Monday, April 27, 2009

There is a Season

Over Easter Weekend, a bunch of us played a game in which we had to predict someone else’s answer to a question. For example, the might ask, “If Paul were a shoe, what kind of shoe would he be?” and the object would be to match Paul’s answer. One question I got was “If Matt were a season, what season would he be?” When I chose Fall, Dan asked, “Do you have seasons in San Francisco?” It was both genuinely inquisitive and smugly east-coast.

San Francisco has two seasons: summer and rainy. It’s important to note summer is not all that warm. There’s the old Mark Twain quote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” True that, Mark. True that. Los Angeles had even less a concept of season. It was pretty much beach weather year-round except there was the part of the year when it was too cold to go in the water, and the part of the year where the water was the only comfortable place.

Yet regardless of experiencing posh New England seasons, Americans are constantly reminded of the time of year. The days grow shorter or longer. Daylight savings provides a biannual hiccup. Grocery stores promote goods for the upcoming holiday. Baseball in the spring and summer, football in the fall, basketball in the winter (No. I don’t want hockey.). Part of the success of American consumerism is creating the feeling you need to buy something to keep up with the ever-changing season. Even Starbucks has special drinks they offer seasonally.

In Samoa, there’s little concept of “seasonal,” or if there is, it’s far too subtle for my perception. The summer here is hot. The winter, supposedly the cool season, is still hot. The summer is considered the rainy season. Global warming seems to be doing its part to bring rain year-round now. Being so close to the equator, the change in the length of the day is not nearly as dramatic. Maybe the sun sets at 6:30 p.m. now and 7:30 p.m. in middle of December.

There’s not really commercial seasons either. I saw one display at Lucky Foodtown and one at Farmer Joe for Easter. Christmas is a huge deal, but other than that, shoppers here aren’t really bombarded with promotions for special seasonal goods.

The effect of all this is the feeling time isn’t moving. Group 81 arrived in October, and if you spliced in today’s weather and consumer climate into our first week, it would be seamless. It seems dramatic to compare it to the movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray experiences the exact same day over and over, but it is something close to that. It feels like being in a time warp; like I understand that I’ve been here for 6.5 months, but only because my cell phone displays a different date each day.

The one clear exception to all this is the availability of fruit. Mangoes are only available in the Samoan summer. There are more examples than that, but I honestly don’t know of any others. Like I said, the seasonal markers here are too subtle for perception.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s almost May. But really, it wouldn’t be that difficult to convince me otherwise.

I hope you’re enjoying the spring, America. Pictures below.

Apia in October.

Apia in January.

Apia in April.

Apia in July.

Easter display at Lucky Foodtown.

Finally, I want to pay special tribute to Bea Arthur. Losing her is almost like losing a Beatle.


Cale said...

There is also a season for mangosteen and starfruit and avacado and pineapple.

Kelly said...

I thought of you when I heard about Bea Arthur. No reason to say more. Miss you.