Dan and I couldn’t help but notice that the kid count at our house has dropped substantially over the second term, and we spent a lot of time speculating as to what the reason could be. We’ve attributed it to a variety of factors: it’s winter here, so girls have to collect a lot more firewood. The novelty is wearing. Parents’ guilt over how often their children are here. The guard is the biggest jerk ever.
Within the past week, we’ve been able to pinpoint the decrease to the latter, and there was a bit of a stand off today between Dan and the guard. I don’t know what the guard’s problem is, but if I had to compare him to a character it would be the Grinch. He’s so unnecessarily mean to the children and absolutely never lets them in if he’s on duty (there are two guards—the young one is awful and the old one is fairly decent). It was quite perplexing to us during the first term because he would blatantly lie to the children, telling them I was sleeping or washing, when I was really in my backyard. Recently he’s abandoned even giving them a reason as to why they can’t come in and simply tells them that “this isn’t a kindergarten” or “Miss Kathryn isn’t your mother.” There was actually even a point when he threatened to beat Meameno and Paulina if they came again, and being as Paulina has recently stopped coming, I wonder if he actually did.
The kids have now taken to sneaking in when he’s not looking or lying and saying that they’re going to the school tuck shop (a sort of mini-mart where the school sells drinks and snacks), and then they make a beeline for our house. It shouldn’t be this difficult for them to visit us, but this is what it’s become. Many times the children stand outside of the fence by our house and beg us to walk up to the gate and let them in. I don’t know what this man has said or done to the kids, but they’re obviously scared.
Anyway, today Meameno, Dennes, and Jackson came to visit us. I’m not sure if the guard let them in or if they snuck in, but they stayed for a few hours to play computer games and then to fly a kite outside.* When we sent them away for the day, they returned minutes later to explain that the guard said they had to come back to our house because he would not let them out.
I explained this to Dan (we were both completely confused) and he agreed to walk the kids to the gate. Learners then had to translate an argument between Dan and the guard, in which the guard complained that the kids are always here for no reason, that it disturbs the learners at Eengedjo (even though most of the time the kids are in our house?), and that they must not come. Dan politely explained he didn’t think their visits were disruptive and that he would talk to the principal about it. The guard ended his rant by telling Dan that if we want to have the kids here so often we should just begin running a kindergarten.
We were both quite irked after this, and soon after we heard someone yelling our name from outside (this is what the kids do when the guard doesn’t let them in). I say someone, but really I could tell it was Elifas, and just wasn’t in the mood to have him in/have to deal with the guard again. He said he wanted to play computer games and I told him he could come tomorrow. He then quickly changed his story and insisted that he wanted to study (this kid is the king of manipulation). I told him we were busy and told him to go home and study. I then went inside.
“MR. DANNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!! MR. DANNNNNNNN!!! MISSSSSSTERRRRRRR DAAAAAAN!!!!!!”
It was like he was our whiny child. If Mom says no, ask Dad! Dan then went outside and pretty much had the same exact conversation I had with him moments before. Dan then came back inside. Moments later….
“MISS KATHRYN!!!!!!!!!!! MISS KATHRYN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MISS KATHRYN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
When I went outside he demanded to know why I had let Meameno in. I explained that she had come earlier and that the guard was angry. Then, being the master manipulator, he asserted that I didn’t like him. I told him I LOVED him, but that today wasn’t a good day. I politely asked him to go home and then went back inside.
He then threw himself onto the ground (keep in mind the ground here is SAND) and did not move for more than 5 minutes. A few minutes after this, we were startled by the noises of something hitting our roof. Sure enough, Elifas was taking a last stand. Rocks in hand, our little Elifas was having a temper tantrum.
I tell this story and realize this makes him sound incredibly annoying, but really I can’t help but love him and think he’s the most adorable thing ever. Dan doesn’t quite share my view and I think was quite annoyed, but was at least gracious enough to go outside when Elifas called for him.
I often wonder if Elifas is neglected at home, because he is constantly acting out to get attention. I don’t really know how to best deal with this, so I just try to reward his good behaviour and shower him with love. Hopefully it’s doing more good than harm.
*No, they don’t have things like kites here. Dan’s parents have been sending us rather fantastic packages filled with goodies for us and the children. Recent hits have been the computer game controller they sent, beach balls, and an inflatable Winnie the Pooh kite.