Westering home

So, after 24 days living out of my suitcase, changing plans and generally following a nomadic lifestyle, I spent Monday attempting to cram all of my belongings into my bags in an attempt to shrink them into the allowable weight allowance for my return to Yangon.  This involved a few naughty tricks, such as planting some of my heavier documents and materials in beside laundry in the expectation that this would make them lighter, if not totally weight free.  The heavier papers I squeezed into a large carry on bag, and still I had a number of books which refused to fit in any of these bags.  My task had been complicated by the fact that I had some weighty things for family in India, and of course having had to cancel that visit, I would be taking them to Yangon instead of Darjeeling.  I try to travel fairly light, but with the different purposes of the various parts of my 24 day shufty I inevitably had quite a collection of goods.  I had so much that the usual compulsory Bangkok shopping items such as Thai curry paste, various cheeses, Boots shampoos and shower gels and other essentials had to be sacrificed (as in not bought, rather than offered up to some airport gods).  Somehow that did not appear to have applied to a few books, which I had managed to accidentally buy.  Interesting these laws of nature!

My flight was early so I had a taxi ordered for 5.45 am.  I was generally faffing around the room at 5.10 am, juggling with the various permutations of where to stash away the various bits and pieces which still had to be stashed when the phone rang.    My taxi was waiting for me!  Now I am happy to be on the early side, but this was not helpful!  Still, with the last final touches to the art composition that was my luggage, including an impromptu piece which was formed by stuffing a number of books into a carrier bag, I closed the door and left what had unexpectedly been my home for the past days.

I approached the check in counter rather apprehensively with all my bags, and handed over ticket and passport along with a big smile. I waved my bulging carry on bag at the ground staff and asked if it was ok for carry on.  (Quite what I would have done if she has said no, I am not quite sure – though part of my keenness in being early is to be able to regroup in the event of something like that happening).  She gave it a cursory nod and asked if it had any liquids in it.  Being completely dry it was apparently fine for carry on.  Along with the carrier bag of books and my handbag.  And the fleece and pashmina that I was carrying.  You get the picture!  It was not much fun going through security, taking out my laptop and placing all of these into the trays.  The staff were quite bemused to see me fill four trays!  Still, I was though and able to head to the airline lounge.

Bangkok Airways has a policy (I am not sure if it is new or not, but it is certainly most welcome) of providing lounge access to all passengers not just those with posh tickets.  So I was very happy to head to the lounge and its free internet and free flow tea.

I was especially happy because the timing of my fight, and the access to internet meant that I could join the #BCSM (Breast Cancer Social Media) Twitter discussion for half an hour before I had to go to the departure gate.  I particularly wanted to join this discussion too…………..

And that leads me towards a very different topic, one which will be the subject of its own post very soon and one which is very much on my mind as I am back home.  This week’s discussion focused on renewal and featured my friend Terri of A Fresh Chapter.  Terri spoke about her “Adventure of Hope” which she has embarked upon, following a period volunteering in Africa after her cancer treatment finished. Please read the transcript – it is very powerful.  In the discussion, she highlighted how cancer is seen in developing countries, and this is something very close to my own heart, having been diagnosed in Asia.  In fact, I have had a number of preliminary conversations about my own possible venture into “doing something” in this part of the world.  And to give you a flavour of why I feel so strongly, I am going to share a Tweet from Terri, which hit me with a force that was almost physical.  She tweeted:

“We can’t imagine the stigma around cancer in the developing world. Women would rather get HIV than cancer in Africa.”

This does not underplay the enormity and fear of HIV (which is immense) but rather shows just the level of fear, taboo and stigma around cancer and the challenges in accessing good standards of information, treatment and care.

And this is why I will be thinking and talking a whole lot more about this in coming days and weeks now that I am back home.