“TIME” in Senegal

6 December 2010 at 07:00 4 comments

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

Entry filed under: Africa, blogsherpa, KF13 (Kiva Fellows 13th Class), Senegal.

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  • 1. Hadji Beye  |  13 December 2010 at 11:51

    It’s funny Mexico is mentioned on this post…during my short vacation in Mexico I found many similarities between life in Mexico and life in my native Senegal: Love for soccer (that I played on the beach), the beautiful weather year-round and yes! the heat, the beautiful beach and the relaxed atmosphere…

    It is a very unique atmosphere that is priceless!

  • 2. lulatoussaint  |  9 December 2010 at 20:16

    HI Lorin! I enjoyed reading your post, the same happens to me, even though Im in Mexico and Im Mexican haha waiting and patience are good qualities here, I guess I got used to the fast pace of the US, and now I have to remember that there are different ways of living and each one has good and bad stuff! good luck in Senegal

  • 3. Hadji Beye  |  8 December 2010 at 11:23

    Excellent post Lorin,

    Your observation is very accurate that no appointment is ever held on time in Senegal…with a few rare exceptions.
    Unfortunately just as you pointed it out, not enough gets done because it takes so long to actually get started and achieve results.

    In a country like Senegal, I think it is time we change that mindset…there is too much work to be done in our nation to just “take it easy” and “chill”.

    From issues like water, sanitation, poverty, unemployment, lack of infrastructures and economy….we have a lot of work ahead of us and getting up at 11am to leave work at 3pm or just taking your time to not get things done should really be left in the past.

    As a Senegalese, I am all too familiar with this type of behavior…just a few months ago, my sister couldn’t get her passport re-issued while in Senegal for several weeks (they kept giving her the run-around). So this mentality has been holding us back in many ways…other African countries do much better: Mali, Burkina-Faso and Nigeria are doing much better than Senegal in terms of efficiency and promptness.

    Why can’t we get it together?

    I understand that this laid-back attitude can be a philosophical theory but I don’t buy and I don’t agree with it. We have to get out of this state our country is in, and we can’t do that by just “chilling”.

    Thank you for sharing your story and bringing the awareness into one more problem in Senegal.

  • 4. Gabriel  |  8 December 2010 at 07:08

    great post Lorin. It took me a while to adjust to this on my fellowship too.

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