Friday, June 15, 2007

TSP Orphanage, Tanzania

if you had never played with blocks, would you know what a triangle is? would you know how to place them side by side rotate them to make a square, a parallelogram? or would the shape hang, a mystery?
yesterday i wouldn't have thought twice. but today, as i watched 9, 10, 11 yr olds puzzle over such "games" i felt a desperate need to... what?
one little boy, as he played each game- copying hand gesture patterns, matching shapes and colors, recalling a list, completing picture patterns- he would look over to me, the slightly exotic white girl in the rural sugar plantation's orphanage, and smile impishly, his eyes twinkling for praise. but then the second half of the test, 3 pages of questions- "do you play well with others? yes, no, sometimes?" ..."do you have friends?"... "do you sleep well?" "do you have bad dreams?"... "do you remember your parents?" ....
the ki swahili would wash over me, a gentle murmur, barely over a whisper. with no idea what question they were on, i watched child after child turn to stone. the eyes of my flirting imp grew vacant, his body a pliant statue, like time itself had grown so slow i couldn't perceive it. and when the first betraying tear welled on his dark lashes, finally spilling down his cheek, the spell remained unbroken.
when we had finished with him, he left without a backward glance. no more smiles or secrets for me. forgotten, as i should be.

i am not hardened for such work.

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