Google Maps told me the walk would be 0.9 miles. The humidity was rising, but a mile isn’t so far.
Plus I had just eaten a chocolate muffin from St. Balmain, justifying the indulgence by noting that there would be zero chocolate muffins in Kenya.
Once I passed the McCarren Park pool, the walk started sucking. The part of Greenpoint I found myself in would be best described as Not Cute. Homely, perhaps, as opposed to homey.
Around the 0.7 mile mark, I wanted to shout “this is for you, Maasai kids!” but they couldn’t possibly have heard me over the noise from the BQE.
I started crying almost as soon as I walked into the Greenpoint dollar store.
Not because I was in a dollar store, per se, but because as I shuffled up and down the aisles, I was reminded of the directions my trip organizer had given me about how to choose a gift for my “buddy,” the student who would be my companion during my days volunteering at the Maasai school.
Books need to be culturally sensitive. Don’t buy candy–most of the kids won’t have a toothbrush.
Avoid anything that requires batteries or electricity. These kids don’t have access to either. A well-intentioned volunteer gave his buddy an iPod, but once the battery dies, it’s useless.
Good gifts include a simple journal, a solar-powered flashlight or a puzzle that shows a picture the kids can relate to.
At the dollar store, I felt like a failure. None of the toys seemed right for my teenage buddy, a fourteen year old boy named Steven.
As I put a notebook, a pack of pencils and a pencil case in my cart, my heart sank: I had just committed to buying office supplies for someone who will almost certainly help me have an eye-opening, life-affecting experience.
I suppose he already has, in some ways.
Hopefully when the time comes, my modest gifts will somehow be the right ones.
[For context, this post was written on late on Thursday, July 10 and scheduled for Monday, July 14. I’m set to present these tokens to Steven on Friday, July 18.]