Thursday, October 12
As most people who have worked with groups of children know, you always have a favorite. Sometimes you can try to hide it and pretend you don't, but you always do. My favorite boy at Beit 'Araja is Muhammad. One of the things that he is famous for is his tendency to say "mish ana" (not me) anytime that he misbehaves or thinks that someone might possible think he misbehaved. Sometimes when the house parents sit around after the kids are in bed, we tell the same stories about the same kids over and over again. Muhammad's stories are often the favorite. We have all encountered Muhammad's "mish ana." Here are some of the highlights of his denials.
1: Muhammad is sitting on his bed during naptime. His sheet has a huge hole torn in it. I come in the room and ask in Arabic, "who did this."
All of the boys begin to point and say, "Muhammad, Muhammad."
Muhammad thinks for a moment then says incredulously, "Mish ana, Kais." I look at him with doubt in my eyes. "Mish ana, Eyad." More doubt. "Mish ana, Forest." He rotates through his roommates two or three more times, before he finally says. "Sorry, it was me."
2: Muhammad is on his bicycle in the middle of the road. Jesse is lecturing him about not leaving the playground and about never, ever going into the road. Muhammad starts to click his tongue at Jesse (this is a rude way to say no) and loudly exclaims: "mish ana! Mish ana!" This is despite the fact that he is in the road as he proclaims that it was someone else who ran away.
3. It's nighttime, and I open the door to check on the boys. Muhammad is sitting on the middle of the floor, playing with cars, and he isn't wearing any pants. As soon as I open the door he jumps up, runs to his bed and starts to point at all of the other boys. This time, he just uses body language to say mish ana, as if they are the ones half naked and in the middle of the room.
4. Early one morning, Jesse goes into the boys' bedroom to check on them. They aren't being too loud, but it is before the time to get up. Muhammad, is lounging on Nabil's bed, close to the door. Apparently thinking someone is going to be in trouble, but not overly concerned, lazily throws his arm over his head and nonchalantly points at whoever is on the next bed. Even though he was still half asleep and didn't know if there was trouble or not, he was going to start casting blame.
As an epilogue, he is starting to do this less as he is realizing it does not work. Now, in order to stay out of trouble, he will run to the person. Hug them and say "Sorry, sorry, I love you habibi." (Habibi is a term of endearment, usually used for people younger than you). I'm sure we'll have stories of those attempts later on.