October 22 – Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City

I’m very tired and my feet are sore. I’m going to spend the evening my my hotel room with a pot noodle and maybe some colouring.

Today was a big walking day. First was a walking tour of Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City provided by our tour guide. It was very, very peoply. I expected lots of people all the time, and understand intellectually that China has a large population, but these things have nothing to do with actually being jostled about in an actual crowd of people. At one point, as people had to go through a narrow gate, there was a river of people and I just had to walk along with the flow. Lucky our guide was just on the other side of the gate with his flag.

However, I have found that at 5’6”, I can stand on my toes at the back of a group who are looking at a particular exhibit and peer over them. Handy.

After a lunch of dumplings, some of my tour mates and I went to Jingshan Park, which is immediately adjacent to the Forbidden City. There’s a hill one might climb (rocky, uneven stairs are provided for your convenience) to get a view of the Forbidden City from high up. I climbed the stairs. I took the picture. Now my legs hurt.

We also visited The White Pagoda, which is in another park. The White Pagoda parks was more beautiful than Jingshan Park. Evidence: when I entered I said “Wow! This is amazing!” Also, there are many weeping willow trees surrounding a lake, so it’s hard to compete. Oh, also, the admission price to get into The White Pagoda park was 5 times the cost of Jingshan (10 yuan vs. 2 yuan) so you know it’s something special.

There were more stairs to get up to the white pagoda. Legs might be sore tomorrow. Does not bode well because tomorrow we’ll be walking THE GREAT WALL.

October 21 – McDonalds on Wangfujing Pedestrian Street

1:15pm

It’s jet lag day and this little McDonald’s hamburger is really satisfying. I’ve been craving one since I saw a McDonalds during my walk this morning. Of course they were only serving breakfast this morning so now I’m back at lunch time.

I was out too early this morning, walking along Wangfujing Street (it’s a pedestrian shopping boulevard – 15 min walk from my hotel) and nothing was open yet. It didn’t matter: I had to bail anyway to go back to the hotel for a lie-down. Jet lag! So tired! Can’t sleep!

Chinese McDonalds! Where the kiosk lets you make your order and sends it to the kitchen before showing you half a dozen forma of payment that you don’t have! Not even an option for cash. Lucky this is a tourist area and the nice girl came up making cash signs and prompted the machine to let me pay that way (like at home, I took my little slip to the cashier). For revenge, I paid with a 100 yuan note. Haha I’m such a tourist. (My order was 26).

There’s like, totally a mall connected to this McDonald’s. I’m going to look at it.

October 17 – Two more sleeps

I left myself many chores to do tonight after work. It is my only free evening this week, so I wanted to dedicate it to my final pack and to finish up tidying my house. I predicted I would get frantic with nervousness doing this, finding the last things to do before my trip. I leave early on Saturday so there won’t be much time for last minute dishes, etc, while I wait to go; but, thusly, I am anxious to be ready to go. I get fussy before a trip, making sure my house will be left clean: recycling out, kitchen counters wiped, bed made. These are things that I don’t care about on a day-to-day basis. But when I’m leaving for a big trip, I like to look around before I leave and know I’ve left things in order. Extra especially, I love coming home to a clean apartment.

Secret: I could have left that sentence as “I love coming home.”

This week my excitement for my trip has turned into anxiousness and a sort of pre-homesickness. It started last Friday when Susan and I were deciding where to meet for dinner. I had suggested something new, but then realized I was craving a familiar location, in anticipation of all the new places I’ll soon be visiting. And all of the situations I would have no such control over.

I wrote in my last post about how much I enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with my family, and that was part of this need for the familiar, or in this case, the hyper-familiar, the very foundation of familiarity. It was hard to leave.

I’m not sure why I’m so pre-homesick this time. I keep reminding myself that three weeks, while a longer trip than I’ve been on for a while, isn’t that long. I wrote as I was leaving for Mexico last year how homesick I felt – so it’s part of the trip, and I know it goes away. I have some ideas of why it hit me early this time:

  1. I’ve been on three airplane trips this year! So fun! But I haven’t had enough time to forget how much waiting and impatience there is to airplane travel. I usually plan trips with more of a gap in between to fully recover. (And to save up money again…. but I’m not thinking about that part right now.)
  2. Travelling somewhere completely foreign all by myself! Scary!
  3. It’s October and I should be getting ready for cold-weather hibernation – I’m leaving a bit later in the month than I usually do. I’m looking around my tidy and cozy house and thinking I would be a better choice to just stay here for three weeks.
  4. The anticipation of not having control over things while being on a tour: most days are planned with sightseeing, accommodation is pre-planned and assigned, restaurants are usually chosen by the guide. These are all things that I am happy to have organized for me, and is why I like to pay to go on a tour! But I live alone and is pretty much do as I like in normal life, so following along takes a little adjustment, even if it does make complete sense and I’m so glad to be traveling this way.
  5. I think too much about things.

