Sitting in the baggage reclaim area of BKK airport with my eyes glued to the flashing white sign above belt 12 (which reads “OPEN”) in the desperate hope that it will soon turn green (“FIRST BAGS”). It seems my bags were delayed in Hong Kong and put onto a later flight. When I arrived here 3 hours ago, sleepy and bright-eyed, they were nowhere to be found (despite the ominous flashing red sign, “LAST BAGS”, above belt 15). I wandered around haplessly for a few minutes until I noticed a small man holding a sign with my name on it. He explained the situation, and pointed me reassuringly to belt 12. But I’ve just been informed by another well-meaning Thai airport official that – given it’s now 920pm and the bags aren’t here yet and the traffic is bad because it’s raining – this means I’ll likely miss the last bus to Mae Sot and will have to find a cheap hotel to sleep in next to Moh Chit station.
Those infernal bags.
In the last few weeks, the process of finishing work (squeezing in as many A+E shifts as my body and precarious psychological state could tolerate), moving out of the flat, saying goodbye to everyone, breaking-up with M. (the tail end) and leaving London behind, has been the chaotic, time-sucking, sleep-depriving logistical/emotional ordeal I expected it to be. One unforeseen effect was that it gave me an excuse to delay final packing decisions until the last minute. For this, I have paid a heavy price.
At the check-in counter at Heathrow, I was politely informed that my 2 pieces together weighed 30kg – 10kg over the limit. Weighed down by defeat (and s*** from H+M), I then had to go through the ritual humiliation of unpacking in public, and experienced a minor dissociative episode brought on by the pressure of yet another round of wretched and mostly ineffectual decision-making. In the end I binned a book (ECG made Easy – I give up on the ECG), a notepad, one lone towel, a stack of T-shirts, a cheap tripod that I’ve never used, some superfluous (I hope) bottles of 30+ suncream and 50% DEET ‘Jungle spray’, and various other toiletries including, shamefully, a heavy jar of algae face mask from Iceland’s Blue Lagoon – a strange item to have at the forefront of one’s mind when going to volunteer with refugee communities (mine, at this point, is clearly not in a healthy or morally defensible state).
It was still overweight.
In a final deft move I transferred some small but dense items into my carry-on backpack and made it through at 23kg, wiping triumphant sweat-beads off my forehead. Then I realized I had to lug the backpack on and off planes and in and out of toilet cubicles with two already-sore arms recovering from yesterday’s Japanese B encephalitis/rabies/BCG immunisations, which is what I’ve been doing for the past 15 hours.
And as I sit here, rubbing my neck muscles, waiting for the rest of my worldly belongings to arrive, I wonder: Why did I pack all this stuff? What is in there anyway? Who needs 30kg of anything, ever? Am I going to miss the nightbus?
I think, in some inexplicable way, it would probably serve me right.