When I was four, our family joined the Peace Corps and moved to the Fiji Islands for two tours of duty. My father taught chemistry at the University of the South Pacific and my mom did biological illustrations for various departments and other clients. In between tours, we took an extensive trip to Peru and other countries. After the second tour, our parents took my sister Elizabeth and me on an amazing adventure: about six months traveling the world before returning to the United States. We traveled from Fiji to, among others, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and then places like Kenya and Egypt and parts of Europe. We stayed in hostels, hotels, motels. We traveled by plane, train, bus, and car. We saw trance dances and shadow puppets in Indonesia. I was bitten by a monkey in the Calcutta zoo and ate American-style pancakes in Kathmandu.
In short, it was an eye-opening experience–the kind of thing that led to me becoming a writer, and especially a fantasy writer. As Jay Lake and I have discussed, it seems there is a certain kind of writer who tries to reconcile a childhood of moving from place to place by writing fantasy–a way of combining elements of all the places visited or lived in. (And also because, frankly, if you’re exposed to the world in its entirety as a kid, it’s a strange and fantastical place.)
Perhaps as importantly, when you travel a lot overseas, you lose your ties with your extended family even as you gain exposure to many cultures and people. My parents took photographs the entire time my sister and I were growing up–both in Pennsylvania and overseas. They’re in the form of slides, which I’ve only just this week–thanks to Ann buying me a slide converter–gotten around to beginning to convert into digital form. In many cases, these slides are my only memory of early events in my life. Sometimes they are my own memory of family members. At times, I am unsure whether I actually remember something or I am just remembering the photograph of it.
Over the next few months, I’ve decided to digitize all of these slides and to share some of them on this blog. For someone with no fixed sense of place, no fixed sense of family (until I encountered Ann’s wonderful extended family), this has become very important to me. I can’t promise anything profound, but you’ll always have the option to just skip the post. But I want to start getting a few things down on paper, to fix my memories in a kind of record. For now, here are a few photos from my initial scans, with a couple of comments. Again, thanks for your patience with this indulgence–and apologies for the poor quality of these initial photographs. I’m still learning how to operate the scanner.