Kids definitely are not coddled here in Mozambique. While they are obviously well loved, parents here just don't worry nearly as much as they do in the States. I frequently see five year olds that have their infant siblings strapped to their back with a capulana while their parents are off at work or doing some other household activity. But the most blatant example of this is when the preschool students (the preschool and I share a front yard) leave for the day. In the States, there would be crowds of parents waiting to pick up their kids . . . but here the five year olds attempt to help the three year olds find their way home from school. This surprisingly usually works out fairly well, but sometimes has sad results.
The other week, Zach was basically given a 3 year old girl to take to the mission . . . but the preschool had already ended. And no one knew who the girl was. She didn't speak any Portuguese and when asked in Chitswa where she lived, she just shrugged. Anyways, I ended up watching that girl for about two hours or so, until the mission's empregada carried her home. Apparently her parents finally found her the next morning.
This week I was walking from the school to my house for lunch and I ran into another little girl who was about three years old and was just sobbing. It was really sad, and I couldn't just keep on walking. So, guessing that she either leaving or going to the preschool (they have an afternoon and a morning class), I grabbed her hand and started walking towards the compound. She continued to sob, so then I just picked her up and continued to walk down the hill. At home, this would probably be cause for concern, and I still kind of feel like I'm stealing a child, or that someone is going to run after me. People definitely gave me some odd looks, but no one said anything about the fact that I was walking down the hill with a child that obviously was not my own. Luckily, the preschool teachers did know who this little girl was, she had just gotten lost on her way from home to school and I can only hope she also made it back home!