Sorry for the barrage of cheap posts. I spent today home sick and had plenty of time to catch up on some writing.
One thing I have been doing, is working on our plans for this summer. With the help of some travel forums, and ample searches on my favorite airfare search engines, I am starting to flesh out our summer travel and shipping arrangements.
Our current school pays for our return flight to Alaska. We’ll leave Mongolia late on the 19th of July and arrive in Petersburg on the morning of the 21st. Then we’ll frantically go through our belongings to determine what we will ship to India and get that loaded in a shipping container to Seattle. After a couple of weeks in Alaska we’ll head to Seattle to arrange for the shipment on to India. We’ll all visit family in Washington and then NY before our next school shuttles us off to India a month after we have returned to the US. It will be a short and expensive summer. Fortunately, almost all of our travel and moving costs will be reimbursed by the new school (there is a limit to the amount though).
We’re hoping to connect with other new teaching staff that want to ship things to India so we can share a container. We plan on being there for a few years and would really like to make the place feel like home.
You can probably tell that every now and then one of my posts has a paid link in it. It’s true, I’m willing to sell that. Since May 1, 2012, (the last 12 months) I have actually made
$440 $465 (just made another sale) selling links and ads on my site. It it a lot of money? Heck no. But it more than pays for the cost of my web hosting. I recently went back through old posts to remove links that were over a year old. I won’t sell ads for more than a year. I recognize that the ads may be a distraction, but usually all I need to do is incorporate a link into my post. The payment is just a carrot that gets me to write about the topic. I turn down offers that are really restrictive or that I can’t include in my own style. Now I keep track of the links that I sell on a spreadsheet. About once a month I’ll check it for expiring ads to remove.
I get most of my advertisement hits through Sponsored Reviews. The rest come from direct queries through my site.
We love books. Our whole house does. Pepper devours novels. Jordan likes to read for pleasure but also collects books about ancient weaponry and mythological monsters. I like guide books, how-to guides, coffee table books… We definitely prefer the physical books. We seem to collect them. I know I have boxes of them in Alaska and we’re conscious of the weight we have to haul around when we leave Mongolia. Pepper used to plan for one 50 pound bag of just books when she was living in China. Travel for a holiday came with a couple of books for long airport layovers, flights, and down time.
Now, we’ve leaned toward ebooks. Not always. But certainly for travel pleasure reading, they work very well. Pepper has a Kindle and Jordan and I use Kindle apps on Android tablets. We have tried using ebook guidebooks for travel but they just don’t work well for our style of travel. Our travel guides end up flipped through frequently, with business cards, tabs, feathers and other treasures tucked in to mark passages, tips, or sites we want to hit. So we rely on the e-readers for pleasure and still pack around paper guide books.
Fortunately, there are plenty of sources for free ebooks. Amazon provides a few, Archive.org has historical sources, Project Gutenberg was my first source for free books, and now http://ebookuniverse.net/ offers a searchable service for books.
We’re looking forward to getting back to Alaska and going through our book collection to see what we should ship to our new job. Since weight will not be an issue we’ll finally be able to have out library available!
Last weekend we were sent photos of housing in Chennai, India. The school we’ll be working for wanted to know if we wanted this place…
This place has a lot going for it. Four bedrooms, four baths. We have two bedrooms and one bathroom now. A small yard. We have a park outside our apartment here but it is sometimes dirty and has people combing through trash in a pile, sometimes squatting in the park (squatting to use the bathroom even), or burning trash to heat a scavenged lunch. Right now, we have six flights of stairs to climb. This place has an attractive stairwell up to the bedrooms but just one step to get into the house. We have an enclosed porch in Jordan’s room but it is on the shady side of our building. The India house has a rooftop patio. Top this list of improvements from our current housing off with it being just a few hundred yards from the beach and ocean.
Two friends of mine met back in December. Mike, a good friend from middle through high school and Jay, a good friend from Mongolia. They met in Korea during a long Layover Mike had on his trip here. Hearing them talk about their meeting and discussing the few things they had in common – Korea and me – showed me just how much you can change yourself and people’s perception of you.
Our hobbies and interests change over time but by moving to a new place you can reivent yourself. Jay knows me as athletic and someone that likes beer. Mike has never known me to be either. I didn’t participate on any sports teams in high school. I bought my first six-pack of beer when I was 25. Now I coach two varsity sports, work out occasionally, and love to try any beer I have never seen before.
If they had talked about me being crafty I suppose I wouldn’t have been surprised if they found common ground. Yesterday I was remembering my 13th birthday party which involved everyone making their own decorated clipboards. My birthday parties my not be crafty any more but I do like to make stuff still. They could have agreed that I like to travel. Mike was great about writing to me and even sending care packages when I was in Brazil during high school.
