Brandon and I have been flying back and forth across the Atlantic for quite some time. My first trans-Atlantic flight was my junior year in college, when I spent a semester studying abroad in Vienna (this is when I first decided that the expat life might be a pretty cool thing; little did I realize that my expat life would only touch in Europe while on layovers). Brandon's was while flying to his mission in Ukraine. Since that first flight, we have transited the Atlantic twenty-six times. So we are no stranger to jet lag.
But there is jet lag and then there is jet lag. I've experienced jet lag in Austria (two flights! ha!), Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. Each time I've moved further east, and it turns out that the more east you get, the worse the jet lag. We would usually arrive in Cairo in the early-to mid afternoon, get home, shower, and get a full night sleep. In Baku our plane would land around nine at night, so the going home, showering, and sleeping got pushed back a little further. It made for a late night and some serious sleeping in (once we slept in until three in the afternoon and Kathleen thought we had died), but it was, in retrospect, doable.
But Tajikistan, oh Tajikistan. Our flights land between four and five in the morning, which means that by the time you get home, shower, and get in bed, the sun is rising. Sometimes it rises before you even get home. Which kind of makes your soul die a little each time it happens.
This early morning arrival also comes after having spent the last two days flying. "The last two days flying" means that you leave America Saturday afternoon, you spend Saturday night on a plane, you arrive in Europe on Sunday morning, you spend Sunday flying to Turkey, you get on a plane Sunday night, and you arrive in Tajikistan on Monday morning. And yes, it's just as bad as it sounds. Actually, it's even worse. Much worse.
And then you can't even get a good night's sleep. Because it's not night, it's day. So it's more like a long nap. Or if you're Brandon, it's a short nap before going to work on Monday. He wins the moral fiber points forever in our family. If you take longer than a nap it causes problem because you stay up too late, not sleeping, and your problem just starts again the next day. So your jet lag recovery looks a little like this:
Noon: the alarm clock goes off. You groggily swim towards consciousness, wondering where that horribly annoying sound is coming from. When you realize that it's the alarm clock, you want to die. Half an hour to an hour later, you pull yourself out of bed. After getting dressed, you go and wake the children up and then wander downstairs. You look at the exploded suitcases that radiate from the front door in a blast pattern, and walk by. You go to the refrigerator and meditate on what kind of food can be made from eggs, leftover lobio, butter, and jam. The thought of making anything or going to the store for more supplies is too much work, so you raid the children's airplane snacks. Swedish fish. The breakfast of champions.
You climb back up the stairs and wake up the children again. After physically pulling everyone from bed, you insist they eat. All slowly drift down the stairs to spend the next hours eating scrambled eggs and freezer-burned toast. Some fall asleep on the kitchen table. At least one vomits. Everyone wanders off to root through the suitcases for dress themselves in. Or they just stay in pajamas. Either is fine. The rest of the day, all three hours of it, passes in a blur. There are people in the house doing things, but you're not sure what. Dinner is eggs and toast and some more Swedish fish. Turns out they work for breakfast and dinner.
Then it's dark enough outside to put everyone to bed. Everyone collapses into bed, falling asleep almost before their heads hit the pillow. You stumble in after them, patting your spouse on the head affectionately before passing out yourself, dreaming of twelve hour sleeps.
1 AM: You wake up. As you come to complete and utter consciousness, you hear sounds of the children awake too. Maybe if you're quiet enough, they won't realize that you're awake and won't try and tell you how awake they are. You get up and feed the baby, have a snack, and take a sleeping pill, which puts you back to sleep. If you're me. If you're Brandon, you don't take sleeping pills and instead spend the next four hours awake, falling asleep just in time to wake up for work the next day.
7 AM: If you're the responsible one in the family, you wake up and go to work. If you're not, you groggily say good morning to the responsible one and go back to sleep for another couple of hours.
10 AM: You get up. After browsing Facebook, you get the children up and go fix another breakfast of eggs and toast. Then you get the children up again and feed them breakfast. You think about doing the dishes and you think about unpacking your suitcases and you think about going to the store. Then you dig through the pile, which has expanded across the entire room, for clean underwear and take a shower while the children fall asleep at the table again. Everyone spends the day trudging around the house still wishing they could die. When the children ask about lunch, you offer Swedish fish, with a granola bar thrown in for variety. Around four in the afternoon, when you realize the toast supply is running low, you make the trek to the grocery store for milk. Then dinner can be pancakes. After that, bed.
2 AM: You're awake. Again. So are the children. Again.
7 AM: You think about getting up with your spouse to make breakfast, but realize that cold cereal is something that doesn't have to be cooked.
9 AM: You count it a moral victory that you are up before ten, and everyone gets a welcome break from Swedish fish and has cold cereal for breakfast.
11 AM: You start thinking that those suitcases might really need unpacking. You rouse the children from the breakfast table and make everyone help. After all, those are their clothes too. A few hours later and exhausted from the effort, you realize that you still don't have any lunch food, and send a child to the store for yogurt and fruit. Ta-da. Lunch. Then you take a nap. It was a long hard morning. Then you keep unpacking. That evening, for the first time in days, you make dinner. It's a real moral victory.
3 AM: You're awake. It's really getting old. The children are awake, too.
7 AM: You get out of bed with your spouse, shower, and cook breakfast. The children eat breakfast with you and afterwards you do the dishes. Everyone gets their morning chores done and then spends the rest of the day playing. You finish up the unpacking and then make a shopping list. You think about things that need to be done and do one or two of them before taking a nap to reward yourself for the effort. You cook dinner again and have a conversation with your spouse that involves multiple complete sentences. The thought of being responsible doesn't fill you with complete and total horror. You go to bed with the semi-realistic hope that you will get a full night's sleep.
5:30 AM: You wake up and don't bother going back to sleep. After reading through Facebook, you shower and cook breakfast. And, after kissing your spouse goodbye, you realize that it is Friday. You have just spent an entire workweek recovering from jet lag, and only on Friday do you feel like a human being again. Why, you wonder to yourself, did you think that this would be a good idea? With the three days' packing before you left, day and a half of flying, three days' jet lag upon arrival, three days flying, and week of jet lag recovery, you have had two weeks of pain in exchange for three weeks of childcare in another location.
You make yourself a solemn promise that you will never do it again. Next time, it will be Thailand. After all, it's only ten hours of flying time which is six hours less than flying to America. Or maybe just nothing. Or how about Europe? You've heard that Portugal is very nice, and it's only the next continent over. But you know, as soon as you make that silly promise, that you'll have forgotten all of the pain in a year and just do it all over again. Because it turns out that you really don't have a very good memory for pain. It's probably the same reason you have six children. That, and Target. Because Target is just about a good enough reason for anything. Even jet lag.