March 29, 2009

Recipe for a Round-the-World Trip

[Editor's note: Next week, we will be doing a special joint Q&A post. Please email us or respond in the comments below with any burning questions you'd like to ask (about the trip, or about whatever you want). If you don't, Zhou will be very sad and Kevin will have to make up the questions himself, which would make Zhou apprehensive AND sad.]

The short version:
1. Save money
2. Figure out where you want to go
3. Research tickets
4. Buy tickets
5. Research and buy gear
6. Quit job
7. Get shots
8. Get visas
9. Get married (optional)
10. Pack and leave

The long version:
1. Save money
There's an analyst in my group who keeps a spreadsheet, which he updates every day, of how much money he's spent and how many calories he's eaten. He called me over earlier this year and showed me the (unholy!) amount of money he spent in 2008 that made up his "going out" pie piece. Let's just say it wasn't more than I had paid in rent all year, but it was definitely in the same zip code. Luckily for us, Kevin and I are giant nerds boring people pretty happy people who are easily amused by a sub-par movie or a rousing game of Scrabble (I can't believe I just used the word "rousing" to describe a board game). Anyway, we're fortunate to have been able to save enough money to be able to go on this trip. Granted, we have been eating a lot of ramen lately. Just kidding, Mom! We have eaten a vegetable or two. Below is a nice graph (complete in Wachovia standard colors) that Kevin made of our budget. The reason the South America piece is so big is because we're planning on doing the Galapagos Islands (not cheap) and a stay in the Amazon rainforest (also not cheap). Also, here's a nifty calculator that I used to help come up with our budgets per country.


2. Figure out where you want to go
This one was a bit tricky. With the help of this book, Kevin and I made a list of countries we wanted to visit and put them into four tiers: must go, would like to go, would go if on the way, and wouldn't go to even if you paid us (Kevin: like the forest with the big rats in "The Princess Bride" or Pittsburgh). We then made places we might never get a chance to go to again (like Easter Island) a higher priority than more accessible places (like Europe), and in that I think we succeeded. The main exception: Antarctica is still a maybe. (Kevin says if his ESPN bracket wins the country, we can go! Unfortunately, this does not look likely.) We also tried to avoid rainy seasons and really cold or hot weather. Alas, even with me at the helm of the planning boat, things can't be perfect. We're skipping at least one of our "must go" places, and we're going to Japan in January and Egypt in July.

3. Research tickets
There are lots and lots of other people who advocate buying your plane tickets as you go - and I can understand that. Sort of. But as we aren't going that route, I'll go ahead and let them talk about the merits of "spontaneity" and "flexibility" (not that there's anything wrong with being spontaneous, it's just that the closest I can manage to come to that is "planned spontaneity"). We chose to buy round-the-world (RTW) tickets instead of buying as we go. There are a few different airline alliances you can buy a RTW ticket from. We chose OneWorld (Star Alliance is the biggest; you can read about them and others here), mainly because they offer a ticket based on continents visited, rather than miles traveled, and they have a fairly expansive network. All other RTW tickets (that I know of) price their tickets by miles traveled, which can make it difficult to zigzag between the northern and southern hemispheres and stay within your mileage restriction. With the routes Kevin and I were thinking of, it made a lot more sense to buy a 5-continent ticket from OneWorld instead, skipping North America (they don't fly to Antarctica).

The way the ticket works is this: you plan a route, using the cities that your particular airline alliance flies to (this means we'll be on a LOT of buses in South America. And Southeast Asia. And Africa). You are limited to 16 stops, four stops max per continent. You must cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans exactly once each. I don't see what other way there is to go around the world, but for whatever reason that's listed as one of the rules. There are lots of other rules, but you get the idea. The good thing about the RTW ticket is that you can leave all your flight dates (except the first) open-ended (see, planned spontaneity in action!), so if you decide to stay somewhere a bit longer than you first intended, you just call up American Airlines and ask them to put you on a flight later that week or later that month, no charge. But you can't make changes to the cities you're flying to or change your first date without paying a fee.

