Saturday, August 28, 2010


She is walking adeptly over the rocks and stones barefooted as she takes my hand. She looks up at me and I am somehow compelled to pick her up and carry her even though I know she can walk the rest of the way on her own. She accepts the ride joyfully clinging to this strange white woman.

Within a few days I have wiped her nose, comforted her after falls and run ins with Johnny Cash (the monkey not the man), coaxed her to sleep with songs and stories, blown up her balloons, convinced her that 3 year olds can indeed sleep during the day and evening when everyone else is awake, beamed with delight as she sings and dances in front of the whole church and taught her to defend herself with stones against the aforementioned monkey. She is Amana, she is our new daughter. Oh and she has 60 siblings - we're going to parent them too.

This feels most overwhelming when I realize I am the only woman living here and therefore the only mother, Amana picked up on this quicker than me. She wants a mom so bad she has decided I will just have to do and so it is.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reading is Sexy

You know it's going to be a good day when you get an email that says, "hey, I have like 500 lbs. of books for you to start a library in Sudan."

This particular email came from our friend Emily, who runs an organization called Traveling Stories the sole mission of which is to start libraries for kids in the developing world. She probably sends out emails like the one we received all the time, but for us it was thrilling.

I have a wholly unsubstantiated belief that most literate people have some sort of fond childhood memory of reading or being read to. In my family, we practically lived at the library during the summer because my sisters and I would check out the maximum number of books permitted and finish all of them within days, thus requiring a return trip to get more books, and the cycle repeats (on rare occasion our mom was busy and we had to wait a few days, leading me to read the books my older sister had checked out... and thus did I have a favorite member of the Babysitter's Club and learn that Jessica Wakefield was a total b-word).
the aforementioned total b-word
 (Library related confession: in high school my friends held a firm belief that I would meet my eventual wife in a library. This was based in part on my fondness for libraries and in part on the fact that I ranked girls with glasses on - the mention of which causes an entire generation to cringe in embarrassment - one point higher on average)

I remember with incredible vividness sitting on the living room floor, the television darkened, while my dad read the Chronicles of Narnia to us, and I remember the night when he was reading us the Voyage of the Dawn Treader - with it's frequent references to the poop deck - when we laughed so hard, despite his many attempts to explain to us that the poop deck was not what we thought it was, that he couldn't continue on.
An actual poop deck (I think)
Are we filled with a sense of Norman Rockwell-esque nostalgia? Because I can go on. The amazing reality, though, is that for every great literary memory I have from childhood I probably have three times as many as an adult. My parents gave me lots of things for which I'm thankful, but the love of reading ranks pretty near the top of the list.

Now Sarah and I are thinking about how we can give that same gift to the kids in Nimule. We're planning which books we'll read to them as we put them to bed (Narnia and the Jungle Book, Harry Potter and the Secret Garden). We think about a book we'd love to introduce them to, and then we remember that we'll have that book because Emily is sending us 500 FREAKING lbs of books.

BTW, 500 FREAKING lbs of books are really expensive to ship to Southern Sudan. If you want to help Emily send them to us, she's selling some pretty sweet t-shirts (which say Reading is Sexy on the front, a sentiment with which I heartily agree) over on her website, the proceeds of which go to sending the books our way. 

And, please, feel free to use the comments section to share your favorite childhood reading memories (or prove my theory false).