Well, I literally did not sleep for any minutes. I was so nervous about the meeting with Thing 4's birthmom and also had had a little scare walking out at night (I'm fine, Pat and Mom :) ) and so sleep just completely eluded me. I gave up at 5 am and just got up to get a shower, figuring at least the water would be warm this time. I got ready and went downstairs to read my Bible for a bit, trying to get my nerves to settle, unsuccessfully. Finally I heard others stirring and went up to chat to keep my mind off things. All of the sudden the driver showed up 40 minutes EARLY (didn't he read the last post about African time??) and I was so surprised I forgot to be nervous and just hopped in the car with him and off we went to the new Hannah's Hope in the pouring rain. It was close so we were there quickly and it was good to see Almaz again-she is a lot of fun and just a special person who does her job well. We waited a bit and I was sure she was not going to come-Almaz went off to check something and I sat alone, trying to be calm. Almaz popped her head in and said "Ok, she's here!" and then all the sudden she was and we were hugging, and both just silently weeping. There really are not words to describe the moment-we speak none of the same language and live as different lives as one could possibly live, yet we have a bond that no one else has and we are family. She was tinier and younger than I expected. She had come with a friend and I completely understood, I wished I had had my husband with me also-not an easy meeting alone. We sat and talked through Almaz' translation and I showed her a huge stack of photos I had brought along of the past year with Thing 4. That was so fun to show her, but I also wondered how it made her feel at times. She asked if she could bring me some pictures of some family for me to take home and I eagerly said yes. We talked and shared a bit more and then it was time to be done-we took some pictures together and she just kept thanking me and even bent down to kiss my lower leg-ugh, that just broke my heart into pieces. I'm just not sure why God arranged it so that she would give birth but I would raise my sweet girl, but I do know it is not b/c I am anything special or someone that needs to be kissed like that. It was a good meeting, and hard, and somewhat strange all at the same time, and I am so glad I did it. I saw very little of the new Hannah's Hope-b/c of my schedule and the AGCI staff schedule and the pouring rain, we just decided to head back to my guest house to meet up with my team.
They were just getting ready to head out and off we went to the Mother Theresa HIV Orphanage. It was on the far opposite side of the city from where we were and in a slightly less populated area. We were all impressed when we drove it-it was a very nice complex with several nice buildings and a driveway that ran the length of the compound. We were not permitted to take pictures there so I cannot show you, but it was a beautiful place, and very peaceful. But the children-they were sick little ones. Even the "healthy" ones all seemed to have sniffles or spots or coughs of some kind and that 'institutional' smell pervaded everything. They were all very nice children, and they ALL wanted to hold onto and touch Colin, Kelly P.'s 14 year-old son. His teenage boy with light skin and light hair factor was like a magnet for the little boys! Poor Colin got swarmed every time we came out of a building on our tour of the facility, haha. The head Sister of the Orphanage came and talked with us, giving us a little history of the place and explaining that most Mother Theresa homes were not this nice, but it had all come from donations and they had the best HIV lab and equipment in the nation to treat the poor-praise Jesus!! This woman radiated her love for these children and the poorest of the poor and it made her giggle every time she mentioned something amazing that they had to provide to these children and mothers. She was really an inspiration. We toured the clinic where the children and mothers receive treatment, including the room with the critically ill children-there are not words to describe the emotion I felt looking at those frail, dying children. It should not be this way, and those children are innocent victims of this wretched disease. We peeked in on moms who were just as sick and I waved and smiled to all of them, hoping for a brief moment they would still feel like a person of value in this world since they spend their time alone and outcast by those who fear they will "catch" AIDS from them by being near. We were told that most of the moms with advanced stages of the disease basically come here to die, but they get to die in peace and with friends who love them anyway. Still, I had such a heavy heart at this place. Especialy after going in the baby room, which was lined with cribs full of adorable HIV positive children-all of whom spend almost all their time there. This home has only 7 full time staff to 320 children-you can do the math and see how many people are available to hold these babies. None. She said they are not often held and played with b/c there is just not the staff for it and that we were free to touch and hold and love them as much as we wanted b/c they so rarely get it. Oh, Lord, please being more people to this place to help....We also got to see a large, very nice and very modern building, brand new, at the back of the grounds—this was a building built originally for the university but that fell through and it has been turned over to be used as a school for the HIV children and also to public school children. Because it will be staffed with the Brothers of the La Salle order who are known to be great teachers, there will be many who desire for their children to come to this school, making it one of the first to be integrated with HIV+ children and those who are not, truly an amazing thing as the HIV+ children have been shunned and outcast from their schools b/c of the disease. We finished our day there doing crafts with the children outside-it was a beautiful day outside and we had a fabulous break from the rain and mud. It was a hard visit there-it is a beautiful place, but it puts a "far away" disease right in your face, and I felt helpless toward these sick little ones.
We left there and stopped off at a random lot on the street where a bunch of street children were. The ones who wanted to play soccer hopped out with some soccer balls and started a pick up game with the children. Some of us went off with Bizi in search of a grocery store and ended up getting soaked to the skin in a huge downpour. I was rapidly running out of dry clothes-good thing I had one pair of pants left at the guest house!! We got home exhausted and soaked and ready to call it a day, hence the reason for this late blog post that is kind of scant on details. I'm just super tired and taking the night off-see ya tomorrow!