4. Buy tickets.
We decided to buy our RTW tickets starting in London (in conjunction with a one-way ticket to London) because it cut out a continent, which saved us money - and, for whatever reason, the tickets are cheaper if you buy your ticket in the UK ($2,500ish, depending on the exchange rate, from the UK v. $4,590 from the US for the 5-continent ticket). I don't know why the price discrepancy exists, but I'm sure I'll figure it out after grad school. I believe it has something to do with elasticity of demand. On second thought, maybe not. Anyway. The actual process of buying the tickets turned out to be a lot more difficult than I originally thought, until I figured out one important thing: not all of the ticketing agents know all of the rules. So if one disagrees with you and tries to tell you that you "have to fly American on one of these flights, or you can't book it with us" or that you "have to call British Airways, since they're the carrier of your first leg " or that you "have to pay the higher fare of the UK and US fares," don't listen. Just thank them politely, hang up, wait two minutes and call back. Trust me on this one. I finally figured this out after a few hours on hold and some, shall we say, "spirited debate" with various ticketing agents. Our RTW tickets ended up costing a little less than $3,000 each, including taxes and fees, which I think is pretty stellar (book your own tickets here).

There's an embarrassing story to be told here about one of us carelessly booking the tickets with the incorrect first date, and having to call and get the first date changed, which was a $250 fee per ticket... Luckily, the exchange rate had fluctuated so that when they re-priced our tickets, we ended up getting a refund. So everything ended up being ok. I won't tell you who stupidly didn't triple check the date before booking the tickets, but I will tell you the other person was extremely gracious about it and didn't even blame or make fun of her. I mean them.

5. Research and buy gear
Kevin has already mentioned some of the gear that we've bought for our trip, so I won't get in to much detail here. Our goal is to be able to carry everything on the plane with us. This self-imposed restriction means we will be wearing the exact same outfits in every single picture. I know this will seem sketchy and Photoshop-y, but I promise we really are going! We are modeling our packing list based on these two lists. Our most recent purchase was two headlamps, one of which I tried on yesterday - very stylish and practical, all in one headpiece. I'm really not clear as to how I lived without one before. It makes me want to go spelunking.

6. Quit job
This clearly doesn't apply to you if your job is to travel around the world and dance awkwardly. Or if this is your job. As for the rest of you, I don't have any specific advice as to how to go about quitting your job (Kevin and I are both on 2-year contracts), but these girls do.

7. Get shots.
[Kevin wants me to specify here that the shots we are referring to are the kind where they stick a needle in your arm. What other kind of shots are there?] We went to a travel clinic for ours, and they were really helpful. All you have to do is tell them where you're going, and they tell you what you need (we took their word for it). We ended up with seven shots in three sore arms. We also got malaria pills and pills for what some people euphemistically refer to as Delhi belly or Montezuma's revenge. I've read that some community health clinics offer immunizations at cost, so if you know what you need, that would also be a good place to go.

8. Get visas
[Kevin wanted to insert a joke here about American Express not being everywhere you want to be, but I nixed that idea.] Getting visas is another one of those little things you have to do that ends up being more complicated than you think. Different countries have different requirements, which seem to be constantly changing. Because our trip is so long and visas usually have a shelf life of a half year or less, we will be getting a few beforehand and a few along the way. Funnily enough, I still don't know what a visa actually looks like. I used to think it was a stamp in your passport, but after reading more about them, I think they're actually pieces of paper. I imagine them as those certificates they give you in elementary school for completing D.A.R.E. Remember, just say no!

9. Get married (optional)
Getting married gives you the perfect excuse to take a RTW trip (it's our honeymoon!), but that's not the reason we're doing it, right Kev?

10. Pack and leave
Five months and 12 days until we leave!!!

[Don't forget to submit questions for next week's post!]
________________________________________________

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):
Today we have a new kind of puzzle. It is called "Better Chargers" (or "Letter Changers"). To solve the puzzle, change one letter in each word to come up with a well-known phrase. [Remember, we are not sending out postcards anymore until the trip starts, but the person who gets the most puzzles correct by September will get to write a guest post on whatever they want! Is that enough encouragement?]

