In Aotearoa pondering transitions and time

June 30, 2019

Reflections of Time Passing By (Fast!!)

Reflecting on the fact that my last three entries on this blog were October, June, and May of 2018—I have been lax in writing for this site. It feels like just week, maybe a couple of months ago I wrote those—but the earliest one is now a year old. Where does time go—and why does it go so damn fast?

I am in a period of transition. I swear it was only a little while ago that I was happy and doing research in Oshweken (Six Nations), Brantford, and with folks from Polytechnic. But that too, was now two years ago. And if I were completely honest, it seems like just a few years ago that I was in the Army. But that was now over a quarter-century ago.

Heck, I just finished my seventeenth year at SUNY Oswego in May 2019. And it was my last semester, year, and last sets of meetings forever in May 2019 too! I can’t say with a straight face that I will miss all those damn meetings at or on behalf of SUNY Oswego. But I will miss a lot of good people I worked with in all my years at Oz.

I am leaving—for the University of Toronto later this summer—to start the next chapter of my life. My friend teasingly reminded me while we were having dinner and catching up—I can’t really say it’s Kevin 2.0—because I am way older than that; and I have transitioned way more times than twice. Though we were also reminiscing about how we had been at Brockport just a little while ago–but it was more like 21 and 20 years ago respectively—both of us amazed about how fast time went by for us.



Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Aotearoa has long been one of the places I had hoped to visit in my life. I honestly thought I’d never get the chance for a couple of reasons. The main one was my stubbornness over obtaining a US Passport. I had long held out that I would stand firm in my stance as a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) and member of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. Even if it meant that I never left the US and Canada.

But as fate would happen, I had to make a decision about how exactly stubborn to be in my life. I worked with a few folks upon hearing NAISA 2019 was going to be in Kirikiriroa(Hamilton), Aotearoa. These two emerging scholars and I contemplated not only NAISA, but the pending Decolonizing Animals conference in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) the following week. We were going to make an epic journey of it.

Ultimately, our trio was accepted to both conferences (NAISA and Decolonizing Animals)—which we had hoped for in actuality. Now, I had to get my US Passport in order to go to Aotearoa.  And reluctantly, I did so—the US passport arrived this spring. Though I must admit, I miss the stamps they give out. I had been greatly looking forward to the stamp that recognized Aotearoa as my first stamp in my first passport—but alas, it was not to be, it is all electronic now.



Time can work very strangely

The first realization that time works differently in how we operate came with the flight to Aotearoa. I left on a Sunday evening at 5:00 pm EDT (eastern time) and arrived in Auckland, Aotearoa on Tuesday morning at 7:35 am (New Zealand) time. Essentially, that puts Aotearoa about 16 hours ahead of New York. Don’t even try to get me to understand the GMT +/- x hours–I’m totally lost.

Thankfully, there is an app for this!

PS Sorry mom for all those very late-night calls from Korea when I was in the Army! There was no app back then.

Now the very strange part to me is that I fly out on Sunday around 5:00 pm New Zealand time—but arrive at the ROC (Rochester) at 12:17 am approximately. So, I will be in the air all night Sunday-though it will feel like time has stopped while I am onboard the planes to get home. It makes me think of that Stephen King book/movie whose name I can’t think of at this moment.


Why Reminisce and Ponder Time?

You’re probably asking yourself what is the point of this essay? Or can I have those few moments of my life back after reading this essay? I promise I have a point—though it might only be important to me. But I have decided to share it with you and the world.

Since my Fulbright fellowship two years ago, I have been actively searching for and applying for jobs in Canada. Much of this was in the hopes that I could continue to the work I started with the Six Nations community and my friends. But I lost hope for a while too.

As I applied and I hoped I would land a job I found myself becoming incredibly nostalgic. I supposed anyone might be—this year technically is my 30th high school class reunion. I graduated from Brockport a bit over 20 years ago. My service in the Army was just over 25 years ago. And I can plainly and clearly see 50 on the horizon of my life. I even have the gray beard, bald head, and gray hair to boot.

Yet, while all these moments feel like they happened just recently, or in the not too distant past. But reality is they are now decades old. The forward progress of time operates not by memory alone—but immutably change and flow—even if we feel like it was just yesterday.



Walking along the Waikato River

I have learned to take time for myself on this trip. On my last morning in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) I walked along the Waikato river. Since it was winter it was a bit brisk, but a refreshing walk.  It was along the Waikato river that I knew I’d begun crafting this post.

For me, this visit was not just about coming to Aotearoa—though I love it. Nor was it merely about attending two back to back conferences—though I am excited and honored to be part of both conferences. It was marking the transition from Oswego to Toronto.

A lot of things did not unfold as I had hoped they would in my transition from Oswego to Toronto. As always, I learned some very valuable lessons in this transition. I even had some hurt feelings in this transition from Oz to Toronto. And my buddy and I have been working on the house (which feels like forever) to get it ready to sell—in my transition to Toronto. But I suppose if transition or change were easy than we would not write about it. But Aotearoa will be that marked turning of the corner for me.

For as I post this entry—it is both: July 1st, my first day at the University of Toronto officially AND it is June 30th, my last day at SUNY Oswego officially. It will only last a few hours really, but it will be indelibly marked for me because of my visit to Aotearoa.

As I have another week in Aotearoa before I head home, I needed to write about how fleeting life seems to be really. I also needed to write about this moment that will be so marked for me in ways I cannot put into words yet fully. And I just wanted to remember this moment and transition.

What are those indelible moments in your life that mark the changing of time in your life?

Kevin J. White
Toronto, CA