T-minus 1 Day

January 7, 2007

Basically, I spent the whole day packing, doing last-minute shopping at the 100 yen store, and getting myself organized.

I realized today that I haven’t yet disclosed my itinerary, so here it is:

Tomorrow arrive Bangkok (and get out ASAP)
2 weeks in Central and Northern Thailand
2 weeks in Laos
1 month in Vietnam
2 weeks in Cambodia
2 weeks in Thailand’s Southern islands
1 month in Malaysia and Singapore

Beyond that, I don’t know our detailed itinerary. We’ll go where the wind takes us. Although we’d like to think of ourselves as intrepid travelers exploring the unknown wilds of Indochine, we’re basically heading along a very standard route, sticking to major cities and tourist attractions. For those prone to worrying (you know who you are), relax. We’ll be surrounded by other backpackers, always within a day of an internet cafe, and thanks to my paranoia, we won’t do anything too dangerous.

See you on the “other side.”

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Bought a Pack!

December 31, 2006

Back from the long hiatus that was my month in Miami.

So, who ever thought I’d have a hard time finding a bag in Miami? It seems every mall in the county carries either Louis Vuitton, Coach, or Marc Jacobs, but I couldn’t find a backback to save my life. No amount of Googling produced an outdoor store in Miami. There’s Outdoor World in Hallandale, but that caters mostly to the hunting and fishing crowd.

I figured I’d have better luck in Japan so yesterday, I went to the local outdoor shop and bought an Osprey Aura 35.
Osprey Aura 35

It’s advertised as a 35 liter, but the Small size is really 32 liters. For a 4-month escapade, this is a really small pack. One thing that I noticed on my previous trips to SEA is that people have HUGE backpacks. But this bag is the exact size of my torso; it doesn’t tower over my head, nor does it plunge below my butt. It will be easy to carry. But, me, Girl of Much Junk, the pack-rat, will have to survive for 4 months on 3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and no eyeshadow whatsoever.

I chose this pack because, of all those that I tried on, it was the most comfortable. The hip belt cushioned exactly what it needed to cushion, it has a breathable mesh back so that I won’t die of sweat, and the straps didn’t dig in to my armpits, which I know would drive me nuts. Other features that I liked: a zippered panel. This is like your standard-variety, third-grade bookbag, that zips open nearly 100%. Most backpacker packs are top-loading (read: if you need something at the bottom you have to fish your arm in blindly for it or dump everything out.) Not good for the perpetually disorganzied.

The Aura 35 is also light and small. It could make it with no problem into an overhead bin and could (probably) fit on my lap during a bus ride.

The biggest problem? It’s size. Okay, maybe some people could survive for 4 months on the bare essentials. Maybe I could be one of those people. But, some people can also go 4 months without every setting foot in a store or shopping mall. I am definitely not one of those people. The temptation to shop will be great. And yes, I could always ship it home. But this could mean many, many trips to the post office.

I’m doing a trial packing-run today and will see how much room is left over once I get all of my essentials in.

But this dilemna is so me, for I ask you, how can an object’s best and worst feature be the very same thing? When will I ever make up my mind?

Immunizations

November 25, 2006

A confession: I mistrust doctors in Japan. It’s nothing against them personally – most have been nice. But, they’re rushed and, in my opinion, unthorough and prescription-happy. Example: I once had an earache and, without even looking in my ear, a doctor prescribed me antibiotics. Another example: I’ve been charged 3000 yen ($25) for an “examination” where the doctor came out into the waiting area, asked me if I felt better, and then told the receptionist to give me a refill of XYZ medicine, in front of all of the other patients no less.

Nevertheless, these doctors have been kind, at least. I’d managed to avoid the ones with God-complexes, the ones who make proclamations and expect them to go unquestioned, the ones who think themselves all-knowing and me one step up from an ameoba.

I’ve been lucky, but not lucky enough. Today, I got my rabies immunization from the director of the Sakabe International Clinic in Kyoto, and it was not pleasent.

The shot didn’t hurt at all. The guy is skilled. But, he’s a jerk.

Background information: a rabies vaccine is given in a multiple-part series, depending on the standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion (American) or World Health Organization (International.) A full rabies vaccine takes about a month to complete and does not give full immunity, but rather buys you more time after you’ve been bit by a rabid animal. Once bitten, you still need more shots, but not as many and not as urgently. Still with me?

Good. On the other hand, in Japan, a rabies vaccine is a 3-shot series administrered over 6 months to a year – the first shot at 0 days, the next shot at 4 weeks, and the next shot at 6-12 months. In a previous appointment, the doctor said I could take the first 2 shots and save the 3rd for after my return from SE Asia.

