I went back to Kikatiti. We found the kikaiti Happy Watoto Home.
I took my brother – three years younger than me, exactly the age I’d been when I went there three years ago – to find the orphanage. We just dropped in; none of the contact info that I had was still working. I’d seen the orphanage, or at least the gate and the building from the bus when I’d come up from Dar – between Chem Chem school and the sunflower fields – and at least it was still standing. It’s impossible to walk back in time, to think that things will hold still, the way that you remember them. I’d hope that it would be at least as well as I’d left it, had braced myself to find it gone or forgotten, delapidated and ruined. Instead, we found it better.
It was wonderful.
The Kikatiti Happy Watoto Home was bigger and better. It was energetic and, true to name, happy. More buildings – a new nursery in the front with a playground, a classroom and playroom in the back filled with stuffed animals, a real kitchen – and more children. A garden in the back now growing green vegetables to feed the kids, a coop of chickens, and young fruit trees; even the walk had been beautified, trees and flowers lining the path.
“You go to see the watoto?” everyone asked us on the dala dala ride. They dropped us off directly in front of the new brick wall. Getting the gate to open was the trickiest part – we rattled and shouted, went around the side to talk to the neighbours, wondered if we’d be camping out for a few hours until someone came home.
The new director, a Dutch man, came out to greet us. “Welcome, welcome, of course, come in.” Samuel had left about a year before, but most of the children were the same. I recognized more faces than names. But they recognized me. At the front door a girl came out, hugged me, then ran away shyly. (Apparently they had begun calling out my name in the back before I made it in – now, whether that was memory or the excitement of a new visitor…)
The children who’d been in my English classes were there – slightly older, smiling, healthy. Some of the older ones were in boarding school for secondary (the director showed me the list of names, I recognized a handful). We wandered around, peeking in rooms, tickling the children.
We spoke to Walter, made plans to come visit and stay for a few days later in the week. We’ll help the teachers with the lessons after school and just generally play with the kids through the day.
It was amazing. I couldn’t quite believe it.
Sometimes things do work out – move on, grow up, and get better.