Sunday, August 29, 2010

Clocks and Waist Lines

If you stick with me, I’ll try to explain that bizarre title, but first I have to fill you in on the latest news. For the first time ever, Samoa is about to begin observing Daylight Saving Time. Beginning on September 25, 2010 at 12:00a.m. midnight, the country will move the clocks ahead one hour (as it will be heading into spring here in the Southern Hemisphere). When I first read about this in the newspaper, I just shook my head and said to myself, “this should be interesting.”

Samoa is a country which did without clocks for thousands of years. Samoans have been living here for 3,000 years and only had clocks introduced to them in the 1800s when Europeans arrived. To this day, many Samoans don’t own a clock or watch, perhaps other than the clock feature which is on their cell phones. That is what first lead me to believe this could be tricky, trying to explain what all this clock movement is about.

But it goes deeper than that. Since Samoans don’t rely heavily on clocks, they go about their day using the light of the sun as their guide for activities. For example, evening prayer—which almost every village observes and is begun by the sounding of the conk shell—begins at dusk. And because there is a curfew to be in your house by that time, many people plan their evenings around evening prayer. My neighbors who I eat with each night always eat right after evening prayer. Therefore, when it got dark out at 7:30 p.m. last December that is when we ate dinner. But once the daylight started getting shorter in March and April, I noticed that I was showing up late for dinner because they were ready to eat at 7:00 and then 6:30 as the daylight continued to decrease. But now we’re heading back towards summer here in the Southern Hemisphere so we’re eating closer to 7:00 again.

My prediction is that after we set our clocks forward an hour in September it won’t be getting dark out until 8:30, come December. Therefore, I’ll be eating dinner at 8:30 and going to bed at the same time as usual and thus not having as much time to burn off those calories from the evening meal and in turn increasing my waist size! I also predict this to be the case among Samoans.

Nonetheless, I have been able to find some good points about observing Daylight Saving Time here in Samoa. Even though it will be bizarre that Hawaii will actually be one hour behind Samoa come November, there are a few points to consider. During the summer when the sun rises earliest—usually around 5:45a.m. it gets hot sooner and tends to limit the amount of sleeping in a person can do. But once the clocks are moved ahead an hour and the daylight is on the end of the day, it won’t get light out until 6:45a.m., similar to the time of sunrise on the first day of winter. Therefore my summer mornings may actually be a bit cooler and a bit more restful.

In addition, I may save my family some sleep as well. Currently I am seven hours behind Eastern Time back home where my family lives in Michigan. Normally I can only call them after the sun goes behind the mountains around 4:45 p.m. because I have to run to make my phone calls and it’s just too hot earlier in the day. So when I call them now at 5:15p.m. it’s already 12:15 a.m. there the next day, and sometimes that interrupts their sleep.

However, once we move our clocks ahead one hour on September 25th we will only be six hours behind Michigan. On November 7th, the Untied States goes off of Daylight Saving Time and will set their clocks back an hour, thus making us only five hours difference. So on November 7th when I call home at 5:15 p.m. it will only be 10:15 p.m. back in Michigan and hopefully a little less of an inconvenient!

So as with most things, this too seems to have pros and cons. I’m just hoping that the pros outnumber the cons. But I also have to remind myself that this country, less than a year ago, was ordered by the government to one day start driving on the left hand side of the road. If Samoa can handle the road switch in the blink of an eye, I’m guessing that moving the clocks forward one hour will seem like a piece of cake. Nevertheless, this country must be wondering what their government will want them to switch or move forward the next time. If only they knew they have to move the clocks back an hour next fall!!!

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