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My Viewpoint on Time

Contrary to the typical stereotype of many Latinos, my parents and I are surprisingly punctual. We are accustomed to everyone else running on ‘Cuban Time’ in our Latin Community in Miami. But we never fit that norm. We are known for being 20-30 minutes early for anything related to professional work. When it came to professionalism, being late is wasting others time in my household.

However, I knew casual events were different. In every meetup, hangout, holiday, or festivity, I knew 7 pm meant a range from 7:30 to

9:30 pm for everyone else to arrive. These events are infrequent, but my family adjusts when plans form. We often delayed ourselves when we leave our house, cook food, and plan out evenings for others.

Time in Cape Verde

But in Cape Verde, they live with an even less obstructed view on time, which often meant looser viewpoints on punctuality and impromptu changes to plans. This cultural aspect is especially prevalent in the rapid change of plans and lack of timeliness for formal work events. For us volunteers, this meant that adaptability was key. For example, we had a free day that had a completely last minute change. I went from planning to wake up at 11 am to being woken up by our site coordinator, telling me to get ready as soon as possible. We nearly spent the whole day with Head Directors and Local Coordinators of different Non-Profit Child Centers throughout the island. These directors gave us tours, essential meeting dates, and details on how their daily operations. All for us, all last minute, and we appreciated their efforts to squeeze in time of their busy schedules to make time.

Meanwhile, there have been other moments where I have over an hour for our teacher to come to scheduled volunteering event for a local food bank. This event was planned a week before. My viewpoint on timeliness and their attitudes on timeliness clashed. I had to learn and understand that it was not a big deal over here. As long as it happened and people were satisfied, being late did no harm. Cape Verde is a relaxed country; people are in no rush. Abrupt changes do occur, but mostly, everything is laid back and peaceful. I remember locals mentioning to us that schedules are often changed, or people tell you to move back a meeting like it is no big deal. I eventually understood that the relaxed nature is due to their focus on the present more than worrying about the future.

As a favor to a University of Cape Verde (Uni CV) Professor, all the Duke Engage students attended a multilingual discussion about language in Cape Verde and Africa.  Professors were going to speak in four different languages: Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese. The Professors assumed we only understood Portuguese and English, so two professors spoke in Portuguese instead rather than Spanish or French. Despite most of us knowing no Portuguese whatsoever, and therefore having no idea of what was being discussed, we appreciated their efforts. To have a whole speech and debate prepared in one language and then adjust on the spot for others to understand without preparation is commendable. That is time, effort, and cooperation to accommodate seven people out of fifty in a room. They made sure to acknowledge us and make us feel welcome, something that is not common in many American spaces. They understand the effort it takes to come to an event. They were concerned over our ability to understand. The change of language by the professors extended the discussion and made it finish later than expected, but they were honored to adapt for us. It was at that moment when this cultural connection clicked and I realized their feeling of just enjoying the current time and space. Personal face to face time is more important than a strict schedule. Your presence is more important than you believe. I felt this appreciation in every event we attended for others.

Rather than complain about adjustments, I embraced the freedom and thrill of not knowing what could come next. Instead of planning a day out with every task that required time, I focused more on the moment, since that moment may never happen again. In place, my body grew relaxed to the unknown. I became more laid-back as a person. If something happens as planned, then that is great. If something did not occur as expected, that was okay too. Because of this perspective, I now have to figure out ideas on the fly. My improvisation is improving with time. As long as I put my best foot forward in everything I do, I became comfortable with the process.

Time is a social construct that we build to plan and schedule our lives. Thus, we are bound to the constructs of the culture we are in. We must embrace the cultures thoroughly to understand who they are in their time and space.


Hallways of Uni CV
Main Hallway at Universidad de Cabo Verde (Also known as Uni CV)