Tuesday, September 27, 2016

July 28, 2016

What an incredible day. We went out with Elder and Sister Greding to look at 12 wells. These are wells that were done between 2010 and 2014. All of them are still working and well taken care of. We went out into the bush country to 12 small villages. At the first village, the children gathered around me and just stared at me. I said "hello" and they responded "hello". That was all the English they knew. Uhm? How was I going to communicate and what was I going to say. I remembered from previous experience that all schools here have a school song. I asked if they had a school song. An elderly gentleman from behind me translated. The children broke out in song. A very peppy song that required clapping along with the singing. They sang for about 3 minutes and I was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to end. Just then Sister Greding came up behind me and whispered in my ear that the singing was interfering with the hygiene training and to stop the singing as soon as possible. I tried but the children would not stop singing. So I decided if I moved they would probably follow me. So I started walking away from the hut the training was taking place and the children followed me. Then the older children got in front of me and led the way. They sang and we clapped and walked all over the village. The children were singing at the top of their lungs. Same song over and over. Mothers and grandmothers were all coming out of their huts to see what was going on. They loved it. They smiled and waved and was quite encouraging. We probably walked around the village for a solid 15 minutes when Jonathan Cobinah (the site manager for all the wells) came and got me. He grabbed my hand and told me to "come". The children followed us and sang most of the way.He took me to the hygiene meeting. When I saw where we were headed, I turned to the children and put my finger to my lips and said "shhhh". They did the same thing. I pointed to the meeting and they got the point. They became quiet. When I walked into the meeting the children followed and all sat on the floor around the facilitators. They had a reserved chair for me. Hygiene training was excellent and was something the children could relate to. Afterward, Sister Greding thanked me for entertaining the children while they got the meeting started. She said it was a big help. It was not planned on my part. It just happened. And it was so fun.

At the 2nd well, the children again surrounded me. The men of the village and Don and Elder Greding and the hygienists were around the well. I looked at the children and asked their names and tried to converse with them. They could not understand anything I said. The smallest children were afraid of me and if I bent over to get closer to them they would run away. I finally asked if they go to school. They stared at me. A 12 or so year old girl understood the word school and shook her head yes. I asked who their teacher was. The same girl understood the word teacher and pointed in the direction of the men. I looked for a woman in that direction and could not find one. Then a man very stiffly stepped forward with a very unpleasant look on his face and stood in front of me. I stuck my hand out to shake his and he shook my hand. I asked if he spoke English and he said, "yes, of course, I will try". I asked him if the children had a school song. "Yes, of course". He told the children to sing the song. I motioned to the children to follow me. I needed to get them away from the men discussing the well. We walked around a number of huts to a big open area and the children began to sing very loud, clapping and swaying. Several mothers joined them and one woman especially sang with the children and encouraged them to sing and sing and sing. I joined them in the clapping and swaying and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular display of joy. Then the woman asked me if I liked to dance. I said "yes" and then all the mothers and grandmothers stopped and stared at me. Uh-oh! Was I suppose to dance for them? In horror, I asked "do you want me to dance by myself"? She shook her head yes. I grabbed her and told her to dance with me. Without hesitation, she began to dance and I joined her. The children broke out in joyous laughter and continued to sing and another woman appeared with a drum and kept time with the children's song while this woman and I danced. The group was joined by many adults, men and women, who all stood around the children. The stiff teacher was standing on something to make himself higher than everyone else and he was clapping, singing, swaying and had the biggest smile on his face. I decided to spice it up and I shook my hips, did the swim and the monkey (for you younger folks that is old time dancing) and my word what a whoop went up and laughter. It was so very very fun. When we had to leave, my dance partner and I at the same time reached for each other to give a hug and then I hugged the drummer. It was a sweet sweet parting. All the children lined the road as we drove off yelling "bye, bye". I threw them kisses! Jonathan had my iPad and captured the singing and dancing on video. If I can figure out how to add it to my blog, I will attach it.

The natives love to have their picture taken. At the other wells, I used my iPad to take their pictures and oh how the children loved to see themselves. There were squeals and laughter as they pushed each other to get a closer look. I made sure everyone was in at least one picture and made sure they each got to see themselves. Many women joined in.

On the way back to Kenema, the man who was with us that represented the WASH (water and sanitation department) committee was in our vehicle. He said that no other NGO people had ever gone into the communities and met with the people "like your wife". They all come to the edge and look in and decide what they want to do and then tell the people what they are going to do. They do not ask the people what they need or want. So they give the people what the NGO wants to give and if they community does not want it they will not take care of it. He was appreciative of the work Don and Elder Greding are doing and for me mingling with the people.

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