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Monday, November 01, 2010

Trains, departures, Sudan, birthdays, pizza, and dispersal

November 1, rumbling southward through the sprawl of Philadelphia towards Washington, a tourist in my own country, relieved at successfully purchasing an on-line ticket, finding the right station, transferring in from the commuter line, scanning the bar code in the email, self-printing three tickets, and navigating myself with Jack and Julia and bags into the right line and onto the right part of the right train.  At least everything is in English, though the constantly running disaster preparedness video in the waiting hall was a bit unnerving.  I've rarely taken trains in America, but I love this mode of travel, the independence of walking place to place, light luggage, actually seeing the trees as we slide southward.  

Woke up this morning tired of saying goodbye, the final twist of cost to every reunion.  

Saturday we grabbed Julia straight from all-star practice to speed up to Philadelphia, racing the depressing creep of the gps eta past 7 pm.  The Massos were gathering for the finale of Acacia's Birthday (13!!!) at Catherine's, the house on Girard Avenue where some of our favorite people have lived post-Uganda.  This was Miss Becky's room . . this was Miss Bethany's room . . now Catherine is the lone Bundibugyo teacher still living there.  We made it just after the candles were blown out, but in time to be introduced to the famous Philadelphia Cheese Steaks, the culinary dream of our WHM friends.  

The party was concluding in time to move a few blocks down the street to Liberti Church's screening of a documentary film entitled "The New Sudan", At an hour-and-a-half it might feel long to those who aren't immersing themselves in what looks like home, that's the same teapot we have, the same jerry-can, the familiar look of a hospital or a mud-walled school. But it is worth the time investment.  The producers managed to get great face-time one-on-one interviews with political and religious leaders in South Sudan, and balance that with day-in-the-life-of kind of stories of four ordinary citizens.  Bottom line:  invest in water, health, education, and supporting the indigenous church.  Which is precisely what our team in Mundri is doing.  One comes away from the movie with hope, hope that such dedicated and resilient people will, as one person puts it, be able to "join the third-world".  They aren't asking for luxury, just survival.

Sunday afternoon we made it up to New Haven so Jack, Julia, Karen, and Acacia could see Luke.  The FCYU (Football Club of Yale University) beat Fairfield 5 to 1, and we  cheered for the particularly strong defense from #3, chilled by the sinking-sun wind, chatting with the other handful of parent-fans, sitting in the Massos borrowed camping chairs.  Then a tour of Luke's dorm room where Scott installed the pull-up bar high enough in the hall to accommodate Luke and his 6'5" crew-team suite-mate.  It's pretty much the only thing he's asked for since moving to college.  Then to pizza at Sally's, a seedy-looking but extremely popular and historic pizza place which unbeknownst to us is also famous for its slow service.  By the time we waited 2 hours in our little booth for pizza we were all pretty hungry, thankful for talk-time with Luke, but aware of the dent we had put in his study time for the weekend.  Goodbyes in the dark street by the dorms, and another 3 hours back to Philadelphia.  Treasured time really, 3 up and 3 back makes 6 straight hours of conversation with Karen, which was a real gift.

Which brings us to this morning, more goodbyes, kudos to Uncle Eric who swept over-sleeping Gaby to the train station to hug us goodbye at the last minute, he gets the TCK honor award for today.  The Massos are ensconced in Karen's family and the close-by community of WHM there, and we're grateful that they could make space and time for us to join in, even though it meant wall-to-wall mattresses in the kids' rooms.  We aren't likely to intersect with the whole family again for a long time.

The world just seems sort of large and complicated this morning, and parts of my heart are stuck with Luke striding out into academic intensity that he's not convinced is necessary, looking for a way to get back to the Africa he misses so much.  With Caleb who is navigating growing up too much on his own.  With Scott heading up to WHM leadership meetings that I'm not a part of any more.  With Acacia and Liana and Gaby who are being forced to accept the necessity of shoes and coats as the frost settles.  With Heidi and Ashley looking for clues about what's next.  With Sarah who called Luke while we were all in the car ("I have to interview an adolescent for a class, and you're the only one whose phone number I have") and Nathan immersed in a world of study and city-survival.  With Bethany thrust into leadership of a team holding their balance as the country teeters on the verge.  With Patton and Lilli  and Aidan and their parents and Anna in Kampala getting ready to step into the time machine that brings them to the 21rst century for a few weeks, disoriented.  With Pat gathering the energy after all these years to mold the old Chedester house into a ministry center for women and arts.  For the Clarks and Chrissy and rest of the teams, for friends in Uganda, for Basiime recovering in the foreign world of Tennessee, for my family and Scott's who have to put up with our fragmented hearts and good-bye weary souls.  

Some days like this, ready for the last good-bye.

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