Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Divinity of Children

Meet Rio. Rio (for those of you who speak Spanish, exactly like "river") is the youngest son of Pak Heru, the principal of my school. He is 10 years old. I met Rio last weekend when I stayed at Pak Heru's house. He took me to the fish market to personally pick out my fish for dinner. Rio likes cars. He builds model cars from kits that he orders from America. His latest project was a remote-controlled "American Jeep". It took him one whole week to build by himself!
This picture is of Rio while we are reading a car magazine together with the help of a Bahasa Indonesia-English picture dictionary (what an amazing invention! such a great way for kids to learn another language). Please notice that he is wearing a Harry Potter Ministry of Magic outfit! He is going to borrow my Harry Potter book if I ever finish reading it. Rio is my best friend in Indonesia.
You may be wondering why my best friend is 10 years old. The answer is that Rio understands me better than anyone else I've met here. Which brings me to the title of this post, "the divinity of children". Anyone who has spent time with kids knows that they are uniquely perceptive, receptive, and adaptable. Children are patient. It is often difficult for me to communicate with people here because of the language barrier. Sometimes even when people are saying words in Bahasa Indonesia that I recognize, I don't understand the meaning of their sentences. Rio showed immense patience and diligence in our conversations. He spoke slooooooowly. Adults are not patient enough to say one word and wait until they see the understanding dawn on your face before moving on to the next word in the sentence. Children are generous. Rio carted around his picture dictionary the whole weekend so he could look things up when needed. He would take things off of shelves, tell me about them, and teach me the words to describe them. Often no matter how slowly and simply I speak in English, most of the meaning is lost in translation. Rio searched for the full meaning of everything that I said. He told me, with the refreshing frankness of a child, when he didn't understand something. He waited for me to look up words in my dictionary and taught me how to pronounce them correctly. Children are kind. Rio never laughed when I butchered the pronunciation of a new word. Children are not bashful or easily embarrassed. Rio was not above using hand gestures, noises, or pantomime for communication. Children are inquisitive. Rio asked and answered questions for hours on end about everything from names of objects, to likes/dislikes, to how to properly set about eating a whole grilled fish. Children are genuine and pure. I was able to relax with Rio and not worry that my friendliness would later lead to a request for a phone number or date. Children are always ready to be silly and laugh! Children adapt quickly. Rio is so smart...I swear that between Saturday and Monday he learned 1/4 of the English language!
Rio and I created our own little pidgin language. We adapted what each of us knew about the other's language and pooled our knowledge to create a full method of communication that allowed us to understand each other completely. I can't fully express the relief and comfort that come from being understood after a week of inquisitive looks. So, for all of those reasons, and most simply because he is still a child, Rio is my best friend in Indonesia. And when my parents come to visit, I fully intend to ask them to bring a big model car for us to build together!

1 comment:

  1. There is nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child... I'll be looking for a special model car for your best friend, Rio.
    Love, Mum xo