Packing is very different for me than it was at this time four years ago. Then it involved winnowing possessions to fit in two suitcases; now it's a matter of choice that is temporary. Somehow that's much more difficult for me to do. I've practiced the art of leaving so often but the art of a journey that brings me back to my starting place is one I've not yer perfected.
I don't even know the word for what I'm doing in a week, It's not really a vacation because my work is in the computer I'm carrying with me and I'll keep slogging away at the rewrite that is my job. It's not really a work trip because I'm going to spend the bulk of my time with friends and reacquainting myself with Kowloon and Bangkok. It's a sojourn, but who uses that word anymore? It's a reunion, more than anything else, and that's strange to me because I usually avoid that sort of thing. The closest I've ever come to that was at family weddings in the small town where I grew up, and that was sheer hell. Huge gulps of my past in a massive wave--this will be more like sips of cold water on a very hot day.
I've made lists of things to take, things to do, and people I'll see, only for the pleasure of thinking about all of this. Except for the itinerary given by air tickets, I have no set schedule and with a few exceptions, I don't know what I'm going to do--the joy of traveling alone is that I can be completely spontaneous. I love to be able to turn on a dime.
Yesterday I read Vaddey Ratner's stunning novel In the Shadow of the Banyan, which brought Cambodia so close that I could feel its red dust on my skin. And then I was lost in memories of Savannakhet and I knew the first thing I need to do in Hong Kong is have more pages put in my passport--just in case.
Water dominates the places I'm going to spend time in--Hong Kong's harbor, Bangkok's river, a beach that no tourists go to, unless they're invited--and then that area that is shaped by the memory of water--the dry ocean floor and the marine sky of northeastern Thailand that stretches into Cambodia and Laos, Isaan country, a waterless inland sea. I have snapshots of this place but to remember it, I have to let myself feel it in my skin--salted with sweat from climbing up Preah Vihear, scalded by sun so hot I could feel it hit the ground and bounce back into my skin, hit by the wind that comes to the pillion seat of a motorcycle.
Yes, this part of the world has gotten under my skin and I'm going to put more of it there. That's why I'm going and I don't know one word for that--but there are many of them and I hope to find a few to bring back with me.