Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }

About a mess of bona fide, frank, funny munchkins

I have been working at an NGO in the Western Cape for around a month now – filling in until the end of the school term for someone who left unexpectedly. I have several jobs, including taking photos of the group’s many projects. But my main role is to go with one other person into (mainly) underprivileged schools in the area with laptops, which we use to teach maths, reading and perceptual skills.

One of the areas is typical of the Western Cape, and I absolutely love it. The people are so “real” – polar opposites of politically correct; hilarious at how they speak their minds. They also interchange English and Afrikaans as if they are one language, which keeps one on one’s toes. And that includes the youngest of them, including the preschoolers I have been working with. But it can be a pretty rough place, where, as their teacher explained to me, the children experience things daily that force them to grow up way too quickly.

Just yesterday, while driving to one of the preschools in the community, I saw some young kids walking home. It looked like they had maybe had a party at kindergarten because they were skipping down the road, happily waving balloons about. Except, they weren’t balloons – they were inflated condoms.

Still laughing at the scene, I arrived at “our” little preschool and started setting up for the morning.

“Hi everyone. Are you excited we are here,” I asked cheerfully.

And from the far corner came a little voice, “No, uncle.”

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I glared over at her, a smile in my eyes.

“Ag, ek spot net uncle,” (Oh, I’m just joking, uncle) came her quick reply. “Cen we staaaart ôredy?” (Can we start already?)

“Uncle, uncle, look what I did,” they all call out one by one throughout the lesson, as if their matching colours and shapes is on a par with finding a cure for cancer, or an answer to the problem of global warming.

“YES! Well done. You’re too clever,” I tell them as often as I can.

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“You’re huge!” one told me the other day. It was just a statement, not a judgment but I should probably get back onto my bicycle more often. Often they just look at me, titter and chuckle. Glancing down at another little one yesterday I saw him staring up at me, his mouth wide open, his right hand frozen on the computer mouse.

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“What are you doing,” I asked, thinking maybe I had alarmed him with my booming voice.

“Ek gaap net, uncle,” he replied. “Die computer goed maak my lekka moeg.” (I’m just yawning, uncle. This computer stuff makes me really tired.)

One of the little girls complained about how much she was sweating because she had been working so hard, yet another would screech in joy every time she got a question correct and another complained indignantly, “uncle, uncle, die ou touch heel tyd vir my! (Uncle, this guy keeps touching me!) That’s what comes of being squashed into classrooms and desks too small for the number of kids.

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Two weeks ago I met a little three-year-old from one of the younger classes as we were packing up the laptops at the end of the lesson.

“What’s your name,” I asked him.

“Ek het nie ‘n naam nie (I don’t have  name),” he answered with a straight face.

“Rêrig!” (Really) I asked him. “But then what do your parents call you?”

“Ek het net ‘n naam vir hulle, nie vir strangers nie,” he explained frankly. (I only have a name for them, not for strangers.)

After some coaxing – explaining that I knew his dad and his grandma and the fact that he had a new little baby sister – he told me. Honestly, I never actually “got” it because of his thick accent, but I lied and told him it was beautiful.

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His grandmother tells me that he isn’t exactly enamoured with his baby sister.

“Ouma, dis ‘n kak baba daai,” (Granny, she’s a crap baby) he explained to her a few days after meeting his newborn sibling for the first time. “Al wat sy doen is huil en slaap!” (All she does is cry and sleep.)

I guess he was expecting someone to play with. Or he was jealous. Who knows what’s going through kids’ minds half the time.

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Yesterday I could see that one of the classes had just had enough of the computers (it’s the end of the semester and they are ready for a break) and so I took them outside, where I taught them a song and a dance to go with the lesson we had been busy with about their bodies. Once they had mastered it, with peals of laughter thick in the air, I sent them off to the bathroom to wash up for snack time. And before I could blink, there they all were clinging onto my legs in a giggling group hug.

“We love you uncle,” they cried practically in unison. And then they were gone.

Next week, with the school term at its end, I’m heading home. I’m going to miss this mess of munchkins, that’s for sure.

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3 comments on “About a mess of bona fide, frank, funny munchkins

  1. denisechabot
    June 15, 2016

    love this…
    so cute…

  2. Tish
    June 16, 2016

    Oh to be a fly on the wall . . . They sound delightful

  3. Sarah Anderson
    June 17, 2016

    Melt my heart…

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