Monday, December 22, 2008


hey all,

i am in hiroshima right now and visited the hiroshima war memorial museum today. It was easily the most depressing and intense museum/ place I have ever spent a significant (3 hrs) amount of time in. It was excellent, in the way requiem for a dream was an excellent movie but extremely hard to grasp emotionally.

I should preface a few things when talking about the museum etc. I view it, first and foremost as a reason to promote anti war movements and the destruction of nuclear weapons.

1st, I agree entirely that the atomic bomb was not necessary for the surrender of the japanese. General Douglas MacAurthur (commander of us forces in the pacific) said so himself repeatedly, along with many other members high up. There were ample reasons for the united states to use the bomb, due to their investment and the postwar landscape with russia. How history would be different had we not used the bomb etc we will never know- but in my opinion its not "the point" of this.

I think knowing that brings up the true issue I have with war. Based on what the "japanese" did in china and south east asia (nanking as a great example but certainly not limited to that), i think one could argue that "they didn't deserve pity in war" or that it isn't really the united states job to do what is just and fair.

But on a personal level, people are people. And the truth is the difference between a child or a mother in japan or one from america is not significant. A child in japan is not an evil person any more so then a child born in germany in the late 1930s or 1940s. Heck, the current pope was forced to enlist as one of hitlers youth.

And that to me is what makes war so horrible, and the exhibits this museum had so powerful.

I would rather not go into detail about what i saw in the museum, and I felt it was wrong to take pictures (although I ended up taking one- see below) but I think I should say this: the atomic bomb created a fireball 280m in diameter and 4000 degrees Celsius. The blast of heat itself raised temperatures 2 km away up over 1000 degrees celsius. The city of hiroshima was at the time constructed mainly of wood and at those temperatures wood naturally combusts. Skin chars black. Although many perished instantly, there were countless stories of people who survived the initial blast, spent the rest of the afternoon only to find the burnt remains of loved ones or went home to be with their family only to die within the next day/week or month. I hadn't been that close to tears in a long time and I am 100% certain if I had been with my homestay family- the mother and 2 adorable girls I would've balled my eyes out.

I don't know how future wars can be avoided. Its obvious that countries like the united states that are host to huge corporations that produce weapons of war, there is a vested interest in not bringing peace and having arms races. And I know many conflicts have persisted for 100s and 1000s of years. I will say though that I think/and hope the world works toward a decrease in nationalism. This could/ probably should be an entirely different topic, but I do not feel any closer to a person from Detroit, or California then I do someone from Japan. And I think that if globalization helps people understand that we are not all so different then we can work towards solidarity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Homestay

So its already* been 12 days in the homestay and now I'm back to living out of hostels for the next while. I must say, while I love traveling- I love seeing new things, eating new foods meeting new people getting lost etc.- there is something to be said to not worrying where you are going to sleep at night, to not need to have any security over your belongings etc. In hindsight, instead of a RTW ticket, having just picked 3 places to live for 2-4 months each might've been slightly superior. I think it might just be part of my personality and everyone is probably different on this.

Anyways, living here was great. For the first time in a good 3 months I had home cooked meals. I got to hang out with 2 adorable little girls. I think the experience, when weighed versus living in hostels gave me a very different look at the country/ culture etc. For example, during these 2 weeks I had one drink was at lunch yesterday. I woke up every morning at 7 (at the latest) and went to bed well before midnight each night. Besides putting me in a more natural rhythm then I was in during high school (and something I hope to revert back to when I settle down) this prevented me from seeing much of the youth culture in Japan except for the people I saw on the subway. And I haven't seen the city lights at night.

On the other hand, I know a lot about how Japanese people live in small houses (its not bad at all), what they eat, where they sleep, what they do in their free time. Relationships between kids and the mother (and the father).

I think given that I have the opportunity to experience both the family life and youth culture in Japan I am really glad I went for it.

For those curious about both go and cooking, I have some unfortunate news.

re: go. When I got here I did some internet research for go clubs and came up empty handed. All that i found was someone who wrote an article about a go club here 20 years ago. I emailed a few people and made a craigslist post also asking for a partner and asked the next day when the host family had a gathering of about 8 friends. No one knew anyone who played go. So I gave up.

re: cooking. Every meal (except for noodle dishes at lunch) included a bowl of rice. Breakfast was usually leftovers from dinner the night before - exceptions being
pancakes, eggs or a pan fried fish.

So a typical dinner would be

Miso soup (includes onions, mushrooms, some seaweed)
A stew. includes ground beef, skinned/boiled potatoes, steamed carrots, green onions, radish (i think)
bowl of rice

things to add to the rice. one was small fish called "jacko" (as in wacko jacko)
another was a mixture of ground beef and i think ginger? Although it wasn't very strong tasting so it might've been something else.

In general - for cooking japanese foods i was a little dismayed by the fact that most of their cooking supplies were particular to japan. I will hopefully visit (and document) a trip to a japanese supermarket with kristin but they have a lot of things readily available (fish in particular, but also things like sticky rice and some food on sicks) that I have never seen in north america. I remember kenta complaining about it in uni, but i thought he was just making it up.

anyways, from here a friend of mine is visiting tokyo in transit from la to china for a few days so i look forward to seeing him for the first time in a pretty long time. Our plan for tomorrow morning is to visit the tokyo fish market - which i still haven't gone to, but I think I may end up visiting 3x before leaving this country.

After that I am off to visit Hiroshima, Kobe and Osaka. I'm not going to see Sapporo because its too cold and I am going to hold off seeing Kyoto until Kristin gets here because that was high up on her list.

I want to make another post about some observations about the social culture here and hopefully I get around to it.

To everyone reading- Happy Holidays- enjoy your christmas, hanukkah or solstice and best wishes for the new year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


edit: I know, there are no posts for el calafate/ torres del paine/ iguazu falls/ lima and machu picchu etc. hopefully you aren't holding your breathe for those becaues they probably aren't coming. Except maybe something on Lima/Cusco.

anyways, onwards. I think this blog will take a turn for more of a freestyle writing rather then a honky dory i saw this i saw that type of thing.


Do you remember the first time you went to a big city? By being in a city, I don't mean when you're behind the glass of your parents car the entire time, or on a grade 5 field trip. Or even the city nearest to where you grew up. I mean that first time when you are walking around the streets of a city, in awe of the endless tall buildings, seeing millions of people walk by you each going their own way, doing their own thing, on a whole totally oblivious to you. It probably would help if you were alone at this point.

I think some cities more then others have the ability to put you in your place, to slap you in the face and say- hey there are 6 billion other people out here, I'm sorry but the world doesn't revolve around you. Now get over it and do what you were gonna do already.

I think there are a few cities in the world that do this better then others. In North America, I really think New York City is the most obvious example, but I remember also having the same feeling when I first arrived in Toronto. I never felt that way with Boston, but I think part of this comes from being somewhere new and not having familiarity with it and its people. But, on the other hand- I didn't get that feeling in Buenos Aires, Rome, Paris etc- so it might also require a city with a lot of hustle and bustle.

I really (really) get that feeling here in Tokyo. But its not as cold as New York (figuratively) and its not as cold as Toronto (literally). But its big. It's imposing. I was up in a tall building and looked out and as far as the eye could see i saw buildings. In all 4 directions. I've never seen anything really like it. Most are under 10 stories, so this wasn't new york city where your eye is restricted by all the mammoth buildings next to you.

They have a subway terminal here that I visited the other day (Shinjuku station) that services 3.6 million people a day. Think about how many people that is. How many could you become good friends with? How many would you hate? How many have common interests as you?How many of them will you ever meet? Probably 0. But thats not neccessarily a bad thing. Thats just life.


Okay so beyond all that I'm pretty impressed by Tokyo. I don't really feel “lost in translation” per se, but I have found it sometimes challenging to get from point A to point B or to order something off the menu. BUT- according to Kenta he had trouble using the Tokyo Metro as well so i don't feel so bad. And I think the difficulties is part of why I'm traveling. Iguazu falls, the glaciers of el calafate and machu picchu were quite incredible- but Puerto Iguazu and the town near El Calafate were soulless, and Cusco is but a shell of its former self. Buenos Aires was nice and interesting but I felt disconnected from its true character- I'm not sure why.

