Excess baggage, more about starfish and dreams of chicken

There are many things on my mind as I pack, now at the end of an intense  week in Cambodia, ranging from intense strategic discussions, inspiring and humbling accounts from our programmes and a harrowing backdrop of the all too recent genocide in the Khmer Rouge years. Captain Paranoia is still with me constantly, but the events of the week have meant that he has had to compete for my attention.

At the outset of this week, I was present at an address by the Minister of Education here in Cambodia.  He gave a very powerful speech, apologising for veering away from the prepared words and sharing his own history about the Khmer years and their impact on education in the country.  He brought the realities of the genocide to life and I was riveted by his account.  Then he told an anecdote which struck an incredible chord with me.  He told us of one day when his wife had woken him urgently.  He was very upset, and told his wife she should have left him sleeping.  He recounted that he had been dreaming that he had been eating a chicken and it was so delicious, and he had been so hungry.  He said to his wife that she should have let him sleep until he had finished eating the chicken!  What an incredibly visual account of the horror they were living through.  His point was that, in the midst of that hell, he was able to escape in his dreams and no one could intrude on his dreams no matter how little control people were able to have in their lives.  It reminded me of my own starfish dream and how that had lifted my spirits and given me an escape from the preoccupation of the upcoming hospital checks.  It is indeed testament to the strength of the human mind.

However, despite that inspiring example of the chicken and my own private starfish collection in my mind, I am being mysteriously, or not so mysteriously, blocked from planning beyond these upcoming checks.  This is not unusual it happens every time.  Usually though, I only have to book a return ticket home afterwards so there is no great issue about that.  This time however, I should (if all goes well, fingers and toes tied in knots, touching any chunks of anything resembling wood and many other gestures of hope) head straight to India after the checks to see my family in law for the first time since I was diagnosed.  But despite several attempts to book my ticket to travel after the appointments, I have been completely unable to complete the task.  I don’t even have a reservation due to difficulties in booking online and the prospect of having a useless ticket if there is anything other than NED ahead.

After our meetings finished, I managed to fit in a visit to the popular Russian Market, initially to pick up some Cambodia silk which a friend had asked me to bring back.  I found myself drawn in to the glorious colours and somehow left the shop with silk sets for my close in laws too.  As I carted the heavy bags out of the market, I was wondering how many kilos I had purchased and whether it would be less than the 3 kilos which I think I had “spare” on the way over.  Then it suddenly dawned on me that I subconsciously broken through this block and managed to project myself into the “after the checks” unknown.  I will probably have excess baggage but at least I have been able to look ahead.  Now I just need to book that ticket!

And in a further coincidence, as I walked along the quayside yesterday evening in Phnom Penh, I passed the Tourist Information Office and there in front of me was a promotional poster for visiting Cambodia.  And the image on that poster, with its starfish and pristine ocean was incredibly similar to the image which I am recalling regularly from my dream!

What a funny old world we live in, with surprises and connections all around us.

7 thoughts on “Excess baggage, more about starfish and dreams of chicken

  1. Philippa,

    The story shared by the Minister of Education was astounding. Such a lesson in there about escaping the horrors of life in our dreams. As you said, this is indeed a testament to the human mind.

    And then there are the mind games you and I are familiar with. I always think of “Captain Paranoia” now when those certain thoughts start playing around in my head.

    Glad to hear you “broke free” while shopping and started looking ahead. Now go get that ticket! Safe travels and good luck with things. And yes, it is a funny old world we live in with lots of surprises and connections.

    • thanks N – yes the Minister’s speech was truly wonderful, I was totally captivated by his words, what a deviation.
      Thanks for your kind, supporting words

  2. Oh, Philippa, this just seems so real to me, even though I’ve never visited Cambodia. Shortly after my radiation in 1996 I was scheduled to take a business trip to Munich, Germany from California. But then a persistent pain popped up in my back. The doctor said I would need to get a bone scan to rule out cancer return. It would be the first of many of those scary tests. I thought about it and decided not to cancel the trip to Germany. After all, it was right before Christmas and I had never seen the Christmas Market there. Also, if I were to undergo more treatment, I might as well see Germany now while I could. So I went. And on the flight over, I decided that worry would not invade my thoughts. I adopted “Don’t worry, be happy” as my mantra. And it worked, despite all odds. I enjoyed the hot toddies and the impromptu bands of the market in between business meetings. When I returned and had the scan done, no cancer showed up. I was so glad I took the trip and shed the worry, at least for a while. But I know what you mean: worry canlinger and take over unless we can erase it with the busyness of our activities. Enjoy as much as you can and hold on to that dream of seeing a starfish. That poster you saw was definitely a sign. Wishing you all the best, Jan

    • Oh Jan what a beautiful comment – I love your description of the Christmas markets, it really brings many memories back of the Christmas markets in Europe. Yes it is so important to seize the day and try and put worries aside. I actually was meant to have my checks last week but it clashed with this regional meeting so I re-scheduled by a few days. I did not want to have the checks first, find out something nasty and then miss the Cambodia visit and the chance to connect with so many friends and colleagues from around the world. It has meant that I have had this “shadow” lurking throughout the week, but mostly I have been able to keep it at bay.
      Thinking of starfish, impromptu bands and mulled wine 🙂

      • I’m so glad you can keep those lurking thoughts at bay. You went on your trip for the same reason as I went on mine…to seize the day. I’ll never forget the gentle glow of lights falling on soft snowflakes and the wooden Christmas ornaments beckoning me to buy them. Later at a restaurant I had my caricature drawn, even though I was not in the party who hired the caricaturist. It was so magical, even dreamlike. Cherish the memories, dear one. XX

  3. Those silks will be worth every bit of the excess baggage fees for helping you to break through this psychological barrier!! And what a lovely cosmic wink from that starfish. Wishing you all the very best for the tests – and a lovely time with your family in India!

  4. Pingback: In praise of my fish pickling flair | Feisty Blue Gecko – a tail of the unexpected

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