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Friday, October 15, 2010

Traveling Across 9 Time Zones

The day began on a sultry Wednesday morning just as day was breaking. I stopped to take a couple of final shots of this beautiful desert paradise before boarding the plane for the first leg of a three leg journey.  At 7.15 a.m. the plane took off  and I knew that I'd be en route until 11.00 p.m. California time, or 8.00 a.m. Thursday morning Stockholm time.  Long travel days are weird.  You don't go outside, you eat weird food or not enough food, you sit for long periods of time and in my case flew half way across the US to Chicago and then half way across the world to Sweden.  Fortunately, I had minimal layover time in Los Angeles and Chicago and encountered no delays.  Thank God.  The layovers and delays kill you when you are on a long journey. 
The day was beautiful with clear blue skies across the nation.  The views from above were stunning and reminded me of what a beautiful and diverse landscape the US enjoys.  The desert gives way to the coast and once headed east again, the Grand Canyon spread out below me.  Then I was treated to the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and finally the flat farm lands of the midwest.  As we descended into Chicago, the autumn color popped out at me and the magnificent skyline towered alongside of Lake Michigan.  This was a prelude to what awaited me in Stockholm (the autumn color that is, not the magnificent skyline!) although the temperature in Chicago was still in the 60'sF and I'd heard Sweden was already hanging around 30F.  After a quick plane change in Chicago, I was headed out over the Atlantic.  It was dark for much of the trans-Atlantic journey and even though I had two seats to myself, I found it difficult to settle in and snooze.  Even so, the flight went rapidly and soon we were making our descent.  I was disappointed that it was still dark as we flew over Norway as the mountains and fjords of Norway make for a great re-entry to Europe.  The morning darkness was also a stark reminder that the day light is on its way out now and soon, we will have dark mornings for many months to come.
It was cloudy and windy and rainy as we landed in Stockholm and the pilot gently let us know that it was about 5 degrees C or 35 degrees F.  Brrr.  It was 35C when I left Palm Springs.  I had made a 30 degree C drop in temperature.  Good thing a new down vest was on the top of my checked luggage!
Doug met me in my dazed state.  Although the clock said it was Thursday, 8.00 a.m. my body clock was telling me that it was approaching midnight Wednesday and having not slept much, I was groggy and hungry and felt generally like a truck had run over me.  Fortunately, jet lag goes away within a few days but it's always such a strange sensation to spend 20-24 hours getting from one place to another.
Because I was in an airplane or going through security for the better part of Wednesday, I had no idea of what was going on in the world.  I missed the entire Chilean Mine rescue that everyone was a buzz about.  I felt kind of sad that I missed sharing this global event.  I didn't go outside, change my clothes, brush my teeth, or exercise during that entire day of travel.  I'm thankful I don't have to do it very often.
Once home and unpacked, after a necessary nap, I did take Tanner for a midday walk hoping to juice my senses a bit and that was a good decision.  The air was cold but had given way to a beautifully sunny autumn afternoon.  Walking through the park, watching him run and play, taking in the colors of autumn,and breathing the fresh air helped me mentally catch up to the physical journey I had just experienced.  Sometimes we say our bodies get there faster than our minds and our hearts and it takes a few days to figure out where we are emotionally and physically.  In fact, as I write this blog I am up at 3.14 a.m.as my body clock just isn't quite adjusted to the Swedish night yet.  I've been very disoriented upon waking, not sure where I am, what city I'm in, or what time it really is as I am constantly doing the math that lands me at the 9 hour time difference between Stockholm and Palm Springs.  For the past two weeks, I've been adding forward to figure out what time it is where Doug is.  Now I'm subtracting again to orient myself to my parents' day.  These things are all part of living in one part of the world but loving others who live elsewhere.  The long journey home, either going or coming, is never fun.  The most you can hope for is uneventful and smooth, which all three legs were for me this time around.  I still marvel that I can leave the desert of Palm Springs and hours later arrive in the forests of Sweden.  I am grateful for this relatively quick, efficient mode of transportation. I remain very thankful that these big 'ol jet airliners can transport me between worlds and people that I love.  I often think about the early days of immigration and how taxing and expensive the journeys across the ocean were.  People did it once, perhaps twice in a life time.  If the most difficult things I have to endure while traveling to love ones include sitting uncomfortably for long periods of time, eating lousy food, and feeling mentally whacked out for a few days, I can handle it.  Besides, the upshot is that in my own funny way, I truly got to see the world from above on my journey through 9 time zones.