Friday, January 14, 2011

Labor Pains

The social welfare office for the Kinondoni district is in a large, warehouse-type building.  Cement floors, high ceilings with windows around the edges.  The windows are unscreened and always open, allowing birds to fly back and forth among the rafters.  Six large ceiling fans dangle, and provide the only means of airflow, at least when the power is on.  The room is filled with rows of cubicles, which may or may not contain a computer and always have stacks and stacks of files crammed along the walls.

The cubicle of Mama S is down the first row, all the way to end on the left.  I love Mama S; I really do.  I've worked with a dozen or so social workers through my adoptions and she is definitely my favorite.  A tiny, middle-aged woman with short hair and a gentle smile, I really get the impression that she cares about what she does.  She is always nice, always patient.  Way back in July, when she was doing our home study and interviewing our references, she was also more thorough than any other social worker has been.  And she got through them faster than any other social worker.  I was excited.  This will be our smoothest adoption yet!  I thought.  She told me it would take her two months to write the report.  I thought that was a long time, but I begrudgingly smiled and agreed, since she had been so nice.  So I waited until the end of September before I asked her about it again.

No report in September.
No report in October.
Or November.
Or December. 

I kept calling, and sending text messages, and coming up with reasons to go visit her.  She was always nice, always polite, just as sweet as ever.  But the report just never gets done.  I'm positive she doesn't want a bribe.  After our home study, she wouldn't even take the taxi money we offered her.  I'm positive she's not pulling a power play on us, lording it over us that she has the power to postpone our adoption.  (That has happened before with others.)  I think she's just busy.  And it's hard to get mad at someone who is busy.  Helping with adoptions are only one of many tasks she has to do.  

I went to visit her again yesterday.  I counted:  There were 17 people waiting outside her office.  It's always an interesting experience, waiting outside of Mama S's office.  It's usually mostly women waiting, some with babies strapped to them.  One of the babies was restless and whiny until the mama rustled around in her shirt, pulled out a breast, and stuffed it in the child's mouth.  A man came out of the office, seemingly crumpled on the ground, pulling himself along with flip-flops on his hands.  A polio victim, most likely.  Yet he had on a button-down shirt and dress shoes on his useless feet.  I'm pretty sure he works there. 

No one seemed as impatient as I felt; a lot of the women had their eyes closed.  I sat on the narrow bench in the hallway for an hour, wishing I had my Kindle, and then remembered that there is no "line" to get in to see the social workers, and if I ever expected to get in there, I'd better stand.  So I positioned myself right by the door, and jumped in as soon as the next person came out.  That's how you do it in Africa, and it's not considered rude. 

Mama S looked sheepish this time.  She apologized for not doing the report, and acknowledged that we had been waiting a long time.  She said she would work on it this week.  She's said that before, so that still doesn't give me a lot of hope.  If she hasn't found time to work on it in the last five months, when will she find time to work on it? 

As always, adoption is a miracle--just like birth.  When it happens, God will get the glory. 
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