Sunday, November 30, 2008

A 3 Dollar Massage

We read in our Lonely Planet guide about an institute where blind Vietnamese people give really good massages. It turns out it is about two blocks away.

Although the facilities were spartan (you are in a large room separated from other patrons by only curtains), they were clean and comfortable. It was a little unusual being uncovered while naked for a while (Trina was covered the whole time), but, then again, he couldn't see. And if he could--oh well.

Both our masseuses did an good job. I'd say it was about at the median for massages I've received. And, although I had to pay extra for the air-conditioned room, $2.92 for an hour was the best bargain I've ever received.

We delayed our train to Nha-Trang; we'll be staying in Saigon for a total of eight days.

Gender Neutral Jungle Bob

We're wearing a little more clothing here in Southeast Asia for protection from both sun and insects.

After getting into my gear I took one look at myself and proclaimed, "I look like gender-neutral Jungle Bob!" Ron laughed and said "I'm sorry, but I agree!" You can decide for yourself...

Out and About in Kuala Lumpur

The malls are decorated for Christmas...

Although the promotions were a little different...

The twin towers area was beautiful...

The nature was amazing...

And it was 91 degrees and over 50% humidity. What a place.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Flashback: Challenging my Assumptions

Written the day before we left Turkey and headed back to the US...

Just today I was eating breakfast and noting how many of my very basic assumptions have been challenged on this trip. There are so many little things that you take so for granted that you never even realize you think them, until they are not there or done differently.

For instance,

  • you should eat three meals a day (4 in Norway)
  • dinner is at the end of the day (middle in Ireland & Norway)
  • the state should not endorse a specific church or religion (Ireland-Catholicism, Norway-Lutheranism)
  • the state shouldn’t tax people and send proceeds to the Vatican (Germany)
  • shampoo should be next to the conditioner in a store (shampoo next to hair gel, conditioner by lotion in Hungary)
  • everyone thinks communism is “bad”; liberation and westernization are “good” (Slovakia)
  • most people know what Christmas is (Turkey-they were as surprised that I didn’t know what Bayram was)
  • houses with heating should be able to adjust it (Lithuania-the heat is centrally turned on/off by the government, no individual regulation in most personal houses)
  • people in developed nations should be able to speak freely (Turkey-“insulting Turkishness” is illegal and punishable by imprisonment)
  • prescription medicines require a doctor’s visit and are expensive-very expensive without insurance (Poland-pharmacist can prescribe some meds, without using our health insurance Ron got two medicines for $12 total that were $435 and $310 in the US)
  • beds have sheets on them (Norway, Lithuania, Poland, Czech, Austria (Vienna), Slovakia, Hungary, Germany all had a bottom sheet and a duvet cover made of sheet material over the comforter. When you wash the sheets you wash the bottom sheet and the duvet cover. Kind of nice, less to get tangled up in the middle of the night.)
  • men shouldn’t beat their wives (Turkey-45% of men think it is ok)
  • kids start school at age 5 or 6, full days by first grade (usually age 6) and proceed through 12 grades, graduate and then choose to go to college or not (Norway, Ireland, Germany-first grade often isn't until 7 and kids choose "tracks" by age 13-16 and decide if they will be college-bound or trade school-bound, “high school” is over by age 16 and then you choose to attend a 3 year program called “gymnasio” if you want to go onto college)
  • The Allies were the “good guys” of WWII (Poland-the Allies knew about Auschwitz several years before they liberated the camp; Turkey-the Gallipoli campaign (invasion of Turkey) was motivated in large part by British & French territorial ambitions in the middle east.

I don't come away from this experience with a sense of superiority or thinking that my way is always right. In fact, I think I will be adopting several of the things I've seen in my life back home (when I have a home). But, I was mostly fascinated by how many different ways there are to do even the most (seemingly) basic things.

Safely in Saigon

We arrived in Vietnam this evening and it is amazing. I have never seen so many motorbikes before.

We had a fantastic dinner plus appetizer for $4 total. Everyone we've met is friendly and very helpful. So far, so good!

Flying to Vietnam

Today we're flying from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh Vietnam.

Yesterday we saw five monkeys.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Malaysian Deluge

We were walking back from lunch today--Indian/Malay food. We hit a torrential downpour. Apparently equatorial rain comes hard and fast. The very urban streets were swamped, with cars looking like boats. We had to wade home, soaked to the bone. It was actually kind of fun. And yes, we cleaned all our stuff afterward.

We've decided that, since we are overwhelmed about catching up on the US part of our trip (and because people seem less interested in that part) we will continue from where we are, with flashbacks to the US.

Also, wanted to let you know we are indeed monitoring the protests in Thailand and the Terrorist Attacks in India. I promise we won't go anywhere stupidly, for those of you who are worrying. We have become quite good a changing plans. Thanks for loving us.

PS from Trina: At one point walking home I was up to my knees in water!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I got into the H-Bomb today!


That made my day. Of course, so did being in Kuala Lumpur, but whatever.


Monday, November 24, 2008

What time is it?!

We are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and it is most likely tomorrow for you. We crossed the international date line and are living approximately 16 hours ahead. It is 90 and steamy and definitely beautiful.


I've received my first med school acceptance! It's at a school in New York and we are so excited. We don't expect to hear back from most schools (med or law) until mid-January or later.


