Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birthday Njema!

I miss you, dear Nadia. I wish I could share your second birthday with you today, but Kenya is a little too far away... I have an idea, though: let's make an UN-birthday cake together when I get home next fall. We can have a big "grandchildren" party with Nico, and with Nell & Huck and Maisie & Gwendolyn; OK? We will celebrate all of the birthdays I am missing! Shall we have a chocolate cake? What color balloons would you like? Shall we invite parents? We can have lots of fun just planning our un-birthday party until then.

Meanwhile, I want you to know how much I love and miss you all. Every day I see lots and lots of kids here in Africa. It makes me sad sometimes to see so many sick children, but many of them get well and play together, just like you do. Then it makes me happy to see them playing because they remind me of you, your brother and your cousins! Here in Maseno, kids play with soccer balls made of wadded-up plastic bags, tied with a string. They share a bicycle that's a little bit rusty and a lot too big for them. They jump rope with sisal they've cut and braided together. And they spin hoops (old bicycle tires or plastic tub lids, actually) with a stick. They play hide & seek and sing songs and laugh together, just like you do. They help their parents, too, just like you do.

Your big brother asked me what the kids here eat for dessert. I told Nico they have no dessert, at least not the kind you have. They don't have birthday cakes or cookies or ice cream or popsicles after their meals. But they can pick bananas and guavas right off the trees, and they can suck sugar cane right out of the fields. They can also dig fresh peanuts to shell, right out of the ground, as long as the monkeys don't beat them to the harvest. Peanuts are called "ground nuts" here -- because they come from the ground, of course! Once in awhile, visitors do bring candy, so the kids have now learned to ask "mzungus" (visitors) for "sweets." It's a good thing visitors bring toothbrushes and toothpaste, too.

Many children in Kenya sleep on the floor (sometimes that's just the bare ground, smeared with dung) because they don't have beds. They don't have sheets or blankets or sleeping bags, either. They sleep in their clothes, and they snuggle close together on cool nights. Some of the grown-ups that Granny knows are saving their money to buy washable blankets for those kids. There are thousands of children in our orphan program in Maseno North. That's a lot of blankets, but they cost only $7 each. We are hoping that the blankets will add up, "bit by bit" -- just like Mama Panya's pancakes did in the story book about Kenya that we read together. That way, one day, all the kids here will be warm at night.

Be warm, yourself, dear Nadia, this and every night. Have a very special, very happy birthday; and, don't forget, we'll have an extra party when I get home! Please know how much I love and miss you and Nico and your mama and your daddy; how much I love and miss Nell & Huck and Aunt Jen & Uncle Joe; how much I love and miss Maisie & Baby Gwendolyn and Aunt Scarlet & Uncle Rex. "Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite." (And, as your brother says, "If they do... " well, you know what to do: "Hit 'em with a shoe!" Right, Nico?)

God bless you all, children and grandchildren of the world,
Granny Smith

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