What I did not expect was the many creative ways that they had already come up with to entertain themselves! I am not saying that they did not love the new soccer balls, bubble machine, or the jump ropes, because they did, and asked for them regularly, but left on their own they had amazing strategies for playing individually and in small groups!
Round lids with sticks that rolled as they ran behind pushing them. Discarded containers that could hold run off wash water that became homemade bubbles, with wands made from a paperclip or other piece of discarded metal. Trucks, cars and heavy work equipment fashioned from metal scraps and the strips of shredded tire that they used to tie them together. Scraps of fabric from the sewing room. Hanging and climbing on the bars and railings inside the big delivery truck! Scrap nails or pipe cleaners, yarn and threads from their clothing, were all repurposed and went to some creative new toy! Clapping games, games of signs... the list really is impressive! Of course I have personal favorites, aside from the boys hand made vehicles, a produce bag and cement bag used for playing dress up!
It was refreshing to see that the things that we consider as trash, were to them avenues for creative play and ingenuity. A few times the team would even wonder after we finished with something (like a Pringle can) what the kids could or would do with that if they found it in the trash, and should we save them the effort of digging in the trash and just let it sit someplace for someone creative to see and scoop up for play?!
I recognize that in regards to creative and imaginative play the children (of all ages) at Fiwagoh are years ahead of our children here in the states! In the states as the years progress, it seems our parenting style (for the vast majority) has sadly become one of convenience and cleanliness. We want them to stay clean, if they start complaining they are bored, or we need them to be quiet while we are out, we stick an electronic devise in their small hands. Before we know it our kids are never out to see the light of day because it interferes with how well they can see the screens of their ipods, ipads and cell phones!
Observing and engaging in this creative play really took me back to my childhood, when playing in the yard was pulling out flowers and mixing them with dirt and water to make stew. Setting up tree forts with logs and branches from fallen trees. Using sticks and rocks to create statues and other works of art! I fear that my children did not do enough of that growing up in todays technological era. Shame on me. However kudos to Fiwagoh! *as a personal note : When the Lord blesses me with grandchildren, we will be messy and creative in our play! Enjoying all the sights and sounds around us exploring and making memories!!
Here are some of the new memories we made with the "toys" we brought from the states! Bubbles are great, but bubble machines are greater!!! Jumping rope alone is fun, but together with friends is more "funner" Tossing a ball is exciting, but it is more exciting when the ball is lightweight and catches in the breeze and has you chasing it all over the yard! Sidewalk chalk can also be used on cement walls, to create beautiful murals! Soccer is soccer (football) all over the world, and fresh new balls are always something to celebrate! We taught them to play tic tac toe, and uno! What a whirlwind of smiles and laughter from both them and our team!
I am not sure what the impact of our play time will be with them long term. In my American mind, I would love to arrogantly think that they will never forget us. That they will always remember the time we spent with them, but the truth is we may begin to blend in with the other teams that came before us or the ones that will come after. We have the gift of photographs that help us remember. They only have memories.
For me, it has helped me realize that slowing down has merit. Taking the time to play a game, or share a conversation, even when I have another plan for that time, is how you build relationships. Observing the children in their daily activities was a great reminder that we all have a creative side. We are all able to, but have just gotten too busy to just be still and enjoy the world around us. Africa is amazing and beautiful, but so are the states that we live in. The only thing that keeps us from enjoying our surroundings and our ability to create is our own selves. When we are still, that is when the Lord can reveal to us simple truths that will help us lead a more fulfilled life.
So grateful for this time of reflection. May the insight that I gathered, make a lasting impact on my actions and activities each day going forward. Help me help others when possible to slow down, take time to evaluate, listen and learn!