I met Taise first, back in March, huge baby Pius slung on her slim hip. But since then I see them often, working in the Sisters’ garden in return for food or some money. Paul attended a summer education programme and is now avidly interested in computers. Both of them come and look over my shoulder as I send emails in the chicken shed.
[Did I ever describe our internet access? It's redolent with Bond-esque subterfuge. Enter a grubby old shed, press one button and a huge bank of high-tech gadgetry rises from the floor, all dials and levers and gleaming chrome, as behind you a lake drains away to reveal a giant satellite dish. Actually that's not true- enter a grubby old shed, bring your own laptop, plug in a blue network cable and hey presto, satellite internet as long as it’s not too cloudy or stormy or otherwise inclement. Our shed is peopled with modem, wheelbarrow, chicken feed which is subject to ongoing chicken raids, leftover cardboard boxes, handwoven reed bags, fuel in huge drums, broken equipment, wistful hungry dog, dead car batteries, fish drying, laundry buckets, a vast collection of pointer brooms and two worn truck tyres.]
I am not sure how clearly Paul and Taise understand the reach of the internet, but their short online chat with my sister Naomi about a month ago made a big impression on them. They asked me to put them ‘on the internet’ so you can all read about them. When it came to the crunch, however, they were tongue-tied.
Paul and Taise with the church bell
There are eight children in the family. Paul is the fifth and Taise the sixth. (See http://jmbroscombe.blogspot.com/2009/08/day-one-hundred-and-seventy-two-last.html for some of the others).
Paul says "my favourite things are fishing and reading. I love reading storybooks bad". Taise loves playing with the Sisters’ table football. When I asked what they think is the best thing about Aishalton, Taise said that Aishalton has jumbies- she couldn't think of a compliment. Paul said Aishalton would be best by keeping our village and environment clean. He thinks the best things are going to school and coming to church, but Taise interjected indignantly he doesn't come to church as much as she does.
Both of them like school. Paul's favourite subject is mathematics, but he likes all the work. When I asked about dislikes they weren't so sure, but Paul doesn’t like the floor when the dust is blowing in his eyes (the concrete was recently re-laid but it's powdering up to oblivion). Taise says "I like reading and drawing. I like the hot meal. But I don't like when people fighting me. Paul does fight me sometimes".
The difficulties in Paul's life are the exams at school, and the cows that come into the compound: "and I have to chase, and it be hard, and my hand is blister", he said, showing me his small brown callused mitt. Taise's hardest memory is when she went to Kayu’s birthday and got left alone in the dark. Neither of them mention the gardening, or hunger, or looking after younger siblings. These are the fabric of life, not the negotiables.
When I asked "If you could change one thing in your life to make it better, what would that one thing be?", Taise immediately answered "A dolly". Paul said "By not fighting when they calling me by names at school (like jumbies they calling me)". Oh, and a toy gun.
The last question is a hoary old chestnut: 'What would you like to do in the future?' Paul says he'll train to be a police and stop people fighting. Taise wants to train to be a nurse.
So what is their message to the world, via the mysteries of the internet?
Paul tells the world to stop fighting and stop drinking.
Taise says stop playing jumbie.
Both Paul and Taise are intrigued by the idea of the world outside Aishalton. But from a life of knocks, they are canny and cautious. They aren't taking too much as read in the fact/fiction department. If you have any reply to them, please leave a comment below this blog, and I will pass it on.