Today's Yummy Better Charger:
Get they bat cage!
East is pig.
________________________________________________

Scrabble Games: 36 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 20; 363; 401; SOLVInG
Kevin WPLB: 16; 364; 390; DEnIZEN, DONATER

March 22, 2009

It Depends on Your Definition of Memorable

I remember one day back in elementary school where I was standing in line next to this tall guy in the grade above me. He was talking to his friends in front of him, and I was most likely doing simple multiplication on my abacus, since that's what I do. Anyway, I remember he turned around and asked me to look at my fingernails. "Why should I do that?" I wondered. Apparently it was some experiment he was doing, and since it didn't seem like that big of a deal, I turned my hand over and took a look. As soon as I did so, he bellowed (I've always wanted to use the word bellow in a blog post), "That's how girls do it!" He then explained to me that guys curl their fingers into their palms to look at their nails, whereas girls turn their entire hand over. Now that I'm engaged, I realize that this is so girls can easily slide a ring onto their finger, while guys need to be prepared at all times to throw a punch, even when looking at their fingernails.

The moral of this story is that we all go through experiences in life that drastically change who we are. The experiences come in all shapes and sizes - from unforgettable occurrences like what happened to me in line that day, to situations that may be easily overlooked if you're not careful, like traveling the world for a year. In order to prevent this next year from going by unnoticed, today we will write about one activity in each continent that will leave a lasting impact on our lives.

Africa: One of the very first adventures that we will embark on is a gorilla trek. (This is much different than a Gorillaz Track, although I'll hopefully always remember both.) Early two Ugandan mornings we will wake up and follow two guys with guns and knives to hunt endangered African gorillas. We will swiftly forage through the forest in search of the gorillas, and once we find them, we will get as close as possible and shoot... pictures of them with our cameras.

At first glance, looking at gorillas up close doesn't seem all that life-changing, since it combines sitting and being quiet with going to the zoo. However, apparently it is. (Side note: the previous link takes you to a blog post from www.thirteenmonths.com, which is pretty much our inspiration for a lot of this trip. The only difference is that they were a traveling inter-racial couple, and I'm an inter-racial couple all by myself.) After all, not everyone's lucky enough to hang out with 400-pound behemoths all day like Inigo Montoya.


Asia: Our next life-changing moment comes in Nepal, on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. This is a 180-mile jaunt through the Himalayan Mountains, spread out over 20 days. The main reason that this will be life-changing is that unless we find a car 10 miles into the trip, we might be dead afterwards. I probably don't walk 180 miles in a year, let alone three weeks. However, the views are supposed to be amazing, and we hear that the huts we will stay in each night are dirt cheap (we pay with dirt we find on the trail). If you're interested in doing this trip before we can give you advice, we recommend this site for tips. Otherwise, feel free to come join us (Matt) and you too might be able to see a dog with dreds.

(courtesy of Lucas & Jacqui)

Australia: Soon after Nepal we'll make our way south to 13,000 feet above New Zealand for our next memorable experience. And I use the term "we" loosely. Zhou may or may not join in on our New Zealand skydive, so if you've ever been and have a strong recommendation for her, please let us know. From what I've seen of skydiving though, this experience will be memorable because it's the only time our mouths will ever look like Julia Roberts'.

Honestly though, I think that getting pushed out of that plane will be one of the two times on this trip where I may wet my pants (washing them at the halfway point of the trip being the other). This is the one thing I feel least prepared for, as the closest thing I've ever done to skydiving would probably have to be thigh driving (when you've ordered chinese food to go and need both your hands to eat, all you can do is jam your thighs against the wheel and hope they take you to your destination). The good thing is, now that I've blogged about it, I can't back out.

South America: Our next arbitrarily chosen experience is touring the salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) in Bolivia. This is where Salvador Dali is said to have gotten his inspiration, so Zhou and I both expect to see melting clocks and monsters with eyelashes.

