Its winter in Kenya. That time of the year between June and August when the day time temperatures average 20 degrees and the night about 14. All conversations start with, “its so cold”. If you are stuck in the lift at this time of the year gazing at the empty space between your boss’ ears, “its so cold” is a great conversation starter. True story.
Needless to say, Sunday was a cold day. The cold was made worse by the huge mugumo tree outside my house that was blocking off the weak sun that appeared torn between shining and hiding behind the clouds. To ward off the cold, I decided to take a walk outside – about 2kms to the estate main gate and back. After my walk, I sat on the step outside my house to catch my breath. Yes, I am that unfit. But before you go on and start judging me, I have just recently completed mapping out my running route. Do I hear an applause? Mr. P came to join me and as I was hyperventilating trying to catch my breath. He gently chided me about why I needed to start exercising.
In front of us, at the parking area, a group was gathering. Two white couples with an assortment of kids – some white, some black. And the head of the group , or at least what appeared to be, politely asked Mr. P to take a group photo of the rainbow nation of white adults and a speckling of black kids. Not a speckling really, there were actually just two black kids , toddlers to be precise. As they gathered around for the picture, I stared at them with that half cooked smile that says – I know you are nice, I see you, but this is no invitation to come for dinner at my house. I stared and wondered what this group was about. As I have often wondered for the last year we have been living here. You know these guys. The scruffy rough around the edges white couple. Who wear tshirts and cargo pants all the time and those ugly shoes called crocs – even the adults do! They walk to Nakumatt. Sometimes in their blue bathroom slippers. The kids also look a bit rough but always well feed and happy. Occasionally, you catch them holding hands as they take their evening walk and exchanges looks that say ‘are we really in erotic Africa walking under the moonlight? Aren’t we the luckiest?’. They could really be any white couple on a 6 month budget trip to experience the wonders of Africa and email their friends about the spirit of the Kenyan people and were the poverty and disease levels just apppalling? But what really makes you notice them is the 3 year old black baby girl that they carry and sometimes push on a baby stroller. The girl you have heard them call Imani.
Every time I look at them I wonder about Imani. Who is she? From whereth did she cometh? Who is her mama? Who is her papa? Is she a Luo or a Kikuyu? Does she remember her birth parents? Is she happy living surrounded by these white people? And what the bloody hell are these people doing with Neema? Could they not get a baby of their own? And they certainly appear capable of birthing considering they have two of their own.
Off course I guessed that Neema was either adopted by Mr and Mrs White or stolen. But not likely stolen since they would not be so daring as to steal her and walk around with her proudly perched on their hips in broad day light. And that guess left me with more questions. What motivates you to travel to black erotic Africa to adopt. For sure, it takes a certain level of courage to make that trip and try to understand the Kenyan adoption baby market. And what will make you do this? These were the thoughts going through my mind as I stared at Mr. P take the group picture and a stared at the people posing for the picture. From my eaves dropping, it appeared like a goodbye picture. Some memento of their time in Africa.
Tuesday 12 .27 pm, I was doing what most employees occasionally do. Steal from their employers by going onto Facebook during working hours. To my defence, it was just around that lazy dull hour before lunchtime when you get onto FB as you try figure out whether you have the stomach for another lunch with Jane and hear what her husband got her for the their 46 month anniversary or you should just order fruit salad and work through lunch. It was an easy win for the fruit salad. Because on this Tuesday, if I heard one more word about Jane’s husband, something would give.
I recently joined a FB page about mums selling things. The postings usually read something like “expat leaving sale, items 50% off”. It’s a totally useless FB page to me. I don’t even know why I joined. Maybe because I am vain and I needed to know what items one can get from a expat leaving sale. What caught my attention was this lady advertising for Canadian food items because, yeah, you guessed it, she was an expat leaving. She had quoted the name of my estate as the pick up place. And because the fruit salad was late, I clicked on the link to her FB home page and who do I see smiling back at me? Mr and Mrs White and their black baby Imani. Coincidence? A couple of clicks later and after looking at lots of pictures with giraffes and acacia trees in the background, I got onto a blog about Mr. & Mrs Whites story of adoption.
Mr & Mrs White are from Canada. Two kids of their own and were considering having a third and the Haitian earthquake happened. You recall all those images that flooded our screens of suffering Haitian babies orphaned by the earthquake and with no one to take care of them? Those images planted the seed of adoption in Mr & Mrs. Whites heads. To cut to the chase, they somehow considered adopting from Kenya and evidently, this brought them to Kenya and baby Imani completed their family when a judge sitting at the children’s court in Milimani declared Imani legally theirs to ship back to Canada.
I wondered about Imani. Off course its no brainer that she will have a far better quality life in Canada than she could ever have dreamed off had she remained at the orphanage in Kenya. She will have more choices, go to university and have the luxury of taking a year off living in her parents cabin in the woods , to decide what to do with her life. Something she would probably never have even conceived possible had she remained in Kenya.
That part, I did not wonder about. I wondered about what kind of adult she would grow up into. Growing up in a predominantly white country with skin the colour of chocolate and hair that does not fall when you comb it. Would she have any memory of Kenya? Would she grow up to be one of those adults with identity issues? Maybe there would be a black and white place in her brain. The black, the place to accommodate images from the time before the adoption and the white, to accommodate the light after her adoption. Or maybe there would be none of these. Just a long happy fulfilled life occasioned by intermittent far between waves of a passing unexplained cloud. That she would never know to be fragments of her memory of her time at the orphanage in Kenya. Best of luck to Mr & Mrs White and off course, Imani. May life be kind to you.