Lessons From Yonga

“Don’t look now, but guess who’s staring at you,” Jabali whispered, glancing at the rose bushes behind Pendo.

“Not Yonga again!” Pendo shrieked, jumping up and turning to scan the bush.

The dolls were having a picnic under the big Jacaranda tree outside Doll Cottage. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. They had washed down their peanut butter sandwiches with strawberry lemonade and were basking on the big Masai blanket, taking a break before bringing out the special banana ice cream Doll Lady had made. Amani was strumming his Nyatiti and Doll Lady tapped her foot, humming as she crocheted. Everything was perfect.

That is, except for Yonga the chameleon, who had a habit of just ruining everyone’s peace. (The dolls had nicknamed him Yonga from the word kinyonga which is Swahili for chameleon)

At first, Pendo didn’t see him because he was blending into the yellow roses.
The last time she had seen him he’d been avocado green like the leaves on the tree he’d been hiding in. Now she scooted closer to Doll Lady as she made contact with Yonga’s beady eyes. Yonga did a slow little jig, took a step forward, then shot his tongue out and caught a cricket, which disappeared like magic into his mouth.
Yonga’s throat danced as the cricket went down, and he seemed to smile, satisfied.

“Eeewww!” Jameela said, scooting closer to Doll Lady as well. “Why does Yonga follow us around? He’s so annoying!”

“I caught him looking in through the window yesterday,” said Fadhili. “He’s always staring with his beady eyes.”

“Go away,” Mwenzi shouted, throwing a leaf at the bushes where Yonga had last been lounging and eating bugs.

“That’s not going to scare him,” Jabali said. “Try this.” He picked up a yellow and green leftover yarn ball and threw it, hitting the rose bush and shaking it.
Yonga turned and sped off into the bushes, moving shakily but faster than usual. He curled his tail, which was now dark brown, round a branch to help himself move upwards.

“Let’s scare him with yarn balls,“ Fadhili suggested.

“Yes!” “Yarn Ball Power!” “Woohoo!”

The dolls each picked a small ball of yarn from Doll Ladies leftovers basket and threw them into the bushes where they had last seen Yonga.

“I don’t see him now,” Pendo said, when they were all tired of playing dodge ball with poor Yonga, who really didn’t like the game and was now hiding. “We can have our ice cream without strange eyes staring at us.”

“A chameleon changes colour to match the earth. The earth does not change colour to match the chameleon,” Doll Lady said when the dolls had settled down with their ice cream.

“Yes,” I guess you are right!” Mwenzi said, looking at her curiously.

“It’s an African proverb that I just remembered,” Doll Lady said. “I know Yonga can be annoying, but there are some things we can learn from him. From all chameleons, actually.”

“Like what?” Jameela asked, looking doubtful.

“Well, like how to adapt,” she said. “Do you know what that means?

“Yes,” Jameela said, nodding her head. “Now I get it. The earth, the trees and flowers won’t change to hide Yonga, so Yonga has to change if he wants to hide.

“Yes,” said Doll Lady, “and sometimes we too have to change to adapt to things we can’t change.

“I’ve adapted to not being able to see with my eyes,” Amani said. “I can walk wherever I like with my cane and I can hear really well.”

“Yes, that’s why your music is so good,” Doll Lady agreed. Now, hurry up all of you and pick up all the yarn that you threw into the bush.”

The dolls got up and carefully started picking up the yarn around the rose bush. Guess who was right there behind some leaves still staring but quite harmless. Yonga, of course.


Did you know…

A chameleon’s tongue can be twice as long as it’s body and can move very fast. It can catch an insect in a fraction of a second, with the help of it’s super sticky saliva. Now that’s real fast food!
A chameleon can rotate each of it’s eyes in a different direction to look at two different objects in different directions at the same time.


Change your colour

This week, think of something you can’t change that you would like to adapt to. For example, if the line for lunch at school is really long, you can’t change that but you can find something to do in the line, like making a new friend by talking to the person next to you, memorizing your tables or composing a poem in your mind so you don’t feel impatient.





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