Dreams in Their Eyes

I first saw them playing soccer
with a ball made from plastic bags
bunched together with elastic bands.
They were on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro
on a Sunday afternoon while the adults
shared stories of their week as they
sat on makeshift chairs outside their houses
and sipped on freshly brewed banana beer.

Then, one evening, I saw others in Longido
on a cement pad in front of the village barbershop
where music from the small radio powered by a generator
streamed out. Three of them putting on a show,
so un-selfconsciously, as though they were on a great stage
before an adoring audience: smiling, swaying, gesturing.

Days later, in a crowded grade four classroom in Kimokouwa
when I asked them what they wanted to be
when they finished school a few years from now
skinny hands waving from their worn blue school uniforms
begged to answer: a teacher, a doctor, a pilot, an engineer.
And I said, never let go of your dreams.

Hardly a day went by that I didn’t meet them:
little children with big dreams in their eyes
sprouted from the dusty rural landscape
and determined to live and thrive as though
being fully alive was their birthright
completely oblivious to the mountain of obstacles
that would need to be scaled
(I am thinking primarily for the girls)
first by their mothers and grandmothers
then with their own grit and determination.

Children from tribes like Maasai and Pare,
Arusha and Chaga, my dream is that you will be
educated to pursue the future you desire and deserve
and the future the world desperately needs;
one where you do not mimic other cultures
that have traded the deep roots
of who they really are, who we all really are,
for hollow transitory objects that shine for the moment
but are empty of real treasure. For who will continue
to weave together that rich and vibrant tapestry
of the earth’s people’s and tribes if not you,
the children with dreams in your eyes in Tanzania.

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