April 24, 2008

Honduran time - When is late too late?

Honduran warped time

Cubamericana left a comment on the last Carnaval article that brought up so many thoughts for me.

First, regarding the carnival: If it is for Hondurans and Hondurans don't mind the disorganization and lack of information, that's fine. But the fact is, it is supposed to be the biggest tourist event in Central America and you just can't run a tourist event like that and expect to get the quantity and quality (as in money-spending) tourists that way.

Cubamericana mentioned soccer games that have no schedule and a one hour warning of game times. We've had a similar situation with our neighborhood patronato (association). The people in charge announce the neighborhood meetings sometimes the day of or the night before the meeting by placing a sign at the entrance. Those who don't happen to drive in during that period would never know about the meeting. People may not get home from work until 5 p.m., 6 p.m., or even after the meeting already started. Personally, if I was getting home from work, tired and hungry, and found out there was a meeting in 5 minutes, I wouldn't go either.

Then when the turnout is poor − as it always is − those in charge lament the fact that only the same 7 or 8 people show up. Every time it's mentioned, I suggest that perhaps if we gave a little more notice or sent around a flyer a week beforehand, we might get better attendance. My suggestion is dismissed with "If people care, they will make time." I don't agree. I imagine that a lot of people care, but consider the lack of notice as a lack of respect for their time. I thought that might be a cultural difference on my part, but El Jefe told me that he feels the same way.

Even the meetings of the junta directiva (board members) are announced with a phone call sometimes only two hours before the meeting and never even with a day's notice. Generally, only five or six of the 10 or 12 board members show up. Of course, I'm ALWAYS the first to arrive, including the time that my front gate lock was jammed and I couldn't even get out of my yard for 20 minutes and it took another 10 minutes to walk over there!

Invariably, one or more persons will arrive an hour or two late and want a recap of everything that has been discussed and even want to argue the same points that have already been argued. That gets very tedious for those who are there when the meeting starts. This has been going on for about 6 months. Hey, if something isn't working, try something new!

Actually, I know that I'm right about giving prior notice because some of us tried to start a patronato a couple of years ago and had attendance of 30-40 people at each meeting − I think it was because we delivered flyers to each house, usually a week beforehand with another reminder the day before the meeting. However, the lack of responsibility of the volunteers caused us to finally give up. When a meeting is scheduled around three speakers' findings and only one shows up without absolutely any warning from the other two, it really gets disheartening.

Cubamericana also said that everyone in her husband's Honduran family missed their wedding, arriving during the reception. How sad when lack of consideration for time hits that level. I've seen this at weddings, even weddings that were delayed for two or more hours, as they usually are. But then, the interesting thing is I've also heard the complaints when the bride's family was an hour or two late serving the food!

And, boy, I'll tell you, I've been chastised a lot more than you might think for being late (10-30 minutes) for appointments or things much less important than a wedding. It's really hard for a gringa to figure when it is customary to be late and when it's not.

I told Cubamerica that she might get a laugh out of this article which includes a joke about confusing a Cuban with a Honduran.

Honduran time, real time plus x hours

Reader Daniel, a Honduran from Tegucigalpa, agrees that Hondurans in general are disorganized, but says that Ceibeños are in a class by themselves and even annoy Hondurans from other parts of the country. Somehow that is comforting for me!

I've adapted quite a bit to the laid back atmosphere. I can be late! But get much more late than 30-45 minutes and I'm really feeling guilty about it. Invariably, I end up calling the person I'm supposed to meet to let them know that I am coming and that I'm sorry. That is a call that I've never gotten from a Honduran.

You might say that it works for them so what's the big deal? I'm just not sure that it does work for them. Except for those casual social situations, it does cause problems. It causes expense and inconvenience. It causes some to lose out on jobs or sales to someone else who is more responsible. In a meeting situation, sometimes there is no time to discuss all of the important points because the meeting was delayed to such an extent that those who arrived on time need to leave. It also gives the impression of disorganization which can cause others to lose faith in whatever the organization is trying to do. Worst of all, it causes those who are reasonably timely to not be so the next time to avoid the endless wait for those people who are unreasonably late.

But, as cubamericana said, who are you going to complain to? ;-)

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