Jul 16, 2006

KETCHIKAN, Alaska – I cough myself awake on the MV Columbia. I haven't kicked the cold I acquired in Zimbabwe last week. Sleeping on deck isn't helping, but I refuse to wuss into a cabin.

No one said travel writing would be easy. But in the glittering, greedy city of Hong Kong, I sipped gin-and-tonics at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, and danced until dawn in a scarlet bob wig and pink aviator glasses despite my capitalist guilt. I refused a Bedouin sheik's proposal –  to become wife number two – while veiled in a Jordanian desert camp.

Last month I watched jackass penguins nesting in the dunes near Cape Town, South Africa. Next month I'll see puffins at Europe's northernmost point, Honningsvåg, Norway. The dots connect in nearly a straight line: one degree of longitude, over 105 of latitude.

And all so, so far from the pea silage and mudflat sleech of Samish Island, my childhood home.

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