In certain countries, the sense of time is based on the concept of reincarnation or eternity, while in others on the moon, the sun, or a clock. Then there is that unique group where the concept of time doesn’t really fit into any particular category, which is a nightmare if are addicted to seconds and minutes and build your entire existence and expectations around them.
While living in India, there were three words that drove me absolutely bonkers – kal, bas, and parso. I won’t dwell on them too long today, since I have already written on that length in the past, and want to focus on the portuguese version of this trio.
Kal – means both yesterday and tomorrow in Hindi, you simply have to determine the right one based on the context of the sentence. But it can lead to tricky situations, like the following conversation I often had with the gardener, carpenter and electrician:
Did you do the work?
Hmmmm… so that left me personally having to investigate which kal was meant, and 95% of the time it meant tomorrow.
Bas – means stop, or enough. In polite circles, a simple bas will not suffice, nor is it taken seriously. A bas bas might get you slightly more recognition, or even get whatever mode of public transportation you are taking to come to halt, but it takes three refusals for anthing to be given serious considration, especially when food is involved.
Parso – technically means day after tomorrow, but in practice it can be extended into the next two lifetimes because it is incredibly vague and you cannot pin anyone down to a definite time. So whenever I received a reply with a combination of kal and parso, I worried about the logistics of it all and whether the work would ever be done in this lifetime.
The ultimate nightmare answer was after lunch which is what the electrician liked to dish out on a regular basis. I ended up waiting three days for him to return sometimes, but it was always after lunch. He didn’t lie to me, he just never committed to a particular day, and I stupidly assumed it meant today, after lunch.
Fast forward 15 years, and I’ve landed in a country with a hilarious sense of time and I find myself on a dual learning curve – unlearning my German punctuality and precision and learning the Portuguese version of time. Once again I am confronted with three time-related words / phrases that have me shaking my head:
Agora – now, is not necessarily right now, or immediately, like the German jetzt or sofort which implies it should have been done ten minutes ago. This comes with a flexibility that would put an acrobat to shame, give or take 15 minutes.
Na próxima semana – officially translates into next week, but if agora mean acrobatic flexibility, this one requires the patience of a saint and a forcible acceptance that próxima semana means any time after tomorrow and before you die. Nothing definite.
Esperando – waiting. I’m used to waiting, I don’t like it, but I have the abilitiy to wait for prolonged periods of time, often far too generously, but it stems from many and long stays in hospital, awaiting my turn in surgery. At a very young age I learned to keep still and keep quiet, which has had negative repurcussions in my adult life, but it definitely helped in India, Thailand, and now in Portugal. My social security number, for example, was applied for the first week of March, and I just received it two days ago. I’m not sure whether two months is a good or a bad thing, but the main point is that I finally have the damn thing. I want to apply for my driver’s license here, but I have to wait until I have been in the country 185 days… sigh.
It is a series of esperas here in Portugal, and it isn’t just me mumbling and grumbling about it. My flatmates and I have had the most entertaining conversations exchanging war (espera) stories, which makes my situation pale in comparison. One is waiting for the assorted materials required to rennovate the van and be able to ?travel and live in it, the other is waiting on both water and electricity for the new property in order to proceed with the rennovation, another is also waiting on electricity for the new home, while a couple of others are waiting for the new home to be finally handed over. So we find ourselves all converging in this shared living space in Portugal, waiting. Esperando. Because they were all told Na próxima semana, and this was over a month ago for some. Our common denominator? We all want it to happen agora!