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Amber Paulen


Hours before eating and sometimes while eating, Italians can be heard talking about food. They talk about what they had for dinner the night before, what they had for lunch, they talk about what they would like to eat for dinner tonight, they talk about vegetables, herbs, meat and pasta. They talk about food passionately as if in a perpetual state of anticipation for the next bite. All this has an effect of preparing the hunger, of whetting the appetite for the delicacies in store.

Much like the Italians, I have a tendency to brood, and so I do with my upcoming trip. And that has always been my way. As if thinking about it is almost as good as being there, preparing me, wide and ready for the experience, poising my taste buds, feeling the tickle as they gather on the tip of my tongue. I have found this habit has helped heaps with my writing, bringing me to a full-imaginative state, but it is also now, in my preparations, that such thinking heightens.

1. Tickets: We’ve got them! Departure imminent, one week.

2. Visas: The Thai/Italians seem to want a lot of papers, but they have told us the visa will be ready, once submitted, in two days.

3. Packing: Two months and a backpack. Ever since the first time I threw a backpack on my small shoulders I promised I would acquire the art of packing, for the bag dragged me into the ground more than once. The golden rule applies: less is best. This is what I’m thinking:

Anything I miss I will buy cheaply once I’m there.

4. Thailand: Bangkok and a loud urban mess, temples and markets and tuk tuks and prostitutes, then ruins. The beach. Heaven must be a beach, with languid cerulean waters and lazy leaning palms, with the sun pouring its graces into skin as if skin wasn’t there at all. Islands and “island time,” where commerce and business doesn’t exist for it’s always best to take a swim, or a nap in the shade.

I have always wondered how it was that I was born in Michigan when tropical is such a better fit for my temperament (or Mediterranean, when it isn’t snowing). I love sweat when it runs down my face, the ocean salt on my skin and knotted in my hair, sand as it squeaks under bare feet. The air is tangible in heat.


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