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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

entry arrow6:29 AM | India Bound

It's been a while since I've traveled. A decade in fact. Years ago, the pages of my first passport were littered with stamped or stickered visas from all over, like a haphazard collection reflecting a life on the go. But I was young and itching to get my fill of the world before I settled into the responsibilities and groundedness of adulthood. Boy, did I. My second passport was a curious blank, because I had applied for a tourist visa to Dubya country, and was told by a gray-haired, sour-looking consul named Carol Potter that my papers were just too ... broad. She had taken about 30 minutes trying to decide what to do with me, and finally I got denied my visa because I was too "broad." So I asked, "What do you mean by that, ma'am?" And she wouldn't elaborate, just dismissed me with a wave of her hand and told me to look at the special form letter for such queries. Carol Potter. God, I still remember that name, and that face.

I think that ended, or killed, for the most part, my wishes to ever go anywhere. And then 9/11 happened, and suddenly it was even much harder to go. So I stayed close to home, and traveling increasingly became a distant memory. (Sometimes I wonder and then I tell myself that maybe all that traveling is a fictional past I've created for myself, to make me sound more worldly. There are days I believe in that notion.) The farthest I ever went to in the past ten years was up north, to Manila.

My third passport's new. And look here, there's an Indian visa gleaming like a promise. Last night, because everybody tells me to do so, I've loaded up on Diatabs and other medicines, just in case. People tell me, "Don't drink the water," or even, "Don't drink the water even when you're showering." My brother tells me, "You're connecting to Madurai on a domestic flight?" and makes the face of someone who has just sniffed an overpowering barrage of spices. I tell myself, don't mind them. We always get surprised too when we see our foreign friends, and they tell stories about how they got warnings of everyday terror before they had ever set foot in the Philippines. I'm sure India will be a grand place.

Still, I wonder if I still know how to travel anywhere. The first time I went out of the country ten years ago, I was so afraid of being lost in the transit that I had to ask my brother, a well-traveled guy, about tips on not getting lost, especially when we have to go through Customs and such. His brilliant advise: "Just follow where the crowd goes." All of this amuses me, since I used to be a backpacker from way back, and was so used to sleeping in airports and train stations. I'm leaving tomorrow for Singapore, then straight on to Chennai, India where I catch a connecting domestic flight to Madurai. Five days of being somewhere else.

I wasn't ever nervous about the idea of going away from home in such a long time. But now, writing this, the familiar knots in my stomach manifest themselves, and reality finally sinks in: I'm traveling. And so, India, here I come.

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