I planned to fret and pack and clean tonight, Thursday, because still have one more sleep after this before I go. My plan for Friday night is to relax and be calm.

Truth: I am only ever nervous for a trip until I get on my first form of transportation. Then a little bit just before I meet with the rest of the tour group. Then I’m fine.

***

My List of Thursday Evening Chores

  • Clean bathroom sink and toilet
  • Do dishes
  • Pack few remaining items
  • Water bottle in suitcase or carry-on?
  • Long or short phone charger cord?
  • Have a bath
  • Bump elbow against corner of towel bar
  • Weird arm-wriggly cry-dance of pain
  • Is lower arm paralysis a thing?
  • Cut nails
  • Study peeling blisters on the bottoms of my big toes
  • Bandage new blister on back of right heel
  • Have maccachee for dinner
  • Finish yogurt
  • Write for Puddlelillies.com
  • “Chores”

October 9, 2019 – China in Ten Days

I’m going to China in 10 days. Here are some things.

A) I have to remember how to do blog posts because I haven’t written any for a year. I’ve noticed that if I want the date to show at the top of my post, I have to enter it in the section marked “title” in my template here. I have always resisted using “titles” for my blog posts due to being lazy: e.g. it’s hard to summarize a post into a few words. Also: labels, schmabels. I seem to have done it today with little to no fuss on my part. We’ll see what happens in editing.

B) I am remembering how to blog, and setting it up for people to read even though I may not be able to post anything from China due to their unique internet strategy. I may end up writing some things and then posting later.

*** Note that blog posts, however, are separate from being able to contact Mum to assure her I am safe. I have several methods to to ensure this happens.***

C) I learned today that I can ask to refill my prescriptions early so I have enough for my whole trip. It’s not that I wouldn’t be allowed at all, but the question was whether my insurance would pay. All it took was for my pharmacist to enter a code in their computer, and me signing a wee disclosure and now I am fully stocked and will be able to breathe for the duration of my trip. Speaking of breathing, I forgot to ask about getting a mask in case the pollution in Beijing is a hindrance. I’ll go in and ask about it tomorrow or the next day– I’ve been in around 6 times now asking about travel things. One thing at a time, as I think of them or remember. I know I should have made a list, and made one spectacular visit, but the pharmacy is right across the street from my workplace, and I need things to do on my breaks.

I'm not taking the basket. Also I think you can see my underpants.

Familiar, well-travelled suitcase.

D) I’ve been packed since Saturday. Partly this is because I’ll be in Duncan over Thanksgiving weekend and I wasn’t sure I’d have time to pack next week… but more I love packing and I’m impressed I could even wait that long.

P.S. If you keep reading down my blog you’ll find my Mexico trip from a year ago. I know this isn’t made clear or obvious, but I wasn’t into using descriptive titles as much last year as I am now.

I’m wandering around Antigua today on my last day in Guatemala. I will fly back to Canada tomorrow.

You might think that since I’m walking around an old, beautiful, colonial city like Antigua I might take some photos, but I am bored of photos. I am even bored of looking at the photos I’ve already taken. Instead I am wandering around with my eyes alone, not looking for perfect shots or interesting scenes. Many of these would be similar to the photos I have taken elsewhere on the trip: brightly coloured woven textiles; trees; old buildings. I often take a lot of photos while I’m travelling only to never look at them again, or there will be so many of the same thing (ruins) that I can’t tell them apart. I try to put a small selection here and on Facebook but after that, i just hoard them on my computer.

One difference today is that I am wandering around on my own. My tour is technically over as of today. I could have joined the rest of mu group for cooking or chocolate making classes, bit I chose to wander around a bit instead. This means I got lost! But I learned from my trip to England last year with Susan that google maps is very helpful. I am not lost anymore.