Tokyo is tokyo. And like New York you can almost sense that people would identify that they are from Tokyo before they said they were from Japan (something again I think you see in NYC, Toronto). You see more of the trendy but completely impractical outfits worn by the younger crowd here. You see a lot of jeans, leather jackets, colored streaks of hair and ear piercings (on men and women). With the business crowd you see suits for men and dark outfits for the women. The older crowd is a bit more comfortably dressed and quite a few have surgical masks on (for reasons I'm not completely sure, as the air quality here is much, much better then that of Buenos Aires).

Before coming here I heard a lot of things about Tokyo. Daniel told me about how the cab drivers here wear nice white gloves and take their job very seriously. In Anthony Bourdain's Japan episode of “No Reservations” he talks about the attention to detail and how people here believe Perfection is impossible, but its what keeps people working hard every day. In "lost in translation" its portrayed as a society hard to penetrate. And I've also heard many times about how the people here are workaholics- spending hours upon hours in the office but* this is almost more of a cultural phenomenon, as people spend a ton of time in the office, but not the entire time working.

For the former, I definitely see and believe it. Cab drivers in Buenos Aires are part time crooks. They smoke in the cab, they try and take the long way to your destination and if you're drunk and its 5 am they will try and slip you fake money. In North America they are quite often university educated immigrants unable to land a better job. They might take you the long way, but in general they don't try and rip you off- but they certainly aren't too proud of their jobs. I have yet to take a cab here in Tokyo, but I have seen them work and they look about as professional as you can imagine. The cabs are clean, you could say spotless, and spending a few minutes outside a hotel entrance it is quite obvious they take their job very seriously. I've seen train conductors here with the spotless white gloves, standing with perfect posture at the 'helm' of the subway car, leaving their station on the minute. In North America and Buenos Aires, subway cars arrive when they do. Some cities have excellent public transit, others are more suspect. There is no real schedule, although they depart with the notion of arriving at regular intervals. Here, they arrive on the minute. When you enter the subway trains, schedules show at what time you will reach the next station(s). The only other place I've seen public transit like this was in Berlin.

re: lost in translation- i can understand it, this is a society very different and maybe a bit difficult to penetrate. I'll hopefully get around to a blogpost about the homestay I did and my experience with it, but I will say people here are unbelieveably friendly and respectful. And while I think its a vastly different culture, maybe impossible to penetrate 100%, things can be done to mitigate this, and by understanding and accepting that fact you'd be suprised how similar people are.

I think I've done a poor job of explaining what I like/ love about Tokyo and more maybe why I like big cities. I think when you visit Niagara falls or Mount Everest or whatever you go there, you stay in a hotel you look out, you see the falls or the mountain and you go “wow, thats a great mountain. Let me take a picture” and thats that. But in a city, you have some/more freedom to do what you want. To see what there is to see. I spent one whole day walking around Asakuska looking at Buddhist temples and another day getting lost (over and over) near Shinjuku station. Everything and everyone is super foreign to me. Everyone I have asked for help has been very nice and very polite. I've never for one second felt unsafe.

thats all for now

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well Overdue, an asado and the super classico

So maybe my last post didn't rattle me to get up and post more like I had hoped. Maybe I need to set up a gmail alert to make sure I make posts on a regular basis. Regardless, in the recent past we had an asado on the patio at my place here and I went to the 'super classico'- a heated rivalry between Buenos Aires 2 most famous teams, River Plate and the Boca Jrs.

Boca Jrs is famous for its small, crazy stadium (the bombanero) and having many v. famous argentine soccer players play for its club including Diego Maradonna, whose widely considered the best player of all time. I know in the US most people say Pele was better, but going on that would be like asking someone from Kazakhstan who the best hockey player of all time is (Nik Antropov obv). In reality the main reason why people from the US say Pele is because of his exposure playing in the US but i digress.

Anyways, getting tickets in the first place was a long ordeal based on the stories heard about counterfeits. Luckily I was able to secure a set of 9 tickets via a friend of my ex spanish tutor. We took cabs to the game and the first thing i noticed was that sports stadiums outside of the US aren't "open seating". You either sit in the "home team" section or the "away". This causes a lot more rivarly and hatred between fans. In fact, it seemed like a significant portion of fans from both teams went half to watch the game and half to look at the other fans and scream insults. My personal favorite insult was "suck my d***, you f***** bolivian!" - just because well i'd never insult someone and end it with "you (insert country)", and argentines are notorious of blaming their problems on people from other s. american countries.

To deal with potential riots, the "visitors" section is walled off by having empty sections next to them, and all 3 of those sections (the visitor and neighboring ones) surrounded by metal fences with barbed wire on the top. If that was not enough, a fireman stood on post above/behind the visitors section (to take care of roudy fans or deal with fires started in their section i'm not sure) and riot police guard the inbetween sections. And finally as a procedure at the end, the visitors section leaves the stadium 45 minutes before the home fans do, to prevent any scuffles outside.

There were a lot of fireworks during the game, and people were extremely lively. It was a good game, although the next night i was able to see an champions league game and the level of play was certainly a notch or 2 below. Also, unfortuantely river's team this year is pretty poor so the importance of the game was negated a bit. Anyways, it was a blast and pictures will be up shortly.

A few days after the game we hosted an asado on our deck. It got me back into cooking a bit which was great, and argentina is known for its great meats/ proveletas- so the ingredients for a great day were there. The sun was shining and a mistake that leon and i made in getting milanese steaks (ie thinly sliced) forced us to make skewers which as you'll see in the photos ended up turning out quite alright. It was just a great day to hang out, talk, enjoy the sun and be happy to be in Buenos Aires. We'll def be doing another one in the coming weeks, but i think we'll plan the next one to be in closer to the day our maid comes.

This coming Saturday im going on a trip to see Torres Del Paine and El Calafate. El Calafate is at the site of the Moreno glacier, which is massive and constantly calving. Supposedly the sounds of ice falling off into the ice is just incredible. They have boat trips out to see the glacier, and I can't tell you how excited I am to seeing/ walking on it. After this, Noah and I will be heading to Chile to a trekking park and to see the Torres Del Paine. These mountains are quite famous (and I'll have plently of pictures to share), and are stunning to look at. I love trekking and hope to make it a main part of my further travels, so I'm looking forward to getting out on the right foot (for lack of a better cliche)

anyways, I'll get around to putting pictures up soon. Hope all is well,


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ugh I can do better

So i haven't done a very good job with this blog. I haven't been updating it frequently and I haven't been showcasing my amazing writing abilities... okay more then former then the latter but still a problem.

I'm finding a few things. 1st I need to write blog posts about things as soon as they happen as waiting causes a lack of enthusiasm (in this case i think perspective is a bad thing, as i can always give my perspective whether it be a week or a year later) and i want this blog to be full of my raw emotions/reactions to my trip.

2nd. I need to rework some of my trip. I'm rescheduling my flights almost totally from this point on, heading to Japan, then China then SE Asia or India (not sure yet) followed by Australia and New Zealand and then to Europe. I'll update that more once I figure this out myself (biggest Q right now SE Asia or India)

This gives me a few benefits. Given my current commitment to Japan for new years, this makes my trip a bit more 'efficient' and opens the door to seeing Sue (!) in Seoul around Christmas time, which would be great. And 2nd this forces me to travel alone, which I have grown to really like- and need to fully enjoy the places I travel to. and 3rd/Lastly - this lets me reschedule my flights a bit in the sense that I want to visit less places and spend more time there.

I feel like right now i'm in a cusp zone where if i stay somewhere for less then a week i should hostel it up and if i was there for a bit longer (ie 6 weeks+) I should rent an apartment. So I'm thinking I should also improve on coming up with focused goals/ activities to do in different countries. For instance

In Japan- learn to play go (maybe find a school/ tutor - of course i'd try and pick some up in the next month or so), or... learn how to play starcraft 2 like a champ (kidding)

China- Relearn/ get a coach for table tennis. I was pretty good in high school, so it'd be cool to try and get back into it again after so long.

SE Asia- hmmm learn how to cook thai food? Muay Thai (if i just choose to stay in thailand?)

India- uhhh, uhhhhhhhh play cricket? (suggestions needed)

Australia- surf or become the next mick dundee

New Zealand- the great walks of new zealand (obviously)

So in the near future I'm going to plan out 1) My flights and 2) My patagonia trip. I'll def keep updates on those (I hope) and then my next priority is learn some basic Japanese.

