To see ourselves as others see us

Clock tower on old churchThe arrival in my home of a colleague from Malawi has caused me to reflect on my life and surroundings. This is her first time out of Malawi and she is astonished by my washing machine, my dishwasher, the amount of food I eat and the size of my flat. That is all reasonably predictable. What surprised me more was her astonishment at the lateness of the start of our working day. That her lost luggage had no chance of being delivered before 9 am (when they promised ‘morning’) left her speechless. That lost luggage is very common was a surprise to her.

Time-keeping, is predictably, an issue. While Malawians start their day at 5 or 6 am, they don’t rush around very much thereafter. How we can get up so late but we are breakfasted, ready and heading to a meeting within an hour seems odd to them. But we don’t have to make a fire before we make tea, nor collect water, nor wash dishes. It’s easy for us to be on time!

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Time keeping in Korea

Huge numbers of people change planes in
South Korea and the Koreans are admirably set up to take advantage of this
transit tourism.  Transit tours are
available from the airport for however many hours you have available.  This allows the traveller to see a bit of the
country quickly, easily and very cheaply. 
You need have no worry about not being back in time for your flight –
every Korean I met during my brief stay was obsessive about time.  
On a trip to a temple the group started to
take photos when we got out of the minibus. 
‘No time for photos now, I will give you seven minutes for photos
later’.  She wasn’t kidding, though we
did snap away outside of the allotted seven minute slot.  Having passed a souvenir shop on the way up
to the temple, I was ready on the way down and asked if we had time to buy
something.  Our guide, Kelly, checked her
i-phone and announced that we had two minutes. 
Some speedy shopping later, our two minutes were up and we were heading
back to the bus and the airport.  
Ever-conscious of travellers’ needs, the
information desk at the airport includes a mailbox where you can put your
postcards and they will be posted for you, free of charge.  Contrast that with trying to send a postcard
from Heathrow.  Just think about it –
buying a card would be fairly easy. 
Would that same shop sell stamps for outside the UK?  Where would you find a mailbox?  Too difficult. 
The morning newspaper carried several major
pieces about North Korea and the term ‘reclusive nation’ was repeatedly used to
describe that closed state.  In
conversation people refer to NK as the ‘bad guys’ but the official line is
clearly that of striving for better relations, in particular so that the
reuniting of families can start again. 
Korea seems a fascinating country, the people are lovely and I do hope
to manage a longer trip soon.
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