"The Persistence of Memory"

I think what intrigues me most about this location is the thought of 4,000 square miles of vast expanse (not to mention all the salt you could ever eat). Zhou and I come from jobs where the only times you'd ever use the number 4,000 are when counting laid off bankers or wasted tons of paper per day. So the thought of that much space - just wide open space - boggles the mind. And to top it all off, we might even be able to break the land speed record for a person who's never seen Top Gun carrying a person who's not sure why the third hand on a watch is called the "second" hand.

Europe: Here we will see the famous European pyramids, as according to our round-the-world travel tickets, Egypt is a part of Europe. The most memorable part of this experience will be that we will actually get to see the pyramids, rather than cutting and pasting ourselves into a picture of them, like me and my brother have done:


The pyramids are the only wonder of the world where I actually know the location (unless you count my poster of Michael Jordan, the "eighth wonder of the world"). Of the seemingly infinite number of places there are in the world, to be visiting one of the top seven seems pretty special.

[Editor's Note: If you'd like to join us for any or all of our trip, please do! We will be keeping an up-to-date itinerary here, also accessible from the "Itinerary" link on the right. If you have any questions about timing or life in general (answer: a hen weighs about six or seven pounds), feel free to email at k.curry4[at]gmail[dot]com.]
________________________________________________

Puzzles for Postcards:
For the first time, we have an unsolved anagram, so Zhou and I decided it's best to repost the same puzzle with a more helpful clue. However, as threatened earlier, if the anagram goes unsolved we will angrily burn the postcard and try a new puzzle. Please don't let this happen, because we don't want to add the trash can to our list of winners.

Don't Get Spaghetti Strings and Solve this Carlin Anagram:

"Why did the ninth spy get tan pots? He wanted to test ten tags!"
________________________________________________

Scrabble Games: 34 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 19; 364; 403; WINTERER, DErMISES, ABETtING
Kevin WPLB: 15; 364; 382; STRIPPED, BEASTIAL*
(Zhou: I'd just like to say that I actually know bestial is spelled bestial, not beastial, but Kevin distracted me with his come-hither look.)

March 15, 2009

Bear Grylls Split an Atom with His Bare Hands

[Editor's note: this day is a sad day for us, as it is the last Selection Sunday that we will get to enjoy for the next two years. This got me thinking - the five days that we collectively will miss most next year are, in no particular order: Selection Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday, Pi Day, April Fools' Day and Christmas.]

When I was little, I thought someday my life would be like that of Ken Griffey Jr. or Chris Sabo. My brother and I even used to dress up as them for Halloween, and most days in the summer. (I'm guessing Zhou did the same thing, although I have yet to see the pictures.) I think we did this so we could understand exactly how they felt as they wore their jerseys from door to door asking for candy. (As an aside, below is what Zhou and I now look like, with our friend Jing / Dot.)


But years passed, dreams died and reality set in. And over the past couple of months, I have finally figured out whose path I will follow. Zhou, if you're reading this, sorry to break the news to you this way, but it looks like we're heading down the path of Bear Grylls and Les Stroud.

For those of you who know nothing more than that Bear has a ridiculously awesome name and Les could be the punch line to the joke "What was the man after he dropped his shorts?" then please go turn on Discovery Channel right now. Fast forward through Dirty Jobs and Wreckreation Nation (you can do that these days, right?) and head straight for Man vs. Wild and Survivorman.

Man vs. Wild is a show about a man (Bear Grylls) and the wild (desolate locations around the world). Bear lives up to his name - he climbs down waterfalls, through bat-infested caverns, under massive glaciers... wherever his carefully planned out show takes him. He also eats everything imaginable, from live frogs and scorpions to bear poop and animal carcasses (I guess Zhou will have to be Bear). The only downfall to his show is that a camera crew follows him everywhere he goes, making one wonder how cool a show about his camera crew would be.

Survivorman is a show about a man (Les Stroud) and the wild (desolate locations around the world). Les lives up to his name - he does everything a little less dramatically than Bear. However, in a way he is more impressive, as he is stranded alone for a week with with pretty much nothing more than his camera gear, and he is an accomplished harmonica player (harmonican?).