More Walden Pond

Enjoy the view. We did!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quick Note

We are in transit for a few days...

Yesterday we flew 11 hours, (plus a one hour bus ride and a ten minute taxi). We spent the night in South Korean, and now we are getting ready to reprise the taxi and bus, and then fly a mere 7 hours to Kuala Lumpur.

Right now it is tomorrow, which is really confusing, but about seven hours earlier in the day...good thing I slept twelve hours last night.

By the way, the people of South Korea are extraodinarily friendly and helpful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Henry David Thoreau

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what is not life, living is so dear; nor did i wish to practive resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to tout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God..."

We visited and hiked around Walden Pond, of Thoreau fame. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Fall Colors


Boston in the Fall

What a breathtaking sight the northeast brings in the middle of autumn. It sure makes me want to live there. Granted, that means that most of the trees are bare all winter, so I guess that desire will have to be tempered with a bit of reality. Still, it was absolutely wonderful.

My parents, Trina and I visited a number of cutsie little coastal towns on Cape Ann. In and between them there was every imaginable autumnal color, and there were a number of historical sites to boot.

We topped off the day with some hearty New England clam chowder.

The Perfect Turkey Sandwich

For those of you who know my dear wife Trina, you know she is obsessed with Turkey Sandwiches. She’s also quite the snob about her fowl and its accoutrements. It has to be just right.

That said, we found one on along the freedom trail near the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill. Apparently we will be able to live in Boston, should the need arise.


In Boston, we did a number of things. We spent some time wandering around Beacon Hill Here’s some interesting information from Wikipedia for this neighborhood of 10,000 people.

The average income for a male in 2007 was $1,895,800, while it was $1,250,325 for women. The average income for a family was $4,798,000.[citation needed] In 2007, the average selling price for a townhouse in the neighborhood was $2,750,000; while the average price for a penthouse apartment went for $3,000,000. The neighborhood's most exclusive and expensive street (Louisburg Square), had an average home value of between $6,000,000 and $20,000,000.

For other interesting information, such as famous residents, see the rest of the article.

We also walked the Freedom Trail, seeing the standard laundry list of local historical sights.
Bunker Hill, Old Ironsides, The Old North Church, Revolutionary War graveyards, the balcony that the Declaration of Independence was ready from for the first time, etc. It’s quite an education in itself. Plus Boston is such a great place to be.

Most everything is made of red brick, and it is the ultimate college town. There is something like a quarter million university students in the city, Cambridge included, I think. There are so many great bookstores, coffee shops, clubs, bars and interesting cultural spots—as well as a beautiful waterfront to boot. To top it all off, it was Fall, and Boston was nearing the height of its autumnal glory.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Parents

Rick and Ann Davis. My parents are great. They aren’t what I would call world travelers—they actually have been out of the country a few times, but they don’t really relish the adventure part, or the walking around for eight hours a day learning part. But they really got in to it with us.

My mom was nursing a foot injury of sorts, so she was especially a champ in being game for all that we did. Their only shortcoming is thinking that I drag Trina around all day at my pace and she just has to play along. She lets them think that too! As soon as they were gone—we’d have put in a long day, and I’d be ready for a break, and Trina would say, “NO! We’ve got to see this, and this and this still!” I’m a saint.

Anyway, the true saints were my parents. We had to move to NYC (into another cool, but necessarily smaller apartment) toward the end of our time together. They even helped us scope out the long and complex route to one of Trina’s interviews, all just in the name of being together.

My dad and I didn’t even get into too ferocious a conversation about politics. How’s that for firsts?

Marta and Greg

Marta Davis is my grandmother. Technically, she isn’t my biological grandmother; she married my Grandpa Ron (I being his namesake) as his second wife shortly after I was born. But she’s been around as long as I remember, and has always loved me and treated me as her own grandchild.

It was SO great to see her and Greg (one of her kids from before she was married to my Grandpa. They all live in and around Sturbridge, where Greg runs all things restaurant at this big resort and where Marta works in a tourist information office.

Greg also has two beautiful young kids that I had the privilege of meeting for the first time (at least since they were babies). We had a wonderful evening laughing, hugging, catching up, and eating pizza with them.

Boston Apartment

We arrived in Boston, and jumped the familiar silver line to the red line, and then got on the bus out to Arlington where my parents had rented a beautiful apartment. So began our spoiling. We’ve had some pretty nice places along the way, but for the most part, our standards have gone a bit downhill. And that’s good! It keeps us from being poor. And it makes us better people.

My parents spent a lot of year trying to form me into a decent guy. Now they are working against that, nice apartments and all.

It was wonderful to see them. We got to spend a little over a week with them, and really just enjoyed their company.

Back to the USA

By the time we left Europe, we were really ready for some time back in the US. We’ve absolutely enjoyed our European adventure, but we were fatiguing a bit. We were so ready to see our families, know where everything was in the grocery store, and to eat some chocolate chip cookies.
It was actually really wonderful to come home feeling somewhat travel satisfied. I’ve never left a trip abroad without kicking and screaming (in my own more adult way) all the way home. And, although we both felt some sadness at the world we were leaving behind, we had the consolation that, in reality, we’d be traveling for another eight months at least.

So we figured we got the best of both worlds. A break from travel, and a lot of travel left to go. Relief from the hard parts, but the guarantee of more fun to come.

Not so bad, is it?