I perch in a wicker chain in our sitting room with a cup of hot tea in hand watching the rain pour down outside. There is no power and no sound but the rain, we are all captivated by it. The silence is broken when Robert runs outside to rescue Rasta the monkey and bring him inside. Rasta and Kisa the dog eye each other warily and then each settles in to nap. The boys sit around the table eating oranges from our trees and Francis starts reading out loud from the color chart on the wall.
Today has been a good day and we are all soaking wet.
This afternoon Richard and I took all of the boys to the clinic for a doctor’s check up and HIV testing. In a country where HIV rates are still far too high, HIV is a real concern, particularly in the north. They walked with us proudly through town to the clinic which has been treating Ambros’s infected leg since June. These are not the wild boys I met on the street back in February. When we arrive at the clinic even the nurses are charmed. Ambros flashes them a toothy grin and they shake their heads and ask about his leg. It is still healing.
One by one they walk up to the nurses station and give their names. Answering a question asked in English is something that most of them could not do a couple of months ago. Together we go into the back room and together we give blood samples. Fred goes first with a sheepish grin on his face. The others watch. He sets the bar high. Francis quietly takes the chair next, the youngest and smallest of the boys he has a quiet strength to him that even the toughest respect. Ambros follows suit and then Robert. Robert is clearly nervous and slaps his veins and pumps his fist in preparation. Walter watches on biting his nails.
All the samples are neatly lined up and labeled. The boys go in to be weighed and rush back to the sitting room where music videos play on the TV, a luxury for them as there is no television at our house. Richard and I wait nervously for the results. After 20 minutes we smile quietly to each other. All negative.
The rain returned as we set out for home. The road turned to mud and I looked out the side of my eye at the boys. I started to run. Laughter rang through the air as we raced each other splashing through puddles, a field and a neighbor’s yard to get home. Ladies in the market laughed and cheered. We walked through the gate together giggling and smiling, soaking wet, happy and healthy. Amari…love…it is what we all need.