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by Deb Dawson
children playing soccer

About four each morning mid-way through my three weeks in Duk Payuel, South Sudan, I woke, restless, thinking about all I still hoped to do with the ASAH girls and staff before I left. It doesn’t seem to matter how many days or weeks I’ve been there, I feel that there was more I could have done, investigated, learned, experienced. No matter the monotony of the diet, the insufferable heat, the mosquitos, porcupines, or bats—the time flies.

Perhaps because I’m a Libra, I’m torn between introversion and extroversion. Wishing for more time to sit or play with or teach our girls, to interact with staff, to chat with friends at the clinic or wander through the village, yet longing for the solitude to reflect, to write, to process photos, to plan, to figure expenses, prepare job descriptions, and work on policies and procedures, manage logistics, and to regroup.

Evenings, after the girls are ready for bed, I sometimes approach their tukuls—named Fargo and New York—and ask, “Girls, may I come in?”. When they want to visit me, they say, “Mommy, may I come in?”. When we first began, they simply barged in. Now they have learned manners. I would bring my laptop and play slideshows of the photos I’d taken over previous few days. Pictures of them leaping for the ball or falling while playing volleyball or netball elicited chortles, even when they’d watched it through several times.

The day before I left I initiated an informal game of catch, sashaying toward one girl or turning toward another, leaping to catch them as they dashed away—or made a show of dashing away. Most of them like the contact.

Now I’ve been home for ten days, and I won’t visit again until January 2013. This will be my longest absence since 2010—I’ve been visiting every three or four months since then—but this is a critical juncture in our development. More on that tomorrow!

About the Author

Deb DawsonDeb Dawson

Deb Dawson is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, businesswoman, teacher, humanitarian, and philanthropist. She holds a B.S. Ed. in Education and English, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her role as mother to biological, step, and internationally adopted children led her to write When Love is Not Enough, a memoir about the way mothers and daughters forge relationships in the face of tremendous obstacles.


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