Thursday, January 30, 2014


Today is one of those driving days where you end up using a lot of windshield washer fluid compared to the distance travelled.

Got an email from D a couple of days ago stating that our garage door opener has been officially declared dead.  (I know what you are thinking -- Could she have possibly found a more boring topic??!!  Uh, wait until you read what I have planned next!)

He called the company I had found earlier and booked an installation appointment.  Oh well, it was going to happen sooner or later.  The new one is supposed to be more powerful and they will do a check on all the other elements of the door track for a cost of about $350.

It has since been installed and it is awesome!  So quiet and smooth as the main track was also replaced and springs cleaned and lubricated.  The fellow apparently laughed out loud when he saw how old and rickety our old one was and even wondered if it was even attached to a stud... (it was)

My 2013 end of year numbers are in and I managed to net within $1200 of D last year.  Can't imagine getting much closer than that.  Our goal has been to be each other's "back up" income wise.  D is within 2 years of finishing off the official bank mortgage -- Sum of his portion of main house, condo and car -- Total outstanding is around 38K.  Unofficially he will require a few more years yet before he is a true 50:50 owner of everything.  It is out of this that my travels for the last few years have been funded with.

Something funny occurred recently.  Back story is that I never did get the email attachment for my tourist visa from Cambodia.  Because I had been checking status of my application online and can print it from there, didn't really think much of it outside of wondering who might have gotten it. 

So the last thing I expected was a pretty over the top birthday email and thank you for using their services exactly on the day of my birthday!  That was hilarious.

When I put in for a cancellation of my intercity flight, I pretty much wrote off the idea of actually receiving a refund, having read the horror stories of people still trying to get money back from all sorts of places ranging from hotels to bus companies.  I am pleased to say my flight refund has shown up on my online credit card statement.

Decided to move ahead with the rabies vaccination after some more reading/digging.  Originally the discussion about pros and cons revolved around rural Vietnam but didn't realize it was potentially a much more significant issue in Cambodia. 

I'm finding that under reporting is frequent as there are just so many more significant challenges and issues there and people from outside the cities never make it in to get treated.  I decided to base my decision on a recent WHO report and what local treatment centers reportedly see.

Getting it doesn't prevent you from having to go to the hospital (treatment is still going to be 2 - 5 shots depending) but will buy you time should you be in the middle of nowhere or should the clinic not be open or the one you find yourself in doesn't have adequate supplies or sanitation....

I won't have time to receive all 3 before I go, so I am playing the odds that nothing untoward shall happen and I'll get my third shot upon my return and be set for Vietnam as well as what the next 2 years or so may hold. 

Just got back from my first rabies shot.  Starting to feel a bit strange.  Didn't have any issues with my 2nd Japanese Encephalitis a couple of weeks ago.  The group before (JE # 1, DKPT, MMR) came with alternating fever, chills and feeling like crap for about 4 days just before Christmas.  Flu and typhoid shots were fine.  Just mild arm soreness and maybe slight fever for a few hours.  With cholera vaccine, maybe a bit of gut wrenching but I slept it off.

After each shot, I've gotten into the habit of keeping really warm as I've noticed my core temperature drops.  Makes sense as you are freaking your body out by exposing it to things that cause it to start fighting.  Building antibodies takes energy and protein so I've been making sure I don't miss any meals those days. 

Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis are the priciest of the bunch so far, at $250 and $200 each and 3 and 2 shots respectively to complete the program.   Ask the pharmacist to check your level of coverage if you are not sure.  They swipe your extended benefits card and can enter it in as if you are buying and let you know before to avoid any surprises. 

Most people this time of year are getting Hep A and B in preparation to go south (Caribbean, Mexico etc.) so you will turn a lot of heads when others hear what you have to pay.  As someone who is not on any prescription drugs, this is as much as I have ever used of my extended drug benefits as an adult.  Oh yeah, I'm also bringing along an Epipen in case of adverse bite reactions.

There was this young couple (so cute!) who are about to get married and was in today for a consult about their honeymoon location -- Overland trip through 2 countries in Africa.  They were oh so excited but came out afterwards looking pretty defeated as they had found out what the recommendations were and the corresponding costs.  I can tell they were overwhelmed and were frantically asking the Pharmacist to check out their coverage as I was leaving. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Moving On

I don't have all the details but the real estate deal for my office building fell through.  We are planning to still move ahead with researching alternatives because sooner or later it will happen.  I'd rather us make a move on our terms and timing. 

The garage door opener got stuck again but D is confident he has figured out what was going on this time.  Our door is heavy because it is made of wood and I feel the opener is underpowered so hopefully it will hang on till the spring because I cannot imagine anyone wanting to do a replacement in our current temperatures. 

