Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I'm Going To Puerto Vallarta!

My mom has decided to not come visit me in Vancouver this year, due to the high cost of flight tickets since the downfall of Jetsgo. Instead, she has decided to to meet me in sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This way, she gets to take a real vacation, and I'm not complaining! I've never been to PV and I'm really excited to go. It's a really nice region with lots of great places and small towns to visit. And I will finally get to see the Guadeloupe Church. We're not sure yet as to where we will be staying, but we should be doing two hotels I think. We're flying out on June 3rd and since my mom is staying in PV for 2 weeks, I'll be flying back on the 11th which means tat I'll be staying down there 10 days. That's the longest I've ever spent South... or actually, anywhere outside this country. Pretty great!

This vacation will be a nice prelude to the heat I will experience on my next vacation, which starts just under 2 months after my week in Mexico. In all, in 2005 I will have visited the following countries (in order):

Aruba, Mexico, Japan, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

That's not too shabby!

Monday, April 25, 2005

No Ticket Yet...

I stopped by STA today to pick up my one-way ticket to Japan and China. They'd never called me in to let me know that it had arrived and so I decided to go check things out. Really, I wasn't surprised by not getting a call from the travel agency, because that's just how things have been since I started this whole thing. But for once, I had not been called not because I was forgotten but because there was nothing to call me about. My plane ticket was not in. In fact, after a phone call, I found out that it was sitting on some girl's desk. Good thing I dropped by.

An other downside: I will get a paper ticket instead of an e-ticket. So, I can't lose this baby! But at least I will only have to hold on to it until China. Which is not too bad.

And yet another downside: I've found out that I may very well not be able to buy my return ticket before I leave. On top of all of the expected issues that come with this, I will have a really hard time trying to get a visa for China, Laos and Vietnam without an ongoing ticket. So, I may have to purchase a very expensive fully refundable ticket for my visa applications.

What next?

My Travel Shopping - Packing List

This list is in no particular order and contains pretty much everything that I think I might need. Items in bold have already been purchased/taken care of. If anyone sees something overly useless in my list, or find that something very important is missing, please let me know! It’s really difficult to figure out what you might, and might not need for the next 8 months, and not go overboard. Any help and insight will be much appreciated!

Please note that this list will be constantly updated as new items are purchased, added or removed.

I need to buy:

Sowing kit, medical/first aid kit, duct tape, tensor bandage(s), anti-fungus cream, Tiger Balm, Tylenols, Pepto Bysmol, Gravol, laxative, numerous sunscreens, sunburn relief, cream to help foot cracks, insect repellent, antihistamine, digital camera (ideally with a spectacular macro and a great optical zoom), waterproof bag, Ziploc bags, diary, pens, cheap sunglasses, prescription glasses, rain/wind jacket and/or umbrella, yeast infection medicine, water purification tablets/pristine, water purification pump ($80), re-hydration packs, alarm clock, cheap watch ($20), snowboard/backpack lock, zipper travel locks, maps (China ($14), SE Asia, Australia), multiple guidebooks (Japan ($40), Beijing, SE Asia, Australia), language guides ($39.73), matches, soap - body and laundry, utility knife, dental floss, dry fast towel ($18), fake wedding ring, scotch tape, mask for anti-airborne agents, ear drops for salt water infections, ear plugs, hand sanitizer, day pack with bladder ($55), good sandals ($115), shoes, light and smart travel clothing, reading material, regular and camera batteries, extra memory card for camera, travel clothesline, sink stopper for hotel sinks, antibiotic cream, motion sickness medicine, vitamins, personal hygiene items, hair brush, toothbrush and paste, bathing suits, backpack (specially made for women Vaude 60L at special discount price of $185 thanks to Europe Bound), backpack rain cover, hat/scarf, head lamp (Coghlan’s Lead Head, free thanks to my mom), Canadian flag patch (free, thanks to Europe Bound), Nalgene bottle ($11), deodorant, make up, mirror, shampoo/conditioner, lip balm, money belt (about $12), electrical converter or adapter, razor, inflatable neck pillow, bandages, sarong, mosquito net, hostel sheet, locks.

I need to get or organise:

Anti-Malarial medication, Hepatitis A shot ($40), Yellow Fever shots, passport, 12 or more passport pictures, travel/life/health insurance ($397, STA full package of travel insurance), Visas (for China ($50), Laos and Vietnam ($79 + $36 shipping)), list of emergency numbers and contact information, address book, plane tickets (one-way to Beijing with stop over in Tokyo on JAL, $963.95 with STA - one-way return on Pacific Airline with stop over in Fiji, $1010 with STA), health documentation, first few nights hotel reservation, travelers checks, credit cards (Visa and MC), USD and Yen currency, copies of important documents and personal identification, list of accounts and copies of documentation to leave at home for family, an internationally accepted debit card.

