Hi! Today is our last full day at Neema and, while I’m so sad about leaving the kids, I’m also getting really excited for our next adventure. This week we’ve been very busy with last-minute projects. We’ve been trying to let the kids draw as much as possible and we’ve also been taking as many pictures and videos as we can. We feel bad for taking a lot of the kids’ art home with us so we’re also making pictures for every kid. There’s also the small detail of packing…not sure when we’ll fit that in. Since nothing extremely new and exciting has happened, I’m going to use this blog to introduce you to more of the children I’ve grown to love at Neema.
Tana- This little girl is the cutest thing in the world. She is almost three years old and Miriam’s nickname for her is “cheeky baby. Her nose always crinkles when she smiles and laughs, she likes shouting and growling, and she often bothers the other children and then slowly turns to me wearing the sweetest expression that makes it nearly impossible for me to scold her. She also has a sweet side though. I’ve watched her share toys with the babies and wag her finger at a misbehaving child and shout “bad manners!”
Manna Namma- When we first came to Neema Manna was constantly pushing a small plastic chair all over the house. She would often be found by the doors and in the bedrooms always with her little chair. When we returned from our trip to Makueni we were so excited to see that Manna was still wandering the halls but no longer needed the help of a chair. Of course, this means that she can now explore more places and we can’t use the sound of scraping chair legs to track her down. Yesterday we looked out the window to see Manna taking a stroll outside with one of the other girl’s shoes swinging from her hand. Manna has eyes as big as golf balls and likes to bounce up and down while listening to music. When you hear her laugh and watch her waddle it’s impossible not to love her.
Johnstone- We’ve always liked Johnstone. He’s seven years old and likes drawing and playing football. He was really shy at first and has continued to be fairly quiet and serious throughout our stay. That’s why we were so surprised to discover that quiet little Johnstone is the greatest, craziest dancer ever. One night we brought the ipod into the sitting room to have a group dance party (which was a huge success) and without any encouragement he started whipping out moves that I have never seen before. Pure talent. I’m thinking of bringing him back home with us and entering him in “So you think you can dance. I like that we found him an outlet for letting the bottled up craziness come out.
Lochang’a- Oh, where to start? This child is one of the most entertaining two-year olds I’ve ever met. He’s pretty short. He has thin little eye-brows, a tiny mouth, small eyes, a button nose, and massive cheeks. When my sister was little her nickname was chubby cheeks. I now know that she did not deserve the title. Apart from his amusing looks and funny name, Lochang’a also has a bizarre personality. His dance moves rival those of Johnstone and he is constantly blabbering in Swahili while making grand hand gestures. Once when Callie asked a caretaker what he was talking about she said that he was describing how Callie and him went to the hospital in a train and ate biscuits and soda (this did not actually happen).
Ruth- I have never seen anyone who laughs more than Ruth. All you have to do is look at her and she’ll crack up. We can’t really talk to her much (every time she tries to speak English she ends up laughing instead) but she’s done some really great art. Ruth is 10 years old and a lot of the younger kids look up to her. They are constantly yelling “Rootoo!” I think she often goes off into her own little world. Sometimes during games she just stands in the middle of the field and spins around and kicks the dirt. When we’re in the house I catch her staring off into space (when she sees me looking she always laughs) and I always wonder what she is thinking about.
Susan- Although she lives at Neema and does everything that every other child here does; Susan actually has two loving parents. Susan’s actual parents are also the house parents to all of the other Neema children. It would have to be really strange and sometimes annoying, to share your parents with 39 other children. They don’t really treat her any different than the rest of the children, though she is seen sitting on Baba’s lap more often than the others. She is a really sweet girl and seems very happy. Even though she’s not as outgoing as a lot of the other kids, she’s always sure to give me a hug and ask when she can dance and do art. Although she doesn’t realize it (she’s only 8 years old) she’s making a really admirable sacrifice by sharing her parents with the kids who didn’t have anyone.
I could write so much about every child but I probably shouldn’t write a 100 page blog. I’ve been thinking about which is worse: staying at home and being blissfully ignorant of the lovable children living so far away or getting to know and love each and every one of them and then having to leave with only memories and lessons that have helped change my outlook on life. I decided that while it is literally painful for me to think about leaving them, I wouldn’t trade the past six weeks for anything.
Love and miss everyone!