Going Home, Part 1

Foundation Ambassador Martha Cameron.

Martha Cameron

Foundation Ambassador Martha Cameron, who is living with HIV, recently traveled back to her home country of Zambia to visit family and friends and follow her passion for helping her community. Following her return to the United States, where she now lives with her husband and three HIV-negative children, Martha shared her experiences with us. Over the next two days, we will publish stories from her trip.

Hot weather. Cool under the shade. No air conditioning.  Fresh food and vegetables being sold by the side of the road. Flies by day. Mosquitoes by night. Power outages. Great home-cooked food. No running water after 9:00 PM.  Smiling faces, crying babies, and singing children. A familiar, smoky smell in the air. And a constant smile on my face. It is great to be back home.

My biggest joy is to see the children at the orphanage  where I used to work. They’ve grown so much. I love these children as much as I love my own miracle babies. They love me back and are so happy to see me.

One of them tells me she is the class monitor as well as the assistant teacher. She wants to be a teacher one day. I think she will be president.

I am staying with two aunts -- both in their 60s: a widow and spinster with opposite personalities. They fuss over me and try to make me as comfortable as possible in their small but welcoming home. The constant bickering between them is hilarious. I appreciate my upcoming 38th birthday, but in watching them, I worry about becoming a little old lady myself.

When I visit more relatives, reality begins to catch up with me. My beloved aunt is barely recovering from pneumonia. She can not weigh more than my 150 pounds. She has lost at least 100 more. But she is slowing getting healthier, gaining weight and on treatment.

Another family visit confirms that my Uncle’s blindness is irreversible. It’s just hard to imagine that my favorite, lively uncle – my daddy’s baby  brother – will never set eyes on me again.

These visits draw the painful memories back in. So many faces. So many funerals. Too many graves.

I settle on my mother’s grave. I miss her more than I could  imagine. And my memory brings song from somewhere:

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother what I will be,
Will I be pretty will be I rich, hers what she said to me…que sera sera – whatever will be will be, the future is not ours to see …