Saturday, 26 January 2008


About eight or nine months ago, after watching a news article on Kenya and the poverty there, I decided to act on an idea I'd been thinking about since I was 15 or 16 — and sponsor a child. I rang around a few charities, decided on the one I liked, and began sponsoring the random Kenyan child whose profile they sent me.

His name was Francis, and he looked really ugly. A big puku, little bald head and glowering at the camera; he looked sick and pouty and generally like an unpleasant little person. Granted, he was only three, so he may not have had his 'camera face' down pat yet.

I accepted Francis with a benevolent sort of feeling, announced to my friends that I'd now starting sponsoring a very ugly little boy, and adjusted my budget to allow for the extra money going out.

When I decided to make my 101 goals, I carefully kept Francis in mind and decided to send him a present on his birthday at least once; and to send him four letters and at least one photo of myself, to kind of connect and show him who I was, I guess.

I've done none of that so far. I didn't even get around to sending him a birthday or a Christmas card last year, although the charity even sent me cards to fill in, with pre-addressed prepaid envelopes. I didn't get around to it, though I still had every intention of doing so.

About August, I got a letter from Francis' uncle, the one in the family who can write. He wrote in broken English to thank me, to let me know how Francis is doing, to ask how I'm doing, which church I go to, what my family is like, etc. He sent me another picture of Francis with his parents, looking less sulky with his puku sticking out less.

I meant to write back, but somehow I just didn't, and still haven't. Then, earlier this week, I received a letter from the charity. Huge tumult in Kenya; claims of a rigged election; tens of thousands of people displaced; and the long and short of it is that they don't know where Francis and his family are any more — they've been lost.

I feel bad. Is Francis alive? They don't know. What about his parents, his uncle? They don't know. I never sent him any presents, or letters, or photos, or even a postage-paid card.

This morning I was cleaning my desk, a huge mound of stuff piled everywhere. At the bottom, I found an unopened envelope from the charity, dated 9th January, which I hadn't even bothered to open.

I opened it, and a home-made card fell out; a Christmas card from Francis, tied together with a blue ribbon, and his uncle's handwriting wishing me a merry Christmas and a happy new year. At the top, clearly Francis' addition to the card, is a big, big pink heart, very carefully coloured in.

I feel awful. They wished me a merry Christmas, and took the time to send me a card they'd made themselves. But I couldn't even get up the motivation to send them a card back. They wished me a happy new year and, on the whole, so far it is. But what's their new year like?

Sunday, 13 January 2008


My dad's probably in Oman now, barring any problems with the plane etc. I haven't heard from him yet, which worries me a little, but who knows what kind of internet access he'll have over there? Does Oman have internet cafes? I've heard they're a rich country, but my mind persists in showing me a picture of Bishkek, with people sleeping in the streets, drunk on cheap toxic vodka, poverty everywhere you look. Apparently his income isn't taxed there, though, which is good.

My dad's career has been varied over the past year. He was offered jobs in both South Korea and Kuwait, but ended up taking a job in Queenstown. Then, at the end of December, he was offered a job in Oman, and flew there on Monday. He'll be there till maybe August.

I know it's probably quite safe, and less dangerous than it was in Kyrgyzstan, but I don't like the thought of him there on his own, without his family. And it's hard on Mum. At least she's still got Sasha there - he'll be "the man of the house", as Dad jokingly said.

Oh — for Christmas Dan and I flew down to spend it with his family in Christchurch, and then rented a car to drive down and see my family. We flew down on Christmas Day, and back on New Year's Day, so there wasn't much time. I bid goodbye pretty casually to Dad, and half an hour later realised it could be the last time I saw him, or at least the last time for seven months. That made me feel pretty awful.

I don't care about not seeing Dad till August, since it's unlikely I'll see any of my family before then anyway. But I don't like the thought of him off in a strange country on his own. He doesn't even speak Arabic!

Hopefully he'll be fine. I imagine it's just taking a while for him to travel to the town he's working in. And I guess it's entirely possible, if it's a small town, that they don't even have the internet.

I told Dad to email us when he got there, though. I hope he's OK. I'm (almost) sure he's fine, but it's nice to actually be sure.