Children by Kristen Casella

November 22, 2010

“Mzungu! Mzungu!” An excited squeal rises up from the other side of the fence, I have been spotted. There is a frantic thudding of small feet on the Earth as the child on the lookout races to alert the rest of her discovery. More excited yelps float through the air as the once abandoned looking shacks seem to come to life with their voices. The sound of feet smacking against the Earth is louder now as the group grows in size. They run, hurrying to catch up to me, unable to hide their excitement. Our first lap around the dirt path next to the airport we are few, perhaps four children surrounding me as I run. The next time past word has spread and children seem to be coming out of the tall grass in the field, the dark entryways to their homes, and behind buildings, they are everywhere. As we near the spot where the dirt path intersects with the opening in the fence that leads to the place where most of the children live it becomes impossible to move at anything faster than a snail’s pace. “Mzungu! Mzungu! How are you?” Their high pitched voices shriek with joy and laughter as I reply, “Good how are you?” Few bother to answer my question too amused by my existence to even notice I have asked.


After shaking what seems like a million tiny hands we continue running this time with more children than before. They surround me fighting for the chance to hold my hand while we run. Most of them run barefoot, the children who are wearing shoes are wearing flip flops, and none of them seem to notice the rocks on their feet as we run. They all laugh and look up at me, I cannot help but to smile. These children, this is why I had wanted to come here. I remind myself it is the little things that make it worthwhile. As we run in circles the children chatter away at me in Kiswahili. Still learning the language I pick up bits and pieces of what they are saying. I try to speak with them in my broken Kiswahili, but a few of the older boys who speak English usually have to translate. Everything I say is repeated by all the children in unison followed by a sea of giggles at the strange word they have just pronounced. Something as simple as just showing up to run has brought such joy to these children it is impossible to remember the frustrations of earlier in the day. None of that seems to matter. The laughter of the children at the airport has melted away any frustration or stress that has ever existed. As the sun paints the sky impressive shades of orange, pink, and purple I use what little Kiswahili I know to tell them that I need to go home now, they should go home too, and that I will be back tomorrow. The children at the airport have more than made my experience in Kenya, they have reminded me not to take the little things for granted.