Had to take a break from travel preparations as I finally hit a ceiling with all the details I have been trying to absorb.  So the weekend was pleasantly spent tucked away at home due to snow storms.  There are still outstanding news I'm waiting for but I'm slowly learning that seems to be the norm. 

One of the things I've cancelled is my intercity flight after finding out the professionally advertised 5 flights a day don't actually run 80 - 90% of the time.  Not good when someone is expecting to be meeting me bright and early the next morning.  I found that out through scouting the daily departure charts of the airports. 

Road travel is long due to poor conditions.  I'm still trying to get my head around needing over 7 hours to travel 320 km.  It's the same distance from our home to the cottage and we can do it in just over 3 hours on a "good" traffic night. 

Then there is the issue of no mandatory driving licences or education, drunk driving, reports of 40 people dying on one day due to separate traffic accidents etc.  There doesn't seem to be a middle ground with reviews of the various companies.  Either it is awesome (lucky?) or complete disaster or heart attack worthy.  And online booking systems are not reliable. 

I'll have to sort it out once I arrive.  And yes, I have figured out my travel medical insurance...

D's biggest worry (outside of me and my trip) on his trip (we fly out on the same day) is falling in love and wanting us to move to Revelstoke...

Finally, a link to a couple of touching videos...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Regular Life and Mini Travel Updates

How about some far less significant and heavy topics today? 

Well, for us, the first has been our garage door opener.  I thought the motor finally seized a couple of days ago due to the cold weather.   Frankly I wouldn't have been surprised because it looked old when we bought the house 7 years ago and had made a mental note to upgrade it but decided to wait until it died.

Truth of the matter was I was so engrossed back then with all the landscape, fireplace, chimney and appliance improvements, I had no energy for yet another contractor at the house.  Looking back, if we were new owners now, I wouldn't have bothered with as much stuff.  I had spent way more money than was absolutely necessary.

It managed to open so I got my vehicle in, but it wouldn't close so I had to use the emergency pull to disconnect and manually closed  it.  That's after frantically calling D who calmly reminded me what to do.  And no, he didn't need to come home early for this...That if I can handle all the logistics of my next trip, I can handle this no problem...Felt pretty silly, I must admit as I knew what to do!

D braved the cold that night and managed to get it working again.  It wasn't the motor but the chain that somehow slid over a little?  He will need to tighten it a bit more as I noticed it sagging when in operation.  Dodged an expense there.  I had already looked up a company to call.

Second topic relates to my office.  The building was put up for sale in the fall and is in the midst of being sold and all the tenants have been verbally notified by the existing owners as to what the new owners are looking for with respect to rent.  In our case, it will mean just over double.  What we are currently paying is below market rate.

My name isn't on the lease so I've spoken to my colleague who isn't happy about it but because he's a bit of a pushover, doesn't want to negotiate.  So what that will mean is that increase cost will obviously trickle down to me unless I can help it. 

The commercial mls search and assertiveness coaching has started as I've found that the proposed rate is above market.  The timing for the takeover is end of Feb if the deal gets firmed up so we are checking into all the legal stuff too.  As I will be gone most of that month, we need to get a move on now.  Of course I would like an idea of what the next steps will be before I depart.

I believe I am not as stressed about the office news because of my trip planning.  All the work I've done has broadened my stress reaction range.  I'm chuckling at what I just typed because it obviously didn't stop my garage door reaction.  It's the dealing with other people as moving parts that I seem more patient and better with. 

As well as with money.  If my rent does go up (and I'm pretty certain that it will), then I'm confident that what I accept will be because I can and will accept it.  See the difference?  It's still my choice.  I'm not and far from being backed into an impossible corner, like a lot of people I've been reading and learning about.

I'm also at the stage where random Khmer phrases will pop into my head and I'll say it and not immediately (or ever) remember what that means without looking it up.  D's like, "What did you just say???".   My accent's not bad, if I do say so myself.  The problem has been it has been popping up when I ought to be concentrating on other things, like playing my pieces during violin class.  Makes for a far more difficult lesson than it already is.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Warning: Heavy Sunday Viewing

This short documentary is definitely not for the faint of heart nor is the language G - rated.  But it is an eye opening look into the darkness that exists in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia.  There is still a lot to do to protect our vulnerable children and young people.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I'm happy to report I now possess (hopefully valid) travel visas for Cambodia and Vietnam.  I've been reading reports of e-visas not working upon arrival at Phnom Penh airport. 

Don't really want to be in line with the other 200+ people on my flight dealing with it at 11 pm at night after travelling for 30 hours...Will be bringing an extra passport photo just in case. 

Yes, you'll read it can be quite quick but when you consider the volume of people, it might not be (I checked how many flights are regularly scheduled to land in and around that time).  I won't have any checked luggage as usual so I want to move and get to my hotel asap.  So the extra dollars for the e-visa will be worth it if it all works according to plan... ha ha, famous last words...

