Before Peace Corps, scheduling and time management were almost my hobbies. I was obsessed with my agenda, planning all of my daily and long-term tasks in my color-coded planner. The organization became a routine to manage stress and motivate productivity. My life ran according to time, and delays were unwelcome. One of the most obvious changes in my life since joining Peace Corps, especially coming from such structure, is my perception of time. The shift was induced mainly by culture and geography.
In rural Morocco, small business dominates the community, which means people choose their own hours. There’s no pressure to adhere to a specific schedule because most people don't have one. Nobody is in a rush, and nothing is urgent. Family, rather than time, is the priority. Since the community is accustomed to this cycle, it remains this way. If a store is closed, you come back in a couple of hours or days. My classes always start late, and meetings are often delayed or cancelled. Events and meals drag on because there’s no hurry. To them, it’s not rude or unprofessional because they don't know differently.
I live in the Sahara near the Algerian border, meaning the middle of nowhere. It takes me about five and a half hours on a bus to reach the nearest small city, which is usually a stop on my way elsewhere. By the time I arrive there, I miss most other transportation leaving the city and have to stay overnight before I complete any journey. From there, it’s about 11 hours to Marrakech or Casablanca, seven hours to Fes, and several more hours to make it to Tangier, Essaouira, or Agadir. I have probably spent more time on buses since being in Morocco than I have in my entire life. My abuela always says I won’t have a butt after these long trips. It can be frustrating, but I’ve gotten so used to it, even embraced it. I have claimed bus rides as my own, taking charge of the in-between to sort through my mind and make sense of this experience.
In US culture, being punctual is professional and respectful, and being productive means you're hardworking. I don't disagree. But in Morocco I don't stress about time, which brought to my attention how much I was letting it control my life and mindset. I'm now released from those pressures because of my new environment and am able to dedicate more time to reflection and self-exploration. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to jump back into a routine and schedule back home because that’s a part of who I am and my culture. But time is literally my life, and even when I lose control of time, at least I still have it. What's the rush? Maybe life’s delays have what we're looking for.