Katali, this 6-year-old who lives in my house, got a new computer from his mother. A Windows XP.
His friends enjoy coming over to play on the computer. Except they don’t have any games other than the standard Windows Solitaire / Free Cell / Minesweeper, whose rules they do not understand at all.
So the only thing they do on the computer, other than listening to music, is “play drawing”.
I swear, they can have many happy hours drawing buckets and cups on Microsoft Paint.
The very first time I taught them how to save their drawing on the computer, I told them that they have to come up with a name for it. It was a picture of a circle and a few randomly drawn lines. They decided to call it “Alex”.
And from then on, they’ve been giving their drawings names of people. If you look in the Paint folder, you see names like “Abdul Rauf”, “Baba”, and my favorite, a picture of a red and yellow bucket called “Zorro”.
Sometimes, I sit and watch as they draw, be it on Microsoft Paint or with regular ol’ pencil on paper, and I offhandedly ask questions such as, “What is that?” “Is your monkey wearing a skirt?” “Why is there an octopus in your garden?” (all actual questions that have been asked before), and I always feel bad right after I ask them, because I’m always reminded of the kid in The Little Prince. In the book, the kid drew an elephant inside a boa constrictor and the adults, all lacking imagination, say it looks like a hat. But no, the elephant is inside the boa constrictor. Everything has to be explained to grown-ups. They can’t imagine what they can’t see.
I think these kids are beginning to exhaust their knowledge of people’s names because they’ve recently started saving their pictures with names they find around the house. One picture of a chair in Ghanaian colors (red, yellow, green) was saved as “Phillips”, after the television. A hat (a crudely drawn circle with three lines, filled in brown color) is named “Nokia”, after a cellphone.
Sometimes they go, “Joolian, come and tell a story!” (That is how some of them pronounce my name because apparently, it is too hard for them to say properly.)
They like to go, “Once upon a time,” (which is always followed by someone else going “time-time”, I don’t even know why), and they start telling made-up stories.
One of them was about a white man who likes to put powder on himself. Another was about a white man who went to the graveyard to drink water. One more was about a white man who was arguing with a black man, and the white man ended up getting hit by a truck. Evidently, they like telling stories about the mythical white man, the “saliminga”.
I really, really wish I could steal a kid or two to bring back with me to the States. Goodness knows I will need some childish innocence to put things into perspective when I’m once again neck-deep in readings about politics and inequality.
One more month and I’m leaving this place. I really, really wish I had more time here. I really badly want to stay here longer.