During a time-killing trip to the local tuck shop for milk yesterday, I stopped to watch some neighborhood kids (Tapelo, Fundzo, and Tsako) playing in the street. It’s a scene I see every day: a bunch of boys clustered around a small pile of bricks. I never really looked closely at what they were playing before. Turns out they’re taking turns trying to flick marbles through the gap between the center bricks.
I had been watching for a few minutes when Ngoni, the Muzenda’s eldest son, strolled by. He stopped to join me, amused that I was watching the children’s game. I asked him about the rules, and he mentioned that men also play it — but usually they play for money.
- Me: What’s the name of this, anyway?
- Ngoni: Ah, people just call it marbles.
- Me: Oh, what’s the Tsonga word for that?
- Ngoni: says some word I haven’t heard before, that I promptly forget.
Later I pulled out my Tsonga-English dictionary and here’s what it said, with my translation underneath:
Marble: ribye ro saseka
Marble: a rock that is beautiful
Sometimes I get the feeling my dictionary is just making stuff up. I still don’t know if it’s talking about marble the stone, or marble the toy. Talk about phoning it in, either way.
This isn’t the only old-school, creative game that kids play. Children here are awesome at entertaining themselves using few resources. Some play a version of jacks with pebbles:
While others race old tires and bicycle wheels:
Many boys make toy cars out of wires and bottle caps; I’ll have to get a picture one day because they are ridiculously cool. Many girls play jump-rope games with random ropes and strings. I always enjoy seeing how much fun mileage children here get out of little things they find around. It makes me feel rather silly about the redundant heaps of toys I had growing up.