On the day that everything is supposed to come to gether, everything falls apart. I wake up on Monday morning, the day that all three of the kids should be out, as eager as a kid on Christmas morning. I check my phone as always and my heart drops. Santa left me coal this year. I have a text message from Reagan of Maison L'Espoire.
You say I rape little girls. Get your proof ready. i am going to get justice. Prepare for the consequences. Thank you.
It's almost illegible. If I didn't know Reagan I'd think he couldn't speak French. I pace around my room for a few minutes contemplating the implications. I haven't told the workers at Maison L'Espoire that I know about the sexual abuse. Who told Reagan? Could he have possibly read my blog? Did I write that Reagan raped the girls? No, because nobody indicated that to me. I wrote that Reagan whips the palms of their hands with electrical cables. I wrote that one of the kids told me Christian has pulled at least one of the orphaned girls into his room without a chaperone. I wrote that the same child told me someone named Victoire is sexually molesting the kids. So, whoever told him I suspect sexual violence didn't accurately portray what I know. Is his threat only judicial or would he physically hurt me? Either way, this couldn't have arrived at a worse time.
I send a text message to Jared and Melanie.
Did you tell Reagan that we know about the sexual abuse?
They respond immediately.
No, the lawyer received calls this morning from Dubai, USA, England.... about an article on the internet.
I was hoping that would happen I jjust didn't expect it so early. Organizations need to know what kind of a game they're supporting. They should be the ones investigating and auditing their partners, but I guess that's too much to expect from bureaucracy.
The show must go on. Father Roger, Maman Lydi--Lawrence's potential adoptive mother--and I make our way through the Kinshasa traffic to Ndjili. It takes over an hour to drive about 20 miles. There is no logic to the roads, no right of way, no yielding, and the winner takes all style of driving makes everything worse. In the car I tell Father Roger and Lydie about the threat from Reagan. We decide it will be best for me to wait somewhere else. Reagan's anger, even if misinformed, will be blinding.
The driver drops me at a roadside stand where I sit under a plastic tent and drink a warm Coca-Cola out of a bottle that could be decades old. The day is as hot and bright as always; I'm slowly getting accustomed to constantly sweating and having to wade through the air. I try and think through what happened and what the consequences could be. I doubt we'll get Lawrence out today and I doubt Sister June will be able to get Bellevie and her sister, Ketchia, out. I watch everyone walk by and turn their heads to look at me. I feel like I'm in The Matrix movie and everyone is a potential agent. Is the man with the wrench Reagan's friend? Is the woman glaring at me from behind a beer his girlfriend? What is Reagan going to do?
As if in response to my current line of thought, my phone vibrates in my hand with another message from Reagan.
You have one hour to send me everything you wrote, I have the accusation in hand.
So, he's going to keep it judicial. Did I do anything illegal? He must be referring to my blog and everything I've written can be verified. In fact, I hope someone tries to verify it. Maman Lydie is a journalist and she has assured me that the Congolese constitution includes freedom of speech. That doesn't mean much, though. The problem isn't the law, it's the corruption. I don't know how high Reagan's connections go, nor how deep his pocket. It's no secret that a little bit of money can buy you absolutely anything in Congo, even a false prison sentence. The government is fueled by a panicky sort of money. I imagine the Congolese government as a man on a game show in a windowed box with bills blowing around, except the box is packed with people.
I walk to the car and lean in the open window.
-Do you know where the American embassy is? I ask the driver.
Jean-Louise has been driving me around for three weeks now. He's an elderly gentleman with a pudgy, round face. He constantly gives me advice on how we can help the kids and I think he is sort of enjoying the show. For him it's like watching television and getting to put in his two cents.
-Yes, of course. It's in the center of the city.
-Okay, good. That's where we're going after here, unless they're able to get Lawrence.
Within a few moments, Father Roger and Lydie return without Lawrence.
-They're not there, says Father Roger. We'll have to come back tomorrow.
-Where did they go?
-They say they went to the tribunal to accuse you.
-I don't know. Reagan says you wrote something saying he raped the girls.
-First of all, I never wrote that and if he accuses me of writing that he's going to look like an idiot. He doesn't even speak English and can barely write or read French. He hasn't even read what I wrote, all of which, by the way is true.
Father Roger shrugs his shoulders and we all get back in the car. He doesn't seem worried about the fact that he didn't get Lawrence out, and it's irritating me. He's definitely not part of thsi complex scam though, he does actually want to help the kids.
-What are you going to do about Lawrence? I ask.
-We'll come back when Marie is there. I can't just leave with the kid when she's not there, it's not right.
-Right? It's not right?
I raise my voice but work hard not to yell.
-I don't understand this tip-toeing around a woman who is refusing to give you your legal kid, is potentially running a serious scam and abusing orphans while she's at it.
