We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
Carly Simon

In less than 48 hours we board our flight to India. Preparations for the trip have been a long, drawn out process of ensuring every detail has been considered and/or a plan is in place. Permission for vacation time was obtained six months ago, which prompted the purchase of tickets; arrangements with a travel agency in India were secured for hotel and transportation needs (it will be a planes, trains and automobile trip); insurance was purchased for the “just in case” circumstances; vaccinations have been reviewed (no, malaria pills are not really necessary); and rupees have been obtained for the non-credit card purchases. The check marks on the list now outnumber the blanks.

The mention of vacationing in India to others immediately prompts a sense of excitement and sometimes envy for embarking on such a long journey into an unknown land. The conversation then turns into a series of “don’ts” and cautions and words of advice, some grounded in experience and others founded in media images. Don’t drink the water or eat fresh salad for fear of contamination. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket and certainly do not carry significant cash. The pollution in Delhi is particularly high; the streets are packed so be extra vigilant; watch for the beggars and thieves preying on tourists. Raised eyebrows ensued when we mentioned a five hour train ride from Delhi to Amritsar. Are you going to hang from the side or would you rather ride on the top? Don’t fall asleep and chain your luggage to prevent it from being stolen. But don’t worry, you are going to love it; the trip will be life changing.

Worry also persists on the home front in accounting for the more than three week absence. The neighbour will pick up the mail everyday and put out the garbage. All the bills have been posted for payment. Outside, the preparations for winter are in place; inside, the rooms have been cleaned as if guests were arriving. All the arrangements have been made for Olga’s 101 year old mother: an agreed schedule of visitors has been confirmed, including a priest; the emergency contacts have been arranged; the location of important documents have been identified; and the messages to be repeated with each conversation have been memorized.

Preparations won’t end until the cabin doors are closed and the plane leaves the tarmac, the point of no turning back.

We are tired anticipating what might be. The trip itself is still far off, distant, unreal.

my writing history

Several years ago I had the opportunity to join a work related visit to China. I had traveled before, mostly to Europe for personal vacation, but a trip to East Asia seemed to be a wholly different world. I wanted to share that experience with my family so each night I wrote an email home describing the day. Initially the content was a list of activities but as the electronic letters accumulated, my writing expanded into observations particularly of sights or practices which appeared out of the ordinary, at least to my western eyes. All of these emails were saved and every once in awhile I reread them and smile.

I have been very fortunate to have returned to China on several occasions, as well as Tanzania, and have continued the practice of writing home each night. My readers grew to selected colleagues, extended family and as importantly, my father. Dad was always keenly interested in these exotic destinations, particularly my very brief incursion to Uganda in 2017. But by then he had lost his capacity to speak and writing became my one consistent and durable form of communication to stay connected from a distance. Indeed I took to writing a note to him on a card each week and sending a postcard from wherever my personal and professional travels took me. My Dad passed away in the spring of 2019 and the writing of notes and postcards stopped. I have retained all of them and in rereading I realized how they form a memoir of sorts, a marking of the events of my world – some profound, some mundane, some needing to be read out loud, others to be savored privately.

my writing history encapsulates the spirit of this blog and my motivation to continue telling stories, to sharing my experience in writing and in pictures.

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