Jetlag makes me cry. Or maybe it was going to see Japanese Story with no warning that it is a very sad film (Toni Collette looks so chirpy on the movie poster). Or maybe it was arriving and still having major deadlines to churn through in the first few days. (Apparently the elves hadn’t been busy writing articles for me while I was in the air. Bastards.) Or discovering that Blundstones have gotten way more expensive than they used to be.
Or it could well be the jetlag. A week of not being quite sure what day or hour or continent or hemisphere it is. Of crippling tiredness when the distance between wide-awake volubility and deep REM sleep is about half a second. The only warning you get is a Boris Karloff-like voice in your head intoning: Must Sleep Now. Even if you’re in the middle of a fabulous dinner with friends, or an ultimate frisbee game, or some other event at which falling down and snoring is not the done thing. (Is there a social event at which falling down snoring is de rigeur? And if not, why not?)
Going home for me involves twenty-four hours of travel, at least two changes of plane, running the gauntlet of security, crying babies, airplane food (You ordered vegetarian? I’m sorry, ma’am, we didn’t get that order. We do, however, have many stale bread rolls.), dreadful movies, running out of books (I thought you were bringing the books!) and wishing I was rich and thus sitting, or rather, lying in first class, with an endless supply of good books and movies.
One of the many horrifying things about plane legs that are fifteen hours long is that even when you’re half way there’s still another seven and a half hours to go. Just to make sure you don’t forget for a second that it takes forever to get home, there’s a screen with a tiny image of a plane on the route between LA and Sydney. Every time you glance up the little plane appears not to have moved a milimetre, even though you could have sworn the last time you looked was more than two hours ago.
The only way to endure it without going completely barking mad is to remember that when you were a kid you loved flying. Truly. You’d look out the window and delight at the cloud formations, you’d revel in the free kids’ pack with its fabulous colouring-in and join-the-dot opportunities and best of all—free pencils. If that doesn’t work remind yourself that the journey from Madrid to Sydney is much much worse.
The reward at the end of the horror is that you’re in Sydney. And honestly, after that hell where would you rather be than Heaven on Earth? Every day (that isn’t pouring torrential rain) I walk down the streets with tears of joy (or jetlag-induced fatigue) in my eyes singing because I’m home and the bottle brush, jasmine and jacaranda trees are in bloom, the air full of rainbow lorikeets by day and flying foxes by night. I’m surrounded by people with accents like mine, who know who Aunty Jack and Sherbert and Tracy Moffatt are. (Well, okay, at least the folks over thirty know.) I get to hang out with my family and friends every day. And I can buy a new pair of blunnies even if the price is edging up on outrageous, though not enough to make me cry.
Sydney, 9 October 2003