Monday, June 14, 2010

My first African friend.

Her sister does her hair for her in about fifteen minutes, I'm told.
The youngster here was the first to greet me in Africa, Christmas a few years ago, back when she was a first grader.  I was at her school, delivering some books and school supplies.  While I was talking to the principal, I found her attached to my knee.  When I picked her up, she hugged my neck and kissed me on the cheek, then wiggled to be let down, and scampered off with the rest of the kids, leaving me absolutely undone.  I assume she was saying thanks for the school supplies I'd brought.  The principal explained that I'd shown up just a couple of days before their school Christmas party and that now he had something to give each student.  It was then, I think, that I began seeing Africa as individuals.  It's many countries, many cultures, and so many delightful folks.

The photo (right) was taken a few months later on Children's Day '08, but it was another year before I could pronounce her name correctly.  She'd speak so softly that I couldn't hear her when she corrected my pronunciation.  I finally had a teacher write it for me.

I've since met her parents and the rest of her family.  They've included me in their lives and have let us participate with them in getting a good education for their kids.  Girls in Africa are often left behind when it comes to education.  We work through a local NGO there that we know and trust.

My friend with her new book.  Like girls everywhere, the
hairdo changes from time to time; guys have a hard time
keeping up with such things.
Two years after our first meeting, and many trips to Africa later, I stopped by her home with a book to encourage her reading.  Her cousins are now friends of mine as well.  The little hands holding mine are calloused and rough, a reminder that they don't live in the same world I do.

Mom and dad invited me over for the African equivalent of afternoon tea.  We had jacque fruit (good) and safou (not so good) and a leisurely afternoon's conversation.  Wonderfully gracious and hospitable folks.

UPDATE: In country in 2012, my first friend and her accomplices run off with my cameras to take pictures of everything.  All are doing well in school and health-wise.