Day 405: Staring Contests

by lara vogel, lara@trippingonwords.com

Our apartment has become Party Central. The young’uns Tony and Lauren are in town, which makes for ridiculousness, as they are all 170 urphans’ new best friends. They also are only here for two weeks, so they have no problem with the constant onslaught of kid attention that Claire and I had to beg off after a few weeks in order to maintain our sanity. We do things that seem horrible to people just recently arrived, like shut ourselves in the apartment today to do soul-less things like work.

With Paul and Stephanie at school all day, we also house the two other volunteers who arrived in Kenya just after graduating from school in Texas. With six to eight wazungus at any given time, a constant rotation of urphans and their assorted paraphernalia, two thermoses of milk and sugar tea, and eight large overstuffed zebra-stripe pillows, this apartment gets raucous, believe you me.

In an effort to escape the close quarters, and the general darkness that is our concrete bombshell of an apartment, I went to read my book in the sun. Though my behavior doesn’t show it, I feel like more of a sun-worshipper here than anywhere else. This is saying a lot, since there is no way for me to strip down to proper bikini worship, as I am constantly clad in unbecoming sweaters and long skirts for Christian decency’s sake. But the sun here feels life giving, and I have never been so frustrated by the necessity of indoor computer work. You step outside here, and almost start to believe those crazy theories I spent much of university studying that describe how life originated not too far from my current home.

But, once you leave our apartment, you are in the public domain, and despite my efforts to find a quiet corner, a steady stream of kids came by to distract me.

One of them needed a big stick for jumping (unexplained), one wanted to discuss the list of Monsters we posted outside our window, and good ol’ Edwin just wanted to participate in about 200 old fashioned staring contests.

Edwin has perfected this game. He sucks at the staring and not blinking part, which one would think would discourage him from this hobby. But he has found that if he immediately rushes into my face until our foreheads are touching, and he starts giggling maniacally, I will end up closing my eyes to laugh. If this doesn’t work, he then pushes hard enough with his forehead to knock me over, then bends down and laughs over me until he can no longer control his drool, at which point I close my eyes for protection. It’s truly a highly effective strategy, and until he started playing the same game with my shoulder while I tried to read, he was undefeated for the afternoon.

Having officially abandoned the book, I sent Hannah home to fetch my camera. Knowing that Claire was not about to just hand my digital camera over to this nine year old, I sent her with the password “Palo Alto” knowing that Claire would recognize that no child here would know that term, and thus Hannah must have gotten it from me. I am a genius, in other words. Unfortunately, Hannah returned twenty minutes later with my camera, one of the two adapters we have in the house, and no explanations. Turns out, that among the 5 wazungu taking up my couch, Hannah’s pronunciation of Palo Alto was considered closer to “power adapter” than anything else. What is upsetting about this scenario is actually not that Hannah could not pronounce or explain the words “Palo Alto,” but that Claire evidently had no problem handing over my camera to Hannah with no such security password.

But the camera proved nearly useless anyway. The Kenyan sun refuses to be captured on film, and it just washes everything out. The only keeper of the day is one the kid we call “professor” took of Edwin doing a victory booty dance as I declared him the staring contest champion.

2 comments:

lawyer lana said...

lara, i miss you so much. claire, you too. lordy lordy.

that shtuff about claire giving away the camera without the palo alto password was hilarious. ah, paly.

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