Pretty F***ing Useless

Perhaps it is important to stress at the outset that I had a rotten week and was ready to throw in the gloves. If it had not been for my eldest calling me after I sent out a stressed message, then her sister and I going over an edit, I might have turned tail in Vancouver to head home. So, the title is due to World Nomad travel insurance – or lack thereof.

It seems their site is down and the Canadian office (head office is in Australia) has not been given any information other than to say keep on trying. All very well except I had been trying since 24 hours earlier – prior to departure! I sent two emails, no response. To be told that once out of the country any insurance purchased has a two day hold before it is valid! Absolutely unacceptable in my opinion. I will be making a major stink about this once I can figure out how to do so on Twitter etc.

Other than that significant issue seems were smooth. The drive to the ferry was quick. I was so early the ticket booth was not even open. The ferry was fine until announcement there would be a “man overboard drill” that would possibly delay our arrival by 15 minutes. I was beginning to see this as a sign. We were on time. The bus was waiting for passengers – no use leaving empty. I nearly left on the wrong Sky Train – a security person called me (lady in green works when wearing a lime green rainshield on my pack) to say I had to wait for the next train, about 3 minutes. Then off to the airport. I still had not turned heel to run home.

I may have to rethink future packing – these are heavy!

Check-in was a breeze, as was security other than my leg brace that I had not even considered. So, day 1, still sad, not quite as stressed, and hanging out with my travel companions.

This is what I am leaving – sunrise. Going home is always easy.
Yes, taking pandas and a fan to China- sort of like coal to Newcastle.

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Saying Farewell 

By the time this post is published I will be in Shanghai. By the time this post is published I will have had long enough to stop crying. By the time this post is published Mozzy, my 15+ year old kitty, born in Nanning, China will have had his last bits of candied salmon before meeting his ancestors. This is a safe enough place to write what I am going through emotionally before we say goodbye to Mozzy. The decision was not easy to make – even with the support of our veterinarian. The practical side of me – a word I think was voiced far too often because what else can be said – knows the decision to stop treatment and let Mozzy be pain free is for the best. We know the decision has not nothing to do with my looming departure. And loom it does. Like a monster of guilt. 

My favourite photo of Mozzy, from about three years ago when he was still healthy.
This is Mozzy’s, “You’re what?” look.

Guilt with wondering if I did enough. We did. Guilt with wondering if Mozzy could have lived longer. Yes, but in a deteriorating condition. Guilt wondering if he is happy on this, his last, day. I think so, he ate a little salmon. Guilt also, wondering if I waited too long. That thought alone is what will get me through the day. During a long talk with the vet we both voiced our amazement that Mozzy made it beyond the end of August. Did I prolong his life for him or for me? Perhaps a little of both. Until last night Mozzy was making every attempt to appear well despite the severe weight loss and pain. By morning he was not. I can only hope he understands and will still love me until the end. 

A screened, open window, a Tibetan pillow – life of a Mandarin cat.
My youngest daughter called Mozzy, ‘My Prince’. The chair became his favourite place to sit.

 My daughter threw a birthday party for my that Mozzy took control of. I think he thought it was for him – typical kitty. However, I needed to let loose some of my sadness before it swallows me up. I could not post anything to friends, not yet. So, by the time this is posted time and distance may have helped with the healing. Mozzy is just as much a family member as my children. They know.

Wasn’t that a party! (After everyone had left and Mozzy’s chair was in the wrong place)

Post Script: I did eventually write something on FB, there are people who would want to know. It dawned on me that some friends even knew Mozzy when my youngest daughter first brought him home at seven weeks old from the hole in the wall store outside the school I worked at in Nanning after seeing a child kick him. Mozzy had been promised to us but I was not ready for him at such a young age. He immediately squirmed his way into our hearts. Either my sister or the vet said perhaps Mozzy will be with me in spirit when I am in China. I like that. I miss him.

