Friday, April 30, 2010

Crunchy or creamy?

Recently I came across the PB&J Campaign. It's rooted in the idea that we don't need to be vegetarians to save the world. What we "pay" for our meat is unfathomable. In fact, every time I read the statistics (half the water used in the US goes to raising animals for food; it takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while growing one pound of wheat takes 25 gallons; animals in factory farms in America produce 20 tons of fecal matter each year for every US household), I think, What? Those numbers can't be right.

So the PB&J campaign is just saying, can we all just cut back a little? Here are some factoids from their website (I love the part about the low-water showerhead. I truly do hate those things):

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J, you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions versus an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

If you have a PB&J instead of a red-meat lunch like a ham sandwich or a hamburger, you shrink your carbon footprint by almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

You'll conserve water at lunch too! How about 133 gallons of water conserved at lunch versus the average American lunch? To put this in perspective, five PB&Js or other plant-based lunches per month would save more water than switching to a low-flow showerhead. If you're replacing hamburgers, it should take you just three lunches to conserve more water than the low-flow showerhead.

Don't forget the land you save from deforestation, over-grazing, and pesticide and fertilizer pollution: about 24 square feet at lunch.

Here's the link to their website:

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Waiting List

We are seventh on the list. We were eighth last week. Which sounds good. Like movement. But we were also eighth in January. We have been waiting since October 5.

It's slow. We'd love to think it's because all the orphans in the world are otherwise occupied. We are pretty sure that more people are adopting from Ethiopia, and yet the courts can only process a certain number of children each day.

Although we are patient (there's so many other chores), we are never far from this particular distraction. Of wondering everything there is to wonder about The Little One, as we have taken to calling her.

We are so ready. We're excited to talk to Dessi about it, but we won't until it's much closer. Like, passed-court closer. She has three wooden butterflies, all different colors, that we bought at a craft fair here last year. We hung them on her bedroom wall, and she immediately chose one as the daddy, one as the mama, and one as Dessi. Six months ago I started searching for the butterfly artist again, to buy a fourth. I think it's a graphic that a 28-month brain could wrap itself around. A fourth butterfly. The Littlest One. We have that now. It's yellow, just like Dessi's, but the markings are different.

So you see, we're ready.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Lie! Maybe! I can't tell, actually!

A Senegalese man knocked on my friend's door this morning. He was crying a lot. He said that his son had just died of meningitis and he needed 75,000 cfa ($160) to bring him back to his village to be buried. Could she help him? She had never seen him before.

"He really did look upset," she said. "He really was just crying and crying. I gave him 10,000 cfa and hoped that he was lying."

On the one hand, the high-road hand, you give some money and hope, I guess, that you're being had. That there's no dead son, just a good actor, making his rounds through a rich neighborhood, to whom you gave the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don't start thinking about how that sure seems like a lot of money to ship a body home. Or that, even if it is a reasonable amount, and even if it's a true story, it's not the best use of your money (you could feed 30 streetboys for three days with 10,000 cfa).

Dakar, Senegal, is a scammer zone. Now that my aura of newness has worn away, I don't see them anymore. But when I first arrived, despite what I thought was a foolproof, traveled-the-world-and-have-seen-it-all visage, I was swindled in 15 minutes by a man, Amadee, to whom I gave 30,000 cfa ($70), basically because he asked me to. And then within seconds he disappeared into a crowded street while I "waited" for him on said street. I spent about five minutes reviewing whether the French words I had learned thus far (My name is Linda. I live in Virage. I am fine, thank you) could in any way be combined ask anyone for help. And who would they be? And what would they possibly do for me? Then I went home.

What's so sad to me, even still, is that I had thought Amadee and I were going to be friends. He was a musician, he spoke English, and he seemed cool although, looking back, he definitely did a few odd things. I looked for Amadee on the street for months (he is graying and missing one front tooth) before finally forgiving him and more or less laughing it off. But it did not feel very Buddha-like. It did not feel like generosity. It was humiliating. The idea that one might consistently give people the benefit of the doubt here, well, it's not a reasoable approach. Which leaves you somewhat coldly assessing the story of a man bawling on your porch.

In the past few years I have taken to never lying for my own convenience. (I will sometimes, if pressed, still under-guess a person's age.) But if I have an appointment scheduled and I can't find a way to cancel it with integrity, I make myself go. I remember one hike I was reeeaaallly dreading, I went on about it for two days, I could say this, I could say that, but all my excuses were either misleading or just not true. (The truth was, I didn't like this person and didn't want to spend 90 minutes with her.) Then the morning of the hike, she sent me an email which said, "Not gonna make it for today. I'm sorry." Voila! No lie, no explanation. A lesson learned.

Lies are never harmless. If nothing else they erode the public trust. When you live in a place where scammers abound, that truth becomes very obvious very quickly. Although it does provide the unexpected comfort of leaving us to hope that some sad stories aren't true.

Update April 19th: General consensus seems to be, it was a highly unlikely scenario and almost definitely a scam.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Family Day

Two years ago today, Eric and I stood outside the Addis Hilton at 10 am and waited as the rattling old car pulled around the curve. Abdissa was driving, and his wife was in the backseat holding Dessi, with another child (Johannes) on the seat beside her.

She got out and handed Dessi to me. Eric took a picture. I mumbled something. We stared at our baby. OUR BABY. She was so beautiful and small and quietly unblinking. We were awkward and emotional and really, I think, kinda stunned. That this scheme actually worked. That they were going to give us this beautiful child.

Dessi then proceeded to not move (although once she kicked her foot) or smile or even cry (unless it was suppertime) for the next two days. She just watched us. (We have six hours of the most boring adoption footage ever.) Then on the third day, Dessi napped and we, as always, sat and watched. She awoke, looked up at these people who were still just looking down at her, and she smiled. Finally.

