Kids Will Be Kids

Alec Yeh - Senegal


November 12, 2009

Kids will seriously put anything in their mouths. Anything. If it looks like it’ll fit, they’ll try it. And if doesn’t look like it’ll fit, they sure as hell going to make it fit.

I woke up one morning, tied up my mosquito net, brushed my teeth and got dressed. I go to put on some chap stick. I open it, and a huge chunk is missing, with teeth marks riddled all around it.

I then go out to have breakfast with the family. But as I was eating, I was watching Aminata, the one year old. She crawls away and proceeds to stick dried bird poop in her mouth. I guess she decides it isn’t bad, and goes for another helping. After that, why not try a leaf? Okay okay, you must be thinking “Why in the world would you just watch?” Well, after eating the bird poop, I really didn’t think she’d go for seconds. How was I supposed to know she’d find it tasty? I thought she’d gag or something. So when she went for some more, I was too shocked to say anything. Then she went for the leaf, and I opened my mouth to say something, but the father grabbed her before I could.

Like many of their fathers, kids here are also incredibly bored. They don’t have the luxury of toys, so they really have to find anything they can to entertain themselves. Muhammad spent a good 30 minutes pushing a tire around the yard. Can you imagine being entertained by pushing a tire around? Sophia likes to find sticks and bang things with it. She also likes to play with trash. She takes wrappers and fills them up with water, and squirts stuff with it. It really doesn’t work, nor does it seem fun. I really wish I brought something fun for them.

Also, children are very open. Sophia was walking with me on the sandy street, and she just stopped, and peed on the side of the road. I was shocked. People were walking past me, unphased. She does this quite often too. She also has this portable toilet for pooping that’s located near the outhouse. This one time, she brought it out to the courtyard, and pooped in front of me. I positioned myself behind the tree because I really didn’t want to watch. But she kept moving around so she could talk to me, while pooping. I kept moving, so she kept moving. Also, since tissues would be an unnecessary expense, children always have snot running down their face. We don’t think twice about how much tissue matters to us.

However, on the positive side, I think my favorite image of the kids is with their fathers. You can imagine a bunch of masculine men, hanging around, drinking tea. Every time I’m with them, I feel like I’m in a Gentlemen’s Club or something. But at the same time a bunch of them are fathers. And they have their sons or daughters in their laps. They play with them while talking about sex, politics, America and so on. It’s just such an interesting juxtaposition.

Alec Yeh