And this is when it got ugly.

I broke the first rule of the Japanese medical system: don’t ask questions. I doubted the venerable sensei and hurt his wittle feewings. The conversation went something like:

Me: Japan administers the shots differently from America so I just wanted to know-
Him: Who said America’s system is any good?
Me: Yes, that’s true. But I just wanted confirm one thing. In other places, you get the full vaccine series before travel. But, since I won’t have time for that, what happens if I get bitten without getting the last shot?
Him: You need to receive immediate treatment if you’re bitten by a rabid animal.
Me: Yes, of course. (Thinking: duh)
Him: So what else do you want to know?
Me: What I’m asking is: is treatment the same if I haven’t gotten the whole series?
Him: (getting annoyed) You just need to get treatment if you’ve come into contact with a rabid animal.
Me: I understand. But what kind of treatment?
Him: (very annoyed by now) It’s the same treatment as if you’ve had all of the shots. Getting all 3 shots doesn’t mean you’ll have 100% immunity anyway. Is that it?

I had done some reading on the internet and his explanation resembled the information that I had read. Okay, I felt comfortable with his explanation now (if a bit peeved with the ‘tude) and I was ready to get my shot. I opted only for rabies because I plan on getting Hepatits A and Tetanus in America with the doctor I’ve been seeing since I was a kid and who is also a good friend. My doctor in America doesn’t have access to the rabbies vaccine, that’s why I’m getting it in Japan. So. While I’m waiting after my shot, another doctor who’s overheard this altercation comes in, looks at my chart, and asks my doctor: “What’s all the commotion here?”

Doc #1: She doesn’t trust the Japanese medical system. She wants to get the Hep A and Tetanus vaccines in America.
Doc #2: Well, if she doesn’t trust the Japanese system, why doesn’t she just get all of her immunizations in America?
Me: :?
Doc #2: You should just get Hepatits A and B in Japan. America’s no good. Too expensive.
Me: >:(

Perhaps I shouldn’t have even mentioned the word “America.” The “America” part wasn’t even important. I just wanted to know if I would go rabid without the whole %#@!*ing vaccine series.

If you want to trash-talk me, by all means, go ahead. Just not when I’m a paying customer who’s still in the room, thanks. The guy was a jerk. He didn’t listen, he kept interrupting my boyfriend when he tried to ask a question, and he just sat there the whole time with a look of disdain on his face.

After everything was over, I left his office without a “Thank you” or “Excuse me.” Apparently, it’s a capital offence to leave a sensei’s office without saying one or both. On the way out, the receptionist apologized: “He talks like that to all of the patients.” Really? Sad, seeing as how the waiting room was packed.

Thank God I’m getting parts 2 and 3 in Nagoya. Two more times in that man’s office might turn me rabid, vaccine or no.

Moving

November 21, 2006

I hate moving.

I hate the cleaning, the organizing, the throwing away. I hate making decisions, and that’s all that moving is: an endless chain of decisions.

Do I keep the aromatherapy oils?
How do I throw this respectable yet unsaleable bookcase away?
In the garbage or in the suitcase?
Etcetera, etcetera.

I have t-minus one week left in Kyoto and I should be mourning. But, I don’t have time. My house looks like the Revenge of Hurricane Katrina. Yesterday, we threw away 6 enormous garbage bags filled with absolutely pointless stuff. Wicker baskets that held our remote control collection, bowls unused for the entire two years we lived here, unworn clothes. What amazes me is not so much the sheer volume of things that I own, but rather the sheer volume of unused things that I own.

I met up with a friend the other night. When I told her about my moving woes, she told me that she used to have this ring from Mexico that she loved. One day, she lost it. She searched frantically, but couldn’t find it. Several days later, she found it discombobulated in the middle of the street. My friend realized from that episode that no matter how “important” your stuff may seem, an object is only just that, and in the end there’s always the chance it will be crushed under the tire of a car.

All of the shopping that I did. And for what? A thrift store is buying our things – a sofa, a desk, a chair, a phone/fax machine, several cabinets and closets, mirrors – for 2600 yen (in ‘Mericanese, about $20.) We’ll have to pay the City of Kyoto 3000 yen to throw away a perfectly usable bookcase. Not fair.

In researching my upcoming travels to South East Asia, all of the backpacking websites universally recommend one thing: travel light. How right they are.

(So says the girl who’s taking home two overstuffed suitcases and two overstuffed carry-ons – the very maximum that Northwest Airlines will allow me, and nothing less.)