Category Archives: one of those days

Punctuality vs Procrastination

Found out today that the date of our event has been moved pushed ahead a week. We now have an extra week to get things done, but at the same time so much will have to be rearranged.

The date was changed by MTV Exit to accommodate the upcoming commune elections. Well, that’s just great, MTV Exit, but why didn’t you tell us this until we asked? It may be because we are just very low-status yet, or it might be because randomly changing things, making decisions at the last minute is just normal in Cambodia.

I try to imagine certain members of my family or certain friends living here, or even visiting… I think it would bring on unbearable anxiety. “What do you mean, the bus is going to be an hour late?” “I’ve been waiting half an hour, you guys said you would be here at noon.” “What, you’re changing the day of our project on us which we’ve been planning for months and months, just a week before the event? Oh, okay.”

I think if I were a more normal American (i.e. not so lazy, more punctual, etc.), I would be having a freak-out right now. It does irritate me that we will have to disappoint some people who really wanted to attend, and now won’t be able to. But I feel surprisingly able to cope with this sudden change. One can be much happier here if one is flexible.

Procrastination is sort of an acceptable lifestyle in Cambodia, but it’s even annoying for me, at times. I was like the master of procrastination in high school and most of college. But in Cambodia, I do things on time (or even early) without making an effort. An American day late is often a Cambodian day early.

If you show up half an hour early to something here, like a big important meeting, you’re liable to wait an hour for the meeting to get started. I’m so used to lateness now that when I’m teaching, I literally don’t notice my students walking in twenty minutes late as I’m in the middle of a lesson. It gives me pause to consider what a return to American life will be like. People are probably going to find me annoyingly laid back about time.

Not being so concerned about time, though, has its perks. Like a serious reduction in stress. I can recall panicking when I’d leave for work with plenty of time, encounter an unexpected traffic jam or get stuck by a train, and be just barely on time for the shift change. In the Kingdom, though, if something unexpected happens, people just say, “Whatever. Things happen.” I was even at a wedding once where the groom showed up an hour late; it was definitely face-losing, but no one said a word! Teachers at my school regularly go to class five minutes late, and they’re not fired yet. I don’t think anyone even notices. Once in a while a student will give me an excuse for why they were late or absent, but generally no one seems to think it necessary to bother with an excuse.

And as for being early… No one gives kudos to the person who shows up ten minutes early to something. They might even complain that you got there “too early”. Yeah, definitely a lot of Americans I know would need a serious paradigm shift in their perception of time before they could cope with CST (Cambodian Standard Time).

Anyway, guess I better get going. I was going to do some chores before I have to run an errand at 3, but that’s 4 CST (or 4:30? Who knows), so maybe I’ll just take a nap, or do some laundry, or read a book… I’ve got all the time in the world.

This was appropriate when I was a PCV, but be it a gov’t non profit, an NGO, it’s always the same with the “wellness program”… ^_^

 

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Filed under changes, one of those days, take back the night, the States vs the Kingdom, time

Can’t you read?

The Indian embassy is interesting.

Never been before.

No one warned me about the crazy visa man.

I went to pick up the passport/visa of a friend of mine who will be visiting India soon. The two Khmer security guards were friendly, showed me in– or showed me the door, rather. They pointed straight. “Go that way,” they said, but they didn’t come in. Actually they slammed the door on me. Huh, that was strange, I thought as I meandered down an exterior corridor of a large, fancy house. Strange-looking embassy, if you ask me.

I was beginning to think I got it wrong when I noticed an open window and a counter under it. It said “visa services”, or something to that effect. I approached and saw a man on the other side, sitting facing away from me, staring intently at a computer.

“Excuse me,” I said. The pale, spectacled man turned and glared at me.

“What?”

I experienced a moment of doubt. Why was I here?  “Uh, I need to pick up a passport.”

The man’s frowned deepened. “No, that’s not right.” It wasn’t? Was this a Jedi mind trick?

“Well, I’m picking it up for a friend, actually.” I started fishing for the receipt. He moved to a desk drawer and started pawing through a stack of passports. He seemed to hesitate on one, but the put them away and looked at me sharply. I gave him the receipt. After glancing at it but a moment, he said,

“Can’t you read?” He told me in the Queen’s English (or that’s what they say) with a pronounced Indian accent. “It says the 23rd.”

“It does?” I was amazed. I hadn’t realized the cryptic scribbles were actually writing,  let alone in a language I could recognize.  I looked it over. “No, actually, I can’t read that.”

“Come back then.” He started to go back to his desk.

“So, it isn’t ready yet…?” I ventured.

“Of course it isn’t ready yet!” The pale man spat, “How can it be ready? It isn’t the twenty-third!” He eyeballed me like I was wearing a big fat dunce cap.

“Uh, hm. Okay. I’ll… be back then. Goodbye.”

“Yes.” He dismissed me.

I was completely steamed when I signed out with the guards. “That guy is really rude!” I exclaimed in Khmer.  They seemed to give me a look that said newb. I thanked them and left. I was still pissed until I called a friend, but as I told her what had happened, the crazy visa man sounded to start funnier and funnier.

Still,  I wish I didn’t have to go back in two days…

 

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Filed under crazy people, embassies, one of those days, phnom penh