12:30pm Tuesday October 13 – 7th day - Learning to be Taught
This morning I spent a lot of time with Frankie and Linda. Frankie is one of the orphans, and he is quite small. I thought, up until today, that he couldn’t be more than 5 or 6, but it turns out he’s 11. That’s how small. Frankie has HIV, and his size might be a side effect of the HIV drugs. He has a scowl that could stop a lion, he’s rambunctious, and he pours out all his energy when he plays soccer.
I spoke with Linda about so many things. She is an amazing and strong woman, and I can only hope that she views herself that way. At 22 or 23 she became pregnant, and her fiancé ran away because he didn’t want to deal with a child. So she lived with her parents, not doing anything, exactly like so many American twenty-somethings, myself included. The woman who runs the Ubumi nutrition class found a job for her at the orphanage and she’s been here ever since. Her child is here too, I think.
Her recent fiancé, the one who died, started complaining about his legs itching and stomach pains about a month before he died. He started on liver medication but didn’t even get to finish it. The disease took him. He and Linda were together for 2 years.
Linda is most likely sad on the inside, pained the way anyone is pained by such loss, but I don’t see any of that. She tells me there’s no sense in getting mad because there’s nothing she can do about it. God has a plan and she just has to go along with it. Her patience, humility, and candor break my heart.
She says she dreams of starting a business, because during the day while the kids are at school, she has very little to do. She wants to start some sort of business or go back to school, because right now she’s supporting her parents, her dad who is out of work and her mom who has been almost comatose for over a year. She pays for one of her siblings to go to school.
Linda will turn 29 on November 12th. I will turn 28 in January. Linda finished grade 7 in school. I’ve been through high school and college. She’d probably be impressed by my schooling, but she is wiser than I will probably ever be. We’re so close in age, in some of our experiences, but I hear her talk and feel like an infant.
It would be a mistake to base my impression of Africa, or Zambia, or Kitwe, or even Ubumi, on one person, but Linda leaves me in awe of the character it takes to be such a person.
Most of this can’t be recorded on film. It’s shut away. When I interviewed her on camera, she got more official, more self-conscious. But when the camera is off she is friendly and open, and I’m not a good enough documentarian to know how to make people that comfortable on camera.
It is another reminder, as I try to understand this place, that I have no idea how to best help these people in the little ways that an individual can affect another individual. They don’t know it, but I am a thief. I am stealing so much from them because I can never give them anything equal to what they are giving me.