Adventures in Bidding Adieu to Asia

I’m finished packing! And everything fits in my little suitcase…

…and my big suitcase. And another big suitcase I had to buy on Tuesday. And maybe a giant box that I’m mailing…

But the point is, I’m finished packing. Early. Like three whole days early.

It was kind of satisfying to zip up my suitcases and flop back on a bed that wasn’t covered with stuff. But then I realized what I’ve done. I’m packed. My life in Chiang Mai has been distilled into a couple of gigantic 23kg bags.

As I thought about that, my face leaked a little. They might have been tears, but I still have 3 whole days left. It’s too early for tears.

As I sprawled out in my empty room, feeling all maudlin and grumpity, I wondered if my new turbo-packing uber-preparedness frenzy had taught me anything. Did I gain any wisdom to share with you?

The short answer is no. Despite both the uncharacteristic packing speed and seeping eyeballs, this is still me. Introspection and I go together like tuna and cupcakes. Which is to say, we don’t.

However, that’s never stopped me before. Right? So here it is, a little list of Do’s and Don’ts for Departure Preparedness. (Or Dos and Don’ts for some of you, and Do’s and Don’t’s for others. Take your pick.)

Don’t … try to eat all your favourite things in the last week. You’ll run out of meals and wind up having pork floss, sticky rice, grilled chicken and coconut candies for breakfast, and then you’ll feel too icky to enjoy your scheduled green curry for lunch. But it’s scheduled, so you have to eat it because it might be your last chance. Ever. Because everyone knows there are no Thai restaurants anywhere else in the world.

Do … make a list of places to visit before you go. Re-live old favourites. Pencil in some places you’ve been meaning to get to but never have. Make your list waaaay before it’s time to leave. Otherwise, when the time comes, you might forget some, and then you’ll be sitting in the airport departure lounge gripped with sudden panic because you lived here for 4 years and never did go to the museum.

Not the museum. But well worth one last visit.

Not the museum. But well worth one last visit.

Don’t … get a haircut. Sure you want to look nice when you arrive and see people you haven’t seen in ages, but after 30 hours of flights and airports and more flights and more airports, you won’t look nice or smell nice. You just won’t. Forget it.

Do … go to the dentist. Really. It’s less than $25 here, and you’ll be smiling a lot when you get home, so it’s a good idea to have clean teeth. Especially since you’ll probably still smell like stale airplane farts for a while after you land.

Don’t…be surprised if feelings leak out of your eyeballs at unexpected times. Like when you’re buying chicken from your favourite market lady, and she says, “See you next time,” and you have to tell her that there won’t be a next time. Then she’ll be sad because you won’t be buying ridiculous amounts of fried chicken every week, and you’ll be sad because you know you’ll have to start paying more than 15 cents for pieces of fried chicken.

Do…make time for friends, even ones you don’t know really well. It might make you sad that you didn’t get a chance to know them better, but it might also motivate you not to be such a hermit couch potato in your next home. Or maybe not.

Don’t … forget to cash in your little jar of coins. My cup full of small change is going to pay for my 1st month’s phone bill in Canada. Cha-ching!

Do…give stuff away. You never know when someone might still have your blender or bedside table 10 years from now, and they’ll think of you when they use it. And then they might tell you that they still use it and think of you. And then your heart will smile a little.

Don’t … try anything new. Now is not the time to discover that the little restaurant 2 doors away from your house has the best noodles in town. The knowledge of all those lost noodles will haunt you. Trust me.

Do … get rid of that comfy pair of pants that you’ve been hauling from continent to continent for nearly a decade. They’re falling apart and after all that fried chicken, they don’t fit you anymore. They’re one frayed thread away from causing you a whole heap-ton of embarrassment. Let them go.

Don’t … Try too hard to squeeze everything you can out of your last few days. There’s nothing more likely to destroy your peace than to spend all your time thinking, “Ohmygoodness, I have to love all of this. Right now. Love it, I say! Forget your stomach ache and love it! Smell the flowers. Look at the sunset. Watch where you’re driving!!!! Love all of everything right now before it’s gone forever!!” Because that kind of makes it hard to savor the moment.

Do … relax. Enjoy the time you have left. Get a massage. Eat a coconut. Hug a friend.

I'm a gonna miss you, Coconut.

Imma gonna miss you, Coconut.

Do you have any departure wisdom from your experiences?

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Adventures on the Isla de Muerta

I’m a bit of a Pirates of the Caribbean fan. Well, to be honest, I’m a Jack Sparrow fan…and a pirate ship fan…and a zombie fan…and a vintage costume fan, and those things all kind of come together nicely in Pirates of the Caribbean. I can’t remember the plot for any of the sequels, but that’s not important.

Apparently, I kind of live in a real-life version of the Isla de Muerta. As Captain Jack explains, “It’s an island that cannot be found except by those who already know where it is.” I’ve realized that my little cottage is actually the land-locked version…so maybe I live in the Casa de Muerta.

The cutest little Casa de Muerta that you never will see.

The cutest little Casa de Muerta that you never will see.

