In my fist blog entry, I digressed on travel distances. Now upon returning from a brief trip home, I recall one of the first books that enthralled my youth, Walk the World’s Rim. Essentially, this story argued that as many times as one traverses the world’s rim, one never truly returns to the same point from which one has disembarked. Nevertheless, my experience of round trips, coming and going, from Madrid to Washington, DC over the past six years is better expressed by the pains of jet lag than any other allusion.
On September 9th, I will have my 6th anniversary of arriving in Madrid. What I have learned is that the jet lag I suffer is exponentially more intense in relation to what I leave behind rather than the actual distance or time of travel. Allow me to explain . . .
I assert that the jet lag suffered corresponds to all that I leave behind. Under normal circumstances, jet lag is greater when traveling east bound. Traveling easterly from the US to Europe (ie, Washington, DC to Madrid), one generally travels over night, losing a night of sleep. This makes adjusting to the time difference more intense. On flights westbound, one does not lose sleep. To the contrary, one gains time. For example, the following day of arrival, one tends to wake up earlier than normal. I always wake up for the first few days at 5:00am. This would be like sleeping until 11:00am in Madrid. That makes my days at home more fruitful. I wake up and have plenty of energy, giving the body the impression that I have slept in. I am then free to enjoy the day as if well rested. On the contrary, when I arrive in Madrid, generally at 8am in the morning after a sleepless night on the plane, my body is exhausted. Here one must fight fatigue upon arrival and give all best efforts to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime in the evening. During that day’s long struggle to battle somnolence, the body continues to glide through the air like a boat at sea. In sum, it is only natural to suffer this jet lag in greater measures upon arrival in Europe than vice versa.
Nevertheless, I believe that I suffer this eastern bound jet lag dispropionately. When family, friends, or co-workers travel eastbound, I never see that they feel the pains of travel to the same extent that I do. Am I the weaker human? Possibly, yes. But, even if I am weaker, am I that much weaker?
On this trip to the US, I sat in an aisle seat in coach with absolutely no leg room for the eight hour flight. It was one of the most uncomfortable flights that I can remember. Nevertheless, upon landing at home, I felt little or no fatigue. I landed with a full refrigerator. Washington was green and lush. The previous week’s heat wave had come to an end, and there was a pleasant breeze. I spent my days with my family and driving through the streets. Although I have almost no friends left in the area, save Fadi, I take the utmost pleasure in driving through the streets of my childhood and young adulthood. After spending eight months in the dry and barren Madrid without a car, I can spend hours on end driving through Maryland and DC simply enjoying its flora and fauna. I retrace my life through my Sunday-driving, not with nostalgic melanhcoly, but with the pleasure that one gets from staring with reverie at a book shelf full of all of the books that one has read throughout a life time.
On the other hand, upon arriving in Madrid (I cured the flight discomfort by upgrading), I encounter the mid-August Madrid that is desolate of population like a coastal town in winter. There is no one in the streets; parking abounds. My refrigerator is like the Earth in Genesis, without shape or form, spacious. And I have absolutely no one to talk to. Of course, this will change the very second I walk into the office (there will be light, there will be people, there will be incessant voices, there will be FON). When packing for DC, I took a suitcase with nothing. I travel light. I have nothing to take home. Upon returning, I fill my suitcase will small purchases from home, mainly music, a few t-shirts, and things people have asked me to bring them. But, when packing for the trip back to Madrid, I feel like I have such a full suitcase. Yet, when I get to Madrid, there is so little to unpack. So, why is it that I have nothing to take home with me to DC and yet I feel that I leave so much behind when returning? Have I shed my belongings unknowingly in the return flight?
My sixth year annivesrary in this city is just around the corner. I recall the horrible jet lag of that first arrival, probably the worst I can remember. It was like sea sickness, a dizzying nausea of being rocked back and forth between a new life and a former one. Now, after only being home for seven days, it will take at least two weeks to readjust to an adopted culture, language, and city (regardless of the length of time I have being living here and my fluency in the language, see Words). Of course, I am here on my own volition and continue to choose to be here. As a matter of fact, some day (and that day may never come), I may collect all of the books in my Spanish book shelf, pack them up in boxes to voyage home. And I am sure that the jet lag across the world’s rim will be all consuming.