Isn't it Funny/Ironic

I find it ironic- I was going to use the word 'funny' because I am always afraid to use the word 'ironic'. Funny would have been safer. If I use 'ironic' incorrectly I imagine my sister-in-law flying over to Lesotho to smack me in the head. After some Google searches however I have decided that I might be okay in this situation. After reassuring myself that situational irony refers to an outcome that turns out to be different than what was expected - Anyways, I find it ironic that I have ended up living in a culture that places so much importance on verbal communication (greetings, pleasantries, small-talk, conversations). As I stated in my previous post, to say that I am not talkative is a bit of an understatement.

While I was living in Canada and China I never had much of a problem. It was easy enough for me to go through my day and not really have to talk to people. I'm not saying that is a good thing. China was slightly different than Canada because in certain places I was a bit of a curiosity and people would want to talk and to practice their English, so I was usually drawn into conversations. Lesotho is completely different than Canada or China. It is not just that I am a novelty, but greetings, and small-talk, and talking in general are such an important part of the culture. It is expected, or polite, to greet everyone and exchange pleasantries/small-talk. When I am walking down the street it is interesting to watch peoples' reactions to me. The closer I get to someone without greeting them the more intense of a glare they seem to give me. Then, I say lumela (hello) and all of a sudden it was like the person was being forced to hold their breath and by me saying hello they can now let it all out. After that it is usually a huge smile followed by a 'how are you?' and sometimes a small conversation. During my ten minute walk to work this situation can repeat itself dozens of times.

I think this commitment to conversation also helps to explain the notion of 'Basotho Time'. I've been told many times that when God created man he gave the watch to the European and he gave time to the African. I suppose it is a similar concept to 'Island Time' or 'Indian (First-nation) Time'. I don't intend to perpetuate any stereotypes through this blog, but when you experience the necessity of greetings and speaking with nearly everyone it becomes clear how scheduled events can run into problems.

April 20th, 2010

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