“God gave the White man watches, and Africa time.”
I decided I needed to try to get a schedule in place for a project before I flew down to South Africa so I started with the most important person in the office there. “Hi Mfana! It’s Melissa, and I’m heading to South Africa in a few weeks to do those interviews about cross cultural cooperation I told you about.”
Mfana said, “Hi Melissa! How are you? Are you feeling well in Germany?” “Oh yes, quite!” I said, “How are you?” feeling ashamed I hadn’t started with this question. (I should have known better.) We chatted a bit about life and family, then he asked how he could help me. I said, “Well, I have two days and I need to interview sixteen people. Since you’re the most important person with, I suppose, the busiest schedule, I’d like to arrange the cross cultural communication interviews around your availability.” “Sure,” Mfana said, “just come into the office on the first morning you’re here and we’ll make it work.” I said, “Great, great, but is there a particular time?” He said, “Just come in the morning, it’ll be fine.” I started to panic a little bit, how was I going to organize my schedule or create a work-plan when I couldn’t nail down a time with him?
Mfana must have felt my panic through the phone because he said, “Melissa, let me tell you something, God gave the White man watches, and Africa…TIME. Don’t worry, it will work out. Just travel safely here and I will take care of the rest.” Of course, I knew what he meant, but in that moment I felt caught between two worlds – intercultural worlds – that viewed the concept of time very differently. Not better or worse, just differently.