Metric Time



My sleep schedule has been so fundamentally whacked since we got here that I’m not sure it is really fair to attribute it to jet lag.  Wikipedia says I should allow myself one day per time zone crossed, which would be a full week, to recover, but I still think there is more to it than just time zone funnies.

Because if this were just adjusting to moving seven hours in the future, wouldn’t I just be sleepy when it was seven hours past when I’m normally sleeping? Nope. I’m basically tired during all daylight hours; completely, bone-deep exhausted by 9PM (Which is 3:00PM in Pittsburgh or 2:00PM in St. Louis, our place of departure!); and completely wide-eyed and ready to take on the world it is too dangerous to go out in at 2:00AM.

So I think there is more to it than jet lag. Suspected exacerbating factors?

  • We don’t have any clocks.  Our computers and cell phones are our time-keeping devices, and we’ve obviously been using those MUCH less frequently than normal.  None of the appliances in the kitchen have time-keeping devices and we’re certainly not going to use one of our precious outlets for a clock. Time to get a battery-operated time piece, STAT!
  • 24-hour time is the norm.  When my Pick N Pay receipt says it is 15:31, it might as well be telling me it is half past a cucumber. I realize all I have to do is subtract 12 from the hour to know what time in the afternoon it is, but my mental math reserves are entirely depleted by dividing the prices of everything by 7 and trying to remember if I need a jacket when it is 15 degrees outside.
  • It is suddenly fall again. And we live really far South, globally, not to mention due East of a ginormous mountain, so the sun sets alarmingly early.
  • Witches come out at night.  When a friend of mine did her Peace Corps term in (rural) South Africa, she was told to stay in at night or the witches would get her.  “Witches” is, I believe, a regional euphemism for people who will rob you and/or rape you.  I don’t really know how safe it is to walk around at night, which is  a subject for its own post, but I do know that everyone is telling us not to (several people have strongly suggested we not walk around during the day, which we have ignored, but that suggests we should be a little bit more cautious about night time driving).  Anyway, when your nighttime activities begin at 5:00PM and are confined to your apartment, you get, well, bored by nine o’clock or so. You’ve already watched a movie and had some wine and engaged in marital congress and you just… run out of stuff to do, so you go to bed. And then of course you wake up a few hours later because your body thinks it is mid-afternoon, sleep fitfully all night, and spend the next day bone-deep tired.

I’ll adjust, in time, I’m sure, like with everything else.  Meanwhile, I’ll try to enjoy the extra opportunities to catch my friends in the states online.


  1. Jet lag does knock you out at random times, not just when you’re “supposed” to be tired according to your previous time zone. I always attribute jet lag more to the actual travel time than the time difference, i.e., direct flights make a huge difference. During that travel time, your body completely loses track of everything, so it’s not on Pittsburgh time, it’s on nothing time. And you guys spent THREE DAYS traveling.

    Can’t wait to hear more adventures!

  2. Flying east gives far worse jet lag than the reverse, unfortunately. And like Annie says, it doesn’t necessarily make you tired on your pre-trip schedule.

    One of the best things you can do to help with jet lag is to eat meals at the proper times for your new time zone. It helps your body adjust more quickly.

    Good luck!

  3. You’ll get used to the 24 clock and celcius sooner than you think. I spent a long time obsessively checking the temperature and muttering to myself “Its 12 degrees and i am comfortable in a sweater and turtleneck” or “It’s 20 degrees and I kind of wish I weren’t wearing heavy boots”.
    I think one of the hardest things in adjusting to a new country is when the climate is very different from home- I lived in Ireland for college, and then went to Strasbourg, france which is waaaay farther off culturally, but the seasons were right, so I could cope with more of the weird stuff (also, less worry about “is this going to be another ‘oops, THAT’s what knickers are’?* moment? in a different language)

    *Freshman year, in the locker room before fencing. I had fenced in high school in new york, and we referred to the white knee-length britches as either britches or knickers, pretty interchangeably. I forgot mine one day, and, sitting in the (full) locker room, suddenly swore and told my friend (loudly, of course) “Damn, I forgot my knickers today!”

  4. Half past a cucumber made me LOL.

    This might be shocking to everyone, due to my punctuality issues, but I HATE not knowing what time it is. Do you remember at JSteff camping when after an hour or two, I changed the cabin’s giant kitchen clock to be the correct time? When there’s a power surge, I immediately go around to all my time pieces. I guess in some way, it makes sense. I know I often run late, so might as well not have an extra handicap? I just generally find it unnerving. I think it also has to do with my sleeping/night-owl issues of like “is it OK to nap now?” “How late is it/how tired will I be tomorrow?” So yeah, both your #1 and #2 would drive me nuts.

    When are you moving to a safer area!? It’s crazy unfair that like, the WHOLE AWESOMENESS of what you’re doing is that you can be like “I saw a huntsman riding a baboon today!” or “We went to a nightclub where we danced to Raksdiweo;j Music and everyone was chanting!” …to help the whole “I miss my friends and America thing. Get on that.

  5. Pingback: Moving Abroad Feels a Lot Like Being Depressed | HitchDied

  6. Nice answers in return of this query with firm arguments and describing all regarding that.

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