Friday, April 11, 2008

An African Kind of Day

There are several things that could contribute to it feeling like an African kind of day. In my mind the expression could be used negatively or positively. Today it’s not so great.

Just over two weeks ago I asked my organization to wire money to pay my bill at the school and to have a little pocket money as I was a little wiped out after the long weekend in Zanzibar. I thought it would take a few days. After about 4 or 5 days I inquired. It usually takes a week to 10 days I was told. I’m amazed anything could take that long with today’s technology.

One thing I have learned about Africa though is that everything takes time. When I am here I find that for most things I have magnanimous patience. When I was told the length of time it would take to get the money I realized it might take even longer than that. I refrained from asking each day. I was told I would be notified. I find it relatively easy to wait for an hour for a bus or 20 minutes for the ride to town to finally get going. I do best with some idea of what will happen. I have always been like that. And since I have lived here in the past I know that things that people say they are going to do come to pass eventually. I just might need to wait for them.

But since today marked two weeks I decided to ask again. Lo and behold Mrs. Mwambashi in the language school office said my money had arrived. She handed me a receipt and told me to see the finance office. I knew the place from an earlier inquiry. The office was closed and dark even though the somewhat cryptic Swahili notice outside the office said he should be there until noon. Mama Mwambashi said he must have gone for a cup of chai. I popped in right after chai and found the cash office window still locked and dark.

So about 11:30 I interrupted my language lesson to try again. Since it was still locked I asked Mrs. M what I should do. She said, “Let me help you.” I trailed around behind her back to that office. I followed her to the back and through a maze of offices. She asked a woman for me about getting someone to help me. It’s only then I found out that the cash office guy had gone to Dar es Salaam and the other man that could help me went to Morogoro town on a bunch of errands and would be back in the afternoon. But not sure what time since he had a lot of places to go (no doubt all on foot or public transport).

Here I have been so patient, and the friends that have loaned me money so patient as well. I can blame myself for not planning ahead better. I should have some cash-getting alternatives; I should know all this takes time in Africa. But I still am disappointed. Our class has a trip to Mikumi National Park tomorrow morning early. I have enough to pay the entrance fee in USD but if I can’t get the money today it will be Monday before I have another chance to find someone to help me. I have my doubts I will find the person I need this afternoon, but stranger things have happened.

There are some wazungu sayings about things like this. One is: Africa wins again. The one I prefer is TIA: This is Africa. This is just how it is, so get used to it!

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