August 28, 2011

Weeping and Wardrobes

Have you ever seen Yours, Mine, and Ours? The good one with Lucille Ball (not the farse with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo)? Do you remember the scene where Frank is doing a voiceover about getting life at home ready for school and you see Jean standing in a long dress crying while her dad is hemming it up. He says something to the effect of "have you ever been 4 and had to wear a dress worn by your 5 older sisters and remade by an old sail maker?" I had a moment like that this week.

I went over to the little girls' house and went through their clothes. I took out anything that was torn up, made a mending pile for the items missing buttons or with tears that could be fixed, and put up items that were too small for them. We (Rosamond, Lucy, and I) looked at their shoes to see what they needed in the way of church shoes and sandals. The ground here is really hard on shoes - especially flip flops. At one point the rule was the kids always had to have shoes on, Dr. Ken - the director- said he thinks the original reason for that was to protect against hook worm, but as our soil isn't really moist and there isn't animal feces around in the yard, he hasn't pushed this rule. Still the kids can go through shoes really quickly. I've been here a week and my flip flops are pretty worn down already and I don't run in them.

At any rate. After evaluating their needs, I went into the supply room - it's called the depot - and pulled out several dresses, shorts/skirts and shirts. Then I brought each one in individually and let them pick one of each item to try on. Melusa (which is pronounced a lot closer to Melissa than one might expect) went first. She's four. The smallest of the girls, but also the roundest. Her eyes grew large and an expectant smile spread across her face as we walked into the Depot - It was like Christmas Day! We quickly discovered that the language barrier -as the younger girls haven't learned much English yet, this gets tricky at times - began to become an issue. I tried to explain she could chose one of each item. Using my very poor French skills (which given her age she really only speaks Creole so I was hoping there would be a lot of cognates) and the few Creole words I learned... Jip (zheep) for skirt, wob (wub) for dress, and a word they said was pronounced "My-you" but ought to be chemiz for shirt. It quickly deteriorated into her precious face crumpling into tears as she looked up at me with a look that said her heart was breaking and it was all because she couldn't tell what I wanted from her. So I did what I could - I started putting clothes on her. We finally found items that both fit and that she liked. The tears were wiped away and her dimples came out again. I had to assure her that the skirt and shirt were in fact "pou ou" (for you) before we could move to dresses. In the end she skipped back to the house carrying her new clothes and sent the next girl in.

Alexandra, the newest girl to the group, was last in to pick out her clothes. I let each girl pick who they sent in after she was finished, so it just ended up this way. Alexandra is a sweet little girl. As the newest, she knows the least English of The Nine. She may also be the most appreciative as well. When she came into the depot, she smiled shyly and I tried to get her to pick from the shorts I had laid out. Our interaction went as follows...

Me: "Choose one - chwazi un."
Alexandra: "Mesi" (thank you)
With a general lack of actual selection. She was happy to get whatever I would give her. So I would hold one item up and tried to gauge her expression to see which she liked the best. In a couple minutes we had her new clothes selected and off she went to put them away and get back to her English lesson.

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