Monthly Archive for February, 2008

Grania: The Fun of Giving

We’ve exhausted our tales of mum’s visit just in time, as Dad and Richard are arriving at the weekend to start yet more adventures.

As you may remember from other posts, our next-door neighbours live in a lopsided mud house and have LOTS of children. They are all about 3 to 9 or 10 years old (although the malnutrition of most poor kids makes them a lot smaller than you would expect).

Every time I come home they race from all sides and greet me in Luganda (the local language) with “Oli Otya!” and then I greet them back in the plural form “Muli Mutya Abwanna” (How are you, children?). Slowly we have been teaching each other more of each others language, but shamefully they seem to have picked up more English than I have Luganda!

Paulo (our Askari) had told them about mum’s visit. (By the end of the trip the whole street knew who she was – this is Neighbourhood Watch on an informal basis!) So they all took to waving and chatting to her as well. She was keen to do something for them in return. At first she was thinking of giving them sweets, but in fact this is not what these kids need and I do not want to promote the idea that Mzungus are sweet-dispensers.

After a bit of thought we decided to give them colouring-in books and crayons, as they do not go to school and these gifts are potentially educational. So with gifts in hand (and Paulo to help translate) we headed next door.

When we came to the house, the kids suddenly became all shy, but Paulo asked them to come up and introduce themselves one by one to mum with varying success (some were just too shy!) Once the introductions were out of the way, we showed them the books. It was very interesting to watch as they had obviously never seen a colouring-in book before, and so they just looked at it until Mum kneeled down and showed them what to do on their level.

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Slowly they drew nearer, wondering what the mzungu mummy was doing and then as we handed out the crayons, chaos ensued! Some of the older ones understood what it was about, but the younger ones just wanted to put coloured squiggles all over the page.

It was also really interesting to watch Paulo joining in with the colouring in, he was loving it and taking so much care and attention, it is quite a thing here to have a book regardless of what the book is.

We stayed for a bit trying to reinforce the idea of what colouring-in is and trying to distract the little ones away who were spoiling it slightly for the older ones. (In the end it only took a collection of bottle lids to get their attention!) After we returned to our own house, we quickly became aware of the strange silence from next door  – with that many children there is always a background level of chatter. (For example, the other day there were squeals of excitement when they were putting a paper sack over one of the kids and then they chased him in the sack till he fell over, I had no option but to giggle!) When we went out to have a look it was the cutest sight – they were gathered round Paulo, industrially (and quietly) colouring in, and when they came to show mum their handy work we saw that they had mastered the colouring-in and were proudly displaying multi-coloured pictures of dinosaurs!

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It makes you realise just how spoilt kids in the west are and how they don’t necessarily appreciate all the toys and luxuries they have. It is always such fun to give gifts here and I would love to give them more but it is important that we don’t become seen as gift-givers as we would quickly become overwhelmed with requests. It is difficult as there is so much need but it requires more than mzungus appearing and putting a plaster over what is a larger problem, but every now and again, and when we get an excuse (thanks Mum!), it’s nice to give.

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