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 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.