The value of time is one of the marked differences between Tanzanians and Westerners (Americans); the Westerner can tell you the accurate time within a few minutes of the correct time. Tanzanians, on the other hand, don’t always know what time it is and appear not to really care what time it is.
Case in point, we were scheduled to have a meeting of the official Board for the Bible College. Most of the board members do not live here in Mwanza and so traveled by boat, bus and car to arrive for the meeting. We were to start the meeting at 9:00am on Tuesday morning; we finally started at 11:00 after all the members had arrived, taken time to greet each other and enjoy a “chai break” (tea time) together. No one was flustered, no one glanced at their watch or looked frustrated.
Another good example of this difference in the way time is viewed is the fact that most churches in Tanzania don’t have clocks; some have them but they don’t always work. And, even more amazing, is the fact that I don’t think I have ever seen anyone glance at the clock or their watch during a church service; except, of course, for the non-Tanzanians who are present.
The Tanzanians believe that people are more important than time, relationships are more important that schedules and that, “Haraka Haraka haina baraka”. This Tanzanian proverb means “there is no blessing in rushing or hurrying”. I think we have a similar one, “haste makes waste”.