American expat in Singapore. A career, friends, family, and place to call home–I gave up life as I knew it for the possibility of life as it could become. Seven years later as a seasoned and serial expatriate, I've lived in four countries on three continents. So far, it's been a wonderful ride!
It’s 4am, and I am awake thanks to the nasty side effect of long-distance air travel. Someone once told me it takes a traveller a full day for every hour of time difference to recover from jet lag. I hope this isn’t true. If so, it will be June before I feel human again–or just under two weeks, which is about the same thing in my estimation.
I didn’t pay enough attention in geography class to understand why or how, but because of the relationship between the Prime Median and International Date Line, Singapore’s timezone is 1/2 day ahead of the east cost of the United States. Thanks to another irritating, not to mention unstandardized, phenomenon known as Daylight Savings Time–which this island does not acknowledge–the exact number of hours changes depending on the season. Sometimes, it’s a dozen (12); other times, it’s a baker’s dozen (13).
I’m getting a migraine–or maybe just a craving for a cupcake–trying to explain this to you.
To make this even more complicated, I learned the International Dateline isn’t really a line at all. It has been completely gerrymandered as illustrated by the map below:
Who drew the line, anyway? It makes me wonder what a country has to do to get re-districted to the Eastern Hemisphere. That’s right. I’m talking to you, Kiribati!
For all my bellyaching, living half a day ahead of my homeland has a few advantages. While I am sleeping, my friends and family, as well as the entire Western Hemisphere, buzzes with activity. When I wake up each morning, I immediately pop open my computer, check my daily news sites, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, and discover, in minutes, what transpired over hours and hours. It’s sort of like reading the Cliff Notes version of a novel. I can cut to the chase and get right to the highlights of what happened while I slept.
When I lived in Europe, positioned an awkward 6-7 hours ahead of home, life wasn’t as convenient. For major American sporting championships, which almost always began at the wee hour of 2:00 Central European Time (CET), I had to DVR the events and watch them at a more convenient hour. However, I could never avoid spoilers. By the time I got around to watching the Superbowl, for example, I already knew the game’s outcome, as well as which commercials had folks buzzing.
No more! Now that I live in a country situated a half day ahead, I can watch events live and in real-time. Granted, I’ll be watching the next World Series over breakfast and maybe lunch if the games go into rain delays or extra innings, but at least I will be watching along with everybody else.
Of course when you live further along the timeline, disadvantages also exist– like pesky, but inevitable, 2am calls from those who forget you aren’t living in their zone. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been awaken by text messages, Skype, or phone calls from those behind the times.
Then, there is the more serious matter of predictions or obscure, date-activated computer viruses, which occasionally threaten global existence. I wonder if insurance policies or, better yet, financial hedging existed on the Mayan’s 2012 doomsday prediction or even the Y2K bug? Come to think of it, why shouldn’t those of us living on the edge of Earth’s timezone receive hardship pay for the potential danger the drunk who drew the International Dateline put us in? After all, you never know when the next end-of-the-world prediction will prove correct. If my life is going to be cut short a baker’s dozen less than other’s lives, shouldn’t it be compensated accordingly?
What do you say?