Thoroughly hooked on these shows now, I feel that I have seen every location on earth, and they all have one thing in common: they are bleak and isolated, and without the right survival techniques, you'll be lucky to make it out alive. With this new knowledge, Zhou and I have two choices: cancel our trip or get the right survival techniques. And since we have already spent a quarter of our budget for next year, we're not canceling our trip. So the DVR is stocked full of our two new favorite shows (no, not Tool Academy and For the Love of Ray J), and we're taking notes.

One thing I've noticed is that it doesn't take a trip around the world to conform to the ways of Bear and Les. For instance, I cooked spaghetti the other day. When the noodles looked about ready, I pulled one of the more wriggly ones out of the pot and attempted to bite off the end as if it were a live snake. With an awful grimace, I forced the snake / noodle down, pausing as I finished to tell no one in particular, "Yech, that was horrible, but full of the protein I need to survive in these rugged conditions."


Lack of food isn't the only danger we will face as we fly Cathay Pacific from one foreboding location to the next. We will also encounter many bears. One of the most important things we've learned is that not all bears should be treated the same way. Grizzly bears will ignore you and let you be as long as you are quiet. However, they will most certainly eat you and your loved ones if you make any sudden movements or noises. Black bears, on the other hand, are scared of noise. Make as big of a ruckus as you can and they will run away, but act stealthy and they will rip you to shreds. Wait, maybe I have the two reversed... but that's beside the point. The point is, bear safety is key and you need the right survival techniques to avoid disaster.

While we're not fighting bears, we'll be sending postcards (and making smooth transitions into the next paragraph), so with that...
________________________________________________

Puzzles for Postcards:
Although a bit easy, the VQ seemed to go over well and we will begin working it into the rotation. However, we are running out of Charlotte postcards, and we are sure you're running out of eagerness to receive Charlotte postcards. So after this week, we have decided to vary up the game a little until we leave. From our next post until September, the person who solves the most puzzles will get to write a guest blog entry if he/she so chooses. (Please remember that this blog will be one of the hottest things on the internet by September, and you will therefore be famous.) In addition, we will continue adding your name to the list of winners. In the meantime, our final postcard for the time being will be sent to whomever solves the following:

It's Safe to Say "Seven Dirty Words" is Funnier Than This Anagram:

"Why did the ninth spy get tan pots? He wanted to test ten tags!"
________________________________________________

Scrabble Games: 28 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 15; 359; 401; STUNTEd, WEDGIES
Kevin WPLB: 13; 366; 359; RETINAL

March 8, 2009

Charlie the Wonder Hamster

In his last post, Kevin made it sound like I am a crazy person. And while it's true that I sometimes make up songs about Charlie (the latest sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," the lyrics too embarrassing to disclose here), Kevin failed to mention that he often picks Charlie up by her front legs and forces her to do something he has dubbed "the Charlie Dance." He walks her around like a little puppet while singing, "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie the wonder hamster..." to the tune of "Harvey the Wonder Hamster." He insists that she likes doing the Charlie Dance, but I think the expression on her little face indicates a feeling more along the lines of pained resignation. I mean, there's not much a 6.1 pound dog can do under those circumstances.

[Random aside: twice in the last month, I have come home to a sheepish-looking Charlie and a lollipop wrapper and lollipop stick on the ground. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where the lollipop itself went, especially when Charlie's breath smelled like cappuccino. We have since moved the lollipops from the coffee table to the kitchen counter.]

Also in his last post, Kevin portrayed me as a rigid, exacting person who has to plan out every single minute of our trip and will throw a tantrum when anything doesn't go exactly according to plan. I don't appreciate that description of me as it is completely untrue. In fact, I have included several periods of "unstructured fun" in the daily schedules. And when we're not having lots of structured (and sometimes unstructured, depending on the time of day) fun, I hope that we will be eating lots and lots of yummy food. Especially mango sticky rice. I will be sorely disappointed if I can't add at least two fruits to Kevin's repertoire over the next year and a half. Hopefully one of them is watermelon. I mean, really, how can anyone not like watermelon? It's delicious! What is there not to like?! The taste of watermelon is totally inoffensive!


