One of the main reasons I love Africa is the attitude the local people have towards life. The first thing I learned about African lifestyle was the concept of “African time”. It is easy to notice that people never seem to be in a hurry, and I learned pretty quickly that when someone suggests meeting you at a certain time, it usually means that they will be there within an hour from the agreed time. Sound frustrating? I understand. In Europe we are used to very strict schedules, a fact which African people like to joke about. For them the idea of a train being scheduled to leave at 8.57 seems completely ridiculous – here a dalla dalla (a local minibus) simply leaves when it is full.
I am a very punctual person myself. So I was surprised to find out that African time does not annoy or frustrate me. Quite the opposite, it actually seems to have a relaxing effect on me! We Europeans are always in a hurry. Our lifestyle is so unbelievably stressful, we’re always running from one place to another and saying how we would love to do this and that, if only we had the time. It’s almost as if we were too busy to enjoy life! Instead, we run around waiting for the day when we’ll finally be able to start living our lives. And when will that be? After retirement? That’s a long time to wait for a moment of relaxation…
I don’t think it’s just about the concept of time, though. There is something more to it. I mean, the thing that amazes me most is that people seem to have this incredible skill of being able to be happy no matter what! There is so much poverty here…so how is it possible that people who have absolutely nothing (and I mean it, nothing!) in terms of material possessions, seem to be so much happier than anyone I have ever met outside of Africa? The poverty is heart-breaking, but at the same time there is something so beautiful and heart-warming about the way people make the most of what they have.
Materialism is one of the things I do not miss at all. I was reading a women’s magazine which I brought with me when coming here. The pages were full of pictures
of things that nobody really needs but so many people desperately want. Being in a third world country always makes me think about the ridiculous amount of stuff that we have. A new mobile phone every couple of years…buying clothes that you don’t really need…going shopping just because you’re bored…sound familiar? Being away from all that has had such an amazing effect on me. I feel calm, relaxed and genuinely happy. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve felt stressed or been in a hurry. It’s almost like a deep clean for your soul, if that makes sense, even better than yoga!
Anyway, I’m not saying I wish everyone was always late in Europe and that there were no schedules for anything. I’m simply saying we should not be too busy to feel happy! Maybe start by trying to enjoy the little things in life and by thinking about the things you are grateful for every now and then.
And don’t worry – I promise to switch off from “African time” before coming back home.
Nora participated in the Human Rights & Legal Aid Internship in Arusha, Tanzania. You can find accounts of the rest of her journey on the Global Nomadic Blog. If you want to experience the wonders of Tanzania for yourself, check out our available projects and get your application in today!