Coming into a remote village like Niemene, you can feel the difference to larger cities, or villages that are closer to main traffic routes. After a few hours, you still feel the difference; but you can't quite place your finger on the what it is exactly that makes this place that way.
The noise is the same. Motos running everywhere, children screaming, animals bleeting and crying, and at least one if not two or three radios playing different music at the same time. The amenities and architecture are the same. Squat pots (glorified holes in the ground) for toilettes, no running water, bare wire electricity in cement cinder block buildings standing next gardens and fields for planting.
Still the feeling persists. This place is different. And then as you are walking around meeting the principal of the primary school, the elders of the church, and finally the Chief of the village; it hits you.
In the first 3 hours of your visit to Niemene, you've waited in a boutique for 30 minutes getting directions to the church from the 5 people who have been there all day, been picked up by a stranger who turned out to know your friends and took you to their house, visited the pastor, visited your friends house and family, visited all the notable persons of Niemene and greeted every other person along the way. The list seems too long for the short amount of time, but not once in those 3 hours was their a sense of rushing, no hurrying to the next thing, simply a calm peaceful movement from place to place, person to person, meeting to meeting. Anthropologists call this an event vs time focused culture meaning that people finish one event first regardless of the time, be it 15 minutes early or 3 hours late. In other words here in Niemene and in other small villages, the pace is different.
But for me there is more than just a difference speed to life. There is a reminder to slow down and breathe, to see people and hear their stories, to leave the production schedule and its demands behind and enjoy the moments right here. This pace, while slower, leaves more room. More room not to be filled with more activities and things, but to do things differently, to appreciate each event, person, place, action, and view as full gift. This slower pace allows and even creates fullness and richness of life. And in my life which already seems to full, this is a much needed reminder.