The culture of time

Since coming to South America nearly 15 months ago my schedule and concept of time has been turned on its head. I left the strict routine of a regular job behind me when I said goodbye to the consulting world in Ernst & Young in Johannesburg and I can honestly say that I have not missed this routine for one second. I left behind the 6am mornings and rush hour traffic chaos of Jozi for a “routine” that generally involves me waking up whenever I feel like it. Thus, my recent return to early mornings has got me thinking alot about time and the different way we look at it in South Africa and Chile.

One of my english students recently changed his classes from the afternoon to the mornings (8:45 to 9:45) which involved me changing my schedule to wake up at 7:15ish to take the metro at 8 and be at his office at 8:45. Not that early if I think about my school days when we lived on the farm, first year university or my working life in SA…Then, my english institute asked me if I was willing to teach another class in the same company…the catch being that this lady wanted her lessons even earlier (7:45 to 8:45). Since I have always been a morning person and the classes are in the same location I thought why not. Plus, the earlier start is the difference between being squished between 5 other Chileans on theairless, stifling metro during peak time and having ample room to breathe and move freely just 30 minutes earlier. The funniest thing though was the reaction from most of the Chilean people I know here when I told them that three mornings a week now I am at work by 7:30ish. To them this was just plain “loco” (mad)…who on earth would want to get up SO early in the morning, for what in reality is a pittance. The answer…crazy gringos like me who need the money…

But in reality I have always been a morning person and I enjoy starting my days early…I feel I have been so much more productive with my time since having this teaching schedule. Up to now with no real schedule in the morning and the fact that I live with an actress who makes her own schedule and my boyfriend works for himself so he also makes his own schedule, I have turned rather Chileno when it comes to the concept of time.

BUT, the main problem with my early morning schedule now is that my night schedule has not really changed to accommodate it. The main reason Chileans are rather slow to get going in the mornings is that they are mostly nightowls and stay up rather late, even during the week. In SA, during the week I would often be asleep by 9:30 or 10pm!!! Any Chilean person reading this is going to cringe at the thought of being in bed at the time that most of them are only thinking about what to eat for dinner. But I have adapted to this lifestyle (mainly by starting to drink coffee) and it is now normal for me to go to bed around midnight or later…11pm I now consider early!!! The problem is that my night and morning schedules are no longer in sync…hence the need for coffee.

However, I count myself really lucky with the schedule I have these days. I have the freedom to plan my time between teaching, on-off work with EY, translating work with Coni, writing in my blog and a very new and exciting working opportunity on a renewable energy project (more about this in another post). And despite my mornings being rather early again, I can sometimes sneak in an afternoon nap between things. I may not make nearly the same amount of money I was making in a full time job in South Africa or that I could make here in a similar position, but to be honest I wouldn’t change a thing about my schedule right now. South America has taught me many things and one of them is the value of the time we have…so make the most of yours…

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This entry was posted in Chile, Random thoughts, observations and perspectives... and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The culture of time

  1. Helen says:

    I remember watching Chilenos happily, safely, cheerfully on the streets late at night – with envy. Emphasis on the “safely”.

    • ingridckoch says:

      Definitely…I have been out late at night in Chile, alone or with only other girls or a mixture of people and have never felt unsafe. It is such a different feeling to SA.

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