Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Campo Time

Time is a funny thing. This year flew by, can’t believe I’m turning XX, where did the day go?  are things we’ve all said at some point.  Of course there are variations in how time feels to an individual.  But there are situations and places where the perception of time passes exactly the same to those around you. Here seems to be one of them. We even have a name for it: “Campo Time.”

Campo time is different than regular time because paradoxically, it passes slowly on the micro-scale and relatively much faster on a macro-scale. This may not seem too different than normal time but I will explain. 

Having a busy schedule makes time go by faster. The average Peace Corps volunteer, on an average day, is not that busy. One needs to adjust the scale of success to fit Peru’s time (whole different time-scale system).  Achieving one thing per day is productive. Two things is amazing.  That measurement helps explain why the day-to-day inches along. This might sound pathetic, but it’s real.  We count the day finished at 7pm. It’s dark, cold, and definitely time to watch tv on your computer. By 7, and sometimes a little bit earlier, I shut my door and say goodnight to Peru for the day.  No more Spanish, no more host family. It’s my time. And usually I get under the blankets by about 8.30. Sometimes I can stay up till 10. But usually not.  So by this scale, at say, 4pm, the day is practically over.  Only 3 more hours till 7 and at 7, it’s done.  Moving up the day. Let’s talk about the lunch hour. We eat between 1 and 2pm everyday.  So at like 11.30am, I say to myself, “Yeah, only like a hour till lunch. It’s practically 4 which is so close to 7 which means it’s tomorrow.”  You can see who when I wake up, the day is already dissected into little doable epochs.  I think about what I used to do in my previous life after 7.  Usually I’d still be at the gym for like an hour. Then I’d come home, take a shower and often bike out to a show till like midnight, get home, sleep till 6.30 and work all day. I got exhausted just writing that sentence now.

Months work in the same way.  Yesterday was February 15 and that means the month’s almost over. It’s practically March.  And this year’s a leap year.

But then, the paradox hits. Have I really been in the campo like 15 months? In Peru a year and a half?  Is my service on the bajada of the parabola?  Yes. All true. What the hell?

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And my mom likes to say it when the quotidian gets too real.  And I think it’s sad I wish the days away.  But that’s the way it is. I’m lonely and under stimulated.. But that will pass. Just like today. Just like my service.  I mean, it’s already like 8.30am. Practically lunchtime. Practically July.