Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ruth and Boaz in Nigeria

On our way here, I read the book of Ruth and noticed something that made me smile. Boaz has promised to marry Ruth, assuming the unnamed nearer relation does not. So he needs to meet with the fellow, sound him out, contract the business, and get witnesses together for the transaction. They don't have cell phones, so how do they get together?
Then went Boaz up to the [city?] gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, "Ho, such a one, sit down here." And he turned aside and sat down.
And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit ye down here." And they sat down.
How do they get together? He sits in a public place and waits. How long? Who knows; who cares. Ah, there he is, good old Mr. Suchaone. He doesn't tell him the business at hand, just asks him to sit. Then they wait until they get a minyan together, asking each one in turn to join them until they can get down to business.

It sounded so much like Nigeria it made me smile! Even though most of the poorest have a cell phone now, there is a still lot of sitting around and waiting. We do a great deal of it ourselves for reasons that are never entirely clear to us. There are even people hired to stand in line for others. And most everything happens at the last minute. Even such modern industries as airlines assume you are buying tickets for the same day, not planning for a week in advance. Some of the AUN faculty left for the summer without knowing if their contract was renewed for this year or not, and I only just learned about changes to my teaching schedule this week.

So the moral of the story is that in Nigeria you need to have a very flexible idea of your schedule, because you never know when your near kinsman is going to ask if you want to buy some land and marry the widow that goes with it.