Let's start at the ground, shall we, and work our way up.
For starters, there's my feet. If you look at the tops of my feet, they're fine. They're in the same pair of flip flops they've been in since I zipped open my backpack in Bangkok. If I take off the flip flops, you'll see gleaming baby-white skin shining out from the darkest, goldenest brown tan you've ever seen. At least I think it's a tan. My feet might also just be really dirty.
Running deep in my left heel is a pain that seems to never go away; underneath each big toe is a now-rough collapsed blister from trekking in Myanmar and callouses that would make your average pedicurist faint (they're now permanently a part of each big toe). My heels are so rough I could them to exfoliate.
The flip flops, meanwhile, are gasping for their last breath -- the left one has never recovered from my incident in Langkawi running a motorbike into the space between a dumpster and a car and needing to push myself out of inches of deep mud. (I'm hoping it can make it til the journey home.)
Billowing around my legs are a pair of loose cotton harem-style pants I bought outside a temple in Myanmar. I held on to my dignity and refrained from any patterned with elephants -- how gauche! No, mine are just bright magenta and covered with swirls of hearts and flowers and paisleys and suns. It's like an acid trip barfed on itself.
Don't worry, though. My great human experiment to see how long I could go without shaving my legs met its demise in Krabi when I decided I was tired of poor Thai ladies trying to massage my calloused feet recoiling in horror when their hands grazed my hairy gams. I'd taken to calling myself The Blonde Yeti. (Great name for a band, bad name for feeling good about myself.) Still, I should probably whip out a razor again. I was in Krabi a month ago.
Adorning the ankles and calves are the errant mosquito bites and the scratch marks from scrambling up a jungle hillside in Pai. Missing is the classic "Asian tattoo," the oval-shaped scar left behind from accidentally scalding one's calf against a motorbike exhaust pipe. I've been lucky so far. (Here's hoping my luck lasts all the way home.)
Next up, a blue tank top, miraculously still looking OK after months of suspect laundries washing my clothes. Less miraculously, my stomach is still the same round Buddha belly, stubbornly refusing my stringent stints on The Pho Diet and forced marches through the muds of Myanmar. It's just when it's a billion degrees out, ice cream feels better than being skinny tastes.
My arms and shoulders have turned a golden brown. I'm sun-kissed, and somewhat sunburnt, and have probably upped my skin cancer risk by 1,000 over the past few months, despite slathering on sunscream every morning and wearing long-sleeved shirts.
There's my hair, twisted into the same low bun at the nape of my neck, where it has been tied virtually every day since I've arrived to keep my hair off the sweat accumulating on my back. My bangs have grown out and are now pulled back with a bobby pin (dumbest idea ever: getting your bangs trimmed before Southeast Asia). There was a dark time in Malaysia where by some strange combination of shampoo and water, a strange stickiness started to shellack my hair, but thanks to washing with baby shampoo, dish soap (yes, dish soap) and switching shampoos, things seem to have straightened out and I'm back to hair that doesn't look like it's been coated with goo.
But then the face. Oh, my weary face. I have about 5,000 new freckles -- or are they brown spots? A new crop of wrinkles seems to have taken up shop around my eyes and along my forehead. I've stopped looking in mirrors these days. Because then I see my eyes. My haunted, tired eyes. The eyes that have seen it all, and too much of it. Too many temples. Too many grim hotel rooms. Too many cockroaches scuttling across beds and restaurant floors and the noodles in a glass case as a rest stop waiting to be made into someone's soup. Too much countryside flying by the windows of the train. Too many near-misses barreling down the freeways or winding mountain roads in the backseat of a bumpy minivan.
Ah, yes, but it's all been so worth it. The wrinkles, the sunburns, the dirt permanently embedded into the heels of my feet, the stress-raising road journeys, the mosquito bites, the leeches, the blisters, the horrible hostel rooms, the horrible hostel bathrooms.
Quite frankly, all things considered, I think I've fared pretty well.
I'm just really going to need a pedicure.