Near Death Experiences Part 4

January 12, 2013 at 10:46 am Leave a comment

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It starts with sleep deprivation. They put you on a plane for Manila at 1pm UK time (9pm Manila time) on a Sunday afternoon. I do not medicate, unless of course you count champagne and a glass of red wine as medication, and, as such, my body would not let me sleep. My body would not let me sleep throughout the whole eight hours on the flight to Dubai. So, I arrive in Dubai at 9pm UK time/5am Manila time and they keep me awake for four hours until my connecting flight to the Philippines.

At least I think I was awake. Dubai business lounge is a strange place at the best of times and although I believe I was sat at a small table on a rather uncomfortable chair during most of those four hours, I might have dreamt. I might have dreamt that every second woman looked like a super model dressed in little more than golden bikini and diamonds with the rest in full, head-to-toe burkhas. Every fourth man seemed to be an Arab sheik while the rest were a mixture of red-faced and tired looking Western business men, Italian models, Chinese tourists and Russian mafia bosses.

After four hours I boarded my flight to Manila (1am UK/9am Manila) and was suddenly aware that it was tomorrow already and that last night had slipped by unused. Now, the only hard rule I am aware of about avoiding jet lag is to adjust to your local time as soon as possible. So, it suddenly dawned on me that I had missed the sleep boat and was going to have to stay awake despite my body clock screaming at me like a demented Zebedee…..

So, several movies, meals, and coffees later (and I have to admit a couple of brief snoozes) and I touched down in Manila – body clock at 8am and local clock at 4pm.

A friend of mine once told me that jet lag is a state of mind. Now, either I have lost my mind or she was mistaken. Jet lag is real, and when combined with the loss of an entire evening, is a terrible thing. I have been here for five nights now (only six more to go!) and I have not had a good night’s sleep yet.

I have no trouble getting to sleep. Indeed, I have yet to manage to see more than ten minutes of the start of the film I have stored on my iPad before succumbing to slumber. But, I have at best managed just two hours straight before waking up wide awake and with the worries of the world and stresses of work on my mind. I then spend the next few hours in a fruitless attempt trying to get back off to sleep until the alarm kicks in at 06.30. Reading doesn’t work, watching TV or listening to music does not work. Drinking tea, or water does not work. And, I am clearly lacking in self-hypnosis skills.

And so, I am going to die.

I am going to die because I am involved in two weeks of intense business workshops as a pre-requisite to closing an important contract. And, if I come home without bringing back the bacon, then it is likely that my CEO will kill me! And, at times I have definitely been struggling to keep awake during the daily nine hours of detailed discussions interspersed with various food stops….

But, if my boss doesn’t get me then I am likely to be killed in traffic. The combination of jet-lagged and zombie-like me trying to cross the busy six-lane highways that seem to separate the shopping malls here and the local driving standards here are likely to be fatal. Not only do I have to remember to look left instead of right, but pedestrians and drivers alike seem to ignore red lights, signs such as “left lane must turn left”, lanes (eight lanes of traffic seem to fit into the six lanes painted on the road) and zebra crossings. It also seems that headlights are discretionary. Add into this dangerous mix the fact that monsoon-like rain falls suddenly here rendering the roads and pavements slippery in the extreme and you find yourself dodging an armada of umbrellas amidst a cacophony of car horns.

So, if I do not get mown down in the street while sleep walking, then the food is likely to do for me. Indeed, as I write, my work colleague has just texted to let me know she is not feeling very well. I can only assume that lunctime’s Korean spicy noodle soup has done for her. I have taken a rather more cautious approach to the culinary delights on offer. I have refused to be pressurised into eating that local delicacy, Balut, being a fermented, fertilised duck embryo. Yummy. I have shied away from various dishes involving intestines and fish-flavoured pork (?) although I did just about manage not to poison myself with a dish of self-cooked Japanese Shabu Shabu……

And, if the food doesn’t get me then I am likely to die violently during my stay here. As you will have seen in an earlier post, the British Foreign Office are not exactly promoting this as a destination of choice for us Brits. And, our local hosts were keen to stress that if we were foolish enough to stray from the relatively safe environs of the hotel dressed in anything other than paupers rags, then we will almost certainly be mugged at gun-point.

This city is full of guns. Every hotel and office lobby and every shopping mall entrance is guarded by uniformed security guards sporting sub-machine guns and pump-actioned shotguns. Now, it has never struck me that the shotgun was a clinically precise and accurate weapon of choice in crowd control…….There are “K9 units” everywhere sniffing out explosives and our car is searched for explosives whenever we enter the office block or return to the hotel. It is a little unsettling.

It gets worse. This is a copy of a genuine laminated card which sits next to the phone in the conference room in which we have been ensconced on a daily basis. It provides advice on what to do in the event of someone calling and issuing a bomb threat. Now, personally,, I think my first instinct would be to flee as quickly as possible, but apparently I am supposed to engage with the perp, making notes of his/her demeanour, while listening for background noises that might help locate them, while questioning their motives. Some questions are obvious such as asking what the bomb looks like and when is it due to go off. But, I am not sure that the terrorist is likely to venture responses when I ask him for his name and address…..

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Now, if I survive the bomb there is always the natural threats. The hotel room includes a guide as to what to do in the event of an earthquake,and it is not too long ago that the city centre was flooded. So, I thought that it might be pushing it a tad when our gracious hosts declared that we would be spending Sunday visiting an active volcano! So, if I survive the lakes of molten lava, I am sure to succumb to sunstroke, malaria or yellow fever…..
It has been nice knowing you. Let’s be careful out there!
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