Hanging out in Lospalos

Wednesday, day 70

Tony and I are settling in to a nice routine – similar to the one I had in Dili, way back when I first arrived in Timor – of playing music on the verandah as the world passes us by. Tony is an enthusiastic waver, and not a person goes by who doesn’t get a special wave from him. Today I got out the saxophone, and we improvised in 5/8, me on the sax, Tony playing his current favourite drum (a plastic filtered-water gallon). The sax proved to be a far more effective ‘caller’ than the clarinet, and lots of people paused in front of our house before walking on. We invited some of them to join us, and are hoping that tomorrow afternoon at the same time some of them will return for more of a jam.

We’ve also been inviting the landlord’s children to join us playing music on the balcony. We play the Optimum Percussion chime bars, the bunch of buckets that Tony and I bought in Baucau to be drums, the water gallon, and the saxophones.

All of these impromptu jams with local children are about creating a presence, and hopefully gradually building a core group of young people who’d like to play with us and create some music together after Christmas. Similarly, we’ve been wandering the streets and just starting conversations with local children. Today we greeted a group of children playing together in front of their house.

“How are you going? I called.

“Good,” they replied enthusiastically.

“What are you playing?” I asked.

“We’re playing berlindos,” they told me, which clearly meant marbles and stepped forward to show us the marbles they had.

“Can we watch?” we asked, and of course they were happy to demonstrate their game to us.

“Can I join in?” Tony asked after a while, and they gave him a marble to get started. He did well – he won a few penalty shots (if that’s what you call them) and ended up being one of the last two players. He didn’t win though, which I think was very gracious of him.

So, we wander the streets, chatting to people, and mentally building a map of where different friendly, engaged children are to be found.

Before coming here, one of the things that people described to me was the way that there was nothing in particular for the children to do. Nothing in particular that is designed to stimulate them or help them develop to their full capacities.

However, one thing that strikes me here is how happy, active and functional all the children are. They are always playing and inventing. Many children are working during the day too, helping with household chores. For example, from our verandah we have been watching the family over the road gradually move a pile of dirt from the road into the garden. The children work in small teams with spades and barrows, and gradually have shifted that pile of dirt, one spadeful at a time. Whole families hang out together, adults and children sitting and chatting.

We see the children inventing games – they play all the usual games that children all around the world play, such as tag, or clapping games. Kids here are often fond of having a toy car attached to a string that they pull around after them. In Baucau, the local kids played with old tyres, running them up and down the hill getting them to turn by hitting them with a stick.

There is no electricity in Lospalos during the day – it only comes on at night-time. So children are outside during the day. They entertain themselves, and take responsibility for household chores when required, and I rarely see them not getting along, or creating problems. There is something to be said for giving them authentic tasks to do some of the time (with the help of more knowledgeable others) and the rest of the time letting them just play and invent, unhindered by powered technology. Vygotsky would certainly agree.


1 comment so far

  1. victoria Ryle on

    I think it is a pertinent reminder of the ‘natural’ behaviour of children given space and not over stimulated. I was struck by the children’s ability to focus and stay on task when we held our little book making workshop. No coincidence when they are hungry for something ‘particular to do’…

    The impromptu music making on the verandah sounds wonderous – I’m sure that slow organic development is the way to go – forget the minister of culture!

    Love vxx

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