I've decided to curtail my spanish lessons/ learning to instead get some basic Japanese down- for this trip it seems to be wiser to learn some key phrases of a bunch of languages then to focus hard on spanish when I may never go to another spanish speaking country on this trip

its 3:30 am now, so thats all for now- but i hope all is well etc


Sunday, October 19, 2008


okay so im in my new place now and unfortunately i fell behind in talking about my trip which hopefully i wont do again. but i'll break this into 3 short posts about 3 different parts of the trip


I arrived on mendoza via an overnight bus from buenos aires. First, i guess i should talk about the buses here. they aren't your typical greyhound. for about 220 pesos (70 usd) you can get a 12 hr bus ride that is, for all intents and purposes, 1st class. seats are wide enough to fit someone significantly wider then me. plush leather, recline all the way, and a place to raise your feet and lie down completely flat. it was great, and i'll def. take advantage of them in the future.

i arrived in mendoza and spent the first day walking around the city and doing a wine tour. i met a girl from la and a bunch of irish who were pretty cool. the main highlight was a winery called cecchin that exports almost exclusively to the us because they are completely organic and do not use sulphur dioxide (which virtually all wineries do but cause an allergic reaction for some *cough* kristin *cough)

when i got back from the wine tour i ran into a swiss couple. we ended up sharing dinner together (and 3 bottles of wine), talking about what we had in common (the guy had studied english in toronto at yonge and college) and a bunch of other things ranging from how different argentines live to the us election and the way argentines negotiate.

the next day we took it easy and enjoined the extremely large and relaxing park in mendoza. the pace of life in mendoza is even slower then that of buenos aires, and i took full advantage of it to sit in cafes, the plazas and large parks and just enjoy the surroundings. it was on this day that the swiss couple and i also arranged for a trek in the andes. that in itself was a bit of a debacle because all the tours in mendoza are conveniently arranged by one company and outfitted by another. this works great for argentines when you dont get what you expect as both will blame the other as being at fault and you wont get what you want.

case in point: on the wine tour on day 1, they told us at the hostel before we were picked up that we could drink as much as we want. but as soon as we go on the tour, the wineries said no they cannot promise that and instead we would get 1/2 an inch of wine. fwiw i didnt mind this as much as the irish that were also on the trip, but it was a bit annoying

another example would be the trek. at first we kept saying we dont want to go on a 12 hr bus ride to take photos we want to go for a walk around- thinking something similar to what we could do in the alps, a nice 2 hr walk, then lunch in the sun then a 2 hr walk back. at first they said oh this does not exist until we were talking with one tourist agent and a man joined in and said 'oh no problem yes we can do that, yes no problem (to everything we said we wanted)'. that should've been the first warning sign. the next day (day 3) we are picked up and taken to a place a good hour drive from where we wanted. the trek was about half as long as we wanted as well but nothing could be done (from our point of view) as the people who ran the operation kept saying they were not told of this agreement that was made.

i feel bad ranting about this, as it was a great walk/time that i (and the swiss couple) had on day 3 walking around but figured i'd want to remember this episode of how argentines do business / how annoying beauracracy can be...

anyways, day 3 was a trek for the first half of the day, we had a good time. walking around the city of mendoza i also noticed how friendly people were. constantly when i'd pull out my map just to double check my location people would approach me to give help/ advice etc constantly. at the check out line in a grocery store people would stop to try and talk to me etc.

day 4 was my last day in mendoza and i went to maipu, rented a bike and visited wineries. this is a bit of a common thing to do for tourists in mendoza, and i had a good time- although my bike had horrendous brakes- i went relatively slowly from vineyard to vineyard, visiting 3 in total. I also met up with 2 canadian women and went with them for a little bit. this was good cause they knew a lot about wines.

that night i took a bus from mendoza to cordoba and the next morning met up with Evan and Thuy (two friends from BsAs). I'll make that my next post and dont' have photos up- but they will be here soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Girls in BsAs

Alright so a friend asked me how the women are down here, and well thats certainly not a one sentence answer so I figured i'd do it justice, write up a reasonably long response and post it for all to see.

For those that don't know, things are going great with Kristin, so I'm basing most of this on the exploits of my friends who are single and living down here. Also I don't have too much to say about the girls here in general- yeah there are some v. good looking ones (just like there are in Boston, New York, 441 bathurst st...) but I wouldn't label them the "most beautiful in the world". For those in the 28 and older crowd I will say though that dating a girl significantly younger then yourself seems to be in much more practice here then in North America.

Despite president bushes attempts at otherwise , girls here like americans. I would guess 2 of the bigger reasons are that the average argentinian male is insanely aggressive and makes significantly less money then the travelling north american.

On the topic of them being insanely aggressive, my friend Carol whose studying here told me that the first time she went to a club here, she was dancing with some friends, having a good time and a guy came up to her, grabbed her and starting to make out with her. She pulled back and gave him a slap across the face. The guy looked at her half confused and said "you're not from buenos aires, are you?". Thats actually the norm here. She said since then shes learned that she needs to have a constant guard up to prevent any Argentine from getting to close to her.

I got to see a poor american girl in a bar have to deal with this argentinian guy who had no business talking to her whisper in her ear, smell her hair, even lick her ear at one point until finally a friend pulled him away. The guy said " i only wanted her phone number " and when my friend was like "I dont think she wants to give it to you" he replied "but maybe she will wish she had tomorrow!"

So in general I think argentine girls like meeting guys here who are a bit more passive and are maybe interested in getting to know them a bit before forcefully trying to make out with them.

On wealth, the average Argentine makes about 20k pesos a year. That equates to under 7k CAD or USD, so obviously way less then the average American. As such, its a lot more likely that when girls go to a nice expensive bar/ club there will be more Americans there dishing out money because to them drinks are effectively half off their prices at home then Argentines who want to spend half their paycheck that night.

I would say that not knowing spanish is obviously a big minus but there are a lot of "american bars" here. Overall they're filled with either american or european (there are a ton of British here) exchange students who found out that maybe argentinian guys aren't all they thought they would be, and argentinian girls looking to meet american men.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Time Flies (?)

Suprised its already been a week. I've been doing more spanish lessons- they've been really helpful and I think they are worth it over say straight book learning as I get a lot out of just trying to make simple conversation and listening to my teacher do the same. Its also a bit fascinating to me how you begin to understand what words mean without being given their definitions- your brain is able to construct its context/ definition just through dialogue.

Basically what i'm trying to say in a nice way (to myself) is that I suck at grammar- always have, always will and the only way I'll ever learn a foreign language is by hearing/ talking as much as possible. Outside of classes, if other people are having conversations (ie Brant talking to cab drivers on how we should get home, or with a hostess on where we should go to check out the tigre delta), I definitely have noticed an improvement in my spanish. But i am not at the point where I can talk to people beyond very simple things.

This week I think my classes will be 'spiced' up a bit, as instead of me going to my teachers apartment and getting lessons, we're gonna go to a cafe on Tuesday and an art show later in the week. So that should be cool.

On friday I went to the Tigre delta. Me and my friends took a boat ride which was fun, and just walked around the area. It was nice to get a bit outside the city, and the train ride we took was pretty scenic- there are some mansionesque houses on the outskirts of the city (complete with walls that include guard towers (!!!) as I think train tracks usually are pretty ghetto.

I also included some pictures of the fine dining I've been lucky enough to experience. There are 600+ restaurants within a 10km radius of Palermo, and already I have a few favorites. Sudestada, i've only been to 2x but they have great asian food (singapore dumplings are incredible) and they have a lunch special which includes water or beer, an appetizer (salad or dumplings) and then a bunch of different main dishes ( I went for a vegetarian curry but my friends recommend bison) all for around $10 usd.

On friday night we went to a spanish place, as I was kindof craving Paella- mainly because I hadn't had spanish food in a while and having red meat all the time can feel a bit taxing. Anyways, we went to Azulay which was a bit off the main strip in Palermo hollywood and showed it as it was not busy at all (which set off warning flags in my head that maybe this place won't be that good). But I was wrong, as it ended up being an excellent meal. We got a fixed price menu, where we had 5-6 small plates initially followed by a big plate of paella. The highlights of the meal would be the salad, which had a great vinagrette, the calamari and paella of course. Maybe my only regret was having wine with dinner without seeing if they offered sangria.

