Maltese Slowness

March 8, 2010

We are leaping thirty degrees on the temperature gauge today. It’s not due to global warming, but due to our travel. The day has finally arrived in which we’re headed to Malta, an island in the Mediterranean 288 KM from Tunisia and 93 KM south of Sicily. They’ve promised me it’s warm there. It has to be warmer than here! It snowed in Germany again. The sun is shining though!

So as we head Southeast, I am reminded that the world will keep spinning even as I do not. I hope to blog about the experience. I am told Malta has a rich history ~ pictures to follow!

In just a few weeks, we’ll be changing the clocks forward once again. Does Daylight Saving Time make you sleepy and disoriented just like jet lag?

Take this poll!

Once upon a Null Meridian

October 11, 2009

Ask any transmeridian worker such as an airline pilot, and you’ll hear how important meridians are for coordinating air travel and the like.

time zone globeOctober 13th marks the 125th anniversary of the Greenwich Meridian that runs smack dab through the lens of London’s Observatory telescope in its Greenwich quarter. The world was then divided into 24 time zones in 60 minute increments. At the time, twenty-six countries reached a mutual agreement on the world’s y-axis. The equator, having always been the x-axis of the planet, now had a perpendicular companion. Nations such as Afghanistan still tend to use their own personalized understanding of time accounting. But nonetheless, the world’s commerce relies greatly on this agreement the folks in DC at the International Meridian Conference agreed upon that autumnal day in 1884. Oh sure, there were minor adjustments with a redefintion of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) called Universal Time, then again in 1972 with UTC  (Universal Time Coordinated) based on atomic clocks that reset in case you goof up the settings. You can get them at any store these days. Much to our chagrin, our children tend to set them at odd hours. The other day the alarm went off at 5 am…

The history of time, along with our collective agreement about what time is, is an interesting one. Happy Birthday, GMT. We transmeridian travelers promise not to hold jetlag against you.

Slow en Espagnol

September 24, 2009

In a few hours we’re boarding a plane to Barcelona. The late-summer sun has kissed our skin good-bye as we enter the warmer climes of the Spanish coastline. My sister and brother-in-law are making happy suitcase zippering noises, a reminder of adventure and good food to come.

We’ll be breathing the slow Spanish air for four days and three nights. Tune in for more stories soon!

The Gift of a Year

September 4, 2009

The phone jangled just as I was shutting down my computer. It was my sister, fresh off her summer beach vacation. She was brimming with ideas and excitment.

“You’ve got to read this book: The Gift of a Year: How to Achieve the Most Meaningful, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Year of Your Life by Mira Kirschenbaum. It’s changed my life!!” She proceeded to tell me how the book giftlays out a year-long plan to do what you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the guts/time/energy/money to do it. With compelling case studies of people who took time off for a year to travel, paint or pursue other passions, I got excited for my sister who decided to travel more. In fact, we made plans for our pending trip to Barcelona week after next right then and there.

halfwaySo when I received a copy of  Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home by Susan Pohlman, I was enthralled by her story. She took her husband and two kids to explore life in Italy for a year. The author, who was on the brink of divorce from her then radio producer husband, decided to give her married life another chance by moving her entire existence to the outskirts of Genoa. I fell in love with Susan the moment I cracked the book’s spine. Her strength (and admitted weaknesses) make you want to call her up for a cup of cappuccino and a chat.

Susan and her family indeed gave themselves a gift of a year and by the end of it, and the book itself, the reader is richer for their experiences and for the opportunity to explore his or her own chance at renewal by shaking things up just a little bit.

You needn’t move to a foreign country to make a difference in your life.

The power of slow dictates that we periodically reevaluate how we are spending our personal bank account of time. For the two authors above it is clear they dedicated some of theirs to a worthwhile cause of self-discovery and joy. We readers are all the richer for their efforts.

Time Zone Dance

September 2, 2009

Nothing makes you more acutely aware of the relativity of time than jetlag.

We returned from our three-week trip to the States in great spirits. Iberia Airlines had vastly overbooked our flight to Munich (via Madrid) so the airline clerk suggested we hop a direct flight to Munich on Lufthansa instead. The children thrust themselves heavenward in a collective expression of jubilation. I hadn’t heard the end of it since we flew over on Iberia.

“No personalized monitor screens? No happy-faced flight attendants’ Icky bathrooms and an ancient aircraft?”

Before the clerk could blink, I grabbed his arm and screamed replied, Heck Yeah!

In a matter of words, we agreed unconditionally.

My husband, fresh off a sustained state of relaxation (he spent most of his time either in the kitchen cooking or in the hammock reading), praised me for my foresight of coming to the airport a little earlier than necessary.

