The professor clearly stated at the beginning of the semester that papers will not be accepted from students who arrive late on the day the assignment is due. The student arrived only five minutes late to class with his paper in hand. He and his classmates witnessed the same, sad scenario only weeks before in which another student was not permitted to submit his work. He knew the penalty for his transgression against the law of the professor – death for his paper.
This story is true and is a classic example of the American cultural perception of time. Class starts at 9:00. The meeting is at 3:00. “I’ll meet you there for dinner at 8:00.” Show up a few minutes after the agreed time and you’re late. The Malagasy perception of time varies some according to location.
In the larger cities I think a person can be late to a meeting, or class, or a date. In the villages I think there is a lot of grace extended. Most of my friends who live in the village don’t own a watch or a telephone and are not consumed with the burning question, “What time is it?”
We had a teaching time slated for Sunday afternoon in a nearby village. We arrived near or before the agreed time, being a good little Westerner. We waited at the person’s home with the children for an hour and fifteen minutes before we decided to “ask for the road.” I thanked the children for teaching me several games using marbles and told them to let others know we will be back the following week, “same bat time, same bat channel…”
We have been stood-up enough in the village that I don’t get offended or frustrated anymore, but I still wonder where they were and what they were doing. They don’t have power, tv, internet, facebook, etc. What was keeping them from the teaching time?