Total cost so far: $3166

Fulfilling a life-long dream and breaking my own boundaries: priceless.

Now… how am I supposed to fit all of this in my backpack? And if it does fit, how do I keep it from weighting no more than 25 pounds?

Sorry About The Wait!

We have finally received our new Dell computer, which is tiny and amazing. No more computer problems, no more overcrowded desk. It's wonderful! But a new computer means packing away the old one, and setting up the new. It means installing new programs and transferring files. And that takes time! So I'm sorry that I haven't updated. I'm sure that my 2 or 3 readers will forgive me!

And now that the computer is up and running, I should be able to finally upload pictures on flickr and get some interesting stuff on here.

Talking about here... my blog looks completely different on my new screen! It's really weird what difference it does. On my new resolution you can hardly see the different colours and reading the text gets to be not so easy. So I'm sorry about that too. Maybe I'll fix it, but probably not, since it looks fine on most people's screen.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I've Bought A Ticket!

It’s official, I am now really going on this crazy vacation that I’ve planned. With days left to spare before the 100 days left countdown would start, I purchased a one-way ticket that turned my dream into reality.

I went back to SAT to purchase my tickets on Thursday. I looked around for other quotes but no one beats their price. As well, I really liked Greg and wanted to give him the sale. David met me at the agency and I was happy that he was there. That’s a huge purchase!

I was really nervous and excited until I learned 2 things:

  1. I had misunderstood Greg when he gave me the return quote. While I though that the ticket was available, it wasn’t available right now because the airline had not released anything for that far ahead. I really wanted to buy both going and return flights at the same time. I really didn’t want to have to wait some more before that chapter could be finalised.
  2. The cost of the flight ticket on JAL went up by about $78. It isn’t that much money and the ticket was still what everyone else was offering (maybe even a tad cheaper) but I would have liked my total cost to be lower. Now, with the return flight and taxes and everything, my ticket cost might go over $2000. I really liked the idea of paying less than 2k for my tickets!
Regardless, I bought the ticket. I also bought the complete travel insurance package that includes trip cancellation, trip interruption, life insurance, health insurance and other useful travel-related stuff. The cost of that was a little high but it’s really worth it. I’d rather be covered too much than to not be covered enough.

At the end of the day, I still made the biggest purchase of my life. I was not excited as I wanted to be and I was really disappointed about that. And I did not leave STA with a ticket in-hand, only a receipt. But at least I am now really going on vacation. The adventure had really started. And that’s a scary, amazing thing!

Pink Snow

Vancouver has had its second round at cherry blossoms and now it has started to rain pink petals. I love watching petals falling, and being swept away by the wind. I think that this is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. It really does behave like snow. Also, petals accumulate in corners just a snow does, but I think that this is much prettier. Everything is now pink: the trees, the streets, cars, grass, gust of wind… this is one of the best times of the year. With all of the rain and grey weather that we’ve been having this spring, all of the pink around really keeps the weather from getting too depressing.

Final Leg Of Ticket Shopping

For 4 months now, I’ve been shopping for a plane ticket and no one has really been able to help me. Everyone thought that my itinerary it was impossible, ridiculous or whatever. I had to offer different routes, leave out flights and destinations, and still, not one person came out with anything clever or even with anything on their own. All I received were the same quotes over and over again, and even numerous agencies quoted me on tickets that did not have the proper contract length. That was, until now.

I went into STA Travel on Monday and spoke to the branch manager, Greg Coram. Earlier in the year, I had visited that same office once and had spoken to a girl who refused to help me because what I wanted was impossible to get. Great attitude! Still, I decided to try my luck a second time and this time, to my surprise, I was helped by someone who really knew what he was talking about.

I told him my ideal itinerary and flight pattern. Before I could start explaining what other had quoted me on and for which flight pattern, he stopped me and said the most beautiful thing I’ve heard so far:
"If that’s what you want, than that’s what you’re going to get".
I couldn’t believe it. And then, he went on to suggest a totally different approach to my needs: combining tickets together instead of trying to fit everything on the same airline ticket. I had asked about this but everyone else avoided it. But now, thanks to him, I could fly where I wanted, when I wanted it, without having to fly back to the airline’s main city in-between each flights. Thank God! I was really excited and thrilled to finally have something decent to look at. As well, he told me that Pacific Airline offer free stopover in Fiji, as that’s their city. I had to contain myself, but come on! Fiji! It’s always been my dream to go there! That’s paradise! On the other hand, I was afraid that the freedom was going to cost me…

In the end, the package was as such: Japan Airline to Beijing with a month-long stop in Tokyo, and a return ticket on Pacific Airlines from Sydney to Vancouver with a 5-day stop in Fiji, all for less than the sole ticket I had been quoted on that included Australia. I couldn’t ask for anything better. All I would have to buy later is the Singapore to Darwin flight, which should be around $300. And even with this extra ticket, the cost was still less than that ticket I had been quoted on with Quantas.

