Kids do the darndest things

By Brian Burgess
July 11, 2017

Kids really do the darndest things, no matter where you are in the world.

Kids do the darnedest things Brian
Kids playing. Photo by Peace Corps Senegal

In general, I have found the kids here to be particularly polite, but still with a great sense of entertainment. As a kid lover, I often consider children’s behavior quite endearing. The same cannot be said for the parents of those children. I would like to share one of my favorite memories of kids in Senegal with you.  

In my Community-Based Training, where volunteers are assigned to a host family for language learning in their first few months in country, my brother Dauda had a very resounding and particular “uh” sound that comes out with a sharp sense of astonishment when he is in conversation. I don’t think it’s really uttered every time something amazing is said because it’s done at a surprising frequency. Nonetheless, it’s a rather contagious mannerism from a man with a rather strong positive personality. Sadly, I think I even started to adopt it since it was so often heard. 

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Peace Corps Volunteer Brian posing with school kids after painting a world map mural. Photo by Volunteer Jennifer

Dauda also has a cute young son named Pamoud who is about one and a half years of age. He is a stunning depiction of what his father must have looked like as a child as Pamoud looks only like his father. At such a young age, he doesn’t speak much more than this particular “ah” sound that his father makes and I have had many a conversation with him using only this. 

I look at him and say, “uh,” and he would smile ear to ear and respond with, “ah.” We would continue this for about a minute or two before I grew tired. I was never sure what was communicated in these discussions, but they seemed immensely satisfying and intellectually stimulating for him. I hope that if he continues to have discussions like these with people for the rest of his infancy, he will be an academic of sorts in no time!

I have found the kids here to be particularly polite, but still with a great sense of entertainment.

We also had a young girl of similar age named Awa who was around the house for a while. One day the two children had a plastic yellow hose that they were playing with. As children in their Freudian oral stage, they felt compelled to put the ends of the hose in their mouths: one end in Pamound’s and another in Awa’s. I almost died of laughter when they held the hose at length, about a meter and a half, and began to have a vibrantly baritone conversation that sounded a little like this: 

“eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh”

“eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh”

“eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh” “uh” “eh”

Which I think translates to something like this:

  • “Wow! Your breath tastes really good.”
  • “I’m glad that this conversation is being held privately within this tube.”
  • “The boogers dripping from your face are really cute!”
  • “Oh look! A metal door that I can make a deafening clanging-sound with if I bang on it really hard!”
  • “I love how much you rebel with your family! So attractive.”

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! 

Pamoud’s Mother: “My child is so rude.”

Brian in Village, Senegal
Volunteer Brian working with counterpart at site. Photo by Brian
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