Happy St. Patrick’s Day… soon

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I am sitting in Malaysia.   Kuala Lumpur.  In a mall.  Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  I found a bar with Guinness.   There is bowling in the back of the bar.   I don’t have time to bowl because I leave for the airport in an hour.  

Last year I had four cans of Guinness which I consumed one of on Christmas,  New Year’s eve,  my birthday and St. Pat’s day.

An hour ago I was savoring a burger.  Whole wheat bun.  Spicy chipotle sauce with cheese,  bacon and even pepperoni.   If you have easy access to a good burger and good beer then you probably take it for granted.  I am savoring this.

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I am in Kuala Lumpur for a conference

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The hotel that our school is using for the conference I am attending is quite close to the Petronas Towers.   I caught the train and metro to within a few blocks of the hotel and on the walk we passed by the towers that were the world’s tallest building ten years ago.

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The flight I chose out of Chennai departed at just after midnight and we arrived at almost 7 local time.   I managed about an hour of sleep and already am running on fumes from the late night I had from completing report cards and then early morning for track practice.  

Do I sound like I am complaining about being tired?  Don’t worry.   I found a place to lie down while my room is prepared.

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It isn’t cool enough to warrant wearing jeans poolside but I am not in the sun and now that I am not dragging my luggage around I am not in danger of sweating through my clothes.  

We have four days of training here and I will arrive back in Chennai late on Sunday.   I brought a bag big enough to haul some Cheetos back for Jordan.

Why Use a VPN for Travel?

Having spent a fair bit of time in countries with restrictions about the websites you can visit, I thought this information could be beneficial…

Traveling is an adventure, but there are times that many travelers wonder how they are going to make it being away from the home that they love. This is especially true when travelers discover that their mobile device or laptop is not going to allow them to connect to their beloved social media sites or the sites that they are interested in. Many countries have banned certain websites from being seen, and no matter who you are, when you are in that country, you have to abide by their rules.

This does mean that several travelers are looking for a way to avoid having to be restricted on what they view online. After all, many people prefer to sit in their hotel room, connect to the free Wi-Fi and watch a movie via Netflix. But, if you are in a restricted country due to geo-location, you will be subjected to whatever is being shown on television locally. There is an easy way for travelers to ensure that no matter where they travel, they can access their websites and social media sites via a laptop or mobile device with ease. This is a Virtual Private Network.

What is a Virtual Private Network?

A Virtual Private Network or VPN, allows a traveler to connect to a server that will then give them a new IP address, allowing them to access the sites that may be censored or geo-restricted. You simply choose which server and IP address to utilize in order to get access to the sites you want. These VPN providers have a vast network of servers that are located throughout the world, so that no matter where a traveler may be, they can have access to this network.

Best VPN’s for Traveling

When you are traveling, you will find that you take your VPN with you, wherever you go. With this being said, the following VPN’s are considered to be some of the best in the world, and will be a perfect choice for when you travel.

1. HideMyAss

This VPN is often considered one of the best vpn for travel in the world, due to the sheer size of the network. HideMyAss or HMA offers servers in 161 countries, with 803 servers. This enables people to choose from 107,453 IP addresses. In addition, this network can be used with two devices simultaneously, perfect if you are traveling with someone else. The best news, HMA offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so you are taking no risk in trying this for yourself.

2. IPVanish

Though IPVanish is a bit smaller than HMA, that does not mean that this is not a great choice for those who travel. The VPN has more than 150 servers that are available in over 60 countries, and are always adding more servers as the company progresses. They offer over 14,000 IP addresses for those who are a member to their service.

3. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is a smaller company than the previous two, but they are expected to grow in no time, providing outstanding service. Currently, the provider has over 2,300 servers available in 13 countries. Their service can be used on any mobile or desktop device, and they accept a variety of payment methods.

If you travel, but still want to ensure that you have the luxuries of Internet as you would at home, then a VPN is the only way to succeed in this endeavor. Whether you are traveling for vacation, for business or for personal use, a VPN can be an amazing investment.

An evening of music and food

Plenty of our evenings involve food.  Often enough at a nice home with plenty of people around.  That’s sort of part of this expat life at times.  But on January 31st, we were invited by friends to go to a concert at a home.  Five different musicians played on the piano (many of the pieces had two pianists simultaneously), trumpet, trombone, and saxophone.  Links below go to performances of the pieces we heard.  (Though of other people performing them.)

It was a nice concert followed by French food and wine.  To spend the night with friends, meeting new people and enjoying live music was really pleasant.  All things that we should try to do more often.

Our fruit and vegetable shopping for the week

 

Here is a photo of the two grocery bags of produce that we bought on Sunday.

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From top left, watermelon, pineapple, cucumbers, mint, grapes, cilantro.  Middle starting left, dragon fruit, sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, strawberries.  Bottom from left, green peppers, apples and oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, and little potatoes.

