Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ugly Cry

18 days until we leave our home...
     The house is mostly packed and cleaned.  The children and I have had check-ups and shots.  The pets (three cats and a dog) have been freshly vaccinated and groomed.  The house has been readied for the renters (new shower, new deck, newly insulated walls).  We have saved as much money as we will be able to before leaving.  In truth, our family and our home have never been in better shape.  If nothing else, preparing for this adventure has helped us to get our acts together, at least temporarily.
     There are still some fairly overwhelming hurdles.  The three cats do not yet have foster homes (anyone? anyone?).  Malawi (our daughter) does not yet have US citizenship or a US passport, as the readoption process has, of course, taken much longer than we'd anticipated. We do not yet have a house to rent in Lilongwe.  Most significantly, I recently discovered that the children may not be able to attend the International school which I have been describing in romantic detail for them for the last few months.
I discovered this development a few days ago, when I finally received a response to one of the many e-mails I had been sending to the school since February.  I was politely informed that there is not sufficient space at this time, but we could certainly put our names on the waiting list. 
     Having read this e-mail on my i-phone in line at Starbucks, I had an immediate and uncontrollable emotional reaction, and began sobbing as I stood waiting for my Americano.  It was a visceral, hiccuping Ugly Cry, as humiliating as it was undeniable, and I could only nod apologetically at the Starbucks employee who warily handed me my bagel as tears streamed down my face.  It was the culmination of weeks of stress and anxiety, unleashed and unbidden. 
     My kids have been struggling as our departure date approaches, and I have comforted them as they faced leaving the things they love (school, friends, sports) by assuring them that the new school they will be attending has all that they are used to and more.  Poor little Aine was bereft at the idea that she could not advance in "Flip" (gymnastics) this autumn, and was only placated by the prospect of continuing Flip in Lilongwe.  Eamonn is a very shy child, who does not like having to make new friends, and the similarities between the International school and his current school gave us both peace and comfort that he would be able to transition gracefully.  Their attendance at Bishop Mackenzie was one of the foundations upon which we had been planning to build our new life, and their rejection felt like my emotional undoing.
That morning, after I wiped the snot off my face and gathered myself together, Dave and I skyped the director of the school and sent frantic e-mails with their records and application, as well as an imploring letter from me, begging them to accept my kids.  Now we wait.
     We have since discovered that, according to the experts at UNC whom Dave e-mailed, malaria is prevelant in Lilongwe, and the vast majority of the infections are with the most deadly form of the parasite, p.falciparum.  We were informed that we should strongly consider giving our children anti-malarial medicines for the duration of the year we are there.  We are therefore faced with the unenviable choice between trying to convince my three stubborn children (who think bubblegum flavored Tylenol is gross) to take a daily pill (which costs $7/day per person, for those of you who are good at math), and giving them a weekly pill that is known for causing hallucinogenic nightmares (I've had them.  They are horrible).
     Since that first Ugly Cry, I have had two more significant sobfests, including a second at Starbucks on my lunchbreak today.  (If I wasn't such a caffeine freak I might start avoiding the place).  I think my emotionality stems from fear, as much as the sadness I expected to feel about the move.  I am not afraid for myself.  I'm adaptable, I love to travel, and I am committed to our goal of working in the developing world.  I welcome the challenges and changes of our move. I am overwhelmed by angst and fear because it goes against every cell in my body as a mother to take my children away from their home, away from their safe, secure, familiar environment to one that is statistically more dangerous, completely foreign to them, and far away from the people they know and love.  I am so afraid that they will be scared, or lonely, or sick, and that I will have failed in my job to protect them and keep them from harm. 
Tonight while I cried over my Thai yellow curry,(for the third, and hopefully final, time of the day), Dave held my hand and told me to have faith.  He told me to remember my belief that if your motives are pure, and your intentions are good, then your success is certain. I never expected this to be easy, I just don't want it to be hard on them