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#42 Sleep Aids

April 6, 2011

Illustration by Manu...

The Expat Aid Worker is a nomadic jet setter, often taking long flights through several time zones and making lengthy or frequent stopovers along the way.

Adapting to this sort of routine might be a difficult feat for a mere mortal, causing negative physical and mental effects. But as EAWs get more and more experienced with travel, their need for a few days’ rest or recovery in between traveling and work actually seems to diminish. Their strong minds and bodies easily adapt to the unnatural habit of timezone shifts.

Real EAWs arrive late on Sunday and are at work on Monday morning. They’ll even fly for 36 hours and show up right to that life-saving meeting trailing their carry-on (Nah, it’s fine, I’ll just check in during the coffee break) or hop into the Land Cruiser and head straight from the airport to the disaster zone.

Keeping up this pace can be slightly more challenging for the EAW who does not work at one of the top-of-the-line agencies that fly business class (you know who you are — the rest of us are publicly indignant yet secretly envious). This is where the lowly economy class EAW pulls out another of the tools that help make EAW life easier: the sleeping pill. A god-send for those long economy class flights, pop down an Ambien (or its generic equivalent) with a bottle (or was it 3?) of airplane wine, add earphones, and put on a sleep mask or Jennifer Aniston’s latest light romantic comedy, and you are good to go for 6-7 hours of in-flight sleep heaven. Just be sure not to swallow that pill before take-off in case take-off never happens. Re-routing your flight while narcoleptic can hamper your travel agent skills.

The sleeping pill,  or it’s OTC substitutes (Dramamine, Tylenol PM, a handful of antihistamine…) for those that consider prescription medications unseemly or distasteful or possibly addictive, is also helpful for adjusting to a new time zone or sending stress levels on hiatus for a few hours when the disaster zone is getting to you, the stray dogs won’t shut up, the team house has become a late night party zone and/or the regional representative and his/her entourage is visiting tomorrow.

One EAW’s insomnia is another EAW’s sleep aid in the perfect ecosystem that is the aid-industrial complex.  In those dire moments when sleep aids of the chemical variety are not available, the EAW can always pick up the latest Operational Handbook on Lessons Learned and Best Practices. That volume that kept a colleague in Geneva awake for several nights in a row (‘Best Practices’ or ‘Good Practices’? ‘Capacity Strengthening’ or ‘Capacity Building’? Need to remember to schedule that meeting to discuss terms: ‘Lessons Learned’ vs ‘Challenges Overcome’) can be just the thing….

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2011 6:33 am

    Nervin. Pakistani Xanax. One dollar for ten pills, and over-the-counter in Afghanistan. Marvelous stuff. Awesome for 9 hour car rides over dirt roads.

  2. April 6, 2011 6:35 am

    Why is it that rom coms are so much easier to watch on a plane? For some reason cabin pressure seems to make me enjoy watching Drew Barrymore films whereas normally I can’t tolerate them. Actually, I flew with Thai yesterday and they now have the equivalent of a Gameboy colour on their in-flight entertainment system which completely disrupted my planned nap. Still the champion at Gameboy Tennis though!

  3. pineappleskip permalink
    April 6, 2011 7:34 am

    LMAO. However re “Real EAWs arrive late on Sunday and are at work on Monday morning” my preference is to get an overnight flight arriving Mon morning and go straight to work. Does that make me an unreal EAW?

  4. John Divorra permalink
    April 6, 2011 9:16 am

    “Keeping up this pace can be slightly more challenging for the EAW who does not work at one of the top-of-the-line agencies that fly business class (you know who you are — the rest of us are publicly indignant yet secretly envious)…”…not so sure I would classify our USG beltway parasites as “top of the line” – it is pretty clear that those guys, along with much of our USG folks (DoS/USAID) don’t really have a clue what is going on anyway…I mean really, how well do you get to know a place from your room at the Hilton?

  5. SakPase permalink
    April 6, 2011 5:27 pm

    Forgot to mention that there’s no such thing as OTC/prescription meds in most of the countries we work in… and being stuck back at HQ without ready access to valium or whatever = horrendous jetlag!

  6. kayti permalink
    April 6, 2011 7:25 pm

    That’s what your colleagues r’n’r is for – it’s a fearsome moment when your CD hands you a list of meds to pick up for them over the counter in Bangkok leaving you to wonder if they are thinking of you as just another drug mule….

  7. First against the wall in Beserkistan permalink
    April 6, 2011 11:42 pm

    Our not-to-be named large NGO planned the start of the week-long regional workshop to stat after lunch so that the HQ colleagues could travel in the morning, while all the Country Office staff travelled through the weekend due to no direct flights. The friday session also ended at lunch for the same reason. lovely. “No please. Of course it is important you use absolutely NO personal time in transit. How terrible. [this too is sarcasm] :)

    Of course I am envious! I do prefer to travel on work time, but then I can’t spend as much valuable time sitting in front of a computer at an office in a different country/region! Not to mention the life-saving face-to-face discussions that happen when I distract everyone from their work to talk about my agenda ;) Thank [insert deity of your choice] that I am so giving of my time!

    Note: There of course is only one diety (if that is your belief). personally I believe in vegetables and there are many of them.

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