I nearly had the title "On AFRICAN Timekeeping", which wouldn't have been fair for I hardly know any of Africa other than a few countries. Having now spent almost 12 months (7 last year and almost 4 this year) in Ghana during these two years, I think I can safely write a few lines on punctuality here. In fact having been on the receiving end of the lax attitude re: timekeeping most of the time (for 99% of the time I'd say - 1% of the time I admit I might have also become the perpetrator!), I feel obliged to write something on it :)

Being a Nepali, I am not new to having a different sense of timekeeping (as we so fondly call "Nepali Time" for a similarly lax attitude to punctuality in Nepal), but having lived in the "west" for better part of the last decade, I have become a bit impatient person when it comes to timekeeping, meaning I like to be on time and expect others to do the same. Coming to Ghana, and moreover living here for all these months has made me lower my expectations considerably when it comes to expecting others to be punctual, and occasionally I have arrived late (not on purpose though), however, almost always to find myself being earlier than others again!
...continue reading On Ghanaian Timekeeping


Work without end, struggle without work
It wasn't my plan to set off with an unfinished paper in hand (on computer rather), but thats was happened. I could probably find many "genuine" excuses but the most genuine of all the excuses - and which isn't really an excuse - is my excessive procrastination. In any case, the first weekend in Ghana without uninterrupted internet connection (with BBC worldservice to keep company instead) has certainly helped me spend more time reading and writing, not to mention thinking (and not just about work and research at that!). I've finished the unfinished paper (or so I think) and have just managed to make "electronic submission" of the manuscript (phew, after nearly two hours of uploading files - not that I had that many files, the "broadband" connection was just not broad enough!). So,the week that was, the week has been one of relative success.

But that’s only half the story! Beginning at the university in York, trying to sort administrative nightmares, ending at the university in Tamale, trying to sort administrative nightmares, the week that was, the week has been one of immense frustration. Beginning at the airport in London, ending at the airport in Tamale - getting away with heavy baggage in London, having to pay extra for "excess baggage" in Accra, the week that was, the week has been one of partial travel woes. Reading The Enchantress of Florence - beginning on the last night in York, continuing during a night in Accra, then during the laziness of the daytime Tamale, the week that was, the week has been one of a fascinating read.

Lets talk about the "struggle to work" now, or rather the culture of work/work ethic. Arriving in Ghana, one thing you pretty quickly realise is that West (or North more appropriately) makes you too impatient. Things here take time to get done, they always take time. If you have an appointment with your local colleague at nine in the morning and s/he doesn't turn up until 11:30, you shouldn't be surprised that much. As long as s/he turns up before noon, s/he will feel proud at the fact that s/he made it to the meeting in the "morning", which was what was agreed after all - to meet in the morning. It doesn't matter what time in the morning, as long as its in the morning, the person hasn't missed the appointment! You would think being a Nepali, I shouldn't be too impatient as Ghana-time is more like Nepali-time when it comes to appointments, but being that Nepali who is now more and more living in a limbo between various cultures, its often difficult to decide how to react. At the end you don't really have much option than to go with the flow and have things done the Ghanaian way, or rather let things happen than trying too hard to make things happen knowing all well that all your efforts could be better spent in other ways!

If somebody tells you a certain thing will get done that week then it usually means things will be ready before the office starts on Monday the next week. Don't discount the weekends though - if things need to be done at all cost that week, weekend could be used as well. But don't expect the job to be done by Friday though, two days of weekend are very important, albeit being public holidays.

However, there is one trick that I have realised works fairly well in these situations, be it in Nepal or Ghana - take the lead yourself, get your hands dirty, show by example, and embarrass those delaying the work. They would then have no option but to follow your lead.
...continue reading the week that was…