13 October 2012

Time in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has another concept of time in more than one way. Whenever you are working outside of your own culture, you should expect that things will take a different amount of time than you are used to. This goes both ways in Ethiopia - my experience so far is that things are so immediate to take me off guard - and I tend to be a very impulsive and spontaneous. Things tend to happen much faster than I anticipate for meetings, for relationships, for appointments.

Other things take longer and this probably has to do with processing, efficiency, number of employees, if the bus is full yet...

In a literal sense, Ethiopia has a different calendar than the west, as well as a different way to tell time. The calendar has historical roots, and good ole Wikipedia can tell you more. There are 13 months, one month is very short.

More interesting, and probably more pertinent for my day to day life, is the different way to tell time or different clock. Ethiopians get up at 12 in the morning (on our clock, 6 am) and noon is 6pm, and then 6 in the evening our time, is midnight for the Ethiopians. This makes sense if you think about the fact that we are so close to the Equator here and the sun rises about 6 am and sets at about 6 pm. The clocks on the wall or in the minibus or cars reflect this, and so I am usually doing a mental calculation to orient myself. When speaking with an Ethiopian to make a plan, I always have to make sure I am getting the correct time down. Otherwise, it could be a disaster if you have to catch a bus or something. I also notice that one tends to fall into a more natural rhythm of getting up with the sun and going to sleep by 9 or 10pm. After 2 years of sleep deprivation in grad school, I very much appreciate this luxury.