The first day I meet the children, we sit in the dirt, on a flat ground beneath the rolling hills of beanstalks and maize and pumpkin patches, pulling bean pods from their stalks. The women and children laugh and talk in Timbuka. I sit and do my work. A girl with thin arms and full lips sits next to me, separating the brown bean pods and the green ones into two piles. We are quiet until I ask for her name.
Charity, she says.
That’s a very pretty name.
Thank you. Beside her is a plastic bowl, and she begins to place stray beans in it, ones that had fallen out of their pods.
How old are you, Charity?
I am twelve years old. Her English is measured and clear, a mix between the British accent she learned in school and the thick Malawian dialect, with its interchangeable r’s and l’s, its emphasis on the last letter of every word.
Do you have any brothers and sisters? This to me is a universal question to ask a twelve-year-old.
Yes, she says. I have five-ee.
Five! That’s a lot. Are any of them here? I point to the other children pulling bean pods from their stalks.
No, she says. There are no more.
I decide my first lesson will be on the past tense.
About the author
Mandy Berman recently returned from teaching English and Math to AIDS orphans in Malawi, Africa. She currently writes for the online travel guide, Dguides.com,…Read the full bio
Issue 10 · September 2010
Table of contents
- From the editors
- Postcard Prose
- Travel Notes