With many of my major moves I have been able to reinvent myself a bit. At least externally. Jay seems surprised when I describe myself as introverted. But I think if he had seen me 20 years ago he might agree that, at least then, I was. You can change the clothes that you wear. You can cut your hair. You can work out or let yourself go. But inside we feel like the same person. I don’t feel like I have made a massive personality shift from who I was during high school. But perhaps, if you compared perceptions of me 20 years ago to those of today there would be a big change.
We change where we live, what we do, how we act, what we like, and who we are with yet often feel unchanged.
I am the new me – which is the old me with a few changes.
Last winter, pepper, Jordan and I made a trip to Myanmar with some time in Thailand. Even though it has been about 16 months, I have not written about our experiences. Well, I’m trying to catch up!
Last year, for our three week break we decided to go to Myanmar. That wasn’t so easy. America was, at the time, still putting Myanmar (Burma) in the same category as North Korea, Cuba, and Iran. However, many other “first world” countries didn’t consider it quite so forbidden. Granted, that list of countries also coincides with Coke’s list of countries they didn’t do official business in, we certainly experienced “westerners” there. Weeks after our trip, Hillary Clinton went to Myanmar and tensions between the US and the country were quickly relaxing. In fact, our guidebook, merely 6 months after the publishing date, was so woefully out of date that we really had to readjust our approach to the country. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Back to Thailand.
We arrived in Bangkok, Thailand on December 18th. Pepper and Jordan had both been there a few times, but this was my first trip to the kingdom. Right out of the airport things are different. There are statues and billboards celebrating the King’s birthday. King? Yes, this country loves it’s king. If you go to a movie, be prepared to stand up before the flick starts in recognition of the king. It’s cultural. I had one Thai citizen tell me about how the king encouraged rolling your toothpaste to get the last bit of usable toothpaste out of the tube. My god, if every country had someone in charge that could throw around little tips that improved life for everyone… “turn off the water when you brush your teeth” and “spay and neuter your pets” and “turn off the light when you leave the room”… then the world would certainly be a better place.
We spent a few days in Bangkok. Enough time to apply for a Myanmar visa, pick it up the next day and go and see the major highlights. Then we went to the beach for a few days to celebrate Christmas. Details from that trip will be in a separate post.
Our flight from Mongolia to Beijing was delayed last Wednesday. It was supposed to depart at 11:50 AM but didn’t until nearly 11 hours later, As a result, our players could go to classes instead of going to the airport. They were not too happy. It just so happened that on that day there was a special event for the higher performing seventh graders and the staff member planning to do it was sick. So I stepped in and took them. Bowling.
It was kind of nice because these were some of the best behaved kids in their grade so I had little to worry about other than trying to make sure none of them pummeled me at the game. For 5,000 tugrik you played a game. And the bowling shoes were self-service, which was a perfect photo opportunity.
The Smithsonian and Pew Research Center put together a very quick 13 question quiz that they say you can use to measure if you know more than Americans about science and technology. Naturally, I wouldn’t be suggesting the quiz if I hadn’t aced it…
In the last two years, I have gone through some country’s immigration process over 40 times. I have been fine-tuning my passport handling and have some tips that might make transit easier for you.
- If you travel as a family or in a group where one person handles the passports (on my last trip I had mine and nine students!) then it is very nice to have some external difference so you don’t have to open every passport to see whose it is. I have stickers on the back of mine. our son has a small sticker with his name on it. Some students in the past have had fancy covers but some immigration stations don’t like them.
- Put a couple of sticky flags in the passport. Immigration agents sometimes spend more time flipping through your passport trying to find the visa than they do actually scrutinizing your passport. Speed things up by placing one of the removable tabs on the pages they most likely need to see.
- A pen. Many places require filling out an immigration form for arrival and departure. Often, flight attendants will distribute the forms while on the plane. Keep a pen handy. You may want the boarding pass available as well – they’ll probably want to know your flight number and sometimes even the seat you’re in.
- A binder clip or rubber band. This is nice if you have to carry your departure card at all times with your passport. Many hotels need your passport on check-in and they might drop that card. Some countries have a hefty fine to replace those – others you can just fill out a new one at the airport for free.
- Your emergency and backup kit. Carry with you but not in the same bag. A few spare passport-sized photos. These are necessary for many visa applications. A photocopy of your passport and any critical visa pages for your trip. If you don’t want to carry these around, then at least scan or photograph your passport and those pages and have them uploaded to a secure area you can access or saved in an email to yourself. If your passport is lost or stolen these will really help get going again.