And from then on we have been on the superhighway of kicking each other and saying, Good gracious, is this amazing light really our friggin kid? Because she is just. too. much. Anything anyone could ever hope to be or aspire to, she already is.

She is 2 1/2 today. We have been a family for two years today. We can't really express how happy we are, and I know parents can be soooo boring when going on about how amazing their kids are, but it's family day, so please excuse the indulgence. Here are some random delights of the past few weeks (beach pics are scenes from last month's trip to Casamance):

Dessi says 'No poopoo here, No peepee here,' mostly after I insist that she just sit on the potty and TRY.

Her favored expressions lately are 'Pas รงa,' and, alternatively, 'Pour moi.' (Not that / For me.) She also likes to look at us all mooney-eyed and say, "Daddy, I love ... and you think she is going to say 'you' and instead she says .. POOPOO! I love PEEPEE!"

She calls me honey. Sometimes hon.

Before bed we name the people we love. She says, "I love you grandma. I love you Tata Erin. I love you Daddy." Each person gets their own "I love you." It can take a while. It's worth it.

At night before we eat, Eric and I say something that we're grateful for. We're not allowed to say our family (too easy). We assumed she had not really understood the exercise. A few weeks ago we asked her what she was grateful for. She reached her hand to me and said, very sincerely, "I'm grateful for mama." Then Eric. Touching his hand. "I'm grateful for daddy."

She says thank you not only for a toy or an orange, but also after a great outing to the beach or the playground. And sometimes, just walking down the stairs together. Her tiny hand squeezing my hand. "Thank you, mama."

She loves drama. Mama, make a sad face. Daddy, make a happy face! And then there's the face of Grumpy Bird.

Last week I snapped at her. Half an hour later we sat down and I said, "Dessi, I'm sorry. I should not have yelled at you. I wanted to get your attention, I want you to come when I call you, not to run away. But I should not have yelled at you, and I'm sorry. Do you understand? Mama shouldn't have yelled at you. I am sorry. I am not going to yell at you anymore."

She looked at me for ten seconds, then hugged me and patted my back and said, "I love you mama."

About six months ago, I did the same thing (snapped, then apologized). She did the same thing, too. She wasn't even two years old then.

She hides. She goes behind the curtains in her room (which, for the record, are transparent) and says, "Where'd Dessi go?" A few weeks ago she did it at a hotel in Casamance. Here is a picture:

She sings herself to sleep at night. Sometimes for an hour. She wakes up singing in the morning. Sometimes, if I come in too immediately, she'll ask me to go back out. I think she likes to have some time for herself. (Although, God only knows why she doesn't want any during the day! Because boy howdy she does not.)

A few nights a week, we put on hip hop and dance in the living room. She has all the moves. Sometimes she will get on her back and spin around like the brakedances used to do. (You know. In the '80s.) She loves dinosaurs and looks for them everywhere around town. When we walk up to the lighthouse on the weekends she will point to each mashed-in cow patty and exclaim, "Dinosaur poopoo!"

I used to call her my plum blossom, which she couldn't say so she calls herself Plumplum. Mama, you hug your plumplum? Mama, Dessi is your plumplum.

She is a light beyond all lights to us, with an almost heartbreaking tenderness and vulnerability and compassionate joy for life. Her beauty shakes me awake every day. We are pretty lucky people. These days are good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easter 2010

So, these eggs are ... where?

Easter was a mama fail, li'l bit. All the little children had these sweet little baskets that their mothers had decorated for them. Dessi had a red beach bucket that I found rolling around in the car as we pulled up, late, for the hunt. Which we ended up missing. (They started exactly on time! Who does that?!) We had to have our own private hunt with eggs I borrowed from another mom. Nice.

Luckily, she is incredibly adaptable.

We told her they were dinosaur eggs (she's so into dinosaurs right now. I don't know where that came from. We've been reading Where the Wild Things Are, and I think maybe she thinks the monsters are dinosaurs.She's always gasping excitedly and pointing in the air or in the grass and shouting, "Dinosaur!" Then she tells me all about it, the yellow eyes, if it's big or small or blue. So I bought some 3" dinosaurs and hid them around the house. We were sitting in her room reading and I looked up, gasped, pointed to the doorway and said, "Look! A dinosaur!" She was duly freaked out. It was not cool.)

Here she is, showing off her bounty.

After the hunt we went next door and swam with Erin and Terri, great friends who were married last week in Paris. Dessi LOVES this woman. Just can't get enough of her.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My finger's stuck

This is how the child entertains herself so that her parents can read the newspaper for a little while at night. Do you hear this crazy language she is speaking in the second video? She sounds like she belongs at the Star Wars bar. The book on her head, I have to say, she got from me. Because the women here carry stuff on their heads all day long and so they look absolutely gorgeous just walking down the street, all things in alignment, proud and muscle-y and beautiful. Which leads me to ... I have been trying to walk with a book on my head. I do it about as well as our Dessi girl.

I've been thinking about these videos, waiting for them to load. ANd I've been thinking about how these little 30-second snippets worthwhile enough (in my mind, anyway) to be videotaped are actually just common things -- random moments on a random Sunday evening. And the actual abundance of these moments that we read the paper through or cook dinner around or, just, whatever, it's almost heartbreaking when one considers how rapidly a week, and then a year, and then a lifetime, can just pass by. There are so many of them now, and before I know it she will be off to college.

Which is to say, we leave Senegal on April 30th after a 2 1/2 year post. We are off to DC for two weeks, then Montana for two months, then Cote d'Ivoire in the fall for the next chapter in this wacky little book of ours.