Hello from NYC! where I have managed to pack, re-pack, re-re-repack, etc. my backpack an amazing number of times in the last day and a half. But, it’s down to about 45 lbs, which is at least manageable. 55 lbs turns out to be way too heavy–which is to say, I can’t heft it over my shoulder with one hand. 45 lbs I can handle, thanks to a several-year bout with weightlifting. I’m still a bit over-weight, but I expect to discard some items after traveling for a week or so.
The cats are in Maryland (I hope they’re doing OK), and my relatives and I all survived each other. I will relate one amusing exchange between me and my aunt, which should illustrate nicely the reasons I live on the West Coast:
“You know, I talked to so-and-so, whose daugher went to India a couple years ago. She said you should be careful, India is no place for a woman to be traveling alone…she said there were groups that specialized in…(whispers) gang-rape.”
“Really? Where in India was she?”
“I don’t know, but she said it was really dangerous.”
“Umm, you do realize that India’s about the size of the U.S.? But really, I’ll be careful. Don’t worry about me.”
“No, really, I don’t think you should go to India…”
“It’s OK, I’ll be careful, and besides, I’m combat-trained. I can do up to five attackers.”
“What if there are more than that?”
I *almost* said, “Then I detonate the small fusion bomb I’m carrying in my hollowed-out left thighbone,” but then she’d probably have worried about my getting radiation poisoning.
About five minutes later, my dad turned up with the exact same “warning”. I’m *so* glad I live on the West Coast. (Don’t even get me started on the ways sexual violence–or the threat thereof–is used to curb female independence…the statistical profile on gang rape pretty much always involves alcohol, so unless you’re drunk at a party, it’s extremely unlikely. But try explaining that to the relatives.)
My mom, on the other hand, is of the serene belief that if it’s me against the world, the world had better watch out. (Of course, this is the same woman who took up downhill skiing at 50, and routinely travels to remote locations. Not to mention getting a PhD in biochemistry, back in the ’60s.) Go mom! 🙂
Slightly more seriously, I *am* planning to do some less-than-safe things on this particular trip–for example, I want to talk to some Thai sex workers about the industry, and visit some of the “nonexistent” refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese or Thai-Cambodian border–plus a couple other things that are pretty far off the traditional tourist path–but those are considered risks, not wild ones. I’m pretty fond of my own hide and am planning on keeping it; but if I’m sufficiently interested in something, I’ll go anyway. There’s not much point in curbing who I am in order to be safe; what would be the point? Between risking dying and risking not living, I’ll take the former, any day.
Other than that, not much to report. I have a reservation for the first few days at the Suk11 guesthouse, http://www.suk11.com . It’s apparently somewhere between a hostel and the Mariott (which is not very descriptive)–but it has air conditioning and email, and the rest can go hang. 🙂 A returning traveler recommended it.
Oh, and I found a book on dollar bill origami. Edouard now has a small green menagerie sitting on his coffee table–so far I’ve made a horse, camel, elephant, deer, and rabbit. I figure if I photocopy and bring instructions for a couple of animals, I’ll have (a) a neat conversational icebreaker, (b) a nice avenue for bribes, and (c) something to entertain me on long trips. I’m tryign to fold one of each so I can figure out which ones are worth bringing (thus Edouard’s menagerie). I had been looking for small portable gifts– origami seems just about perfect, as I can get paper anywhere.
Btw, I’ve gotten the crafts stash down to:
- 1 notebook/journal
- 1 small sketch pad
- Four kinds of graphite pencils, a few watercolor pencils, erasers,etc.
- 3 drop spindle whorls
- 2 sets knitting needles (double as spindle shafts)
- 4 oz dyed silk roving, to spin into yarn
- 20 sheets of origami paper (plus 200 one-dollar bills for sundry cash and origami animals)
I’m rather impressed at fitting six crafts into one mid-sized ziplock bag; I’m going to try carving one of the spindle shafts into a dual knitting needle/crochet hook, to add a seventh.