Patrick and William are my sister Yvette’s two youngest children and are about 4 and 2 years old respectively. These munchkins spend their days running around the village, causing a ruckus and generally living out every boy’s dream. In this place, no one is a stranger and there is no danger of being kidnapped, so kids are free to roam at will. Patrick and William might disappear for hours on end but their mother remains unconcerned, assuring me they must be at their grandparents’ house or playing in the creek. Besides “don’t talk to strangers”, “don’t run with scissors” is another phrase never heard in the jungles of North Ambae. It is rare to see Patrick without a machete twice the length of his arm, and even William likes to wander about with a knife clutched in his chubby toddler’s hand.
William is a loving, smiling little guy and unbeknownst to him made my transition here a little easier. One of the first nights I was in Quatamwele we were having a goodbye for the former volunteer and amidst the speeches, the tears, and the eating; William kept coming over to me and climbing in my lap. His mother was appalled at his boldness and in embarrassment tried to scold him. But he was undeterred and nestled himself into my arms. William has started to talk but only speaks the local language. Sometimes we will have a conversation—me speaking Bislama and him speaking a mixture of language and toddler gibberish—and although neither of us knows what the conversation is about, William will cock his head as if listening closely to me and I will nod in understanding at his undoubtedly profound statements. He has earned many nicknames from his mother and me including “Man Bush” for his affinity for taking off his pants and “Hurricane” for his propensity to destroy plants in the garden with his ever present knife.
Patrick is a precocious thing and is going through the phase where he just wants to be a big kid like his siblings (I don’t have the heart to tell him that longing will last into his adult years until he finally reaches 21 and thanks God he’s not old and boring like his siblings J). Every morning his little voice sings out, “Gud moning Mac!” and sometimes he will simply poke his head around my door and say, “Hey!” Today as I sat in my house working, he came by and stated: “Hea blo yu i naes.” (basically he told me my hair looked good today). What a flirt. Patrick is clever and observant and always making me laugh with his unexpectedly on target remarks. When he recently went to Vila with his parents, his mom told me every white woman he saw he would grab her arm and say excitedly, “Look! It’s Momi Mac!” She would have to explain it was someone else and his face would fall in disappointment. Although he’s a good older brother, sometimes I will catch Patrick poking William with a stick or throwing seeds at him until William starts to cry and Patrick adopts an innocent look on his face.
These two keep me laughing with their antics and charm me with their loving ways. In our “family” they are supposed to call me Momi and they have taken on my new role with enthusiasm. They come to me with special rocks to show me, they cry to me when they skin their knees, and William is even comfortable enough to pee right on the floor of my house. I knew I wasn’t ready for kids yet!