Dear friends and followers,
I am traveling in Asia for 6 weeks, hopping from Japan (2 weeks), to China (2 more weeks) to Malaysia (2 final weeks). What a wonderful and amazing opportunity! With my present adventure, this blog will turn, at least for the time being, into a travel blog. Of course, I’m obsessed with natural history and many of my reflections will still center around my natural observations. Some portions, though, will have to do simply with culture, travel, and new experiences.
To begin, a reflection on time and space written while on a plane en route from New York City to Taipei, Taiwan:
Time travel makes me sleepy. “Today” as a 24-hour period becomes somewhat meaningless, and the amorphousness of dates sets in. I move one direction as the sun moves the other, and it leaves my clock confused. To me, “today” began when I woke up at 8:00am this morning (EST) in Hurley, NY. I went hiking in the Gunks to the Mohonk sky tower. I packed and swept my room and threw flowers into the river. I said goodbye and got on a bus, which took me to the subway, which took me to JFK. Now, almost 15 hours later, I’m about to touch down in Taipei. I departed New York City at 1:30am on Sunday, May 3. I will touch down at around 5:00am on Monday, May 4. I’ll spend about 12 hours here, then fly to Hiroshima; I will arrive around 8pm on May 4.
Because our plane is flying the opposite direction of the sun, and because of the route we’ve taken, we’ve been in some version of night for approximately the entire 15 hours in the air. Until I saw the in-flight map display, it hadn’t occurred to me that we might not fly over an ocean but instead follow coastlines up and over the top of the Earth. From New York, we flew northwest across the northern coast of Canada, then Alaska, then, crowning the Arctic Circle, continued in a straight line southwest along the coast of Russia and China. (Of course, when I saw the lifejacket demonstration as part of the safety presentation upon takeoff, all I could think was “if we land in any water around here, hypothermia will obviate any worries of drowning”). The geographical progression of the plane, coupled with the difference in time between my personal progression and the Earth’s days and nights, makes my brain spin a little bit. We just changed cardinal directions by going in a straight line (well, an arc). We just passed through an entire day by staying in night.
But for me, “today” will not end when we touch down. I want to take advantage of my time in Taipei; who knows whether or when I might make it back to this country? And the timing coincides with leading a normal day; I will be on land from approximately 5:30am to 5pm. Later, after flying to Hiroshima, I will take the bus to my friend’s apartment in Kure and arrive around 10:40pm. I suspect that’s when my continuous “day” will end. It seems like one single entity because it is unbroken by a true “going to bed’ experience, yet it will have encompassed something like 48 or 49 hours.