Roadblock

I have been streaming Amazing Race Canada for this season after watching the first three with my daughter in Kingston and now it seems some of their challenges are seeping into my psyche – which is why I titled this roadblock. Sometimes you never know what might stall your advancement until you nearly smash into it. Stopping shy of a roadblock can actually provide a moment to assess direction or reflect on choices.  I see my roadblock as a a little of both. 

I leapt into a temporary job less than a week ago, a very simple retail position that I would mainly be working on cash plus some floor shifts. What I was not ready for was the severe pain in my knees after each shift. In addition, considering I strongly beleive honesty is important when writing my blog, I really did not like the job. Even less so when I realized that minimum wage is even lower than the dreadful amount I thought I was earning. However, I was willing to persevere as the earnings were to help support any veterinary costs that might need covering for my cat while I was away. I had calculated I would take home about $1700.00 before I leave on Sep 17. That is not an amount to sneeze at, and – as I am always saying to my daughters – anything is better than zero. Which meant I was ready to just plow through each shift, bite my tongue when necessary, and tick off each completed night. Most of my shifts were slated for midnight. Which brings me to my knees. 

The pillow self inflates – an early birthday present from my daughter. Might have come in handy for midnight shifts.

I had an unrelated appointment with my doctor, booked before I even applied for the job, and asked if there was time to discuss how my knees have been after he made a cursory mention of a June letter from my physiatrist. The uptake was that if I keep punishing my knees from standing for eight hour shifts with no chance to sit – even breaks were iffy, as well as there being a preference staff take only the paid 15 minutes – the likelihood of causing injury was quite high. Therefore, my GP wrote a letter for me stating that starting immediately I would no longer be able to work. This was only a minor financial roadblock. (I would go on about some of the lack of basic employer/employee standards if I had not left; although if I had stayed I guess I could have been perpetuating things)


So, less money for Mozzy. Which is fine because that roadblock seems to be being cleared away. As previously mentioned, I have been wringing my paws regarding his health. A second dose of the chemo was administered at the vet’s – it generally takes 2-3 technicians to do anything with him – and this time he kept it down! It was also suggested I give him the equivalent of kitty McDonald’s if he will eat it. Anything to entice him to ingest his other medicine I mix in his food. As of the following evening he is EATING!!! His weight was down to 2.80 kg, perhaps when he goes back for his third chemo dose it will have gone up. Paws crossed. I am happy I can spend more time to coax him back towards health before I leave. Even if it is temporary at least I am here instead of working to pay for him. Mozzy will always be my priority and I can adjust my budget accordingly. The four shifts I worked will go far enough to see Mozzy through his remaining doses. Sometimes roadblocks seem ridiculously placed, others do not. Discovering I should not be working reset my priorities on a straight path.

Ten day triangle

That path lead me to start looking at my itinerary again. I had been stuck in a rut for a couple of weeks. I will still do my first ten days loop of Shanghai, Suzhou. Nanning and Huangshan. I am glad I am only doing those as Huangshan can be gruelling if attempting to walk up the mountain all at once. Having my knees give me a severe jolt is a reminder I have always intended on going to fewer places so as to further enjoy where I do stop. I will still do the motorcycle tour; I asked my doctor about that, we both agreed that if I am paying then I have some control – if I need a break we will take a break. I also plan to add another week for Vietnam rather than rush to Hanoi to hop on a train. I will see and experience more. The tour is from Ho Chih Min to Hoi An – about midway. There will still be so much more to see.
First half of my tour – riding pillion on a motorcycle!

I am looking forward to mapping out the rest of my trip in Vietnam and the second section of China I am planning. All I needed was to get around that roadblock.

Pre-trip Preparations: What about the cat? (And trivial stuff like health & rent)

Mozzy 

Insisting I cannot leave him – he threw my clothes on the floor and made a nest.

Smitten with my cat is a mild descriptor for how important he is to me. I have lived with cats, either my own or, by extension family cats, for about 40 years. With just a little effort I could probably name all of them. Which brings me to heading out for a no working 60 day trip. Leaving my cat behind for any length of time is becoming more and more difficult. He is over 15 y/o, born in a hole-in-the-wall shop on the University Road stretch of Nanning, China. These days I leave him at home with my daughter. (In the past he has stayed with extended family) I am grateful she does not currently have my wanderlust. What is most important is to give carte blanche decision making even if it means you, the traveller, might come home to a paw print and a box of ashes and an emptier bank account. The only other choice would be to stay home. Reality sucks, less so if prepared.
He does the best royally pissed off face. In royal comfort.

Am I cruel to leave Mozzy behind? Not if he will receive the same gold standard care and love I lavish on him. Am I sure he will indeed receive said lavishness – absolutely. About the only concern I have is that our vet is a 30 minute drive from home. They know how to handle him, they have his records, they are prepared. My daughter does not drive. Mozzy needs Cartrophen injections every other week for a leg injury from a few years ago. He also has some other issues we have been trying to get a handle on – before I leave. It would help if he would eat his bribe or salmon. Which brings me full circle, it is difficult to leave any loved, elder family behind – even a cat.

