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English Translation: Slowly or to slow down
We have a running joke in our office that whenever we visit Tanzania, we must quickly adjust to AFT – African Flexible Time. AFT is a mentality we attribute to the Tanzanian culture, a lack of urgency and most definitely a “It will eventually get done” approach to living. This becomes especially frustrating when traveling from a country where merit comes from bragging rights about lack of sleep, long work hours, and constant need to stay busy.
It was not until my first day of Safari when I had my first interaction with the word. As expected for a high strung, Type A person on an incredible trip, I rushed out of the door, eager to begin a morning game drive filled with animals I had only read about in books or seen behind the enclosed walls and glass of zoos or museums. Moving at a pace that could compare to that of a competitive speed walker, I dashed through TAASA Lodge’s main doors, scooped up a muffin and banana, and began my haul down to the vehicles. To my surprise, none of my colleagues were in sight. When I asked the guide and tracker where everyone could possibly be, they replied with a soft and drawn out, “Polepole” – slow or slowing down.
It would only take another hour or so until I heard it again. While exploring the Serengeti, our tracker spotted a male lion hiding behind a tree in the distance. I could not contain my excitement and begged to move closer, chase after it, or anything to get the best possible vantage point and then it came again… “Polepole”. Only a few moments later, the lion took off on a full-speed chase of a Zebra I had never noticed. In my haste to get to the lion and further fuel my excitement, I missed out on what was going on all around me. Now, just twenty yards before me, I witnessed one of the rarest moments one can witness on safari – the circle of life playing out right in front of my eyes. After the lion finished its meal, hyenas swarmed the meat that remained and within their pact, carefully guarded their precious find. The vultures came in next, taking turns within their own unique hierarchy to get every last bit until nothing but bones remained.
It only took one day to adapt to the very thing our office jokes about- the African Flexible Time that contradicts everything we practice in our American culture. For the first time in a long time, this moment in the Bush forced to stop, think, and experience things polepole – slowly, slowly. This opportunity not only allowed me to take in opportunities I would not have otherwise had, but also allowed me to be entirely present in each moment.
Whenever clients come back from Safari in Tanzania, it is hard not to experience a difficult transition back to life in the US. It isn’t just the loads of laundry, hundreds of emails piled up in the inbox, or burning questions from family and friends about your trip; instead, it is the difficulty of letting go of the polepole mindset. Getting caught back up in the chaos and letting go of just being present, enjoying the moment, and being a bit more intentional with our time.
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Established in 2019, Roane Travel Design is a family-owned company in Excelsior, Minnesota. As lifelong travel enthusiasts, we strive to share our passion for adventure with the rest of the world. Let us design an unforgettable experience for you.