Four and a half months done, four and a half months to go, before we once again plant our feet on Norwegian soil. Time has been flying since we arrived in September, and I fear it’s gonna go even faster in the time to come. Lilongwe, Malawi area 23 and Music Crossroads Malawi is a special place to be. Sometimes things are slow, really slow. African time is not a joke, it’s totally real and we interact, adapt, get annoyed and fall in love with it every day. Malawian time though, is more complicated. It’s not only that time is relative and schedules can and should be altered. In Malawi it works both ways. Sometimes we wait for hours or days on practical things or decisions we thought already were done or would take five minutes two make. That’s okey. We know things can take time. We talked about it at the pre-course. We expect it. The confusion appears when things happen faster than we expect. Things we planned would take a few weeks to be organized, suddenly happen in only a few days. Stuff that would’ve taken weeks in Norway can take only a couple of days or mere hours in Malawi.
Malawi is rich
Malawi is not rich. Not in the way the term is usually used. But it’s very rich in time. Richer than any other country I’ve visited. There are studies showing that Malawians walk slower than any other people in the world. The country is poor on vital areas, and it’s a big problem. But being rich in time can be an advantage and open up for unexpected and positive interactions.
Living in Lilongwe and working at Music Crossroads you can never be too certain about how your day or week will turn out. You might have a plan, you might go through with most of it and then go home and have had a fine day. You might also get to work and realize there is a truck outside, with a stage on it, and they’re going to drive around the city to recruit young people to a cooperating organization all day (http://chanceforchange.org.uk/malawi/) So you end up doing that. Or meet your boss on Monday and realize that you need to hop on the back of a truck with lots of equipment to go to the olympic stadium to test sound all day, or that the bus is waiting to take us to a traditional Gulewamkulu performance in a village nearby.
There’s something comforting about this cool way to handle time. We’re forced to be “in the moment”. To be present, to improvise, to always be ready for something unexpected to happen. Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had have happened because of that. No one has to be anywhere, so a conversation can last for as long as it needs to. We’re also forced to be incredibly patient and not get irritated by things changing, plans being altered or information being shared in the last minute. Luckily, we never have time to be annoyed for long before the excitement and joy of the sudden change or new project or happening takes over. There’s always another day to do what you had planned. At least until end of May, and hopefully longer. In Norway we say we often don’t have or are out of time. We are rich, but certainly not in time. I’ll bring a bag of it when I go.