Guacamole and toasties for an early lunch, accompanied by a perfectly adequate soy latte

I fly out of Guatemala City tomorrow at 6:05pm, to Mexico City and then overnight to Vancouver. One of my tour friends is on the same flight to Mexico City, so I anticipate a pleasant time.

Playa day 2 – part 2 – later

I’ve met with my tour group and they’re all pleasant. We all went for dinner. I had tacos. I also had 2 tortilla chips with the teeniest drop of the “hot” dip. Brave: trying things.

Now to bed because we roll out of Playa at 6am to go for breakfast and look at the ruins at Chuchén Itzá.

I’m the only Canadian in the group! Although several travellers have recently visited.

Playa del Carmen Day 2 – Sunday

I had my day planned today: breakfast at the same vegan place, then off for a massage/pedicure. But in the spirit of best laid plans, there was a member of my tour group hanging out at reception. We haven’t all met together as a whole group yet, but we were both studying the notification of where to meet, etc on the reception desk. We went for breakfast, and then checked out Old Navy, before returning to the hotel to see if either of us had to check out before checking back in with the tour. Thankfully, neither of us to move. However, in anticipation of getting a roommate for the duration of the tour, I went bak to my room to tidy the sprawl of my stuff. Manners.

I headed out for a massage/pedicure around noon. I had a 90-minute relaxation massage that smelled so good. I dozed a couple of times. Then I had a pedicure so now my toes are orange.

I’m back at the hotel again. I’d been here just a few minutes when my tour roommate arrived. We both have orange toenail polish so our roommate-ship is obviously meant to be. The whole tour group will meet for the first time this evening.

Now I rest and snack on dried plantains.

Part 1: Going Back to Spain!
I’m on my way to Spain today. And I was on my way yesterday, too, because air travel is messed up with timezones and such. But other than this, I’m “whoo!” off to Spain again.

This trip is labelled “Jerez 2016” in my email folders. Jerez being the city where the flamenco fesival is and where I will be spending 3 weeks taking dance workshops and watching shows and drinking sherry. The 2016 part is to distinguish it from “Jerez 2012” because this is my second trip to the festival and to Spain.

My first trip was amazing, so of course I would want to go back. But also, I set myself a goal the last time. I said to myself, as the trip was ending in 2012, that I would work hard at my flamenco classes back in Vic, and that when I go back to Jerez I would take workshops at the next level (basico classes instead of iniciation). So here I am, and I’m registered for 2 basico classes over the next couple of weeks. So I’ll see how that goes.

Part 2: Airplane Rides
Overnight airplaine rides mess me up. BUT I add another layer of sleepy-time each time I go. When going to Vietnam, I got the good advice from my manager at work to use a face mask and earplugs. When used together, these create a bubble of peaceful sleepy-time. Last trip, on the flight home from Shanghai, my mum had herbal jet lag pills, that conked me right out (shortest 12 hour flight ever!). This time, encouraged by how well I slept last time, I got myself a neck pillow. So the 9 hours from Van to London was pretty quick today (yesterday? It’s all one big long day when you’re travelling somewhere). I didn’t even watch a movie.

Part 3: Present context
On the plane from London to Madrid. One more plane after this to get into Jerez.

I’m listening to Crosby Stills Nash and Young!

OMG I had some food issues. Somehow my full request for a vegan meal wasn’t “logged” properly by the airline. So I got my supper last night, but there was no breakfast this morning. (I’m not vegan, but I’m allergic to dairy, and vegan is a safe choice). The attendant offered me an apple, but I declined because that didn’t seem sufficient. I pulled out my backup granola bar, and one of my travel companions offered up her rice cakes and jam, so that was OK. But then the attendant came back with a big plate of fruit, along with the apple, and an energy bar. (On a real plate with metal utensils – so from first class). She said something along the lines of this being all she could pull together for me. But it was whole tray of food! It was lovely, and I flagged her down later to thank her again.

Today my tour group and I are on a road trip to Siem Riep. The first stop was at a market for bathroom break and I tried deep-fried spider and a squat toilet. Adventurous day.

A twelve-year-old girl speaking perfect English tried to sell me bananas, but we aren’t supposed to buy things from the cute kids so I had to decline, even though she said the money would help her go to school. Who knows where the money would actually go.