Saturday, July 14, 2007

Time and scheduling while volunteering

Flexibility is the key word. One needs to be flexible in town as things do not always happen according to schedule.

Kiryat Malachi is just an hour or so from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem , but it runs at a different speed. Except for the grocery stores, most stores open at 9 ish (with emphasis on the “ish”) and then close from about one to 4 daily, reopening until 7ish. If there are no customers, the shop may close earlier, but if customers are in the store, the store stays open until the last customer leaves. If the owners have some thing else to do, they may close the store. One morning when we went to our favorite pastry shop, we were surprised to see it was closed. Returning two hours later, we saw it still was closed, so I asked the clerk in the next store why it had not opened and found out that the owner was at a bris. He never did open his shop that day, and he didn’t put a sign on the door to let people know. On Tuesdays, stores stay open until about 2 and then close for the rest of the day. Post offices break the rule and have their partial day on Wednesdays.

When people say to meet at 9, one should not panic if they are not there by 9:15 or 9:30. Time is much more fluid in K.M. than in Seattle .

People mean well when they say they will be somewhere at a certain hour, but often run into other people and stop to talk. If they didn’t stop to chat, others would think they were antisocial. The town is small enough that many people know each other. Just as we arrived into town this trip, we pulled into a gas station to fill up, and I soon heard someone call “Dina.” The English teacher from Etzion school had seen us drive by, changed directions, and pulled up behind us to greet us. People driving down the street stop and chat with others who are driving or walking by, causing one of the several kinds of mini-traffic jams in town. We have often been caught half way into our parking lot as two cars were pulled up next to each other, engines running as the drivers chat, or the driver of one car was talking to someone on the sidewalk.

Schedules often change at the last minute too. A much anticipated trip to an amusement park gets cancelled for lack of enough transportation, or a camp planned for the afternoon may also run in the morning—if funding comes through more kids can participate.

We have had English conversation appointments with kids and it is not uncommon that they arrive ten or fifteen minutes late. I went to a class for youth, and about a third of the attendies (20) arrived up to a half our late.

On the other hand, I have to be careful not to fall into the same habit. I arrived at the high school five minutes after I was supposed to the other day, and the person I was supposed to see was already busy with another project! Howard is holding conversations with youth starting a special four-year computer training program this fall, and almost everyone has been on time or early. We were very pleasantly surprised, and found out the reason was that they were told that
1) This was part of the testing for the program
2) Since the program would be mainly in English, a difficult tast for entering 9th graders, any extra practice in English would be desirable for them.

In any event, we learn here that we cannot be upset if others are not exactly on time but that we should not error too much on being off. If something truly delays us, we just call (as everyone has at least one cell phone) and let people know of our tardiness.

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