Saturday, April 25, 2009

Portrait #82: a toothless grin

She had two teeth and spoke about 9 words in English: my ... sister ... live ... America ... Phoenix ... Arizona ... where ... you ... from

She has six children. Her seven-year old daughter huddled up against her and stared at me with her big brown eyes. She doesn't go to school because her mother can't afford the expenses to send her to the local public school: clothing, books, are really not an option.

Dressed in a baggy skirt, an orange, brown and tan sweater, and a bright orange sweater vest thrown over it all... even on this warm sunny day, she explained to me that she lives in the village with her six children and does what she can to look out for them. They have a home but they don't have an income. She grinned as she explained this to me, and all was well until she asked me if I had money to give her.

If she has a sister in America, I asked, does she not get help from her? At least, perhaps, enough to get the kids going to primary school? She said that her sister does help - when something comes up. If there's a health emergency she can ask her sister for help.

I sat there and stared at her as I tried to converse in a language in which I have barely mastered the skill of food shopping. She didn't mind that I couldn't understand as her deep frustrations poured out of her quasi-toothless, smiling mouth.

What I really couldn't understand, though, wasn't the content of what she was saying. I got the point. What I couldn't understand was how a woman settled into life in Arizona, with enough cash flow to fly back and forth to visit Kosovo every year or so, could have a sister in this Kosovar village whose kids had never been to a dentist or set foot in a school?

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