This past weekend Thing 1 and I ventured into the countryside with an international “community outreach group”* which seeks to provide operations for poor Chinese children with congenital cardiomyopathy, a condition known as “hole in the heart”. The operation is relatively simple. It requires a Dacron patch and a skilled set of hands. The former is expensive and the latter less so (no such thing as tort law). We sell, as a family, teddy bears with handknit sweaters to raise money for the cause. Our house is also a collection point for used clothing, etc. which is passed out in prepackaged bags on outreach trips. Recently, this group has also started fundraising for libraries for schools in these rural areas. Mostly women, we were a motley crew on the bus to visit previous patients, schoolchildren receiving libraries, and to pass out the collected items.
Bea Long and her Thing 1 came along as well (not so motley).
Nothing was shocking to either of us, mainly because of our experiences in Brazil and Mexico. I did have my first outdoor communal potty experience at an elementary school. “Been there, done that,” my teenager said unphased, trumping me. For example, although I visited the Servicio Social Nova Jerusalem, it was on the edge of a favela, not actually in it. The bullets whizzed farther down the hill. The farmer children were quiet, well-mannered; there was an atmosphere of contentedness. One of the patients had gained twelve pounds (!) in the three months since her operation and could now run and jump. Materialism has not caught up to them. Drugs and violence do not infringe. Their families are cohesive and insular; they behave like families should. Many families have more than one child, as is permitted in their region. Autumn harvest was in the air. I cannot say much more but will let the photos speak for themselves. Thanksgiving came early for me this year.
* a euphemism for a certain “C” word – they do not officially exist.
P.S. This weekend Mr. Understanding gave me an e-card for my birthday – we have been like ships passing in the night. It was a Google Earth map of all the places we’ve lived. I burst into tears when I saw my former house in Brazil. It was a great gift and did not cost a penny. Thank you, Mr. U – you are a star.