Thursday, February 26, 2009

Almost There!

We're into the home stretch here. A week from now, we'll be on a plane leaving Frankfurt, Germany for Doha, Qatar. There, we'll change planes and head to Ho Chi Minh City. Each karate or kendo class comes now with a "this is my last (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday) class for two months!" The head karate instructor has set Don the challenge of bringing back video of his doing his latest form in a jungle, on a beach, in a Viet Cong tunnel, or on a rock (the name of the form translates as "crane on a rock"). I don't know about the tunnel, but we should be able to score the other three locales.

Last week, we trekked to Washington, DC through the sleet and got our visas glued and stamped into our passports. We'll also need visas for Cambodia should we end up able to visit Angkor Wat, but all the guide books and websites say that we can get these at the airport when we land as long as we have passport photos and US dollars with us. We all have hostel cards now, and the sons have their International Student ID cards. I think the husband still needs to get the sons their adult scuba diver cards in the event we decide to try to go diving in Vietnam. It's supposed to be easy to exchange their youth cards for adult ones, but we'll see.

This morning, I sprayed two pairs of my pants, one hat, and four pairs of socks with Permethrin, an insect repellent for use on clothing. Tomorrow, I'll do another pair of pants, another hat, another few pairs of socks, and two shirts. With the exception of some time in Cambodia, we won't be in areas that offer an extremely high risk of malaria, but since mosquitos have always seemed to love me, I figured some extra protection couldn't hurt. On the recommendation of the Travel Clinic docs, we're each taking multiple tubes of 33 percent DEET and will be re-applying it often. I may actually get used to the smell by the time we're leaving in April.

A family meeting is on tap for tonight. We need to map out a general itinerary for the Norway leg of the trip so that I can visit our friendly neighborhood travel agent tomorrow and get some Eurail passes. We will definitely spend some days in Oslo, probably at the end of our time there since the husband and I will be flying back from there. We'll definitely spend some time in Trondheim where the husband has multiple cousins who also own a mountain cottage we might be able to visit, weather permitting. There are a few more days to fill up, though, so it's been suggested (yeah, by yours truly) that we take a why-the-hell-not side trip similar to the one that took us to Hyder, Alaska some years ago. Eight or nine hours by train north of Trondheim is Bodo, Norway, which offers among other things the chance to be able to say we've been north of the Arctic Circle. It's not clear that we could take advantage of some of the outdoor activities Bodo offers - glacier hiking, dog sledding, etc. - since April is a very iffy month in terms of it might be like winter or it might be like spring so who knows what we can do when then. But there's a certain attraction to being able to say that we went from the tropics of Southeast Asia to north of the Arctic Circle and, hopefully, didn't suffer too much in the process.

On the home front, we have hired neighborhood kids to walk the family dog, the job I most worried about filling. The dog is almost 13 years old and still loves a good walk almost every day, so making him sit at home for two months would not be a good thing. Some other neighborhood kids will be looking after the lawn and the garbage can that has to be rolled up a hill to the road once a week. I'm working on a list of details for my mother, who will be taking care of the animals, plants, and everything else we hold dear here. I had a friend say that when she and her husband retired and started traveling, she'd be coming to me for advice on what to do to prepare for an extended absence. Right now, my goal is to make the last couple of days here next week as calm and relaxing as possible. Stay tuned to this blog to see if I succeed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Small Rules!

The netbooks have arrived and are, quite frankly, pretty damned sweet. Here's how mine,an Acer Apire One, compares to a standard trade paperback. They're light, too, weighing about 2.5 pounds. They'd be lighter if we had opted for ones with a much smaller solid-state drive, but we got 160GB hard drives to allow for photo storage.

After a short "name Jean's netbook" contest on Facebook, I have christened mine Pinky Tuscadero in homage to Happy Days. I must say that she is quite sweet. I took her to Florida this past weekend and got some curious and envious stares from people in airport terminals sitting there with full-sized netbooks. I think one person thought I was using a portable DVD player until they noticed I was typing. I had no problems with battery life thanks in part to younger son telling me that battery life would be longer if I toggled the wireless switch to the off position.

The closest I can come to a complaint is actually my own doing. I chose a netbook to travel light, and travel is lighter without an external mouse. I've never been a fan of touchpads, but then I've never really tried to use one. I have so far refused to introduce Pinky to a mouse; she's probably stereotypically female enough to be scared of one. It's a bit awkward at times, but I must be adapting because I found myself using the touchpad on Mr. Mac the other day even when he had his external mouse ready, willing, and able to be used.

Totally apart from netbooks, the list of things remaining to be done is getting shorter. The last two bags are ordered, along with another bottle of Permethrin, an insecticide that can be used to treat clothing. A weekend trip to Walmart or the equivalent should yield sunscreen and extra batteries for the one digital camera that doesn't have a permanent, rechargeable battery. I've put Netflix on hold as well as the Gevalia coffee delivery I used to get a new coffeemaker last fall. The gym membership is also on hold; it was handy that the husband and I are gone exactly two months. I've also started weighing various items of clothing. You laugh, I'm sure, but I'm trying to take the lightest amount of clothing possible since it appears we will be fitting 50 t-shirts into our luggage to distribute to the students and faculty at the university there. (It was going to be 75 shirts until I pointed out that the other professor going over take the 25 shirts intended for his students.) And hey! Weighing clothes enable me to say authoritatively that it may well be that your clothes and shoes can add five pounds to your weight.

Other trip points of interest ... I am taking seven books along. Harry Potter y la camera secreta (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Spanish) will go in my carry-on. In the suitcase will go used copies of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ender's Game, and American Gods. The Tolkien books and Ender are from the used bookstore and will be left behind. I also have novels written by a couple of friends on my hard drive. If I still need more to read, there's always Project Gutenberg.

Finally (for this post), we'll be heading to Washington next week to get visas stamped into our passports. We may or may not combine this with a visit to the National Zoo to cehck out the new baby gorilla. We don't all have to go; one person could take up all four passports and the fee. I've argued, though, that just in case there's a signature missing or an "i" that needs dotting or a "t" that needs crossing, we should all go. Murphy's law, ya know!