“Time has no meaning in itself unless we choose to give it significance.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
For someone who does not move around that much, the mere idea of going to the United States is so farfetched. It is one thing to be able to set foot in the US and another to actually live there. But thanks to the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program courtesy of the ICMA, I had the rare opportunity of experiencing what it is like to live and work in the US.
I have been to a few places in my home country, the Philippines, and have travelled abroad only once. So this recent trip beats every travel experience that I had so far.
As a matter of fact, I have just travelled to four different time zones in only a matter of days, and got to spend some time in each of them.
Yep, this blog’s title is as literal as you can get.
Three years ago, I was in Bali Indonesia at this same time of the year. Except for the language, currency, food, and culture in general, there were so few differences between Bali and the Philippines that it was almost difficult to convince myself that I was there. Almost everything looked and felt the same: the climate, the vegetation, the landscape, and most of all: the time zone. Both Bali and the rest of the Philippines occupy the same time zone, so there was no need to worry about adjusting the time on my watch.
This essay talks about some of the things that happened while I was on my way to the USA; and more especially, how it has renewed my sense and appreciation of time.
From UTC+8:00 to UTC+9:00
Our journey to the Washington DC necessitated a four-hour connecting flight from Manila to Incheon, South Korea before heading straight to DC.
The Philippines is located in the UTC+8:00 time zone while Incheon falls in the UTC+9:00 which meant our destination was one hour ahead from where we originated. Upon arrival in Incheon, I had to manually adjust my low-tech phone’s clock accordingly since it was still set in Manila time.
There was a five-hour interval before our next flight so we had to kill time wandering around the airport.
From UTC+9:00 to UTC-6:00
The trip from Korea to DC took about 14 hours. The time we left Korea was about the same time we arrived in Washington DC – which was crazy. This was the time I officially added jetlag to my vocabulary. To be honest, I am still in the process of getting rid of it while I am writing this piece.
“Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” ~ Bob Dylan
12 Hours Back in Time
Washington DC falls within the Eastern Time Zone which is UTC-5:00, or five hours behind the UTC. In simpler terms, DC is 12 hours away from Manila. In even simpler terms, 12 noon in Manila is 12 midnight in DC. When we left Korea, the time was past 10AM. When we arrived in DC, it felt like we did not leave Incheon.
While the sun was up high in Washington DC, my circadian rhythm knows that it’s past my bedtime and I need to sleep.
We spent a couple of days in the District where we underwent a debriefing program. Two days later, all the Fellows had to part ways and went on to travel to their respective host communities. My partner, Visal from Cambodia, and I were to go to Alabama state.
Travel to the Host Community
The trip to the state of Alabama required us to fly from Washington Dulles Airport to Atlanta, Georgia Airport. The last two plane rides I had had brought me to two different time zones. This third plane ride did not, as Washington DC and Georgia are both in the same time zone.
But not for long.
From the airport of Atlanta, we were greeted by the City of Auburn’s Assistant City Manager, Mr. James “Jim” Buston, who had to drive for hours just to fetch us from the airport. We learned that it took him about three hours just to get to where we were.
Upon leaving the Atlanta airport, I had to ask Mr. Jim about the approximate time he left Auburn. He did not give a straight answer but instead gave a very interesting bit.
UTC-5:00 to UTC-6:00
Mr. Jim then went on to tell us that Alabama sits on a different time zone and we were about to enter the Central Daylight Time zone. Alabama time is one hour behind that of both DC and Georgia, both of which are in the Eastern Daylight Time zone.
From my recollection, we left Atlanta airport at about 3PM Georgia time and we arrived at Auburn at past 4PM Alabama time. What made it all fascinating is that, again, my smartphone was not smart enough to automatically adjust its clock, so I had to adjust the settings manually. Or maybe I have not figured out how to set it to automatically adjust itself.
So basically, there is nothing interesting to read on here – just a long and boring personal tale of astonishment on how time is perceived differently in several parts of the world.
Being literally on the other side of the world poses another challenge. Wanting to share all your experiences in real-time to your friends and loved ones who live in a different time zone is quite a problem especially when they are still fast asleep whenever you are wide awake.
Prior to the 12th of October 2016, I have been living in the UTC+8:00. The following day, I had a short-lived stay in the UTC+9:00. After a 14-hour flight that followed, I got to spend a couple of days in UTC-5:00.
And here at UTC-6:00 is where the story ends – well, at least as far as this story about time zones is concerned. But this is also where my story begins... in the loveliest village on the plains.