“Keeping Time Is Essential”

Posted on March 6, 2008. Filed under: Butdoisay TRUE STORIES |


Another true story by butdoisay after a long pause since the political impasse in Kenya.

Time is essential to major foreign communities in the world, but when it comes to Africans, time means just time, if we decide to meet at 1200 hrs, this means that we should meet at 1300 hrs, at least one hour after the proposed time. We tend to forget that the other partner might have other agendas after the proposed time, and so its so difficult to plan. When we organise parties, we invite guests, with times mentioned on the invitation cards, the invited guests come on time to an empty hall with no refreshments on the table, no cookies on the table and of course no candies. All you see is guests yawning and yawning and sometimes feeling sleepy.

True Story: I got a job at one of the African embassies residence (Tanzanian) in Stockholm, and I agreed with the ambassador by then Ambassador Kateka, to arrive at  around 10 oclock in the morning, as I have lived abroad for a long time, I have learned  to keep time, and I always try to arrive at least 5 minutes before the proposed time. So I arrived at around 0955, I parked my car, and went straight to the door and pressed the bell, no answer, after one minute, pressed the bell again, no answer, after 3 minutes, I pressed the bell no answer and then after the fourth minute, I pressed the bell and waited, I saw the ambassadors wife on the balcony peeping to see who it was, so she came down and opened the door, and the first thing she asked me was, when did we agree you should come? I said 10 oclock, and when did you come? she asked, I said 0955….and then she goes on..if you are told to come at 10 oclock, its 10 oclock, if you come early, you wait outside until 10 oclock and then you press the bell, you think this is Kenya…ujaluoni…where you do things just like that?  I am sorry madam, I said. She was like the first lady, so I gave her the respect she deserved and I apologised..

So she opens the door and lets me in the big house and asks me to sit down, she goes upstairs and comes back and takes me around the house, where I will be cleaning, here is the kitchen, the bathroom, bedrooms and so on. Having seen what I was going to clean, basically the whole villa, I asked her if we could agree on how much she will be paying me, and then she says, you just start working!! And then I insisted that I have to know how much I was going to work for, so she ushers me to the soffa and tells me to wait.

As I was waiting….daadaaang ..like in the movies…..I heard some foot steps from the stairs, and then came the ambassador himself, Kateka, without saying anything, he just asked me….what you waiting for??? and I was like, Sir, I need to know how much I will be working for, and then he goes again, with a very harsh tone….I said, what you waiting for? With a tanzanian accent!!

Sir, I need to know how much I will be getting, we have to discuss on how much I will be getting before I can start working, and then he goes wild….I have no time to discus  this cleaning,cleaning jobs…just get out and go….

With all due respect, I just said, ok sir and I left……

What do we learn from this saga? What I learnt was… “You can remove a person from the village but you cannot remove the village from the person”. I did my best to keep time, to upgrade my CV and get the job, but all I got was arrogance and disrespect, but still I never forgot that “TIME IS ESSENTIAL IN OUR DAY TO DAY LIVES”  so lets learn to keep time…..butdoisay…

Clay Onyango.


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3 Responses to ““Keeping Time Is Essential””

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Surprise surprise! That is nothing new Clay. A lot of Diplomats especially from African countries consider themselves un-touchables for some reason known to themselves. Humbleness is forgotten as soon as they board the aeroplane for a post abroad. I had many encounters during my student days where most of these political heads without enough academic merits had guts to treat us like filth! It is still done again and again and again.
Regina Kessy

Oh Lawd! Man that was horrible…am glad that you acted with decorum. Ambassador or not thats not the way to treat a fellow human being….shenzi type!

Kudos to ambassador Mureithi who regularly had
tea with us when we worked in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia as expartriates. He is the humblest of servants and brought himself to the level of us ordinary
mortals to have a decent conversation and even
share many of his experiences with us during his time as a career diplomat. He doesn’t sound like any of those
diplomats described here.

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