“We’re flying our preferred airline now, all thanks to Mama! She’s the one that insisted suggested we leave early. Isn’t that great?” So the half-hour we invested saved us five hours of travel time.

Now, back at home, we’re engaging in the time zone dance. Meeting halfway to the bathroom at 1 am, my daughter and I blinked at each other in the darkness.

“Why are you up?” I asked her. She wasn’t coherent (and I was distinctly unfair in demanding anything more than a mumble). We met again at 3 am, but then all was quiet.

That is, until my eyes popped awake at 10 am, wondering where the time went…

Mary Westheimer, who works for Arizona-based sculptor Kevin Caron, shares a neat story about how time expands and contracts whenever she places herself in the flow of life. Fearless and calm, she’s made it across Phoenix in the time it takes to order a Starbucks double latte skim at lunch time.

Listen in on Mary’s story here to find out how you can make time, too. [Listening instructions: Deactivate your pop-up blocker; click on the link, then click on it again. Click on 'open' to listen to the .wav file. It's rudimentary, but it works!].

Gadgetless Travels

June 20, 2009

The call came in just as I was leaving the parking lot. My casting agent asked if I might dash over to another TV show set to fill in for someone who didn’t show up. I had just wrapped up filming a TV drama. I played a small role as a secretary in a foreign office and was pleased that we were done by noon. So I agreed, as long as she could show me how to get there.

I met her in her office briefly to discuss travel details. Without a GPS I wasn’t sure I’d find my way. After two years, we had to return the company car whose GPS we christened Nancy the Navigator. She was unfriendly, but efficient. Or so we thought.

It turns out I found the place just fine with the mental directions stored in my head. In the process I noticed my surroundings much more. My awareness was raised because it had to be, otherwise I might have missed a turn. It made me realize how mind-numbing gadgets can be.

I used to rely on Nancy’s steady, insistent voice to turn this way or that. With her gone I was a little uncertain. But then I realized an ounce of faith can take you a long way. So I put faith, not in technology, but in myself.

It was a freeing moment of gadgetless travel. I liked it. You might want to give it a try!

Vacation Deprivation

June 15, 2009

According to the annual Expedia.com Vacation Deprivation survey, we’re in trouble. We don’t have much time off, and we don’t even take the time off we have.

vacation timeStudying the vacation habits of employed workers from the US, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, Expedia.com reveals that the French take the most time off (an average of 36 of their 38 vacation days) while US workers limp in last place with the number of days they have available: 13 (it is forecasted that they will take  only 10 of them in 2009). Juxtaposed to the Japanese, 7 of their 15 vacation days will be left on the table this year.

I’m in love with my work just like many people I know. But, like my family, I can leave it behind for a few days and still feel good about myself. After all, I am contributing to a higher rate of efficiency by filling the tank, greasing the engine, whetting the knife – you get my drift?

The survey goes on to report that 34% of employed US workers do not take all their vacation days in one year (this trend is rising – in 2008, it was 31%). Thirty-seven percent of employed US adults work more than 40 hours a week (need I mention France’s baseline 35-hour work week? Prime Minister Sarkozy has taken measures, however, to loosen the grip of the shorter work week to stimulate the economy.)

More work and less play makes Pièrre, well, less playful. And that goes for us working stiffs, too.

Are you vacation deprived? Do you yearn for the brightness a holiday can bring to your life? What are your plans this summer?

How do you view time?

June 12, 2009

Time is of the essence.

Time is money.

Time is a terrible thing to waste…or was it the mind?

Perhaps time is all in our minds.

If you believe Robert Levine, a brilliant social psychologist from California geography of timeState University who authored A Geography of Time, time perception is deeply embedded in cultural understanding. For a Brazilian, punctuality is not revered as it is for a German (Lord knows you don’t want to be ‘late’ for a meeting in Germany. Bad, bad, bad!). According to Professor Levine, the higher your social standing in Brazil, the later you are expected to be.

Giancarlo Duranti, PMP, a project management professional who currently resides in Rome, did not know this when he moved to Rio de Janeiro. In fact, he told me in a recent interview that it took the better part of a year before he fully understood Brazilian time perception. He later moved to Cuba, which provided a similar dilemma. He pointed out the cultural clash in particular between monochronic thinkers (linear, one-at-a-time people) and polychronic ones (multitasking, loosely related to time schedule types). Understanding who you are dealing with and from which culture can mean the difference between getting a project done on time…or not at all.

Cultural misunderstandings can lead to ferocious interactions between peoples. We see it every day on the news. Time plays a big role. I claim we need to befriend time as we all have a personal bank account of time to spend. How you define time is up to you.

How do you view time? Friend or foe? Nag or necessity? In the words of my late grandmother, do tell.

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