On Cultural Encounters and Tangents

By Maggie Velasquez-Choi

Time travel – South Korea is 15 hours ahead of Oklahoma 's central time zone during standard time. A typical 11:30 Monday morning conversation with my mother goes something like this: “Hello, Mom. What are you doing this Sunday evening?” She says, “Good morning. It's 8:30 p.m. here. We got back from evening service and ate supper. I'm washing dishes. And you?” I respond, “I'm getting ready to make lunch”.

We're used to it now. She's no longer baffled by my reply to her question, “What time is your plane leaving Korea and arriving at Dallas ?” and I answer, “I'm leaving Tuesday afternoon and arriving Tuesday morning.”

The International Date Line is located, in a zigzag fashion, along the 180° meridian of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean . It is opposite the prime meridian of Greenwich , England . The date to the east is a day ahead of the day to the west of it. This way the world can avoid the problem that Magellan's men ran into when they sailed westward around the world. They logged their days meticulously, yet when they arrived back in Spain they found that they had lost a day. They were so confused; during their audience with the pope they mentioned this phenomenon. Likewise, in Jules Verne's novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days”, Phileas Fogg thought he had lost the race according to his calculations, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that by sailing east he had gained a day so he was actually ahead of schedule.

If someone circumnavigates the globe in an airplane from east to west (the same direction as Magellan ), he should subtract one hour for every 15° of longitude crossed, losing 24 hours for one circuit of the globe. But 24 hours are added when crossing the International Date Line (from east to west). The International Date Line must therefore be observed in conjunction with earth's time zones: the net adjustment to one's watch is zero. If one crosses the date line at precisely midnight , going westward, one skips an entire day; while going eastward, one repeats the entire day. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Date_Line)

Losing a day isn't fun, especially if it happens to be your birthday. During my first mission trip, the American and Canadian volunteers made a 6-day stopover in Hawaii for fellowship and training before fanning out into Far East Asia. On, Monday, our last day, we boarded our respective planes. Korea 's plane would be leaving at 11pm . It was an 8-hour flight. We arrived in Korea on Wednesday. My friend, James, said, “Tuesday was my birthday.” Poor James, he missed his entire birthday that year.

Gaining a day sounds great until you consider the jet lag that comes with today's jet-propulsion travel. Jet lag is a real physiological condition that comes when one travels through many time zones. A 7,363-mile flight from north to south doesn't cause jet lag as would a 7,363-mile flight from east to west (distance between DFW and S. Korea ). Besides the sleepiness and fatigue, jet lag can weaken the immune system and bring about other illnesses. When I visit my parents in Guymon, I tend to sleep during the best part of the day and haunt the house at night. It takes about 2 weeks for the body to adjust fully to the new time (one day for each hour of difference). That's why many Olympians move to Olympic Village about 2 weeks before the opening date.

Last June my class of “86 had our 20 th high school reunion. It was great to see and talk with classmates that I hadn't seen in many years. The past twenty years flew by and the 3 hours at the park flew by even faster. Time flies when you're having fun. Some of us didn't want it to end so Robin ( Wilson ) Williams suggested we all go to Curt Sparkman's place to grill burgers for supper and shoot rabbits for fun. That sounded like fun, really, but my energy was waning. My body told me it was 8 am and I hadn't slept all night. I wasn't myself anymore and I was afraid I'd get in the way of a bullet or I'd shoot somebody in the head. I chose to go to my sister, Teresa's, house and crash. I slept 12 hours straight. Class, we need to meet more often, if we wait another 20 years we'll be talking great-grandchildren and retirement. Time flies. That reminds me: Two frogs are sunning themselves and catching dragonflies. Says one frog to the other, “Time's fun when you're having flies” (slurp).

I feel for my husband when he goes on business trips to the Western hemisphere. He needs to be wide awake during meetings and force himself to sleep at night. Speaking of business trips, here's a true story: A Japanese businessman was in a meeting in Texas . Says one of the Texans, “How's it feel to be surrounded by so many tall Texans?” The Japanese replied: “I feel like a dime among nickels.” (I'm tangent-happy today).

So, what does it look like to lose a day? When I board a non-stop flight on a Monday at noon at DFW the pilot takes the shortest route. We fly west at around 600 mph. We fly over Canada, Alaska's Aleutian Islands, the Tip of Russia, then dip down and around North Korea (we don't want to be shot down), through Japan and into South Korea. The sun barely moves from its noon position. We arrive 14.5 hours later but it is 5:30 Tuesday evening.

In gaining a day (east to west), the pilot takes the longer, but faster, route. On a Monday noon we get into the polar jet stream and sail eastward at about 700 mph through Japan , the Pacific Ocean (nighttime comes and goes in the blink of an eye), California and into DFW. We land in 12 hours, but it is now Monday 9 am .

Well, it's Tuesday afternoon here. I better get this article sent to C.F. so he can get it by Monday night.