All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that. ~Baltasar Gracian
Living in Nicaragua requires a different mindset of time management. I used to pride myself in the ability to plan and control how I spent the hours in my day to effectively accomplish my goals. I had mastered the skills of planning for the future. setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and monitoring where the time goes. THEN…I moved to Nicaragua where mañana could mean today, tomorrow, sometime in the distant future, or never… where I am constantly reminded to slow down and be present. What I’ve learned about time management in Nicaragua may surprise you. It’s not all bad.
Let’s get real about time management in Nicaragua.
1. Most Nicaraguans are better at single-tasking, than multi-tasking.
This makes sense to me because, first, most Nicaraguans aren’t plugged into technology every minute of their lives. I don’t know anyone that wears a wrist watch, has an alarm clock, or crosses off a to-do list everyday.
Research shows that we are more efficient when we attend to one thing at a time. Since I am a recovering multi-tasker, I have tested this theory and find it to be true. I’ve accepted the fact that it is impossible to keep a daily to-do list. When I make plans to do my laundry while checking my email, the electricity goes off, or the welder down the street sucks all the power and my spin cycle drags to a grinding halt. Then, if I do make it through a wash cycle, when I’m hanging the clothes outside to dry, there is an unexpected downpour.
Or, if I want to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies while reading a good book (neither of them need electricity, so I think I’m safe), either the propane tank runs out of propane, or my neighbors are running around my yard frantically trying to catch a chicken for supper, or the horses and cows have knocked down our gate again and I am interrupted causing my cookies to burn and my Kindle to need to be recharged.
2. Nicaraguans live in the present.
My mind was always a day ahead of me. I never really learned how to be in the present until I moved to Nicaragua. I used to mow my lawn in the states with my iPod attached to my ear, either listening to an audio book or music. But, yesterday, when Julio helped me clean the beach, he identified every plant and bush I cut down with my handmade weed wacker. I learned which plants were toxic to cows and horses, in which plants the nasty biting ants made their homes, and the medicinal uses of the yellow flowering weed growing prolifically on the beach.
He taught me to bring full awareness to each chore, noticing the sense of smell, touch, sound, and sometimes taste. I was gently redirected back to the task at hand and I learned so many new things!
3. Get enough sleep.
Some days, I was scrambling around frantically trying to accomplish my tasks, and I would tell myself, “There isn’t enough time in the day to do everything.” I’d complete one task, then my mind would race on to the next thing. Meanwhile, the tropical sun was high overhead and my neighbors were taking their daily siestas in the hammocks strung under the shade trees.
Most of my Nicaraguan friends go to bed early and rise very early in the morning to complete their chores before the heat of the day. They are very productive early in the morning, and they know that when they are tired and sluggish it is time for their daily siesta. It used to annoy me when I would go to town at noon and all the stores were closed…sometimes for two hours. But, now I understand the reason for siestas and an early to bed, early to rise time management skill.
4. Always arrive late.
When someone invites me to a birthday party, or a parade, or a meeting, I am always the early bird. I arrive 15 minutes before the time on the invitation. But, no more! I have learned never to show up to an event on time because nothing…absolutely nothing starts on time in Nicaragua.
Last year, when we attended Jiaro’s third birthday party, we showed up exactly at three o’clock, and no one was there, no chairs were set up, no pinata hung…nothing. Yesterday, we arrived at four o’clock and the party was only getting started.
Always arrive late…except for a scheduled flight on or off Ometepe Island. I received this notice on our expat group the other day.
I had the lucky fortune to take the flight from Ometepe to Managua. La Costena has apparently made some changes to the route and flight which seriously impact a person’s travel plans.
The captain on the plane recommended that all travelers should call La Costena the day before in the afternoon to verify the route and times of the flight you hope to catch to make sure it works for your schedule.
WHAT??? I shook my head and laughed. Only in Nicaragua.
5. Be prepared to wait…a lot!
I swear, I spend half of my life in Nicaragua waiting…waiting…waiting. It used to be so frustrating and annoying, but I’m learning to be patient and not to expect efficient time management skills in Nicaragua.
For example, three weeks ago, I designed and ordered a wooden cabinet for my Pre-Columbian pottery collection from a master woodworker. He told me it would be ready and delivered at the end of July. The night before it was to be delivered, Herman walked to my house to tell me it wasn’t ready. “Herman”, I asked, “Why didn’t you call me instead of walking from town?” His reply was, “I didn’t have any minutes on my phone to call you.”
Gotta love Nicaragua!
I don’t know why the Nicaraguan perception of time management is so different from mine. Maybe it has to do living in the tropics where the pace of living is slower because of the tropical heat. Maybe it is because there aren’t as many technological advances, or the infrastructure, such as electricity, is unreliable.
Whatever the reasons, my perception of time passing has changed considerably while living in Nicaragua. I’ve learned to savor the moment…soak it all in. I try not to take the small moments for granted, for those are the ones we look back on the most with fondness.
My perception of time is more malleable because all we really have that belongs to us is time.
What is your perception of time management and has it changed for you?