Still, I didn’t buy the tickets right away. I wanted to think about it some more and shop around a little to compare prices. It seems like it’s only logical to do so when you’re about to do the biggest purchase of your life! Although, I’m pretty sure that I’ll buy the tickets from Greg. I just hope that the prices don’t go up before I buy the tickets…

I can’t explain how excited I was when I got home. I smiled the entire way back home. I was jumping up and down when I got home, screaming "I’m going to Fiji! Fiji!". This was the happiest, most excited that I’ve been since I’ve started to plan this vacation. I stayed happy, excited and I continued to say "Fiji" until I was lying in bed over 5 hours later. David must have thought that I had gone insane.


You will be my 11th and last country in my travels.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Regarding My Last Post

After some reflection there’s something that I wanted to clarify with regards to my last post. In it I said that I found sites that had codes that I liked and that I stole them to improve my website. I realise that that sounded pretty bad and that it might get a few people angry.

What I really meant to say was that I searched the web for features that I liked and read the source code of that page. I look up codes to see where the codes go and understand how I can use the concept to better my site. I do not grab the codes and paste them as such in my template. I see what I can do and modify them to fit what I want. Really, I’m reading codes to learn codes, and better understand CSS.

As you can see I did find how to change the width of my columns. Unfortunately this took a lot of research, as well as plenty of trial and error. I read a few CSS guides and they didn’t help… I searched for sites but found nothing. Finally I found my answer under an unrelated post in the Blogger Forum. It was really satisfying to have done all of that work and have it work in the end. I was really proud that I managed to figure it out, even though it was really easy and probably didn’t warrant all of the effort that went into it. But now I can post larger images without messing up the right column!

In case this interests somebody, here's where you edit the column and page size:

/* Content----------------------------------------------- */
#content { width:860px; margin:0 auto; padding:0; text-align:left; }
#main { width:610px; float:left; }
#sidebar { width:220px; float:right; }

In the process of figuring out margins and such, I also learned more about blockquotes and had some fun changing mine. There’s still one or two things that I’d like to do to improve them but I’m quite happy with the result. You can view my new blockquote in action in my Vegas post. To do it I combined codes I learned from this CSS tutorial and from Francey's website. She has amazing templates for Blogger - or any other blog site for that matter - and I strongly recommend that you visit her site if you’re interested in making your blog beautiful and unique.

Last night through all of my searching I also discovered Mandarin Design, a site that specializes in both HTML and CSS codes to beautify your website or blog. It’s an incredible resource centre for anyone who wants cool effects without putting up the effort. It really makes you understand just how simple CSS can be, and what wonderful effects you can get from it.

I still have a few things that I'd like to do to my site to make it more unique. That's why I’m happy that I’m getting better with CSS. I’m happy that I’m learning to play with it. Maybe one day I’ll be just as good as the people on Zen Garden! I doubt it, but it’s nice to dream…

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I Call It As I See It

Ok, Blogger is great and everything, but sometimes it just really gets on my nerves. So I'll just get it out of my system and then I'll move on, I swear!
  1. The help files on Blogger are pretty sucky. They tell you that you can do pretty much everything you want in Blogger, which is wonderful. But they never tell you how! It's always something along the lines of "google it". More often than not, it's not that easy. Everything that I've done to my blog (which isn't much yet, I know), I did by finding another blog that had what I liked and looking up that page's code. Stealing codes is fun and everything, but sometimes it get annoying. And finding a site that has what you are looking can take a long time. This is why I'd appreciate somewhat more friendly help files! I know that there must be something out there that has all of the codes I could ever need, but I can't find it. If you know about such a place, please let me know! Right now I'd like to widden my colums and change my title to an image. If someone out there knows the easy way to do that, please help me out! I'd love to avoid hours of trial an error.
  2. Blogger also sucks on an entire other level that has nothing to do with Blogger itself, but with the people who use it. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I will say this: put an end to all of the freaking link farms! Jumping site to site can get very irritating when nearly 1/3 of all sites are about mortgages, car repair, Mexico vacations etc and are cleary not posts but the same post with link pointing to their main site over an over again. Has nobody ever told these people that link farms never work, asside from getting you banned in search engines? I also strongly dislike pop-ups, forced downloads and anything else that just doesn't belong in a blog.

