Monday, September 6, 2010

That's No Bull. Wait... Yes it is!

Hong Kong is an island city, and not all of the islands are crazy-full of human inhabitants, so Kyle and I took a train and bus to Lan Tau island for a hike yesterday. It was absolutely beautiful.

View of Lan Tau from our hiking trail

While hiking, we encountered a bull on the trail. At first we were really nervous, since bull behavior isn't really our area of expertise, and let's face it, a bull can do some serious damage to a person if it wants to. But just as we were about to turn tail and hustle outta there, the bull saw some yummy grass off the trail and meandered off into the woods. Phew.

Or so we thought. Later on, we encountered another bull (I wish people didn't just let their bulls roam around, but this was fairly common in S.E. Asia and it probably will be in India too). This bull was headed straight for us, and at a pretty good clip. It didn't look like it was angry or anything, but we still turned and ran as fast we could anyway, until we found ourselves a nice high rock to perch on. We sat there and watched as the bull rambled past, vowing to find out the best thing to do in a bull encounter when we got to the internet.

View of bull passing us from our perch

Well, having arrived at the internet, I couldn't really find any good information about what to do. Our CS host's brother told us to just walk right by it no problem, but other people report having been chased out of fields by bulls baring their horns aggressively. I guess we'll just stick to our run and hide method, since it worked last time.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lessons in Packing for Long-term Travel

As we started to prepare for the next leg of our journey (China>Nepal>India), we took another look at the most fundamental element of long-distance travel: our packs. When we first left, I posted our packing list so that anyone who was interested in the mind-numbing details of backpacking could have a reference for their own travels. As it turns out, that post was a hugely helpful reference for me. When we pulled out our packs and started to make a new list, I just pulled up that blog and used it again. We've made a few changes to our inventory which I will detail here (beware of intimidating length):

2 Backpacks; a his (Osprey Atmos 50), and a hers (Osprey Aura 50). We choose relatively small backpacks when we first left, and that proved to be one of the smartest choices we made. While other people were lugging around backpacks almost as tall as they were, we were keeping it spry with our little 50 liters. Neither of us have ever filled it completely. Like the old travel adage goes, "Take half the stuff, twice the money that you think you need." Sage advice.

The next big consideration is always clothing. We're trying to maximize use while minimizing volume. This is where we made the most changes from our old list. I learned that while a cotton sundress that can be worn different 16 ways sounds good, it can be really culturally inappropriate. Kyle learned that he can find more shorts on the road if he needs them. Another big change we made is the addition of compression stuff-sacks. Last time we used mesh-lingerie bags, which worked just fine for the amount of clothing we needed for a tropical climate. This year, we had to bring more clothes due to more weather variation, so we added the stuff sacks to create more space in the packs. They work great.

After doing some fairly thorough research about weather patterns in the places we're going at the time of year we're going there, we settled on the following line-up:

This is everything

3 cute but modest t-shirts
1 sweat-wicking tech tee
1 lightweight zip-up cotton hoodie
1 mid-weight zip-up fleece
1 set long underwear (these 3 cool-weather pieces are new additions)
1 super-lightweight rain coat (much more practical than the umbrellas we took last time)
2 pairs knee-length cotton capris
1 pair cargo pants with ankle ties
2 cotton bras
5 pairs of fast-drying backpacking underwear (fast-drying is key, since I often wash them by hand in guesthouse sinks)
3 pairs athletic socks
4 pairs ballerina-style socks
1 nude cami
1 bathing suit
1 sunhat
1 pair ballerina-style crocs (very useful since they go from the guesthouse shower straight to the street)
1 pair Merrell trail shoes

4 dark-colored t-shirts
1 sweat-wicking tech tee
1 lightweight long-sleeved shirt
1 lightweight fleece
1 set long underwear
1 lightweight raincoat
2 pairs of cargo pants (one of which easily becomes shorts)
1 pair of shorts
1 bathing suit
4 pairs of athletic socks
5 pairs of fast-drying backpacking underwear
1 pair of Merrell Sight Hemp shoes
1 pair flip-flops (for showers)

My list is quite a bit longer than Kyle's, but it still takes up less space. Ah the joys of being small.

The next big changes to our catalogue come in the technology section. Last time we opted not to take our laptop, but this time we're bringing it. It's not really necessary, but it's a huge convenience and we have the space for it. We were also generously gifted a kindle by Kyle's mom, which will save us a lot of space on books. It used to be that we carried about 2 guide books at a time (1 for the country we're in, and 1 to trade for the country we're going to) in addition to 2 or 3 reading books. We have a lot of time to read. Since we can't both read the kindle at once, we'll still have 1 extra reading book, but the other 4 books can be condensed into a small little device. Really awesome.

