March 6th

I have used the slowdown and bad weather (it snowing this morning 3"-6" predicted) to start re-writing my Indochina novel. My Nov. trip to Indochina went by too fast. I was on other people's schedule. I had hoped to renew my eye and nose for sights and sounds so I could write about them better. Anyway, the trip was great. The growth after 27 years was startling. My language came back better than expected. My Vietnamese got off to a slow start in Hanoi because I was not used to the northern dialect. A week later in Saigon I was much more conversant, but by then we were off to Angkor. My Khmer did not come back all that well. I was OK on the street and in the market but I was grasping for vocabularly. I met old friends in Phnom Penh and I heard that some Khmers who had worked for me during the war survived the KR. I didn't have time to see them. Next trip. One guy had aids. Even sleepy Laos and Vientiane had grown. VTE bustled. Luang Prabang during the war was quite sleepy with very few cars. It is now humming with tourists and it appears it could become a trekking mecca now that there is a nasty insurgency in Nepal. The guide my friends hired in LP turned out to be a cute, sassy and self-possessed 22-year-old. She spoke good English. Needless to say, flirting and chatting her up in Lao did wonders for my Lao / Thai conversation even if it did not result in nights of magic and mystery. Changes in BKK floored me. I needed a map to get around. The Skytrain is great, fast, inexpensive, cool and filled with young people. I met a number of Vietnam-era friends who remained in BKK. My Thai was pretty good. One day chatting up a young lady in a shopping mall I pulled the word "obstinant" in mid-sentence from the deepest recesses of my gray matter.

If I do not line up a decent size project now I may return to SE Asia while air fares are cheap. I still need to pick up color and details for the novel. The book is written. In re-writing I am fleshing out the characters and adding color like what one of my favorite noodle shops looked like, the smells, and maybe some recipes since Americans seem to be into food and cooking.

I must say this Iraq thing is intriguing and whatever happens it will be historic. There is a pull to go there, like I want a last hurrah -- to get great pix and stories and be with the first wave of looters in Saddam's hometown. It is daydreaming  then reality rears its ugly head. My cameras need repair; my guts are not in great shape and I would have a tough time in the field, and it could be expensive. Also, my 11-year-old said, "daddy, it's dangerous and you're the only daddy I got." And so it goes.

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