I know that I'm not the only one that feels this way out there!

That's all that I had to say.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Oh Boy!

So I did the big mistake of installing SP2 on the computer and experienced hell... and hence lost a good part of my Friday evening trying to bring the computer back from the edge. We have decided to buy a Dell computer, hoping that it will be of much better quality and less filled with useless adware that HP seems to adore. Well, it will be a much better computer because it's just a much better system and all. I meant that we're hoping it will be better at not pissing me off! As well, we are indulging in a flat panel monitor. This way, the computer screen can fit on the desk properly and we'll be able to sit straight for once! Viva!

Today the seawall is closed and so I have to change my walk to be around Lost Lagoon instead. It should still be a good amount of km, just not 20km as I have done the past two weeks. I won't mind walking a little less!

I'll also stop to a couple travel agencies and try to score a good deal on my flight ticket. I have 110 days left until I leave, or 16 weeks. I'd like to have my plane ticket this week, so that I can start to focus of buying the equipment and such. I will post a list vrey soon of evreything that I need to buy/bring... you will see the insanity!

P.S. Why is blogger being so annoying lately???

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Hurray For The Internet!

Thanks to Victor, I have just found out about Google Maps and I'm totally amazed. It was about time that technology got there! When I was younger, movies set in the "future" used to show that kind of technology. The amount of time it must have taken to take all of the pictures must be insane. But it's so amazing! The effort was quite worth it. You can also see all of the different pictures placed together to form North America, and it's very impressive. That's one major puzzle! I browsed Canada on the map and saw a very beautiful country. I'm lucky to be living here.

Here are a few neet shots taken off the map, showing different facets of Canada. Please do click on the images to really admire their splendor:

Somewhere around Ontario/Prairies. Please do click on the image to admire all of the frames to form this picture.

Somewhere around northern BC/Yukon-ish.

white and green
Somewhere around northern BC/Yukon-ish.

And now for the downside of the technology... this is very Big Brother like! Here is a picture of my building. I guess that the only good thing is that it points to the wrong building! After a few try at different address I found that it almost always points at the wrong spot.

picture of home

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Miracles And Vacation Stuff

Yesterday was quite a wonderful surprise. Somehow, the home computer decided to actually start working again! A true miracle. Now, the internet works as it should. I was able to update yesterday, and I'm posting right now! I can surf, have multiple windows... everything! It's so nice. Really. It's beautiful.

Vancouver right now is at the prime of the second round of cherry blossoms. When I look out of my window at work, all I see is pink. It's been colder and wetter as well, making for beautiful mountains covered in snow. It's so pretty! So perfect! Vancouver never fails at being easy on the eyes.

I deposited my paycheck this week and I was kinda bummed (but excited, really) that my savings now total $4471. That's so close to $4500! I has $20 in my wallet and I though, even if I deposit it, I still won't get the magic number. But walking home, I found a $10 bill, sitting in the middle of the street right in from of our apartment building. What are the chances! It was so lucky. So today I deposited my $30 and I have now reached that beautiful number... and I placed a copy of the receipt of the fridge. I'm so proud of myself!

But in a way, I'm also disappointed. I know that might sound crazy. And this is for sure the most amount of money I've ever had to my name. But I still have to purchase my plane ticket and a ton of equipment, which will lower my savings considerably. Even if I didn't have to buy all of that, I still don't have enough time left to save the extra $3500 that I want to save for my vacation. Hopefully, I'll get pretty close and I won't have to touch my credit line too much...

Talking about my plane ticket, since March is now over apparently I am now able to start shopping for it again. It seems like this part/process has been taking much too long and frankly I can't wait to have my ticket in-hand. But now I have the cash and the credit card, so I'll make it happen. I'll turn it around! And I'll let you know when it happens.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Vegas Update

Surprisingly I enjoyed this Vegas trip a lot more than the last one. The weather was warm, sunny and beautiful, not at all cold and windy as it was in January. This time, it was truly t-shirt weather. In fact, I think that many people took the concept of nice weather a little too far and decided that it was tank top, short skirt, flip-flops and hotel pool weather… and perhaps it was, taking into account the array of sunburns I witnessed.

Something that I did not greatly witness this time around was girls in wedding dresses. I only saw one and a half, and I saw half because although she was wearing white, I’m not sure if it was what I’d call a wedding dress. But I guess that if it’s white, it works in Vegas. I also have a hunch that people here rent not only tuxedos (although I did not see one guy wearing one), but wedding dresses. In case of emergency and tight cash flow, why not? Anything is possible in Vegas after all.

