GMT -1

Christian Gath - Senegal


December 8, 2015

GMT-1

"Ladies and Gentleman, we have just landed in Dakar, local time: it is 4:36 am. I hope you had a pleasant flight…" This is usually the moment when the passengers pull out the pubs of their watches or go to settings on their phones to change the hour to the just announced local time. A thumb rule says you need a day per hour time difference to overcome the jet lag. But while I wasn't bothered for long by the time difference I am still getting used to the difference in time.

Fast forward two month. Monday morning. I am in a hurry to get to school on time, though school officially started 4 weeks ago, today seems to be the day students, parents and teachers decided on for school to start. My host brother laughed at me when 4 weeks ago I had put on a button down, took my pens and notebooks and walked overly motivated towards the school. His laugh was justified when all I found at the school were closed doors and strolling donkeys, no teacher, no students. A week later, few teachers arrived. Another week later the first students came to register (the donkeys were still there). The last week of October all teachers seemed to have arrived and the first conference was held. The first week of November the rumor that school would start this week spreaded in the village. So I am in a hurry and moderately excited to teach French, English and math to six graders. Last minute before leaving I grab my watch out of my suitcase. Starpping it on while walking towards the school I notice the time 00:46 it shows, still on PST (GMT-8) I think.

School did not start that day, it took another 3 weeks for everybody to show up. And up until today the secretary has new students enrolling in school, 10 weeks after the official start.

While back home life is dictated by clock and calendar, I noticed that here it was rather nature that influenced peoples time mangament.There was a reason for students to show up late to school, they were working in the fields, harvesting corn and peanuts. And that is just one example, often weather, season and prayer time decide for people when to do what. While my first jugemental thoughts found this behavior extremely inefficient, I have now started to find purpose in it and realized how ridiculous it would be here to schedule one's life after a ticking time device. Time is such a relative thing, though strictly defined by hours, minutes and seconds its interpretation is more part of culture than I thought.

Christian Gath