Last week I got a photo in the mail from World Vision. They sent me a girl. A girl from Mali. A girl from Mali called Adam.
When I was a student last year, I thought it would be a good idea to sponsor a child once I had a bit of dosh coming into my bank account. So when a flyer came through the mail I sent off to World Vision and thought myself very righteous and generous and all that, until Adam's picture turned up in the mail and I realised that I wasn't sure I wanted her anymore. There were very scant details about who she was. Adam's a girl, evidently, as there was a bit of plain white paper saying 'we can confirm Adam is a girl'. She was born in 1997, doesn't go to school, helps her subsistence farmer father and home-bound mother, neither of whom have HIV. She speaks two tribal languages, but not French, the colonial language, one that I might have been able to write to her in. I stared at her pic for a long time. She had a strange shapeless piece of material on her head, like a t-shirt. She had wide, almond eyes, and beautiful thick pink lips. The more I looked at her picture, the more I assured myself she was smiling - because at first glance she appeared to be a sulky teenager.
Although I immediately regretted not asking World Vision for a Cambodian to sponsor, the more I stared at Adam, the more I noticed things about the picture. Her jandals - red - like mine. A red singlet. Beaded bracelets on her wrists. She was someone real. I tried to imagine the heat of the day, the smell of the dust at her feet. The sound of lifestock and people coming past. And my money, my scant $40 a month, was hopefully going to find its way to those strangely big dark-skinned hands. I wondered what she knew of people like me. Does she know about the internet? Eyeliner? Deep fried Mars bars? What does she look forward to each day? Has she ever been in a car, on a motorbike, in an airplane?
Then I began to think about what I would send her, my African girl, and then it began to disturb me that I was referring to her as 'mine'. I was filled with the spirit of do-gooded-ness, and imagined being greeted in Adam's village like a queen from far away. A fair-skinned princess from the moon. And then I thought of Srei Von in a house on stilts somewhere near Kompong Chhnang in Cambodia, sponsored by a kiwi chap named Ian who calls her his granddaughter. Derek and I visited this girl and her family in Cambodia, and she had Ian's picture among her paltry possessions. And I wanted a Cambodian 'daughter' of my own. To sponsor. To love by proxy.
And I don't know how this blog will end, I was hoping it would be with something thought-provoking and poignant. But looks like it's just going to run out, with me thinking about how silly my days seem sometimes writing about people complaining about how New Zealand isn't quite perfect.