Monday, December 1, 2008

Children's Voices

We have seen many children who live, play, and “work” around St. Etienne.

The children who live on the compound are many and play frequently in our backyard. As I type there is a boisterous game of kickball going on with lots of yelling and laughing. Every once and awhile the ball goes high enough that I can see it over the patio wall, once it practically landed in Rob’s lap. These children are shy. I often try out my Kinyarwanda with them, with sheepish answers in return or answers in English. I think they are slowly warming up and I hope to play with them more as I get to know them and work with them in the nativity play at church.
(The above picture is of some children who live on the compound. This was taken in November on Rose Kibuye Day as they watched from the driveway)

The rest of the children at church are NOT shy! After Sunday services while Rob and I make friends with people in our new church I will more often than not feel a small hand slip into mine. Looking down I’ll find a small child tentatively staring at me, I’ll talk to them and they’ll look at me, sometimes answer, but never will they let go of my hand. Their moms normally have to shoo them away and into the church. On Thanksgiving Day, Rob and I were sitting on the front steps of St. Etienne when the nursery school let out. At once there were little hands patting and stroking my hair, fingers reaching for our computer screens, and small faces in our faces. We had been surrounded by about 20 kids chanting, “mzungu, mzungu” (an endearing term for any kind of foreigner). Intermittent with the mzungu chant came English phrases like “good morning” and “what is your name”. Their leader came and drove them away from us; the children ever so reluctantly complying. Though, one small boy lingered behind bidding us, “goodbye mzungu, goodbye mzungu” until he was pulled out of earshot by his teacher.

There are three street kids who loiter by the front gates of St. Etienne. I am looking for a good time to ask pastor Sam about them, like who are they, who feeds them, where do they sleep. But until that time, I guess they will continue to speak to us in French and name their price of the day; “Bonjour, cent francs, cent francs!” There are some street children who shout both English and French demands as mzungus pass, “Give me Money!, Donnez-moi l’argent”! These are few, however; and the number of children who skitter by us in the market places, spattering French greetings and giggling through rehearsed English phrases far outnumber the sales speeches of the others. The favorite English phrase of the children we know, by far is, “good morning” no matter the time of day or night.

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