Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

I have frequent flier miles and an itch to go. Just have to find out what my cardiologist has to say.

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One more day

Thanks to Robin and her colleague I now have a VPN tunnel on the toy. This is supposed to make all of the internet available to me, even in China. I bought something called HotspotVPN. Besides wanting to be able to blog, and evidently this blog is blocked, I want to be able to access the news and the debates. BTW, I’ve already sent in my absentee ballot.

I have only a few things left to do: laundry, a few more things to pack, getting my car ready to sit for three months. I found out that the gas deteriorates and fouls the engine. I got something called gas stabilizer, which I will put in the tank, then drive the car to my garage and leave it there.

I spoke to Cross Cultural Solutions again and got last minute instructions. Natalie informed me that tomorrow and Wednesday will still be holiday in China (Golden Week, first week of October). I thought it would be over, being the eighth. She thinks I will see some celebrations. Possibly, but I had no trouble getting a hotel room, so I’m not sure about this.

I leave for the airport at 6 am tomorrow.


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I finally packed my suitcases, sort of. I still have to do a last load of laundry, which I’m saving for tomorrow night, and I have to deal with the toiletries I’m taking in my carry on bag, mostly contact lens stuff. The biggest headache is getting the computer ready to avoid the Great Firewall in China. It would be nice to get there and find I have no trouble reaching the outside world, but I think planning ahead is a good thing. I started with this article on accessing WordPress in China. I was never really sure what she was talking about; my computer knowledge doesn’t extend to things like proxy servers, SSH and whatever. Also, the toy (Asus eeePC) is using Linux as the operating system and I really don’t know anything about Linux. Robin read through it all for me (she’s much more knowledgeable) and decided I should go the VPN route. There are also those proxy servers and something called Posterous, which lets you post from an email. I haven’t done anything yet; that’s tomorrow’s job.  So I guess I have a lot of learning ahead of me.

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Five days to go

I started packing today. I am appalled at the amount of stuff I need for maintenance: calcium, vitamins, baby aspirin, and, of course, the really important meds to keep my heart regulated. Add to that all the stuff like toothpaste, shampoo and contact lens solutions. It’s a good thing my hair is wash and wear and I stopped using much makeup long ago. I completely filled one of those small, cloth bags they give away at conferences. It must weigh ten pounds. Ugh! I believe in traveling light; my rule is that I have to be able to handle my bags by myself. I don’t know if I’m going to make it this time. Being gone for three months feels daunting. And I don’t want to buy any of this stuff in China. After all of the research I’ve done, I don’t trust any of their products. Cross Cultural Solutions suggests we bring it with us.

I haven’t gotten to clothing yet. Since I am no longer living in my own apartment I’ve already made a selection. Now I have to pare it down. Planning what to wear for three months, with increasingly cold weather, is not easy. I won’t take a real winter jacket; I’m planning to live in layers–long underwear, turtle neck shirts, jackets and a windbreaker. Also hat, gloves and heavy scarves. I’ll be in Kyoto during the coldest weather. I suppose I can always go south to Nagasaki or even Okinawa, although neither is currently on my itinerary.

Except for a return flight from Xian to Beijing I have all my reservations made through November 19 when I will do some extensive traveling in Japan for about two weeks. Then I settle down back at the Palaceside Hotel for about 32 days. There is so much to see in and around Kyoto I figure I can’t miss with that schedule.

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Fourteen days and I’m on my way

I am sitting in Camille’s Cafe, with free wi-fi, and testing out my new toy. I got online, and mostly it’s working fine, but it still has a few tics I don’t understand. Most important, I want to know about firewalls in this situation. I haven’t been able to find anything but I’ve just done a rudimentary search. The toy uses Linux. It has some kind of anti-virus software but I can’t find anything about a firewall. Can anyone help me?

I went to the Dr.’s office this morning to have my pacemaker, and vitals checked. Everything checked out and I was wished a good trip. The pacemaker thing is fascinating. It seems it keeps a record of everything my heart has been doing. It even knew I had a few moments of Afib as I was coming to the office. I can feel when it happens; it bothers me. Other than that my heart has been stable since I increased the meds i’ve been taking. When I told the Dr. I thought I had somewhat less energy than before the meds, he suggested I start taking them in the evening. I prefer morning because I almost never forget, first thing. Sometimes evenings get messy, but I’ll try it.