Since I’m a bit of an introvert, I love the idea of dwelling in a secret hideaway. This isn’t even the first time I’ve lived in a well-hidden home. The last time I lived in Canada, I had a cozy little apartment above a book store (Yes, that is legendary. There’s no denying it.) It even had a secret hole in the floor behind my fridge that opened up into the storeroom below. That was a bit creepy, but also delightful in it’s own way.

The thing is, it didn’t look like a place you would find an apartment. At night, it looked like an industrial delivery door at the back of a closed store in an empty parking lot in a shady part of town. Taxi drivers refused to drop me off, because they wouldn’t believe anyone lived there. Even more distressing, no matter how many times I tried, pizzas never found their way to my place.  (Tales are told of the ghost of my pizza delivery driver, who still cruises the streets of Moncton looking for my home, a 14 year old pepperoni pizza moldering in the box beside him…or so I like to think.)

With that apartment, I get it. It was a weird place to live.

But my cottage here? It should be a breeze to find. It’s right smack in the middle of a yard, visible from the street, and cute as a button. People should be flocking to my gate just to stare at my little French doors and say, “Awww, isn’t that the cutest little house you ever did see? I bet a fairytale princess-to-be lives there.” And then they’d see me wander out in my grubbies to hang up my laundry on a Saturday morning, and their dreams would be shattered…but still. They should be there.

But no one ever pauses at my gate (except the neighbour’s dog, who thinks the gate is a movie screen, and my cat is Elizabeth Taylor, and he doesn’t count anyway because he’s a dog). In fact, in all the years I’ve lived here, no matter how many maps, pictures, directions, visual land marks, and Google Earth screenshots I provide, people cannot find my house.

Like I said, I like my privacy, so it’s usually not a problem. Ordering pizza is still impossible, but I’ve already learned to accept that particular hand of fate. The problem is, now that I’m leaving, I have some stuff to sell…and strangers wanting to come buy my stuff…strangers who have never been here before and can’t find my house because apparently I really do live in some kind of secret invisible magical place. 

As I’ve been packing, I’ve been dreaming some big dreams for my future apartment in Canada. I’ve got some pretty luxurious items on my wishlist, things that are rarities in Asia: a bathtub, hot tap water, and an oven. Like I said, I’m dreaming big.

Now, with all the hullabaloo involved in living in an invisible house, I’ve decided to add one more tiny little thing to my wish list. My building needs to have a Batman beacon on the roof. Preferably one with interchangeable symbols, so I can summon either Batman or pizza. Actually, just the pizza one will be fine. After all, I don’t want my future landlord to think I’m unreasonable.

What’s the strangest house or apartment you’ve ever lived in?

Throwback Thursday #1

How about a little bit of time travel?

In preparation for my return to Canada, I’ve decided to take a look back and see what kind of experiences, baggage, and strange quirks I’ll be taking with me.

I hope a little bit of reflection will be helpful, since I already do things without thinking when I visit Canada. Like that time I bowed to the man in the food court at the mall. Apparently I automatically bow to strangers now. I’ll have to remember that Canadian women don’t bow.

We curtsy, right? Yeah, that’s it. We curtsy. See, I’m gonna rock this relocation. No problem!

How do you do? Am I doing this right?

How do you do? Am I doing this right?

So, Throwback Thursday. Every Thursday from now until…well, probably next Thursday, when I’ll have forgotten that I was supposed to be making an effort… I’m going to dig back into the Archive Abyss and pull out posts from years gone by. I thought you might like to come along for the ride.

Just please remember that once upon a time, nobody actually read this blog. Except my Grandma. So don’t think of the links as blog posts…think of them as postcards. Rambling, random, postcards sent with love. Which, now that I think of it, aren’t actually much different than my current blog posts.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s proceed…

Eight Years Ago Today: February 20, 2006. Adventures in Octopi, in which I ate live (well, live-ish, still kind of squirmy) octopus for the first (and last) time. I’ve eaten a lot of strange food over the years, from cow brains to fried cicadas. Right now, I’m eagerly anticipating the cheese aisle – but it won’t be long before I miss my grilled pork and sticky rice, or mysterious trays of mystery food in the market. Not that I actually buy the mystery food, I just know I’ll miss having the option.

Your guess is as good as mine...

Your guess is as good as mine…

Seven Years Ago Today: February 20, 2007. Adventures in Swoosh, Swoosh, Swooshing. I liked skiing in Korea, but the hills could be mayhem, and I was constantly doing shoulder checks before I changed direction. I actually do shoulder checks all the time now. Not just when I’m driving or skiing, but when I’m walking down the street or pushing my cart through the grocery store.

I think I dimly remember the days in Canada when I could just walk down a sidewalk, eyes up, and facing forward. Now, I walk like a bobble-head doll. I look back over my shoulder for rapidly approaching people, dogs, scooters, or mini buses. I look up to avoid overhanging tree branches, dangling wires, or low-hanging banners. I look down to avoid tripping over protruding roots, loose bricks, missing sewer grates, sleeping dogs, or piles of vegetables.

Vigilance is required at all times.

Vigilance is required at all times.

So if you see me wearing a neck brace as I walk down the street, it might be because I’ve given myself whiplash in the dairy aisle at Cost-co, but I’m probably just trying to teach myself to walk like a Canadian again.

Have you brought any new quirks home with you after you’ve been away for a while?