Thursday, 11 October 2012

Tanzania Time

Wednesday October 3rd

An uneventful day by recent standards.  No insect invasion, electricity on all day, shower working at both ends of the day and even the Internet behaved,  so with little to report, I thought I would attempt to explain another Tanzanian puzzle that has caused me some confusion over the month I've been here.  It started in Umbungu bus station in Dar as Salaam all those months ago, or so it seems, when I examined my bus ticket and saw that the bus was scheduled to leave at 12:00.  As it was then 05:30 you can imagine that I was not a happy bunny.  The thought of six and a half hours sat on a bus that was surrounded by revving engines was not one to look forward too at all.  It was then that I remembered Cliff’s warning about Tanzania time.

I’ve already said a few times that its proximity to the equator means that days are a pretty standard length and I could easily see that a time system could evolve where the sun rose at 0:00 and set at 12:00 and every other time was worked out from these.  The Tanzanian, or East African system as it seems to spread up and down the coast, is that the day starts not at dawn but at dusk at 6:00 pm.  7:00 pm by our system is then one o’clock and working on, it is easy to see why my bus left at twelve although it said 06:00 on my watch.  The system does not operate a 24 hour variety so that one o’clock could be early morning or early evening and has to be followed with either asabuhi or usiku for morning or evening.  Thankfully most of the people I deal with stick to the normal worldwide system but when I move away from my safe pastures, where people appreciate by failings, some of the answers I have got to questions have been very confusing at first examination.

My knowledge of Swahili grows, although to be honest it has restricted uses, as much of what I learn is for use in the classroom.  I have for instance learnt that a verb starting nina is first person and present tense e.g. Ninakusanya daftari means I collect the books, whereas change this to nita and Kesho asabuhi nitakusanya daftari means I will collect the books tomorrow morning.  I did tell you my language had minimal usefulness.  Not really an opening gambit in a conversation at the local bar or even a good chat up line.


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