Time seems to have no meaning here, or at least a very different meaning than in Australia, and I am sure that everybody is aware of the concept of Fiji Time, which I have experienced, but to me African Time is something else. Up until now I have lived my life almost entirely ruled by time, calendars, appointments, meetings, plans, invitations, catching up with friends and family etc (although my family may tell you that I am often late, but it’s never my fault!) Adjusting to African Time has been one of the many and probably one of the most frustrating adjustments I have had to make.
I experienced some African Time when in Australia, for example a Ghanaian friend held a birthday party for her daughter, we were invited for 10:00am, my partner advised me that there was no way it would start then, so we turned up at 12:00pm, only to be served food well after 2:00pm! I don’t think we have ever had a social engagement with Ghanaian friends where they have turned up on time.
I remember when we first arrived and we would be scheduled to meet somebody at say 10:00am, which to me meant we should be leaving the house around 9:00am (traffic!!!) but sometimes we would be still pottering around long after 10:00am, with no urgency to our movements, and eventually when we arrived at our destination nobody seemed to mind. There has been many a time that we have have scheduled appointments only to have the person turn up many hours later, and the most frustrating thing for me – if you call and ask where they are – “I’m coming” – which used to mean to me, “I’m almost there” but here, it means nothing, it means I am coming – eventually! On a few occasions we have even had people not turn up at all, with no explanation or apology and again nobody seems to mind – but not me!
And try dealing with any type of bureaucracy or commercial enterprise, “please sit down” – they really don’t like to see you standing in offices, banks, anywhere for that matter. So sometimes we sit and sit and sit, if we enquire as to where the person is that we are waiting for “he’s coming”! One day we waited for over an hour to cash a cheque, with no explanation after each of our enquiries apart from “I’m coming”. This morning we had to go to the bank to sign a couple of forms, and what should have taken 5 minutes took over an hour. Our next appointment was with Ghana Immigration Service about my resident permit, the person we needed to see was out of his office so the response was “please sit down – he’s coming”. Of course it would have been logical to call him and see where he was but because as he was coming, there was no need. 🙂 We waited a while but experience has taught us not to, “why you don’t you just go and come” is also a common response if you don’t want to wait, so we left for a couple of hours to have lunch and attend to other business. Upon our return – guess what? “He’s around, please sit down, he’s coming”. Once again after waiting, we finally got his number only to find out he was leaving for home. He did come back to see us and gave us the news that they don’t take applications in the afternoon, so we should go and come in the morning! Picture me smiling politely through tightly gritted teeth.
So off we went, and faced the traffic home knowing that we must go through the whole rigmarole again tomorrow – I know it’s going to take most of the day. Here’s hoping we don’t get told to go and come!