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February 1, 2007

Still Alive and Doing OK

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Wow, I can’t believe my last update was in September. A lot has been going on then although not much traveling – at least compared to what I had planned. I’ll pick up where I last left off to fill in the blank and on my new plans.

First off I am doing well after my troubles and hospitalizations for my back. I was on IV antibiotics until the end of October and they were able to get rid of the infection. My back is straight again, see the picture from August to remember where I was.  In November I started doing physical therapy twice a week to regain my range of motion and general flexibility. After two months where I could barely walk and certainly couldn’t bend over things had tightened up quite a bit. There was some general tightness in the muscles that hadn’t been used in a while at first, but after a couple of weeks I started to see improvement. This continued steadily and I was able to take a trip to Australia in December.

The original plan was for my parents and sister to meet me in Australia for two weeks during my extended stay there. Obviously, that plan had changed and I had cancelled those tickets and bought a new one just to Sydney and back. I figured it would be a good chance to see how my back did and help me to figure out what was going to happen next. I did a three week trip starting Dec 15 and came back on Jan 4. We all flew into Sydney and rented a car for the first week.

We drove down to Melbourne along the coast, staying in two small towns along the way. The second of those was in Phillip Island where they have a penguin parade. Every day at sunset the little penguins (that is their actual name) come out of the ocean and after gathering up enough courage waddle as fast as they can across the beach to the grassy area behind it where their nests are. It was their mating season so they were very active and we got to see hundreds of them at a very close distance. There is a boardwalk set up with floodlights to look at them and no cameras are allowed.

We stayed two nights in Melbourne where we enjoyed some of the outdoor cafes tucked away in their alleyways and did most of our souvenir shopping at the Victoria Market while we were there. I went out our last night there and found one of the little hidden pubs that they have with live music most of the night. It was neat getting to see it, very different from the US, there wasn’t a sign anywhere on the outside that it was a business and you had to walk down a couple of alleyways to get there. If I hadn’t seen a bunch of people loitering about and then gotten a strong whiff of alcohol I never would have known.

That reminds me of another huge difference between the countries. We were there at Christmas time and while they celebrate it, it is nothing like here. You would see a few decorations around, maybe a string of lights on a house occasionally, but that was about it. Not like here where Christmas is coming at you from every direction from the beginning of November. It was a nice way to do it although I would guess that it will become more commercialized there instead of things here going back to that.

From Melbourne we headed back to Sydney stopping one night in one of their wine country areas to stay the night. We got to a few wineries before they closed to test them out and to purchase a few bottles to bring with us. I was a bit wiped out that night from all the driving and being out the night before, but my parents and sister me a nice couple from Australia that they stayed up with in the bar for a while.

We got back to Sydney on the 23rd and stayed at a nice two-bedroom apartment just on the north side of the Sydney harbor. The location worked out great as the public transportation takes you anywhere you need to go quite quickly. That was all we used in Sydney buses, trains, and ferries. They have a weekly pass you can buy for about $30 that gives you unlimited use of all of them, definitely a good deal.

On Christmas day my parents got up early and went to the Sydney Bridge and did the bridgeclimb. The bridgeclimb involves walking along the top of the bridge while you are tethered to it with a support line. They stop along the way and tell you all about the bridge and the sites you can see along the way. At the top they take your picture with the group while you are about 500 feet above the water below. They both really enjoyed it and recommend it highly. From there they took the ferry to Manly beach where they met Marsha and me. So we spent Christmas afternoon on the beach along with lots of other people down under. It was strange feeling not seeing them until midday, but I could get used to celebrating Christmas on a beach very easily.

The rest of the week we did some more including a day trip to the Blue Mountains and seeing a show at the famous Opera house. We had gotten tickets for that before we went and were very glad we did. It was a bit of a variety show with their symphony and different singers and musicians coming up to play with them. There was a jazz trumpeter, James Morrison, who was absolutely amazing! He did about 6 songs throughout the show with them and also played the piano, trombone, and sax.

My family left on the 30th and I stayed one more week, which meant I was there for New Years Eve. That is the big holiday there as Sydney has fireworks everywhere for that. I heard that over 2 million people would be around the harbor that night to watch them. They start gathering in the morning to get the best locations. I wandered down to the operahouse around 6pm and was able to find a good spot still. They had two separate shows at 9 and midnight and both were excellent. I thought watching all the lcd displays from everyone’s digital cameras following the fireworks in unison was almost as entertaining.

I stayed in a hostel once I was on my own which worked out great. Everyone there was very nice and it was easy to meet new people. There were more British people there than anything partly because of a big cricket match between the Auzzies and the rest just there traveling. I was the only American I knew of in the hostel. The rest of the week I just enjoyed being on my own again after staying with my parents for several months and getting to the beach a couple more times.

On returning I felt well enough to start traveling again, but had no tickets and wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I decided to stay in San Diego through the Super Bowl, hoping the Chargers would be in it, but those hopes were dashed several weeks ago. In the meantime I decided to go to Thailand, which was part of my original plan, and leave for Singapore on February 7.  I will work my way north through Malaysia to Thailand. I plan to be there for about 7 weeks and if I’m feeling up to it go to South Africa for 6 weeks after that. My friend Michelle in Oklahoma (see May 4th entry) is going to meet me in Bangkok and travel with me for two weeks. She has never been there either and has already decided that two weeks isn’t going to be long enough to see everything she wants to, but will have to do for now.

So basically in 6 days I’ll be on the road again and am looking forward to it.  Understandably, I haven’t felt like doing any updates, or even looking at this site while I was getting better.  Now that I am and have another plan I’ll be sure to start sending updates again and get back to taking pictures.  Somehow my camera was set to the lowest resolution for most of my time in Australia so none of those came out how I wanted them to at all.  Thanks for all the support that everyone has given me while I was recovering and especially to my sister, mom, and dad for all they’ve done while I stayed with them during this.  It wasn’t easy on them, or me but it was great to get to spend some time with them.  Next update Thailand!

Brian

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