Day 170

Friday. When we planned our African adventure I envisaged Oskar and Vincent to meet a local kid at their age with whom they would develop a friendship that would last for years to come. It was a wishful motherly thought that hasn’t happened. The few boys they were hanging out with have somehow disappeared again.

When we first arrived, lots of boys of the village came to see us and they all tried to get Vincent’s, but mainly Oskar’s attention. Initially Oskar was patient and friendly and tried his best to see what it might turn into, but soon the attention and the pressure became too much. We couldn’t be selective and just open the gate for one or two of them, so if we invited them to come into our compound, they did so in large quantities, and it was overwhelming for all of us. Oskar soon just wanted to be left alone and enjoy the peace and quiet behind closed gates after being targeted every time he walked through the village. Vincent enjoyed the buzz around him a little because they were all older than him, but as soon as they understood that Oskar is not joining in, they would disappear. Here, kids in Vincent’s speak only basic or no English yet and Vincent got tired of trying to make himself understood. It was difficult.

When they started to go to school on a daily basis, the hype slowly calmed down and Oskar (and later Vincent) became friendly with two really nice boys, Renzo and Jallo. They came to see Oskar frequently and joined us when we went to the beach. Renzo is half Italian and until now he used to be the tubabo here, so he could relate with Oskar. He is a funny, bright and strong-headed boy who loves to build stuff. Jallo is a very gentle and reserved boy, who we all like a lot. He is from a family with strong religious beliefs and the two of them had long conversations about religion and nature and the question where we come from and where we go to. Over the past months, they both stopped coming, first one, then the other.

There has been a lot of competition amongst the boys in the village of who is going to be friends with the white boys, and Oskar found it highly annoying and soon started to ignore all of them, which in return made them angry. Now, when we cycle past a group of boys that are not in his school, they try to block his way and threaten to beat him and swear at him, all that jokingly, but still quite disturbing I find. Oskar doesn’t mind it, he says he doesn’t understand why they are like that but if they are like that he isn’t interested in them. So he just keeps ignoring them. I find myself trying to spot signs of sadness or loneliness in him, but I think he is gifted with a good portion of self-confidence and is content within himself…
Vincent has gone through a phase where he missed his friends a lot, but he got used to the situation and loves to spend time with his bigger brother instead. He is also very close to Obama and spends time with him whenever he is around.
They both seem to be happy in the setup we have – us, Obama and all our other contacts within a welcoming community.

As I was starting to write this, Jallo came to visit Oskar with two of his friends and they all seemed to enjoy each others company a lot. Maybe Jallo will stay in the end…