12 June 2012

Phys Ed, Village Style

Last Friday, OT-M and I squeezed in a truck with four Nigerien colleagues, bound for the bush.

They were going to vaccinate babies . . . we were going to take photos . . . I mean . . . uh . . . screen babies for disabilities and survey well-babies for developmental milestones in their cultural and familial contexts.

But, life rarely goes how I plan.

I managed to sneak a photo with my phone's camera app.
When we pulled into the village (only a few kilometers south of the Galmi-Village limits) I was informed by our Tuareg friend, R., that this was a village known for its religious extremism . . . a village where women rarely left the house without a male family member escorting her . . . a village where Western medicine is considered to be mystical and therefore not trusted.

It was at that point I decided it was probably best if OT-M and I left our cameras in their respective backpacks.

We set up shop under a shelter directly across from a large tree which neighbored the mud-bricked house of worship.

Before too long, the first bold Mama made her way over, bringing her baby for the last of his first-year injections.

Following her lead, another three Mamas came . . . along with a hoard of children.  None of these school-aged kids crowded around to watch the inoculations . . . no, they came to see the two freaks wearing matching wrap-around zunni's.

While the mob of wee-ones waited to see what we might do next, the First-Bold-Mama nodded toward us and spoke to R. in Hausa way beyond my pay-grade.

'Vo qovajs dkvja ivjwalkv lkcjv alkjv vavbaj vlkjxc vlkajv oiajsvlkajsd fak lkjdlgfjv8oisjcekw av,' she said to him.

R. started to laugh.

He leaned to me and said 'She's telling me they have two Albinos here in this village.  She's asking if that's what you are or if you're just a foreigner!'

As I passed on the laugh to OT-M, the children inched closer.

It was no later than 10:30 on a Friday morning . . . and none of these kids were in school!

They were so enamored with us, they kept pushing each other in further for a better look . . . which of course interrupted the giving of the vaccines . . . and since that was, after all, why we had come, I decided we should take the sideshow somewhere else.

Spotting the shade provided by the big tree, I made my move.

'Want to play some hop-scotch?' I asked OT-M . . . and since she's always up for anything, we excused ourselves from PlanA and started to make up PlanB as we went.

I picked up a hollow dried corn stalk from the sand and a few rocks, turned to the group of children shadowing us and asked in Hausa, 'Hey, you guys wanna play?' (Okay, so it was more like 'Maybe . . . yous . . . make game . . . maybe?' but they got the idea.)

I drew the hop-scotch squares in the sand with the stalk.

The mob of children doubled in number.

I walked back to Box1 and dropped my rock in.

Our fifty-or-so onlookers waited silently in anticipation.

I hopped over the rock on one foot as I chanted in Hausa, 'One foot, one foot, two feet, one foot, two feet, one foot, two feet, turn!'

It only took me throwing my stone into box three before the bravest girl of the bunch decided she wanted a turn.  Weighing in at about 14, she boldly took her first shot at this trans-generational school-yard staple.  And she got it!  Well, mostly.

She then encouraged a few other kids to try.

What was most fascinating for me was the major lacking of motor planning amongst this lot.  Out in the bush, these kids have strength, endurance and stamina that we in the West spend hours training to develop.  But when it comes to balance, coordination and praxis these kiddos have never had the opportunity to expose their bodies to what kids in the West do.

Hopping on one-foot wasn't too difficult for most . . . as long as they didn't have to hop more than two feet ahead.  But standing on one-foot, bending to pick up a stone, then standing back up again . . . this proved to be a troublesome task for most.

As did hopping on two feet.  Which, not going to lie, really surprised me.  The kids could do it if their feet were touching each other, but straddling the line!  That required complex motor planning that these kids weren't able to demonstrate.

Once the last of the bold kiddos tried hop-scotch and the mob returned its attention to me and OT-M, we decided to give upper-body gross-motor skills a try . . . this time in the form of Miss Mary Mack.

You know, Miss Mary Mack . . . didn't you ever ride a big yellow school bus??  That's the pointless hand game that third grade girls play ALL THE TIME . . . or at least, they used to twenty-some years ago!