Last night we went to Miranda, where my photos show two of the meals (Ribeye steak with a grilled pepper that has a fried egg in it and my cut of lamb) is an awesome steak house. The cuts of meat so far have been better then anywhere else that we've gone and the apple crumble dessert is amazing. Its actually the best apple crumble i've ever had, and it reminds me a lot of the one that I once got at the Ruth Chris steak house. Unfortuantely the last time I went to Miranda I got some mint ice cream that was way too strong on mint, but I won't be making that mistake again :).

In the next week my plans are pretty simple. Plan out my trip to Mendoza a bit more (how many days in each place, go to the South American explorers club for advice/ additional resources, go to Colonia Uruguay on Wednesday for a day trip (if not Wednesday then this weekend), work on my spanish and ramp up the time I spend at the gym.

Anyways, thats all for now. Pictures are of course here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Buenos Aires update

Alright so its been a while. Okay so heres the deal- I didn't want to make a new post right after the first one, so that brings me to the 8th. And then I was sick, and then my internet cut out. So since then I've been doing a lot. Working a good amount, hanging out with 3 friends here, (i think i mentioned them before)- Daniel from sweden, and Klint and Brant from the mid west. We go out to dinner together pretty often.

I started spanish lessons last week which have been good. Basically you can find anyone here to teach you spanish for very reasonable rates (under $10 usd/hr) but i've decided that it's worth it to get someone better (ie studied english or teaching spanish, is accredited etc etc) given my short period of time here, and the small difference in cost. So anyways, teachers name is Gisela, shes pretty nice and i'm looking forward to expanding my spanish knowledge over the next few weeks.

In terms of seeing the sights, since my last post I've checked out Palermo very extensively, the japanese gardens (which to me looked like something I would've designed at the age of 12 after watching 3 karate kid movies), san telmo and today, Puerto Madero. I didn't get to see enough of San Telmo as I would've liked as i went there with my 3 amigos and we got there a bit late in the afternoon and travelling in an entourage slows you down, but it seemed pretty cool (for those that dont know san telmo was the nicest area of BsAs back in the day but yellow fever made the rich move up to recoleta, but its all cobble stone streets with huge fairs every sunday). Puerto Madero is this waterfront area which unforunatley looks like it could've been transplanted from about 5 other cities i've been to thats on the water- but there was is an "ecological reserve" and it was nice to seemingly depart the city.

Anyways, its 2am here and I gotta get up before 10 to get to my spanish lessons at 11, so good night all and I hope everything is going well.

When I get my internet going I'll post more, I guess the next 2 posts I should make should be

1) Things I've learned in BsAs (cabs, subways, counterfeit money, bar life)
2) Eating in Palermo/ and Buenos Aires

new pictures are here

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Buenos Aires

I arrived at around 9 am. Plane ride was okay- I didn't sleep well cause the seats didn't go back very far but the guy sitting next to me was a really nice old guy who used to work for IBM but is now an antique dealer in nyc. We talked for a bit so I got to learn a bit about that business (seems to have some similarities to my work or that of traders). He also gave me some good advice when I talked a bit about my job and expressing dissapointment that I am not really contributing to society when he told me sometimes you need to gather the necessary tools before you can give back and that is what I am doing.

Anyways, from the airport I took a bus and then walked to the subway. The subway system here is very simple to use and cheap so whenever possible I think i'll use it. The first day I hung out, walked around for a few hours to check out places on the main strip near me (I'm living on the equivalent of Yonge street, I guess). Then I was pretty tired so I took a nap and then set up a rendevous with some other pro poker players who are living in BsAs for dinner.

It was a bit of an ordeal to get up there as I was a bit late to begin with, the subway took longer then expected and then I got lost, but eventually I arrived about 30 minutes late. I met 5 guys- John whose lived in BsAs for 4 years, Evan who has for 2 ( i think ?), Klint and Brant who just got in a few days ago and Daniel who was swedish ( but speaks great english). I had a lot of history and had been in a lot of back and forth games with Brant, so it was interesting to meet him in real life. Nice guy though so it's all good. One thing I must say I was suprised with was the amount of time they all put in actually playing - they all put me to shame. But I guess I have different goals financially/ travelling so its not fair to really compare. Dinner was great- I had 2 glasses of wine, a great steak dish and an espresso that came to about $20 usd. This is pretty typical - most things cost about 1/3 as they "should".

After dinner everyone minus John went out for some beers at a nearby bar. Good times but I was a bit tired so i called it a night at 2 am.

The next day (today) I've spent checking out Recoleta. It's a very nice area, but certainly more geared toward residential over say an area full of boutiques and restaurants (which is what i've heard palermo is all about). I'm gonna be moving into my apartment in Palermo Viejo/ Soho Friday, so I think i'll scope out the general area tomorrow. Highlights today would def be the cemetary for the rich of argentina (I saw Evita's grave which supposedly caused a big stir as you need a lot of wealth and social status to get in and she was born with neither) and the big metal flower. Also there was a pretty cool art gallery although certainly a cut below those of NYC, Paris etc. Pictures are UP

Monday, September 1, 2008


Went to NYC as my RTW is based on flights and there were not direct to BsAs from Boston... Regardless it gave me a great chance to hang out for a few nights, stay with my sister and Leon and Noah were around too, so it really felt like stop #1 on what will be a long journey.

Saturday I arrived at around 6pm on a long bus ride (had internet, but using a computer on a bus gives me motion sickness...). I was able to meet up with my cousin from Switzerland, Alex whose here working for an architecture firm and my sister for dinner at a nice italian restaurant in West village. My sister and Alex had been there before and knew the owner of the store, who was really nice and I enjoyed the spaghetti and prosciutto.

Afterwards, we went out for a drink at some kindof dark almost emo'ish place before heading down to meet up with 2 friends from high school, Zander and Sue. We picked up martinis and I got to catch up with Sue, who was a production manager for the show Ugly Betty. Zander just moved into a new place with his gf pretty close by and is looking for work. Anyways, from there we headed to a bar called the 'fat cat' which Jake had mentioned to me from his trip to NYC last year as being a great spot. So we headed down there to meet up with Leon, Noah and Chris and it was pretty cool- had a ton of pool tabes/ ping pong tables. Sue's boyfriend, Andrew is korean so theres some ping pong in his blood so of course we had to get a few games in. The wait was a while, but it was quite funny as he was very excited to play so whenever a table opened up somewhere he'd walk around all of them and alert the waitress who organized it all so we could play. It was fun to play (i represented my high school club etc quite well) and it made me think I might want to have my parents airmail me my racquet when I'm in China and I can try and get some lessons there. But we'll see later on how much travelling I want to do and how often I want to settle into one place and just chill.

From there we went to a bar called Phebe's which was a great spot as it seemed to be packed with a young attractive crowd who all seemed to be having a great time. In general I could say that was just the vibe I got from NYC. Distinctly different from Toronto - which too me would be the closest match, but I came to the conclusion that if you're young, have money and want to meet others like yourself, new york city (and probably this area of west village and neighboring burroughs) is the place to be. We were at Phebe's until probably 3:30 am where we left and found a french fries place where Leon and I picked up some poutine.

Sunday I woke up at around 11 am a little hung over. My sister's friend Rachel, whose a big tennis fan had tickets to the US Open and couldn't use her tickets as she was out of town, so she passed them over to Geneve and I. I again lucked out as I was able to see Roger Federer and Andy Roddick play in the afternoon at Aurthur Ashe stadium. It was just awesome to watch the tennis match and of course see Roger play. I added some pictures. The thing about Roger- that i think people like so much is just how classy he looks when he plays. I have pictures of Roddick serving and his body is a contorted mass and he looks extremely athletic as he seems to put everything he has into hitting the ball 140 mph. On the other hand, I could not take a picture that shows Roger doing the same- his motion when serving or doing anything is just so natural and fluid it is really a sight to see (which of course belies the fact that he serves at around 130 mph).

After tennis, I went with my sister out with a friend of my swiss cousin Claudia, who had just spent 6 months travelling around the united states alone. He was a nice guy and had a lot to talk about and just a general love for America. It was a bit inspiring, as I often here foriegners (read: canadians) talking shit about america. Don't get me wrong- there is much here that is not perfect, but I think the problem is not something you can pass to the individuals who live here.

