In Arusha

In Arusha, the supermarket most often frequented by whites is the Shoprite. A steady stream of Land Cruisers bearing Germans and Dutch, Swedish and Americans, enter the parking lot, occasionally joined by local taxis awaiting tourists overloaded with plastic bags, to emerge. Shoprite offers familiar western- style food to the homesick, as well as rare fruits and vegetables often shipped in from South Africa.  One hundred yards further down the road are the slums of Arusha, a rabbit warren of 10X12 foot dwellings with shared walls-a giant house of cards. The labyrinth of doorways, garbage, piles of ash and children is more than confusing as we make our way first to the left, then right and right again.  We are led by a volunteer who has had an initial discussion with the grandfather. He believes we will discuss the matter further today. Two little boys, 2 and 5 years old, have at long last been orphaned by AIDS. They are in the occasional and inadequate care of their aunt, who has two children of her own. The grandfather, as head of this family, is the one to make the decision. Although we are expected and the home has been tidied for our inspection, the grandfather has chosen to go to his work and leave the rest up to us.  We arrive to find 4 children, naked and alone, in the room. The sister in law peers out of an adjacent doorway, and nonchalantly saunters our direction. While we wait, she digs a set of ragged clothes out of a suitcase and dresses the two boys in shirt and pants. It would be impossible to hope for underwear or shoes. As she dresses her nephews, her own 3 year old cries. She shouts at him to be quiet.  We load the children on our backs and retrace our steps. There is no goodbye, no kiss, no tears. Stopping at the sheet- covered doorway of the village elder, we leave a bag of food. We carry George and Nico, HIV positive toddlers, past the Shoprite.    In the taxi riding to the orphanage neither boy makes a sound. Winfrieda talks to Georgie- he does not respond. There is no eye contact from Nico, and we are concerned that his emotions seem so flat. We have been told that Nico has some symptoms, and are anxious to observe him more closely. We arrive. The nurses take the boys and wash them; they eat. And then Georgie begins to talk to Winfrieda, and Nico starts to walk around, and the boys are playing, and warbling, and laughing, and rolling on the floor with a stuffed toy and as we look at each other in amazement, these beautiful boys, under a death sentence, remind us why we do the work we do.