Desynchronosis, also known as jet lag, is the well known result of changes to the body’s natural rhythms as a result of long distance travel and generally speaking, a few days of rest is enough to overcome the fatigue. Yet moving from the laid back and warm summer of Sydney to the middle of winter in Washington DC – the large and unfamiliar city and heartland of American power, politics and government – involves a certain change in pace and rhythm which takes a little more time (perhaps a well planned week?) to adjust to.
The whole process begin subtly enough – the small chit chat in the lobby of City Hall on the first day of orientation week, a mixture of foreign accents somewhat anxiously looking around and getting acquainted with other new faces. The basic introductions follow, nerves gradually calm, barriers slowly break down and unfamiliar faces soon develop into familiar personalities with the help of our orientation leaders. There is a lot of walking around unfamiliar streets – the wind is biting and cold but anticipation (and plenty of enthusiasm from group leaders) is enough to drive you from place to place. Then the sound of applause in the Lisner auditorium as Sonya Sutamayor gave sound advice from someone who moved from the Bronx to the Supreme Court. Long bus rides lead to the excitement of “snow tubing” on Wisp Mountain. Then the roar and cheer of the home crowd in the Smith Centre, the sharp tension which fills the arena during a free throw and the unmistakable energy which explodes at the end – GWU wins a well fought game. Then more walking and the grandeur of the monuments and national buildings, statuesque figures of carved marble and bronze within the dome of the Capitol building. In between, plenty of jokes, lots of laughter and good humour.
By the end of the week, the weather is warmer, the wind no longer as biting and cold, the streets and buildings no longer so unrecognisable. Just like the passing of the jet lag, the pace and rhythm of Washington DC and GWU settles into something familiar and everything just feels that little bit more comfortable. Not quite home – but for the semester ahead, definitely close enough.