At around 9pm I then headed to Nobu for a fancy dinner. It was unbelieveable- all the food melted in my mouth but I think it was a bit pricy for what you get (but in my opinion at its price, nothing can really meet my expectations to be a "fair value"). After this Chris had to leave as he is moving into a new place, and Leon Noah and I met up with Zander and his gf to go to a bar in West Village called "Little Branch". It was a former speak easy during prohibition but generally known in this part of NYC of having the best "mixologists" as my sister calls it. It was nice, I have a picture near the end of my pending album from there (no flash was allowed) but it was dark and the drinks strong. I was a bit tired after this day and the last, so from here I went home to get some sleep.

Today has been pretty chill, I got breakfast with Geneve in a little restaurant and then hung out near the water with Alex and Geneve. Now I'm back at Geneve's place and counting down to leaving. Noah and Leon just arrived so I gotta go but take it easy and next time I post i'll be in BsAs!

edit: pictures added from airport terminal. View them HERE

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Master List

So my last few posts have just re-iterated over and over what i'm bringing. But this one will be the master list. I'll edit this at will but will mark things I edit with a * in front. Everything I bring, make/model etc will be listed. Hell for the ones I can, I'll even link you to relevant pictures of it. The major categories are 1) Clothes 2) Electronics 3) Health and 4) Other. I've had to return a few things that I've ordered, but I'll save that for another post

1) Clothes

1 EMS 5000 Adventure pack (includes small daypack, which I may want to upgrade)
1 pack cover for airports( makes it like a duffel bag)
1 MEC bag cover for rain

2 short sleeved t shirts. 1 by Icebreaker and the other by MEC
1 long sleeved EMS shirt
1 long sleeved icebreaker shirt
1 North Face Flight Series fleece. Color is slightly lighter blue
1 Marmot Leadville Jacket

1 Tommy Hilfiger jeans. Got them at marshalls, they're broken in really well and I think I'll ditch them in SE Asia and buy a new pair of jeans when I get to Europe
1 EMS long underwear
1 EMS pants

1 Russel running shorts
1 Eddie bauer khaki shorts
1 Quicksilver board shorts

1 northface rain pants
1 EMS rainjacket

1 pair Northface boots
1 pair New balance running shoes
1 pair reebok sandals

3 pair smart wool sneaker socks
3 pair smart wool hiking boot socks (may cut down on these #s)
3 pair exofficio underwear. I may also cut down on the number of these... just kidding

1 MEC Towel

1 baseball hat

1 prescription glasses
1 prescription sunglasses

2) Electronics

1 Lenovo t61 14.1" (specs- 2.5 ghz, WSXGA, 2gb ram, 160gb 7200 rpm hd, int. graphics, int. webcam- dual boot xp and ubuntu hh)
1 Canon sd870
1 Nokia 5300
1 ipod shuffle
1 laptop charger
1 charger for camera
1 charger for phone
1 usb cord for shuffle
1 headphones from shuffle

1 LAN cable (may not bring)
1 APC universal converter

1 logitech vx revolution mouse. i'll rave about this later if its as good as i think it will be

1 keychain flashlight
1 headlamp

3) Health

1 toothbrush
1 tube toothpaste
2 bottles hotel shampoo
2 bottles hotel conditioner (thanks dad!)
1 small bar of soap
1 small bottle deodorant
1 small bottle bug spray (30% deet)
1 large bottle of sunscreen
1 gillette razor
1 tube shaving cream
1st aid kit
pristine water drops

4) Other

1 swiss army knife
1 moleskin journal
1 "modded" eyemask (thanks mom!)
1 pair earplugs
1 compass
1 deck playing cards
postcards of Lexington

multiple copies of all passports/ credit cards/ travel information

cash spread out in multiple places throughout my bags


Thats all for now. I'll keep a list of every time I update this list

Original writeup- August 25th noonish
Edit #1. Picked up a cordless mouse, 1st aid kid, compass and headlamp. also forgot to mention underwear
Edit #2. Returned my REI neo jacket for a Marmot Leadville jacket. The leadville is lighter, warmer, blocks wind and fits better. Also was 33% off. Also purchased an icebreaker long sleeved shirt.
Edit #3. Added 1st aid kit, playing cards, medications/pills, pristine water drops, flexoline

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Trip to BC and Packing (continued)

So first off, I went to British Columbia for a week, returning just a few days ago. I went to see my girlfriend and to check out the grad schools. Unfortunately due to bad weather and timing (as the professors I was most interested were out of town), I only had a good chance to look at the University of Victoria. But otherwise it was a great trip- I got to see Penticton, Victoria, Salt Spring island, and of course Richmond, BC. (The last one was when I went out with Jack and Ed and did not see another white person for a few hours. But the chinese food/ bubble tea were great)

Pictures are here

As for packing, today I decided to stuff everything I planned on bringing into my backpack to see how it all fit. It was based on the idea that I am wearing...

1 pair of socks, underwear (suprise, suprise), shorts, a t shirt, belt, wallet and money belt. I also have a great thing to wear in airports that holds my ticket/ passport etc.

Everything else was in my backpack. I stepped on the scale and it all weighs... ~ 30 lbs. I think thats pretty good, considering my laptop + battery + charger must be around 7 lbs. I am def looking forward to seeing what Noah packs in his, as he bought a 3800 cu inch backpack (mines 5000) and I'm pretty tight on space. I guess its mainly due to him bringing 1 less pair of pants and 1 less fleece. I kept these figuring I'll want extra warmth when I go to Patagonia/ climb mount fiji/ visit Scandanavia.

To buy: I still need... a first aid kit, some ziploc bags (1 large enough for my laptop + charger...), a compass, and a computer mouse.

Things to do: Look through all the packing options I have (ie, 2 normal packing cubes, 1 toiletry thing from Geneve, a bunch of pockets in my backpack etc) to find out whats the most efficient/ best way to load up all of my gear. I think spending an hour (or 2 ) doing this now will probably save me a ton of time when on the road. Main goals is to make sure the important stuff is either very accessible or very well hidden.

Anyways, I'll def load up pictures of all of my gear before leaving so you can have a good idea of what i'm bringing/ how it all looks as I pack it in.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Packing List

So its time to pack. This is a list of my current state of packing.


EMS 5000 cu inch backpack. It has an add on day pack and a cover for the airport. Unfortunately (and i'm not really sure why) the airport cover is excellent for keeping all the straps in, including a handle to carry the back around- but it doesn't act as a rain cover. But I bought one, so no big deal. Overall its an excellent pack, I used it on the algonquin trip and had no complaints. I'm not a huge fan of its colors, but whatever.


I got a pair of reebok sandals. They were probably $10 new, and I had to cut away at part of it when i had a bad blister on my foot. So I won't be winning any fashion contests walking around with them, but they're comfortable and thats all that matters.

I bought a new pair of sneakers yesterday (guess what brand!) and yeah i put them on, walked 10 ft in them and bought them.

I have northface hiking boots that I've owned for a few years. Great shoes.


Okay so in total I'm bringing a laptop computer, 1 music player, 1 digital camera, a cell phone and a watch. Then along with those things, I have chargers and ear buds and cases.

For laptop I chose a Lenovo T61. Its 14.1" which should be a good compromise for portability and performance. I got 30% off cause its the 'older' model, but in general T61's are well known for being v. durable, as well as being ugly. But I kindof like the look.

Music player. Ipod shuffle. 1 gb. I found that I didn't mind my ipod randomly picking music when I drove home from Toronto and its so small.

Digital Camera. I went with the Canon SD870IS. Its pretty sweet, 8MP and more features then I know how to use, I ordered a 2 gig sd card on newegg today for like $10. I'm pretty happy with the purchase, and I'll be sure to take a lot of photos in Vancouver and give a full review later.

Cell phone. I'm gonna stick with my nokia 5300 for now. Its tri band and I think* I can get away with using it everywhere, but I'll keep you guys posted on that. If I had to buy a new phone I'd buy the cheapest quad band phone possible. I dont think I'll be using my phone that much.

Watch. I got a new band/ battery for my dad's old swiss army classic watch. Now that I'm wearing it again, I'm happy. Its simple, not very conspicuous and despite being 10+ years old, it looks great. I can't understate how good condition this watch looks, all things considered.

Flashlight. I ended up getting an Arclight AAA. Expensive, and I may also get a headlamp. The pros of this flashlight is that it uses an LED bulb and AAA batteries. Compare that to a maglite which uses bulbs that you cannot find replacements for and use small lithium- ion batteries. Cons is that i paid $30 for a flashlight smaller then my pinky.

