Joel got his hair trimmed at a "unisex" hair salon in Lilongwe that had been recommended by some parents at their school, who said that place knew how to deal with "white people" hair. Unfortunately for Joel, they didn't really know how to deal with long hairstyles for boys. After two days of being told by his classmates that his haircut looked like a girl's (and agreeing) he went back to ask for a more conventional cut which he figured would be easier for them to manage. Then his mom spent two days being shocked every time she looked at him - his hair hasn't been this short since he was eight or nine.
Friday, November 2 their school held an event called Summer Under the Stars, which turned out to be a talent show, choir concerts, and a picnic all rolled into one. Emma's primary school choir sang several numbers, and she also sang a solo accompanied by a piano and flute. Joel is the lone boy in the secondary school choir, which did a couple of songs by itself and then was joined by the community choir (mostly teachers and parents I think) for a couple more songs. Then the drumming group he's in performed. He also performed on recorder: a duet with his teacher (who is also the choir director) and another piece with him on alto recorder, his teacher on tenor recorder, and another teacher on soprano recorder. There were other pieces by kids learning instruments like keyboard and guitar, as well as plenty of talent-show type acts with kids dancing to pop music. Eric and I got a very nice vegetable curry from the school cafeteria which was selling dinners, but the kids went for cake and banana bread. My baking equipment is pretty limited here so the bake sale was a real treat for us.
We got home pretty late but the next day headed back for the school, where Joel's drumming group was performing at a bazaar. The instructions he'd been given about when to be there were pretty vague so we ended up waiting around a couple hours for him to perform. Emma and I put that to good use by doing some shopping: there were a lot of booths set up on the soccer field, and many of them were raising money for organizations like schools for the deaf, youth clubs, etc. so we felt good about buying their things. It was also nice to browse among African crafts without feeling attacked by aggressive vendors, as happens in the downtown craft market!
So it was a good weekend but a long and tiring one, and the kids didn't feel very ready for Monday morning. They are getting REALLY tired of the schedule of going to bed at 7 p.m. and getting up at 4:30 to get ready to catch the early bus!
Things aren't always restful when they get home, though. They have been "discovered" by the neighborhood kids. I'm not sure why it took so long for this to happen; I thought it would happen sooner.
An 11-year-old boy named Kingston often stops by for Joel, sometimes with other boys in tow. They go up to the hills around campus to explore, try to hit things with slingshots, and look for little animals. Kingston, who has excellent English, calls them "hamsters" although to us they look exactly like guinea pigs. Despite the fact that people eat the mice they catch in the fields, Kingston and his friends keep these "hamsters" as pets, and they seem pretty tame. The boys also like playing with Joel's frisbee and foam boomerang, if it's not too windy. Kingston showed us how to make a ball from plastic bags - you use a candle to melt it together at the the end.
|Max the Hamster|
The girls seem to travel in larger groups, so it can feel overwhelming when a dozen or more, of all ages and varying levels of English, come to the gate calling "Emma!" They like it when Kingston leaves his battered basketball here while the boys are off in the hills, so they can start a game of catch. They also liked looking through the books with pictures we have, a story book and one about Malawi - I think they were hoping we had more.
Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming to Joel and Emma when they get home tired after a long hot day and are immediately surrounded by neighbor kids. It seems the local public school doesn't give out much homework, so it's hard for the neighbor kids to understand how Joel and Emma could have homework almost every day, even on the weekends. But when Eric or I tell them that Joel and Emma have homework and can't play, they say goodbye and eventually head off in a cheerful noisy bunch.
This is a picture of some of the neighborhood kids up in a tree near our house picking a fruit called suzu. When they're ripe they're pretty good, but in these "free for all" trees everyone picks them super green - if you wait, someone else will get it!
Finally - the geckos in our house, large and small, are still an unending source of entertainment. Nobody's tired of them yet!