Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Here it is the third week in November (my apologies for being dilatory; it's twelve days since I last wrote here) and we’re still in the season of mists and sunshine, a slippage of weather that makes it feel like late October. But the days are short: here in Toronto we have less than nine and a half hours of daylight right now.

And so I am leaving, for a few short weeks, to Southeast Asia, where it’s starting to be winter, but of a different kind. Daytime temperatures are around 30 Centigrade (about 84 F) and can be higher - Chiang Mai’s forecast is in the mid-thirties for some reason, highly unusual for this time of year - and in the night it drops to the low twenties or so. As I was packing, a rather approximate activity compared to my careful abstemious packing for my book tour trips, I was reminded of summer, for light-weight cotton skirts, pants, tops, all folded down into nothing. I am checking one bag, a lumpy backpack, so there’s lots of leeway for the “why not this too?” kind of packing. I added a couple of sweaters, then took one back out. No need for overkill! I’ve got a shawl for layering and emergency shelter, socks for the plane, and books. Nothing more needed.

Except perhaps the key card that lets me into the lobby of the apartment building in Chiang Mai. hmm... Somehow it’s gone missing. I’ve got the keys to my apartment, but not the card. I’m hoping that someone is around when I get to Chiang Mai, late on Wednesday evening (with the time change and date line, I’m losing most of November 21), to let me in. And then I hope to veg out for a few days. 

Jetlag is like the flu: it’s important to get naps in, drink fluids, have books to read, and to remember that any thinking I think I’m doing is in fact unreliable and muddied.

So don’t expect much from me here, or on Facebook etc, for the next few days. I’ll try to get restored quickly, by eating fresh fruit, going for khao tom (pork rice soup) at my favorite street stall (I wrote about it in Lucky Peach in their third issue), and walking a lot. A friend said to me recently that what I need after the sometimes exhilarating intensities of book tour with the BURMA book is days to be bored...That “boredom” is a kind of fruitful emptiness that leaves space for new thoughts and ideas. Right now it feels like an enticing prospect.

I’ve loved being out and about with the BURMA book. I’ve met so many interesting people, been asked intelligent unusual questions, had great conversations. But now it’s time to retrench, consolidate, pull in my horns and recharge.

I can’t think of a better place to do that than Chiang Mai. I’m so grateful to have it as a “bolt hole”. And to have friends there who will keep me on track, call me on things, engage in discussions, challenge me....

Bring it on!

And happy thanksgiving to all who celebrate it this week. I hope you are in good company, eating interesting things, kicking back from your regular routines and responsibilities, and feeling grateful for all that you have.

POSTSCRIPT: How amazing to read about Obama’s trip to Burma this week. His speech at the University in Rangoon was terrific, cautioning about all that there is still do to, but also congratulating the government and people for the recent changes in the country. Here’s the link: http://www.paramuspost.com/article.php/20121119162947827#.UKqnAjvC018.facebook Who would have thought a year ago that he’d be coming to Burma for a visit and then going on to Cambodia to give Hun Sen a piece of his mind, holding up Burma as an example of progressive movement toward democracy? Astonishing! 

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