Friday, July 16, 2010

The Journey of Youth Development

With three more weeks to go in Kenya, phase 2 of my project is almost done.  I'm performing a needs assessment to help the organization I work for, Kijana, determine some next steps for improving science education in the schools it serves in Western Kenya.  The work is tough, I'm exhausted every day, and sometimes I just want to curl up on the couch in front of the t.v. with the AC on high, holding a cold soda in my hand with a bag of chips near me.  Oh wait...I'm still in Kenya, so that form of relaxation will have to wait.

Despite all the hard work, I love what I'm doing and I'm making sure to enjoy the balance between work AND play while I'm here.  One of the new highlights of each day is that my little buddy Vincent (my "best friend" in Kenya) is learning how to walk.

One day I went to pick him up and he started crying.  So I put him down...and he reached up for me again.  I picked him up, he cried, and this time as I started to put him down he began to jerk away from me.  I had seen this once before with my god-son Armand, and I thought to myself, "Maybe it's time for you to stand."  So I put him down again, but holding his hands to brace him, I propped him up on his legs.  To my surprise he smiled, and thus began our daily routine of me teaching him how to walk!

Vincent is 8 months old now, which is about the right age, in my opinion, to begin walking.  However, our hosts Willeminah and Ann told me that most Kenyan babies walk a little after one year.  This seemed late to me, but they stated that only a few "prodigy" babies walk earlier than that.  "Well," I thought, "Who's to say that my best friend isn't a prodigy?"  So, I've been working with him a little each day to teach him to walk.  His mother, Juliet, has mixed feelings about this.  She seems excited about him learning to walk, but I get the impression that she's not quite ready to see her baby boy running around yet.  I'm trying to get her as excited about the possibility of Vincent walking as everyone else in the family is about this notion.  I've been documenting my time with Vincent through photography, so I thought I wold share some of the photos of the amazing (soon to be walking) Mr. Vincent.  My goal is to see him stand on his own (no leaning aids) before we leave.

Here is Vincent looking dapper in his "Fonzworth Bentley" (if you don't know who this is, please Google it) attire.  Notice how he nonchalantly looks away from the camera...SO COOL

Who knew that Vincent was a fan of MJ and the American south?  Sporting Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls jersey number on his shirt and wearing his seersucker shorts, he's easily the youngest southern gentlemen and MJ fan in Kenya.

Vincent and his sister Mora love to pose together for photographs.

I caught Vincent "just hanging out" on the back porch one day while Juliet was preparing our meal, so I took a couple of photos. 

He's just too handsome!

Here's Vincent hanging in the front yard with his peeps (the local posse of children who come to play in our host's front yard).  Notice the backwards hat and the cool jacket.

At some point in that day, he must have thought that he was too cool for that hat, so he threw it off right before I took this picture.

But at the end of the day, I think Mora convinced him to put it back on.  Hey, at 8 months I guess you can't make all of your own decisions.  Better luck next time my friend!

Vincent's clothing selections never cease to amaze me.  His shirts and pants are always what I'd consider "fashion forward," but for some reason he loves those multicolored striped socks!  Get it together buddy!

Despite the socks, I did appreciate the handshake.

Here's Vincent in one of his Teletubbie outfits that he wears to bed...seriously, the Teletubbies are kind of big in Kenya.

With ever passing day, it's amazing to see how Vincent needs less and less help standing on his own.  I'm sure Mora, who carries Vincent around everywhere is getting very excited about his development as well.

Teletubbie outfit #2...really Vincent!  For some reason Vincent's legs got tired on this day and Mora was lugging him around on her hip.  I had to do something about this.

So, with a little bit of encouragement, and a couple silly faces, I got my little buddy to stand.  I told him that it would be much easier to attract women if he could look like an independent man.

And FINALLY, after weeks of hard work I saw my friend balance himself on this water jug tonight.  He's been practicing this for a while, but tonight he stood there, leaning against this object, for the better part of 5 minutes.  The rest of the family and I just sat around the table having a conversation while the little guy just stood against the jug looking back at us.  We were all so proud, but we didn't want him to get too excited and fall, so we just smiled at him occasionally and said "Simama!" which means "stand" in Kiswahili.  Seeing this makes me want to see him walk all the sooner!

So I have a special request:
I'm trying to put together a collection of encouraging words, statements, phrases, etc. for Juliet to help her get more excited about her son's development.  If you wouldn't mind could you please leave a comment (see the "Post a Comment" link below) for Vincent encouraging him to start walking, and/or for Juliet to help her think positively about this learning experience for her son.


P.S. I can't believe I only have 3 more weeks to enjoy this paradise.


Kate said...

Juliet: kama ni mtoto wako anaanza kusimama kabla ya watoto wengine, utajua ana akili nyingi zaidi. Hata watoto hapa Tanzania hawaanzi mpaka mwaka moja. Vincent ni mtoto mzuri sana. Naona siku moja atakua rais wa Kenya.

Kimberly Caldwell said...

Patrick - you are now at the top of my "Most likely to steal a baby on IPSP" list. Truly unexpected.

I don't really have encouraging advice, just excitement that her son is ready to explore the world!