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What do you do?

William Deng, a young boy at his hut in Aweil, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – Medair.

This is the conversation I had yesterday with William Deng, an 18-year-old humanitarian worker who lives in a small hut with his family on the outskirts of Aweil, South Sudan:

– What do you do when you finish work? – I collect firewood with my father. – Yes. OK. But what do you do in your spare time? – I’m at home. – Fine, but what do you do at home? – ? – I mean if you do something, like reading… – Ah! I understand. No. I don’t read. I don’t have books. – Writing, listening to the radio, playing cards? – I have no paper, no radio, no cards… – So what do you do in your spare time? – I’m at home.

A few years ago, an experienced aid worker who lives in Ethiopia told me ​​the word “boredom” does not even exist in many local African languages. Perhaps the word was invented by those companies that sell books, paper, radios and cards and want to convince us we need them to avoid boredom. But William didn’t seem bored to me.

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