Sunday, 11 November 2007

Well-behaved children

No, not mine, although I’m only able to write this now because Ben is in bed and Tom playing very nicely on his own with cars, trains and a track.

My title refers to the pre-school children who I talked to about Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday. They sat in a neat semi-circle in silence, possibly a stunned silence because I was wearing my Christmas-Cake-hat outfit, traditional Kyrgyz costume. Photo attached for your amusement. But for whatever reason they sat very quietly and listened attentively. If all my audiences are like this I will be lucky. After I’d told them about mountains, yurts (nomadic felt tents) and kalpaks (Kyrgyz felt hats – see my website for pictures) we had an interesting discussion about why Kyrgyz children don’t go to school. The answer for most is that they are too busy collecting water from rivers or they don’t have shoes. For those unfamiliar with the story of my book Revolution Baby: Motherhood and Anarchy in Kyrgyzstan, we went to Kyrgyzstan because my husband Matthew, a water engineer, was working on an aid project to get clean drinking water to remote villages. One amazing result of this project is that attendance rates are up at schools because children aren’t spending all day dragging water back from rivers.

But this was a difficult concept for the pre-school children to grasp. When I said they didn’t have shoes, one boy said, “they should go and buy them.” “They don’t have any money,” I explained. And they sat in stunned silence. Not having enough money to buy shoes is an incredibly difficult situation for our children to comprehend when they are surrounded by comfort and commercialism. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp when we first arrived in Kyrgyzstan. People live by rubbish bins so they can eat the waste. Old women collect acorns from the parks so they can boil them to make a porridge. But amidst all this poverty they made us humble with their generosity. On a site visit Matthew was invited into a home to eat bread and drink tea. The “home” was the one-room guard hut at the chlorination plant and bread and tea was all they had to eat. But they shared gladly.


James Farr said...

You look ridiculous in that hat.

Sally Floyd said...

She may look rediculous in that hat, but I am about to look just as rediculous in it at the book launch - dispite this I am really looking forward to the evening and finally being able to get my hands on the book!!