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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just a Lollipop

The other day, one of the the expat wives invited the kids and myself to the beach. I thought it would be great to go since there is still not alot of people back from summer break. And also, because I needed a break from hauling Elizabeth up the ladder at the playground to go down the slide. ( She wants to do everything Jeremy does never realizing how little she is!) So, Fatai took the kids and me to a restaurant nearby where there is a boat dock. The boat to take us to the beach met us there at 9 a.m. There were 6 other ladies besides the kids and me. So, the boat was pretty full. It was about 16 feet long and it was pretty safe. The kids looked like little turtles in their life jackets with their head poking out. The boat ride to get to the beach was about 40 minutes. The scenery was quite interesting. There were shacks along the water where fishermen and their families lived with rickety old boats that they took out on the water. There were huge barges with various shipments on them. There were even some old boats that had run into each other on the water just left abandoned in the middle of the water.
When we got to the small fishing village where the beach was, about 20 children ranging in ages from 1 year to about 14 years old ran to the dock to greet us. They immediately started to balance coolers and bags of things we had brought for the beach on their heads. I was walking with Jeremy when I saw a baby , probably about 12 or 13 mos. old, walking on the dock alone with no diaper or pants on. He was only wearing a shirt. I commented to one of the ladies who was with me about how sad it made me feel to see a baby like that. I asked her if the parents of the children in the village do care for their children. I thought to myself, maybe the way they care for their children is just different than the way I care for my own. She said that the parents love their children, but they are also very hard on them. Nigerian parenting is very different from what we are used to. During the day, their parents go out on the boats to fish and the children stay in the village to look after themselves. We walked through the village of small huts and shacks. I also saw a two room school house. It was so humbling to walk through the village and see where the children lived. As we kept walking, we eventually came to the hut or gazebo where we would be spending the day on the beach. It really was a beautiful sight. Here we were in such a poor fishing village and there was a beautiful beach right there. We brought so much food to cook ( sausages, shrimp, chicken) and salads and cookies. ( I felt guilty having so much when I could see they had very little.) There is a man from the village who cooks for you in an open fire pit. While we talked and played and hunted for sea shells with my kids on the beach, the man cooked our lunch. When it was time to eat, we came back up to the hut. While we were eating, I saw some boys pulling on a line right out of the ocean. They were pulling in a fishing net. I just could not get over how different their childhood is from what mine was.
After eating too much food there, we played some more and then it was time to pack up and get back on the boat to go home. Some of the village children came and helped carry our bags back to the boat. A few of the ladies who were with us help the village school. They are on a charity that supplies the school with school supplies, etc. On our way back to the boat, they dropped off some school supplies to Lady Salami, the head teacher for the school. Elizabeth immediately put out her arms to hug her. Lady Salami was so tickled to hold her. I was able to snap a quick picture of the two of them.
I had brought a bag of lollipops to hand out to the children in the village. Jeremy saw the bag of lollipops and immediately wanted one. I explained to him that the children in this village did not have a store they could go to get lollipops. He looked at me kind of confused. And he said," Yes, they do." I told him they did not. He looked at me and then looked at a little boy who was only wearing blue underwear. I gave Jeremy a lollipop and told him to give it to that little boy. I wasn't sure what Jeremy would do since he is so shy. He took the lollipop and gave it to the little boy. The little boy smiled at him. Then, Jeremy came back to me and said, " I don't think that little girl has a lollipop either." He kept coming back to get more lollipops to give out to the children. He didn't ask for one for himself. He told me," I can wait til i get home and have one." I was very proud of him for sharing. Even though I know the children there could definitely use more than just a lollipop to rot their teeth, I know they were grateful for a small treat. We got back on the boat to go home. As we passed by the small fishing villages on the way home, I could not get the image of that baby walking around on the dock with no pants on. When Fatai dropped us back off at the compound, I told Happiness what I had seen there. She told me," Madame, do not feel bad for them. That is the only life they have ever known." I suppose that is true...but that doesn't mean it is the only life they have to have...

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