One of the things I appreciate most in living in Congo specially when we travel is to observe how the congolese spend their time.
Life in Congo is hard. Hard beyond concept to us – spoiled westerners used to having water at home, supermarket with all the vegetables and world-wide food at hand, not mentioning the living commodities that we all take for granted in our houses.
Life in Congo is hard specially to the congolese. I often see the women carrying heavy buckets of water followed by their shoeless children through muddy sands in roadless streets.
From dawn until dust they work. Most of the times in a slow pace and in the peak of the heat. I often think what if it was me? What if I had been born here in Congo what would my life be like? I look at these people eyes and I see my face in them, the same hopes and the same fears but under different circumstances.
Life is hard specially to the congolese. So when it’s weekend and I go out of Point Noir, I try to see what they do and how they enjoy themselves.
The answer is quite surprising. The congolese sit when they have nothing to do. They enjoy just being and sitting alone or together. They are comfortable with being bored. They don’t feel the need to fill their time with activities, they don’t look for TV for distraction, and the children don’t play with toys because very seldom they have. So they sit.
Sometimes it seems that we – raised in fast doing paced societies get usually uncomfortable with ourselves. As if we have to have something to distract us from thinking too much or maybe that is the exact problem we think too much and we need the outside world to prevent us from looking directly at what is happening within ourselves.
The congolese have a hard life and they are acutely aware of how difficult it is.
So on the weekends I see the children sitting in plastic chairs playing with something they found near by, usually plastic garbage. And if it’s the aftermath of a rainy morning they will be playing in the muddy puddles. The elders will be enjoying their company most of the times without speaking. Other times they will be enjoying the sound of the local radio as hours fly by.
But if by any chance, we go near the beach, then some of the children will be putting sand to block the roads and if our cars get stuck we will suddenly be helped ( in exchange of a symbolic contribution) by the whole village who will do their best with shovels to release our car wheels from the sand pits they had previously built.
Sometimes when I look at the children so patiently waiting and observing what is around them, I can’t help thinking on my own children. I’m afraid that I haven’t allowed them and helped them to be bored. I am always giving them distractions or things to do, or suggesting thing to play or activities to go. So I’m trying to have them learn to be in touch with themselves respecting the silence around them and to be comfortable with the inner silence or not that it may arise for not having anything to do.
Sometimes it’s good to just be instead of doing. Life is hard in Congo specially for the congolese but in the mist of their hardships they know more about themselves than most of us. I wonder it they realise that too.