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I was going to take a day off in November to go to London to catch some exhibitons. But there are a few things I want to see at the BM - some of them are small one-room exhibits, but the BM is a big place and it takes a while to get to them.

This morning I also discovered that as well as the Gothic exhibiton at the British Library (for which tickets need to be booked; good thing I checked the website - I'm so used to being a BM member and not having to worry about booking that I forgot that might be necessary elsewhere) there's an exhibition opening soon on the Northwest Passage. I know, you have to be me to get excited about that, but I am.

I think I shall try to see if there is any affordable accommodation and take two days.
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Cos this year it doesn't suck:

Bristol, UK (duh)
London, UK (I can't remember when or how many times as I think there's trips that aren't in my diary)
Malvern, UK

Toulouse, France
Tarascon-sur-Ariège, France

USA trip:

Las Vegas, NV
Park City, UT
Pocatello, ID
Roosevelt Cabins, Yellowstone National Park, WY
Greybull, WY
Thermopolis, WY
Cheyenne, WY

Somewhere on a BA flight between Denver and London.
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After we’d finished soaking in Thermopolis, it was time to start heading in the direction of Denver for our flight home. Thus far I’d scheduled everything so as to avoid long days driving, but there is no way round the fact that it's a long way from Thermopolis to Cheyenne. To make the trip less monotonous, I got out the trusty map and guidebook to see what interesting things were not too far out of the way to break our journey.

There is a whole lot of *nothing* between Thermopolis and Cheyenne. I thought the Bighorn Basin was empty, but this was more extreme, even though we were driving on the Interstate! Parts were even drier than the Basin. Because it’s such an alien landscape it wasn’t boring, but there was a lot of it.

First up, Hell's Half Acre, which is actually hundreds of acres of even more interesting badlands sites than we'd been looking at. The guidebook says that the geology is fascinating but the tourist-trap facilities at the parking lot are annoying. Well, all that is gone now. You can still pull over and have a look at the site, but all sign of human occupation is gone. Cool!

Stopped on the outskirts of Casper (pop. 49,000, the largest conurbation we’d seen for weeks!) for lunch, where we found a surprising number of alternateens with multiple facial piercings in the Wendy’s – must have been near a high school.

There comes a point south of Casper, though, where things get a little greener (there’s even a town called Wheatland on the I25). It started to look even more like prairie as I know it when we left the 25 and headed east to have a look at three Oregon Trail sites which are close together. Sure enough, when I looked at the map it, we were getting really close to the Nebraska border. We crossed over the Platte River (more normally associated with Nebraska), which was by far the largest and fastest-flowing body of water we saw on this trip. And the grasshoppers got bigger (desert grasshoppers are these tiny little brown things). You know you're on the prairies when.

The sites we visited were the trail ruts, Register Cliff, and we drove past Fort Laramie. I would have loved to have stopped and done the tour there, but we didn’t have time.

I was surprisingly moved by the first two sites, particularly Register Cliff. Although there’s a parking lot and some signs explaining the sites, the modern world doesn’t intrude much here. The perfect 19th-century copperplate script engraved into the rock is pretty amazing. It’s right next to the Platte River, and all you can see to the east is prairie, but in the distance to the west the mountains start. This is a place where the early settlers could look back to see where they’d come from, and in the other direction see the new challenges of desert and mountains ahead.

Being from the West I grew up indoctrinated by stories of pioneers and wagon trains. In popular imagination, everyone in my home province is descended from people who made a long, dangerous land journey. In reality we tend just as much towards being slobby couch potatoes as the rest of the western world, but that’s beside the point here. Jason surveyed the landscape at the wagon wheel ruts and said “they were all mental”, whereas my take is more “this is why my people think everybody else is a wimp”.

I have never before been so physically aware of the sheer enormity of the undertaking. It’s being able to see both where they came from and where they were going. You’re standing there in what is still a wide open space where it’s still easily possible for nature to Darwinize you, and realise that the early settlers had none of the things we take for granted to fall back on, and didn’t necessarily know where they were going.

Anyway, I’m really glad we took the detour, even though I had a map reading failure in calculating the distance from the Interstate to Fort Laramie. This meant that we were exhausted when we finally got to Cheyenne.

