Monday, June 1, 2009

April-August 2009: At Home

For over two months, I’ve been at home. Not traveling, little writing. Reading. Some worthwhile things like working on Robert Fisk’s tome on the Middle East and Dalrymple’s work on the Indian Mughals and some fun stuff, like Jack Higgens’ and Gordon Kent’s adventure writings. Recently, I discovered Dan Fesperson, a worthy equal to John LeCarré and Frederick Forsyth. It was one of his books that was out on the local library’s display table that I casually picked up and checked out.

Most interesting, he writes very human stories that are, incidentally spy/adventure tales, with locales familiar to me: Sarajevo, Berlin, Peshawar, Amman. Amman less so for basically, I’ve been in town only for flights in and out. But I have been in Jordan several times - going back in November for another shot at the GARP archaeological dig along the Hejaz. But his descriptions of Amman provide an excellent guide. And with luck and a second passport, I’ll have time in Amman enroute to Israel and Palestine in December. (Second passport is necessary for any indication of an Israeli visa/entry stamp precludes admittance to Mid Eastern/Muslim countries, excepting Egypt and Jordan).

Anyway, I have become hooked on his novels and have several more recent ones to track down. Like several good writers, he’s a journalist. Journalists - and I was a wanna be - tend to be very observant of details of both the physical and the personal. They use language respectfully as it is the tool of their trade. So these skills serve them well when they move onto to fiction, particularly if it is a combination of reportage and imagination, as in Fesperson’s books.

In my early days, I was a J school student who also enrolled in Short Story classes. I could report but didn’t have the imagination to make it as a fiction writer. As it turned out, for over thirty years, I wrote reports for Courts’ use in sentencing criminal offenders. Often, I tried to find a word or phrase out of the ordinary that might catch someone’s attention; I never knew if I succeeded as there wasn’t a response.

But unlike most of my coworkers,who viewed report writing on the same level as having a root canal, the writing for me was the fun part of the job. Interviewing, yes, but then trying to put a thumb nail sketch of the offender and the crime on paper, particularly within the confines of an imposed outline was a challenge.

And then I got to tag around after him/her, assuming they were not incarcerated, for several years and fine out how right or wrong I was in my assessment It was fun while it lasted, And I have missed the writing, which is one of the reasons for the blog. The other is, to keep track of myself.

For two years ago I was in the Swat Valley, today part of the turf battle between the Pakis and the Taliban. I remember it as beautiful, peaceful place. I looked up my notes: there was a bad road (oh, I remember that, one of the worst!), I ate at Charsadda and stayed overnight at the Rock Resort Hotel. I walked among Buddhist ruins and was impressed by a lovely carved Stupa. I fear all that’s left is the bad road. I see news shots of the area, the distruction in Mingora, the refugees!. A sadness! Man’s worst enemy is man, someone said, and at the rate we’re going, we are going to knock ourselves off before another century.

Come August, I’m back to Afghanistan, this time in the countryside. Up north to Mazur-e-Sharif, over to Herat and Banyan and then through the central part and the Minaret of Djam. Maybe, coming in through the Khyber Pass, depending on safety issues. There are three alternate itineraries. I’m excited about returning to the Land of the Great Game and the unbelievable Himalayans. They are at one end of my spectrum with the desert at the other. People who have conquered either are high on my list of heroes: Ran Fiennes (who also has the two Poles under his belt in addition to Everest) and Michael Asher (ex-Para, SAS and author who has lived in the deserts of Africa). In fact, in October, I will spend my birthday on a camel trek led by Asher - a real high point for me despite a probable sore butt.

In the meantime, I mark time at home: setting up future travels, doing household stuff, taking ballet and doing Pilates, tutoring a foreign speaker and reading. The four months I’ve been home this spring/summer is the longest I’ve been around in five years - the cat appreciates it. Though I am fudging a bit by taking off a week this month for the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon and then, several days with family in the Seattle area.

The late summer and fall will have me on the run, between Asia and Africa and the Middle East, with ten days in the UK stuffed in there some place. At one point, I think I’m home little over a week in between trips. But this is the life I’ve chosen, once I left my day job: travel as much as you possibly can!

No comments: