Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Europeans have watches, Africans have time"

The above saying was quoted to me by an American nun (who has been in Tanzania more than fifty years). We were talking about punctuality, or the lack thereof, among Tanzanians. Let me say that they have a rather relaxed sense of time and of keeping appointments. Usually, mention of a particular part of the day -- morning, afternoon, or evening -- does turn out to be accurate. But then it may not.

At our school a bell is run to mark the beginning of each period. When I first started teaching I would immediately get moving upon hearing the bell. Lately, I've been as much as several minutes "late" -- I'm sure that at an American school I would be reprimanded.

The situation is made a little complicated, though, by the fact that a few Tanzanians do wear watches and do observe time more precisely, especially when dealing with wazungu (Europeans), for instance, our parish priest. One evening I had an appointment to see him at the rectory at 6:00. When I walked out of our door at 6:05 (we live on the grounds of the church) he was outside waiting for me. 8-D



  1. When I was there we organised a football match with some of the local guys. We put together a side and were there on the dot of time - but no sign of the opposition. We ended up playing a game with some kids for about an hour, and THEN the local team showed up - and kicked our tired butts! So I guess sometimes bad time-keeping can be an advantage :)

  2. Happy Easter Diane & Earl! I have only recently returned from a 2-week trip to visit my son, Chris, and his bride, Kie, who live in Tokyo. While in Japan I visited Henry & Keiko and got to see their house for the first time. I also took a quick trip to southern California to help Leslie find a new home in San Diego where she will be working and teaching at UCSD's Hillcrest Hospital. Everyone is well and we hope that you two are healthy and happy.

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