JUST A MAT­TER OF TIME

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

The thing about trav­el­ling half way round the world is that time gets a lit­tle con­fus­ing. Take Tai­wan, for in­stance – it's about as far away from St Lu­cia as you can pos­si­bly get – so the time dif­fer­ence is ex­actly 12 hours, which means that 7 o'clock on Mon­day Morn­ing in St Lu­cia is ac­tu­ally 7 o'clock on Mon­day evening in Taipei – as in most things, Tai­wan is way ahead of St Lu­cia even when it comes to time.

It seems like weeks since I left He­wanorra for Lon­don but it is, in fact, less than a week ago that I landed on a brisk, as the cap­tain put it, Mon­day morn­ing at Gatwick; I had a meet­ing to at­tend in the old coun­try and I man­aged to squeeze it in dur­ing the day's wait for the con­nect­ing Vir­gin evening flight to Hong Kong. Ac­tu­ally, Vir­gin has changed its sched­ule slightly from St Lu­cia; in­stead of leav­ing quite late it now leaves around 5 p.m. which means pas­sen­gers ar­rive in Lon­don at 1 a.m. St Lu­cia body time, which is great be­cause you don't feel when you land at 5 a.m. Lon­don time that you have been awake all night. I had booked a day room at the Hil­ton at Gatwick which meant that I could ba­si­cally roll off the flight and into bed for a few hours of truly hor­i­zon­tal sleep be­fore tod­dling along to the meet­ing in good time be­fore my 9.30 p.m. flight to the Far East.

The on­ward flight took around 12 hours – amaz­ing re­ally – and we landed in Hong Kong at about 5 p.m. Tues­day af­ter­noon, which as I said in the be­gin­ning was re­ally only 5 a.m. on Tues­day morn­ing in St Lu­cia.

Hong Kong has one of those air­ports where you wish you could just float on air be­tween ter­mi­nals es­pe­cially when you dis­cover that your flight that was sup­posed to leave from gate 3 is sud­denly changed to gate 115 in an­other quite dif­fer­ent but ad­join­ing ter­mi­nal. It seems some­times that the air­ports of the world are try­ing to re­dress the bal­ance of fast travel by in­tro­duc­ing marathon walks from ar­rival gates to the ter­mi­nals – Toronto is an­other air­port, just like Honk Kong, that seems to think that peo­ple who have just trav­elled thou­sands of miles re­ally need to walk for at least half an hour car­ry­ing hand lug­gage that may or may not in­clude the kitchen sink or drag­ging grand­mother and the kids along end­less ster­ile cor­ri­dors.

The flight from Hong Kong to Taipei was un­event­ful, just an hour and five min­utes in which the crew man­aged to serve a full meal to 350 pas­sen­gers and sell them duty free items at the same time, in­clud­ing gi­ant fluffy toys. Few peo­ple re­al­ize how busy the air cor­ri­dor be­tween Tai­wan and the main­land is. There are lit­er­ally dozens, if not hun­dreds, of flights ev­ery day be­tween China and towns all over Tai­wan. In fact, the cor­ri­dors have be­come so crowded that China – on the very day of my ar­rival – had pro­claimed a new cor­ri­dor to ease the traf­fic with­out, of course, con­sult­ing Tai­wan first, which caused my friend Tom (you know which Tom I mean) a cou­ple of mi­nor headaches as he – as Direc­tor Gen­eral of the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs – had to sort out the prob­lem be­fore it got out of hand and be­came a diplo­matic in­ci­dent (which he did, of course).

It was nice to see Tom and his wife Tina again. Even though it was al­most mid­night in Tai­wan (mid­day in St Lu­cia) when I landed; my friends were wait­ing for me as I ex­ited the plane and es­corted me like a prince to my ho­tel for the night. No rest for the wicked – though th­ese days I don't feel par­tic­u­larly wicked – and I had to be up by 6 the fol­low­ing morn­ing for an early ses­sion with the Direc­tor Gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment Fund in Tai­wan. The ICDF is re­spon­si­ble for many of the schol­ar­ships awarded to St Lu­cian stu­dents, but that was not what we talked about. At a later meet­ing with peo­ple from the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, I had the hon­our of meet­ing a group of peo­ple who are con­duct­ing aid projects all over the globe – even in Rus­sia! There is con­sid­er­able in­ter­est in var­i­ous quar­ters in and around Tai­wan for what the In­Time Project and IETV did, and con­tinue to do, to fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion in St Lu­cia. You know what they say about never be­ing a prophet in your own coun­try (well, I sup­pose some peo­ple might not al­low me to con­sider St Lu­cia “my own coun­try”) but those in the know in the wider world seem to ap­pre­ci­ate what we have been do­ing for the past 10 years or more.

By the time the first meet­ing was over and the for­mal lunch had been con­cluded I was well and truly knack­ered. The only thing that kept me go­ing was the en­thu­si­asm from the peo­ple I was meet­ing to the ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives that we con­tinue to in­tro­duce into St Lu­cia. It seems that IETV's pro­grams will take on a new lease on life out in the wider world; it's sim­ply a mat­ter of time.

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