I Need a How-To Guide

We’re really, really enjoying our new neighbourhood. The kids discovered they can bring out their ride-em duck out onto the “road” (our gated community road), run along with other kids and just walk and walk. Normally walking on a regular road attracts a lot of attention – the Ethiopian looking kids with the white mama. So in our gated community, it feels as if there’s a lot more privacy.

The other day while we were playing outside, some kids wandered over to check out the girls. They are obviously from outside the gated community – raggedy clothes, holes in their shoes. I encouraged the girls to let the other kids have a turn on the ride-em duck. The kids (mine included) had a great time playing together. Eventually all the kids (there are about 8 of them) wander into our compound and seem pretty slack-jawed. They see our shelf of shoes and stop to stare at it for a while. A little one wanders straight into our house and is super excited to see all the toys. The big kids tell her to get out but can’t help checking out our place all the same. It’s incredibly awkward. I know culturally it’s impolite here to go into someone’s home. But I resist shoeing them out because I want my girls to be accepting of people no matter who they are. Eventually the kids wander back outside and I tell them to come another day.

A few days later four kids come by – some the same and some different from the day earlier. They play outside on the road for a while and everyone is taking turns while the ride-em duck gets a workout. Then eventually they all wander into our compound and the oldest one insists on sweeping and wiping everything in sight – like somehow she has to earn her visiting privileges. Zizi begins distributing bananas and mangoes.  It’s getting late and they all go home.  The husband says that I shouldn’t be surprised if 20 kids show up one day expecting to play.

This morning a five-year old girl from yesterday came with her grandma to show her our house. The grandma stayed for about five minutes and then left her grand-daughter at our house saying she had to work. I don’t think we Canadians have much of a culture (what’s our national food?) but leaving our children with strangers is NOT part of the culture. The girl’s name is Beza and Beza went to every corner of our house inspecting the toilet to the oven. There’s only innocent curiosity there. I also know kids talk – and that she’ll go home and report all the strangeness to her family about her time spent at the ferenji’s house. I’m not sure how to balance having my girls make friends and having them being spied upon. Beza had lunch with us and then I asked our maid (Misrak) to walk her back to her house (as the grandma had instructed!) Both the husband and Misrak insist I shouldn’t have kids over. The Canadian in me wants to show acceptance but the Mom in me is protective. I’m finding it hard to strike that balance.

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6 thoughts on “I Need a How-To Guide

  1. Boundaries are important too especially for girls 😉 maybe if you thought what would be good boundaries for the local kids like just playing on the street. You even said you felt awkward. It may be because you were resisting a boundary you felt. I dunno Sara poo but listen to your inner voice to know where that boundary lies. I don’t think your girls would judge you or the children. I know I don’t live in Africa but I had some neighbor kids at our house just riding bikes. It never occurred to me to invite them into our yard because that relationship hadn’t been built yet. Woah I am blabbering on!!

    • i think a lot of my uncertainty also comes with lack of language – i find it hard to explain myself (even to kids) and the canadian in me wants to explain things politely. but yes! boundaries!

  2. The “how to” guide is that voice within you when does it seem to start shouting out at you 😉 “um grandma just left her kid at my gate, um strange child just entered my safe zone”
    Your voice said it loud and clear in your blog…read it again and you’ll know what to do :). I think no matter where we live in the world women are taught to be nice and not offend despite boundaries being crossed. However the grandma didn’t hesitate to tell you how it’s going to be so feel free to do the same.
    I keep writing because boundaries are still something I am learning. It’s not like these kids would harm you but it starts there for your girls. Believe me I am still learning too 😉

    • true that Linz. you’re right about the inner how-to guide! and how i’m ignoring it. i might just make a new rule for kids playing with the girls – no one is allowed in the compound.

  3. Hmm…I get your motivation Sara, and I understand some of the cultural dynamics as well. I’d probably have the kids play outside the compound too…perhaps if a couple of the little kids became special friends to the girls I’d have them come in the compound to play. As the area ferenji, you’re under the microscope for sure! I’m sure they’re wanting to experiment a bit with your obvious differences…including your wealth, hospitality, free-time and maid. Maybe you could keep a small box of toys to be designated, “out of compound” play…and snacks some days, some days, not. Keep it a surprise…so there won’t be any expectations from the local kids.
    I was just thinking about this whole scenario as it relates to us here. Chayina’s little neighbour friend just waltzed right through the front door yesterday! No knock – nothin! I gave her a pretty strict little talk about manners and always knocking or ringing the doorbell. This little girl is indulged, ie. few boundaries at home and she’s trying it on for size at our place ; )
    And you have it a little harder, the language thing is tricky. I would just send Misrak out to tell the kids…she’d be okay with that, I think.

    And Linds is right…you have your guidance…built-right-in ; )

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