Pins and Needles

Did I really say I would blog twice a week? While still at home, revving up my engine to leave, I have time. Once in China I might have the time – just not easily accessible sites. I do have a VPN, it worked last year. I do hope I will post about the trip at least once a week plus the mother of the bride insights on Wedding Wednesday. Not that any of this has to do with puns, nor needles.

Pins, I had a notice from Stillpoint Community Acupuncture offering a free session the week of my birthday that I thought would be foolish to pass up! Considering one session is $40.00 – although the sliding scale starts at $25.00 – it was a great way to prepare my poor aching knees for lots of walking and climbing. I will still wear the interchangeable stabilizing brace, just not right now as it seems to have scratched and rubbed my leg below the knee (unless it was Mozzy my cat, although possible it is a strange mark for it to be a cat scratch).

Needles, I know it is a good idea to take along a small sewing kit, I just cannot seem to find mine! If I do not I will most likely just throw a standard needle (with a wide enough eye I will not need a magnifying glass) and spool of thread into my tiny first aid kit. Perhaps a bobbin will fit better. The whole plan being prepared without overdoing it. 

Pins and needles. Perhaps needless to say but I am now approaching that waiting on pins and needles stage. All the last minute changes, items to still pack, currencies to buy, and visas are pretty well dealt with. I have my visa for China and ordered the Vietnam visa letter that is supposed to fast track things once I arrive. Unfortunately, although most likely easily fixed, I ended up ordering three visas! All because my debit visa would not work. A call to the bank showed no problems. Thank goodness http://www.cheapvietnamvisa.net has several ways for payment to be made. I chose this company solely because my daughter used them last year – time will determine if I am satisfied. I am also pleased it was only 7.55CAD (6.00USD). The actual stamp will be paid upon arrival – 25.00USD.  

We were using his chair for guests so he found a bag to curl up on after.

No more needles? I hope to cut the Cartrophen for Mozzy, it is not making his leg better and he hates going for the 30 minute drive – one way – then being poked and prodded. We have a weigh-in appointment, discussion with the vet to decide if Mozzy might survive the next two months, then some serious decision making. I may need a needle, or a shot of something.

Eternal posy for my 60th birthday the other day – my daughters said this way I will always have flowers from them.

The Final Countdown

I have noticed I often take snippets of song titles or snippets from lyrics when I am working on a Blog title. They just seem to pop into my mind with the result of having a catchy start and an ear bug for much of the day. I think this is one reason I do not listen to music when I travel. Also the fact I have no idea how to download music and my earbuds (which I hate using) and earphones plug do not seem to fit into my iPhone. I guess that is what one should expect when trying to save money by purchasing a ‘slightly’ used product. Which is why I am at a countdown of sorts.

My previous Blog discussed packing; I have not yet attempted to make everything fit although I remain confident it will. I am counting down the days – fewer than 30. I am counting on Mozzy – my cat – to be well. I am counting on not going crazy when my youngest daughter arrives from Honduras – recently a hurricane went by there and she is much like that force. To my knowledge she is still planning to join me on my Vietnam leg which will certainly help cut costs other than the actual motorcycle tour – we will have our own guides and probably not share rooms until we reach Hoi An. 

Family here are planning a celebration for my birthday – I am not looking forward to counting candles! Last time we had a cake with many, many candles (50, for my sister) the smoke alarm went off. Perhaps I will request six sparklers. There is not really anything I want – or rather, what I want will not happen. I do not need anything – besides money or free accommodation of course. I am also counting virtual money –  CNY, USD & VND – to work out the various exchange rates into CAD that go along with accommodation and transportation I know I will be using. (My whole budget is based on CAD – readers can now feel sorry for me)

Despite promising myself I would try to not rush about from place to place I have so far booked thirteen hostels and hotels, and that does not include the nine I will stay at during my Vietnam tour! I also have to figure out where I will go for the last six day of my trip. I will also take 8 – 10 trains, one motorcycle, a few subways, some short distance buses and who knows what else. However, even after factoring in three transit days and adding in Hoi An and Hanoi (I love saying those together) plus the six days I need to figure out, I believe my final countdown will still remain at 100CAD (80USD for anyone who does not think in Canadian dollars) per day. I could make it less if I were not springing for three nights close to two sections of the Great Wall at a boutique hotel. My birthday present to myself – they even offered to bake a cake.