Clothes (shirts)

T shirts. (2) Merino Wool t shirts. I've heard great things about these shirts, and so far they have not disapointed. I got one from MEC and another from icebreaker. They're expensive, but the mantra goes something like this- keeps you warm when its cold, cold when its warm, never smells bad. I'll let you guys know how it goes, but for now I'm keeping my eyes open to consider picking up a 3rd shirt. The ones I have now are black and grey, and I'd like to get one in a lighter color.

1 light summer long sleeve shirt. I ordered one from coolibar, recommended by the 4hour workweek guy, but its being shipped so no idea on how nice it is. Basically i want a shirt that looks normal, is light, but long sleeved to provide sun and insect protection. I'll say more when it arrives, but i'm really hoping that it looks nice enough that I can get away without packing a polo.

1 warm long sleeve shirt. I have an old one from EMS, its black, fits really well and I'm quite sure it'll make an excellent base layer.

1 warm fleece. At REI i found a long sleeve north face "flight series" fleece. I really like it- will take a picture of it later to add on. Its got those thumb things, it looks warm, nice zippers and it was on clearance. Makes a good outerlayer on chilly nights, and can make a good middle layer for when it gets really cold.

1 warm fleece outer layer. Again on clearance at REI i got a REI outerwear fleece. Basically it should provide about the same warmth alone as the above item, but it is an outer layer, so a bit more wind/rain protection and i can put them together when climbing mount fuji, or hanging out in patagonia.

Clothes (pants)

1 pair jeans. I might cut this out to save weight but jeans are warm, comfortable, durable and easy to clean. What seems quite likely is that I keep these and then ditch them some time into my trip as I'll bring a pair of worn out ones.

1 pair EMS pants. I picked up a new pair of jeans the other day. They look respectable, but I think they are made for hiking, so they dry quicker and whatnot.

1 pair long underwear. Also from EMS, and from a previous hiking trip, these will be layered with the above items to provide some extra warmth in patagonia/ mountainous regions.

1 pair khaki shorts. Probably my ll beans. I like them a lot, comfortable, nice pockets etc.

1 pair swim trunks. I can double these as shorts in beach areas (ie Australia)

1-2 pairs of running shorts. If space allows it, I'll probably bring 2. I might also consider bringing 1 nice pair and one not so nice one and ditching the not so nice one after I leave BsAs (I think i'll want more then 1 pair if i'm doing a lot of jujitsu)

Clothes (Raingear)

I got an EMS raincoat that I bought 2 years ago thats pretty good. And Northface rainpants I had to buy right before the algonquin trip (but they kept me completely dry one afternoon that made them oh- so- worth their ridiculous price). And I can wear my raincoat over my fleece outerlayer which is a pretty big plus.

Clothes (socks/undies)

Okay so I bought 3 pairs of smartwood sneaker socks. Wore them for the first time yesterday and they are unbelievably comfortable. It might be because i wear wool socks way less often then normal ones, but even after not wearing them for a few years they still retain that new sock comfort.

From previous trips and whatnot I have a bunch of full sized wool socks that I will use for when I wear my hiking boots.

For underwear, I got 3 pairs of exofficio briefs. I think I should've gone with the boxers, but they're very small, light and pretty comfortable.

Other stuff

Eh, this post is getting pretty long, and this stuff after this gets boring. But I also need normal glasses, sunglasses, toothbrushes, toothpastes etc. I'm gonna do a dry run in terms of packing 'everything' tonight and to see how it all fits in. And before departure I'll make another post listing everything with pictures etc.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Picking your favorite apartment (part 2)

Alright, I gotta narrow this one down in the next few days. Please give me your top 3 choices and your reasons for each, and I'll use your input to make my final decisions.

Given that I'm living alone, I am fine with taking something smaller/ cheaper- as I don't see myself having a ton of guests, but if one place really stands out as above and beyond definitely list it as such. Also, I have a bit of a preference for the high rises as I think they'd be a bit safer(?)

(In order of lowest price first)

1. Price 690/mo. Size 322 sq. ft

2. Price 750/mo Size 485 sq. ft

3. Price 795/mo Size 344 sq. ft

4. Price 815/mo Size 377 sq. ft

5. Price 850/mo Size 377 sq. ft

6. Price 850/mo Size 430 sq. ft

7. Price 875/mo Size 322 sq. ft

8. Price 875/mo Size 430 sq. ft

9. Price 900/mo Size 344 sq. ft

10. Price 900/mo Size 485 sq. ft

11. Price 940/mo. Size 355 sq. ft

12. Price 1015/mo Size 366 sq. ft

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The next step...

So I've been pretty busy the past week or 2 and still have a bunch of things I need to wrap up in the near future. I'll list them here to serve as a reminder for myself as some of them are pretty urgent, some not so much.

1) Travel shots/ health insurance/ travel insurance. I'm getting my physical tomorrow so I will get a recommendation for a place to get those done, and health insurance/ travel insurance I know nothing about. Travel insurance I might not even get, but i'll weigh the pros/ cons

2) Staying in S. America. I need to a) find a hostel in downtown BsAs that is recommended and book 3 nights there. then b) find an apartment for the month that I am there alone and c) figure out a side trip that I am doing before Noah and Leon arrive.

3) I have some small things regarding my financials that I need to organize. I want to passively invest my income with a split of around 50/50 stocks and bonds. But this takes time and I've been bad at this. I also gotta figure out my situation with credit cards and whatnot.

4) buy gear. I'm doing pretty good at this. I got some expensive ziploc bags (supposedly the navy uses them) to keep my electronics dry, some new underwear (i'll make a long, long post on gear later), 2 pairs of merino wool t shirts (short sleeve), socks, camera, camera case etc etc.

5) Grad school stuff. I'm visiting BC pretty soon, so I need to finish my resume and then send it to some profs so I can hopefully meet up with them when I'm in Vancouver.

That's all for now. I've been pretty busy trying to put in hours to work, spend time with my parents (I'm doing the spanish tapes with my mom every morning now- way to multitask, amirite?) and still have time to relax before 10 months of travel. Next up, I'll give some in depth on the clothes I'm planning on wearing

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Algonquin Park

I went camping at Algonquin Park for 5 days and 4 nights with my gf, Kristin. We covered about 50km in 4 "full" days of hiking, which probably doesn't seem like much considering you can cover that driving on a highway in ~20 min, or on a bike in 2 hrs, but it was a lot. We averaged around 2.5km/ hr when walking, and we both though we had a good "pace" considering how heavy our packs were ( I'm pretty sure mine was around 40lbs ), and how uneven/ rough the terrain was. So a typical day we would...

wake up sometime between 7 and 8 am
Get the food out of the trees ( to prevent animals from eating it), eat breakfast
Pack up our stuff and head out around 10am
Hike for 2-3 hrs with a short 10 minute break here or there to eat a cliff bar/ apple
Eat a lunch around 1pm. Taking a good hour break for lunch
Hike another 2-3 hrs and finally settle down around 4pm.
Go for a quick swim, soap up a bit, set up camp and eat dinner around 7pm.

For food we had oatmeal/ granola for breakfast, apples/cliff bars for snacks, trail mix or crackers with peanut butter for lunch, and dehydrated foods (tofu pesto/ red pepper pasta/ chicken + peas) or canned chili or rice pilaf and tuna for dinner.

The food got a little repetitive, and the dehydrated foods- although very good considering how light they were, got a bit old. I didn't mind the all water diet, as for liquids I drink mainly water, beer and the occassional grapefuit/orange juice.

But all in all it was a very good trip. We got very lucky with the weather as the forecast called for rain basically every day, but we only got hit with rain on Thursday (our 2nd to last day). We saw a moose (A MOOSE!) in the woods, plenty of bear tracks, quite a few birds, a snake (priceless sounds from Kristin upon almost stepping on it), approximiately 50 million toads and a gazillion mosquitoes.

Highlights of the trip would probably be the campsites, we had some great views, and we had the 2 best campsites on the entire set of trails available to backpackers. Going for a swim after walking the entire day was great and just relaxing after a long day of walking was great. The walking itself varied, mosqsuitoes were a pain in the ass but it gave me a lot of time to think about nothing- clear my head a bit. Its kindof funny but before the trip it occurred to me that i'd have a lot of time to think about things, but i ended up spending the whole walks just thinking about nothing.

