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A touch and a smile
Friday, 12 September 2014 Written by Magdalena Mišković

Is there anything more innocent than a child? Of course not. Children are such small, honest creatures. Who wouldn’t love them? One thing that is the same throughout the world is precisely those little beings - boy or girl, black or white – it doesn’t matter... they are so precious.

A touch and a smile

My first walk through the village Kivumu wouldn't have been the same without the children who number much greater than where I come from. Just imagine: you’re walking down the street followed by five, ten, fifteen, and even more kids.

The first one to see you, yells, “Muzungu! Muzungu!” and they all suddenly rush towards you. They ask how you are, your name, they tell you “Good afternoon!” or “Good morning!” (actually, they use “Good morning!” in the afternoon as well; it’s all the same to them). But that doesn’t really matter... On the contrary, it’s really sweet.

The first child to approach me was this little girl, not much older than a year and a half. She ran towards me, spread her arms and wanted me to hold her in my arms. Meanwhile, the rest of the children were all around me, staring and smiling. As soon as I gave up the little one to her mother, others started fighting for the “position”. Everyone just wanted to hold my hand and walk next to me, filled with pride.

They wave their hands at you, they ask all sorts of questions, and they simply love the fact that you are there. These kids are just like, or at least, nearly as much like any other child the world over -- some of them a bit shy, others not shy at all.

What left a big impression on me, apart from these children, were the people who seem to have a lot of the childhood spirit still left in them. For them it’s not a problem to smile when they pass you on the road, or wave with their hand, or even stop to ask how you are doing.

I was taking a stroll through the village the other day, and two elderly women stopped me and started talking about something. Of course, I know only a couple of words in Kinyarwanda, and I didn’t understand a word of what these two grannies were saying. But they kept talking... and talking... and then, when all other methods fail, the old hands-and-legs language kicks in. Oh God – how much I sometimes love Him, because He’s the only one that helps. Anyway, the old ladies had seen me at mass. They had seen that I was taking pictures, and they just wanted to look at the photos. I took out my cellphone and showed them the whole album. They were so overjoyed. They said their goodbyes and we all went our separate ways.

Another time, five or six women and girls were passing through the village, watching the three of us Muzungus taking a walk in the village and laughing. The oldest among them approached and hugged each of us, while the others were smiling from a distance. My guess is that the others dared her if she had the courage to approach us. And of course, she did.

That is exactly what I am trying to say: if you want to hug, touch, greet someone – do it, because you might not get a second chance. Indeed, they all greet you, ask you questions, hold out their hands – it’s the same with the old and the young, but with one difference. The children also don’t hesitate to ask if you have a bonbon, a lollypop or money, but that is something I will write about in one of my next stories.

Translated by Branimir Mlakić
Edited by Valerie Kae Ken

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