Eweyes (kids)

How do you describe the experience of children living in a developing county? It's hard. Do you describe them physically? The fungal sores on their heads and bulging bellies with stick-like arms due to malnutrition? Do you describe their clothes? Often dirty, torn, ill-fitting or useless? How can you fit in the hardships, lost opportunites, hope, joy, their sense of family, the fact that children no more than babies themselves carry around baby siblings on their backs?

I think the best way to describe the children is in how they play, because when they are playing, they get to leave their world behind.

Song and dance are a big part of this culture. Children often chant and clap or stomp their feet, dancing into the middle of circles. They move so freely and confidently, sing completley unashamed, because everybody does it. Everyone has done it since they could walk. No one cares how the other sounds or looks.

Toys: There are not many resources here so the kids have to be creative. Jump rope, for example, is made of several plastic bags torn open, twisted and tied together.

Propellers: Children take a stick and poke it through these long leaves and run with them. The leaves spin on the stick like a propeller. They sometimes pretend their galimotos (cars) or have foot races down the dusty roads.

Push cars: children often build cars out of wire and round odds-and-ends that they find,old wheels, nuts, bent wire. Its all tied together with wire and plastic and attacted to a stick/handle and pushed around. Some of them get quite elaborate.

Another popular practice is re-using bike tire rims. They are rolled down the road, controled by a stick that fits into the grooves. Children run down the street, pushing and guiding their tire rims. They herd it like they would their family's goats, sometimes running full out to catch it before it rolls down a mountain road ahead of them. Girls sometimes use them as hula hoops.

Soccer balls are constructed of many plastic bags and wrappers tied together with string or small bits of rubber. They sometimes toss them, use them in net ball (a mix between ultimate frisbee and basketball) and kick them around during soccer games.

They value these makeshift possesions more than gold. The tender care a young girl takes to carve a face into her lumpy clay doll, wrapping it up lovingly in scraps of chitenge cloth. Sometimes they even carry them around on their backs, playing house, practicing building kindling fire and cooking bits of nsima with old flour.

Children here express themselves fairly freely, on the lakeshore its common for children up to middle school age to be running around playing by the lake naked, jumping into the water, dancing and shouting greetings to you. Its an odd experience. I was at a lodge where children came over and were jumping off the lodge rocks, giggling, laughing, showing off jumps, waving and smiling at use. It sounds strange but it's their culture. They were just like normal, carefree kids...only naked.

Though children definately get annoying at times, shouting at you, peeking though your fence, following you, begging for things, they are mainly harmless. The ones in my village sometimes play volleyball in my back yard or color on my front porch in chalk, often depicting themselves as princesses or drawing the galimotos they see drive by, kicking up clouds of sand and dust.

They are just kids. They are filled with the wonder of life that seems to persist no matter what circumstances they grow up in. They are just kids and for now, they're my kids.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.