Kids here in Jordan often play in the street without their parents nearby. The older ones take care of the younger ones. You can see their moms sometimes peek out the windows from their apartments. Yesterday, there were several kids gathered around the wall to our apartment, trying to pick the fruit from trees in our yard (I will call it mystery fruit, because I don’t know what it is yet). Two girls, ages 10 and 12 were the oldest of the pack, the smaller one pushing a stroller with a chubby baby brother and the other carrying her little sister. Sarah, the one pushing the stroller, age 10, assumed leadership of the group. Along with them were an assortment of around eight other siblings, friends and neighbors. When I first approached them, I could see apprehension in the older ones eyes, wondering if I would scold them for picking from the tree. Instead I welcomed them, asked their names and invited them in to have better access to the tree. The girls lifted the stroller through the gate and filled it up with the mystery fruit. I also let them get some grapes and pears from other trees in the garden (the house we are renting has several lovely fruit trees).
This evening, as Gary and I returned from church, we saw the group of kids waiting for us by our gate, stroller and all. In a polite and confidant voice, Sarah asked, “May I just have one word with you?” (In Arabic of course) I chuckled at the formality and maturity of the request coming from this skinny little ten year old girl. “We were wondering if we could exchange skills, we could teach you and your husband Arabic and you could teach us English. We have this rare opportunity now that we have foreigners living near us.” Her sincere brown eyes widened as she waited to see if I understood her request. The other kids all watched and remained silent so their little leader could speak. I told them we could practice speaking together whenever we come home after work. Sarah smiled with her cute little crooked teeth, chubby baby brother gurgled.
After chatting with them a bit, Gary and I told them goodnight and went inside. I remarked that I was expecting them to ask for more fruit when I saw them all waiting for us at our gate. I was impressed with their maturity and desire to learn English. We’ll plan on setting aside some time for the language exchange with the neighborhood kids that little Sarah proposed.
Edit: We found out that the Mystery Fruit is Ziziphus jujuba also called a Chinese, Korean or Indian date.