We’d had the choice of staying at one of the chain motels out on the Interstate (none of which were particularly cheap) and the Historic Plains Inn downtown. (Do Google the Plains Inn’s web site to see some groovy pictures of it because it’s amazing; do also make sure your speakers are turned off to avoid the bad country music). You can pay a lot to stay there, but if you take the rooms that have had less modernisation done (but are still quiet, big and comfy) it’s pretty reasonable. As we were so tired by the time we finally got checked in, we opted to eat in the hotel’s restaurant. That was a major win – like the rest of hotel it’s decorated in 19th-century cattle baron chic and the food was incredibly good. The other thing we were impressed by was the free on-street parking between 6 pm and 8 am, and two hours free after that. We didn’t want to move the car before 10 the next morning, so we drove the two blocks to the hotel’s free parking lot. It may be Wyoming’s capital city, but it’s still the sticks (in a good way).

The following day we didn’t have to head for the airport till about 2, so, after packing our suitcases for the flight (ie putting everything heavy into the carry-ons and trying to even up the weight distribution), we set out to wander the city.

I tell a lie. The first thing we did was go down to the coffee shop in the lobby. I’m not knocking the excellent coffee we had many places in rural Wyoming, but it had been two weeks since I’d seen an expresso maker. I got embarrassingly excited about being able to order a cappuccino. When I told the girl behind the counter where we’d been, she understood.

Suitably fortified, we went out to wander, initially not very successfully – whether it was because we were tired, or the tiny bit of humidity, it was a little too hot to comfortably explore the city on foot. Fortunately Cheyenne has trolley car tours of the city. This was another big win – the tour guide told lots of entertaining stories about the early days in Cheyenne, when it was a cattle baron town and rail town as well as the capitol of a new state. Allegedly there were (or maybe still are) tunnels from the Plains Inn to the local brothels so politicians wouldn’t be seen frequenting such places.

Like almost everywhere, business and retail has moved to the outskirts of town. But Cheyenne has enough tourist traffic and enough government offices near downtown that the result is that, instead of being an empty wasteland, downtown Cheyenne still looks like every Western town did up until the time that I was growing up. The best bit is the Union Pacific train station, which is now listed and houses a museum and office space, and a brew pub in the old restaurant area. Because it’s listed, it’s a modern brew pub but the café part looks just like it did Back In The Day. You probably have to be me to get really excited about this sort of thing. But I did.

(I had a retail accident in the museum’s gift shop – a beaded necklace and earring set in the most amazing turquoise/teal colours that I couldn’t just leave it there).

In short, Cheyenne rocks and I would have liked to spend longer there. I would say that I wouldn’t want to live there, but there’s some gorgeous enormous old houses for sale for a lot less than you’d pay anywhere else.

Ever since we left Salt Lake City, we’d more or less left 21st-century America behind. As soon as we crossed the border into Colorado, we were brought back to reality, as empty space gave way to McTractHousing suburbs with no visible source of employment or amenities, several miles away from the nearest McStripMall hells. Corporate plastic everything. More or less continuously from the border to the airport. We never got anywhere near Denver proper as the airport is on the side we approached from.

So. Um. Usual airport stuff and flight home stuff with unwelcome return to Real Life. Which sucks.


Conclusion

Woah. Epic.

As you’ve probably already worked out, I loved everywhere we went on this trip and would be back tomorrow given half a chance. (Except maybe Vegas – I need a little longer before I’m ready for the sensory overload again).

We had exactly *zero* trouble from rednecks in our travels. I wasn’t being particularly subtle either, coming from Convergence with white and purple hair and my only shorts having a skull & crossbones motif. We got some puzzled looks from young people in a couple of eateries, but otherwise were treated with nothing but courtesy. I have several hypotheses on this:

- In this economy, no business can afford to be rude to anyone on principle;
- The rural American West has changed a lot since I bailed in the 80s.
- That far beyond the middle of nowhere, nobody cares
- and the universal, if you treat people politely and with respect, they will do the same back.

It wasn’t as difficult to be a vegetarian anywhere as it used to be. Aside from the one disappointing grilled cheese which I think was made with Wonder bread, food in general was far superior to what we were expecting. Even the disappointing grilled cheese came with some of the best fries I've ever encountered.

New American Stuff ™ discoveries:
The US makes commemorative quarters from every state and overseas territory (Puerto Rico, Guam, etc). I collected about 30, with the help of the nice ladies in the Thermopolis bookstore. One day I will nerd out and list the ones I’ve got and ask people to send me the ones I don’t.

I introduced Jason to ranch salad dressing. “Hey, this stuff makes iceberg lettuce taste good”. I can’t believe he’d somehow missed that before as it's my salad dressing of default in North America. I blame it on more diner food this time, where salad comes with everything.
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I may edit later.

