Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I never really thought of myself as Type-A, but . . .

Well, our dear Costa Rican “daughters” left on Saturday. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we had while they were here or about how many activities they packed into three weeks or about how many differences I observed between us.

But there was one difference I just have to write about because it became a bit of a joke among our family. That is our sense of time. We discovered that there’s our hyper-punctual-never-be-late sense of American time . . . and then there’s Costa Rican time.

Nary the twain shall meet.

Last Thursday was a perfect example. I had every minute of my day planned out, and it looked something like this:

2:15 - pick up Abby at school
2:30 - pick up CR students at church
2:35 - drop off CR students with admissions rep at college for informational meeting and campus tour
3:00 - drop off Abby at church for tutoring ministry
4:15 - pick up CR students at college
4:30 - pick up quick dinner at Qdoba
4:50 - pick up refugee girl for basketball practice (oh, that’s another story for another day)
5:00 - drop off Maggie and our refugee girl at b.ball practice
5:30 - take CR students to church for Blue Man Group
6:00 - pick up Maggie and A from b.ball practice; drive A back home
7:00 - B and I out for a birthday dinner w/ friends

See? Every minute of my afternoon, planned out. Probably a little too much planned out. I was a little frantic when I picked up our Costa Rican girls at 2:30. I hustled them out of the building and into my car, explaining that the admissions rep at the college had exactly 30 minutes to talk to them before she had to leave to go home.

I suddenly had this out-of-body experience as I was walking up the steps in our church, explaining our busy afternoon schedule. I saw myself from above, making wild hand gestures as I tried to get through to these girls that we had to go, go, GO. I suddenly thought that they must think I’m silly, hurrying the way I was.

Then L, one of our CR girls who didn’t seem to be listening to a word I was saying, turned and said, “I think J is going to take me to Kohl’s this afternoon.”


I tried to remain calm.

“Oh really,” I tried a casual this-doesn’t-bother-me-a-bit tone. “When are you going to do that?”

“Oh, later this afternoon.”

Finally, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. (I know. I’m a paragon of restraint.) “L, you don’t have time for that! I’m taking you over to the college right now, which will take until 4:30, and then you’ll have just one hour to eat something and get yourself ready to go to the theater. You have to be back at church at 5:30.”

I must have looked and sounded like an idiot to them. I think my face might have been just a little bit red.

“Oh, O.K., we just won’t be able to do that," she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

The entire incident left me scratching my head. Am I that much tied to the clock that I would go crazy over her suggestion that a friend take her shopping? Are they that laid back about time that she would have absolutely no clue what I was explaining to her?

We had a real disconnect about time, and believe me, that wasn’t an isolated incident.

Mornings were a bit of a challenge for me, too, as sometimes the person picking them up had to wait a few minutes in the driveway. A serious breach of etiquette in my house where we call ourselves the most on-time family you’ll ever meet. You just don’t make people wait. Ever.

But you know what? I learned something through all of this. I learned that we Americans (and by “we Americans” I mean me) are just way too tied to the clock. If I’m a few minutes late, it’s O.K. It doesn’t make me a bad person. And if I have to wait a few minutes for a friend to show up to lunch, so be it. It won’t kill me.

As I pictured myself as the girls must have seen me that day last week, I kind of cringe to think how . . . excuse me . . . anal I am about being on time. I must have seemed so silly to them, worrying about being a minute late.

And then it got me to thinking, I wonder what I’m missing when I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off.



  1. This may just be me...but many of the Americans I know don't have that hyper-punctual-never-be-late sense of American time, either. Could it be hyper-punctual-never-be-late sense of Wildfam time??

  2. Hmmmm.....Where do you think you might have gotten this from?

  3. Well, you have a point there, Jodi. I know plenty of never-on-time people. And our family kind of does have a punctuality reputation. So maybe my entire post means nothing. Hmmmm.

  4. There are a lot of people who don't follow strict time schedules. I have been putting more effort into being on time as I have always been a little late depending on what it was. I had to chuckle as how you were explaining it. What a neat experience to have with the exchange students though.

  5. I MUST be on time or it hurts somehow. But we have several families who are friends of ours who are NEVER on time. I must admit it grates on me.

    Our culture is truly different from many others in this area, though. One of our favorite quotes from Russia (which you almost always heard whenever you went to an appointment or to a store or office)"we will wait". Nobody is in a hurry there. I guess with years of communism comes the attitude that it only has to get done, it doesn't have to be done in a timely way.

    So on that note, we as Americans have that "work hard and you can make good" mantra and thus we do things more speedily. And that's the way I like it!

  6. Maybe my mother-in-law is meant to live in Costa Rica. She'd fit right in :)

  7. Glad you delurked on my blog because your comment led me here! You're so right about us all being tied to the clock. Gonna check out your blog a bit and see if I can find any more info about your memoir :)

  8. My dad went on a mission trip to Brazil a few years back . . .he said the same thing. Drove him nuts!

  9. Yeah, I have friends with inlaws who are missionaries in foreign cultures, and they describe similar situations when the inlaws visit. I would have been just like you! :-)