Mikumi National Park

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Laughter in any Language

We are in Dar...again. We seem to be going to Dar a lot lately. That is OK. The kids and I have gotten the hang of it. We had to change hotels from where we used to stay. The new one doesn't have a swimming pool but there is a playground nearby. There is also a wonderful shopping area. That is when one can go shopping with three kids who LOVE to touch EVERYTHING in site. But, we manage. On our last trip we met a very nice lady who extended a hand of friendship that gave me hope and comfort beyond measure. We also ran into someone we had met earlier. He is a preacher from ARKANSAS! He was called to an international church here. They home school as well. Coincidence?? I think not. We "just happen" to run into them almost every time we come to Dar. Dar is a city of about 2 million and every time we run into them in a different place.

This trip we have the fortune of having some friends from the US visiting. We went to a museum on Wednesday but on Thursday we could not find them and my kids had to get out of the hotel. Lucky for us I am getting brave in my driving and my Sweetie left his truck for us to use. So, we went to an amazing shopping area that just so happened to have an awesome playground. Now, I really don't like the word awesome. Overused. Loved the song the first hundred times I listened to it but after we sang it in choir, and on a mission tour and...and...and. Overused. But this playground WAS AWESOME.

Let me put this in perspective. I have to resist the urge to be a helicopter parent. I could easily become one of "THEM". But I make a conscience effort not to be. In the US I would sit in close range of the playground to keep an eye on my kids and only try to intervene sparingly and quietly. I know that all along this trip that God has been protecting us and providing for us. So, the first night we arrived in Morogoro (the town we live in) we were exhausted and hungry and our friends swept us off to the local ex-pat hangout for pizza. "Come on," they said, "the kids will have fun," they said, "there is a playground for the kids." So we went. This was NOT a playground. This was a deathtrap discarded from playgrounds long ago. The ladder to the top tier is made of simple round iron bars. Any step ladder on the market is safer than this thing. When you reach the top there are no horizontal bars, only a hand rail. High hand rail, no bars to stop you from slipping in between and falling to the ground. The ground. Hmmm. The ground below. It is ground. Red dirt, rocks, roots. Ouch! But as I said, I was tired, hungry and completely disoriented. So the kids ran. And you know what!? They had a blast and not a sole was injured. How could that possibly be? They flew off the end of the slide, splat into the dirt, dusted themselves off and went for more. They jumped up and down and the structure survived. They went round and round on the merry-go-round with shrills of joy.

Back to the playground at hand. This is a certified, modern, western playground. Cushy rubber flooring, UV protection tarp overhead, not a screw or wire exposed and absolutely nothing made from discarded tires. There is a trampoline with a safety net, a fence that the best toddler can climb upon and still 1. not get out, 2. not make sway in the least. There is a bouncy castle and even a Step2 slide. There is an enclosed play place in the fashion of the best McDonald's playground you have seen. The attendant even spoke English and had a sweet smile on his face. (Most Tanzanians have sweet smiles on their faces. Such and incredible folk. We should take lessons :)

We were the only kids there for a while. Lizzie wanted me to come in and push her on the merry-go-round (complete smooth edges, plenty of ground clearance, molded plastic airplanes  -- think Little Tyke). So I stayed on the playground. After a while (a LONG while) some other small children started showing up. Madeline was sooo cute. She tried soooo hard to speak to them. Every little kid that came in she said in a sweet voice "Jambo...Jambo", trying to make friends. The kids were little and there was no luck. She didn't get frustrated. She just moved on to the next kid that came in and tried again. Then two brothers came in. One was about 18 months and the other around 5 or 6. They were black but had on Spider Man shirts and Disney shorts. Not that you can't get those here but still, they didn't look like they came from here. Madeline again tried, "Jambo...Jambo" Then he followed her onto the trampoline. They jumped....and LAUGHED. It was one of the sweetest laughter's. Sheer childhood pleasure. Jump, jump, smiles, smiles, laughter.

P.S. Later I said "Hey, Madeline, Why don't you speak English to him?" Sure enough, he speaks perfect English. Probably Kenyan. Later she started playing with a few girls. One was black the other was an Arab Muslim from Tunisia who currently lives in Rwanda. What did they play? Well, run away from the growling boys of course!