What to Pack

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What to pack for many months in Costa Rica on a tropical beach backed by jungle, miles from anywhere? Day shorts, evening shorts, a wide selection of repellent, trousers, long-sleeved shirt, and trusty rubber boots (although they are best bought locally from the kind of shop that also sells seed, aluminium pots, and rope).  I would also recommend swimwear, underwear, long books and a torch. I have many hats, but I don’t often wear one – I don’t stand around in the sun much either.

How little you need is on my mind as I’m packing up ready to move on.  My damp and mouldering possessions are on the floor and on the bed, but not as yet in the heavyweight plastic bin liners that constitute elegant luggage round these parts. Obviously I have laptop, hard drives, leads, adaptors, tripod and camera equipment, as well as an enormous pile of books on pods and Central American history, but I also have silver sandals, a chiffon shirt, a long dress.

The things I haven’t used look at me balefully – not just the still un-transcribed interview tapes, but running shoes and empty Moleskin notebooks, and, particularly, a beautiful, untouched, set of watercolour paints and brushes, a gift from my ma, and the coloured pencils and artist’s pad, from my son. What expectations did I have for my life here? What good things did my family expect of me? These things, unused, are quite a torment. What an extravagant gesture this has been.

People say that possessions possess us; that we are encumbered by what we own. I have abandoned a lot, but now what I have left I’d like to keep.  I’m not sure I have roots, but I have some things that hold memories, and others that represent dreams. I need to find my somewheresville, put everything in it and paint some pictures.  Of course first I have to get everything onto a boat.

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