Friday, August 06, 2010

Time Travel

I’ve always had trouble with the idea of crossing the International Date Line -- the fact that on one side of the line it’s today and on the other side it’s either yesterday or tomorrow.  
A couple of evenings ago we talked to Brock in Thailand via Skype.  It was as though he was sitting in the same room describing his attempts to create a kitchen on his Thai balcony, talking about our action-packed itinerary, going over train travel in Thailand.  It was 9:30 pm for us and 8:30 am the next day for Brock.  When my husband asked why we couldn’t see his picture, he confessed it was because he didn’t have a shirt on yet, having just gotten up.  
It’s one thing to talk to someone in Europe, who might be 6 hours ahead, but the next day simply blows my mind.  I immediately start wondering if we are flying west faster than the earth is turning whether we are actually banking hours or losing them forever.
That whole quandary takes me back to 4th grade when we learned about the earth turning on its axis and moving around the sun.  We moved a globe around a light bulb to simulate.  It intuitively makes sense, but it still boggles my mind when I fly to Asia. 
And then I wonder how it would feel to go the other way to get halfway around the world, flying over Europe and perhaps Iran and China.
We will be traveling from JFK to Hong Kong for the first leg of our trip, a 15-hour flight.  I’m sure there will be no sign of our crossing the International Date Line, but it will indeed be the next day when we arrive.  We will be in that limbo state that combines tired with adrenaline and the urge to stay up until it’s really time to go to bed.  Brock promises to give us our first taste of Thailand when we arrive, leaving little chance to think about sleep.
And now back to the issue of making choices about what to put in my 22” suitcase.  I’m determined to travel light this time.


Blogger Cyndy said...

I think it's easier to approach the international dateline thing by thinking of Asia as being even farther east than Europe, but you're taking a secret shortcut by heading west instead. My husband always has trouble with time zone calculations too. I don't know why my brain does this but I sort of put an imaginery zipper down the international dateline on the globe and when I unzip it and spread it out flat it all makes sense because you can see how the time zones go from right to left (east to west) more easily. I know that borders on hallucination, but that's what works for me!

Good luck with your packing - at least it will be warm so you'll be wearing lightweight clothing.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- This all makes perfect sense if the world were flat, but (despite what Tom Friedman might say) it is not. I do love the idea of the date line zipper! I will think of this as I look out the plane window toward those islands below that lay on either side of that zipper.

It is fortunate that we don't have to pack for cold weather. To the contrary, it will be warm and steamy where we are going. But I have to pack clothes that will allow me to be sufficiently modest in the Thai culture -- no short shorts, for example.

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated by the date line thing, too. Even with my partial-scientist background, I'm glad there are still things that boggle the mind. A little Mystery is a good thing, in my book (esp. in this hyper-scrutinized, rationalized culture!).

Another mystery is how you'll fit everything into that 22" rollaboard...


11:55 PM  
Blogger Steve Reed said...

This is one of those things that you can think about too much, in my opinion. Instead, be conscious of your own body, your heartbeat, your experience of time as an individual. Nothing changes when you cross the IDL, which is after all a random demarcation drawn by people. You have the same amount of time on Earth as you always had. Know what I mean?

8:58 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- I'm definitely going to solve the mystery of packing my little suitcase!

Steve -- It is rather comforting to remember that time itself is not changing, just our perception of it, right?

9:11 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

I'm excited to hear about your trip. Now THAT is a trip! Whoa!

I hope you take lots of pictures and post about your adventures in such a far away land.

Some day I hope to take a trip to the Orient. But for now I can enjoy the sights and sounds via your blog - I hope.

Have a very safe and enjoyable trip.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

Chances are that if you stayed in the airport in New York for 15 hours, rather than flying to Hong Kong, it would still be tomorrow.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day Before drives me absolutely batty because of the issue with the international dateline and I once had a 39-hour birthday, by the end of which I'd passed out on my apartment floor watching Chicken Run. I don't do well with the International Dateline.

Best wishes to you and I'm sure you'll do/have done great with the small suitcase. Just stick to one color family.

11:35 PM  

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