Saturday, January 10, 2009

Catching Ladrões

Daniel (not a thief) running.
At the end of the year an aid organization here in Nampula downsized and decided to donate almost everything from their office to the orfanato. When Victor found out how much stuff we would be getting he immediately ordered every single vehicle working in the orphanage to abandon their mission and start hauling the donations back here. Since we are currently doing huge construction we have several different trucks and even a gigantic tractor (which is another story in itself) hauling rocks, sand, concrete blocks, people, and other things in and out of here all day. This includes quite a few drivers and workers from “outside” (people we don’t “know”).

For one ENTIRE day trucks drove in and out of the orphanage dropping off desks, tables, chairs, benches, cabinets, bookshelves, tires (lots of them – which is amazing because tires are so expensive and hard to get here), all kinds of different car and motorcycle parts, motorbike helmets, and like 10,000 jumbo notebooks overflowing with random papers that blew all over the orphanage and whole neighborhood the second they were (THROWN) out of the trucks. I am really regretting that I did not take any pictures of this INCREDIBLE pile. There was a lot of really valuable stuff that we need and can’t get here (which we are thrilled about receiving) all mixed in with the billions of paper floating everywhere - the whole scene looked pretty out-of-control. Oh yeah – there were also like ten gigantic (partially broken) air conditioning machines and tons of incomplete computer parts too.

Amazingly, during all this coming, going, and unloading, things were pretty orderly and under control. But once the final truck had finished and we (the kids, staff, normal construction guys, and outside workers) were all left standing there with this massive pile of valuable things big and small and trash all mixed together (that needed to be moved before it got dark) – it was time for the games and strategies for stealing to begin. The kids and staff in the orphanage and all our normal daily construction workers (who are our neighbors and friends) are all honest. But among the random people doing different odd jobs and even a few visitors who happened to come by to “help,” there were at least five ladraõs (thieves). It’s just that nobody yet knew who they (the ladraõs) would be.

During the entire day the ladraõs had been strategizing how they would steal things without being noticed. And the funniest, most delightful part of this is that they all thought they had identified which people they would have to hide from (mainly Victor and the security guards). They thought that if Victor or other men they assumed were “in charge” didn’t see them, they could steal whatever they could get away with. They obviously have NO idea what this place is and who is in charge and has ownership of it.

As it began to get dark and Victor had to drive people back to their houses, the ladraõs began to carry out the little plans they had been crafting all day. They were happy to see how easy it would be to go unnoticed in the bustling about of so many people and kids in such a huge space all over the orfanato as it was getting dark.

I don’t know how they got them out of the orphanage, but the tractorista (tractor driver – another funny word I like) and one of his workers found a way to get a gigantic tire and some other valuable car parts outside, unnoticed. But they only made it about 100 feet down the road before a swarm of “pasarinhos” (this word means “little birds” and is the name Victor calls all the littlest ones in the orphanage) surrounded them, reprimanded them for stealing, and retrieved the tire and other things. When the pasarinhos returned with the tires all the older kids were whispering to each other what had happened – who had tried to “rob” us, who had caught them, and where the tires were now.

The next thing that happened was that other kids noticed two men trying to hide things that they would probably come back and pick up later. The kids secretly retrieved the things and gave them to one of the older girls who hid them in her room. After that everyone was highly entertained as they watched the men spend the rest of their time looking for the things they had hidden, not being able to figure out where they had gone.

The next thing was that one of our girls (who is only 9-years-old) caught one of the day’s visitors with a whole little array of stolen things. She reprimanded him, took the things out of his hands, and gave them to an older kid to guard. Everyone expected the man to go home in shame after that but he refused to leave. We called Victor on the phone and told him that this visitor was stealing and refused to go. Just then our night security guard arrived and Victor asked him to find the visitor (who was trying to stay hidden among the kids), see if he had taken anything, send him out, and then not allow him back in. When the visitor heard his name being spoken he went into a little rage. The guard asked to see what he was holding, which started another big argument and commotion. Immediately about four of the older boys came around him, took the things out of his hands, and found blank tapes, motorcycle parts, and other items that he was planning to sell. The man got in a huge argument and was so angry and blowing up saying the things were his. It was kind of funny because it was so obvious that the goods had come straight out of our pile. The boys sent him out of the orphanage.

