Alice leads us into the simple classroom and forty, six- year olds jump to attention at the side of their simple wooden desks.

“Good morning, honored vee-see-tors,”, they chorus at a signal from Alice.

A slight young woman, Alice is the lead teacher for the brand new Makumira-Kilala English Medium Primary School.  Built by the Diocese with funds from a congregation in California, this is phase one of the development.  Three classes, pre-school, kindergarten and standard one,  have been recruited to inaugurate the school.  Each year at least one more standard will be added as the children progress.

Alice introduces us as visitors from America.  The children continue their greeting in perfect unison singing/shouting songs and verses in English. “For God so Loved the World……”,”you are very welcome visitors…”

Delighted, we clap, say asante sana, thank you, thank you and marvel at their energetic performance in English, a third language for them after their local dialect and Swahili.  They are given permission to sit down.

Now it is our turn, we say our names and where we are from.  They are polite but do not register much until we ask if we can teach a song?

Lined up along the front of the room, ten Americans begin to sing, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes.”, touching our heads shoulders, knees and toes and “eyes and ears and mouth and nose.”  The students look first at their teacher before grinning broadly. Then they are on their feet, singing along as we go through the song, one time, two times…until the children collapse in giggles and the Americans catch their breath.

We have connected across age, culture and language dividing us.

As first time visitors to this culture, we sometimes feel like intruders, sometimes like voyeurs to their struggles, all the time as separate from a way of life we do not understand. We try not to bring too many judgments to a context so different from our own. In observing, we are aware of how much divides us, how much we do not know. Yet, this simple encounter reminds us that children everywhere like to move, to sing, to see adults being foolish. They have learned the English for head and shoulders, we have learned what we have in common. It is a joy.