Monday, November 2, 2009

No Fall Backs

What time is it in your neck of the woods?

Daylight Savings time does not exist in Guatemala. That means no "fall backs" or "spring aheads." It worked out quite conveniently for us when we first arrived here, since the hour coincided perfectly with Mountain Time. That way it was easy to remember that when we wanted to call home to Pennsylvania it was 2 hours ahead.

The story is that a couple of years ago the Guatemalan government tried to implement Daylight Savings to align with the rest of the world for business and commerce reasons, but just like every other change that is proposed here, things didn't go so smoothly. Everyone seemed to have different opinions about whether or not to comply with the change, and it was pure chaos. People were describing the hour as la hora de Dios (God's time) or as la hora oficial (government mandated time) and apparently if you didn't clarify exactly which hour a certain business or person was referring to, you'd most like be showing up at the wrong time!

To fully understand this dilemma, you must first recognize that Guatemalans in general are proud people, stubborn some might even say. They like to do things the traditional way, the way they have always done them, even if another way may make sense or be more efficient. In their minds, why would they go along with a change that just plain didn't work? Really when I think about it, it makes total sense. The Guatemalan culture isn't so time rigid like we northerners are used to. You don't normally see the Guatemalan people walking around checking their watches every 10 minutes - in fact, you don't often see watches! This is a primarily agricultural society where people are deeply connected to the land. It makes more sense to them to live by the rising and setting of the sun, than by the ticking hands of a clock. It just wouldn't work for families with a father that makes a living farming and children who were attend school on the government's time schedule. When would families ever have time to just be together? Fortunately just this once the government decided to actually listen to the people and six months later, when all the clocks had been turned back, it was announced that Guatemala would no longer be changing time for Daylight Savings any more.

So while in this house we're all a little cranky that it starts getting dark around the time we're leaving work these days, we wouldn't have it any other way. When the people speak, we listen.

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