Monday, December 20, 2004

"A deeply foreign country"

I get off a plane, 17 hours out of joint, and tell naked secrets to a person I know I don't trust. A friend starts talking about her days - her plans, her friends, the things she wants to do - and tears start welling in my eyes, in a restaurant. I can't sleep at night (because I've been sleeping in the day), and so I try to go through my routine, as I might in the daylight world. But I write the wrong name on the uncharacteristically emotional letter. I shower the stranger with endearments. When the lady at the bank offers me a $3,000 credit for the $30,000 cheque I've given her (a large part of my yearly income), I smile and say, 'Have a nice day'.

All this is because of jet lag. Read this wonderful essay in the Guardian by Pico Iyer, in which he says, "I often think that I've travelled into a deeply foreign country under jet lag, somewhere more mysterious in its way than India or Morocco." And there is no one better than Iyer, one of the great travel writers of our times, to turn the "deeply foreign" into the oh-so familiar. We've been there too, but have we ever seen it like this?

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