Kids take time to readjust, too. Luke is sitting out on the porch in animated conversation with four friends right now, good. But yesterday just as the group of boys who hang out here arrived, my kids went down to help their teachers move furniture, clean, and paint at school. And just as my kids returned, the bulk of their friends were leaving . . . But promised to come back and play football (soccer). The previous two days Luke and Caleb had been having a blast, Luke in particular more relaxed than he’s been in a year perhaps, no school, no exams pending, just playing ball and laughing. It helps that he’s almost 6 feet tall and can do 17 pull ups, in other words he’s getting bigger and stronger and can make his presence felt on our tiny field. So he looked forward to the third day in a row of play . . . But no one came. He hung out with the ball, waiting for a couple of hours. Sigh. I heard this morning that they were probably all playing at Christ School yesterday evening. It makes sense that almost all the boys we sponsor go out for football—we love it, and they’ve been playing with a real ball at our house since they were small, an advantage many boys don’t have. But yet again I have to watch Luke disappointed. He’s not a CSB student anymore. We missed most of this break due to Ebola and travel. Just when he’s reconnecting and enjoying his friends they are moving back into the school orbit where he is not included. It never gets easy to be a third culture kid. No one on our team is more integrated into this place than Luke; but even he is always different, other, not quite accepted, not quite belonging. I think as we move through adolescence that divide will continue to challenge us.
But just when I long for my kids to be more “normal” for this culture, more comfortable in it . . . I see reasons to be glad they are not. My neighbor N. and her mother banged on our door after midnight, she was gasping for breath and complaining of diffuse pains in her eyes, ears, chest . . . So painful for me to see her devastated by her trauma. She finally calmed down with pain killers and valium. How to be a missionary and facilitate our own kids having friends and being part of the culture, when the culture is not safe for kids? I sent my children for a while to the same school where this girl was abused. So in many ways I’m content for them to maintain a little distance, to move in a protected orbit. And that’s the way it is, expending energy to help them have relationships, to welcome friends, to provide constructive activity, but never quite fully entering into the bleak and powerless experience that is a Bundibugyo childhood, and so paying the price of dislocation.