Finishing With a Bang: the big ticket trips

Until now all I have mentioned is hopping on and off one of the regular trolleys to get from one of the many tourist attractions. What I have not included is the actual cost. Fortunately the 
K-Pass is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours $79 – $119 plus tax, with the higher passes offering a lunch or dinner cruise. A quick calculation, based on the three day pass shows this is indeed a fantastic savings considering the dinner cruise alone is a whopping $78-$98 per person, and that is not on the three level Island Queen. The Trolley Tours, keeping with 72 hours, is $ 51.50 plus that glaring tax not including entry fees to any of the sites they stop at. Although I did not add up all the entry fees included in the K-Pass an estimated savings seems to be about $250.00 if all sites are visited. It is important to note that the Kingston Penitentiary Tour is not included.

All Aboard! Island Queen Brunch

First, this was a brunch cruise, the lunch and dinner cruises aboard the Island Star, and the Island Queen for that matter, have different menus. I will also note here that I had the buffet on the Island Star in May of this year. Which leads me to wondering how they could have been so far off the mark for a simple plated brunch. Put bluntly – food mediocre, views fabulous. Gorgeous day. Unfortunately, I found the cruise far too overpriced for what is offered meal wise. Which for us was a comped meal. The set menu – with one of three choices of croissant – sounded promising. 
Miniature Frittata Florentine, pretty basic, easy to make and serve as well as covering dietary needs for many passengers. This should have been a delicious beginning to the meal. However, before even taking a bite I was disappointed with the plating of the food. Simple salad, croissant, frittata looked just okay when everything should have looked pleasing. However, I let that slide. Until I tried the frittata. I know mini size baking can be an issue with balancing ingredients but surely these were made by trained staff – or maybe not. The flavour of the three cheeses was just not there and there was a taste of iron in each bite that I thought might be the spinach unless, in an effort to ensure fluffiness, baking soda was added. 

Next, the Applewood Smoked Salmon on a Croissant, a difficult choice for this westcoast islander to make considering I was inland. However, I made that decision on the assumption it must be Atlantic salmon and I do not care for cranberries with turkey nor did I want the vegetarian choice. Presentation is important, as already noted the plating was not great. The croissant top was falling off its sad bed of salmon and red onion with capers (they were the best part) and appeared to have lost its glory as a trumped up sandwich. More between the covers might have made it more palatable. Fortunately there was not much they could do wrong with the fresh lettuce salad and the strawberry/mint dressing was actually quite nice. Dessert was a small apple danish, far too sweet for me. We were plied with coffee once I suggested leaving the pot on the table and my daughter enjoyed her speciality coffee – no idea what was in it.

Just a little too tipsy in my opinion. That open window was straight down to the lake.

Ah yes, but how was the actual cruise? That was wonderful, somewhat crowded, it was a Sunday after all. With three levels we had the choice of staying at our window seats in the dining area, heading to the first level to listen to the live music, or head topside for the lake breeze and fresh air. We did all three a couple of times. The crowd on the main level was a tough one for the entertainers. Perhaps it was a mix of it being a late morning/ early afternoon cruise and several families – they were just not interested in the entertainment. Being drawn to dance whenever a tune pulls us my daughter and I were far more energetic in our appreciation than anyone else. Talking to my daughter we both felt the mood was just too stifling to strike the centre of the dance floor. Must be tough for the musicians who were pretty decent and the lead did try to keep up a mix of humour between songs. Topside had the best unobstructed view. Overall we had a wonderful three hour Heart of the Islands cruise and were able to put aside the mediocre meal until later. A few days later my daughter sent a response to an email from the individual who had provided us with the tickets asking how the day was. Do I recommend the cruise, YES! With brunch, not so sure. 