I think what made things nicer aside from the weather was the location, the nicer hotels, the wonderful room I had on the 31st floor and the good food we ate. I also finally managed to see a couple of the free shows such as the Mirage's Volcano, so that makes it more of a real Vegas experience. I guess Vegas grew on me this time… although I still can’t get used to people drinking everywhere, on the street, in their cab… everywhere! And there’s so many people! And so much smoke!

But enough about that. The tradeshow went quite well and it being two days instead of three made a huge difference. I did not feel as tired, as much in pain, as bored. It went quite nicely and smoothly, and mostly every aspects. But I will note my top moment at the show, along with my worst memory. Just for kicks.

The major downer was our neighbors in the booth directly in front of us. They sold maps, and they were odd. They both acted in a manner that was off putting, and one of the two seemed to love to put his foot in his mouth. On top of it all, he looked like he spent the night on the casino floor as opposed to in his bed. We’ll call him Bob. He asked if my tattoo was of a volcano and pointed out that his wife and him are volcano obsessed. Please! Don’t blame your looking at my ass on your wife. He also played with a mouse pad obsessively for two days. Makes for a good presentation! The other one is the boss, and is blessed with the shiniest bald spot at the top of his head that I’ve ever seen. We’ll call him Baldy. Bob and Baldy’s annoying behavior was mostly based on their constant, irritating use of “catchy” sales pitches to attract people walking down our isle to their booth. The thing is, they both always used their respective lines and never changed them over the course of the two days, regardless of the fact that it was not working, except at scaring people away. Here are the catchy phrases we had to endure over and over again, until I was ready to scream:

Do you have accounts in multiple locations? [if the passer by said no, then the reply was] Then what kind of customer do you have?

Don’t forget about maps! [this was always matched with an angled pointing finger]

Everybody loves maps! [or, this could be met with a] Don’t you love maps?

Maps make great premiums. [ok, really? How so? Answer:] People don’t throw away maps. [and/or] Maps go on the wall, not on the floor.
Wow! Thanks, boys!

The upside of this show was my pit stop at the American Apparel booth. They have the best, and biggest clothing-related booth I’ve seen at all of the three show I’ve done. They are also blessed with good looking, young staff that transcend everything else at those shows. Regardless, I stopped at the booth to check out their line. A sanity brake! While I was looking through the racks this super hot, scruffy looking guy approaches me and asks if I know about their company. Of course I do! It’s only the best clothing manufacturer there is. So, of course I say yes. While I keep looking, he suggests that I look through the prototype rack and I casually ask if the retail locations carry their entire collection. The thing is, and this is very important at a tradeshow, he was talking to be while knowing that I was not a buyer. Exhibitors get yellow passes, buyers get red or purple. You talk to the reds and purples, not the yellow. The yellow doesn’t get the freebies either. We’re not worth the effort! But he kept talking and being nice, and well, that made me the whole thing even better. In a way, I know that he has to be nice to everyone. On the other hand, I was happy to pretend that he was being nice to me because he liked me… and he was very hot… Anyhow, while I was making me way through to the last rack, he came up to me and handed me two purple wristbands, saying that he got something for me. Now I’m thinking that I’m yellow and that he must really think that I’m special. So this handsome guy looks at me and says:
I think wristbands are cool. Do you think that they’re cool?
And I manage to say yes, weak at the knees and no knowing how to interpret this. At that moment, he could have said that ground-up kittens were cool and I would have agreed.

For the remainder of the show, I’d only walk to and from my booth past their booth. For the remainder of the show, my bossed called him my boyfriend. And while pulling down the booth at the end of the show, I found an American Apparel catalog. And in it I found, yes, you’ve guessed it, my handsome guy.

I chose to believe that he liked me. I don’t care what anybody says. A hot model gave me wristbands.

AA guy
my gift-giving model. click for a largre image.

* Note: I later found out that they’re each worth $7 CND, so my cute boy gave me something pretty neat I think!

Freaking Hell

Since I have returned from Vegas I have been trying *in vain* to update my blog from home. It's now official, the computer is dead and useless. For example, yesterday I was determined to get something up. I spend about 2 hours just trying to get the "create" page in blogger to load correctly, with buttons and all. Nothing happened. Just a white page. I tried sending the text I wrote in Word by email to my address at work, in order to do a quick and easy update from here. But the email I got was blank. Everything fails! It's driving me insane!

I will get a decent post up soon. I will resume writing and such. I will, I swear!

We are currently shopping for a computer. Hopefully it won't take another two weeks before I regain my sanity and use of the home computer.