These are two of my poems which were published in the “Travellers Tales from Heaven and Hell” books by Travellers Eye. They remind me of the wonderful times I’ve had in Africa and why I want to return. I hope you enjoy them.

Tanzania - Ngorongoro Masaai Moran

I Lost my Heart to Africa

I lost my heart to Africa,

The colours, cultures, land.

I forgot my life before this time

And everything I’d planned.


So many beautiful birds and trees,

Animals wild and free.

My eyes were closed to these before

But now these things I see.


New friends have come and touched my life

With new ideas and views.

New thoughts have entered in my mind

And soon now I must choose.


The life I left was true and straight,

The same from day to day,

But now I want much more than this

And I must find a way.


I’ve stepped through places far and wide

But never yet before

Have stopped to think so long and hard,

To open up the door.


I think that maybe I’ll return

To the safety of my past

But how long before I crave once more

The new line that I’ve cast.


My dreams are filled of Africa

Of those still left behind.

My heart will always hold them dear,

So clear inside my mind.

Tanzania - Villager


The Train of Life

My breathing’s getting quicker as I pace along the track.

My shoulder’s getting stiffer from the weight inside my pack,

But as I glance across the land that lies beneath my feet

There’s nowhere that I’d rather be than in this humid heat.


A group of dirty children who are playing by the path

Are kicking round an empty can and having a good laugh.

Despite their lack of worldly goods they smile as I walk by.

There is no need for tantrums here; there is no need to cry.


I flew across both land and sea for many miles and hours,

To reach the place where I now stand amongst the plants and flowers.

So to another world I’ve come to leave my mark behind

And hope to make a difference to the people that I find.


I am a lonely passenger upon the train of life

And I must find a way through all the trouble and the strife.

A new age is appearing, the horizons lower still

And if there is a way to change, then there must be a will.



African Time

(Where ‘now’ means sometime, ‘now-now’ means whenever and ‘just now’ means never.)

There is a belief that Africans have contempt for punctuality for which the term ‘African time’ has been used. African Time is slow. One hour can easily turn into two, two into four etc.

One of the biggest differences you’ll come across when travelling in Africa is the keeping of time. In the western world we are used to going through our days following a series of scheduled timetables, but the same cannot be said for most Africans. Time and schedules in Africa have a much more relaxed feel, and their laid back approach to life means they don’t need to rush.

The result of this is a lot of waiting, waiting, waiting.

A Definition of Africa Time

In the words of Wikipedia: African time (or Africa time) is the perceived cultural tendency, in most parts of Africa, toward a more relaxed attitude to time. This is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, about tardiness in appointments, meetings and events. This also includes the more leisurely, relaxed, and less rigorously-scheduled lifestyle found in African countries, especially as opposed to the more clock-bound pace of daily life in Western countries.

The Concept of Time in Africa

Africa is a huge continent with more than 50 countries and hundreds of cultures and we shouldn’t really generalise, but Africans do not understand the concept of time in the same way we do. When travelling in rural Africa, you’ll have to accept that time is not an ideal measurement. Trains can be late by a day or sometimes two, a bus may break down and it could take a day for a replacement bus to appear. More commonly it can take over an hour for your meal to arrive at the table in a restaurant. This can obviously be frustrating if you have a packed itinerary and a tight schedule.

In October 2008 The Ivory Coast Government ran a campaign with a slogan “African time is killing Africa, let’s fight it”. But should we really be fighting for a westernised approach to time or should we accept African time for what it really is. A simple and stress free way of life for African people.

Traditionally, African communities told time by reference to natural phenomena such as sunrise, sunset, the tide, the early morning cockerel crow and the sounds of birds roosting at night. These are not really very precise ways to keep track of time. Africans are not new to civilisation though. In fact, it is possible that the first clock was invented in Africa.

The first clock was invented in Africa

It is commonly believed that the first mechanical clock was invented by Levi Hutchins of Concord, New Hampshire, in 1787. However, history suggests that clocks were used by civilisations in the Middle East and North Africa approximately 5000 to 6000 years ago. Burning candles and sticks of incense were originally used to estimate the passage of time. Other better known items were sundials and hourglasses. 

African Time is not peculiar to Africa

The Spanish live for “Manyara” (tomorrow) and often put off today what they could do tomorrow. Of course, they blame the afternoon heat for such procrastination. “Latin Time,” is observed in Latin America, where people are generally expected to show up not earlier than ninety minutes after the scheduled time. This trend in also common in India.

Swahili Time

Swahili time is different to African time and is observed mainly in East Africa. Swahili time starts at 6am. So if someone tells you the bus leaves at 1, he probably means 7am. If he says the train leaves at 3, that would mean 9am.

In the equatorial countries, the sun rises around six and sets around six. So 7am is actually referred to in Kiswahili as 1 o’clock. 8 am is 2 o’clock and so on. It does kind of make sense. Most people get up around or shortly before sunrise and go to bed not long after dark.

The Benefits of African Time

Africans exist in time, not for time. Their life is not defined by a ticking clock and time is not money for them. One saying goes: “When God made man, he gave the white man a watch, but he gave black man time!”

So what are the benefits of not keeping time. A more relaxed life for starters. Imagine a world where there are no deadlines, where there is no reason to rush and you are never late. This would result in less stress and fewer heart attacks. But is it realistic? Not in the 21st Century where we are controlled by an electronic world.

I think this poem by Wayne Visser sums it up.

African Time

I’m living my days in African time

I’m walking the ways of season and rhyme

I’m weaving the maze of culture and crime

I’m soaking the rays of scattered sunshine

You think that I’m slow

You think that I’m lazy

You think I don’t know

You think that I’m crazy

But I’m beating my drum to African time

I’m hearing the hum of friends on the line

I’m counting the sum of blessings I find

I’m tracing the crumbs of love left behind

You think that I’m late

You think that I’m aimless

You think I don’t rate

You think that I’m nameless

Still I’m setting my pace to African time

My life’s not a race for the clock or bell chime

I’m moving with grace on a mission sublime

I’m claiming back space for African time

Wayne Visser © 2012