Once back on land we came across the firetruck pull. Looked like a lot of fun! Raising money for epilepsy. Loved the guys in their tutus.

The drive back to the country was very strange. Giant grey. Louis loomed ahead, directly over where we were heading, when a sudden downpour burst open on us as we moved towards its direct path – it was like entering a waterfall, dry on one side, soaking on the other. Just walking the few feet from the car to a store we were drenched. I was grateful we had clear blue skies with just whiffs of cloud during the cruise.
All Aboard! Wolfe Island Trip
I am an islander through and through therefore, as though my three hour cruise the previous day had not been enough, I headed over to Wolfe Island with my other daughter just for the fun of it. This was after wandering around downtown a bit and discussing what I had not yet done. It was sort of a lightbulb moment when my daughter asked if I had ever taken the free ferry. I was up for free! 
So inviting….I think I could have made the swim.

The Wolfe Island ferry route is considered part of the provincial highway which means free passage for all vehicles and passengers. Too bad we do not have the same consideration in BC. The ferry runs 365 days of the year. During the summer it goes to the Marysville dock, 20 minute ride. In reality it only seemed a leisurely pace for everyone standing on either side I. The open air, probably due to the lovely day, as it does go at a fairly good clip. Inclement weather probably finds walk on passengers huddled up in the car deck side rooms. The vessel holds 55 vehicles and around 300 passengers. (I kept finding different figures so settled on this) the best part is that the dock on the Kingston side is right downtown, as the Marysville summer dock. Walking on and off was a breeze.
This is plating to please the palate and eye.

Of course, once on the island there is not a whole lot to do unless you are driving. One major attraction, Big Sandy Bay  was closed due to high water. Which was fine as we had plans back in Kingston for later. However, a light lunch seemed like an excellent idea and we headed off to the very nearby Wolfe Island Grill, visible form the ferry. A great place; with nary a patron sitting inside we might have thought it deserted if we had not seen people on the multi-level dock enjoying the view, sun and some very nice boats tied to the pier. This was Island living. Knowing we would be having dinner later we both chose the Wilton Aged Cheddar Cheese Bread. I could stop there, except I had the extras on mine – bacon, caramelized onions and portobello mushroom. I was in heaven. Wilton cheese is an Ontario delicacy. The combination I chose was beyond perfection. Who knew anyone could enjoy a few crusts of delectable bread and cheese so much. I was very nearly tempted to order a fancy drink to prolong the day. I think I stuck to lots of water and probably a coffee. 

I think she is now tempted to get a large spinning wheel.
I think I mentioned the bubbles to prevent the lake from freezing over. This is to show I was not imagining it.
Murals seem popular on Wolfe Island

We visited the local museum, checked out the Wolfe Island Bakery where shared a peanut butter truffle – beyond the heavens deliciousness. Checked outvaclocal craft place hidden at the back of a church, or maybe it was City Hall, and found a very strange painting. A wonderfully relaxing afternoon.
This outdoor painting was just plain creepy. No explanation.

The Numbers: I finally reached the stage of not taking careful note of my expenses. This meant adding up how much I had left to figure out where I was at. Which led to a bit of a dilemma, I did not write down what I started out with! I thought it was $1800.00, then had a vague recollection of having put aside $200.00 for various expenses at home while I was away. As of this entry my remaining funds ($138.00) were lower than how much I would still need. This happens to nearly everyone when they travel. Some of my expenses were for my next trip. It was time to do the math and figure out where to draw the extra funds from.

What I know I spent in the last few days: $85.00 dinner at Mandarin for two including tip$20.00 misc Market purchases; $8.00 coffees; $12.00 items for train trip; $5.00 light snack. 8.00 brkfst; 4.00 snack (Small Batch Cafe carrot cake shared with daughter 3); 36.00 lunch $5.00 coffee Steps: two days, falling behind a bit – only 14,000. Must have been be all the sailing.