After that the group of about 6 or 7 older boys went and found every single person who was not part of the orphanage and made sure they left, as it was dark and all the rest of the kids had gone to eat dinner. Then the boys, Janete, and the guard got flashlights and searched the whole property for thieves and things that thieves might have hidden to sneak back and get in the night when everyone would be sleeping. Simba was also running around with the group looking for suspicious things and I went along too, asking for everything in Macua to be translated into Portuguese and everything said in Portuguese to be repeated slowly so I could understand. Nobody ever acts like I’m a burden and they all seem enthusiastic about letting me know what’s going on – and they all think it’s funny when I react to things that nobody else reacts to.

The boys searched everywhere, even under big stacks of grass that were waiting to become a roof. Then the whole little search party – by the way – Rock and Filipe, the two who get in some of the most trouble inside the orphanage, are the MOST hard-core and diligent about never allowing an outsider to do anything against it – they were like leading the whole thing. The group searched around the whole outside of the property and found little piles of stolen stuff that had been thrown over the wall in different locations. Whatever thieves had done this were planning to return in the night to get them. The kids made sure they found EVERYTHING and brought it back inside. Then they organized among themselves who would secure each place where we had stored different things and found locks and locked them up. Since we have no extra in-door space, they had to be very creative and locked all the air conditioning machines in one of the shower huts. Lastly – they decided who would stay up and help the guards patrol the property in the night, knowing that all the thieves would return to get the stuff they had thrown over the wall. When Victor finally returned from taking people home, the boys were all sitting by the gate with their flashlights, eating dinner in the dark, telling funny stories, discussing who the thieves were and planning how this can be prevented from happening again.

Outsiders think that Victor is the number one protector of the orphanage but they are wrong. The kids are fiercely loyal and will never allow this place to be taken advantage of.

A Few Photos From This Week

This has definitely been a "down" week as most of the kids have been gone. But it has been pleasantly calm and nice as everyone has been resting and hanging out in one little group all the time.

Our House

We live in a concrete house with a tin roof (and no insulation (or air conditioning (in Africa))). I'm sure you can imagine why Trish referred to our house as the "easy bake" oven. During this time of year it's either over 95 degrees outside (which would equal about 5,000 degrees inside) or pouring rain (and if you've ever been under a tin roof when it's raining you will not have to ask why we watch movies with subtitles in the language already being spoken or go outside INTO a storm to make a phone call). After seeing all the Seattle snow pictures I was really falling apart under the Mozambican sun so last week Victor put a grass roof on top of our tin one. Amazingly this has decreased the temperature by at least 10 degrees, made it possible to hear a person one inch from your ear talking while it's raining, and even stopped swimming pools from forming in our living room during every storm. I LOVE our grass roof!!!
Starting to put grass on our roof (sorry you can't really see the roof) but that's our house.
The Kids Making Then Eating Dinner
Last Sunday Helder had all the kids making mini-doughnuts and french fries for dinner (don't worry - this is not a "normal" meal on our menu, just a once-in-a-while, fun, super healthy one). All the little ones shaped the doughnuts and cut the potatoes and then Helder fried them in a gigantic skillet.
Victor is always really happy when the kids all hang out together and I do too. This dinner making episode reminded me of camping with family and friends at Kalaloch (on the Washington Coast) when I was a kid (everyone sitting around the fire, relaxing, talking, and cooking dinner together).
When it was time to eat it was dark and the electricity had gone out so the kids had a candle light dinner. This included a really funny conversation about how "there exist" expensive restaurants in other countries where they put candles on the tables to make the atmosphere "romantic."
The Guards' House
Here is the Guards' House we are building at the entrance gate. Every neighbor that passes by comes in to look and is shocked to see a tiled floor (it's being tiled to experiment for tiling other rooms later). Then they can't believe that this is really going to be the guards' (who are their friends) house. It's just one tiny space but I think the tiles on the floor make it seem really exciting!
Dinner In Our Living Room
Since so many kids were gone I was actually able to "invite" the whole orphanage over to our house (into our living room) for dinner and it was so fun! I made chili, corn bread, and pizza. A lot of the kids had "heard" of pizza but never tasted it before so this was very exciting (I hope none were disappointed after so much hype.) After dinner we all watched Robin Hood (the Disney one with the foxes), which was my favorite movie when I was little. It was too hot to stay in the house and not raining so we put the T.V. on a table in front of the porch. All the kids loved it and it was so fun to watch with them!

1 comment:

ronniebarnes said...

i am deeply touched again by everything i have read here today. it is beautiful, everything happening there. Praise God and may His guidance and help always be with y'all.