Friday, March 17, 2006

Mtwara Time

So classes started on Monday when the Student Teachers returned from their Practice Teaching.  Weellll,  not really.

Every Monday morning at 7am, there is a flag-raising ceremony.  I beat my way across the bush and arrived at the flagpole at 6:55, just to be sure I was there on time.  I was alone.  I guess not this Monday.  So, as I was already there,  I tried to sign in.  The office door was bolted. 

As the first class starts at 7:30,  I went to my office to get organised.  I was alone.  About 8 o’clock,  the Academic Dean poked her head in to say Good Morning so I inquired about the class that I was not attending at that moment.  The Students, it turned out,  were not in the class either as they were busy ‘improving the environment’.  They were in the fields hoeing, washing down sidewalks, scything the grass which grows knee-high overnight in the rainy season, and generally improving the environment.  Classes, said the Dean, would start on Wednesday.

There are three teachers in the English Department:  Lucia Ngonyani,  Peter Mbwambo and Collins Kajisi (Dept. Head).  On Sunday last,  Mr. Kajisi left – by plane – for somewhere – for a week or so?.  On Monday,  Mr. Mbwambo was away sick (malaria)  and Lucia, with whom I share an office knew nothing of what I was supposed to be doing.  On Tuesday,  Mr. Mbwambo reappeared looking quite fit and sat with me for half an hour while he explained his Wednesday class to me as I would be observing and he would introduce me to the students. Things were beginning to take shape.

Today, Wednesday,  Mr. Mbwambo did not attend – so neither did I although I think the students were there.  Tomorrow I will observe Madam Ngonyani’s class and she will introduce me to the students.

I’m sure you are all aware of the concept of African Time, much the same as Mexican Time where Mańana means whenever.  There is a further complication here though: Swahili Time.  Unlike other examples,  this is a totally different clock.  No watch exists that tells Swahili Time.  The only hours that really count are daylight hours.  The day begins at 6am which in Swahili time is 12.  Thus 7am is 1 o’clock and 5pm is 11o’clock and then back to 12 at 6 if you follow me. At the College all meetings and class schedules are arranged by Swahili Time. The word saa is always used before the time is given so I’m a little clued in.

During my first week here, when I was going out to schools to join the assessment panels,  I was told to be ready at “One o’clock in the morning.”  That got me wondering how far away the school was that required that much travel time!  Have no fear – I didn’t disgrace myself.  I was ready promptly at 7 and they arrived at a little after 8.  I think that’s the African Time bit. 

So classes will start soon,  I’ll meet the students soon,  I’ll have my own house soon,  I’ll be speaking Kiswahili soon… And meanwhile,  I loll about under a cooling fan with a good book and watch the skies change colour.

Life is good: If a little slow.

Soon   Love   K

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Posted by webmaster on 03/17 at 08:50 AM
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