Day 358: The Orphan Mosh Pit

by claire a. williams,

Given that it has dawned Friday the 13th here in Kenya already, it seems a fitting time to talk about one of the transparently spookier aspects of life for the children at the Tumaini Children's Center.

Every night, the power goes off.

The reason is unclear, although some neighbors in our community have gone powerless for days due to a "go slow." In Kenya, where a strike can sometimes be declared illegal and thus not be allowed to happen (never mind the fact that this goes against my fundamental understanding of what a strike is) the next best option is a "go slow," wherein workers come to work, but do nothing. Think Scranton, Pennsylvania on any given Tuesday.

However, we have been told that our nightly power outages here are not related to the "go slow," and thus I am left to believe that some supernatural force (or small orphan with a good sense of humor) is giving the Tumaini Children's Center its own nightly version of an ecstasy inclusive rave.

The first thing that happens when the power goes out here is that the entire orphanage of over 175 people squeals in resounding shout of delight. Then, within ten seconds everyone from anywhere in the compound rushes to the inner courtyard and begins going wild, running in circles and screaming like banshees on the verge of enthusiasm induced epileptic fits. The shyest of the shy small children come out of their shells, and the older girls cling to our hands and, strangely, kiss our backs saying over and over, "We are fearing."

Of course, because adults are always on the look out for crazy child behavior that could have negative consequences, the Matrons do not like power outages because this is apparently when everyone gets beaten. Getting beaten is a central component of life here, as "beat" seems to be the word to convey any kind of physical contact from hitting, to tripping, to just sort of looking at someone angrily. As you would expect, though, for the children the fear of being "beaten" only heightens the high of the darkness. During a power outage, for instance, it is outrageously fun to run around saying to the general public, "I will beat you!"

Amazingly, the melee does not die down quickly, and can continue at such an unsustainable threshold for over an hour, until either the power goes back on, or the children have to go to bed. And then, without fail, around dinner time the next night, when the sun is down and the power outage is imminent, the questions begin: "Black Crayon and While Lola, will you come when the power is run out?"

1 comment:

sarah mac said...

LADIES!!!! claire's piece on tumaini is up on the WIP!

it will be on the front page saturday through sunday. thanks claire!

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