I received a paper E ticket in the mail. They don’t usually do that, so I was a little surprised. Also, they usually charge for it, which they haven’t done. Maybe it’s because I’ve made several changes in the ticketing, because they got it wrong twice. The flight from Shanghai to Osaka was on the wrong day the first time they made the reservation. After I changed it they scheduled the flight for the day after I return to Pittsburgh—a situation you would think their computers wouldn’t allow. I think we finally got it right.

I finally scheduled a flight from Shanghai to Xian. It seems everything in China is negotiable. While you can fly at great discounts it’s hard to make a reservation until less than 30 days from the date you want to fly. I’ll have to make my return flight to Shanghai after I arrive; I decided not to mess around with a round trip. While my frequent flier tickets gets me from Pittsburgh to Shanghai, Shanghai to Osaka, then Osaka home, they weren’t willing to take me all the way to Xian. Anyway I wanted to stop over in Shanghai.

I still want to get to the dentist, get my hair cut and possibly get to a podiatrist, although I don’t have an appointment since I’m not too sure who I want to go to. Also, many other things, I’m still trying to find a way to make sure I can post from China.

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After three visits to the Chinese consulate (read about it here), I finally got my visa. And it’s for 60 days, so I won’t have to change my plane tickets. As the Olympics approached I heard the Chinese were giving 30 day visas. I’m only planning to stay for 32 days, but I didn’t want to be illegal for two days. After all of the reading I’ve been doing about China, I think it could be too easy to violate the law inadvertently, let alone with full knowledge. I’m up-to-date filling out my forms with Cross Cultural Solutions; now I have to arrange hotel rooms in Shanghai and a flight from Shanghai to Xian, and decided what I want to see in Shanghai. I think CCS will provide me with info on Xian and other nearby places I might want to go. I also want to spend more time thinking about Japan. This time I want to look at gardens.

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In order to keep blogging and keep a good record of this trip I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the equipment I want to carry. First, the camera. I really enjoy my little point and shoot Sony. It’s light, easy to carry, I always have it in my bag, but I’m not always happy with my results, even though I finally figured out all of the settings on the camera. There is seldom enough detail in highlights and shadows. I considered the possibility of replacing it with something better and decided I would have to go to an SLR with different lenses. I don’t want to carry all that stuff; I don’t want to pay for it; I’ll just do the best I can.

I’m taking two batteries for the camera, and I have two memory sticks with a total of three GB. The camera has an effective 7.2 megapixels (whatever “effective” means). I have been shooting at 3 megapixels, which is overkill for most of my purposes. I’ve decided to shoot at 5 megapixels for this trip so that I will be able to make high quality large prints if I want them. I haven’t had enough time to really check this out, but I got some very nice pictures using the 5 megapixel setting. Maybe that makes for better pictures or maybe I’m just unnecessarily using a lot of extra memory.

I’m taking my hp laptop, now about six years old. I haven’t used it since I bought an iMac about a year ago. I cleaned most of the extra junk data off of it, purged the trash, used disk cleanup and disk defrag. The laptop has most of 20 GB available for downloading my photos. I’m taking 5 GB of portable memory for backup and considering backing up to a Flickr account. Images look so different on my two computers I realize I will have a hard time judging pictures on the laptop, especially darker images. I plan to do little or no editing or touchup. You will see what the camera gives me, not necessarily what was really there and not what I’d like you to see. You can see my 5 megapixel shots here.

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When I began planning this trip I used three books from my Japanese Art History studies that were most meaningful to me: Gerhart, Eyes of Power; Coaldrake, Architecture and Authority in Japan; and McKelway, Capitalscapes. I am using three guidebooks: Lonely Planet Japan; Kodansha Gateway to Japan; and Frommer’s Japan. The best book about places and history is the Kodansha. Frommers gives the most practical information and detailed directions for getting to various places. Much of the Frommers information is online. I plan to take the Kodansha with me. I am contemplating removing sections of it, Hokkaido and Kyushu for instance, where I will not go, to reduce the weight of the book.