But I digress. This post was supposed to be my list of things that I'll miss while on the road. But I had to qualify all those things Kevin said about me. And you can see how me having to qualify Kevin's statements about the crazy things I do could lead to me talking about how I wish Kevin would eat watermelon...can't you? ...

Things I will miss while on the road:
1. Reading the Modern Love column from the New York Times on Mondays.
2. Walking home from work indoors.
3. The way Charlie drags all of the toys out of her bin one by one.
4. My paycheck being deposited into my checking account automatically.
5. Getting a paycheck.
6. Ribs from Mac's.
7. Sweet potato fries from Big Daddy's.
8. Simon Cowell. And Randy. But probably not Paula, and definitely not Kara.
9. Lying on the couch while watching tv on the weekends. And resting my eyes. And if I end up falling asleep, then so be it!
10. Checking out books from the library (and occasionally reading them).
11. Taking showers every day. (When Kevin first read this, he protested, "But you don't take showers every day!" True. I don't. But he misses the point - I could if I wanted to!)
12. Ordering things online.
13. Extreme Plyo class on Tuesday mornings.
14. Cooking.
15. Trader Joe's chocolate covered pretzels. Mmmm.
16. My homemade yogurt/blueberry/granola breakfast parfaits. Note: these are three things that Kevin does not eat. Yet.
17. Watching Charlie army crawl around the other dogs at the dog park because she's too wimpy to play with them.

Things I will not miss while on the road:
1. Working.
2. Listening to the people on CNBC say "the Dow hasn't been this low since [dinosaurs roamed the earth/"Barbie Girl" was a hit song/those shiny pogs came out and everyone had them except for people whose moms wouldn't buy them because it was a waste of money - but I'm not bitter]."
3. Doing the dishes.
4. Watching Bernanke testify in Congress every day, and saying to no one in particular, "Hey, Bernanke used to be on my high school's board!" and no one caring. I'm still shocked that no one is impressed by that. I just don't get it. I'm still impressed by that, and I found out months ago.
5. Exreme Plyo class on Tuesday mornings.

There you have it.

So I had been thinking of a way to end this post for a few days now, but I couldn't think of one, so I went back to Kevin's list-of-things-he'll-miss post for inspiration, and lo and behold! (You know, I wish people would say "lo and behold!" in real life.) I noticed that Kevin also ended with "There you have it." Obviously, this could mean a few different things:
1. I subconsciously copied him.
2. We have been together so long that we are starting to become the same person.
3. He looked into the future and stole the way I am ending my post but didn't tell me so that I wouldn't accuse him of being a copycat.
4. I secretly enjoyed making these lists so much that I wanted an excuse to make another one.

The only possibility I can rule out with any certainty is number two, as I have definitely not grown at all since Kevin and I started dating. In fact, I may be a teensy bit shorter. Anyway, as I have obviously still not thought of a good way to end this post, I'll leave you with this - a list of things that we (Kevin, Naz and I) call Charlie, in no particular order:
1. Chuck
2. You little..!
3. Punkin
4. Honey
5. Cutie (Patootie/Pie)
6. Harvey
7. Charlie
8. Murphy
9. Charlie Barley
10. Sweetie (Pie)
11. Charles

Ok, so I do like making lists. Is that so wrong?
________________________________________________

Puzzles for Postcards:
We'll try something new with today's puzzle and see if we can work it into the rotation. We'll give you two famous related quotes with all the vowels and punctuation removed (VQs), and your goal is to respond with the quote. In addition, as further incentive we are now going to keep a list of past winners - hopefully we'll see your name here soon!

Build Me Up! VQs From a 1987 Movie Classic:
1) MYNMSNGMNTY
2) NCNCVBL
________________________________________________

Scrabble Games: 20 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 11; 362; 486; InVOlVES, MANGOES
Kevin WPLB: 9; 359; 306; COASTER

Note: Zhou played InVOlVES on the triple triple for 158 points!

March 1, 2009

Pocket Protectors and Minesweeper

People sometimes ask how one adjusts to life out of a suitcase and then back to the real world again. They don't ask me, clearly, but I'm sure that this question has been asked. If this inquiry was directed in my vicinity though, I would take it and turn it into a blog post. Kind of like this one.

