All my life teachers have told me that they don’t have favorite students. Camp counselors have told me they don’t have favorite campers. My parents have assured me that they like and love my sister and me equally. Now I know that everyone has been lying to me (well, maybe not my parents…). How do I know, you ask? Because in my village, I spend approximately 90% of each day surrounded by a small army of children, resembling to a remarkable extent Peter Pan’s lost boys.
These kids, ranging in age from three to twelve, spend their free time roaming around the village, playing soccer, climbing trees, swimming in the river, and wreaking havoc on innocent PCVs who occasionally like to pretend to work. On good days I am teacher extraordinaire, getting kids to wash their hands, eat fruit, and count to ten in English, all before 9am. On bad days I am the overworked, underpaid camp counselor: “Just take these toys and go play over there. I’m going to listen to my iPod and daydream about the day 80% of my face-to-face human interactions won’t be with 6 year olds.” But even on those days, when paying taxes sounds preferable to another Frisbee throwing competition, a few of the kids, my favorites, wiggle their way through my cold, adult defenses, and usually end up on my lap, “reading” a magazine in my bed, or sitting at my table with me sharing a snack.
Bad days included, I love my kids. Maybe I’m just getting preemptively nostalgic for the day when I have to move out of Djangoa, but I think not. They were my first friends, my most loyal companions, and my best teachers. Below I’ve posted some portraits of them I took a few weeks ago, before my camera got stolen. I printed these photos in a nearby town, and returned to find out that I had forgotten to take portraits of about 15 other kids. So, to Siska, Rahamamy, Ellianne, Diouf, Cassamo, Mirand, Finfin, Cadeau, Moina, etc.: I’ll take yours when I come back to visit.