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Map our trip…
Oct 11th, 2009 by Kate

A bunch of people have suggested that we post a map on our blog tracking where we’ve been.  We are trying, but in the mean time, for anyone who cares – and  for Troop 190 who I know is out there following us -  here’s where (and how) we’ve traveled so far…

From:

Phoenix, AZ USA                                            by plane to

Dallas, TX USA                                               by plane to

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA                                by car to

Stuart, FL USA                                                by boat to

West End, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas       by car to

Freeport, Bahamas                                           by boat and plane to

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA                                by plane to

Phoenix, AZ USA                                            by plane to

Calgary, Alberta, Canada                                 by car to

Canmore, Alberta, Canada                               by car to

Bamff, Alberta, Canada                                    by car to                                              

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada                          by car to

Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada   by car to

Kamloops, BC, Canada                                   by car to

Jasper, Alberta, Canada                                   by car to

Calgary, Alberta, Canada                                 by plane to

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada   by boat to

Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada           by car to

Sooke, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada by car to

Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island, BC, Can        by car to

Duncan, Vancouver Island, BC Canada            by car to

Parksville, Vancouver Island, BC Canada         by car to

Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Canada            by boat to

Seattle, WA, USA                                            by plane to

Los Angeles, CA, USA                                    by plane to

Narita, Japan                                                    by train to

Nagoya, Japan                                                 by train to

Takayama, Japan                                              by train and bus to

Lake Kawaguchico, Japan                                by train to

Yokohama, Japan                                             by train to

Tokyo, Japan                                                   by train to

Hiroshima, Japan                                              by train and boat to

Miyajima, Island                                               by train to

Kyoto, Japan                                                    by train to

Osaka, Japan                                                   by boat to

Shanghai, China                                                by train to

Suzhou, China                                                  by train to

Beijing, China   …

 Tonight (October 11th), we leave for Xi’an, China on the overnight train, so you can add that too!

Vietnam Visas and Getting the Real Answer
Oct 1st, 2009 by Jeff

One of the visas that we didn’t get in the U.S. that we were going to need before we arrived in country was the Vietnamese visa.  If you fly into Vietnam you can get it done on the internet and pick it up in the airport as you arrive; but since we plan on taking the train into Vietnam from China this doesn’t apply.  Therefore, I planned to get the visas in China while we were there.  Since Vietnam has a consulate in Shanghai and it just happens to be right down the street from our host’s apartment, I planned on venturing out one morning to drop of the paperwork and then going back in two to three days to pick it up.  Once again our best laid plans get derailed by a national holiday.  With the celebration of 60 years of communism to commence on the 1st of October, the Vietnam consulate has decided to take off the 1st through the 11th to celebrate with their consulate host and neighbor.  We were planning on leaving Shanghai on the 5th and not coming back to this area, especially not wanting to leave our passports behind.

 This new visa scheduling predicament led to one of my first lessons in Chinese culture.  Often times you only get the answer to the exact question you ask, so be sure to phrase the questions properly (and if you don’t get the answer you want, ask the question again in a little different manner).  An abbreviated version of my conversation with the Vietnamese consulate is below:

Q: How long will it take to get a Visa?
A: It will take three days.
Q: So if I bring it in today, Sept 28th, I can have it the Oct 2nd (since the 1st is a holiday)?
A: No
Q: What date will it be ready?
A: October 12th.
Q: Can I get it sooner?
A: No, we will be closed?
Q: Do you have an expedite service?
A: Yes.
Q: If I pay expedite, how soon can I have it?
A: With expedite the passport will be ready tomorrow.

Tom Callarman, our host – and a professor at an international business university here -tells me this communication issue is a challenge he often faces in the business world here and it is definitely a frustration for those of us used to a customer service attitude of “we’ll find a way to help you – and will try to anticipate your every need”. (Also, please don’t take this that all the Chinese are not willing to help – many people have been delightful and have gone out of their way to help, but typically in a non-business setting).

Once I found out that I could get the visas overnight, I went forward with my original plan to get visas for Vietnam in Shanghai.  The only new wrinkle was the timing of Vietnamese embassy office hours.  While on the phone I had asked if I could bring in the passports immediately to get the visas and if they would they be open.  I was told that yes they were open.  When I got there at 12:15 they were closed (for a 2 ½ hour lunch 11:30 – 2:00).  I should have asked for their exact hours (see lessons supposed learned above).  In the end however, all went well.  We have visas in hand and are ready to at least get into the next country!

