Saturday, April 26, 2008

Traveling in the 4th Dimension

Try the following thought experiment. Wherever you are sitting right now, relax and close your eyes. Remind yourself that you not moving - that your position is fixed (it's easy to ignore the planetary motion, expansion of the universe etc). Now imagine a clock's pendulum swinging, complete with a tic, toc, tic background noise. Each passing second represents the journey through the fourth dimension that we are all on, like it or not. We are all traveling.

When you move around in space, the passing of time seems to be even more noticeable. Letizia and I spend many's the year moving around the IT contracting trail in Europe before coming back to Ireland, and the longest we stayed put was around 2 years. A byproduct of all this relocation, leaving behind friends and surroundings that had become familiar and comforting, was a reminder that time was slipping by as well. Memories of just a year previously can seem very distant in time if they are also distant geographically, and most of our memories were of that nature. When you stay in the same physical place, the passing of time has a way of creeping up on you.

We're at the halfway point, more or less, of our 8-month trip (hence the admittedly somewhat maudlin tone of this blog). Beijing seems like a very, very long time ago. Just a few days ago, we visited Slope Point - which is not just the southernmost point of New Zealand's South Island, but also the Southernmost point of our journey. Beijing was the northernmost. So at the halfway point of our trip, having spanned the latitudinal extremes of the planned itinerary, who did we meet at Slope Point? A group of Chinese people (from Chengdu in fact), the 'leader' of which lived currently in Australia. I love impromptu living metaphors like this. They're meaningless of course, but I can still have some harmless fun building some meaning around them. The meaning in this case just boils down to a terrible cliche: Time flies when you're having fun. Of course time flies even if you're not - you just don't notice it so much.

The other truth that I was forced to face was how quickly my modest level of basic Mandarin can crumble through lack of use. It's time for me to get back to my studies on Chinesepod (Liping - keep a place for me in class when I get back). So much to do, to see, to learn. And so little time. Better get to it. While stocks last.

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