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Jetlag and Culture Shock

January 15, 2011
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06.01.11 Jetlag and Culture Shock
It’s a week since we left England and all in all I’d say we’re doing pretty well on the jetlag front. They say it takes a day for every hour’s difference and we’re 6 and a half hours ahead here so… Alfie and I especially seem to have adapted without too much trouble, Pete is still struggling a bit but then he has had to go to work as well.
Amazingly, Alfie slept right through nights 3, 4 and 5. On other nights we had to do a bit of midnight watching of the Tweenies DVD, especially the first night of course. He then fell asleep around 5am which was a shame as we had to get up an hour later and leave the hotel at 7am for our flight. As you lot were drinking champagne and wishing each other a Happy New Year we toasted you with our coffees at the breakfast bar of a hotel in Bangkok, which is 7 hours ahead. Just as well really, because we missed the Thai New Year entirely, not being able to make it past 10pm despite our best efforts.
And not only has he had the time difference to contend with, he’s also spent the last week cutting 2 of 4 molars now coming through, bless him. What with all that and the heat, missing mormor (his constant companion for the last 2 months), a slightly stressed mummy and daddy and a horde of admirers grabbing his chubby legs every time he steps out the door, he’s doing remarkably well, and all with his usual sunny outlook.
Jetlag is a funny old thing because it isn’t just about feeling tired at odd hours; your appetite is all up the spout too. And then there’s a certain blackness that descends, I guess because you’re all out of sync with your biorhythms or something, so the 4am slump we often sleep through, happens mid-morning, when you’re expected to be your perkiest and the sun is shining and all is well. And the sleep you do get can be a bit, well sort of bobbly. Like you’re weaving in and out of dream sleep and constantly almost surfacing before disappearing into the depths again. Not particularly refreshing.
Then there’s the culture shock. Here I am in somewhere so alien I find it difficult even to describe (though describing and writing helps no end) and it suddenly hits me that this is it. Here I am and I’m miles away from friends and family and there is just me and Pete and Alfie and I have to get on with it, no choice. And so I veer from excitement to depression at an alarming pace several times a day. This ties in with the jetlag too of course and the newness of it all. Some things are so ridiculous (the money thing, see separate entry) that it is mostly laughable, but at certain times of day it becomes infuriating. Take yesterday, when I had to use the loo at the Shwedagon Paya (see separate entry) and paid 1000 kyat, about $1, for the privilege. Pete was outraged and so cross with me for paying it. But as I said to him, next week I might feel able to argue about it. And the week after I will laugh at how silly I was to pay it. And the week after that I might even go back to the lady and demand my change. But now, just for now, I’m paralysed by my culture shock and worn out by jet lag and a little bit suffering from a dicky tummy and you know what? It’s only a dollar. And of course ordinarily he wouldn’t be cross about it, just surprised and bemused, but he’s suffering too and when you add in a fierce 30+ heat then life just feels a little hard work at times.
Then I lay on my new bed in my big new ensuite bedroom and look out at the palm trees and frangipane and bougainvillea, having just swum a whole 8 lengths of our little pool (12m long if that) which is approximately 5 steps from our front door and I feel a lot better. I imagine telephone conversations with my girlfriends, which helps too and think of a time in the not too distant future when I will have some new girlfriends who I will be able to have real conversations with, maybe even on a mobile phone if I’m lucky! Alfie and I have just shared a feast of watermelon, ‘apbuu’ (apple), tropical bananas so sweet they render the ones at home completely tasteless and of course ‘noi noi’s’; his favourite clementines which we eat in vast quantities because they are no bigger than a walnut and deliciously sweet too. Our maid Mu Mu (female names are always doubled) is here and takes care of all the cleaning, washing and ironing and killing the hated cockroaches on her way. I can sit and write this in peace in my air-conditioned room, listening to the noisy birds outside and every time I apply my sun lotion I feel like I’m on holiday. Life isn’t so bad after all.

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