1400 and counting

by Evans Yonson

(Note: This entry was written in September 2005, as part of the countdown series before my departure from the university residence named Africa where I stayed for a year as a Spanish government scholar.)

madrid – one of the things that i found different when i arrived in spain last year was the way they say and write the time of day. 100H means 1am. 1200H means 12 noon. 2000H means 8pm. and so on. when you are used to the AM and PM set-up, you’ll be surprised how this timing works. at home, we’re told of the military time. it’s basically the same thing.

a becario-friend told me that it’s easy to adjust, simply deduct 1200 from the present time (beyond 1200) to get the actual time in PM. you see in the AM part, that’s the exact time.

another adjustment that you have to do when you’re in spain is to think carefully when to say manana (morning), tarde (afternoon) and noche (evening).

600H (6am) is manana while 1900H (7pm) is still tarde. 100H (1am) is still noche. in summer, the sun would set at 2230H (1030pm), you still use tarde. while in winter, you use tarde only up to 1900H (7pm).

i believe that it has something to do with the rising and the setting of the sun. if the sun has not risen yet, you still use noche. if the sun is gone, then you use noche again.

and probably the schedule of meals. i noticed that before eating lunch, the ladies at the comedor would always say buenos dias. but after my lunch, to bade farewell, they would say buenas tardes. before dinner, say buenas tardes. after dinner, say buenas noches.

my alarm always has 1400H (2pm) time. the lunch in africa starts at 1330H (130pm) but i usually go down at 1415H (215pm). a safe 15 minutes after my alarm because there’s a long queue at the comedor. arriving at this time is a guaranteed swift travel through the first plate-second plate-postre-salad bar. no waiting in line. i tell you when there’s a long line, it looks we’re in a military camp or a world war 2 concentration camp. hungry helpless people in line for their white beans and bread.

another alarm time is 0700H, for my breakfast – the intermission part of my dreams and nightmares.

another is the 2230H (1030pm), for dinner, which is rather late when you’re not accustomed to this.

1800 – 2000 (6pm – 8pm) meal times. as a result of this schedule you would have to wait for another 3 hours to get a good night’s rest. otherwise, you would have bangungot.

i was walking around plaza castilla at 2100H, when i chanced upon a lady who was trying to get the attention of the security guard… she shouted, “hola! buenos dias. buenas tardes. buenas noches.” i was amazed at how this lady used these terms. and thinking how quickly time passed in so short a time.

in less than five seconds.

time flies so fast, they say.

and i’m still counting the days.