So you think you’re smarter than a kindergartener: the difference between time zones

For all of my extensive schooling, 24 years of functioning as a (pretty much) normal human being in a developed society, and thousands of baseball games watched with start times of 10:00pm EST, I somehow made the jaw-droppingly ludicrous mistake of mixing up the direction that time changes, and scheduled a phone interview for 9:30am EST.

Perfect, I thought, I’ll go take a walk outside during lunch and discuss agriculture economics with a bit of forestry extension thrown in.

Then I realized in the shower last night that 9:30am EST is 6:30am PST, not 12:30pm PST. Seriously? my mind thought to itself. Seriously, my mind answered itself smugly, with a bit of scorn and not an insignificant amount of amusement.

I Googled my dad and found this

Borrowed shamelessly from a blog called Rebecca and the World, which must have decent SEO since it showed up on the first page when I Google Image’d Papua New Guinea:

“I had to travel halfway around the world and into a primitive culture to discover who I was.

Under the auspices of Marine Fisheries Development in Madang, Papua New Guinea, I emerged from the whirlwind experience solidified as to my place as an American and citizen of the world.

Being an American of Chinese ancestry (3rd Generation), I was constantly searching for my place in society. College only magnified my wanderlust, and, upon graduation, I already had plane tickets to a Peace Corps Service in the South Pacific.

There, I met the kindest people and most breathtaking scenery. We built boats and caught fish together, but the more important lessons were going on in the margins. Although I was the “Answer Man,” I ended with more questions, like:

Is it wise to teach a subsistence culture a cash economy?
Did building a boat for one village upset the delicate harmony among previously warring tribes?
Do I intervene in a situation that, in America, but not here, would be considered child abuse?
Is our increased fishing pressure sustainable?
In a growing cash economy, who will mitigate the social growing pains of theft, rape and unemployment?

In spite of the ambiguity at work, the Peace Corp’s goal of creating understanding was an absolute success. From the American GI’s that stormed their shores in WWII, they figured all Americans are either white or black. I had some explaining to do. I learned that, even in a primitive island village, we are pretty much alike in dreams and aspirations, good and evil. Their version of Hatfield and McCoy mentality has created a nation of only three million people speaking over 700 distinct languages.”

Lyle John Young, Papua New Guinea, 1981-85

Source: American Diplomacy: Special Section, March 2011 – How My Peace Corps Experience Changed Me

I’m proud of you, Pops. One of the biggest reasons why I’ve decided to join the Peace Corps is because the greatest man I’ve ever known constantly talks about the time he accidentally used a stinging nettle plant as toilet paper to horrifically comedic results when he was living in the jungle halfway across the world, and how this experience changed his life. (His Peace Corps service, not the stinging nettle, duh.)

A different perspective on fear

I was chatting with a fellow who stopped by to buy some books from me this morning and something he said to me in the middle of our conversation stuck. This is paraphrased, because I have a horrible memory, but it was something along the lines of, ‘If you feel scared when you’re about to do something, chances are that this means it will be good for you.’

I rarely feel afraid any more. I live my steady, content, slightly boring life and it’s become almost numbing. Now that there’s something big looming on the horizon that I’m deathly scared of starting, all of these new emotions are flooding in at various times and places. But if it means I’m growing, then maybe the goal isn’t to try to stomp these feelings back down into the ground but embrace them, and let them guide me along new paths.

The worst-kept secret in the world

I’m currently in the nomination stage of the very-long-and-drawn-out process of applying to the Peace Corps. Being a nominee sounds Big and Important until it dawns on you that all you really know is a vague set of generalities which when cobbled together in a 10-second sound bite make you seem ignorant and uninformed. Oh, I’m going to be helping farmers in South America! Sure, kid, that’s what they all think they’ll be doing.

My official nomination consists of only a scant few pieces of information:

1. My assignment: Agriculture economics.

2. My region: Latin America.

3. My departure month: September 2012.

I have no idea what the first one means. According to my recruiter, it has something to do with assisting farms and working in business. My brain shrewdly connected the dots and quickly proclaimed that I would be doing agribusiness consulting. Perhaps.

I thought I knew what the second one meant, at least. Latin America. Guatemala. Honduras. Panama. South of us but north of South America. Then it was pointed out to me a couple of months ago that in Peace Corps parlance, Latin America doesn’t just mean Central America, but any country south of the U.S. So now Peru and Paraguay and Ecuador were fair game. Shows how much I know.

I think — no, I HOPE — that this will become a major theme of this blog. One of the main reasons why I wanted to join the Peace Corps is because I want to expose to myself just how ignorant I am of anything that falls outside the narrow scope of my work, my fields of academic study, my hobbies, interests, pop culture outlets, societal parameters. I want to be shown, time and time again, how much I don’t know. And perhaps in the process of learning these things I don’t know, I’ll start to learn more about myself along the way.