Anyways, without further ado, here are some pictures

note: if you have a facebook account, this will bring you to your inbox. Just go to my profile and then you'll see it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pick your favorite apartment

You can include number 1, but its booked solid for the next year and a half, so it seems that we're shit outta luck on that one. Let me know what your top 3 picks are and why. Things to keep in mind: Consider all to be in our price range, although number 8 is certainly pushing it. I'd prefer you rate them entirely based on which house you'd want to live in with 2 close friends, and then to use their price as a tiebreaker.

1. 1840/mo

2. 1400/mo

3. 2300/mo

4. 1500/mo

5. 2300/mo

6. 1150/mo

7. 2000/mo

8. 3250/mo

9. 2625/mo

10. 2540/mo

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Visited a travel clinic today. Stuff's pretty expensive. I figure I'd outline everything I do/ need to do for this trip (what i bring, what i buy, where i stay/go etc), so it can double as a way for me to remember everything i did and if any of you eventually travel, maybe give you a heads up on what to look out for etc.

So, I have been perscribed...

Dukoral (some oral medication for traveler's diarrhea. lol. supposedly its only 60% effective, which makes me wonder if i should take it. But its oral, and there aren't many substitutes for it.

Diamox high altitude sickness medication. I got prescribed this, but i might pass on it. I've been to 3000m for an afternoon and didn't feel any different, so I'm not too worried- but some others (Caitlin) swear by it. I think i'll ask some of my relatives to see if they have had trouble, and if none of them ever had, i'll just figure its genetic and that i'll be fine.

JE Vac (3 stages) for Japanese Encephalitis. Thanks, Kenta. I was originally under the impression that I'd narrowly miss the main seasons of JE through my trip except for in India, but I ended up needing it. Only issue is that it comes in 3 shots, and I can only schedule to have 2 of them done in Toronto.

Lots of Insect Repellant- Dengue Fever. Evidently Dengue Fever is a pretty big deal, there is no vaccine for it so you just need to wear long clothes, insect repellent etc. Also, unlike Malaria which strikes during morning/ evenings it happens during the day.

A "Do Not Swim In Freshwater" order from my doctor. Salt water or chlorinated pools, only. Evidently there are some snails that'll migrate to your liver or bladder and produce eggs in there for like 15 years. jesus christ.

Rabies. Evidently there's a serious shortage of Rabies vaccine, so they treat it but dont give out the vaccine itself. But I had read up on it from before (FAQ listed earlier from 4HWW) and it basically said if you get bit by anything, wash up your arm as well as possible and head to a consulate of USA/ Canada/ UK/ Switzerland asap.

Malaria. I got perscribed 85 pills of Maladrone. So I guess the deal is there are $1 pills that have side effects that include high anxiety, going crazy etc. or maladrone which is $6/pill but has less side effects. Given my history of anxiety and general distaste for medications with side effects in general- I'm going with the Maladrone. I gotta take them every day, starting the day before I enter a malaria site, and for 1 week after. Also, if I get a fever within 1 year of being in a Malaria infected area, I need to see a doctor asap and tell them I have been in one.

Yellow Fever vaccine. Matt "why would you take a vaccine for that". It gives you a really weak form of the disease, which can either make you go crazy for asian girls or make you sick and in rare cases (ie. allergies to eggs (?!?) or over 65 years old etc) can be fatal. There is a relatively high risk of getting a fever, so I'm going to wait until after my camping trip.

Tick borne encephalitis. Evidently it exists in Switzerland, but I passed on this because I worked on a farm there for 1 month and never even heard of this stuff. That, and the fact that I'll probably keep things low key if/when I reach the land of chocolate and cheese.

At this point in time, the lady who was telling me this stuff was going a bit over the top. I mean, malaria, yellow fever, some japanese thing- okay lets be careful. Wash all vegetables, use bottled water for everything, even brushing teeth- okay sure, i got it. But then she starts telling me about getting food poisoning in new zealand, or try to avoiding diahrea. And now I have been perscribed 1 medication that reduces the risk of diahhrea only marginally, and then 2 other meds. for when I inevitably get it anyways. With regards to the food poisoning, give me a break - i'm travelling for a year, things happen and I don't want to think about/ worry about some bacterial toxins when i'm eating a delicious piece of swordfish 5,000 miles away from here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Digital Camera

I'll outline everything I take with me on the trip- especially the essentials like how many pairs of socks (15.5, i'm thinking) and then as I travel what things I wish I brought, or had gotten instead.

Anyways, I don't necessarily need a new camera. I have a 3 mp camera I bought from my sister (canon sd200), and while I have had no complaints with it (minus difficulties switching it into 'take picture' mode)- and I've always felt it was the perfect digital camera for university. I bought it off my sister for relatively cheap (~ $150 if i remember correctly), it took good pictures, had high storage capacity (with sd card slot), didn't come with that ridiculously slow/annoying digital camera software, and was somewhat rugged. I also felt, due to its low cost, being an older model, that if it were to somehow break, it wouldn't be the end of the world as i knew it.

But, using it now, I'm starting to think that if i'm gonna spend a ton of money traveling around, it might make more sense to invest in a camera that takes higher quality images. My current camera does not have a high "iso" which allows you to take sharp images of moving things and some other new features are 'face recognition' software, faster shot times, higher quality (3.2 - 8+ MP), etc.

So here are a few. I'm pretty impressed with the quality (or so it seems) of these cameras for their price (under $300)

the latest (?) Canon offering. I might decide to just go with another Canon. They seemed to be the first digital camera's to "get it" with respect to ease of use, small size, excellent battery life, sd card slots etc. But not sure if they're still the "best". You may wonder why I chose to show the link of the blue one, given it comes in 5 colors. I thought it looked pretty. Yes, I said it.

According to cnet (pretty good reviews of all things digital), the sd1000 is superior to the sd1100 with everything except for optical image stabilization. what that exactly is, i'm not sure. And- it doesn't come in blue, uh oh.;rb_content;contentMain;contentBody;userOpinions

Best reviewed Canon camera. No normal viewfinder- but I never used that thing anyways. Supposedly takes "great" shots. I think as of now, this is the favorite, followed by the other 2. Please let me know if you have any advice on other cameras to look at.

Panasonic. Don't know much about Panasonic products, but it got a good review, and the user opinions were very high on it (highest I could fine of any cnet reviewed camera)

I checked out the Olympus, Nikon and but none of them got great reviews. And I think Sony makes some good products- but, I hate, hate how they create their own sd drives that are incompatible with others. If Sony's removable storage devices were superior to SD, in capacity, speeds etc, okay great. But when they do it just to pad their profits, and force their customers to buy other products that only they sell- I dont want to support that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

An interesting Outlook

This is from the FAQ that I mentioned earlier ( for those too lazy to scroll down)

"I have done a LOT of travelling throughout Africa & Asia and met a lot of other travellers on the way, and would say the most important bit of advice to give someone setting off, THE golden rule, is GO ALONE! Travelling is a very individual thing -- a companion forces you to make compromises. The dynamics between yourself and your companion intrude on the travelling and diminish the experience. A companion isolates you from others -- you become a social unit that excludes others joining in. Plus you will inevitably part company sooner or later anyway -- save yourself the grief and the wasted opportunities. There are many others on the road with whom you will team up for short periods anyway. There are plenty of watering holes en-route where you can meet up with other travellers when you find yourself needing social intercourse. There will always be others with whom you can share expenses (i.e. renting a car or guide) for short (<>

I'm not sure how the trip will go. I've traveled quite extensively with Leon and Noah, they're great guys we all get along great in that we're usually good about doing our own things and what not, but this excerpt makes me think that I should figure out some independent side trips (ie when i tour S.E. Asia, China, India) that lets me explore the areas alone. I think if i want to really want to have this trip to have a lasting effect on me, I need time alone, to see how others live, to reflect/ experience things alone.

As of right now, I'm thinking that in the places we stay for significant time we can all live together, but in areas where I want to explore, I will try and have side trips, excursions alone or travel in a route opposite to theirs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Next

So now that the flight itinerary is finished, its time to take to figure out the next course of duty and go from there.

In no particular order, I need to get shots for the countries I plan on visiting, find an apartment in BsAs, get a credit card, start to look into things to do in BsAs (and elsewhere), and figure out how much gear I'll need.

