My next door neighbor Upendo has three boys: Derrick, Dennis and Davis. My academic mistress has a girl and a boy: Ester and Elia. The swahili/english teacher has a boy and a girl: Frankie and Faradja. The school secretary has only a girl but her name is Brightness Bahati Bange. I have two students who sit right next to each other whose names are Katemi Katemi and Juma Juma. In the classroom next door there is Abhassan Hassan, Nock Nock and Raymond Romance. There is Mr. Tayari, whose name means Mr. Ready and of course I round out the the hilarity by having the funniest possible name for the only white teacher in sixteen hundred square kilometers.
Of Upendo's boys Derrick is the oldest: seven and very solemn. I like to ask him how his problems are (a common greeting here) because he always looks so world weary when he says that they are fine. He is the most respectful, well-behaved seven-year-old I have ever met too. He is enormously kind to his younger brother, very respectful with my things when he comes over to play and how excited he gets when he sees his mom and dad when they come back from work is frankly touching.
Davis is not quite a month old and obviously excruciatingly adorable. He and Upendo are spending her maternity leave lying together in bed almost all day, nursing, sleeping and snuggling. I've seen them apart exactly once so far. But they welcome visitors at any time of day and he is developing quite a bag of ticks to entertain. So far he can open his eyes all the way, yawn, grab your fingers, mew softly, smile and sigh.
But however much I love Derrick and Davis, Dennis is my favorite child in the world. He and I both arrived in Sadani on the 24th of November but his birthday is exactly one year before the day I moved in. Dennis isn't an angel like Derrick. He's a little brother and a little spoiled by Derrick, who almost always lets him have his way. He's only just learning to talk and sometimes he comes over while I'm working to play various games with me. In one game we call each others names for an extended periods of time in various emphatic ways: “Neva.” “Dennie.” “NEVA!” “DENNIE!” “Neva!” “Dennie!” “Neva.” “Dennie.” “Nevaaaaaaa.” “Dennnnnnnnnnie.” and so on. In another he touches his nose and I make a beeping noise until he stops or until I run out of breath. In another he points at various things and asks “what?” and I tell him the word for it. In another he sits on my chest and we roar at each other with lions. In another he simply tries to knock the breath out of me while I lie on the floor by sitting on my stomach as hard as he can. For some reason I am actually a huge fan of that last one.