begging is not entirely necessary. It is child slavery, and these boys are rounded up and used by regional Islamic leaders (called marabouts) to collect money for their own personal uses. I hesitate to write about this, because I don't want to contribute to religious prejudice or feed any idea that Islam is a bad religion. However, in this instance, with these leaders and these children and this government, it is not working out so well.

Most Senegalese are Muslim, but they don't tend to be too strict about it. Most do not pray five times a day, and women's heads are uncovered. But still, on Fridays the men dress up and fill the labryntine streets, facing east, moving across prayer mats as they bow, kneel, stand, bow. There is faith and duty and pilgrimage. And, especially in the countryside, men have multiple wives and even larger multiples of children, not all of whom can be cared for. And so some boys are sold or offered to these Islamic boarding schools in cities so far away that they sometimes never see their families again. As consolation, their illiterate parents are told that the boys will go to school and also learn to recite the Koran. That they will have a safe place to sleep and good food and be taken care of. And so, 6, 7, 10 years old, the boys go. They do study the Koran, but only to memorize it rote. They sleep in mosquito- and fly-infested bunks and are fed next to nothing, and during the days, every day, they are sent to beg. To teach humility.

Mondays through Fridays, 500 cfa ($1.25). Saturdays, 250 cfa. Sundays, 200 cfa. Minimums based on how many people are expected to be walking around on each given day. Minimums that, if not met, bring beatings and bed without dinner. My Senegalese friend says that to give the boys money or to give them food (which they would sell to get money), is to perpetuate the problem. Which I can see is true. But there is also the immediacy of their hunger, of their beatings and of the questionable relevance of whatever precedents I may or may not be setting. But still, I see her point. And the truth is, there are a TON of other people to give money to. My leper men on the corner, the one-armed woman with her nursing baby, sitting outside the market; the convoy of women in wheelchairs who swarm as I leave the plaza each day; Mohammed with polio, who is 24 and has not walked since he was 8, who sits cross-legged and Buddha-smiling all day long, and who, wen you give him a dollar, seizes your hand and says "I shall not forget this kindness." They all need something from me, and they don't have this uncomfortable Islamic thing on them. (Although, I have to say, the wheelchair women really look rather well fed. Rather fat, actually.) Below is a photo of Mohammed. He is a prince. (More on his story on another day.)


Which leaves me ... where? For the first week, I gave some coins. The second week, once I figured the whole story out, I cleverly avoided eye contact. Then a few times I tried touching the boys instead, putting my hand on their backs or squeezing a shoulder. To at least acknowledge them and show them that I couldn't give them anything but that it was nothing personal. (I am embarrassed to write this, by the way. So lame and thoughtless and dumb.) The boys, wisely, would just wiggle and shrink away, only interested in filling their quotas and also having no idea what to think of the weird, stingy white woman. Lately I have taken to breaking an orange or a boiled egg in half and giving it to them that way, stripped of all resale value, with a command to "Eat it now," right there in front of me. This actually works pretty well, although my purse sort of has that sulphurous smell to it now.

And there is an NGO, thank God. A Senegalese- and foreign-funded NGO that provides a day house for the boys to clean up and play football and to understand that there are adults who care about them and that they have rights. That they are valued. If the boy gives the go-ahead, the group will petition the marabout (headmaster) and sometimes he will release the boy from his "studies" into the care of the NGO, where he could be reunited with his family or his distant family or sometimes, occasionally, accepted into another home as a foster child. I should say here that almost all Senegalese I've talked to seem to think this whole racket is terrible; they feel caught in the same ways that I feel caught about what to do or how to help. The government won't get involved because, even though child slavery is illegal in Senegal, this is considered a religious issue.

The NGOs website is empiremosaiquedumonde.org. It is in French (welcome to my world), but you can translate it easily by going to http://babelfish.altavista.com/ and then plugging in the website name and clicking "translate web page." I have been accepted to volunteer there when I return to Senegal in May. It would be difficult, with the baby and with the orphanage work that I really do want to continue. But anything else I do, including the eggs or the oranges or even the coins, just feels too much like turning away from them.