Are we at the Mad Hatters tea Party?


clock big benMoving straight to London less than two weeks after traveling home from Africa and indeed completing the Kilimanjaro climb got me reflecting upon the concept of time. Who made up the idea of time? And why is it so important in affecting our daily lives? Apparently the answer to the first of those questions is not specifically known but much can be credited to Julius Caesar for evolving the solar calendar. The second question I’m still mulling over at present and something inside me feels I will for a large remainder of my life and certainly for as long as I continue to travel.

One of the most common questions that people ask is what it feels like to be in a different place and although worlds apart the concept of time is what connects both Africa and London and the difference for me is what starkly stood out .

Anyone who has ever traveled to Tanzania will be familiar with the phrase ‘ Pole, Pole’ meaning ‘slowly , slowly’ and indeed a phrase by which many African people live there life. Time seems to stand still in Tanzania. No sense of immediacy. Taking a look around it’s clear to see how content people are in carrying on with their daily routines in their own time. Thinking back to one of my first DP sessions on a pre departure phase in which team leader Mog played a Satish Kumar(an Indian guru) tape makes me see why. I must admit I was not too sure of the relevance of the tape at the time and slightly confused. The message of it I have now witnessed is loud and clear and ringing in the ears of many people I met on the African continent ‘ You have to slow down to go further’ .

Climbing Kili, the issue of time and its importance in Africa was reinforced once more. Many endless hours were spent thinking of the passing away of my younger cousin ‘Rory’ who’s life sadly ended far too soon after falling in a school gym.

Through the rat race of the leaving cert, five years of college and the push to get the first full time job, taking time out has often proved difficult to do. Life is of course like a computer game at times with extra points for hitting targets. For me a conscious effort is going to be made from now on, to make the most of time, while I can wherever I may be and to remember to slow down and to enjoy life’s possibilities. A lesson I’ve learned.

Living directly across from Hendon Central subway on a busy intersection in London’s bustling metropolis it is safe to say there is no slowing down! From dusk to dark, the sound of commuters can be heard. Passing through the tube station one is always very nearly knocked over by some person or another rushing to get somewhere. At first I thought these people are focused. I can see determination in their eyes and then I wonder what is it they are focusing on ? A job? A house? The next goal or stage in their life? And of course there’s probably some not focusing on either three.

Nonetheless, to say as an English teacher there are times when all these people remind me of the Mad Hatter character from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Running around constantly obsessed with checking watches and brushing by people as they ascend elevators in a hurry, I wonder do they feel like him as he was stuck on tea time’s never ending 6 o clock?

From both my experiences in Africa and London, I alas feel like Alice, who at the end of the novel must adjust her own perceptions of time, since the Mad Hatter’s watch indicates that days are rushing by and indeed the London days are rushing by.

I just hope our Tanzanian rafikis don’t find us all Mad Hatters after their recent visit to Ireland!