While I've been putting full time job hours preparing for my next trips, getting my 2nd shot for Japanese Encephalitis, scrambling to change hotels (just found out that one of the ones I am booked at allows sex tourism...)  regular life stuff continues on whether I take notice or not.  I'm grateful D is patient with me while I go through these heavy research cycles.

He sent me a spreadsheet documenting year to year changes in our fixed cost of living expenses and I finally took a look at it because I needed a break from hunting down adequate travel insurance and trying to learn Khmer!

2010: $12923
2011: $13689
2012: $13977
2013: $14105

The above totals reflects the sum of:
  • Main house (hydro, water, heat, phone & Internet, property tax, insurance, car insurance)
  • Cottage (hydro, highway tolls, heat, water heater rental, property tax)
  • Ski Condo (Strata -- Covers all utilities, Internet, property tax, cable -- No longer, insurance)

If I were to use 2013 as the ratio example of  House (2880 sq ft) : Cottage (700 sq ft) : Ski condo/studio (300 sq ft),

I would get this --  $9544 : $2050 : $2510.  Yup, our tiny spot out west costs more than up north, even before flights.

The only amount I would add to his spreadsheet to make it a more complete picture would be gasoline at about $250 a month and maybe food at about $400 a month (budget amount but we currently have over $400 sitting there with a full fridge and freezer).  But we would then be starting to border on all the variable costs in our lives. 

When you start adding things like minimum travel out west to use the ski condo, ski passes etc., I feel it ceases to be helpful as those wants can be eliminated.  That property isn't necessary for basic shelter reasons.  Same with the cottage.  Guess that is one reason why mortgage interest rates are higher for recreation properties because they know it will be the first to get dropped when there is a financial crisis. 

A change this year has been the dropping of our home landline.  I don't use it and we've kept it because D works from home and until recently, he hadn't been able to find a good enough alternative for internet without a landline. 

He decided to switch us to Ooma.  So far so good.  We now have a dry loop for internet as we opted to not go with cable internet.  I believe we pay maybe $3/month in fees.  We used to pay $35/month for a basic landline.  Now we have much faster internet for less with this company.

The upfront costs for the system was about $120 plus a new modem.  I like how you can log in online to check calls, messages etc. and not have to use Skype to call within Canada.  The pain in the behind parts have been coordinating the end of existing phone line, coordinating the service person's arrival after the fact, having some dead time without services (luckily we have the Turbo Hub) and changing phone numbers with companies that had your old number. 

What have I got to complain about?  D took care of everything.  Thank goodness as I have been a bit useless at home lately.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mental Update

I've been overdoing it.  So much for keeping my mental/emotional rpms at the 5K range...  It feels like I only have a week left when I still have about 4.  Ridiculous, I know. 

Due to some new discoveries, my itinerary, which I was so pleased with being "set" a month ago, has had to change, for the better.  Re-doing prior plans take work, waiting, ongoing communication but it will be worth it.  In order to participate in some real immersive opportunities, I've had to go outside my comfort zone and participate in forums and reach out to people with my true identity in a leap of faith.

D isn't thrilled with my trip.  I know he has come close to asking me not to go because of the turmoil in the city, the demonstrations and recent violence.  I've even asked myself a few times why didn't I just join a group and be done with it???

Because I wanted to create a more unique itinerary, that's why.  I didn't want my time there to be mostly spent on seeing sights.  That wasn't the sole purpose.  And in order to see more, learn more and help, you do need to do some work, a lot of work in some cases.  There are literally 1000's of NGOs in Cambodia and sifting through legit and not so legit ones takes time.  I'm still waiting for replies. 

I've not had to expend this much energy on a journey since my very first solo trip to France.  Laughable now, how nervous, excited and apprehensive I was.  But this current one I feel is happening now because I personally needed a certain level of travel experience and maturity to be ready for it.  What I want to see and do presently wasn't even on the radar back then.  Guess I'm a late bloomer that way.

It is going to be phenomenal, not necessarily all in the blow your mind nature sense (I'm sure Angkor will be) but rather in the blow your mind humanity sense (obviously not all positive either).  I haven't felt this proud of what I've been able to piece together in a long time.  Pretty certain there will be a lot of holding back tears and outright crying.  I feel already altered by what I've read up to now and more recently, the bios of the people and organizations I will be privileged enough to get to spend time with.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Night & Day

A recently stumbled upon new to me quote I like very much:

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for. It doesn’t interest me how old you are, I want to know if you are willing to risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. It doesn’t interest me where you live or how rich you are, I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and be sweet to the ones you love. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments of your life.” -Jon Blais

Despite spending the evening of Jan 1, 2014 scrambling for alternate flights home, we started the first day of the new year on a Ferris wheel.  Why not right?

