Going Personal – For Zi

For those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning, you know that this was once just my private place to share my thoughts about my Tanzanian adventure, what I thought would be a fun four months, but has turned into a nonprofit that in less than a year has drilled a well, installed water filters, bought chickens, planted a garden, hired a mama, redone a playground, sent thirteen women to English classes, sent three amazing children to school, and within the next six months will have rewired the orphanage, installed solar panels and paid for Mama Pendo to attend an intensive management course. Phew! It’s been a long ride.

I am, of course, profoundly grateful for how far we’ve come. But sometimes I miss having a space to just write how I feel, how this work in all its forms gets into my soul. So today I hope you’ll forgive me for going personal.

I miss Zawadi. I miss all the kids, but nothing is as all consuming as this. My room is plastered with photos of her serious little face – I see her big smile every time I open my cell phone. I watch videos of her almost every night, except when it’s too much to bear. I spent the last month exploring every option to see if there was any way to shorten the degree that I am working on – to switch to something less intensive, to work harder, to do ANYTHING to get back to her sooner. And I can’t. My choice is to stay another year and finish the degree, which I will need to have a fighting chance at 95% of the jobs making a real difference in the developing world, the jobs I want to do. My other choice is to take a year or two off, and try to come back and finish the degree later.

Last week in her new dress
Thanks Amy!

If I was making the decision for myself alone, it would be easy. I crave her like water, I would happily accept having to work twice as hard to finish the degree with her by my side. I am terrified that her gorgeous baby lisp and her sweet taut belly are going to disappear before I get back to her, that I’ll never know the joy of parenting baby Zi, toddler Zi. But that’s the point, it’s not about me anymore. It’s about what’s best for HER. And she’s not traumatized, living at the orphanage now. She’s in the only home she knows, with people she loves and who love her. And if I went through the adoption process and then yanked her back to the UK, then immediately had to let someone else care for her 10 hours a day in order to have a fraction of a chance of getting my work done… THAT would be traumatizing. THAT would be unfair, and selfish, and wrong. I can’t let my fear of missing her childhood ruin her experience of it.

Her first day at the
orphanage ~ 3 mo?
Thanks Diane!

I will be back in three short months, and by her side for another three from there. And even then I have to defend her, not let her understand the true depth of my love for her, not let her get too attached. I have to put her down to bed and walk away, and steel myself against her cries and confusion and anger, and cry in my house a hundred yards away from the orphanage, missing her horribly and knowing I can’t let myself cave.

I pour myself into poems and scrapbooks, now, to tell her all the things I can’t let her know yet, to have something to show her when she’s older – “I never stopped thinking about you. I never stopped loving you. Not for a second.” Even when I had to protect her from that love.

I’ve been scared to call her my daughter, because the Tanzanian adoption process can be horrific, and unpredictable, and unfair. But it’s become my only solace now – to know that she is and will be my daughter, and she doesn’t know it yet, and she can’t know it yet, but the day that I take her home, I will spend every day making sure she never forgets.

Pure sweetness…
“Calling” my mom…

And pure trouble.

Wish me strength.

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