Craig's Travels
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Time

I have found a time that rivals 'Island Time' for a complete lack of motivation and urgency: 'Village Time.' I'm just returning from a dry-season week in Ronit's village, where we spent many idle hours and I had plenty of opportunity to evaluate time.

People in the village have nothing but time, literally. Personal property is almost non-existent. They don't have running water and very few have electricity (one family out of Ronit's village of 300 people has a solar panel power set up, and they don't even use it for anything important like refrigeration!). With very few possession and endless time on their hands, people in the village actually want to make every task last as long as possible.

This would explain why making tea lasts 2 hours. It also explains why, even though we made dinner plans 4 days in advance, we weren't served until 4 hours after our prompt arrival in a neighboring village. The real reason for the tardy meal stemmed from the fact they had to catch the 2 chickens they were going to kill, then show them to us (twice), then pray, THEN kill, de-feather and butcher the chickens, THEN we had to wait for the rice and oil to be gathered from the village we had just come from, THEN all the food had to be prepared (by Ronit) over an open fire. But this was all fine and dandy with them; they have all the time in the world!

Everything in the village takes an exorbitant amount of time. For example, if I want to walk to a compound across the village, I must first say goodbye to the people I'm with, thank them all and with them good health (even though I will see them in a little while), then I walk at the leisurely pace of a retirement home resident (more because of the heat than anything else), greeting everyone I see along the way, basically asking them how their health is, making sure their desires have no evil, and wishing them each 'peace only' a minimum of 5 times. By the time I reach my destination, it is a stroke of luck if I can remember why I wanted to come in the first place.

Time in the Village moves just as slow as the people do. As one Peace Corps volunteer we spoke with put it, 'There are days you say to yourself, 'It's still 2:55?'

There is a relaxing feel to moving like molasses, but it also breeds lethargic afternoons. It is easy to be lazy in the village. It is simple to get nothing done. I have seen people spend entire days lounging in the shade, lifting their head only to drink a cup of tea brought to them. And during the dry season, when there is no farming to do, this is about all that needs to happen.

With all the time villagers have on their hands, you would think (or at least, I thought) they would want to do something productive: expand and exercise their brain, learn a new language, read books, SOMETHING… but no. Most of the villagers don't know how to read. While most attend a few years of school, none would be considered intellectually intelligent. This lack of knowledge leads directly to a lack of motivation to improve their situation. And THIS might be the most tragic aspect of the cycle. People in the village are poor. But if they worked a little harder, they could improve their lives. But their concept of time is living for today. The reality of their situation is: Why save money for next year when I might not live that long? Why should I improve my life when I might not be around to enjoy it? This mentality is at the very heart of the problem.

So life in the Village ticks by, second by second, minute after minute, day by day, week after week until the years slip by and nothing has changed.


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