A Lesson In The Day To Day

Today I wandered down to the market to purchase a data plan for my iPhone that should cover me for the rest of the month. I left the Korea Garden Lodge a little before 9am, arriving just in time to see the market come to life. 

I awoke to a rather chilly morning, and had assumed by the time I made it to the market that things would have warmed up enough that I could have left my hoody at the lodge. That wasn’t the case. 

Having quickly found the Airtel kiosk at the market, I stood there hands in pockets trying to chase away the chills. Every now and then I’d cup my hands and try to warm them with my breath. At one point I chuckled to myself as I thought about how ridiculous I probably looked to the Malawians who were busily going about their day around me, especially since I couldn’t help doing a little dance to try to warm myself up. They didn’t let on that my little dance was ridiculous, but I knew it was. 

While I stood there warming up, I watched as the man who worked the Airtel kiosk set up for his day. He began by taking the time to sweep the red dust that had collected over night from the walls of the kiosk. After this he opened up the front of the kiosk and set up a makeshift display case. This he cleaned and dusted. He lined each of the cardboard shelves with either thick toilet paper or paper towel (I couldn’t tell which it was) that he carefully unfolded, clearly having been saved from the day before. On this he carefully placed cell phones. He then took the time to hang a sign from the roof of the kiosk advertising his ability to collect payments for utilities. He also hung three strings that displayed the various Airtel products – including the data plans I was looking to purchase – across the front of the kiosk, keeping them in place with some simple packer’s tape. Finally, he washed his hands using some powdered soap and bottled water he kept behind the kiosk counter.

When he was finally set up he looked at me, giving me notice that he was ready for business. I approached and within a minute had what I needed and was on my way. The entire process took about 25 minutes, with my purchasing time a small fraction of the total. He was in no rush. Instead, he seemed to enjoy the meticulous process of getting set up for the day, taking obvious pride in a clean and orderly shop. 

And while it seems such a simple thing, this type of experience is one of my favourite parts of travel. At home I spend so much of my time running around from one meeting to the next, racing to meet deadline after deadline, constantly working to put out fires, or completely lost in a seemingly endless list of projects I’m trying to juggle, that I rarely get time to slow down and enjoy the process, to slow down and enjoy the sense of pride that comes from a job well done. 

It’s nice to be reminded that it’s not necessary to race through every day, trying to cram in every possible thing, trying to be more efficient and productive than the day before. 

A job well done is still a job well done no matter how much work it involves. 

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