Tuesday, September 17, 2013

66. Meet Seni

Seni in his Penn State hat

Name:  Arsenio Julio Sardinha
Nickname(s):  Seni, Archie
Age:  15-17 years old (he maintains that he was born in 1996, which would make him 17 years old.  But he’s awfully tiny.  He claims that his short stature comes from carrying too much water on his head.)
Likes:  Reading, practicing English, laughing, telling stories, jabbering
Dislikes:  Adults (most of them), people who drink
Catch phrase:  “Sabes o que?...”  “You know what?...” followed by a long and detailed explanation

The self-described “bouncing ball” of Zobue-Vila, Seni is the youngest son of a man who never wanted children.  He has no idea who his mother is, where she lives, or if she’s even still alive.  He spent the first few years of his life being passed from relative to relative, moved constantly and shipped between houses and family members.  Then, about six years ago, his father arranged a place for him in Zobue, where he still resides today.

Though Seni is technically living with his aunt (Tia Anabella), he doesn’t always feel welcome in her home.   It’s for this reason that he spends a lot of time playing in our yard, sitting on our porch, or wandering around the neighborhood.  

Of all of the kids in the neighborhood, Seni is by far our favorite child.  He’s the funniest, the most well-spoken, and the most interesting child.  He’s the only one who uses our house as a lending library (though everyone else knows that we have books available), and the only one who actually expresses a real interest in practicing his English.  

There’s so much about Seni that makes him special.  For one, he’s truly clever.  He makes jokes in Nyungue, in Portuguese, and in English, and they’re always very funny.  Here’s him teasing Dan after learning his adjectives in English:

“Dann-ee, you are fat.  Yesterday, you are fat.  Today, you are fatter.  Tomorrow, you are fattest.”

He draws big, detailed pictures for us that we stick to the wall (he has a section reserved just for him), and sometimes he asks for leftover English tests that he can take for practice.  In March and April of this year, he organized his own informal school in our yard, where he taught classes for the smallest kids in the neighborhood.  

He has his flaws, of course.  He’s prone to extreme moodiness, and periods of silence.  Sometimes he won’t come over for weeks on end, or he’ll simply sit on our porch without talking.  We’ve learned that these mood swings come from external sources (his home life), and are nearly impossible to reverse.  Instead, we just fix him a cup of tea and, together, wait it out.  

His favorite book is “Não Faz Mal Estar Triste,” or It’s Okay to be Sad.

He’s a complex little individual, and one who I believe is truly and honestly, perfectly good.

He was near tears the other day, as Dan and I discussed our plans for going home to the States.

“Why do you only come for two years?”  He asked.  He looked down at the ground.  “I mean, it’s just enough time for all of us to get close to you, and then you go away.  It’s like you’re always going away.  All of you.”

If I could take anybody home with me to the United States, I would take him.  But what place is there for him at home?  

Of all the kids-- of all the people-- that I’ve met in Mozambique, my feelings towards him are the closest to love.  

Seni and his new-born second cousin, Ephraim

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