Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Final Thoughts, Observations and Stories

SIGH. Well, today is my second day back at work and it already feels like I never went on vacation. By that I mean that slipping back into the day after day humdrum of sleep-eat-work-workout-eat-sleep-eat-work-workout-etc is SO monotonous versus sleep-should I see the Forbidden City or the Great Wall today-eat-explore-get peed on-sight see-eat-milk a horse-sleep-etc.

I actually have to give huge thanks to my co-worker (hi Miranda) for keeping things so well under control while I was gone that I have returned to a very pleasant and stress-free environment. I guess I'm just a wander-lusting vagabond at heart.

Okay, I have some tragic news. This weekend, after downloading 21GB of photos and videos from my trip to my external hard drive and deleting them from the memory cards, I was uploading pictures to Picasa Web when the hard drive got knocked over. Now it makes a horrific grinding sound and the laptop won't even recognize it. I had only got about 90 photos out of about 1000 and zero videos out of about 50 uploaded. All throughout my trip I told people I'd rather have my passport stolen than my camera. You can replace your passport but not your photos and videos. Now they are all gone! I'm just sick to my stomach.

I called around to a few data recovery places and was quoted $1300-$1800 IF they can recover anything!!! OMG!!! I just spent $3500 on this trip and now I'm supposed to spend $1800 to save my photos? I am about to jump off the Aurora Bridge. :(

I asked my computer genius friend Amos if he had any contacts in the data recovery field but he doesn't. He did however tell me I might be able to salvage something by putting the hard drive in the freezer for 24 hours. Evidently this shrinks the metal parts and allows them to run very briefly (20 mins). I just tried it after 12 hours and I got no read from my laptop. So, it looks like I'll be skipping Christmas this year in order to recover my vacation photos and videos. :( Maybe I should just charge each of you $50 to view them. lol

So, if I send in the hard drive tomorrow I might have it back in a week and I will just have to keep my fingers crossed to see what they can recover. When (if) I get anything, I'll let you know when they're posted.

On a lighter note...

Here's a list of things that I'm annoyed by since returning:
* Not being able to leave the house 6 min after showering (having only 3 outfits to choose from was actually a good thing!)
* My time not being my own
* How mundane my life is
* Rain in Seattle

Things I'm joyed by since returning:
* Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
* Soft toilet paper
* Real ice cream! (the ice cream all through Russia and China tasted odd)
* Clean air! (my nose has mostly stopped running)
* The taco truck!
* My BED and down comforter
* Pedestrian right-of-way

I've been thinking there are some things I might not have relayed during my trip because they became so common to me. For instance, did I mention that throughout Russia and China you cannot flush the toilet paper? Since you could in Mongolia, and Mongolia seems to have FAR worse infrastructure, I don't really understand this one. Also, toilet paper is almost never provided so you *always* carry it with you. I coveted many a roll from the odd times I stayed in a hotel. :) There is also never any soap so you always carry hand sanitizer too. In fact, in China, there's almost never any sink!

>Just as I trained myself to throw the toilet paper in the basket, I returned home. The first day back I kept almost throwing it into my wastebasket. lol

>I can't understand why my fingernails would be dirty 10 mins after getting out of the shower, yet at home, they never are!

>Beijing is HUGE. I was on the subway for 1 hour and 20 mins, and transferred 3 times and was still in Beijing! And when we went to the Wall, we drove for 2.5 hours before the buildings and traffic thinned out!

>All over Beijing there are elderly people who wear arm bands that say 'public safety volunteer'. Now, these are old people - in their 70's and 80's - so I don't think they're going to be taking down any muggers. But I wonder if they do actually act as deterrents to crime because Chinese thugs are more respectful of their elders than other thugs in the world, or is it more of a social thing. Does giving these elderly people a sense of purpose contribute to their mental well-being, and therefore longevity? Very interesting.

>I carried a PacSafe slash-proof pouch over one shoulder and kept all my money, credit cards, iPhone and passport in it. Around the other shoulder I carried my camera, also on a slash-proof PacSafe strap. I looked like the ultimate tourist, but I think it was obvious that everything of importance and value was in there and not in my shoulder bag, so it was useless to slash that or steal it. All they would have gotten is a bunch of used, snotty kleenex. lol

>OH! I know I totally forgot to tell you the story of the French guy I met at the hostel in Irkutsk. He was walking along the road late and night and was hit by a car and it DIDN'T EVEN STOP! A local found him lying in the road and took him to their home for a few days to recover until he could get to the doctor, but then they wanted money from him! When he did finally get to the hospital it turned out his ankle was broken! He was only a few weeks into an 8 month trip but he decided to return home to recover. So sad!

>All the clothes I took on the trip (except my cold weather ones) were bought brand new just before I left. Also brand new were my $85 Merrill cushioned, supportive shoes. After just 4 weeks I want to burn all of them. The shoes looked like they belonged to a homeless person, and I seriously think I flattened the arch support! I threw them in the washer when I got home though and to my great surprise, they actually look pretty good again.

>Things I learned while on this trip:
*Yogurt is completely safe to eat even if it hasn't been refrigerated for a day - or even two!
* Never pass up the opportunity to use a toilet in China - at least if you have TD :)
* Always keep a medium amount of cash on hand in foreign countries
* It is possible to make good friends, even if you don't speak each other's language
* Life is too short and time passes too quickly
* There is a whole lot of world to see!

I'm already planning my next trip for August or Sept 2011. Who's coming with me??!! :)

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