Sunday, July 23, 2006

City life, village life

It’s two weeks before Baby’s August holidays, and she is impatiently counting every minute. They close on the 4 August and open on the 5 September.

The plan is that Baby spends part of the holiday visiting my family at the village of Phokeng, where I come from. The arrangement is not unusual - for many Black South African kids, juggling life in the city and the village is an accepted way of life.

During the school term, Black city kids live with their working parents or relatives, going to school and enjoying a western-sort of life where watching DVD’s, playing video/computer games and hang out at the mall is the norm.

During school vacations, they go to the village of their parents’ origin to visit their grandparents, uncles and aunts. There, they are confronted with an entirely different way of living, where the hierarchy between older and younger children is pronounced, the native language is used and restaurants don’t deliver fast food.

Village-bound kids also look forward to the school holidays, as they present the girls with the opportunity to visit their city-based relatives.


As a mother of an 8 year old girl, and a former rural girl who looked forward to city holidays, here are some of the reasons I maintain the practice

• The visit helps my daughter get in touch with our roots in the village.
• The visit gives her the chance to get in touch with her culture and language
• It’s fun
• It’s a source of pride to have roots among other city kids.


1. There is a bigger gap between parents and kids
A rural girl is bound my more tradition and norms than a city girl. So when they get to the village, they may find that things they are used to doing, even the way they are allowed to speak to adults is different. In rural areas, traditionally men socialise with other men, women with other women and girls with other girls their age. So a child who is used to engaging her parents in conversation may find dealing with the distinct groupings hard.

2. Adapting to different norms
The child has to learn to be a chameleon and adapt to new ways of interaction. For example, in Western culture usually practices in cities, when you enter someone else’s home, you wait to be invited to sit down. Among many African cultures, it’s rude to remain standing in someone else’s home, so as soon as you enter the living room /kitchen, you must sit down. Also, giving people a direct look, which in Western culture depicts honesty is just plain rude among Black South African people. And always, always greet a person who is older than yourself when you meet them in the village street.

3. Life could be boring if you are not creative with your entertainment
The village has fewer extra curricular resources than the city.

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