The best way I have found to slow Jude down while on a walk through our village is to make him wear shoes. 🙂 Only while his feet are constrained to civilized attire will he actually WALK with me (as opposed to run) as we visit our friends here. Life is like that for Jude-full speed ahead and hard to slow him down. And he loves it! So try to keep up as I assist you in shadowing Jude for a day.
Jude believes the day starts early, at about 5:30-6:00am, right about when all the roosters in the village are cocka-doodle-dooing like crazy and just when the sun it started to peak through his curtains. He refers to the morning as, “It’s a sun shiny day!” and wastes no time in getting started playing while Iris keeps sleeping in her pack-n-play. Usually by the time Tom is already out in his office (6:30am) and I am up (6:30-7:00am) Jude has already rearranged every toy in his room, played on his train track, woken Iris up and maybe filled her bed with every moveable object in the room. Or maybe he has already stood in his window and had “conversations” with our neighbors as they make their breakfast! Our neighbors get a kick out of Jude talking at them, and I’m just glad they are early risers, too!
After Jude has had his breakfast his first question is usually, “Mommy, can I please go outside?” Even at 8am it is usually already hot enough that Jude has downsized his outfit to just his underwear and even though I tell myself I need to force him to wear clothes more, I empathize with the sweaty little guy and usually say “sure” in spite of his minimal attire. 🙂 About five months ago we had a Tigak friend make us a fence around our house so that Jude would be able to have a clear perimeter with in which he was allowed to play within my ear shot, yet with plenty of space to be a boy. In our yard we have done our very best to give Jude plenty of options to keep him happy and busy! The longer we live here and get to know people the more we have learned who can do what and who is willing to put in a day of work at our place. Because of several talented Tigak friends Jude now has a sand box and monkey bars, and thanks to his Dad and I he has a great tire swing too!
Little friends for Jude are plentiful and there is rarely a time he is outside that there is not a pack of kids around him. He calls his friends his “children” (LOL!) and although they cannot communicate too well with each other, they can always manage to play and Jude loves it. Whenever Jude has friends to play with, it is extra crucial that I am within ear shot and can check on him frequently! Squabbles and arguments are common I am always surprised at how quickly a little kid with a huge bush knife can show up and want to let Jude play with it! Just today I let Jude go outside with his cardboard and duct tape sword I made him (why yes, it is the best sword ever :D) and it took about 10 minutes for another little kid to start sword fighting with him. Thing is, the other kid was battling with a real knife! *yipes!* Hmmmm, cardboard against steel, I wonder which will win?
It’s quite a challenge training a 3-year old to have good behavior in this cross cultural context in which Jude is really the only child being expected to behave well, but we are doing our best and Jude is doing well and learning a lot about what to do when a kid is mean, hits him or if he is mad about something. There is never a dull moment but we are proud of how Jude is doing.
And then there is “the tree.” We have a massive tree in our back yard that has become Jude’s favorite spot to be. I’m not sure if it’s the huge tangled roots he can climb on, the fact that the tree is right next to a main pathway through the village or the nice shade it gives but whatever the reason, Jude is obsessed with it. He will sit on it’s roots and wait for people to pass by so he can tell them about something that happened with Percy (a train) or quote lines from the Lorax movie. I will often check on him to find him surrounded by people (often even adults) who have joined him on the tree roots, just listening to him go on and on and laugh. It is quite hilarious!
When Jude is inside the house he also has many options of things to do. When we first moved to PNG we had hardly any toys for Jude. Now, over two years later I cannot believe what we have accumulated! Family, friends and other missionaries here in PNG have been super generous and passed along toys to our kids. Jude loves trains (Thomas the train in particular) so he spends hours playing with his wooden train track and little trains among many other things…
Whenever I walk around the village and visit people, if the kids are awake they come with me. Jude is such a social little kid and our Tigak friends love him. The more Tigak phrases Jude can say the happier people are with talking to him but even if he isn’t quoting Tigak he always entertains. Jude loves to make himself welcome at people’s homes and I often have to stop him from climbing up into huts. 🙂 No one ever gets mad at him, they all just laugh a lot when he is around! These walks around the village give me many opportunities to try not to panic and pray silently for Jude’s safety as he is offered food by little friends with snot running down their faces, gets touched and prodded by ring worm covered kids and sometimes gets chased by very mean dogs. So far though, Jude (and Iris) have both stayed happy and healthy. Jude knows his way around many paths on our island pretty well and at certain places I can even tell him to go home ahead of me if I am caught in a conversation and he is tired of waiting. He’s even becoming a pro at putting the jungle foliage to good use when he needs to “go potty.” 🙂
Occasionally, maybe once or twice a month Jude gets to play in the ocean. In spite of the fact that we live on a small island, Jude doesn’t swim as much as you might think. (Mommy’s busy trying to learn a language people! :D) Sometimes though, mommy agrees to take him to the water and that is always a blast for him. Recently in early December, a whole slew of boys wanted to hang around with Jude while he played in the water and by the end of the brief 30 minute splash fest, Jude had taught them all the song “jingle bells,” his favorite of the holiday season. For weeks after I would randomly hear a kid screeching “jingle jells, jingle jells, jingle all da way…” down the paths around the island. LOL
As of only a week or so ago Jude’s life has gotten even more wonderful with the return of our partners the Beall’s to the village and his only three “white” friends. These are three of our partners kids. 🙂 He just loves to play with them and I am honestly impressed with how well the Beall kids put up with him even when he is standing next to the edge of our fence (his boundary line) and calling to one of the kids inside their house, “Zachary! You better come out here and see me! I need to play with you now!”. Haha! Spending time being baby sat by “Auntie Aimee” is also a blast for both our kids. That happens at least once every two weeks and is always a treat.
So, all in all Jude’s life is a big blast for him really. Don’t get me wrong-he is not a perfect kid! There are days when he is a big ol’ pill and thinks all of his wonderful options for a fun time are lame. 😛 Although Jude’s life is very different from the life of an American kid as he plays outside in his underwear and that’s ok, rides in boats, sees cars only a few times a year and is learning how to paddle a canoe earlier than most kids are starting preschool…it’s a great life and he is honestly thriving!