The international dateline generally follows 180 degrees longitude and creates a difference of 24 hours in time between the two sides. It swings east at Tuvalu to avoid slicing Fiji in two. This can be confusing, as Samoa, which chooses to observe the same day as neighboring Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand, has the same clock time as American Samoa but is a day ahead! Everything in the Eastern Hemisphere west of the dateline is a day later, everything in the Western Hemisphere east of the line is a day earlier (or behind). Air travelers lose a day when they fly west across the dateline and gain it back when they return. Keep track of things by repeating to yourself, “If it’s Sunday in American Samoa, it’s Monday in Manila.”
The islanders operate on “coconut time”–the nut will fall when it is ripe. In the languid air of the South Seas punctuality takes on a new meaning. Appointments are approximate and the service relaxed. Even the seasons are fuzzy: sometimes wetter, sometimes drier, but almost always hot. Slow down to the island pace and get in step with where you are. You may not get as much done, but you’ll enjoy life more. Daylight hours in the tropics run 6 am to 6 pm with few seasonal variations.