It’s about a week and a half till I leave for India.
Yesterday I packed my bag.
A practice pack really, to make sure I have enough room for everything I want to bring with me. Since it’s about 80 degrees in Kolkata this time of year, my clothes only took up half the suitcase.
The other half has 10 canvas tote bags, child safe, permanent markers, the fabric Dahn brought me back from Africa, to bring on this trip. I also have some more fabric that was sent to me from some of you and thread and pins.
My idea is to give the markers and canvas tote bags to the children in the day care, which is one of the places I’ll be visiting. The children’s mother’s are sex workers, by choice. They bring their children to this free day care so they don’t have to be in the room while their mothers are working.
When the kids are there, they make things like paper shopping bags, decorated with flowers, to sell. I thought if the kids drew on the canvas totes, they could sell them too. Or I could even buy them from the kids and sell them on my site when I get back. I don’t know if any of this will happen, but I’m bringing it all with me anyway.
Along with packing, I made copies of my passport and plane tickets and all those important papers I’ll need.
Yesterday morning, I stood at the dining room table looking at my copies of copies, and froze. “How ya doing out there?” Jon yelled to me from his study. I asked him if he could feel my panic. “All the way in here,” he said.
Jon stopped writing and came to help me sort the copies into piles and put them in my various bags and pockets, leaving more copies at home. All of this and, of course, they’re on my phone and computer too.
And that’s all these important papers are. Copies, printouts from my computer.
Somehow I still expect a ticket to look like something more than just a xerox. The same with my visa. I actually forwarded a copy of my visa to Jenny who works for the group I’m traveling with. “Is this really my visa?” I asked. I just want to make sure.
Because I expected something more official. Fancy type maybe, on a heavy piece of paper, with a gold seal at the top. My visa, which I can’t travel to India without, looks like a copy of a receipt. I made so many copies of it, I used the extras to start a fire in the wood stove.
This isn’t a bad thing, less chance of losing them all. It just all seems so flimsy. So unsubstantial. Somehow unreal.
And I made all these plans, acquired all my “important papers” and only spoke to one human being (Dahn), one time.
That hit home today. Now that my bag is packed (mostly), my list of things I need down to two or three items (deodorant, more protein bars) and my important papers are in order, I felt like I need to hear a human voice. Someone who was connected with the trip and knew for sure that this was all real and not just a bunch of printouts from my computer.
So I called Dahn.
She immediately put me at ease. Something in hearing her voice.
Yes, we were really going to be in India in two weeks at this time. It was going to be wonderful and overwhelming. We would do good work and meet people whose souls shine. And we will shine with them. On the last day when we rest and recuperate in Udaipur and I’ll be drooling over the fabrics in the markets there.
The closer I get to leaving for India, the more excited I am. I also have my moments of anxiety. Moments of fear. But my fears are mostly irrational. They revolve around my feelings of incompetence. That I’ll forget my visa, or that I made my fight for the wrong day.
But I also know something about myself by now. I’m always nervous before the event, whatever it may be. But once I’m there, once it’s happening, all the fear and anxiety vanishes.
I’ve also notice that neurotic fear and excitement feel the same in my body. So it’s a matter of switching the way I’m thinking, more than what I’m feeling. Turning the my fear to excitement.