Early Hour Epiphanies

So, here I am, down to the wire, trying to make my self-imposed deadline of one post per month while somewhat still in the throws of a syndrome with which every Third Culture Kid/ Expat/World Traveler is well-acquainted; jet lag. Trying to coax your body (and wandering mind) into sleeping after living in another time zone for the whole summer can be a challenge.

We’ve all come to know the routine. Try to sleep as much as possible on the night flight home, with whatever means is most helpful (Melatonin, Dramamine, motion sickness patch, allergy meds, noise reducing headphones or tranquil music, etc.). Frequent flyers and time zone jumpers have tried them all.

I’ve done fairly well this round, with about three and a half hours of sleep on the flight, staying awake until 10:00 pm on the first day, and a first night sleep-through. But the next night found me up from 1:30 until about 5:00, even after another jet lag tip of taking a three hour hike for an abundance of exercise the day before. With jet lag, nothing is full-proof, and like many things in the life of a Third Culture Kid, or life in general, for that matter, jet lag cannot be controlled, even with a variety of attempts to do so.

So what goes on in the middle of the night when the rest of the house is quiet? The mind wanders through a sometimes foggy, sometimes highly alert state of wakefulness. In this state, one can experience many insights, some of them ridiculously mundane, and others more insightful. I thought it might be fun to share some of mine with you.

1. Feet can experience culture shock. After living for months in mostly carpeted environments, our marble and hardwood floors feel particularly solid and inflexible as I make my way downstairs when sleep is no longer an option.

2. Furniture, like humans, ages. One of my favorite furniture pieces, a painted chest bought in a nearby village in the beautiful Wachau region, seems to let out little creaks throughout the night, like bones popping. It makes me wonder if even chopped, sanded, and painted wood lives on and feels the discomforts of aging.

3. You can get a lot of work emails completed in a short span of time with the only company being a blanket of darkness and an eerily glowing computer screen.

4. Stomachs get jet lag, too. Thunder roars, loud enough to wake the house, emanate from my stomach as I realize it’s now the time I was enjoying sips and nibbles with New Jersey neighbors only a couple days ago.

5. European refrigerators look like somewhat embarrassed, shrunken strangers. After weeks of opening echoing caves of culinary delights, I can’t help looking at my compact Kuehlschrank in disbelief. The shelves seem so small, my middle-of-the-night mind is convinced the jam jar is slouching.

6. Jet lag dreams are not peaceful. The dreams in that half sleep/half wake reality are more vivid and BIZARRE than when in a typical sleep pattern. And somehow, they seem louder, as if I’m overhearing an argument I would have preferred to avoid.

7. Even jet leg has its perks. With dawn approaching quickly, I recline on the couch and try my deep-breathing exercises. A slide show of summer memories flashes through my mind, and a peacefulness comes over me. Soon before drifting into a few more hours of sleep, I realize we world travelers come back with much more than bulging luggage. We also carry with us the much lighter load of having shared in the mundane moments with people who we don’t get to see all the time, but who still very much matter to us. It’s reassuring to be included in those everyday moments that we aren’t always a part of.

So for my mom and dad who thanked us for helping them clean out their basement clutter, and my aunt and cousins who liked having extra hands around to splash with little ones, and a dear friend who asked for my watermelon salsa recipe, and my sister from another mister who couldn’t stop thanking me for helping her in-laws move, we summer visitors are the ones who really need to say THANK YOU! Being a part of loved ones’ normal lives and doing the common, day-to-day things that we sometimes miss by being so far away, is one of the greatest summertime gifts we can receive and give to our Third Culture Kids.

Even if it means we have to come to that realization between 1:30 and 4:45 in the morning.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow, you have written a wonderfully insightful and entertaining piece… I love that you share this with us!

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