Cross your hands to your shoulders . . . uncross hands and pat on your thighs . . . clap . . . my right hand 'high fives' your right hand . . . clap . . . and now our lefts . . . clap . . . repeat right . . . clap . . . repeat left . . . start all over . . . all while singing 'Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack . . . all dressed in black, black, black . . . with silver buttons, buttons, buttons . . . all down her back, back, back . . . .'  (Yeah, try that in Hausa!!)

Needless to say, we didn't get too far with upper-body gross-motor.

Still feeling the pressure to entertain . . . I mean . . . evaluate the mob, we looked around for a rope.  One kid ran home and came back with a long thick rough twine.  Perfect!

I took the twine and started to jump.

A little boy of about 10 took it from me and mimicked my jumping.

The kids gather around as we try to teach them to jump-rope.
When he stopped I took the rope back, handed one side to OT-M and walked away from her with the other end.  I turned back, and we started to flick it in the air in large loops.

The kids just stared at us.

I motioned to the boy and he came and took the rope from me.  I found my place in the middle and counted the three.

I don't think I've jump-roped since the fifth grade!  But it's kind of like riding a bike . . . except of course I'm now 31 . . . and . . . taller.

ANYWAY, point is . . . jump-roping is not universal!

But in this corner of the world, neither is attending school.  Nor learning to read.  Nor getting to play.

Try to imagine a childhood where you could not learn beyond that which your illiterate parents could pass down to you.  No Dr. Seuss at bedtime . . . no coloring inside (or outside) the lines . . . no times-tables, no ScienceFair . . . no SpellingBees.

Now take that one step further, where the only toys you had were a thread-bare bicycle tire and tattered piece of scrap twine.  No match-box cars . . . no dolls . . . no baseballs . . . no board games.

Standing there, barefoot in the hot sand, I began to wonder at the possibilities for an OT to get out from behind the walls of the hospital and help children participate in all their Areas of Occupation . . . but then I was overcome by the enormity of such a task, and remembered that I am just one person.

But, as OldBea used to tell us, many hands makes light work.  When should we be expecting you?


Angela Rosseau said...

Oh, gosh - I'm there! You should know I desperately miss my traveling adventures - just not the scorpion-eating part...

Bobnrobn said...

Did you double-Dutch????  Next time!!!  July 5th here you come!!!    xoxox

SM said...

Definitely something I want to talk about with you! And I am so impressed that even your camera phone pics are so emotive!

Nadiaparada said...

Hey sistahhhh...BTW this is the first time I comment on your blog although I have been reading fro quite a long time now. I found you while looking for missionaries blogs and I have read you since.

Every time I read what you are up to, you encourage me to do my part here in the midst of South Central Los Angeles- in one of the 'guettoest' neighborrhood of central LA. As you saidm "I am just one person"- but we are doing something right?

Is funny that you talk about jump-roping cause exactly this weekend I started what I though was going to be a 'Bible Study' with some wonderful African American kids around my church...well...it was supposs to be that but ended up being a jump-roping class as well LOL...

There I was trying to teach the kids about the Bible when I had not yet made a real, true connection with them...so I decided to put my Bible away and began to play with them. Interestly enough, when I was teaching them, they kept starring at me and just hugging me. It was amazing.

Although I wish someday God gives me the privilege of traveling to those wonderful places  in the world where you and other sisters and brothers are working, for now I know God wants me here...in the middle of one of the most important, yet needy cities of US: LA. 

I admire your work, your writing and you passion for showing Christ love. It reminds me whats truly important in the eyes of the Lord.

Keep fighting the good fight sistaaahhhh, and lets all be encourage to keep doing those things that will have an ETERNAL result, such as helping other and preaching the gospel.

I love you sister, I don't know you but know that I love you.

Take courage and strength.

I leave you with this verse:

Talking about the WISE WOMAN:
"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." Proverbs 31:20

P.S. I feel like Paul lol

God bless you!

Deb. said...

Double-Dutch?? No, I don't know how to Double-Dutch. My parents snatched me out of The Bronx before I had time to develop such valuable skills! :)

Bobnrobn said...

We'll double-D on the streets of Spectacular for the month of Jewli !!!!!  xoxoxoxo