Toby Update / Clot of Children

by

I was sitting high on a great rock this evening. Far below and to my
left, a group of small children formed. They were more like a clot than
a group–most of them held hands or interlocked arms or legs for most of
the duration of their assembly.

One thing I have never really mastered in Africa is relations with
children. My bizarre aura as a white adult male seems to estrange the
youngest, fascinate the middling, and finally render me invisible to the
eldest of African children.

The children I was delighted to be watching as the sun was fading were
of the very youngest. None of them were yet twice the height of the
piglets and goats they moved among. Thankfully they took no notice of
the kawaja on the rock. Uniformly barefoot, they wore anything in the
spectrum from warmly dressed to stark naked. Their smallest member was
not only nude, but as saturated as his body could be with dust.

I dearly wished that I could understand their words. What an insight
into understanding a people that would be. Sadly, even in Kenya, my
fluency was never sufficient to comprehend the intimate language of
children. And it is likely that even the Arabic I am now studying would
be of little use. These children very likely relied heavily on their
mother tongues, for which no book is written.

I decided to learn what I could by observation. The clot approached a
tree near the base of the hill of which my rock was part. At a small
distance from the tree, the clot formed a ring. Standing with their
faces centimeters apart, they seemed to be holding a conference. There
were some gestures made in the direction of the tree. The smallest,
dustiest boy, who clearly had not made any firm friendship with language
yet, was content to rotate in the center of the committee.

A decision was reached, and two of the children separated from the clot.
They found two long sticks, and began thrashing the lower parts of the
tree. The tree was of a variety that grows seed pods. The pods are a
common snack in the area. There was much shouting of directions and
encouragement from the clot as a few pods fell to the ground.

I didn’t learn much new about African culture from my observations. But
I can share this much. The casual physical contact and sharing of
personal space is something these people take into adulthood. The love
of committees is ubiquitous. And thankfully, the willingness to join
hands in a worthwhile endeavor is also typically African.

Toby :: 02.08.08

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2 Responses to “Toby Update / Clot of Children”

  1. beth Says:

    i love this post. i could envision the whole story and you sitting on your rock, watching it all play out. and that line “the intimate language of children” – aptly written. thanks for sharing, toby. :)

  2. lucas Says:

    thanks, toby. loved this one.

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