I am not an incredibly busy person. Most of my days are filled with, well, day-to-day things, and there is very little that is fish-farming or development related. I spend time cooking, washing, fetching water, sweeping, and working in my garden. This week I spoke a little about fish farming at 2 separate meetings, and I consider that a pretty big week. Like I said: not busy.
Almost every afternoon, though, I have a very important engagement. I’ll be in my hut or sitting on my stoop, writing a letter or sewing a patch, and I’l hear a quiet voice, “Ba Jaime? Tulayanda kupinta…” (Ms Jaime? We would like to color…)
There will be a group of kids smiling and half-hiding behind a tree, shy even though we do this almost every day. The spokesperson for the group is usually Prudence, my 6 year old host sister, though sometimes one of the other kids will get up the courage to ask. So, I go into my hut and bring out coloring books and markers, and we all color together. My group of kids is sometimes only two or three, but some days I have more than ten crowded around, sharing markers and choosing pages to color. We’ll spend an hour or two together, them chattering away in Lenje and me understanding very little. Eventually some unspoken signal passes around and the markers are collected and the books returned, ready for the next day’s coloring committee meeting.
That is how I spend most afternoons. Sometimes, though, I don’t want to color; when the request comes, I’ll say, “Tuyapinta chifumo.” (We’ll color tomorrow). What a terrible person, to refuse these kids their afternoon entertainment, right? But those days I have something even better than coloring. Earlier this month I turned 26, and one of my wonderful friends back home sent me a birthday package which included about 2 dozen balloons. So, on those non-coloring days I can pull out a balloon and set everyone loose playing with that.
The first day I brought out a balloon, the kids weren’t exactly sure what to make of it. They tried throwing it to each other, until I demonstrated the proper balloon-bopping technique. Then it took a while to figure out that it would mostly go with the breeze, rather than to where you’d hit it. Eventually we all got the hang of it, and played a rousing game of don’t-let-the-balloon touch-
That was it for that day, but I’ve brought balloons out a few times since, and they’re always a huge hit. So now my afternoons are filled with either coloring or shrieks of joy, and are frequently my favorite part of the day. I can only imagine the fun we’ll have when I first
bring out the Frisbee…