butterfly

long subway rides are perfect for livejournaling.

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Sometimes I wish I had some sort of weird cyborg-esque chip in my brain that allowed me to update Livejournal from wherever I was sitting, whatever I was thinking. Not Livejournal particularly, really, but a way to record my thoughts in any way. A word program. Anything.

Long subway rides always lend themselves to really, really good thinks. I had some really good ones today, taking Alex to the airport and coming back.

At the time it was coherent, flowing, beautiful. I was thinking about my life, reflecting on how many things have happened, how many things I've already done, the life I'm giving up for the life I'm now pursuing, how I'm coming home but the home I'm coming home to is completely different from the home I left but that's okay and I'm excited for it, how every stage of my life is an adventure. And Delta had bought all of the advertisement on one side of the subway car, so my mind drifted to all of those different places... Eastern Europe, which I hope to visit with my father in a couple years and learn/find a bit of my heritage there, and Africa. At the time it was coherent, flowing beautiful, a fact I just felt the need to reiterate twice, in order to contrast to the scattered ramblings that will emerge within this entry as an afterthought to my moments of brilliance already passed hours ago.

My thoughts stayed on Africa for a long, long time... for most of the ride, really. At the end of the ride I mentioned what I was thinking to Alex but of course didn't verbalize what I wanted to get across... instead, just a few random details came out. That's all I can ever get out about my thoughts: a few random details. Because in my head those few random details mean so much else, and nothing else is put into words or language, it all just exists as a concept in my mind with an image.

This particular image was Lightness. To say she was my favorite child I worked with would be a lie; there are a few who stand out, other than her, and every single child, even the "trouble" children, taught me and touched me in ways I individually did not (and was not able to) reciprocate. But throughout my entire life, it will be Lightness, that laughing seven-year-old girl in the dirty fading orange popeye sweater and dark brown skirt (her only clothing) and hairless from want of proper nourishment.

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She was beautiful.

I know I will wonder about her my entire life. I know thirty years from now I will get the itch to go find her, to see if she's okay. From time to time I will think of her, wonder if she's doing well, if she's living the african city life in Moshi or Arusha or if she settled down to a life of working the land, or if she's just living in poverty, miserable, alone. But such thoughts are all at once silly and horrifying and in vain. She is the daughter of a poor Tanzanian family who live in a small village with no real documentation of individual existance. I do not know her family. I do not know if she even has a family. All I know of her is she was a little Tanzanian girl, probably but not necessarily of the Chagga tribe, who attended Hope nursery school until age 7 despite being one of the most advanced in the class because her family could not afford to send her to elementary school. And who am I to assume I even have a right to look for her? Within a week of my departure she would have to have forgotten me, Teecha Tascha, and Teecha Jesska, my partner. We were there for three weeks. A very small installment of wave after wave of wazungu trying to do their part in making a difference in this world. The program is more for us than for them. They benifit from the wonder of these wazungu, they see the English language as something desirable to learn because they like these strange light-skinned people who come to them with high hopes and realize that their little 3-week contribution to the international community matters little in the long run of these children's lives, but really, the program exists for us wazungu to learn from them. To learn that a child is a child anywhere - just a small person who wants love and joy. To learn that these individual "contributions" do not directly accomplish anything at all, but work to install concepts of hope, of education, of the existence really of the western world.

Lightness will always be seven in my mind. She will not age in my memory. I will be an old woman, and she as well, and when I think of her I will see that little bald girl in the orange popeye sweater, shaking her eyebrows at me and laughing and telling me jokes in swahili or chagga or whatever tribal language it is she naturally speaks. I know when to laugh in any language. I know when a child named Lightness wants me to tickle her or pick her up and spin her around in so many circles we both stumble around dizzy and look completely silly and ridiculous to the other children and to Jessica. Lightness will cease to be a little girl I miss and ache for and wish I were at a point in my life in which I was able to adopt her, and her sister Cici (Jessica's Lightness). It might have been a possibility. You must live in Tanzania two years before you can adopt a child. I almost stayed and didn't go to school. I'm an adult. I seriously considered it. But eventually my heart will cease to ache for that little girl and begin to ache for what that little girl represents. Because she will cease to be a little girl in the world. She will face the troubles of the conditions she was born into head-on as a teenager, as an adult. I only hope it does not suck out that vibrancy I found in her. I hope she grows up to be like Mama Betty - a good sense of humor, well-off, doing something meaningful in the world, and still retaining that sense of life. I know it will be almost impossible for her to achieve that in her lifetime, but, I can only hope.

...And then we arrived at the Sutphin Blvd. station, connection from the E train to the airtrain, and I worked to get my mind back to the present so i could say good-bye to my boyfriend for the next week.
this was beautiful to read. you're only 18 and have more things to share than most 40 year olds I know.

that means a lot. to me, at least.