Our total cost for this haul was 872 rupees, or about $14.  The most expensive thing were the apples at about $2.60 for four (162 rupees) because we picked the Washington apples.  The dragon fruit was almost as expensive (by weight) at $1.20 (74 rupees).  The strawberries cost just $1.20 for the package — not too bad.

The least expensive items really make me reconsider any thoughts of gardening here.  That bundle of mint cost almost 7 cents and the two bundles of cilantro came to 20 cents.  The five cucumbers cost nearly 30 cents.

It’s Tuesday night and we’re already out of bananas (that pile cost us 83 cents).  The watermelon turned out to be overripe (what a waste of 90 cents).  The dragon fruit and pineapple ($1) are also gone – devoured in our fruit salads.

It was the ability to fill our refrigerator with produce that helped convince us to choose to live and work in Chennai.  I should have taken a picture of the $14 cut of “beef” that feeds the whole family.  Maybe next time!

Oh the places I’ve been – on my birthday

I somehow manage to be “away” for my birthday.  I turned 16 in Brazil.  Then in 2009 I flew from Peru and Ecuador (and had a horrible day).  In 2010 I was flying to China.  I was home in Alaska in 2011, and I stayed in my temporary home in Mongolia for my birthday in 2012.  2013 I was in my new home in India.  For my 41st birthday I’m in Nepal for a boy’s soccer tournament.  Our games on my birthday were not very good, but I hope they pick things up — they are much more capable than they showed.

My new bike – Novara Ponderosa 29er

For Father’s Day of last year, Pepper bought this bike from another teacher.  He bought it new and brought it to Chennai when he moved here in 2012.  Because of the craziness of the traffic and roads here it just sat in his home for the past few years.  For a number of reasons, we didn’t pick it up until earlier this week.Novara Ponderosa 29er

 

He’s tall, so the frame is a bit too large for me.  It is supposed to fit people that are 6′ to 6’3″.  The wheels are 29 inches instead of the 26″ that most mountain bikes I’m used to riding come with.  The tires are a nice hybrid that are good for the not-so-perfect streets.  The front fork has a lockout on the handlebar so I can lock or unlock the fork while riding.  The saddle and grips are comfortable, the Shimano components are slick (note the disc brakes) and my only dislike are the pedals that came with the bike though I think I will get used to them.

I’ve been riding it on the streets around our home which have little traffic but are torn up because of utility work.  Jacob likes to ride around on weekend evenings just before the sun goes down and the temperatures are a little cooler.  Earlier today I took it for my first ride outside of these backstreets.  I rode out to the ECR and down the street for some veggies.  I need a helmet and a bike lock and probably should get flashing lights if I every ride at dusk.

Having spent quite a bit of my life riding bikes it is great to have one again.  Thank you to my family for the wonderful gift!

In related news, I took the training wheels off of Jacob’s bike just an hour ago and he already rode down the street.  He has trouble starting but after he gets going he balances, turns and stops well.  He got the bike just one month ago!

Re:Start in Christchurch, New Zealand

In mid-February of last year I was in Christchurch for a few days.  We had an afternoon available to stomp around and came across a pedestrian street where all of the shops were converted shipping containers.  Since many of the downtown buildings were damaged in the earthquake a few years ago and had to be demolished, using containers as a quick building was smart.

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I have found out since visiting that the project is called Re:Start Container Mall on Cashel Street.  I would highly suggest anyone looking for a feel of the real Christchurch to wander through.  Even if you’re not doing any shopping it is great to see the vibrant side of the city.

Mike V. the recipient of the oldest active friendship award

I recall telling someone in the sixth grade cafeteria that some girl in our class liked Mike.  The person I was talking to said something like “Duh, all girls like Mike.”  That was in about 1986.  How is it that he still is (usually) single?  Probably because he loves me so much and all the ladies get jealous.

We were often partners for skits at campfires in the summertime.  I bet we could play off each other today just as well as we did then.

Aside from many weeks spent in the same tent during camping trips and summer camps, Mike and I also shared a locker in HS.  Well, it was his locker.  Mine was on the outskirts and best used for winter coats.

Mike sent me care packages and letters often while I was in Brazil in 10th grade.  He sent me books that I devoured in my thirst for English.  We can still both quote a book about sharks that I read twenty five years ago.

Mike moved to Colorado for college.  I eventually ventured to Alaska.  We each visited the other a few times over those years.  I was lucky enough to be Mike’s furthest west friend for a while and the person he would call while he laid out on the lawn of his home late at night recovering from his broken back.  I think it was during one call that I had to cut off because my girlfriend’s dog showed up at the sliding glass door with porcupine quills buried deep in her nose.

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Mike visited Mongolia and we went to China, Sri Lanka and Thailand together.  I have no doubt that he’ll visit me in India some time.  I spent time with him a few summers ago in Boston.  He’s another of the friends that I have that we seem to be able to reconnect immediately regardless of how long we’ve spent apart.

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He’n not usually been so bearded, but he’s one of my brilliant friends that I’m always seeking to connect with when we’re in the same hemisphere.

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Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.