Archive for the ‘time’ Category

“This is Cambodia time.”

Monday, January 7th, 2013

The phrase is repeated to me almost daily, as I am frequently reminded of the time difference: not only the obvious twelve hour difference between our clocks, but the very different mindset behind the seconds, the minutes, and the hours. As an economist, I am all too familiar with the “time is money” adage. Business decisions are formatted into long-run and short-run goals. We recognize and consider opportunity cost, or the value of our alternatives. All of these are constrained by the same important concept: time. Time is huge factor in our decision making; it  the most vital variable in our lives. “How long will it take?” “What time should I be there?” “How much will I make per hour?” Our days have been segmented into blocks since primary school: 7:55-8:10 Morning Announcements and Class Attendance, 8:15-9:05 Mathematics, 9:10-10:00 English, 10:05-10:55 Art, 11:00-11:50 History, 11:55-12:00 Bathroom Break, 12:05-12:35 Lunch, 12:40-1:10 Recess…. You get the idea. We are a people regimented by the clock, with events being components of time.

Nap time for a moto driver in Phnom Penh

Nap time for a moto driver in Phnom Penh

Enter Cambodia, where market stalls seem to be open from daybreak to well past sunset. Men routinely lounge about in hammocks come noon. Tuk tuk drivers negotiate fares based on the distance, uphill or downhill, traveled not whether it takes half a day to get there. Hardly anyone “clocks in” when they come to work. There is no overtime pay rate. It is not uncommon to spend an hour or more waiting for your order to come up in a restaurant. Here, time is not a commodity which can be spent, wasted, saved or given. Time cannot be easily converted into money, nor can the conversion be precisely quantified. Take, for example, a street-side fruit vendor. She may earn $2 for the day or she may earn $10. The number of hours she spent trying to sell her crops is irrelevant; the concept of an hourly wage would be completely alien

Fruit vendor

Fruit vendor

to her. She either sold lots of mangosteens or only a few. For Cambodians, time does not exist as an entity in itself; it is not imposed upon them. Rather, time is created. Daily life is made up of events, with time being a component of those events.

Differing religious backgrounds may factor into these contrasting cultural perceptions of time. Judeo-Christian societies understand time as linear or directional. It began with the creation of the world and it will advance until the second coming of the Messiah. In our mind’s eye, we view events chronologically and place them on a timeline. In Buddhist Cambodia, the human experience is cyclical, bound by the concept of samsara–the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Time is a spiral; it moves around and around with no definitive beginning or ending.

Not better, not worse, just different.

As always, please feel free to comment.

(dis)Orientation Week

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Last week was Orientation Week at AUC, however, it was one of the most confusing experiences that I have had here so far.

When I first arrived to campus, I was struck by it’s sheer size. While it is probably about the same size as my home university, it seems much larger since it is literally solid stone with no grassy areas and is composed of immense buildings flowing into one another.

After my initial moments of being overwhelmed by its appearance, I set off to accomplish various tasks in buildings scattered throughout campus. This was very difficult. To begin with, most buildings are not labeled very clearly and if they do happen to have a name carved into it’s side it is not the name that people call it. For example, “Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall” is called “HUSS” and will be printed in the orientation packet as this. This makes it impossible to locate most buildings on the campus maps. When a building is found on the map, that is when the real thinking begins. Why? Because the maps are all backwards. I found that out the hard way.

I was warned that the academic buildings are also confusing, so a fellow student and I set out find our classrooms. I am so glad that we did. While the classrooms are numbered, I question the distribution of those numbers. For the most part they follow numerical order, yet I have stumbled across a hall with room 1079 wedged between rooms 1009 and 1005.  In addition, one of my classrooms was not to be found. We went into a courtyard with all the rooms that were in the 60′s yet there was no 66. We looked at a map next, but the room wasn’t on it! My room did not exist. We asked an orientation leader and even he could not find it. Finally, a group of girls sighted it and called us over to a corridor that could only be accessed from outside of the building.

On top of the physical confusion created by the campus layout, there is a different administrative style to deal with. For example,  I signed up for a class registration appointment and when I arrived there I saw that signing up for an appointment in advance was useless. There was another sign-up sheet in the room on which the real schedule was run. Unfortunately, no one notified me or other students of this when we first arrived. We sat around, waiting for our names to be called before we realized the insignificance of our appointment cards.

