Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Changing Faces

* This article was written for the MCC Bangladesh Global Family Newsletter.

The girls at Baluchaura Mission quickly hid their giggles behind the nearest object, be it a book, a scarf, or their hand, as they silently disappeared into the nearest room. The boarding girls, like many girls here in Bangladesh, were very shy and embarrassed around us, the newly arrived foreigners. The girls are supported through MCC Bangladesh’s Global Family program and we were there not just to teach them English but to share in their lives and learn with them.

Baluchaura Mission is a small place, and the girls were always intrigued by our activities, swimming in the pond, singing on the roof, or joking in the dining room. But for the first few days, if it weren’t for our two English sessions a day, we would have been nearly unaware of the girls’ existence. Life for these girls includes daily chores, study times, cooking, and prayers. In comparison, our lives were devoid of work; never expected to exert ourselves, the time we tried to fill our own water buckets, Sean and I had barely begun before a line of girls appeared and the buckets were instantly full. Our initial days at the Mission we felt separated from daily life and routine, we were honored guests not close friends. We learned quickly that classes needed to be fun or the formality would stifle the joy of learning.

Our classes often revolved around songs. Singing was a gift our group shared, and we spent many hours singing. Using songs to teach English was a perfect fit. Repeating hits, especially action songs; the girls could listen and practice the words, it raised the energy level in the room, and it rejuvenated us. As the first week passed, we started to hear “Kumbaya” sung by the girls washing at the pump in the morning, “This Little Light of Mine” being rocked from the cooking fires behind the dorm, and the Moose song being stumbled through at full volume. We started to notice a change in the girls; instead of covering their faces and running away, they would offer a quiet “good morning” as we walked by.

The teaching of “Duck, Duck, Goose” was a breakthrough in building friendships with the girls. A spontaneous evening of silliness degenerated into raucous laughter and regenerated into the group favorite, “Duck, Duck, Goose”. Some evenings, after returning from an afternoon of visiting families, we would arrive at the Mission to a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose,” always made more entertaining by the antics of the crazy foreigners. The evening games and activities were always a time of joy and laughter.

With the use of our art supplies, games and of course, songs, we continued to connect on a deeper level with the girls at the Mission. They would often come tell me how much fun they were having with us. With a few days remaining at the Mission another change was noticed, the girls no longer ran away when they saw us, they came to talk, to ask us how we were, and to sing with us. No more covered faces, no more running away; we might have been guests, but we were also friends. Our time at Baluchaura Mission ended with a night of laughter, song and dance. The girls performed beautiful dances and we all sang our well rehearsed favorite songs together. Not only had we taught English and lived at Baluchaura Mission for two weeks, we had developed friendships, and had shared songs, games and memories with the girls. Leaving the girls at Baluchaura Mission was a challenging and powerful time. The power of friendship and laughter was starkly contrasted with the power of separation, and leaving our new friends. As Annika noted, “If it is hard to leave, then you must have done something right.” The tears shed upon our departure are a testament to the love and happiness that was shared in our short time together.

A quote that was shared by a number of the girls at the Mission as we were preparing to depart, is a testament to the power of friendship and happiness. Between tears the girls said, “Thank you so much! We have had so much fun with you! We can’t remember a time when we have ever had more fun! Please don’t leave; we want to keep having fun!” I pray that in their lives these girls will find many more occasions for joy and happiness, more memories to join the memories of our fun and laughter together.


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