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I don’t believe that time moves at a constant speed.

My brother is currently in Uganda for the summer. It’s his first time in Africa. I chatted with him the other day, and the thing he’s struggling with the most is the conception of time.

Time moves at different speeds in different cultures. In the States, it moves fast. People are always busy, always on the move, and always getting things done. Meetings often start on time, and things are often accomplished.

Such is not the case in Africa. There is no take-away food. Transportation is unscheduled and unreliable. There is always time to drink tea and catch up with a friend. So what if you have an important meeting in 20 minutes? It can wait. So what if you have a project to finish? It can always be finished next week.

This is often one of the hardest adjustments to make when first visiting the African continent. My brother has a lot he wants to accomplish in his two month visit. He is quickly learning that very little can be done in two months. It takes time to form connections, to motivate people to support your ideas. Nothing happens fast, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Projects require a different type of approach. This can also be frustrating on a personal level – you feel like you’re not doing enough, you feel unsatisfied. Slowing down is not easy.

But it the change of pace teaches us Westerners a lot. With a slower time speed comes a greater appreciation for one’s surroundings, and the ability to enjoy empty relaxation. I was never very good taking time for myself. My travels have made me much better at this without feeling like I am wasting time and space. Now, the speed of the east coast makes me frustrated; I think I prefer the slower time of Africa.

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