New Year's Eve brought multiple grand fireworks displays over the Mediterranean.  And New Year's day surprised us with the number of shops that opened.  We expected a ghost town but were not going to complain about being able to buy morning pastries from our favourite boulangerie. 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Facades of Nice, Fr

After a 2 year absence (felt like 6),
we arrived in Nice, an old favourite, on Boxing Day. 
Both of us experienced such relief to be back in a place where
we stood a chance of understanding and being understood.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I don't have any particularly in-depth year end reviews to share.  It kind of came and went like most days the only difference being we were in another country.  Guess that might mean the gap between the life I'm living and where I would like to be is getting smaller.

Overall I am pleased with 2013 and how it turned out.  I ended my 3rd year of part time work focused, satisfied and strong.  My health and vitality have been predominantly high.  It was no coincidence I ended up with a cold right at the end of our trips to Munich and Nice when I hadn't been sick all year.

Food plays a much larger role in my immunity than I would have ever thought and I need to respect it or pay the price (don't do even a little bit of sick well), even though it might not seem "fair" that my tolerances can be so slim anymore.  Will tighten things up further the next I return as feeling great outweighs a lot of deliciously tasting things. 

I have 2 main goals for 2014:

To get physically stronger (i.e. number of pull ups etc. I can do) while maintaining my current level of body fat -- 19%.

To stop myself from revving so high mentally and emotionally.  I can function under an incredible level of stress/pressure for hours, days, weeks, months and have done so for years but it isn't healthy.  Force stopping hasn't been my style.  I'm known to be relentless with myself and my pursuits. 

Now that I am paying focused attention, I am finding that it happens multiple times in a day and I don't want it to anymore.  There are no real "fires" anymore and no real need for such ongoing urgent/critical intensity.  Believe it or not, it occurs most when I'm not at work as I'm "attacking" the planning part of the rest of my life (organization of home, health, finances, travel etc.) with too much gusto.

Staying at the 5000 vs 8000+ rpm range makes me feel "lazy" but I'm working on proving to myself I can still be ultra productive without burning my nervous system out.  It just isn't worth it.  I want to live long and be able to continue enjoying the fruits of all this planning.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Jet Lagged Ramblings

Has the makings of a bad song title, don't you think?

We are incredibly grateful to Delta for switching our flights without fee (!) thus avoiding having to spend last night frantically looking for a hotel room from JFK and again today as both flights home had been cancelled due to the impending snow storm. 

Trip interruption insurance would have covered it and our food etc. but if you've ever had a flight cancelled, you know about the pandemonium that occurs shortly after the news gets around.  And this is just one flight.  Many other flights full of people were also in the same boat, all vying for the same things.

I had been keeping an eye on the development of the storm the last couple of days and here is what I would recommend doing should you find yourself in the same situation.  With world weather seemingly getting more erratic and unpredictable, I do expect sooner or later, it will happen to you.

At first sign of an official travel alert, call them!  The process of getting you on a different flight would be easier if you hadn't checked in already.  If you have status with the airline, don't use the general line.  Speak to someone who knows you are loyal.  And if you are using Skype, change the country to your home country and call the 1 800 number from there so that you won't be charged.

We would like to think D would have gotten the same results but neither of us were willing to take the risk.  Remember that you may be competing against the other 400+ people on the plane for limited seats.  In our case, the alert was issued less than 24 hours from our flight.  And this is still holiday time.  And I knew our only options were to connect either via CDG or AMS.

Normally there is a $300 change fee that accompanies a change for an international flight.  When an alert is posted by the airline allowing you to change, they will waive it.  However, there are a myriad of other fees that make up a flight segment as well as a difference in price depending on the class of the flight.  I'm not talking about the broad classes of first, business, economy, but within economy there are a dozen or so classes that determine not only price but the amount of qualification miles and bonuses one earns.  Confused yet?  We are.

So the goal becomes trying to find you the same class of flight segment in order to get a handle on costs.  It is handy to check in advance what flights are selling for.  Because it was so last minute, I was seeing outrageous prices -- 3200 Euro for the one way home.  With credit card in hand and speaking with a second agent (as international flight changes via computer aren't "automatic") I made up my mind how much I'd be willing to pay to avoid the hassle at JFK.  

I don't know who my agent spoke to behind the scenes but to my amazement I got both my flights changed to better, much more expensive segments for free.  The next step was to get D's flight moved.  He booked separately because he paid for it with points.  Again she went away for a while and his change did incur a fee but it was also waived.  I couldn't thank her enough.

She wasn't able to get us confirmed seat numbers as it was too close to the flight time but we saw that we were assigned seats upon check in.  The important thing was that we were on the flight.  There were only 8 seats left on the flight yesterday from Paris to Toronto.