On Tuesday we sat on the dusty floor and bounced balls back and forth to each other, laughing when our balls would crash into each other and go flying. Then, after an hour of that, he produced a huge stack of miniature cards deep from within the pocket of his navy blue shorts--the remains of his school attire from studying in the morning. We then sat for another hour surrounded by stacks of cards, carefully cupping our hands and slapping the floor trying to flip the stacks of cards over. I am pretty sure that I was losing miserably after several rounds as my stack of cards was dwindling, but I made a sad face and noted how many more cards he had than me. So, he gathered together a stack from his pile and added them to mine. Pretty sure that goes against all the rules... Then, it was time to go home. We waved good-bye and said, "see you tomorrow."
On Wednesday he popped right in the door after lunch. He came running to meet me. He found the balls, and we started playing again. We bounced balls. We laughed. He told me that tomorrow we would play the card game again. Ok? Ok. But on Wednesday, I had to leave early. I had a class to get to, but I assured him we would play tomorrow. So, I waved good-bye.
On Thursday he came to the door and ran inside. I saw his eyes scan the room before he saw my face among the sea of white faces. We found balls and played basketball with hoops made out of cardboard boxes and duct tape tied to the grates of the front gate. We found rackets and a birdie and played badminton. And, as promised, we played the card game again. I was still not very good at it, but he taught me a new way to do it that is a little easier (and might be the way 3-year-olds play). We chased each other. We growled like tigers. We laughed. A lot. He pretty much has the best giggle ever. Seriously.
On Friday he came back. We played some cards. We drew pictures. He drew a picture of me, and a picture of his house. We bounced balls. We growled like tigers. We did puzzles. But, then I had to go out for a while because I had work to do. So, I made sure to tell him that I had to go but would come back. In the meantime, he could stay and play with others.
An hour and a half later I returned and was greeted with an attack hug while I was still standing in the doorway. I was pulled inside. I was shown the many "tattoos" that had occurred all over his arms and legs (and the other boys) while I was out. (Maybe we should have put those markers away...) Then, he drew a brown airplane on a sheet of yellow construction paper and asked me where I wanted to go. He assured me that he knew how to fly an airplane, and he could take me anywhere I wanted to go. So, we went to Australia and China and America and England. He would ask where I wanted to go, and then get up and "fly" his plane around the room and come back and ask where next?
But, there is no airplane that can take me to a place that my heart would be happier than sitting with this new 9-year-old friend growling like a tiger.