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Year in Review/Travel notes

Book storeI’ve had a totally amazing year and I’ve learned a lot. For example there are all those things a traveler relies on, such as a smile, a tip, a thank you in any language, a full heart and the ability to laugh at myself. Then there are things like launching into a new play and figuring out how to tear it apart and put it together again. There’s also yoga, romance, friendship, light, dark, students and play production. It’s a very full calendar. I got to fondle exotic new charms on the bracelet of life, which makes a better metaphor for me than crossing items off a bucket list. I don’t care to haul around a bucket and I don’t want to strike things away or get them over with. I want to hold and treasure shiny memories that intrigue, enlighten, revive, impress and connect each time they catch the light and my attention. Here are some of the things that I’ve recalled from my travels this year, in no particular order:

1. I hung on inconspicuously in a Manhattan rush hour of fish diving off of Mabul Island, Sabah, Malaysia.

2. I’ve now been one of those people met at the airport with a sign.

3 I’m glad the croc didn’t charge the boat on the Kinabatangan River night cruise.

4. I sped through evening streets of Phnom Penh on the back of a motorbike against silky dark air after my sendoff dinner.

5. I powered through a remarkably cool breeze in dark shiny mornings racing to be one of the first travelers at Angkor temples.

6. You can’t beat a ripe mango.

7. As a tourist in a very strange land, do something the local tourists would do, for example: go see Ho Chi Minh lying in his perpetually waxy state, certainly one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen and topping the list of things I don’t want done to me when I’m dead.

8. Early morning is full of beautiful moments. When I got to Cambodia my body clock was so twisted I decided I could set it wherever I wanted. I decided to wake daily at 5:20 for yoga followed by an exploratory walk around the city’s center before my first shower, to be followed by breakfast in Mr. Ang’s tuk-tuk and a trip to the office for the day. The dazzling sunrises over the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers became routine and remained heart-stopping. Groups of ladies plied the waterfront with conversation, walks and tai chi. Men played with shuttle cocks and repeated jumping exercises. Fathers wrapped in sarongs carried and cooed to their babies. Women smoked the sky with their boiling breakfast pots and chopped the air with their arms. Spit-polished children emerged in school uniforms. Fishing boats on the rivers made pit stops for breakfast and morning ablutions. As the sun pushed out earlier, I reversed the yoga and walk. When I left Phnom Penh I kept my schedule and caught the pink light polishing ancient temples and bigger cities. In Kota Kinabalu, the wharf exploded in fish. On Mabul Island the sky reversed it’s amazing sunset show. Walking around Hoan Kiem Lake in central Hanoi, ballroom dancers glided into one another’s arms at 6:30 am. I’m still discovering mornings, now in Portland, where the sun also paints with pinks and puts a magical public privacy in the light. It’s far too cold for men to dash across the street in a towel. But early morning still feels like a rich chocolate secret.

9. To grow up speaking English is a fortunate thing.

10.Ten fingers, ten toes and ten things on a list. This spot reserves my next list