Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Few weeks ago, I planned a short trip to the American capital, Washington, D.C. and just a few days prior to my departure the China Central Television (CCTV) contacted me to participate in a television show to discuss Saudi Arabia. The timings of the show clashed with my plans, as it was scheduled only few days after my arrival in the US after a 13-hour flight from Saudi Arabia, crossing eight time zones en route. Until this day, I ask myself what I had been thinking? Sometimes jet lag can last a whole week but I surely was tempted because this station is viewed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The China Central Television (CCTV) is the national TV station of the People’s Republic of China and has become one of China’s most influential media outlets not only in China but also in other parts of the world. Currently, CCTV is running six international channels in six different languages, including Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. It sure came a long way from the day it was founded in the 1950s with few hours of daily broadcast in the Chinese language at a time when many Chinese did not even had television sets. On the morning of Jan. 19, I was picked up by a limousine to go to the station. As I entered the TV building I was not really awake but ironically, I became fully awake after I ran into the former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Smith. My chat with him proved to be my morning coffee on that day. In the lobby, I was met by the guest producer, Sheryl Gao. She introduced me to Anand Naidoo who is CCTV America’s daily political talk show host, The Heat. As I was introduced, I felt comfortable because I immediately recognized him and remembered seeing him many times on different media outlets and I had a good idea of his approach to various current global issues. The discussion was over and I left the studio with assurances from the television station that it went well even though I was worried that the jet lag might affect my performance. Yes, I was tired but I think things went well. I left in a hurry to catch my much-needed sleep. This is the end of part 1. Now, let us talk about part 2. A day later, I was called again by the guest producer, Sheryl Gao, and asked if I could participate in a general discussion with a CCTV America correspondent. Since I had already taken ample rest, I agreed. I was so wrong. When I got to the TV station, I felt more tired than the last time I had been there. I was introduced to the correspondent that I was supposed to chat with in the studio but for some reason I did not catch the name. For some reason, I was not concentrating. I sat down in a small studio with the correspondent and I said to myself, who is this guy. I know I have seen him before. But, at that time the lights were in my face and that did not help me recognize the face. And while he was asking me very delicate questions, my mind was focused on one question: Who is this guy and where have I seen his face before? In other words, instead of concentrating on his questions, my mind for whatever reason was wondering about why this correspondent’s face looks familiar. At just at the end of the discussion I said to myself, yes, I know this guy. He is Jim Spellman whom I used to see on CNN. At that moment I realized that three days after my arrival to the US, I had more jet lag symptoms than the first few hours of my arrival. But I said to myself, that’s fine, probably no one who knows me would be watching my two discussions. The TV discussion was on China Central Television and the interview is held in Washington D.C. and all my friends and relatives are in Saudi Arabia. Well, I was wrong on this one. One hour after it was aired, every friend and relative in Saudi Arabia either called me, emailed me or texted me about the interview. I answered all of them but I never discussed CCTV America makeup room. This one, I will keep to myself. Let us leave it… I had dark circles under my eyes due to the jet lag. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Coping With Jet Lag and Sleepiness reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.