In To Africa: a Light, Dark, Coffee, and Melatonin Marathon

Awake at 3:00 am. Should’ve been 5. I’m anticipating the alarm to begin manipulating my circadian orientation. My body may be trying to outwit me today but by next Friday I hope to subjugate it. i’m trying out Timeshifter, a jetlag-avoidance app that claims to minimize the amount of time it takes me to function coherently on Eastern African Time (EAT), 9 hours ahead of Mountain Time (MT) where I live. Between now and Friday I’ll be doing bright light, whatever light, dark, coffee, and Melatonin laps. Though it’s a hassle, it may just be worth it. I hate jetlag.

In two days I fly out. Today and tomorrow I finish packing and make sure all the bills are paid, get a haircut, pedicure, and another 5 passport photos I’m told I should take just in case. On Monday, the day I leave for Uganda, I’m supposed to awake at 3 am again. It doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch from where I’m sitting now. But at 5:30 am with the fireplace blazing, all the lights on, and drinking stout coffee, I know better. I dislike fighting to stay awake in another time zone. Hell, I hate adjusting to Daylight Savings Time when I’m on Mountain Time.

When I awoke this morning I still had another hour and a half of darkness to go before what I’m calling “see bright light, drink coffee” time on the alarm on my phone. So I put on dark glasses and sat in my chair. I couldn’t browse my phone or expose myself to any form of blue light emitted by electronics, so my eyes were shut. I focused on the velvety night under my eyelids and told myself imperiously, “you’d better get used to sitting with yourself in the dark.”

The next two weeks in Uganda will be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a distance race that I am determined to complete. I’ve been researching everything about this trip: the organization and people with whom I’m traveling, what to see, eat, and do during a day and a half stopover in Qatar, the culture, politics, and history of Uganda, the universities we’ll visit, the Changemaker farmers we’ll get to know, and the officials we’ll meet (the US Ambassador, the Ugandan Minister of Agriculture, and others). So today I’ll run errands and for the next few days seek after light and dark to make the shift. I don’t want to miss a thing.

A few weeks ago I watched the 1985 Academy Award-winning film Out of Africa. It’s a cinematically-rich film based on a book written by Danish author Karen Blixen (under the pseudonym of isak Dinessen) about her life in Kenya, It’s been said that the film provides a vivid snapshot of life in colonial British East Africa, the last gasps of which I remember dimly from living in Uganda in 1962. It’s the story of her life before, during, and after Africa. It’s about contrasts – Wikipedia claims and I agree, “…Africa offered her no shortage of such contrasting dualities: town and country, dry and rainy seasons, Muslim and Christian… African and European”. But to that I’ll add contrasts between tribal cultures, the relative position of men and women, luxury and poverty, landowners and tenants, sickness and health, and more. Out of Africa is about those but it’s also about the lessons she (as played by Meryl Streep) learned from the land and those she came to love, Africans and Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) among them. Learning from embracing and then leaving and being left by them.

Like Karen Blixen, I passed out of Africa long ago but I’m now going back. I’m calling this journey In To Africa. And to fully be In To Africa next week, I must be awake. Colonial British East Africa is gone, as it should be. I want to see and experience Uganda’s contrasts today. So tonight I’ll put on dark shades at 7 pm to minimize my exposure to bright light, and take Melatonin at 8 to sleep. I’ll wake up tomorrow at 4 am, turn on every light in the house, and drink coffee for a few hours. Tomorrow night I’ll minimize light at 6 pm and go dark at 7 with Melatonin and a pillow. Monday morning I’ll get up at 3 am and so it will go for the next four days, each day one hour earlier for each regimen.

By the time I arrive in Uganda, Friday the 28th, I’ll be ready to be In To Africa. That’s the plan anyway. No sprint, it’s a marathon. Run with me? For the next two weeks I’ll blog whenever I have WiFi. I promise unedited stories, rough but sure enough heart-felt. I’ll try to communicate my experience so you don’t have to run this marathon or maybe so you’ll want to run it yourself oneday.

And at the very least we’ll see together if the Timeshifter app lives up to its claims. At best, you’ll get to know a land and a people that I’m sure we’ll both love. Africa. Uganda.


  1. Have fun Teri! What an amazing trip. Whenever asked about my favorite movie my answer is always Out of Africa so glad you connected with it too! Love the story line, the glimpses into the past, the flying, Robert Redford (sigh!) and, “ I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills” the way Meryl Streep says it with her accent. Thank you for this writing. And enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As you know, I just spent two and a half weeks in Australia, a 16 hour time zone change. I did not go through any preparation like you are. Maybe it’s because I sleep on the plane and adjusted quite well to the time change with no problems whatsoever. I honestly don’t know. Returning, I was on planes for 24 hours, leaving Australia on Thursday afternoon and arriving Boise at 1 am Friday morning. Weather adjustment was the hard part! It was summer in Sydney, 90 degrees and when I landed in Salt Lake City, it was in a snow storm and we had to de-ice twice due to the wait time take off!! Landed in Boise and it was brrr, cold!!

    Good luck 🍀 on your journey. Have fun! Take lots of pictures! 😊😊😊😊❤️❤️❤️


  3. Teri you melt my heart! Africa as a continent is such a treasure. I’ve been to Kenya twice on extended trips; once with my mom (1989) and once with my two brothers (1991). I’ve read my Isak Dinesen (Karen von Blixen) autobiography memoir book so many times the pages are worn and weathered. One of my all-time favorite story-tellers; one of my all time favorite places to be present in. Soak up the adventure, culture, and country!


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