30 March 2009

Back to Normal

An average day at the SJC.  Did some work on the spreadsheet, kicked around a ball with Jairus, joked with Neto and chatted with Sue.  The afternoon was nothing special.  I am a bit tired from yesterday's excursion, so I did not do much of anything this afternoon.

Alex, a former teacher and friend of Michael's, came by to drop off some honey "not for money, but for friendship."  He passed through quickly, but left behind a giant bottle of fresh-from-the-hive honey.  It is the sweetest honey I have ever tasted and I was essentially squeezed out of the hive.  I continue to enjoy all the fresh food that we get to eat every day.  Meat comes each morning fresh, vegetables are plentiful, and samosa lady is at the corner each night.  I love that I can decide what to make for dinner at 6pm, walk into town, get fresh food, and start cooking by 6:15.

Neto gave me a lesson in 'Swahili Time' today.  I had read that there was a difference in Lonely Planet, but never noticed it.  He was writing a sign and on it said, "saa mbili asabuhi (8:00am)."  With my improving Swahili, I was able to read that it said, "Time 2 in the morning (8:00am)."  Excited at the prospect of picking up a Swahili error, I asked Neto if the sign was right.  He nodded and kept on writing.  I asked again if he was sure and confirmed if I was reading it correctly.  Again a nod and more writing.  At this point I had to ask why there was a difference.

Swahili time is different than standard time.  The day starts at 6am (standard) and ends at 6pm (standard).  However, the start is indicated as 12 not 6.  Therefore time is 6 hours 'behind.'  Since everything revolves around the sun as opposed to time, the start and end of the day being at twelve makes perfect sense.  For myself that is backwards because my day essentially starts at 6am and ends at 6pm with noon as the middle.  Here the middle is 6, which corresponds to 2pm.  It is important to note that the difference is observed in language.  When speaking Swahili, you would indicate Swahili time.  In English, standard time would be used.  Neto said that if he did not put in in Swahili time parents would not show up to the clinic.  Some people will even set their watches to Swahili time.  This is not a common practice anymore as cell phones have spread and Western business has come to the countryside, but the difference has to be noted. 

The whole concept is funny when I think about what I wrote when I was flying here.  The idea of time was muddled to me as I crossed time zones from -5 in Washington DC to +3 in Nairobi.  Now I am further perplexed by the fact that a group of people can operate on two sets of time standards.  Six hours is an easy conversion, but lead to confusion.  The truth is that time has no significance here.  When I walk to work at 8am (standard time), everything is open.  All of the shops are in full business and selling away.  The work day for these people starts roughly at sunrise, 7am, and ends at sunset, 7pm.  The creation of an eight hour work day does not exist. 

Things stay open for as long as they need to be open.  Children are walking to school when I wake up at 7am (standard time).  Meetings will be set up for a certain time and the person will show up thirty minutes or an hour late.  It is a natural part of life here.  As much as I try, I am unable to divorce myself from time.  I check my phone to see what time it is throughout the day.  My body has certainly acclimated to the schedule.  I am up every morning without an alarm and begin to shut down by sundown.  Power must play a part in this, but poverty is a player as well.  Most people do not own a watch, so time does not matter.  Although I will have to see this to believe it, but Neto said that people can tell the time of day just by looking at the sun.  They will point up and say, "Oh, it is..."  I am going to quiz somebody to see if it works.

Bedtime draws near.  Goodnight.