What is more important: watching football or painting the house? Apparently football wins out big time.
We turned up at our usual bright and early time ready to do another coat of paint on the living room, only to be met with the kids having fully cleared their bedrooms all into a big pile in the middle of the rooms, ready for us to paint there instead… talk about giving a hint! Unlike yesterday, though, we were left to start painting on our own as the semi-final of the African Cup Of Nations was in its final 30mins and all the boys were watching it intently.
After Cameroon had won and made their way to the final, I was expecting Rafael (as the oldest boy likes to be called) to join me in painting as he’d been the instigator in doing it yesterday. Instead he disappeared with the wheelbarrow off down the street. I thought nothing of it as one of the other boys had got his own overalls from somewhere and started to help me in his place. He dressed and ready to get to it as soon as the final whistle had blown! Its a shame his painting skills mean that I’ll have to go back over it all again on my own, but the intent to help was there. 😉
Shortly after we’d started on the boys room, Rafael returned with the wheelbarrow overloaded with 2 massive speakers and a stereo system borrowed from a friend to help celebrate Hildar, the house mother’s, birthday. And boy do they know how to let everyone in the town know that they are celebrating! With music booming out at max volume into the garden, and therefore into the neighbours too, there could be no doubt that something was happening. I can only imagine that they’ve never had such a powerful system before and they couldn’t help but see what it could do, and then stick with it once it’d been turned up to 11. So with all the biggest Shona language tunes blaring out and beating a repetitive bouncing bass line into my ears, we smashed out two bedrooms in quick time. It’s without a doubt the worst paint job I’ve ever had the misfortune to be involved in but the kids that helped out seemed to have fun doing it. I just hope that we can get them all in school on Monday so that I can get in there and do it properly myself!
All the while, Nicole had promised to cook pasta for everyone, seeing as pasta is seen as something very extravagant by the children. Its the kind of thing that posh white people ate, not by them or anyone that they knew. So, with all the best of intentions, pasta and ingredients to make the sauce were purchased along with the birthday cake first thing that morning. To say that we’d not fully realised how badly equipped the kitchen was before coming up with this amazing plan, would be an understatement. We’d not accounted for the fact that they’d be no sieve or colander for starters. Anyone who has made pasta without straining it first will be fully aware that it leaves it all sloppy and slavered in starchy slim. This, it would turn out, would be our specially cooked meal designed to impress and even we were barely able to eat it. How embarrassing.
I was able to capture a few moments where it appeared that Macdaniel was enjoying his food, but the inability for children to hide their true feelings in their faces told a different story the rest of the time.
“It was very delicious” Hildar said politely.
“It really wasn’t. I’m so sorry.” replied Nicole.
Nicole has been constantly reliving the kitchen nightmare all day:
These basic ingredients seem like average every day items on a shopping list. I was hoping to put together an amazing meal and anyone that cooks knows that a little bit more of this and a little less of that makes all the difference. Well, it would if I had something to chop with, more than just a single malfunctioning hob and any utensils at all to use in the kitchen. I’d overestimated what could constitute a kitchen that had to provide food for 16 children 3 times a day!
I attempted to make pasta, but how do you drain pasta without a strainer? Cooking for 16 people turned into my worst nightmare. I had to chop garlic with my finger nails , and tomatoes crushed in my hands . I don’t cook often but when I do, I always cook pasta. At home its cheap, simple and tasty. Today it was the hardest meal to make, ever. Without a sink in the kitchen it was impossible to rinse the starch off and the pasta was left in its own water and turned to mush. I felt so bad, and so stressed. I really wanted it to be an nice meal for Hilder the birthday girl. I wanted to show her that using the same ingredients that she uses everyday for their own food, it could taste so different and special. She served me a portion and I my heart sank. I knew that it really didn’t look nice at all. I said to her I’m so sorry it wasn’t what you expected and that I’d get her proper equipment for the kitchen so that she could have her life easier. Its hard enough cooking for a few people, let alone 16! It took 2 1/2 hours to make and I was left disappointed.
Thank god we brought a cake and some fizzy pop to make up for my slop!
It’s safe to say it’s difficult to live without your family but these kids have become each other’s family and they all made it a special day for Hilder.”
Still, the most important thing seemed to be that music needed to be at full volume and that seemed to be enough for everyone except the toddlers who were definitely out of sorts after being deprived of their afternoon naps.
On a plus note, the first triple bunkbed is completely finished and now sitting waiting for our first batch of mattresses which will arrive Monday. We’ll deliver the first one to the kids on Tuesday most likely, and then pull the trigger on the rest after our trip to Harare for raw materials as its much cheaper there and we’ll save some of your donated money by doing it that way.
Finally, after all our talk of it, we’ll be going to the market to get the kids their own clothes tomorrow. They’ve never done anything like it before, so we’ll have to see what they pick. So, if you donated €10, for example, that will clothe one child with at least 3-4 different items. Of course, as stated in day 2, all of the items at the market will be what people all around the world have donated to charity, then that said charity sends some of it to Zimbabwe, and then the people in charge of receiving it take all the best stuff for themselves and then the rest is sold to market traders and the money is pocketed. None of your clothes that you donate to the big charities make their way to those that most need it, certainly not in this country anyway. (This is all the local “word on the street” so I don’t have empirical evidence of all this, but its generally understood to be true here in the community.)
Its been an amazingly long few days, and we are both shattered. We’ve been tired and ratty with each other but it has been worth it. After spending 3 whole days with the kids, we can see the difference that we are making to their lives. Someone is taking an interest in them. Someone is working with them towards a common goal. Someone is playing games with them and making them laugh rather than all of these things happening amongst themselves. Its the little things like that that make you realise the difference that can be made in a child’s life just by paying them some attention.
We are not parents yet, but having seen Nicole with the children these last few days I know she’s going to make a great mum. Spending time with the forgotten children of Tariro has shown me a glimpse of our own future and I hope that future will forever feature them too. We’ve invested our time and our hearts and even if everyone else forgets them, we certainly won’t.