Getting ready for a major trip is, for me, like reconfiguring myself. For foreign travel I become more mobile, walking miles each day. I shed possessions, paring down to the essentials: camera, iPad, asthma medicine, face cream. Clothes are reduced to, in my mother’s words, “Put on, take off, go without.”
First, of course, there are the lists: what to take (as little as possible, three tees and a pair of pants), what to do (stop mail and newspapers), things to remember (that pesky barrel in the cellar draining water from the dehumidifier).
Then the lesser lists: books to upload onto iPad (Canada, Wolf Hall, Bringing up the Bodies, The Round House), things I need to finally teach myself about my new camera (how to video, to resize photos). I’ve been using this camera for almost a year, ditto my iPad, and, until today, I couldn’t take a video. Then there’s dentist, hairdresser (Tom’s sister does his), and the big question: do I get my toenails painted?
The other day I looked at our emailed itinerary. We are starting with a sojourn in Hong Kong but we fly by way of Chicago and when I looked…we only have 51 minutes to change planes and the planes are in completely different terminals.
Now my Franco-pessimistic mind runs to things like delays because of snow on the airfield, or ice on the wings. It is in February. Add to that the article I just read in our local paper about an American Eagle pilot being arrested and removed from his 5 am plane for being drunk, and I am in a panic. What happens if we just make the plane in Chicago and our one piece of checked luggage doesn’t? We only have two days in Hong Kong, then we fly to Singapore. What if the bag never arrives?
So now I am checking to see what we can carry on…tweezers, yes, small scissors, no. Three ounces of face lotion is okay but mine comes in 4 oz containers. This sends me into a tizzy of hoarding tiny bottles for lotion, shampoo, and what do I do about the hair styling foam, spray it into a 3 oz jar?
A few things have put my mind at rest. We don’t need any visas, well, only for Vietnam, and the nice lady at the Vietnam embassy in DC advised me to get one in Bangkok because we are not flying but traveling overland into Vietnam. I also consulted the medical requirements. We have had most every shot known to man but most of these Southeast Asian countries have malaria.
Now, we KNOW about malaria, it was endemic in Liberia for the three years we lived there. We took our Sunday tablet and malaria was not a problem. The only catch is today certain strains of malaria are resistant to certain meds. I read that we need to start taking malaria medicine a full month before we go to the “infected area.” The travel medicine people here in Northampton must have been traveling, hence the name, because they didn’t returned my calls for two weeks. When I final reached the doctor, he insisted that we only needed to take the prophylactic one day before we enter the country. That doesn’t sound very prophylactic to me. He ‘granted’ us an appointment on the 15th. We will see.
Then there’s the nagging suspicion that these preparations will be for naught, the whole trip will be aborted if something happens to my mother (who is 94 and fading away graciously at an assisted living community). That’s worth a few sleepless nights right there.
I ought to be reading The Lonely Planet guidebooks I bought. But we had the best trip to Nepal last year that started with a conversation with a Nepalese traveler on a flight who suggested we must see Pokara.
So there you are, chance meetings and our trip was planned for us by someone who really knew his way around the country. Maybe we missed something in Nepal, but I believe I saw most of it from my perch under the parasail. That was after I jumped off a mountain. As I circled higher and higher, getting sicker and sicker, I wondered why I had eaten all those greasy fried potatoes and how the vegetable omelet was about to decorate the left leg of my pilot. (Maybe he should have had a stiff drink before we took off.)
The temperature here is dropping back into single digits as the sun sets. Snow shoeing was invigorating this afternoon. I sweated through my hat with my effort, but that’s just training for the sweating we will do in Southeast Asia.