“TIME” in Senegal

By Lorin Alvarez, KF13, Senegal

Coming from New York, the one thing that has taken me a little while to get used to has been the “pace” of things here in Senegal.  I have been programmed to always be on time for appointments and meetings;  allocate my  time as productively as possible;  and once on a project  or assignment,  get it finished as quickly as possible and move onto the next item on my agenda.  After all, my list of “things to do” at home never really seemed to be without at least 5 items on it at any given time.

Then I came to Senegal….. The first week or so while I was trying to settle in, it didn’t seem too obvious .  The first time my Senegalese friend called around noon to say he’d be stopping by in a couple of hours and didn’t show up until 10 p.m. when I was already asleep, I didn’t give it much thought.  I figured something must have come up to delay him.  Then one day at the house where I am staying,  it was announced around 7 p.m. that dinner was going to be served in a little while.  It was almost 10 p.m. by the time we sat down to eat….   Another time, I ordered a soda at the beach.  It took a good half hour for it to arrive.  I was beginning to see a pattern….

Last week, I was fortunate enough to get a ride to the city of Thies, where I needed to go to visit CAURIE, a Kiva partner.  A friend of a friend was driving there first thing in the morning and offered to take me with him.  I had hit the jackpot – considering my only other option of getting there was via public transportation….  He did say however that he was going to be leaving quite early in the morning and would be picking me up 6:15-6:30 a.m.  I told him I would be ready at 6 and I was.    Actual time I was picked up – 8:15 a.m.

Most evidently, it has taken me a lot longer than I expected to get appointments to meet with staff members at the two Kiva partners that I am scheduled to work with.  It has taken a couple of weeks of e-mail exchanges back and forth to secure actual appointments with people.

The New Yorker in me wonders sometimes how anything ever gets done at this pace while another part of me is really getting to enjoy this laid back attitude.   I have discovered that things do get accomplished eventually – maybe not in the span of time that they would somewhere else but everything falls into place eventually and quite nicely.  I did eventually get to Thies,  I did eventually get to meet with the MFIs and started my work, I did eventually get my soda….  And the waiting process isn’t all that bad, once one gets used to it – especially if there is a good book handy.


Lorin Alvarez is a Kiva Fellow currently working with two of Kiva’s Senegalese field partners: CAURIE and U-IMCEC

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