Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Visits Kazembe

And now for the back story:
Ever since our second Christmas here in Kazembe back in 2008, Tom has been excited about sharing a bit of Christmas fun with the children in the village.

The first year, he put on a Santa hat and walked through the village carrying a pillowcase filled with hard candy. He passed it out to every child he saw. They loved it and he had a really good time.

The second year, the kids were ready for him. They knew he was going to come around on Christmas Eve and they were all determined not to miss out on a chance to get a sweet. Crowds formed around Tom and our two sons almost as soon as they drove down to the village center, parked and began walking down the road. 

Trouble was, it wasn't just a few sweet, innocent children. It was teenagers and even grown people as well. Before long, a near riot had begun. Tom and the boys had to make a run for it, tossing candy far off into the distance to create a diversion. Tom left Timmy behind to toss candy and keep the crowd occupied while he made a break for the car and started the engine. As soon as the car was running, Timmy threw the remaining candy into the crowd and ran for the already moving vehicle and jumped into the back. Tom promised himself he would never do that again!

In 2010, Tom came up with an excellent plan. He would creep through the village in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, scattering candy on the ground near the houses for the children to discover upon awakening on Christmas morning. He would be just like the real Santa Claus.

To avoid problems, Tom let the police know what he was planning and at 2 AM Tom and Timothy headed out into the darkness with 3,000 hard candies ready to cover the ground like modern day manna.

He came home tired but so happy as he thought about how pleased the children would be. He slept in that morning as visions of colored candies danced in his head.

Around noon on Christmas Day Tom got a call from the police department. He was told that all the candies had been gathered up by the villagers and turned in to the police. The villagers were convinced that the candy had been left on the ground by Satanists. When the police explained that it was Tom, they said, "No, he always comes in the daytime!". Nothing would change their minds so the police made out like bandits in the candy department that year.

This year, with a new Santa suit to play with, Tom had a new plan. He would sit outside one of the shops high up on some steps and have the kids come up one by one to get their sweets. Knowing that crowd control can be an issue he hired some young men (along with our teenagers) to help keep the kids in line--literally. To avoid anyone getting candy and then rejoining the line, permanent markers were purchased to draw a line on each child's hand.

The day approached and Tom was so excited! As you can see from the video, he rode a trailer into the village, hoisted his huge sack filled with 10,000 candies onto his back and prepared to make the children of Kazembe very, very happy. 

I wasn't around to witness what came next. So, here is Timmy with the account:

Well, first, I jumped down from the trailer and began pushing my way through the crowd forming a path for Santa Claus. Once I thought there was a bit of order, my dad pulled the bag of candy off the trailer which excited the children and they began to swarm toward him. I pulled kids and pushed them away, allowing Santa Claus to walk up the stairs to the porch where his chair was.
The children's excitement was almost too much too handle as they pushed and shoved trying to climb up the steps. I continued to push them back leaving a clean line for Santa.
This was the first year where we would have an orderly system of passing out the candy so the urchins did not know what to expect.
Santa Claus teased the crowd by lifting up handfuls of candy and allowing them to fall back into the bag. By this time, the crowd had grown to around 7,000 children.

Santa gave the order and I looked into the crowd for the first child that caught my eye. I found a small girl around 7 years old, with torn brown clothes and a shaved head. I held her hand over her head to identify my actions to the crowd. They all observed in noisy amusement as I drew an X onto her palm. I then pulled her up onto the porch and Santa gave her a handful of candy. 

Not a second after that, every child in the crowd realized the key to getting candy and charged toward Christina and I holding out their hands for the 'mark'. That was the trigger that caused the chaos. It became a blur of screaming children. I tossed children right and left trying to protect Santa Claus. The kids began climbing onto each other and it looked like a scene from a mosh pit.

Just when I thought the area was secure and clear of children, I looked behind me and saw 5 children who had climbed up and were scrambling for candy right out of the bag. I ran over and started pulling kids off. For every child I pulled off, two more took his place. I grabbed one very large child and using great force managed to pull him off the candy only to find it was a grown man with a scruffy beard. He said, "Don't worry about me. No, no, don't worry about me!" I let go of him in my surprise and he dove right back into the bag of candy. 

Next thing I knew, my father and his 'bodyguards' started throwing the candy into the crowd where the children scrambled around on the ground picking it up. With the kids distracted, we ran for the car, clutching the empty sack, and drove away grateful that no one had been hurt.

I wonder what plan we'll come up with for next year......

Related post: Christmas Candy Toss (2009)


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