Day 018 – August 9, 2011
Living abroad requires a shift in one’s mind-set. I’m not here to riff on how one’s personal space bubble shrinks or expands depending on the new country or how the rules of driving do or don’t exist in the new country or how to speak in a language that has formal and informal verb tenses.
Nope, I’m here to write about how one needs to modify their paradigms for reading the time and date.
While it is not a blanket usage, there are several instances where this country uses the 24-hour clock. As an example, the newspaper will have it listed that the Peru vs Colombia futbol match will be at 1815 or that the hit television show is on at 1900.
For those not used to military time, it requires a bit of mental calculation to have to subtract 1200 from each time in the afternoon or evening. In my world, it’s similar to what occurs in my brain when hearing Spanish. The words enter my ears (“Necesita Usted pagar antes de salir”) and my brain accesses its translation sub-routine and begins to parse out the words. Once the words are separated out, the main processing begins and turns the words into English (You need [Sir] / to pay / before / to leave). Another method (I throw that word in there for all my object-oriented programmers out there reading this…a big shout out to all those who grok encapsulation) then kicks in and puts all the words together (“Sir, you need to pay before leaving”). This entire process takes a bit of time and often, while I am conversing with someone in Spanish, it looks like I am staring ahead blankly when all I am really doing is processing (like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation…or like your PC when downloading gigabytes of pictures).
Fortunately, this translation procedure does not occur for me when I look at the times here in Peru. Back in college (waaaay back in the late 1980s), I migrated to the 24-hour clock in college. What started out as an experiment to see how long I could function in an environment that heavily relied on punctuality (Russian classes begin at X:XX; the final exam starts at Y:YY; the dorm party starts at Z:ZZ; the dorm’s residential assistant will check your room for fire code violations at A:AA) has now turned into my standard way of living. Funny how a silly choice made nearly two decades ago has made at least one transition smoother here in the City of Kings.
As for dates, Peru uses the day-month-year (DDMMYY) format so today would be written out as 09/08/2011. Now, be honest with me, because when you first read that date, your brain said “September 8, 2011” because the United States uses the month-day-year (MMDDYY) format.
So far, when I read dates in Peru, I do have to mentally stutter-step and remember the DDMMYY format. When we first worked on the paperwork for our children’s School back in March of 2011, I had a nanosecond of panic when I thought I read that their classes started on “April 8, 2011”, which was less than two weeks away at the time (and we were still living in Virginia) because it was written “04/08/11”.
Personally, I believe the DDMMYY format makes more sense logically. The items being represented move from left to right in an increasing order of magnitude from day to month to year. The format used by the United States appears to not follow a pattern as it starts at “month”, decreases to “day”, and then makes a huge leap to “year”.
Those last two sentences should answer your question of, “Gee, Xavier, since you don’t have a job, how do you fill up your day?”
I have quirky thoughts like pondering the inherent logic of international date formats.
I am also able to answer such questions that rattle around in my head like…
…How do you estimate the weight of a northern pike?
(Cube its length in inches and divide by 3,500.)
…Was Lazarus the first person to be raised from the dead (John 11:44)?
(No, a small child is brought back to life by the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 4:35.)
…Is there a country that celebrates Valentine’s Day as a public holiday?