Friday, April 8, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

Samoa has made some changes recently, most notably switching the side of the road people drive on (they drive on the left now to match Australia and New Zealand) and implementing daylight savings time. Someone told me that daylight savings time was initially meant to reduce energy costs by having more sunlight later at night, but I also heard that it didn’t really make a difference.

I go back and forth on whether or not I think daylight savings is really necessary in a tropical location. Yes, there is a slight shift in when the sun rises and sets, but it changes by maybe an hour over the course of a year. It’s not like in Colorado where you have significantly less sunlight in the winter months. In Samoa, it’s pretty constant. On top of that, a large part of the Samoan schedule runs by the sun anyway. Most villages (I would say all, but I don’t know for sure) have a curfew at sunset. This is when people have evening prayer, then usually eat dinner afterward. The curfew isn’t for the whole night; it’s just for a half hour or so for prayer. People will still get up when, or before, the sun rises to start the umu and the daily chores, and they will still stay up to watch whatever TV shows are playing. However, I will admit that it will be nice to have more sunlight in the morning. Usually the sun is just peaking over the hills when I leave for school, but now I think I can get in a morning run before school starts, although my school now starts a half hour earlier – probably to compensate for more sunlight in the morning.

Anyway, since daylight savings is fairly new, there is a huge banner hanging in the middle of Apia, the capital of Samoa, pronouncing when daylight savings begins and ends. Despite the huge banner for everybody to see, I would say that at least 90% of Samoa got it wrong.

Daylight savings was supposed to end on April 3rd, but most everybody changed their clocks on April 2nd. Not everybody did – my village buses still ran at the same time, not an hour later. But my host family rang the bell for the Sunday school walk-a-thon to start at 7 in the morning because they believed it was 6 (it went from “6-8”). So for a whole day, I didn’t really know what time it was. I knew what time it was, but everybody else would tell me I was wrong. It made me think about what an abstract concept time is, though. It’s just a number. I try to base my schedule around the sun – go to sleep about 2 hours after the sun sets, wake up about an hour and a half before it rises – and I’m guessing most people in my village organize their schedules around the sun, too. I had a friend in college who always said “We were meant to live by the sun! We should sleep when the sun sleeps, and be awake when the sun is up” (or something along those lines). I find it funny that that’s how I live now – kind of. I still have my watch alarm set to wake me up before the sun comes up, but really, the numbers on the watch don’t matter. I think it’s the numbers that make me tired. I used to wake up at 6, but if I want to keep my schedule with the sun, I’d have to set my alarm for 5. I used to go to sleep around 9:30-10, but if I keep my same schedule, now my bedtime will be 8:30-9. I don’t know if I can handle that – both those times are too early. But they’re just numbers. The numbers on my watch are what make me worry about being late, having enough material for a full class, and meeting deadlines. But all those concepts are fairly negotiable in Samoa, so the numbers don’t matter as much. Not always, but sometimes. It’s all negotiable, and it all depends on who you talk to.

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