Lugging the loot of love … to Africa

If you had one chance in 10 years to send presents to your child, what would you give them? Dawami and Hassan faced the dilemma this week, as I prepared to visit their daughter Neema and grandson Briton in Tanzania.

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    Neema John and her son Briton, 4, show some of the gifts they got from Bill Clinton Hadam's family.
    Mary Wiltenburg
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    Neema tries on a very American item sent from family in Atlanta.
    Mary Wiltenburg
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    Neema displays some American bling sent by her family in the US.
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If you had one chance in 10 years to send presents to your child, what would you give them? Dawami and Hassan faced the dilemma this week, as I prepared to visit their daughter Neema and grandson Briton in Tanzania.I said I would use my luggage allowance to take them a bag of gifts from their family here. Hassan and Dawami spent the week nervously shopping, and Bill and Igey contributed favorite toys and clothes for their nephew. On Friday, when I went to their house to pick up the suitcase, Hassan, Igey, and I unpacked it and went through all the items together.The contents ranged from the touching to the bizarre: One large locking suitcaseClothes: Two Obama T-shirts One blue-and-beige, umbrella-print, African-style skirt and top One child's school uniform One child's polo shirt and jean shorts One rhinestone-studded jeans and T-shirt set Underwear, socks Two pairs kid's Sketchers sneakers, one of which lights up like a police car Women's Dr. Scholl's sneakers with gel insolesJewelry: One 3", rhinestone-studded, gold-plated, red-paint-splashed hockey mask necklace charm One snarling, fanged, 4-inch, rhinestone-encrusted skull necklace Two gold key necklaces, the one Dawami usually wears, and the one Hassan does Three rings, including the one Dawami always wears, well-worn and losing its stones Gold bracelet African mask-style necklace and earring setToys: 18-inch stuffed dog in NBA attire (contributed by Igey) One battery-operated Santa head that screeches: "Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!" and sings "Jingle Bells." Box of 64 crayons Package of pencils and erasers Battery-powered plastic helicopter Alphabet puzzle Leapfrog learning gameAccessories: Five boys' baseball caps: USA, Green Bay Packers, camo, red, and one with a flaming brim Seven pairs of sunglasses Two clutch handbags, one made of iridescent orange faux-snake. High heels to match. Four belts, one studded with metal pointsMisc. Two large envelopes full of family photos Set of green, rubber, artificial teethIn the end, Igey and Hassan together had to sit on the bag to close it. Today, it and I leave for two weeks with Neema and refugee friends of Dawami and Hassan. For the latest on the journey, check back here on the blog, or join us on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-the-minute updates.Travel in Tanzania for this project is supported by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, in Washington DC.

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