Feed on


There’s a lot going on in our house right now in the aftermath of losing our two dear pets within 48 hours. A fair bit involves Simon, and I’ll get to that later.

But I thought we could use some levity, eh? I know I sure as heck could. Especially since this morning I set myself the task of washing out all the pet bowls, hauling out the litter, cleaning the carrier, and wondering how two little companions can be here one minute and then – poof! – just cease to exist the next.

So let’s catch up with Agotich, whom I tend to think of as “Tich” at this point. Last week, amid all the cat drama, she started preschool. Recall that this child has never been away from her mother for more than a few hours, that she arrived in Louisville 18 days before school started, and that she does not speak or understand a word of English. Before August 6, all she ever heard was Dinka and Arabic.

So how did she do? Shockingly well, I’d say. When Alek, Agotich, and I first entered the room, she stood back and cautiously took everything in. Then she began exploring in an every widening orbit around her mother. She was surprisingly uninterested in the class bunny, but was enthralled with the balls and happy to play with little Jaxon when he tossed one her way. Then the teachers got out the play dough and rolling pins, and little Tich started making her pie crust like an experienced hand. She forgot all about her mother, so I grabbed Alek’s hand and told her it was a good time to high tail it out of there!

Upon my return (without Alek), I was shocked, but pleasantly so, to hear that she had a good day. A teacher attended to her the whole day and she didn’t eat much (the food is totally different than anything she’s accustomed to), but she played and hardly cried at all. And she was sufficiently comfortable with me that she fell asleep in the car while I chatted away to her about her day.

When I reached Gabriel and Alek’s apartment, Alek had lunch and tea for me, something I was not expecting, and explained after I admired the tea with cardamom that next time she’ll know what I like and can have it ready for me. When I demurred that this was not necessary, she explained that “It is important to show proper thanks to family friends. They have no obligation to help, so you must let them know how important they are.”

I stayed for about an hour and a half, and Alek’s English is good enough that I was able to learn how Sudanese make homemade incense, that Alek’s mother disapproved of the henna designs she had put on her arms and legs before the big trip to the USA (“She say, that is for Arab!”), and that Agotich is her mother’s first grandchild, but not her father’s (he has one or two other wives). Meanwhile, Alek cannot fathom how Gabriel’s mother would allow herself to become anyone’s eighth wife (“I say, Kwai, how could your mother do this? She was young and beautiful!”) and really misses the Mexican telenovelas she watched dubbed into Arabic back in Sudan. “I find them here, but I cannot understand them!”

She was utterly charming all around, appreciative of her new, green, clean, and quiet (her words) surroundings, and seemed eager to learn American ways. Coupled with her good English that needs only a few months to refine and build a larger vocabulary, and she is excellent shape to embrace a new life here.

At the end of Tuesday’s visit, something funny happened. I waved goodbye to Agotich, and she cried. “She doesn’t want you to leave,” Alek explained. So I gave her a kiss, and she kissed me right back—three times. Am I really going to become Auntie Jessica that fast? I might just.

Because Thursday she had an equally good day at AJ, and when I entered her classroom she greeted me with a huge smile the second she saw me. “Wow,” Ms. Barb told me, “that’s the best smile we’ve seen all day.” Then she snuggled up as close to me as she could get when I picked her up, nestled her head below my chin, and fell fast asleep before I could even get her to the car. I chatted with the cantor and office staff about how she was doing for a bit, and the entire time all they got to see of her were her three or four fuzzy little pony tails.

This week I’ll have Agotich alone in the mornings, as I’ve given Alek the green-light to send her along with Gabriel on her own. I’m sure we’ll have a bit more of an adjustment, and I’ve got some work to do to get Simon to be friendlier, but I am quite content at present to have an adorable, and adaptable, little girl in my life.

3 Responses to ““Tich””

  1. Amanda says:

    Sounds like they are settling in nicely. Alek needs to make you lunch–it is reciprocal hospitality, and that is absolutely necessary. Besides, you are probably one of her only friends right now and I’m sure she likes having you over to talk, and lunch is a good excuse. It is very lonely being in a new place and new culture when you are insecure about your language skills and unfamiliar with local customs. With you, she can be herself, use her improving English, and knows that you won’t laugh at her and that you have a sympathetic ear. Plus she gets to talk to a grownup during the day while Gabriel is working. You know how it is to be stuck with only a toddler to talk to!

  2. goldsteinrita says:

    Amanda: You are one of the most logical and insightful people I know. Hope we get to see you soon.

  3. Amanda says:

    Wow, Rita, that’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about me! And right back at ya. Don’t know if it’s so true, lol, as more I’ve “been there, done that.” Hoping to be able to come by around the holidays if all goes well.

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