This photo always goes with me on my phone

Health
Other than the fact I will be 60 y/o when I begin this trip, which brings its own delightful issues, I do have some health concerns. I would rather ignore them; however, to appease family (maybe some friends if they know – oops, some of them read this) I will take whatever precautions necessary. Main priority, I have non-insulin dependant Type ll Diabetes. Battling the needle is ongoing. Much to the chagrin of my GP and various doctors I refuse to have injections. Keeping my numbers down is part of that battle. One saving grace is that they tend to be lower, not quite where they should be, when I am travelling for the simple reason I am so much more active and not tied down to commitments. As I write this I find my numbers are already creeping up, barely a week after coming home from my trip to Ontario. Back to taking control of the battle.
Then there is travel insurance. I strongly recommend getting some form, even if only basic coverage. Cost will depend on the area being travelled to, age, activities, and medical conditions that must be reported. I was happy when World Nomads raised their pre-screening age from 60 to 65. I do have to look into my status with controlled diabetes. As for activities, the only dangerous one I will do is riding pillion on a motorcycle, which I think is fine. It is important to have coverage starting from home to returning home rather than just once you hit the ground.
My knees are another major worry. I really do not want to collapse in mid-stride. Exercises to strengthen my quads, chair yoga, various unguents, OTCs for swollen joints and pain, and now one brace are helping a bit. I should have two braces. Which is possible if I purchase at the local Walmart at 1/15 the price of just one, not even good for both knees, where I go to see the various doctors about the pain. Walking is fine with a brace, stairs are not. So I am practicing. Gritting my teeth in frustration and at times pain. I just work through it.

Rent/Utilities/Bills

I know I am fortunate to be sharing with my daughter. Not only is she my in house kitty second, we share all the expenses. However, like anyone with a mortgage, rent still has to be paid. We came up with an arrangement that has so far worked for both of us. I pay less rent when I am away; that savings goes towards to accommodation. Although it is not enough to pay for too many days I believe that any amount I can funnel into my overall budget is a bonus. Working out a rough budget prior to leaving is important and knowing I have the funds to cover roughly two weeks of hostels – depending on where I am – is comforting.

Somehow we have managed to deal with bills only when I return from a trip. Yes, a major hit to the bank account, but not when I might need the funds while travelling. We also have everything fixed to equal payments so I tend to have the figure sitting quietly in the back of my brain rather than resting heavily on my mind. All I have to take care of is making sure my phone is paid for. Also car insurance if I do not take it off the road for the time I am away. (Always check this is acceptable if you have a parking spot – you will most likely have to pay a low coverage regardless where the vehicle is parked. I recommend it.)
Packing: Like a June/December romance – it will work
My 40 days in Eastern Canada the tail end of June and most of July was fairly simple to plan for. Shorts, sleeveless tops and sandals. It also helped me decide what I should not take to China and Vietnam. Until I remembered I will be travelling in various regions, varying degrees and seasons. That complicates packing. Summewear sounded sensible for Vietnam until I considered mosquitoes and a ten day motorcycle tour. Long sleeved tops and pants are practically de rigueur for clothing – fashion be damned.
I will hit Shanghai mid-Sep and I already know the temperatures can range from well over 20 c to chillier low teens. Without central heating in the buildings it can also feel dampish when the numbers dip. Without AC to battle the heat – miserable. My itinerary so far is broken into three sections for China. Ten days in a tight circle to get me back to the Pudong (Shanghai) Airport for my flight to Vietnam. Once my motorcycle tour is done I plan to visit the southwest interior of China, where it can be suffocatingly hot or have an autumn chill. As I head north, so far always north, it will only become colder. By the time I reach Shanxi province I may be encountering 5 c and below in November. Yikes! I do know I can wrap my winter coat around my backpack – it is just such a nuisance when the first full month will be warm. Ah, decisions, decisions. 

Day 11: Quebec City with my Grandson

Touring Quebec City is not for the faint of heart, nor the unfit. I was travelling with my grandson to Quebec, QC, the old city, so not exactly an unattended grandma. About six hours of an uneventful trip riding the rails. We had snacks with us which meant no need to spend money on expensive, packaged stuff. The Via station is at the bottom of Old Quebec, the hostel nearly at the top of Ste-Ursula Rue, just inside the old town walls. Thank goodness I am in better shape than last time I was here, of course I am also 3 years older. The next day we discovered it was easier to approach the from St. Anne Rue – one of the streets to explore and become dizzy deciding where to eat.

Cathedral Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec

The hostel is quite large – I neglected to ask how many dorms and private rooms. There are no elevators. We nearly needed a map to find our room! Walk up to top floor; go through the doors, turn a corner, down a corridor or two, down some stairs to access the connector, turn a corner, another corridor and a final set of stairs. . After sitting on the train for six hours I think I put in some major steps. I was not sure how to calculate steps when my grandson was carrying my phone for Google Maps to get to our destination so i just used those for my total. 

