I have not written yet about our host's children. Today is the perfect opportunity after our experiences trying out our theatre exercises on them last night, Wednesday, June 6. Living with a house full of children is completely new for Kelly and me. Our host has seven children, four boys and three girls, and a girl who we believe is a niece. The eldest boy is away at university in Uganda. Living at home are boys 17, 11, and 8 and girls 15, 11, and 4. The two oldest are in secondary school much like our high school, while the other children who are in primary school. Kelly and I have developed a habit of enquiring whether the children have eaten while we sit down for dinner. The table is only set for three, our host and us. What we observed was after we finished the children would then be summoned to the table. First the baby girl, our host often feeds her from his plate or makes her up another. Then the eldest boy is summoned, followed by the other boys. After they have plates of food then the girls are invited, oldest to youngest. Kelly and I wonder if the children are excused from eating with us because our host wants time just with us to talk, which we don’t do much of over dinner. Perhaps it is formal to dine with guests alone, or simply he is thinking he is being polite and protecting us from the rambunctious activity of the children. But when we ask whether they have eaten, he always answers us that the children have already had plenty to eat out back. Out back is the multi-purpose concrete patio that is partially covered where the wood-fired stove is located, the meals prepared, and presumably eaten. Also the patio holds the massive water tank that supplies the home for all water needs. The wash is also done on the back patio and hung along clotheslines there. I believe some bathing is also done there as hot water is boiled on the stoves. The patio is also the soundstage. When 5:30 in the morning comes the singing soon after begins with the children waking up and getting ready for school. Many church songs are sung from the top of young lungs throughout the whole process of getting ready in the morning. The children have been our rooster.
Last night Kelly and I had a blast teaching them a few of the younger children theatre exercises: Spider web, Colombian hypnosis, and Great Game of Power. The middle girl has pretty decent English language knowledge so she was our translator for the other children. However, there were some key language gaps that left us showing the kids what we wanted them to do, and they mimicked us. For instance, the language barrier for “hypnotize” was pretty drastic as they had no concept, but we were able to describe what it meant to “act” hypnotized so they caught on to the idea. The language barrier was even more difficult we found with the Great Game of Power. Pieces of furniture are to be arranged by the kids so one item is the “most powerful.” Oddly, “powerful” as a concept or even “authority” was very difficult to get them to understand. They understood when we analogized to the President and how he was most powerful. Eventually they were able to parrot the examples of arrangements that Kelly and I created, but never really created their own concept. I think that the lesson concept of how certain people gain power by manipulating others could work very well with full translation by their teachers. We were pleased that the activities themselves were enjoyed by the children and could even be understood at a certain level even with language barriers. Next week’s meetings with school teachers should be very productive as we can report that some of the exercises were definitely enjoyed, which will help gain buy-in to the program. Receiving ideas and feedback on how the instructions translate will be exciting.
I have one more thought to discuss about the children. When the children arrive home after school we have seen Pastor shake hands with them in greeting. This mannerism Kelly and I have discovered to be rather odd. What seems so odd about it is the fact that as a culture they are so unbelievably affectionate in a physical way. They lay their hands on arms, shoulders, hands, and legs, even while just making a simple comment and explanation. When they shake they often hold your hand for a long time gently afterwards, or often embrace. But Pastor only shakes hands with his children, except for the baby, little Esther. He regularly hugs, kisses and holds her. The formal shake greeting seems at odds with a general culture of physical affection.
*** It has taken many days to find internet working well. It is now Sunday 10. I drove us into town and while chatting with our host we learned he has MORE kids!!! The eldest is actually has been around the house a couple times, but says very little. He has only really been visible at night a few times, so I assumed he was friends with the 15 year old boy and just hanging around the house. Also, there is an older girl that is a niece of our host that has been living with him since she was a little kid. Her parents were killed many years ago, back when our host was in exile in Uganda, and thus she has been with him most of her life.