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My 2011


My 2011, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

2011 was a pretty big year for me, and what better time for reflection than hung over and hunched over my laptop after a boozy New Year’s Eve at home?

Click here for full-size image.

Goodbyes


Queensland, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks here in Aus. Upon our arrival, we got the paperwork and Janelle’s passport together and sent it all to Sydney for her Permanent Resident visa. The process takes a while, so we spent the time sorting through and packing Janelle’s stuff, visiting with friends and family and exploring Queensland a bit. We took the train to Brisbane and then went 1200km up the coast to the Whitsundays region to see the crocodiles and white sand beaches and snorkel on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Of course, it’s the middle of winter here, so it’s been a lot more wind, rain, jeans and hoodies than swimwear and sunburns. The snorkeling was downright hypothermic, to be honest.

Then, on July 1—Canada Day—it arrived! Jan can now enter the country as an immigrant! We immediately started scouring the Internet for tickets to Vancouver, and managed to get a flight back for Friday. (And then maybe, finally, I’ll sort through the several hundred photographs I’ve taken. So you have that to look forward to.)

Anyway, it’s been an exciting, busy and sometimes very trying time. While we’re thrilled to begin our life together in Van, if I were more into purple prose I’d say these days are also tinged with melancholy. Preparing to pack up and leave your old life behind is no easy thing, even in the age of Skype and relatively affordable trans-Pacific flights. And once we get to Van, we will need to find a new place to live and set up a home together, which will be an adventure in itself, though probably a less blogworthy one. But yeah! We’re going home.

I’m already secretly planning our next trip to Asia.

Bangers to Goldie


Chinese Visa, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

In a few hours, we will be departing Bangkok for Australia, arriving four months to the day from our wedding. Our Chinese visas remain unstamped in our passports. Nepal and India remain unvisited. But as the cliche goes, they’ll still be there for our next trip.

Our journey across Asia started as a bit of a passport-stamp collecting exercise. As a kid, I stared at maps and atlases imagining what was there. Years before starting this trip, I got a poster-sized map of Asia and told myself that after I finished the PhD, I’d go see it all, even if I had to go it alone.

Then some things happened. I didn’t have to go it alone. Instead, I got married, to a supercool chick who was not only willing to follow me far outside her comfort zone, but who was nearly as excited about it all as I was. The post-PhD trip turned into a combined post-PhD trip and honeymoon as we travelled through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Laos. Traveling together has taught us a lot about each other and provided plenty of bonding experiences. Not to mention anecdotes we can annoy our friends with by repeating ad nauseum for years to come.

So even though our Asian adventures ended a mere 40km from the Chinese border, and no, I didn’t get to try the Vang Vieng “space pizza”, ride an elephant or go trekking in the Himalayas, it’s hard to be too disappointed. What Janelle and I gained is on a whole other level from collecting photos and passport stamps, even if we will jump at the chance to show off our Republic of the Union of Myanmar visas.

And you know, we did get to see and do some pretty awesome shit.

(Anyway, I’ve got a journal full of notes and a couple of memory cards worth of photos to go through when we get to Aus/Canada, so rest assured, you haven’t heard the last of our trip just yet.)

Back to English-Speaking Lands (+Australia)


Lao Bus Station, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

So once again, a Laotian journey is cut short by unexpected events. Though last time it was due to a dark-alley fracas in Luang Prabang, this time it’s due to much happier circumstances.

After spending three days at the spectacular Rai Saeng Arun farm/resort on the Thai side of the Mekong river, we hired a songthiew to take us to the Thai-Laos border crossing at Chiang Khong, hopped aboard a fishtail boat acting as a ferry across the Mighty Mekong and entered Laos. A four-hour bus ride down winding mountain roads was directed by a driver who apparently learned to drive the rickety Chinese bus by watching motorcycle racing videos. He actually had an assistant who handled the constant gear changes so he could keep both hands on the steering wheel. It was nerve-wracking, but we made it.

Which is good, for not only the numerous obvious reasons, but also for the email waiting for us when we were able to connect in Luang Namtha. We were on the guesthouse verandah chatting with some Germans who had been on the bus with us when Janelle looked up wide-eyed from her iPod Touch. “Passport request!” She couldn’t believe it. I wondered what the big deal was. Surely this was just another of the series of interminable steps in processing her immigration application.

But no, this was actually the last of the interminable steps! And really shockingly fast, too. Instead of our expected issuing date around August, we now have less than two weeks to get J’s passport to the Sydney office. So that means that instead of crossing the northern border into China tomorrow as planned, we will be headed back the way we came, overland through northern Thailand to make a flight from Bangkok to the Gold Coast in a few days. We’re going to Australia! Soon! And then my wife will be joining me in Canada!

We’ll spend a little time in Australia to do the immigration stuff, pack up Jan’s gear and send it to Canada, and then we will be returning to Vancouver, a more travelled, more married, more legally-permitted-to-live-in-Canada couple.