Of course we got caught in the rain, all I had was my tiny umbrella. It was raining buckets with lots of thunder and lightening. Very impressive over the river. I visited the Cathedral Basillica Norte-Dame de Quebec while my grandson stayed outside. He seems disinterested in architecture. Having already been there in 2014, and discovering there is some extensive work being done that means a screen depicting the altar and all that glitters gold is in place rather than the actual view, I only took a few minutes inside. We then headed down to part of the lower old city, ducked into a stairwell going down to another street to figure out where we might be able to find some dinner when my foot was soaked by water suddenly pouring through a drainpipe. I had a rather soggy foot the rest of the evening because I had chosen to wear socks and my walking sandals. A quick decision was made to head back to the Funicular, where we had asked when it closed, for the short ride up to the promenade outside Chateau Frontenac. Of course by the time we were back for the ride the little space for passengers was teeming with other soaked tourists. Everyone seemed in good spirits. For $3.00 you can scale the cliffside in a glass cabin in about two minutes. This is the only funicular of its kind in North America. First built in 1879, using counter weight water process and steam power to move it up and down the cliff, it was converted to electricity in 1907. A fire destroyed the structure in 1945 – must have been dreadful for firefighters to reach it. Rebuilt the following year and refurbished a couple of times the funicular has been operating for over 135 years! Well, I think it is impressive.

View from the Funicular, lots of rain!

By the time we had walked about some more, me trying to dry off, both of us getting quite hungry, I let my grandson choose where we should have dinner. I was not surprised when, after passing by two times and declaring it busy, he chose D’Orcy’s, fancy sport pub – not a lot of my preferred fare but my GS is 14 1/2 and this trip was for us to spend some time together. Fish and chips for my grandson, lamb sandwich for me. Worked out great, I gave my chips to my GS and ate his salad. Teenage boys eat a LOT! I was grateful to sit upstairs away from the giant televisions – they were there but I could not see them. I have to admit the restaurant does have excellent food and I had eaten there before. Sometimes the familiar is all we need.

Square outside the restaurant and across from the Cathedral-Basilica

Our final activity for our first day was a photo shoot at the cannonball tree at the corner of Rue du Corps-de-Garde. I said we must pull all the photos of my GS standing there over the years he has been to show how much he has grown. The cannonball is said to have been embedded in the tree in 1759. There is no reason to doubt this occcured just as it is believable that Montcalm spent his final 24 hours at 47 Rue St-Louis (most likely not the street name at the time) after being shot by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham September 1759. The French soldiers had to take him somewhere.

Nice digs, close to everything! Rain and iPhone did not do it justice

A few townhouses further along for another photo of where my SIL lived when studying 1st year French. (He joined the navy instead of finishing.)
After all that wandering and then dinner we were both thankful to find the down path to our hostel on the hill. We just needed to get our bearings from previous visits. Old QC is small enough that it does not take long to become familiar with the whole area. We kept passing where I stayed in 2014.

The numbers: 

354.72 hostel (3 nights private room, single and double bunks. I slept in the double.) + HI membership; 2.50 coffee on the train; 5.00 funicular; 49.15 + 7.50 tip dinner 11,000 steps (my tracker says climbed 15 floors – must have included all those hills)

Travelling with pain

I saw my physiatrist again. She thinks cortisone is unnecessary for the chronic pain I have in my left knee, and now my right knee. Seems that not rolling on the floor, crying to be put out of my misery, means I must be fine. In Canada we have an excellent medical system, however, there are ways for clinics to make money. Such as getting a market hold on all the needs of patients in one field – do that and the money comes rolling in from sales of all the extras. Also the fact so many medical personnel are under one roof churning through patients. I am of the opinion that there is too much pushing of expensive, not covered, devices over medication or other means of alleviating pain that are less costly. The other issue is that a number of practices are not covered by our medical system – depending on which province one lives in. 

Kinesiology was suggested by a friend of mine. Specifically the tape I have seen runners and other athletes use. I have less than three weeks to look into if visiting a kindsiologist is covered. I doubt the tape would be. My main interest is that tape is far less bulky than two braces. That being the suggested action I should take. I am weighing the pros and cons without having learned more about taping so thought I would ask around, here and elsewhere, if anyone else has had to deal with chronic pain and how they dealt with it.

How is it possible to travel on a motorcycle for ten days wearing one or two braces? Carry baggage without falling over?  Rush to catch a train/plane/bus because traffic was crazy. Or run away from polar bears? (It is unlikely I will encounter any this time of year but who knows) How to fit the things into an already tightly packed backpack to meet flight carry on specifications. Perhaps just keep taking NSAIDS and using one of many topical ointments. Except the latter would not be allowed in a carry on bag. Just how does anyone travel when in constant pain that only subsides when visiting the doctor!?