I think that Zhou and I fit two different molds as it relates to world travel: (1) people who enjoy the experiences rather than possessions and (2) people who are way too structured / organized to even think about taking a year off and fly by the seat of their pants:

(that's my uncle)

My typical weekday morning goes something like this:
6:23 - wake up (no snoozes, thanks to this guy)
6:25 - brush teeth and take vitamin (Target brand, to save money)
6:34 - head to gym (crazy, I just recently became a morning person)
6:44 - pushups / crunches / stretch (I can now touch my toes!)
6:55 - basketball (show off my reverse jams)
8:00 - make and eat breakfast (either oatmeal or bagel / eggs, always with applesauce and milk)
8:31 - shower
8:42 - change (while watching DVRed Sportscenter top plays)
9:08 - work


I'd like to think there's some variation to the schedule, but other than choosing whether to eat oatmeal or not, there really isn't. And that's the way I like it.

And then there's Zhou. To sum up, I once caught her sweeping the floor, then washing it, then sweeping it again. And the next day for good measure, she swept it one more time. (Don't tell her I told you this - I'll get in big trouble.)

In light of this, I honestly sometimes wonder if we'll be able to fend for ourselves out in the world. And as much as I love my dad, I just can't picture him Liam Neesoning people the way Liam Neeson does when his kid is in trouble overseas. But then I see that terrible Denny's Nanerpus commercial one more time and I realize that I need to get out of this country and not return until that commercial has run its course.

So in order to keep sane while leading a completely unstructured, almost chaotic, lifestyle from September 2009 to July 2010, we will need to KevinandZhou-atize it as much as possible. Harkening back to an earlier post, we started by making a daily schedule of every last day that we'll be traveling. An example:

12/15/09: Thailand. Bangkok (Grand Palace - Emerald Buddha), overnight bus to Chiang Mai
12/16/09: Thailand. Chiang Mai (Flight of the Gibbons), overnight bus to Bangkok
...
6/24/10: Switzerland. Zurich (electric train to Uetliberg, tour at Felsenegg)
6/25/10: Switzerland. Zurich (bike from Seebach station through the forest to Katzenruti, picnic, then to Katzensee, then back to Affoltern)

Might seem a little over-the-top to a lot of people, but planning our days out over 15 months from now is just another thing everyone loves about Kevin and Zhou. (Right? Anyone? Bueller?)

Another thing that we've decided to do is create statistics from the trip. Everytime we board a bus, we'll start a timer, and every time we get off, we'll stop the timer. And if we get a better stopwatch than John Candy in Cool Runnings, we'll document the results in Excel. Since we're timing our bus rides, we might as well time our train rides too. Oh, and planes. And probably taxis. The good part is, everyone will be interested in these statistics, and I'm sure will be waiting anxiously for the results to come in. (Right? Anyone? Bueller?)

Not everything we do will be able to be quantified or organized or planned out though. I think a big reason for this trip though is to get Zhou and me out of our comfort zones (Survivor and canned pears for me, naps and making up songs about Charlie for her) and into new and exciting situations. I will try to stop worrying about getting my new jacket wet or new shoes muddy. Zhou will have to learn that no matter how many times you sweep the Serengeti, it will remain dusty.

Of course, when we return to the States, we'll fall back into our anal ways. We're not trying to change the world...


This post was a little bit nerdy, and I apologize for that. I realized halfway through that I was heading down a path that was going to get my suspenders snapped and my head dunked in a toilet. So to make up for that, I think it's best that we finish with a mind-bending puzzle and the usual Scrabble summary. Since there was a winner from last post's puzzle (Hadley, your postcard's not quite in the mail yet but it should be shortly), here comes a completely new anagram.

The 43rd President's Response to a Millionaire Anagram:

"W: Treasury has inflation"
________________________________________________

Scrabble Games: 15 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 9; 367; 364; DOSsIER
Kevin WPLB: 6; 360; 341; LEAVENeR