December 20, 2008

Having a party

In celebration of Christmas and the end of the school year, I organized a Games Day for the students in the after-school program.

I did so with a fair degree of apprehension given the more or less complete failure of any of my previous attempts to control large groups of children in Itipini. There are several factors at work, notably the language barrier but primarily everyone’s pushing and shoving to be first all the time. Everyone is so used to not having enough that when they see something they want - even if it’s only a chance to compete in a race - they do their best to be first so they’ll get “it” (whatever it may be) before it runs out or the opportunity passes. In the past, no matter how much I explain “there is enough for everybody,” the pushing and shoving doesn’t stop. When working with people who experience such deprivation on a daily basis, it’s hard to get them to understand the idea of “enough.”

Despite my fear that the event would turn into complete chaos, I went ahead with the idea anyway… and quickly ran into another problem: what games should we play? Now, I wasn’t once nicknamed “Dr. Game” for nothing; my gazillion years of camp counseling and my genetic inheritance have given me a goodly number of activities to pull out of my sleeve at the drop of a hat. But I immediately ruled out a few of my favourites. I love the game I know as “Shoe Scramble.” Everyone takes off their shoes and piles them about 50 yards from the start line. They race barefoot down to the pile, pull out their shoes, put them on, and then race back to the start/finish line. The problem in Itipini: NONE OF THE CHILDREN WEAR SHOES! Similarly, there’s a great game called “Shoe Factory” where everyone takes off their shoes and crawls around trying to pull off other people’s socks without losing theirs. I ruled that out for similar reasons: no shoes or socks.

I settled on some old favourites like egg toss and the game where you race with a potato between your legs. But I worried about these as well. The egg toss, in particular, is a blatant waste of food and I wasn’t sure how the children would respond to that when they were probably pretty hungry.

As soon as we started, my apprehension immediately dissolved and it was a marvelous time all around. The children were well-behaved and listened as well as could be expected. Between Mkuseli and I, we were able to explain all the games in ways they understood. Everyone participated fully and really got into the idea of racing and winning and cheering on their friends. I even got some of the “cool” older boys to race, which I counted a real accomplishment. We had about two hours of sustained activity, which was more than I expected.

Without further ado, then, the pictures of a great event under a beautiful blue sky on a scorchingly hot day.

The three-legged race was new to them but they took to it quickly, with the usual tumbles and spills.
The sack race was a lot of fun, once we overcame a modest hiccough. I had collected a dozen sacks from the grocery store on Monday and thought I explained to Coach when I set them aside what they were for. But when I went looking for them on Wednesday, they were gone. When I asked what happened, he said he had burned them. But we came up with a few at the last minute and just had to have more heats.
The guy second from left in this picture is really working.

This potato game might take some explaining. It is a relay race between two chairs. The person sits on the chair, picks up the potato between their legs (WITHOUT using their hands), hops to the other chair, drops the potato, where their teammate picks it up and races back. There were a lot of dropped potatoes but also a lot of smiles.
The egg toss was the final event. I could immediately tell that children here aren’t raised to be baseball players. On the first toss, when the kids were literally inches from each other two or three teams dropped their eggs. But some of them got the idea and the winning teams were respectably far apart.I borrowed an idea and the winners got to break their egg on my head, which proved to be exactly the motivation they needed to be serious about the game and want to win. But the winners evidentially didn’t know how to crack an egg and so just whipped it at my head from a very close range. It hurt! See what I put myself through for these kids. And, let me add, it was hot enough to fry an egg - in my hair. It took forever to get out.
We finished with meat pies, a real treat around here and gift bags from the Rotary Club.
Good times - if you look closely, you can see the egg yolk in my hair.


löki gale said...

That looks awesome.


Claire Bergen said...

Aww, it made me happy reading this. Looks like a huge success! (and the most hilarious part of the story is that Mkuseli burned your sacks!)

Anonymous said...