Cheers,

Jeff

Vancouver Island and my expanding interests
Aug 22nd, 2009 by Jeff

Another week in and things are running a little more smoothly. We have been able to set up accommodations with family and couch surfers for the rest of the month. This has taken some of the pressure off the immediate “find a place to stay” scramble we were doing early on. However, Kate and I have been discussing the ease of internet accessibility in Canada, and that it may not last as we move further west in Asia (although it might – since we are planning on staying with couchsurfers who rely on the internet?). I guess well find out soon enough. However it turns out, Kate and I are feeling a little more pressure to get set plans in place for Japan, China, Cambodia and Viet Nam.

I have particularly enjoyed our time in Vancouver Island. Rock climbing with our host Kyle was an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me. I had always wanted to try climbing out in the wilderness on a real mountain (I had done the rock gym once or twice) and it definitely brought a new “edge” to the sport. Although I was strapped in and safe, I still had a very real fear of slipping and falling down the mountain. Also, I was much higher than I had ever been in a gym. On both climbs that I did, I opted to not push too hard and risk any injury (but it would be cool to try again and summit the section of mountain I was climbing). However, overall I was very happy with my performance and would definitely like to pursue this more (Jeff and Chloe – we should get together and do this in AZ when Tess and I get back in town).

Today we spent the day in Duncan. This is about 50 miles north of Victoria. The town has a quaint little city center and we went to the farmers markets (some things just won’t change with Kate – I am sure farmer’s markets will be on the “things to do” wherever we are). The market was very nice and I did get an awesome smoked venison sausage. (I also had some great smoked elk earlier in the week in Victoria). After the market we went on tour of the totem poles in the town. The local indigenous people have had totems in the culture for hundreds of years. It was very interesting to see the different forms and be told the reasons for totems: as a family ‘coat of arms’, as a method of story telling, as a memorial or burial tribute, in addition to a decoration for the homes. Seeing all this great art made me wonder what I’d use in a design for a Wells family totem? I think an eagle would need to be there somewhere, with Pappy as a pilot for American Airlines and my degree in Aerospace Engineering. The other stuff is still under consideration. I may sketch something out on this grand tour of ours.

We also spent some time today at a Raptor Sanctuary. I’ve always enjoyed seeing these birds of prey in the wild and this was a very up close look at them. The center does daily flying (off tether) demonstrations and we were in very close proximity to the birds; only a few feet away. One of the owls in the show was hand reared and allowed the trainer to manipulate his head and body to show us up close all the interesting things that make these birds so special. It was quite informative and educational (schooling points for Kate and I – woohoo). Falconry has always been something I have had an interest in and this experience definitely piqued my curiosity – this is another thing I will need to learn more about.

As far as the Network Administrator stuff goes – things seemed to have ironed out for the most part (knock on wood) no more major computer glitches (although the wireless seems to be a little finicky – my latest research seems to indicate it is just the nature of the Eee 1000HE network adaptor). I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Cheers,

Jeff

My new position and the required mental shift
Aug 16th, 2009 by Jeff

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd I’m off !  (work, home chores, and the standard 9-5 thing)., and the Round the World (RTW) adventure has begun.

So to begin my blogging let me say that I really feel blessed to be doing this at all.  I really have a great life.  I have a beautiful, intelligent, and extremely well organized (and driven) wife; I have two great kids  (ditto the adjectives from my wife above – excluding the well organized part (their working on it))that are willing to go along with this adventure without any real fuss; Kate and I were working at and are now on Sabbatical from two great companies that were willing to let us take time for this odyssey; our families and friends have all stepped up to do what they can in support of this trip; and countless other things have just fallen into place.  Overall we couldn’t have asked for a better start.

As to more specifics on these first two weeks things have gone pretty smoothly.  However, I now find myself in the advanced network administrator position, which has become a little frustrating.   Our new netbook had a ‘serious error” shutdown at our first stop in Calgary and I ended up installing new BIOS and drivers, once I got connected to the internet.  I also decided to get an additional backup to our computer I could carry with us in case of a complete computer meltdown.  With the couchsurfing, hotels, and alternate living plans, along with our plane, train, and car rental as we go – it is pretty important that we can get internet connections.  I still have not resolved the issues completely, as we have problems with some wireless connections for no good reason I can determine.  The sucky thing is I hate to spend all my time researching computer issues when there is so much to see and do.

The above discussion leads to a new topic, balance in our travels.  By balance in our travels I mean, how do Kate and I balance travel, sightseeing and exploring our new surroundings with the kids and  life maintenance.  Although it seems we are on one giant vacation, we really aren’t (in the pure sense of the word).  We still need to manage grocery shopping (we are trying to cook in as much as possible), doing laundry (do to our limited clothing), getting in schooling for the kids, and planning our next stop (securing lodging and travel plans), and paying the bills.  In a normal vacation this is all set and done ahead of time or unnecessary.  Kate and I are taking a lot of time trying to get this stuff all organized and although it is required, it is hard to get out of the “we are on vacation” mindset, because everything like this we’ve ever done in the past has been a vacation.   I know we have only been at this two weeks, so I hope this part gets a little easier.

