waiting-topBefore living in Tanzania I didn’t know much about waiting.

Coming from a culture where time is time and efficiency supposedly a virtue it is about keeping control of one’s plans as scheduled and going by the clock.

Waiting is considered undesirable, a waste of time and making others wait by being late seen as impolite.

So it was quite a culture shock to find waiting here is a normal part of daily life.

Just seeing security people biding their shift times, or passengers at a daladala stop — not looking at a clock or having any expectations.

Similarly, when power has gone off and no one knows when it will return.

When arriving at an office for an appointment at 09:00 and being told the person to meet is not there.

'Maybe he will come at 11, you can come back later'.

‘Maybe he will come at 11, you can come back later’.

‘Maybe he will come at 11, you can come back later’.

People who say they will call back about a question, a request or something they owe you.

The answers are promising, something like ‘soon’, today’ or ‘tomorrow’.

The most common answer to my question concerning time is ‘bado‘ which is a ‘no’ with the hope of ‘yes’ — basically ‘not yet’.

That is what I see people do, they wait and hope for something to happen or somebody to come.

The art of waiting is visible in queues in offices, along the road and in shops.

People can sit or stand or lie around completely relaxed for hours on end, without drinking, eating or any other activity.

Still I haven’t mastered it myself but living here slowly getting there.

What helps is if one doesn’t wear a watch and keeps all plans open and flexible.

Labda kesho (maybe tomorrow) is a great way of making things happen as they come along, instead of trying to tick one’s to do list.

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About the Author

Josie van den Hoek
Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.