Friday, November 16, 2007
My house at St. Teresa Parish is constantly surrounded by kids. They use the footpath from the church to the hall and as they pass my house they stand at my gate and call me. “How are you Timoth!” That’s what they call me, Timoth. They don’t pronounce the “y.”
When I first came to Malava many of the children were very shy and would smile and hide their faces while others were afraid of me. Now that they have seen me around for many months they greet me on the road and come to the gate at my house all the time. When they greet me I respond, “I’m fine.” Then the small ones repeat over and over again, “How are you?”, “How are you?”, “How are you?” The older ones say, “Give me twenty bob! (shillings)” or “Mbekho Iswiti!” (Give me sweets) in their tribal language.
Many months ago I was very courteous with these children and would answer, “I’m fine” over and over or would say, “I’m sorry I don’t have any money or sweets.” But now since I have seen them around for many months, I simply say, “I’m fine” only once and “No!”
They come on the weekends and watch me through my gate while I am doing my laundry or sweeping the courtyard. They always want to help me, but I never encourage them because I think it’s important that I do my own work, but also because they will expect payment and then when the word gets out more and more children will come for money and sweets.
Malava kids are cute and fun to be around, but they certainly don’t allow me much privacy. When I am reading on my bed they come to my bedroom window. When I am preparing food in the kitchen they come to the kitchen window. Some days when I just want to listen to music on my iPod out in my courtyard they will poke their heads through the wide bars on my gate. Many times they want something from me other times they just come to stare.
When I really just want to be alone many times I must go in the house with the door close and the curtains drawn. This is when the smallest of the children will climb through the bars of my gate and will run and play with my camp shower lying on the patio just outside. They will call my name for me to let them in the house, but I know better and will ignore them for ten minutes until they go.
When I’ve told them “no” enough times we get alone very well. A group of nearly twenty children, girls and boys, come to the parish hall on Saturdays to learn how to be liturgical dancers for the Sunday mass. They have asked me to join their group many times, but having been born with two left feet, I unfortunately declined. They dance and sing for me and even teach me songs in Swahili.
They are truly amazed by the color of my skin and the hair on my arms. I keep the hair on my head pretty short so it tends to look really straight and so they are always wondering if I use chemicals to get it that way.
When I walk to the Sister’s house to work in the afternoons I am greeted by children herding cattle, gathering firewood, and carrying milk and fruit to the market. But perhaps the most amazing thing about these kids, besides the fact that they always smiling and cheerful despite how little they have, is their talent for making their own games and toys. While kids in the States might occupy themselves with television and videogames, Malava kids occupy themselves with what is available. They can make a soccer ball out of plastic bags or a toy truck out of bicycle spokes, an inner-tube, and lids from plastic bottles. Some can make a jump rope from a vine, or a swing from a tree branch, while others will make up their own games with marbles and bottles caps. These games and toys are not fancy or high-tech, but are in many ways more impressive, but even more so are the kids that make them.
Posted by tim at 10:29 PM