With regards to the adventure itself, so far it has been great.  We seen some spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies, stayed with great couchsurfing hosts, and spotted a few exciting  animals (I refer you to the critter count).  We just arrived in Vancouver two nights ago and the city is a nice really cool.  We’ve explored a great market yesterday and plan on checking out Stanley Park (on bikes) today.

Thanks all for following along with us and keep the comments coming.

 Cheers,

Jeff

The epic ninja battle-
Jun 27th, 2009 by Tessa

So, at the bidding of the list-, I was dragged to the doctors office- where my mom tells me I have to get shots…..

I have a personal fear of shots starting at an early age. Since I was a strep throat  carrier (meaning ”it” had made a permanant *settlement*  inside my throat) I had to get antibiotic shots (which are very, very painful…).

Ever since then, I have become horrified at the thought of getting a shot. I sat in the doctors office reminding myself that if I ever wanted to complete my ninja training (which might also involve pointy objects and/or swords) I would have to get over my fear of shots -_-……

My mom turned to me and said, “so would you like to get your bribery now our afterwards?”

I have a bribery I thought to myself this changes everything!

“Can I see what it is???” Phoebe asked, jumping up and down (she didn’t  get anything). “Did they have a pair for a bunny?” She asked. I knew what it was now- a pair of cat ears. (for those of you who don’t know- I’ve spent half of my child hood wearing cat ears in public- until they broke….)

I took the shots. And I know my mom tried really hard to find them, but they aren’t the best cat ears in the world…….. My head is too big (there for little kids- so the ears stick up on my head like black deformed bunny ears.)

But the thought was nice ^_^

now we all have all of our shots for the trip…..

psycho mom and her 60 lists
Jun 26th, 2009 by Tessa

My mom and dad have been planning this trip for over a year now (planning-planning like researching) and they have been quite good about it until a week ago. That was when my mom made THE LIST!  this list consists of a notebook worth of things that we have to do/get. There are 50 different lists in this notebook and I can’t say that we have everything we’d want to bring in the whole wide world (or around the whole wide world) on the list, but it is pretty accurate. The only complicated part is understanding the maze of words scribbled across the paper (like why we need this or if we have already picked up that).

 

My mom is totally obsessed with this list. You can’t escape from it- you can’t avoid it!

Where in the world…
Jun 23rd, 2009 by Kate

So where are we going… well we have a basic game plan, but it is SERIOUSLY up for grabs once we hit the road.  We recognize this is ambitious, but we fully intend on stopping to smell the roses (or sit on the beach) often and for days on end.  Also, we don’t intend to see all of any country, just some highlights… 

  • July- Bahamas
  • August – Canada (British Columbia)
  • September – Japan
  • October – China
  • November – Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines
  • December – Australia
  • January – New Zealand
  • February – Singapore, Thailand, India
  • March – India, UAE, Egypt
  • April – Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey
  • May – Greece, Croatia, Italy
  • June – France, Spain
  • July – Morocco, back to Spain, Bahamas, home
One week countdown…
Jun 21st, 2009 by Kate

Tess, Phoebe and I leave one week from today for the Bahamas… Jeff will hang back in AZ until the end of July to wrap up work.  The girls and I will come back to AZ for a few days to meet up with him, change out our backpacks, and by August 1st expect to leap off the world as we know it…

What am I doing the week before we leave for a year:

  • Prepping to carry my 50lb backpacks by lifting boxes filled with all our household “treasures”
  • Contemplating my one pair of very ugly-but-practical new traveling shoes.  But seriously, I am sneaking in a second pair.  I’m thinking something shiny and gold – they would go with everything!  Shhh… don’t tell Jeff.  
  • Ran 19 errands on my day off – yes 19!  I have 44 more to go before I leave next week – ha!
  • NOT crying when I say “see you next year”
  • Obsessively internet searching for Aveda saloons around the world so I can be blonde forever – I know isn’t that pathetic.
  • Scanning, scanning and more scanning – “homeschooling” with no books presents an assortment of challenges
  • Yes – got the last of our shots – typhoid don’t scare me!
  • Sweating out the days that our passports are in the hands of the Chinese embassy while they issue us our visas – but feeling SO much better about the possibility of them ever taking over our country as they can’t even seem to figure out the US mail.
  • daydreaming about our upcoming adventure and alternating between shear excitement and shear terror…
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