In September, while I was in Lesotho, I received this email:
I’m a frequent peruser of your blog but haven’t had much time for blog reading lately. My husband and I have been working our asses off to get the paperwork together to adopt two little boys from Lesotho. I was amazed when I clicked on your blog this morning and saw where you were. We’ve not seen our sons faces yet. We heard about two little boys (one who is HIV positive, one who has vision issues, both under the age of 3), knew they were ours even though it’s foolish, and started working on getting all the paperwork together. My fool heart hopes that one of the children you’ll take a picture of will be one of my boys because I’m aching to know their faces, but I know that’s unlikely. Still, I hope.
I’ve been home, now, for a few of days, and I think – I think – that I’ve recovered from travel fatigue – 28 hours it took me to get home from Lesotho – and jet-lag and the brain fog that comes from traveling halfway around the world and back in less than a week. But I haven’t quite recovered from what I can only describe as soul-lag: the existential exhaustion that settles upon you when you’ve experienced something that changes you so profoundly that your psyche has trouble catching up to your transformed heart and soul.
I have soul lag. It’s getting in the way of writing anything meaningful or informative about everything that I saw, everything that I learned, everything that changed me last week. It’s clouding my mind and tangling my thoughts and every time that I sit down to write I am faced with a screen that demands, now, something better than before, something worthy of the stories that I heard and the stories that I was part of, and as I stare at that screen something inside me sags and crumples. I tell myself that it will all come, in time, as my heart and soul and psyche reconcile themselves to each other and to the clock of my here and now, and as I find the words to do those stories justice, but my self is not entirely convinced. My self is also not a very good listener, but that’s not really the problem here.
I met her at what the Global Fund calls an ‘OVC House,’ or home for orphaned and vulnerable children, although in this specific case it was actually a residential school for visually-impaired children who have been orphaned or otherwise made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, all of which is to say that it is not a place where you expect to do a lot of giggling. But I did giggle, a lot, because this young woman and her friends followed me around, giggling, and giggling, as it happens, is infectious, whether you’re in Lesotho with blind orphans or anywhere else in the world.
They stuck close to me, these girls, as I took pictures, following me around, asking me again and again to take their photo, posing and giggling behind cupped hands, squealing cheese! every time that I pointed the camera in their direction. They were sweet and they were funny and it was impossible, in their presence, to not share their laughter, which was wonderful, because, as I said: homes for blind orphans who’ve lost their families or been abandoned by their families because of HIV/AIDS are not places where you expect to do a lot of laughing. I was grateful for the laughing.
And I did laugh. I laughed a lot. I laughed when she asked me if I liked Beyonce (sure I do, I said, as I waggled my hand and warbled “all the single ladies, all the single ladies!” while they collapsed in fits of giggles.) She wanted to pose like Beyonce, she told me, and she wanted to sing like Beyonce and just as I was about to tell her that her poses put Beyonce’s to shame, she burst into the sweetest rendition of ‘Halo’ that I’d ever heard. At which point my smile became drenched by tears, and – and I know this sounds terrible – I was grateful that she and her friends could not see well enough to register that I was crying.
I asked if I could record her. She said yes.