Saturday, July 25, 2009

Jet Lag Remedy

One of the banes of international travel is the debilitating effect of "jet lag." The sluggish disorientation that disrupts the first few days after a long flight through several time zones can make zombies of even the most experienced fliers. There are many suggested remedies for reducing the effects of jet lag, none of which ever had even the slightest effect on me: I found myself swooning into a deep slumber similar to a drunken stupor in the middle of the afternoon, then spending early morning hours wide awake without a single person to interact with (but I did discover some of the most inane TV shows imaginable).

But no more. About a year and a half ago, on a flight from Iowa to Asia, I ran across an article in the on board magazine that summarized recent research into jet lag. According to scientists who conducted the research, it is not change in sleep patterns--usually suggested by "experts" that one take herbal supplements along with increased adjustments to bedtime before the trip--that upsets our internal clock. Instead, it has to do with eating patterns. The researchers suggested that before traveling, if one were to fast for 18 hours before departing, the effects of jet lag would be minimized. I figured I had little to lose, since normally I was so incapacitated by jet lag that I was disoriented for at least two days after my arrival. Fortunately, the first time I tried it, my flight was at noon, so it was rather easy to fast for 18 hours, having a hearty meal the evening before.

The result was nothing less that miraculous (in my view). I have since flown between the U.S. and Thailand six times, and six times I fasted before leaving, regardless of which way I was traveling. Each time I was able to transition into the destination time zone with no ill effects of jet lag. No kidding, none. I arrived fully able to function immediately without awakening at 2 AM wondering where the hell I was. I am living proof that this system works. I have been slightly bemused by friends who decide that they cannot possibly go without solid food for 18 hours and are willing to wrestle with jet lag for two days (each way).

If you plan to travel across time zones, or know someone who is, my suggestion is to try the fasting method. If it works for you the way it did for me, you will be pleased with the days you save not stumbling around in a fog.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Remembering Chekov 1994-2009

Good ol' Chekov. Born nearly 15 years ago in northern Thailand in a litter of pups all named for Star Trek characters, and traveling twice around this planet, our handsome Bangkaew simply wore out. Buffered by 12,000 miles, receiving the call from a Bangkok neighbor seemed so artificial, yet feelings of grief, sadness, and relief bubbled to the surface, mixed with varying waves of guilt, as we were not there to comfort him in his final days. Was he depressed at not seeing us for two weeks? Was he confused? Or was it simply his time? Of course, we can never know.

Mingled with the sadness were happy memories of "Pooper" that had accumulated over the years: Foremost was the "Pooper Speedway," the full throttle dash around people, furniture, buildings and trees after enduring his hated baths, or upon the return of his pet humans--especially Kat--after a prolonged absence. The memory of him head down, fluffy coat streaming in the wind, is one of pure joy.

Other behaviors, not uncommon for dogs, but given Chekov's unique stamp, included the excitement of a ride in a car--any car (he was known to jump in with complete strangers)--and particularly the drive-through for a hamburger. I don't think he ever figured out the difference between McDonald's and the bank. I suspect that the reason he never liked Milk Bones from the bank tellers is due to the disappointment he must have felt when expecting a meat patty. A dry, crumbly piece of fiber just couldn't measure up to a juicy quarter pounder. Our car held a cache of uneaten dog biscuits in the back seat.

But most of all, as pet owners know (or is it we who are pets of human owners?) it is the fierce loyalty and deep unconditional love that he gave us. Lying next to us as he watched our backs, or defiantly stepping between us and unfamiliar dogs, even those many times his size, his priority was his adopted pack. Some people never adopt animals because they know they cannot emotionally deal with the pain of a pet's inevitable death. Would we hesitate to again take home a ball of fluff that will one day die? Not for a minute. To us, the friendship that develops is more than worth it.

Our anxiety about what was to be done with Chekov's body in our absence was quelled when we were told that our house cleaner, next door friend, and the gardener all contributed to giving him a proper burial. He was first gently washed, then wrapped in a sheet, and laid in a grave in the front yard, the spot marked with planted flowers. How touching it was to learn that they knew how much he meant to us, and that they helped him exit this world in dignity and with a tenderness appropriate for the love we had for him.