There are some memories that are mixes of sounds, smells, sights, or feelings. There are no photos or videos for these multi-sensory memories - only words. Sometimes you just have to put the camera down and experience, you know?
At Bethesda hospital, Cotonou: We walked carefully, quietly, past children in hospital beds, lined in a row, their parents smiling at us weakly, IV tubes connected to arms as children slept. We got to the end of the room where 4 children were lying on a counter top. The doctor giving us the tour asked if a little 2 year old boy was still breathing. The boy lay on the table wearing only a diaper. The nurse said "yes". The doctor shook the boy's body and after a few seconds, he coughed. The doctor frowned, put the stethoscope on the boy's heart, listened. He shook his head and said, "he's dead." Tears came to my eyes at once. It took all of my concentration to hold them back as the small boy lay limp on the table.
At La Casa Grande children's home in Allada: The sound of crickets chirping mixed with children's pure singing voices coming from the girls' house. Night had fallen, everyone was in bed, praising the God who had given them life. In the other direction, drumming and singing from the neighbouring church. A peaceful way to fall asleep.
At Ouidah, the slave port on the Atlantic coast: After hearing the story of the slave trade, Zoe said, "Sometimes I don't like the colour of my skin."
In Rome, Benin, Paris: Eden was sobbing because she felt so badly for a homeless woman who was sitting outside of a cathedral in Rome. In Benin, the need was much greater. Every time the car was stopped at a light, people rushed onto the street offering CDs, toys, towels, dishcloths, photo frames, for sale. Others pushed someone in a wheelchair who had leprosy, coming up to each of us at our car windows and asking for money. One day, Eden saw a hand come up from below and hit her car window. She laughed, surprised. She looked down out of the window and saw a man pushing himself around the traffic on a skateboard, asking for money. Our Beninese hosts weren't comfortable giving money to beggars, so we followed suit. In Paris, Eden asked again to give money to someone on the street. When do we give? When do we not give? It seems so random, and our children are watching.
Leaving La Casa Grande: I cut my finger on the rusty trunk of the taxi as we got loaded up to go back to Cotonou. It didn't really hurt, but tears came as I got in the back seat of the car. Would I see these children again? Where will their lives take them? In 2 short weeks, I had come to love them, and wanted the best for them. I prayed that their dreams would come true: for a library, a basketball court, a high school, a promising future.