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Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa


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Planning ahead in Africa time

Parents of small children need to be organised and plan ahead but also be flexible and ready for the unexpected. I think parents could and should fill employment cover letters with all the highly developed organisational and interpersonal skills they develop from parenting the shit out of life. Parents also possess other skills like small child bum wiping and cereal preparation under extreme pressure, but often these are less transferable.

I am a planner. I love me a list. Say I’m going to the shop with Noggs in England, I will plan when I need to leave and be back based on the following variables: how long my shopping list is, how far away the shop is, how close it is to nap time or bed time, what Noggs’ mood is like or will become, how hungry Noggs is or will become. Once all these factors have been properly assessed and strategies have been put in place to reduce negative eventualities (by strategies, I mean snacks in my bag), we can head to the shop. But in Africa, you have to add another variable into the planning a task with a small child equation and that is Africa time.

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Even though I’m a very organised and mostly impatient person, I love Africa time. It describes how things just take a bit longer here. The cogs of productivity seem to move slower. Buses don’t always go on time. Things come up or don’t always work. People chat and take life slow. If you want a form stamped, allow at least an hour. Things happen when they happen, if they happen. It can be infuriating but it can also make you relax and let it go. It can also be pretty hilarious like when we got married.

Sam and I got married at a Home Affairs office in South Africa and it felt like one giant dash of Africa time. We waited around for ages. The building used to be a jail so it was kind of weird waiting around in my wedding dress with flowers next to the barred rooms anyways. Eventually someone agreed to marry us but instead of the marriage officer, it ended up being a man we think might have been a janitor. He couldn’t find his glasses. Eventually a pair of specs were found but they were missing one arm. He struggled to read the vows and kept getting everything mixed up including our names and our genders. People were talking and shouting and randomly singing from the rooms (cells) next door. Eventually after having our fingerprints taken we were married (or maybe we aren’t actually married, the janitor wasn’t super convincing).

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Waiting to get married in a jail photo opportunity

In South Africa there are even vague terms that describe rough quantities of Africa time. Now now means something that is going to happen relatively soon. This could be in the next five minutes or in a few hours or maybe never. The length of time is never specified because who really knows how long anything is going to take. Just now means something that is going to happen soonish but not as soon as now now. Again it’s completely vague. It might be hours, few days, a week, or never. It will happen just now.

So back to planning a shopping trip, you have to add in a dash of Africa time into your plans as well. You never know how long someone is going to chat to you in the shop or whether the till is going to work or if there is going to be a power outage or a police roadblock or how painfully slowly a worker is going to place vegetables on the shelves one tomato at a time.

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We bought a Noggs.

From tomorrow our whole town won’t have any water for four days while maintenance is conducted on the water pipes. The backup pipes are also broken so everyone is making plans to stock up on water beforehand. Although our estate has a reserve of water, we have buckets, bathtubs, and bottles filled up ready for the dry spell just in case. All this standing water breaks the rule about never having standing water around your house so mosquitoes don’t breed. But it should only be a short time so it will be fine. But really how short or how long it will take is up to Africa time so who knows.

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Ready to wash dishes in the bathtub or whatever life flings.

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