Transitions

I finally bid ‘Namaste’ to Nepal last night and am now stumbling through the hectic streets of Hong Kong. With only 4 hours of airplane-sleep, my brain cells feel scrambled. How bewildering that in just a matter of hours, it’s possible to go from a land of rice paddies and water buffalo to this high-tech riot: traffic, tall buildings, blinking signs, masses of fashionable strangers, and shops crammed with thing-to-buy. It’s no wonder that I feel, well, not quite myself.

Just the other day, my friend Jen was talking about these sorts of transitions. She’d once lived among some Nepali villagers who believed that people were particularly vulnerable during periods of travel. She used the word “liminal” to describe it: stranded between worlds, the identity dissolves, and one is more prone to haunts and worries. For this reason, the villagers approached travel with great trepidation and respect.

Perhaps that is what’s going on then. As I traverse the globe back to the States, I am not only transitioning back into the rote, familiar ways of my country, but also transitioning back into the last phase of the ring project. And here, in the in-between, I have too much time to question everything. I dine alone on Dim Sum and brood about the diamond.

Will people really start making offers? Will these months of effort pay off? I admit I can get discouraged, especially when I check the ring email account, which is filling with more Viagra ads than bids for the ring.

Without a doubt, enthusiasm for the idea has been epic. Friends have been ultra-supportive, and the media have jumped on board as well: The Huffington Post, The Oregonian, Bradt Travel Guides. Two weeks ago, I told stories about the ring on a Toronto radio station via cell phone. Next week, I have an hour-long radio interview on the show Here on Earth: Radio without Borders.

But the bidding remains sluggish. Perhaps this is just the way of auctions, everyone waiting till the last minute?

Amid among the growing pile of spam, there is some hope. Web traffic is flowing at a nice clip. The site seems to have a global audience ranging from Spain to Singapore, to Iceland, and Peru. New York City has made a particularly good showing. Yesterday, 30 people clicked on the actual auction page. So, the while the diamond lovers don’t seem to be bidding, at least they are window-shopping.

I’ve even have had a few serious inquiries via email, and I’m grateful to these people for expressing their eager interest. It makes this project feel suddenly more real, and also helps it seem less theoretical that I really am going to part with this ring.

I’m surprised to find that the more I confront the reality of letting the ring go, the closer I feel to my grandmother. Had I just resigned it to a safe deposit box indeterminately, I’d have probably done something as equally stead and precious with her memory: Preserved it as sort of a locked-away Still Life painting.

But as I contemplate this semi-radical act of selling the ring, my connection with my grandmother seems to come alive again. I reflect more deeply on my relationship with her, what it meant, who I am, and who she was.

And I take comfort in the knowledge that, even without this ring, there are a million ways for me to remember her. Whenever I hear Big Band music, eat a turkey and cheese sandwich, or catch a passing scent of Oil of Olay. Even now, as I wander these busy streets so far from home, it occurs to me that on the travel map she hung in the garage, she had a stick pin right here in Hong Kong. Perhaps she even walked along this same Chantham street right here in Kalwoon.

There is no question that with or without the ring, my grandmother is  part of me. I see her when I look in the mirror or at my passport photo—no doubt I’ve inherited those same smile lines, that same slightly sleepy look into the camera.

But if even these associations are not enough to bring my origins back–if I find my sense-of-self flagging on some Chinese street amid pots of boiling urchins and dried squid and need something more tangible to ground me–there is always the small wedding band, which I plan to keep and wear.

In such precarious transitions, I can always look at it and remember just who I am and where I’m from.

www.committedtotheworld.org

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