Ecuador by the Numbers

Hours spent in Spanish class–my first classroom experience in a decade: 40

Hours spent valiantly struggling to make conversation with my host mother in Quito: 20

Iguanas encountered: 12

Delicious soups consumed: 20

Waterfalls admired: 8

Ankles sprained: 1

Inca ruins visited: 1

Equatorial lines straddled: 1

Waves dived in: hundreds 

Presidential palaces toured: 1

Chicago Bulls paraphernalia seen: countless items

Total days spent in Ecuador: 47

Total money spent: $2,663.25

Average per day: $56.66

Total money spent, minus the airfare: $1,983.25

Average per day, minus the airfare: $42.20

Blissful beach and waterfall moments experienced: many

Las Tunas, Ecuador; March 10, 2014

Japan by the Numbers

High-speed trains whisked away on: 6

Temples visited: 20+

Wedding processions stumbled upon: 2

Bill Murray homages performed: 1

US Navy bases visited: 1

Perfectly planned gardens appreciated: 15

Perfectly planned gardens found wanting: 1

Traditional performances attended: 3

Schoolkids who made me part of their project: 17

New foods consumed: 23

New foods enjoyed: 21

Beatles cover bands watched: 1

Intimidatingly fashionable teens seen on the street: hundreds 

Total days spent in Japan: 20

Total money spent: $1,254.60

Average per day: $62.73

Total money spent, minus the rail pass: $629

Average per day, minus the rail pass: $31.45

Gratitude I have for my many hosts: boundless

Fun fish for Children's Day

Children’s Day banners in Kawagoe

Vietnam by the Numbers

Delicious pork-based meals consumed: 20+

Delicious pork-based meals that were bun cha: 10+

Items of bespoke clothing purchased: 3

Animals seen: 10 or so (easily the fewest of my entire trip)

Entombed heads of state briefly glimpsed: 1

World Heritage sites admired: 2

Instances in which I was run over by a four-door sedan: 1

Packages of Oreos and Ritz crackers offered as recompense for being run over by a taxi: 4

Weeks for burns to heal: 4

Weeks for puncture wound to heal: 7

Major sightseeing trips canceled due to injuries: 2 (see you next time, Sapa and Halong Bay!)

Total money spent: $1,468.40

Number of days in the country: 28

Average amount spent per day: $52.44

Total money spent, minus the hospital costs: $1,026.30

Average amount spent per day, minus the hospital costs: $36.65

New friends made: 6

Old friends happily re-met by chance: 2

Reasons to go back and see more, uninjured this time: 100+

hue bike traditional hat

Back in the States Update

I’ve been back in the States for 8 weeks now, which sounds like a long time, but I’ve spent a lot of that time at weddings and catching up with friends, so it’s felt shorter. I’m settled in to my parents’ house, and I’ll be here ’til the end of the year. So what am I up to these days?

Today I took a look at my short-term goals from July, and I’m doing pretty well! 1) I bought catastrophic health insurance through Priority Health. It costs $72 a month, and that includes emergency room visits and not much else. Pre-existing conditions aren’t allowed (I cannot wait for the Affordable Care Act to be fully implemented so that kind BS is no longer permitted), and I pay full price for prescriptions and most doctor visits. But it’s one of the better plans I found, with a fairly low premium ($1,000), and I might not need it for very long, because… 2) I got a job! I start the day after I return from my sibling’s wedding in New York. I signed up with a local staffing agency, and they got me an interview at an auxiliary health care-type office. I’ll be doing data entry and a little proofreading, full-time, and the bosses seem very nice. It doesn’t pay a lot, but I’ve done the math and it should be enough to get me back on the road sometime next year. Also, I can walk there from my parents’ house, so I don’t need to buy a car.

I’m hoping that having taken care of #1 and #2 from the original list, I’ll be able to really dig into #3. Now that I’ve removed the stress of job hunting and hiding inside lest I injure myself and have no way to pay for recovery, I should be able to use my free time writing. The changing season will make that even easier, as the nights come faster and the days grow colder, and I stay inside and focus on writing. Fingers crossed.

Next week I’ll be in New York, helping set up for the wedding and then dancing the night away at said wedding. After that, I’ll be in an office for the first time in over a year. Wish me luck!