However, we were lucky that there were actually people there. Earlier, another student was sent to discuss her Survival Arabic course enrollment in a different building, but no one was in the room or even the entire building for that matter. We discussed this absence with some orientation leaders and they blamed it on Ramadan. Everything here slows down because of Ramadan and its expected that people will be absent or running on a different schedule. We are constantly told to wait to do things until after the Eid (the final day of Ramadan). It’s very frustrating since we are told to get X,Y, and Z done and once we have finally figured out how to get there, we are told to come back later.

The first day was the most frustrating. As the week went on, I just accepted that this is how things would be. I just have to adjust myself to a slower sense of time and go with the flow.

Classes begin tomorrow. I am really excited since all my courses are interesting and I will get to meet more Egyptian students. I heard that both the bus schedule and the class times have been changed to accommodate Ramadan. Some people got an e-mail explaining this, others like myself, have not. I’ll figure it out on way or another.

I Feared This Day Would Come

Monday, June 7th, 2010

So the internet I have been stealing in my apartment for the past four months is finally password protected. I think this will actually have a negative impact on my studying. But it will be good for my sleep schedule. We’ll see how that balances out. I am sad and it’s really inconvenient but I think I will survive.

I can’t believe I’ve never written about the Argentine time schedule before.  Everyone is late, including my professors. So class starts like 15-2o minutes after it is supposed to start which is usually kind of nice. Even though I still leave my apartment to get there on time. And of all the times I have been late somewhere in Argentina, I’ve never actually been late.

But when your professor decides not to come to class, and not tell anyone, you then have to make it up on a Friday when clearly you have better things to do. And then waste thirty minutes with the Academic Coordinator because everyone is so confused and trying to figure out what the assignment for the final is. It’s this week and we still don’t know what’s going on but it involves a paper and a presentation. I guess we’ll have one night to do it. Wonderful.

I am already prematurely re-organizing in preparation to pack. I don’t know how I’ve accumulated this much and I hope it all fits. I cannot believe I am already thinking about packing. But I am so ready to come back! But then I made a list of things I wanted to do before I left, and it is long. But that’s alright, I can’t do everything. I’ll save it for next time :)

Sunday I went to a Thai restaurant in Chinatown and it was delicious! I was given quite a warning before ordering the spiciest meal, but it was not too spicy at all. And I can’t handle very much. Argentines do not like spicy food. Not even a little bit.

Finally, Happy Belated 14th Birthday to my baby Lizzie! I found a little Golden Retriever puppy on the street in San Telmo yesterday and played with her. (Her owner and mom were watching, don’t worry. Otherwise I would have taken her home with me. I don’t think my host parents would have liked that.) She was very cute (obviously) but she was quite the biter. A sweet, awful teething puppy. Definitely reminded me of a very young Lizzie!

I better actually get to work noww.

I Feared This Day Would Come

Monday, June 7th, 2010

So the internet I have been stealing in my apartment for the past four months is finally password protected. I think this will actually have a negative impact on my studying. But it will be good for my sleep schedule. We’ll see how that balances out. I am sad and it’s really inconvenient but I think I will survive.

I can’t believe I’ve never written about the Argentine time schedule before.  Everyone is late, including my professors. So class starts like 15-2o minutes after it is supposed to start which is usually kind of nice. Even though I still leave my apartment to get there on time. And of all the times I have been late somewhere in Argentina, I’ve never actually been late.

But when your professor decides not to come to class, and not tell anyone, you then have to make it up on a Friday when clearly you have better things to do. And then waste thirty minutes with the Academic Coordinator because everyone is so confused and trying to figure out what the assignment for the final is. It’s this week and we still don’t know what’s going on but it involves a paper and a presentation. I guess we’ll have one night to do it. Wonderful.

I am already prematurely re-organizing in preparation to pack. I don’t know how I’ve accumulated this much and I hope it all fits. I cannot believe I am already thinking about packing. But I am so ready to come back! But then I made a list of things I wanted to do before I left, and it is long. But that’s alright, I can’t do everything. I’ll save it for next time :)

Sunday I went to a Thai restaurant in Chinatown and it was delicious! I was given quite a warning before ordering the spiciest meal, but it was not too spicy at all. And I can’t handle very much. Argentines do not like spicy food. Not even a little bit.

Finally, Happy Belated 14th Birthday to my baby Lizzie! I found a little Golden Retriever puppy on the street in San Telmo yesterday and played with her. (Her owner and mom were watching, don’t worry. Otherwise I would have taken her home with me. I don’t think my host parents would have liked that.) She was very cute (obviously) but she was quite the biter. A sweet, awful teething puppy. Definitely reminded me of a very young Lizzie!

I better actually get to work noww.