If you’re a flat-earther… stop reading now. But if you actually believe the earth is a sphere (it’s actually an oblate spheroid, a little flatter at the poles and bulging at the equator, because of the spin… but whatever…), then you may have wondered at some point… how fast am I moving? If you’re standing at the South Pole, the answer is… you’re not… you’re just spinning in a very slow circle, completing a full revolution once a day. The circumference at the equator is 40,000km, and a day lasts 24 hours, so the math is simple — you’re whizzing along at 1,667 km/h… a little over 1,000 MPH. Actually, you’re moving through space a lot faster than that… because the earth moves around the sun, and our solar system spins around the center of our galaxy… and our galaxy itself is also moving through space, at over 2 million km/h. There’s no better proof of the impossibility of time travel than that… even if you move back in time one second, you’d materialize in the middle of nowhere, out in space somewhere. OK, that was a tangent… where was I…
The city of San José, Costa Rica, is a little over 1,000km north of the equator, somewhere around the 10-11º latitude. What’s interesting about places close to the equator is how quickly the sun rises and sun sets. Given how fast the earth is moving at that spot, it makes sense. It goes from full sunshine to pitch black in less than 30 minutes, and same with sunrise, but the other way around. And how little sunrise/sunset times change throughout the year. Without exception, no matter what time of the year it is, somewhere between 5am and 6am, pitch black to brilliant sunshine. And sometime between 5pm and 6pm, the opposite. Every day lasts almost exactly 12 hours. They have no idea what it’s like around here, for it to be pitch black at 4:30pm on those miserable Winter days, or brilliant sunshine after 9pm (coming in less than a month!)
What’s also interesting about San José is the temperature variation throughout the year — or lack thereof. There are no hot or cold seasons… it’s all the same, year-round, and the temperature range is a narrow sliver. Over a typical year, the coldest temperature is around 18ºC (64ºF) and the hottest is around 27ºC (80ºF). That’s only a 9ºC difference, and if that’s all you’ve ever known, the temperatures near the edge of that range can feel extreme… which leads to the amusing situation some friends and I found ourselves in when we were there. We were staying in a nice place with a beautiful pool… and it was after dinner, already dark, but it was 18ºC out… more than suitable pool weather. So we’re in the pool, splashing around, having a great time… and there’s a security guard wandering around… in a full winter jacket, toque, gloves and ear-muffs. Looking at us like we’re crazy. And we’re looking at him like he’s crazy.
But that’s all he knows, and that’s all he’s used to, and 18ºC to him is like -20ºC to us… the very edge of super-cold.
And now you’re wondering what this might have to do with this pandemic (I was going to say “global pandemic”, but every time I do, my son corrects me… “As opposed to what, dad… a neighbourhood pandemic?” — OK, it’s a pandemic… it’s global. And it’s very straightforward… it’s making us look at things differently, for us — but things that for certain people are a way of life, because they were already used to it.
Indeed, I think for a lot of people, adjusting to the new-normal has been a bigger shock, the more complicated their previous life was. Because really, the simpler your life was before, the easier (if any) adjustments you had to make. Some remote village where people live self-sufficiently, grow their own food, fish, raise chickens… they’re barely, if at all, affected. There’s that lingering thought I keep having about simplifying life in general, because now that things are starting to open up, my old life is pulling me back in, and I find myself resisting a bit.
We’re still far from the end of this, and we’re all itching to bring back at least some degree of familiar normalcy. It’ll be a far cry from the real thing, which is coming one day… on the (hopefully not too) distant horizon… but even when things are 100% back to normal, I hope we can hold on to some of the not-so-normal, that was imposed upon us… because it’s not all bad. I certainly hope so. I’m trying.
When I told some guy in Costa Rica that it sometimes doesn’t get dark until after 9pm here, he was startled… and he asked, “What do you do?”. What an interesting question… what do you do with all that extra daylight. Well, the answer, I suppose, is you make the best of it. Much like we’ve all been making “the best of it”. But hopefully we’ve learned something that carries through; something that was very new to us, but blatantly obvious to someone else, someone from whose life we had something to learn, even if we didn’t know it before.