Cambodia by the Numbers

Ancient temples clambered upon: 14

Times the A/C went out at my guesthouse in Siem Reap, on days when it was 90% humidity and 90*F out: 5

Times I said “oh my god” in horror at Choeung Ek and S-21: 15

Times I said “oh my god” in wonder at Angkor: 15

Teenagers who chatted with me over a couple hours of lunch: 3

Water bottles purchased so those same teenagers wouldn’t lose their day’s earnings: 3

Fish spas undergone: 1

Contented pizzas consumed: 3

Friends who I first met in Laos and then had meals with in Cambodia: 4

Total money spent: $706

Number of days in the country: 11

Average amount spent per day: $64.18

Total money spent, minus the flight from Laos: $514

Average amount spent per day, minus the flight from Laos: $46.73

Times I nearly passed out from the heat: 3

Times I complained about the heat, then and since: innumerable

Seconds I’d take to consider going back and seeing more of this country: 5

Embracing the sunrise

Laos by the Numbers

New friends made over a big do-it-yourself hot pot meal: 3

Pick-up badminton games observed: 8

Laotian wedding karaoke performances stumbled upon: 1

Meals that made me cry from the spice level: 1

Bears seen playing in the bear rescue center: 2

Bears seen napping through the heat in the bear rescue center: 4

Monks and novices spotted: 56

Conversations with novices: 3

Boats used for transportation: 4

Buddha statues seen: 4,034

Total days spent in Laos: 10

Total money spent: $562.79

Average per day: $56.28

Total money spent, minus gifts: $341.04

Average per day, minus gifts: $34.10

Shifts volunteered at Big Brother Mouse: 3

Meals shared with students from Big Brother Mouse: 1

Total days I could easily have spent in Laos, given more time: 40

Good morning!

Good morning!

Thailand by the Numbers

Attempts to say ‘thank you’ in Thai before I got remotely close: 23

Attempts to bargain at night markets: 8

Successful attempts to bargain at night markets: 5

Elephants hand-fed: 10

Baby monkeys cooed at: 1

Fruit shakes consumed: at least 30

Laundry I washed myself during my six weeks in the country: 0

Meals I cooked myself during my six weeks in the country: 2

Oceans fearlessly kayaked in: 1

New fruits tasted: 5

New favorite fruits: 5

Meals that introduced a whole new meaning to the word ‘spicy’: 3

Total days spent in Thailand: 44

Total money spent: $2,947

Average per day: $67

Total money spent, not including airfare: $2,802

Average daily cost, not including airfare: $64 (yes, that is much more than many backpackers spend while there, but I got a lot of gifts and some comfortable private rooms, not to mention a week with the elephants, on that budget)

Pools, rivers, and oceans swum in: 3

Wats (temples) visited: countless

Times I tired of admiring the symmetry and detail of a Thai wat: never

Wat Po

Wat Po in Bangkok

New Zealand by the Numbers

Hot spring rivers frolicked in: 2

Sights that made me say “wow”: at least 12

Sheep spotted: ~100,000

Cows spotted: ~80,000

Glaciers hiked: 1

Couches surfed: 8

Times I had no idea what vowel a Kiwi was using while talking: at least 9

Concussions sustained: 2

Road trips enjoyed: 3

Radio stations picked up on entire 8 weeks in the country: 2

Times I heard the inexplicably popular song “Maneater” on those radio stations: 9

Number of different tracks off the 12-track “Jagged Little Pill” I heard on those same radio stations: 6

Total days spent in New Zealand: 55

Total money spent: $3,965

Average per day: $72

Christmas carols sung at full volume while driving through the mountains: 8

Carols we knew more than the first verse to: 0

Dolphins swum with: at least 30, possibly more; magic is hard to quantify

milford blues

Australia by the Numbers

Miles traveled: ~6,030

Kilometers traveled (after all, it’s the unit of measure here): ~9,800

Methods of transport used: 5

Times an Aussie actually said “G’day, mate”: 0

Times an Aussie called me “mate”: at least 10

Times I heard the unofficial anthem “Livin’ on a Prayer”: 16, or that’s as high as I counted before I started crying as a stress response to hearing it

Days spent in medical care: 15

Sweet treats purchased after visiting doctors: 6

Possessive wallabies admired: 1

Wild kangaroos spotted, ever so briefly: 1

Parrots permitted to perch on my head: 1

Wild koalas spotted: 3

Wild penguins spotted: 8

House pets befriended: 3

Total days spent in Australia: 69

Total money spent: $6,098

Average per day: $88

Total money spent, not including airfare: $4,573

Average daily cost, not including airfare: $66

Germans encountered: ~10,000

Brits encountered: ~8,000

Americans encountered: 3

Days spent feeling sorry for myself and my sick body: 6

Days spent enjoying myself and feeling very fortunate indeed: 63

Lifelong dreams achieved: 2

kangaroo sign