On that note, I finished the 4 hour workweek, and the end of one chapter was particularly helpful in that it listed a bunch of links for those who are ready to travel. I'm basically copying it out of the book, although my summary's will be a bit shorter. A list of articles on places to go travel Lonely Planet forum, separated by region Center for Disease Control. Find out what kinds of shots I need, etc FAQ for the traveler, with some great advice. Simple, straightforward currency exchange rates Tim Ferriss strongly recommends this power converter. Its very compact, light and supposedly does a great job. List of information on types of electrical outlets supplied worldwide

I'm gonna spend the rest of today trying to figure out what types of shots I will need, where to get them, and then start looking into credit cards. It'd be really (extremely) helpful if I could get a credit card with a high limit, but I've never had one before, so I think my only option is to get my dad to co-sign one with me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Travel Itinerary

The tickets have been purchased. It feels great to know that the plan of traveling the world, which I have wanted to do for over 2 years now, and had dreamed of doing it for much longer, is finally coming to fruition. There is still a ton more planning to do, but we've finally made some serious decisions and put the (big) initial step in place. As far as I'm concerned, its all downhill from here.

Anyways, here's the itinerary.

Sept 1st New York City to Buenos Aires

I'll be here alone from Early Sept- Mid October. I plan on taking Spanish lessons daily, exploring the city, hopefully meeting an ex-pat crowd and potentially taking jujitsu. I'm currently looking for apartments in Recoleta, which is the nicest part of BsAs, and prices are pretty reasonable, so I'm pretty sure I'll book that up in the next few weeks.

In Mid October Leon and Noah will be joining me in BsAs.

We'll move into a new apartment and probably stay there for 1 month. I'll probably keep doing whatever I do for the first 6 weeks. Trips I'm interested in- Patagonia and Iguazu falls. I might do one of these alone before they come down, but we'll see.

Mid November BsAs to Lima, Peru

Gonna go to Cuzco, Peru, possibly hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and there are a few other hot spots in Peru that Leon knows a bunch about and we'll definitely hit up.

Early December back to BsAs for a connection to Sydney, Australia

Due to some scheduling with our round the world ticket, this was our 'best' option. Ideally we wanted another 2 weeks in S. America, but this ensures we'll be in Australia/ New Zealand for Christmas and New Years. I expect we'll spend around a week to 10 days in Sydney, and then

Mid December Sydney, Australia to Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand to Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand is supposed to be amazing, so I hope to spend around a month. The southern Island is more well known for its hiking, outdoorsy stuff, and I hope we can find some great hikes, to enjoy the great views etc.

Mid January Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia

You may be wondering why we're going BsAs - Sydney - Queenstown - Melbourne, but the fact of the matter is, planning those round the world tickets is not easy, or always logical. And we wanted to go to all of these cities. I've heard a ton of great things about Melbourne, so it was on my list of places that I'd like to spend > 1 month, to live there, get to know the area really well and hopefully get a surfing lesson in.

Mid - Late February Melbourne to Hong Kong

According to most people I've asked, Hong Kong is a good place to visit for a short period of time. But its also a major hub for Cathay Pacific, one of the member airlines, so we had to include this on our list.

Late February Hong Kong to Beijing

I hope to spend around 2 weeks (maybe a bit more) in Beijing, Shanghai and Harbin. I had never heard of Harbin before, but a friend (Weijia) whose originally from there told me a bunch about its Russian influences (at one point it was under Russian rule) and it sounded like there was a lot to see in the city.

Mid March Beijing to Tokyo

Japan!!! I'm excited. I'm split between wanting to spend not so much time there, and hopefully go back when Kenta is there, or just going for a significant amount of time. So I could either be here for a week or like 4, we'll see I guess. (For purposes of this itinerary we'll say I went there for 1 week)

Late March Tokyo to Bangkok

South East Asia sounds really cool, but I'm split on if I want to make it the place where I live for a month, or if I'd rather just do a tour of the area. I'm leaning towards "blitzing" around Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, and then spending a week or 2 on some beautitful beach to relax. I think my two travel buddies are leaning towards spending around 5 weeks in total. Seeing Singapore would be pretty cool, as long as I stay away from vandalising anything...

Early May Bangkok to Mumbai (Bombay), India

I know very little about India. But, I'd really like to 1) See the Taj Mahal and 2) See some of those insane Temples and 3) Possible find a place on the beach that doesn't have too many tourists, and just hang out. I think on the grand list of places tourists (from N. America) go, India isn't very high up the list (those of Indian descent notwithstanding) so maybe this would be a good opportunity to get off the beaten trail. I'm going to assume 2-3 weeks here

Late May (Early June) Mumbai (Bombay), India - Helsinki Finland

We also have a flight from Helsinki to Budapest, Budapest to Zurich and Zurich to home. I'm not sure what the exact plans are in Europe, but I really wanted to see Oslo, Norway Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. I also have heard that St. Petersburg is beautiful in the summer (all these locations are supposedly great as there is sunlight like 20 hrs/ day). There will also be the opportunity to go to Budapest, and see some of Eastern Europe (Prague, Vienna). I'd like to pick one spot and spend a decent amount of time, instead of doing a tour type of thing. And I also look forward to seeing all my family in Switzerland, and possibly spending some time there in the mountains to relax before heading back home for whatever I plan on doing next.

There's a ton of stuff I'm hopefully gonna wrap up in the near future (What laptop to buy, travel insurance, credit cards, apartment in BsAs, immunization shots) and I'll post when I find out more.

If you have any advice on any of these places, or know of a great place nearby that I'm missing out on, please hit me up with either a comment, facebook message, or email. Also, if you're gonna be somewhere that looks remotely close (in time frame) to where I am going to be, let me know and I'll do whatever I can to meet up.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Time Management

I have a few goals for my trip beyond the typical see the world, have great experiences, etc.

I figure if I have a lot of time, I should invest some of it into improving things about my life that will hopefully carry over after I am done traveling. In no particular order, the main ones off the top of my head would be to eat healthy, exercise regularly and improve my productivity.

Each could use their own blog post, so I'll focus on the last one right now.

I'm not very productive. There was a brief period, earlier this year (Feb - Finals) where I did a good job. I had unc, thesis, finals, a gf, worked out regularly and I think I managed them all reasonably well. So I know I have it in me to get a lot done, while still . But already, I notice that I get less done, and am less ambitious towards doing what I need to.

On that note, I recently got recommended the book "The 4 Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss, and a lot of what he talks about is increasing productivity. He says a lot in his book, and I definitely do not agree with all of it (maybe I'll do a full summary when I complete it), but there were two things I thought were good and worth sharing.

1. Pareto's law. 80% of the results often take 20% of the effort ( On a side note, this explains my overall marks in engineering extremely well...). He uses the example that you can cut out the unneccessary stuff that is wasting 80% of your time, and significantly improve your life/ amount of free time. I think of this more in the opposite sense, in that if you really want to do something well, you're gonna need to work 5x as hard as the guy whose fine with just getting by.

2. Batching and Interruption. The idea that constant interruptions can stop you from getting things done, and to avoid them you should only check your email 2x a day (but not 1st thing in the morning because you're most productive then) and avoid reading the news on a regular basis. Batching is the idea that doing a bunch of tasks at once will save time and increase productivity versus spreading them out. (ie, checking emails every 5 minutes and responding to them when you get them versus only looking at 2 specific times per day)

So my goal for the next week (and beyond) is to check my emails very infrequently. Given I don't work a 9 to 5 there is no harm in checking my email first thing in the morning, but I'll try for noon and after dinner (~ 8 pm).

I also want to have a daily schedule (during the week). I'm going to work on this, but hopefully I can figure it out over this weekend and post it up here on Monday ( and spend 2 weeks working at it)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I need to learn spanish.

My first destination has been decided on- it'll be Buenos Aires. I'll head there in early September, and live there for around 3- 3.5 months, not including any excursions around South America. On that list (which is short now, but I'm sure will expand a ton in the near future), is Patagonia and hiking to see machu picchu. But given that I'll be alone at the start of the trip, I'm gonna need to have some familiarity with spanish to get around, etc.

I found this which is pretty interesting in its analysis of what the best way to learn a language is. I can't find part 2, which is too bad because that might've held some other good advice (if you find it- link me please). Regardless, my plan will be to use Pimsleur spanish (which I just picked up- will start tomorrow morning) and will do 1 or 2 sessions a day monday- friday and then when i get to BsAs, sign up for some spanish lessons. From there I will follow Tim Ferriss's advice, and try and get lessons on subjects that interest me and hope to gain some sort of a foothold on Spanish.

Anyways, theres a bunch of things to organize in the near future and I'll keep with the plan and give each their own seperate post.