Listen With Heart

African Time

From Sarah Schewe, November 2007

I’ve found that if you keep asking questions, you’ll come to a place where you’ll value where the other person is at, even if it’s a different place then where you are. When I first arrived in Africa, I didn’t understand the concept of “African time.” To an efficiency-valuing American, I couldn’t understand why when I asked a taxi driver to pick me up at 10am, they would arrive at 11:15am, or why a community health worker asked me to meet me in the morning, but arrived at 4pm. I thought it was laziness or disrespect, but one conversation with a Kenyan enlightened me on how to tell “African time.”

In Nairobi, I was having dinner with a Kenyan friend, Father Joe and his friend Charles. We were discussing when we would leave the next morning.

Joe: Well we want to be there at ten, so we should leave at eight.

Charles: There’s no way it will take us two hours to get there!

Joe: But we need to leave time for the people we meet on the way.

They were certainly on a different schedule than I was, but when I understood their sense of time, it was impossible not to appreciate it.

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