RB the Milkmonkey
Oh how I love watching Connie play. Joe and I will often give each other a nudge when we see her doing something particularly funny or endearing, so we can share in watching whatever scene may be unfolding. One of the most hilarious and sometimes disconcerting things to see, are those playtimes that clearly mirror what she sees going on around her. Inevitably at the moment there is a lot of pretending to be a parent.
Her three favourite playmates, Baby the imaginatively named Dolly, RB the Monkey and Sipho Bear are constantly having their bottoms changed, being strapped to her back or the toy buggy and being kissed goodnight with a whispered ‘sweet dreams’, in-between being breastfed or made to ‘sit properly’ whilst eating their imaginary rice and beans. These poor creatures are also frequently placed on the naughty step for some misdemeanour or other, usually ‘not doing good listening’ and left rather longer than the usual two minutes as they apparently are ‘not ready to say sorry yet.’ Eek, Connie holds up a mirror to us and although often amusing it’s also uncomfortable and a good reminder that what she’s sees us say and do it what she says and does. Hmmm….
Taking RB and Sipho for ride
Connie’s play not only holds a mirror up to us but it also reflects the culture and life here in Gulu. Connie’s play is like any other two year old copying what she’s see’s around her but these imaginative play scenes may look a little different from her UK friends.
I’m sure playing ‘cafe’ is a fairly common occurrence in the UK, so when Connie and her friends told me what they were playing there was no surprise. They were sat around a small table talking a bit but mainly just sitting so I asked them what they had ordered and if it was nice. “We’re just waiting…it not ready yet” came the response . At least 5 minuets later I asked again, “still waiting” she sighed. I couldn’t help but laugh, waiting is certainly a key feature of any cafe experience here. Eventually their pretend meal came. Was it nice? Well… “Bit nice, bit yucky”.
Waiting for food in their pretend cafe
For Connie’s first birthday we got her a Bodaboda (toy motor bike). Boda’s are the main form of transport here so it’s no surprise she loves hers, especially going as fast as she can and maximising the slope on the driveway to full effect then breaking at the last possible moment so she doesn’t slam into the gate (she’s getting better). Her boda is good for burning energy but it also forms a lot of her imaginary play, whether it’s washing her boda (keeping things clean is very important to the Acholi) or balancing objects on the back, pretending to be the Milkman, or going to the market.
A recent imaginary trip to the market, yielded some bananas, a pineapple and a watermelon. When i enquired as to where the passionfruit and apples I’d requested were, she responded “they not have any” and my change? Well they apparently didn’t have that either. A pretty accurate imaginary shopping trip!
Sometimes we are so immersed in what is going on around us that we fail to see it. My heart is sadly often critical of things here but having Connie’s set of eyes to look through brings a new wonder and appreciation to life in Gulu. She also helps me to remember that how Joe and I live our lives is how Connie will live hers, for now anyway. It’s a good challenge for me, when I simply don’t want to be kind, patient, generous etc, I have two little sets of eyes watching and copying. Connie See, Connie Do.