1 Macbook and charger
1 incase protective laptop case (thanks Mike and Julia)
1 iPod classic with protective case and charger
2 pairs ear buds
1 splitter (so we can both listen at the same time)
1 travel-sized iPod speakers (acquired in Thailand)
1 Kindle and charger
1 (new!!) camera and charger
1 Gorilla tripod
1 camera cord (for the laptop)
1 iCharge solar charger (awesome, can be used for everything but the laptop)
1 battery charger
9 rechargeable AAA batteries.

Odds and Ends:
1 notebook and pens
1 reusable shopping bag
2 raincovers for the packs
1 waterproof stuff sack (new!)
2 headlamps
1 Leatherman multi-tool (This was really useful)
1 small pocketknife
1 universal sink stopper (TAKE THIS. It's super-useful, but easy not to think of)
1 mini sewing kit
20 ft. 3 mm cord (multi-purpose clothesline)
2 s-hook carabiners
1 king-sized sheet sewn into a sleep sack (Down to 1 from 2. This makes sleeping on dirty guesthouse beds bearable. Thanks again mom)
1 sarong (which basically serves as a sheet for when we're on buses and trains)
1 box water-proof matches (last time we took 4. What were we thinking? No lighter this time either)
2 bottles water-cleaning tablets
2 travel forks
2 travel spoons
1 x-bowl (Yes, we did use this stuff. I was wondering if we would)
credit and ATM cards
international driver's licenses
money belts
family photos (these are great "conversation" starters. People are often curious about where we come from, and since we don't speak 20 languages, we can't always explain.)
1 daypack
2 pack towels (Don't get the ultra-soft. They don't dry as quickly and they always smell musty.)
1 wine bottle opener

1 container baking soda (for shampoo. Works really well!)
1 bottle apple cider vinegar (for conditioner. Works even better!)
1 bottle body lotion
1 bottle homemade mosquito repellent
1 bottle facial moisturizer
1 bottle facial cleanser
1 bar of soap
1 tube of toothpaste
2 toothbrushes
1 thing of floss
1 set contact lenses and cleaner
back-up pair of glasses (learned this one the hard way)
1 pair nail clippers
1 pair of tweezers
1 keeper
10 tubes Burt's bees chapstick (we're loyal)
1 bottle of non-toxic sunscreen
4 month supply of birth control
1 wide-toothed comb
1 bag hair accessories (ties, clips, bobby pins, u-pin, headband)
1 small bag of earrings and a necklace
1 battery-powered beard trimmer

First-aid kit:
1 thermometer (very useful for determining severity of inevitable food poisoning)
1 tube neosporin
assorted bad-aids
anti-malaria meds
anti-biotics (for above-mentioned inevitable food poisoning. Literally a life-saver if you're in a rural area)
anti-diarrheal tablets
anti-histamine tablets
Pepto Bismol tablets
ibuprofen tablets
1 ace bandage

Music package:
1 7/8 sized classical guitar and soft case
1 mini digital recorder
extra packs of nylon strings (much more durable than steel, especially on the beach)
1 capo
1 slide
1 pitch pipe
15 CDs (for sale!)

Still no jeans.

See? You can see our heads. Trust me, that's impressive.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gettin' my Qi Flowed

Our current couch surfing host, Sean, is a real nice guy, and he is also a trained practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. I had told him about the chronic pain in my right wrist (insert lame masturbation joke here), and when we started asking a bunch of questions about acupuncture he offered to give me a quick session.

First he asked me a few questions and examined my wrist. He would squeeze different spots and ask, "Does this hurt?" Once he found the right spots, he got the needles out. It didn't hurt when he stuck them in, in fact I barely felt it at all. But then he started twisting and wiggling them and I immediately felt my qi flowing.

When he tweaked the needles I could really feel it.

Qi (like the "chee" in "cheese") feels like a weak electric current. The coolest thing is that you can really feel it flowing from one needle to the other. At first it's really strong. It hurts and it makes you squirm. Towards the end of the 20 minute session, though, I started to get used to it and it felt oddly good. My wrist feels a bit better today, but Sean said it would take about three months of continued treatment for the treatment to have its full effect.

The qi was flowing from the wrist needle to the hand needle

According to Sean, acupuncture works like this: since your body views the needles as foreign objects, they stimulate your natural immune response. Either way, I'm convinced and I've already found an acupuncturist in Columbus, Ohio who accepts most major insurance.