In joining the Peace Corps and coming to Botswana we have moved from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere. We also moved from the Western to the Eastern Hemisphere.
From Wikipedia: The Northern Hemisphere is the half of Earth that is north of the equator. Earth’s northern hemisphere contains most of the planet’s land, and roughly 90% of its human population. The Western Hemisphere is the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian (which crosses Greenwich, UK) and east of the International Date Line, the other half being the Eastern Hemisphere.
Travelling south of the equator is probably the more unusual of the changes. It is not common to find an American who has done that. If someone is fortunate to have the resources to travel, the most common destinations are above the equator (where most of the land and the people are). Canada, America, Mexico, Europe and Asia are common tourist destinations, all in the Northern Hemisphere. There just aren’t as many places to visit down under.
We have visited below the equator before. Tish and I (and good friends Deb and Gary) travelled to Australia and New Zealand once a few years ago, and Tish had made a medical mission trip below the equator to Peru a few years before that. But none of those trips was long enough to get the full impact of living below the equator.
The biggest difference being the weather. The seasons are backwards, so when we left the USA in the Spring of 2011, having just come through the Winter, we arrived just in time to go through another Winter.
While it was burning hot in Atlanta during June, July and August, it was cold in Botswana. While the USA was enduring the hot summer, we had winter temperatures that were often in the low 30’s, and ventured below freezing once or twice. The cold here isn’t just felt during the walk from your garage or driveway to your heated office or home. In Botswana, if it is 35 degrees outside it is about the same thing inside. Our house does not have a heater of any kind. In fact, the warmest place in the house is in bed under the blankets, which is why you would find us going to bed really early. It is quite a sight to look over and see Tish reading in bed with a hat and gloves on! It was quite strange to be feeling cold in June, July and August.
Likewise when the cold months rolled around in the USA and you all had your hats, coats and gloves on and were thinking about the holidays; we were burning up. The hottest days here in the southern part of Botswana were in the low to mid 100’s. Just as there is no relief from the cold, there is no relief from the heat. When it is 100 degrees outside, it is about the same inside. In the northern parts of Botswana they have it even worse, as it routinely gets up to 110 or higher. Somehow it just doesn’t seem like Christmas when you are wearing shorts while sweating profusely with all the windows open and fans on.
Our summer (your winter) is also the rainy season, and things are blooming so the Hay Fever season of runny noses and itchy eyes, that I felt lucky to miss out on by leaving the US in the Spring, has arrived here in Botswana.
Travelling the other way, from West to East has it’s issues as well. Jet lag was only an issue the first day or two. By now, we are fully adapted to the seven hour difference in the time of the day from EST to Botswana time. The biggest problem is communicating back home. When it is between 6 pm and 9 pm here which is a good time for us to pick up the phone and chat with family, it is 11 am in America and not a good time for our kids. When it is a good time for them, it is usually not a good time for us. So we each have to give a little. It is a small problem, but it reminds us how far away from our children we are.
A few years ago our trip to Australia involved a change from Northern to Southern hemispheres and West to Eastern hemispheres, plus it crossed the international date line. Returning to the US from that trip, we left New Zealand at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning. We arrived in Los Angeles at 9:00 am of the same day. We arrived 30 minutes before we left, according to the calendar.
We look forward to being in the same time zone as our family again.