The more time that I spend in Congolese Villages, the more that I realize village life is not that different from city life, in principle. Adults go to work or work around the home and children go to school and “play.” What tends to look quite a bit different is how people pass their time.
I have yet to see a tv in a village, although I know that several families will share a radio and pass some time listening together when they have working batteries. Listening to the radio allows villagers to feel connected to the outside world, that is, to life outside their village. In the city, I have seen many adults run inside when the electricity comes on so that they can watch tv, usually before a big soccer match.
|A boy throws rocks at birds, girls dance and sing in background|
Children don’t have video games in either the village or city, that I have seen, and yet they still pass the time quite differently. In the village, passing the time for boys typically revolves around some sort of hunting – and thus – probably cannot be considered time wasting even if their prospects are futile. Usually, hunting means throwing rocks at or chasing wild animals and in most cases, their efforts only bring them fruit once or twice a year. Most boys in the cities are working instead of playing. They run around town trying to do odd, and often unwanted, jobs in hopes of earning cash. Usually these jobs include things such as shining shoes, selling boiled eggs, sausage, or sodas on the side of the road, working as in prompt to parking attendants, etc. In my experience, they are not gaining much fruit in these practices either, but it does pass the time and teach them about city life.
For girls in the village, passing time usually revolves around dancing and singing, which probably should not be considered wasting, as it tends to be a source of cultural learning and storytelling for them. No matter how long I watch what they are up to, I can’t seem to figure it out, although they never seem to miss a step. In Lubumbashi, most would consider water and electricity to still be scarce, even though it is easier to find than in villages. Girls then, because of the availability of resources, tend to play less in the city. They are usually fetching water, washing clothes, preparing meals, etc. and only spend time playing during break times at school.
In French the word for “villager,” villageois, sound exactly like the phrase, “joyful city,"ville à joie. Perhaps there is some reasoning behind that similarity. On the whole, African culture seems to be more laid back and more communal than American culture. But in village life, these differences are compounded. Perhaps we all could use a bit of ville à joie in our lives; less time working and more time enjoying life and those in it. Maybe this is the reason for the Sabbath rest, the 4th of the 10 commandments. It seems to me that long before the Sabbath was designated as a day to spend a few hours at church, it was meant to be a day of rest and simple enjoyment of life; a day where we didn’t have to toil and labor, but could trust the Lord to take care of us and to enjoy God’s Creation. Perhaps the villageois, have figured this out to some extent, or perhaps they have fewer distractions. Either way, I’d like to experience more of the joy that the Lord has to offer and enjoy more Sabbath in my life. Who’s with me?