May 10th, 2011

Sharks, Laundry and Other Hazards of Traveling Alone

Linda Kennard

In about four weeks, I’m going to visit my sister in Southeast Asia for 16 days. We’re going to explore the 12th-century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia; traipse about Penang, the Malaysian island setting for Gift of Rain; and visit Chiang Mai, which Wikipedia touts as “the most culturally significant city in northern Thailand.” This region of the world is so exotic to me that picturing myself there is like imagining one million dollars in hand. Yet I’m going, and I’m very excited. But I’m also a little worried—and not just about plummeting thousands of feet into the Pacific ocean and surviving to fight my way to the top of the plane, where I manage to take one last long breath before swimming through the cockpit and out the front window, only to float for days, thirsty and hungry, while sharks circle and, ultimately, eat me (despite dozens of swift and magnificent kicks from me).

No, the prospect of my death by sea monsters is not my only concern. I also worry about something happening to my kids or to BigG while I’m away. I’ll be 14 hours ahead, so the delay in reaching me and the time it would take for me to get home unnerves me. Some potential hazards I’ve already thwarted but others can’t be avoided. For example, our pool will be off limits when BigG’s at work. But Jay is 17, so she drives, and I don’t think it’s fair to insist that they stay inside for two weeks. (Is it?) But suppose she carts C&T off to the zoo and gets in an accident? On the other hand, being home alone is no safety guarantee. What if Clyde lights his shirt on fire during one of his cooking nights when he’s boiling spaghetti or reheating my frozen sauce? Maybe I should just buy a slough of microwaveable meals, seems extreme but safer (preservatives and carcinogens aside).

I have practical concerns too that I’m addressing sometimes sensibly and sometimes obsessively. The sensible approach involves training three children who have skated through life blissfully unaware of how much I do. They’re so ignorant on this point that they’re excited about being home alone. In my sane moments, I teach my housekeeping-challenged children how to tackle mundane tasks, like laundry. For weeks, I’ve supervised as they’ve sorted the laundry, placed the wash in the drier (removing delicates), and hung or folded the clothes. My obsessive nature, however, frets over first naming and then divvying up all of the possible chores that will or might crop up while I’m gone. In my irrational moments, I tire myself creating the ultimate, end-all daily calendar that notes on an hourly basis who should be doing what.

Despite my day-marish concerns, I’m looking forward to living the dream of riding on horseback to one of my sister’s favorite local villages in Cambodia. Southeast Asia here I come . . . assuming I survive the crash and the sharks.

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This Weeks Tip

Need to remove chewing gum off of skin? (Dont’ even ask why we had to learn this trick!) Try Peanut Butter. Does the trick, and the kids think it’s hilarious. (note: if allergies are an issue, we would guess that Soy Butter or Sun Butter would work just as well,—though we haven’t attempted this in our test kitchen yet. And *hopefully* we won’t have another occasion to.)