He shrugs his shoulders again. I want to slam my head, or his, against the window. Sister June calls with expected information. Marie wouldn't let her take the girls. We drop off Lydie and Father Roger and head to the embassy. I can't help but smile as I flash my passport and walk through the front door. on the wall are framed images of Obama's deushenne smile and Hilary's sculpted blonde bob. I've never been happier to see two faces in my life. The air itself feels more structured and less chaotic than the explosion going on outside. I put my bag through a scanner and walk through the metal detector. I chuckle to myself when I receive my bag on the other end. I have a two inch switch blade in my front pocket. It gets through security every time.
-I'm sorry, you want to speak with the Consul, says a white skinned American lady just past security. Go back outside, down the street, turn left and you'll se the Consul office. Go through security and then wait in the designated area.
Ah yes, home sweet home. Out the doors, down the street, to the left and through security, the Consul is a young blonde woman. Upon entering I had to fill out a form stating my reasons for requesting to speak with her:
I may potentially have some problems with the law due to a corrupt orphanage and I would like some advice on how not to go to jail in Congo.
I shake my head as I hand it to the man behind the glass window. When the blonde Consul is able to speak with me, she simply fuels the problem.
-We can't help you. -Can we have copies of the pictures of Marie's biological grandkids so we don't adopt them out? -We work sometimes with Maison L'Espoire. -My colleague knows Reagan.
When the colleague appears and mentions Reagan's name I start backing out the door. What is going on? I'm sure the embassy had no idea, but they say they do "investigations" into the orphanages when there are adoptions. I can only imagine what those investigations entail.
Embassy: Is this kid an orphan?
Orphanage worker: Yup.
Embassy: Cool. It's hotter n' hell, grab a beer?
Orphanage worker: Yup.
I'm furious at this point, confused, and slightly frightened. The embassy is supposed to be giving me information and help not the other way around. Note to self: Embassy does not grant asylum on foreign soil, take issue up with Hollywood film producers. The embassy is not going to do anything to help the kids and I do understand why they can't. Bureaucracy has many rules but I'm furious all the same. On the way home the consequences and questions tumble around in my mind like a load of laundry. I can't think through the heat. If anything, in three weeks, I've gone backwards.
Suddenly, a man is standing by my window with both hands on the open sill. His eyes are blood shot and wild and in his right hand he's holding a softball sized piece of granite. He says something quickly but all I hear is the movement of his eyes darting to the backpack under my legs. I lean forward and start rolling up the window. As the grass crawls upwards the man's hand darts through the window and the granite slams into my shoulder. He hits me hard enough to wake the rock if it were sleeping, but not hard enough to do serious damage. The crackling in my shoulder is nothing compared to what it does to the knot in my chest. I snap and start crying.
-I hate this city! I yell to every car and person on the other side of the windshield.
Jean-Louise keeps driving and allows me my childish outburst. This place is turning me into a distrustful wimp. As I calm down and finish wiping the anger from my eyes, the words the man spoke filter through.
100 francs to not get hit.
An interesting profession; at least he didn't crack me in the face and steal my bag. I need to go back to the East. I feel like I'll become a snake in the pit if I stay in this god forsaken city any longer. And the work continues in the East. Last week I received a text message from the head of the Association of Women Livign Alone:
Two daughters of Association members were raped last night. One is 23 and one is 12.
Shortly after that, on the same day, a text from COPERMA:
A four year old girl was raped last night the rapist is 24, thank you.
What is with everyone saying thank you when they send miserable information? Immediately after COPERMA's text Hangie called and gave me details I didn't need to hear and now wish I never had. The image he painted made me shiver and remember that I can't fighting this pit forever. I wish I believed in hell, at least then there would be some solace in divine retribution. Right now I'm not even succeeding at helping the three kids and what's three out of 25? Three out of 25 is such a tiny number it almost seems not worth the trouble.
But three lives is monumental. Three lives is a boy on the brink of manhood who is currently headed for the life of a shegue--street kid; a life of stealing and violence and solidarity through crime rather than love. Three lives is a six year old girl who could be abused today and safe tomorrow. Three lives is a three year old girl who weighs eight kilograms and has milk crawling out of her ear; a life that could evaporate tomorrow like the morning dew we forget was ever there by afternoon.
Three lives is no small thing and is definitely worth working for.
That evening I speak to American Gabe and he gives me all the information I need to know.
-There were four children adopted to the States through Jatukik Providence Foundation, he says six hours behind me through the phone. Jatukik Providence Foundation seems to be complicit and they're obviously not doing anything to stop or investigate the sexual abuse. Three of those four children were sexually abused. One of the children arrived with tears to his rectum.
-How old was the child?
-Five years old.
(Comments prior to temporary removal) 1 COMMENT:
Tom Bosch said...
Amy- Each time I read one of your postings, I respect what you are doing even more. I featured your work, once again, on SophisticatedStudent.com. Hopefully, students will become more aware of the atrocities you face daily, and are moved to take action. Hang in there... Best, Tom Boshe.