Maps are very important; I got decent maps of Tokyo, Kyoto and a Japan map from Japan National Tourist Office (JNTO). I have been marking the maps so I can determine which places are near each other. I tried to use Google, which I generally rely on for maps, but not directions, but all of their Japan maps are in Japanese making them useless for me. Walking guides for Tokyo and Kyoto that I got from JNTO have been useful.

Section of Kyoto map

Information from the Internet has been critical to my planning. Most of the time when I looked up a new place or Japanese name I was able to find lots of info. I bookmarked everything as I went along, adding or deleting when I found better sites or decided not to visit a particular place. My favorite sites are listed on the side. The “Most Useful” site is for train information. Enter starting and ending destinations and approximate departure time; it gives train numbers, routes, travel time and cost. This has been invaluable in determining whether certain trips were feasible and how to do them. I got a timetable from JNTO. It’s in 8 pt. type and is generally unintelligible, although it is printed in English.

I usually work on a 20″ iMac, which I love. It is comfortable for me even with my lousy eyesight. I will be traveling with my old HP laptop, state of the art when I bought it, now sad by comparison to the iMac. I’m trying to figure out ways to compensate for the small screen and to make sure I have moved everything I need to the laptop or to the internet.

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Tentative Itinerary

Only two weeks now. I’ve written out my itinerary with problem days indicated.

• October 15: arrive, Ginza Capital Hotel Main
• October 16: Tsukuji Fish Market, Hama rikyu garden, trip up the Sumida River if I wake up early enough; Suntory Museum, Riccar Museum (both museums are important to me)
• October 17: Imperial Palace East Garden, Nijubashi Bridge: This could also get postponed. Idemitsu Art Museum, Mitsui Museum, Shitamachi Museum
• October 18: Tokyo National Museum (very important), Ueno Park
• October 19: no hotel yet. This is one of my problem days
• October 20: Kyoto, Japanese style accommodation reserved by my Japanese contact, need details
• October 21: Kobo San Market, Toji Temple
• October 22: Jidai Matsuri, Kurama Himatsuri (if possible), Palace Side Hotel
• October 23: Kyoto
• October 24-25: Matsue, Izumo shrine no hotel yet. Another problem. I could go to Mt. Koya on these two days and change Izumo to another time.
• October 26-27: Hiroshima, Miyajima
• October 28 through November 8: Palace Side Hotel. I have not made detailed plans for Kyoto. Obviously there is much to see. Among the things that are important to me are: Katsura Imperial Villa; Nijo Castle; Kyoto National Museum; many temples and shrines, which seem to have special events at this time, including Tofuku-ji, Kodai-ji, Daitoku-ji; Kyoto handicraft center and traditional craft center; and Orinasukan Handmade Fabrics Museum. I am still working on this part of the trip.
• I intend to make day trips to Nara and maybe to Shiga and Otsu. I would also like to get to Osaka and Mt. Koya, but I have not figured that out entirely, either. I could cancel one or two nights in Kyoto, stay in Osaka and make a day trip to Koyasan.
• November 9-13: return to Tokyo; day trips to Nikko, Atami, Sakura (National History Museum), and if time permits, Yonezawa to see the Uesugi screens.

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Plan for my first week

I use the Google calendar to keep track of my life. I decided to use the calendar in Japan as I would here. I have entered many of the places I want to visit in Tokyo during my first four days. I don’t consider any of this written in stone, except the hotel reservation, and will modify it as I go along. This is a screen shot of the first week. Time indications are completely bogus; just a way of getting multiple entries without those big blue blocks. As you can see, I still don’t have a hotel for Friday night. I am waiting to hear from my Japanese contacts before I make a decision about what to do.

First week calendar

Here are links to the places I plan to visit in these four days:

Tsukuji Fish Market: Work starts here at 3 am. If I wake up at that time (it will be 2 pm for my body), I’ll try to get there. Otherwise, I’ll save these sights for the week before I leave Japan.

Hama rikyu garden: A trip up the Sumida River begins here.

Suntory Museum: The current exhibit, Biombo: Japanese Heritage as Legend of Gold, is of particular interest to me. It will only be on display until October 21.

Riccar Museum: This museum specializes in ukiyo-e prints.

Imperial Palace East Garden, Nijubashi Bridge: This could also get postponed.

Idemitsu Art Museum

Mitsui Museum

Shitamachi Museum

Tokyo National Museum another link here

Ueno Park

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