Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's about time

I'm in New Jersey for 5 days this week, for a meeting of the editorial board of Living Peace, our Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace magazine, and I can't help noticing that everyone here is on the same time.  Check the clock in my room: 1:50.  And my cell phone: 1:50.  And the computer: 1:50.  And so on and on...we are always clear about what time it is in the United States.  You might say we're as obsessed by it.

It's not that way in El Salvador.  I don't quite understand it, because I always assumed that all the electronics set themselves automatically to some electronic beam of perfect timing sent out from Greenwich, but there if my cell phone shows 1:50, the computer is likely to say it's 1:58, while the clock on the wall says 1:49, the iPad claims 1:53, and the clock in the car pushes ahead to 2:03.  Every once in a while, I try to reset everything so it's all pointing to the same time (blindly choosing one of those possibilities as the correct, true, Greenwich, gringo time).  Works for a few days, and then they drift apart again. 

Time is just a more flexible concept in El Salvador.  The electronics know it.  After about a year in El Salvador, I stopped apologizing if I was 5 or 10 minutes late for a meeting, because I slowly realized that the meetings usually started about half an hour after the stated time.  Here, as in so much, for Salvadorans relationships matter more than efficiency.  It's hard for a gringa to accept, but I've come to like it that way.  Whatever time it may be in El Salvador, it's always time for a greeting, a conversation, a connection.  In the U.S., it's too often time to run off to the next urgent event.

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