Thursday, July 12, 2012

The meaning of Patience... and I thought I knew what it was.

I have always thought I was generally a patient person. Whenever I'm at a restaurant and there is a 20 minute wait, I don't really mind. When I am driving, and the person in front of me doesn't turn left fast enough, it doesn't really bother me... when it came to losing my patience, it was a rare occasion. Living in India has proven the very opposite. Before coming to India, I took a prep class where we learned about the host culture, and I remember one memorable lesson about the perception of time. I remember learning that people in India were under polychronic time, meaning rigid scheduling and being efficient with time, is not a priority. Monochronic time is when there are time limits, rigid schedules, etc (much like the U.S.A and Japan). Well, I remember thinking "oh I'm totally polychronic, I'm always late and I am really bad at keeping a rigid schedule". WRONG was I. No class could have ever prepared me for "Indian" time. I can't remember the first time that I experienced "Indian" time... but I know that it has happened numerous times since, and I thought that maybe it was a ONE time thing. My patience has wore extrememly thin at times. One example to illustrate what I am talking about is when Emma and I were in a big hurry to get somewhere and we needed to email the boys because we did not have a way to call them. We thought "let's send them an email to tell them where we are and then run to where we need to be". We scrambled around to find an internet cafe and when we got there, we saw that it was completely full... and one of the girls said "it will be just 5 minutes madam". Emma and I REALLY needed to be where we were going soon, but we thought 5 minutes really wouldn't be a problem..... 15 minutes later, and a little out of patience, I asked again "is there a spot open yet?" and again, the girl said "wait 10 minutes madam"... WHAT?? I was SO livid!! But don't worry, I didn't blow up on her, it was more of an internal battle than anything. OH!! I just remembered the first time I experienced "Indian" time. It as at the mall, the famous Brookfields mall... VERY well developed and I feel like I'm in America everytime I set foot in it... anyway, we bought our churidars and when you buy a churidar, sometimes they don't come with the sleeves sewn on, and so you buy it and then it is taken to a small tailoring room where they sew on sleeves. Well, they told us that our churidars would be ready in 30 minutes. After waiting an hour, I went up to the counter and demanded to know what had happened to our churidars... the girl gave me the answer that I wanted to hear, but not accurate at all. "It will be ready in 5 minutes ma'm".... 20 minutes later, I asked again and again, I received the same answer. I had never found myself more impatient than that day. I was SO annoyed that my churidar wasn't ready, and even more so at the fact that they lied about the time!!! But they weren't lying... that's just the way it is here in India. The random estimation of time is not said to purposely anger someone, or for the mere reason of lying... it's just that time is percieved differently! Waiting is something that India is EXPERT in. Sitting and waiting, and then sitting and waiting some more, is just life here. I did not know this then, but knowing it now, I find it a lot easier to be patient. Aside from the whole time perception, there are more things that have challenged my patience, I share only a few here. When I've been waiting to buy something at the shop, people will just cut in front of me, as if I were not standing there for 5 minutes already. When I've been at the mall and there are escalators, there have been small lines because a lot of Indian women are DEATHLY afraid to step onto them. When I've been waiting for the bus that I've have heard people say will come at a certain time, and it has come an hour or more, later (again with the time). When I've been at a restaurant, and seen something(s) I've wanted on the menu, and they've been out of what I've wanted to order. When we've approached someone on the street because we are lost, and the person won't know where the place is, he or she will seldom say "sorry I don't know", instead, we've been pointed to go one direction, while someone else a block later, will point us the opposite way. Emma's personal favorite: when we are looking for a good deal on an auto rickshaw and they absolutely REFUSE to lower their outrageously high prices... I probably sound like the biggest brat and that I dislike India and its inhabitants... well, don't worry, I actually love it. I have learned to deal with, and to be patient, and now when things like that happen (and happen they DO, and often) I find that I do not become impatient, but start to lay back and take it all in. Things are not this way in America, and it's going to feel different to be in a monochronic time frame again. So, I actually try to enjoy it while I can.
On one of these occasions where I was impatient because of time, I learned a little lesson that has helped me see things in a different light. Emma and I were walking home and we were quickly joined by a group of pre-teen girls. As Emma and I walked along, we noticed that the girls kept lagging behind. We said to each other "why are they walking so slow?". They would catch up, only to, a few minutes later, fall behind again. Then, one of the little girls said "Aunty wait- walk slow please", motioning with her hand to slow down the pace. I have always remembered that. I walk so fast, not only physically, but intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. My mind is always going, I want prayers answered fast, I want my relationships to work out quickly... sometimes "walking slow", is better. It has made a difference in how I see things. I walk a little slower now, taking in the sights of the village, instead of plowing through, trying to get to my final destination. Looking at a woman carrying water on her head, or at a little boy spinning a tire down the street with a stick, or at a grandpa sitting down with his friends-taking in these sights, has soothed me and helped me in more ways than I could adequately explain on this blog. I read something in my India culture guide, that I really liked. In talking about IST or Indian stretchable time, the author said: "the slower pace may be hard to swallow, but it can be medicinal and even enjoyable for those who can adjust to their expectations". Couldn't have better said it better myself.


  1. It sounds like you're learning a lot yourself! Thanks for your comments and this post; I have been learning more about being patient with myself, and that is enhanced when I am more patient with my surroundings. I agree that there is a medicinal, sweet and calming effect when I learn to slow down the pace and really look at life around me and appreciate it. The problem is that after adjusting myself to this sweet relief, my deadlines have made no adjustment themselves. Curse our monochromatic timing! Thanks for your insights and suerte con el resto de tu viaje!

  2. Me encanto!!!! Si que tienes esta percepcion para describir lo que observas mami. Me encanta eso. Y me alegra muchisimo, que estes aprendiendo a "slow down" o a andarte mas despacito. Vienen bendiciones cuando dejamos el afan y recurrimos a apreciar lo que de verdad vale.
    Gracias por recordarme esto. Cuando viviamos en Colombia todo es asi. Mas despacio, ahora aqui yo me siento que mis dias no son suficientes... no me gusta. De razon aqui en america hay mas depresion, porque no lo tomamos suave.
    y aun asi nos critican a los latinos y nos llaman "flojos".
    Espero que cuando llegues puedas incorporar lo que has aprendido en tu diario vivir.

  3. Esa foto es perfecta.... me encanto mami. ponla en facebook.

  4. I love this post! I feel like I just read my own personal blog post but mine is "Africa" time. I have also learned that it takes a lot of patience sometimes. In Africa you can't have a schedule because one task could take up your whole entire day even if you think it's just a simple errand. I too didn't realize how fast paced my life was until I came here. Despite the inconvenience it can be sometimes don't you find it also very refreshing to be able to sit back and talk to someone for hours. I have found that without a schedule it leaves me more open to develop relationships with the people in my small town. I appreciate this post and good luck with the rest of your time there!

  5. Hey Laura! Just wanted to say that I loved this post and sincerely appreciate all the insight that you give.