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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chiang Mai: Things Fall Apart

My things keep falling apart. Today it was my mouse. And a hole in one of my bathing suits. I noticed a tiny rip in a skirt the other day. My 'new' purse needs some mending - well that's what I get when I buy something made of the nice, soft fabric that was once part of some tribal outfit that has long since worn out. And I got that purse because my travel purse died.

Maybe all my things are somehow reflecting the places I take them, places where routine maintenance is not the norm, where for some reason manhole covers are always missing, and the broken sidewalks are never mended. My clothes do, indeed, look quite at home in such environments.

They don't look at home next to the local people, though. Sometimes it seems the poorer and dirtier a country is, the more important it is to the people there to be clean and presentable. See schoolchildren emerge from mud huts, absolutely immaculate in pure white shirts and navy blue skirts and shorts, hair neatly parted and combed, is amazing. The effort and care that must go into such an achievement!

And there I am. I doubt even these mothers could have turned me out all sparkling and neat every morning. If I dress as neatly as possible in a skirt and a firmly tucked in blouse, hair freshly brushed, and then stand perfectly still, this is what happens. My blouse slowly creeps out from my waistband, a little here, a little more there, a lot in the back. Strands of my hair start wandering on my own. My three cowlicks assert themselves by elevating small clumps of hair. If I am wearing fingernail polish, a small chip will appear.

My mother used to feel so sorry for me when I was going out, because I'd try so hard and look so sloppy. Unfortunately I spent my vainest years, the teens, in the teased and glued in place backcombed dome era, the Jackie Kennedy never-a-hair-out-of-place era.

Thus my very short haircut. No fuss,no bother, and as neat as I am ever going to get. And still, sometimes, it manages to stand straight up. I've got an inch of hair, and I still have bed hair in the morning.

So I fit in with the physical environment, but not the people environment.

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