Why the Bighorn Basin? Last year I read The Daily Coyote. It’s set in Ten Sleep/Worland, the photographs are gorgeous and it’s (relatively) close to Yellowstone. A small bit of research showed up that it’s full of fascinating Stuff.

We left Yellowstone via the gorgeous Lamar Valley and ate breakfast in Cook City, Montana (population, about 150, elevation 7,572 feet). Very alpine. Our original intention had been to go via the Beartooth Highway for lunch in Red Lodge[1], Montana. However, by the Saturday in Park City I’d realized that Red Lodge is exactly the same animal as Park City (up-market ski resort) and thus not worth the detour. Also, the Beartooth is allegedly the kind of road where they don’t believe in barriers between you and the huge drop.

Instead of we went back into Wyoming along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. This was probably a good move – it’s an excellent road and, indeed, very scenic. The highest point is Dead Indian Pass at 8,600 feet. We bypassed the tourist trap that is Cody, Wyoming and drove to the sleepy burg (in a good way!) of Greybull (pop. 1800). This was the one place we hadn’t booked accommodation ahead – my web research had told me that the town has an abundance of reasonably-priced motels so we drove around and chose the one we liked the look of best to use as our base for the next couple days. The Greybull Motel was another win. The owners are super friendly and helpful and sent us in the direction of the best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had.

I hadn’t realized that as soon as you come down from the Absaroka mountains, the badlands start. They are same geological formation as the Black Hills in South Dakota, but without the tourists. Win! Photographic emergencies were frequent throughout. The land is extremely marginal – they irrigate to keep horses and cows in the wetter bits, but it’s really desert (the cacti are so small you can’t see them from the car). It’s also unbelievably beautiful, though I may not have felt that way if we’d been there in the winter. If that part of Wyoming had been settled by Mediterranean peoples instead of Mormons and Germans, there’d probably have been more goats. It seems perfectly suited to keeping goats, and not a lot else.[2]

The other thing even I was unprepared for was the sheer emptiness of Wyoming. Yes, I knew that the population of the entire state is 500,000 people. Yes, I’m from the sticks myself, but I’m from the populated part of the prairies where the land is close to 100% under cultivation and towns aren’t very far apart. The Bighorn Basin is one of the more populous parts of Wyoming and there’s nobody there. You’ll be driving along for an hour and the map says a town is coming up and then you get there and the sign says “population 10”. (Emblem, WY[3]. I kid you not).

We didn’t even see 1/10 of the nifty things there are to do and see in the Greybull area. Helpfully, the local high school has produced an “off the beaten track” guide with really good directions and GPS co-ordinates to find local places of interest, and includes some that aren’t mentioned in my (very comprehensive) Moon guidebook! It’s the best free local attractions publication I’ve ever seen.

The bulk of our time in the area was spent driving around to look at interesting geological formations. At one waterfall there were hummingbird feeders and dozens of the little guys. I’ve never seen hummingbirds before, so I found that really exciting. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s just a big bug when they’re flying, but when they sit still for a minute, they’re adorable bright green tiny birds!

We did also get to one of the sites where you can see actual fossilised dinosaur footprints! It was amazing - there was nobody there, and you can actually go walk on the surface & touch them (which would never happen anywhere else!).

The things we missed which I *really* wanted to do, as opposed to things we missed that would have been a bit nifty were Medicine Lodge Petroglyph Site and Sacred Treasure Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains (the latter at 9,500 feet and a 3-mile round trip hike from the parking lot).

We meant to spend another day there, but I was burning out fast due to not having taken a proper rest day (and the loss of my iPhone and the subsequent day spent searching for it. We retraced our steps comprehensively, so I think it got dropped and a bird of prey or a coyote took it, because there just aren’t any people out there to have picked it up). Thankfully, it was only two hours drive south to Thermopolis, home of the largest hot springs in the world. I booked us into the Best Western as it has water from the springs piped into its own pool, and I spent a wonderful afternoon alternately reading by the pool or soaking in the warm water. Some people are put off by the smell of sulphur but after having spent all that time in Yellowstone, we were used to it. The guidebook pointed us to a really good local restaurant (where we ate both lunch and dinner!). In the evening it was cool enough, and the elevation was low enough, to walk the mile or so to the restaurant, where we were surprised by elk taking their evening stroll right through the middle of town.

I was somewhat heartbroken in the morning that I wasn’t up to visiting the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis. Dinosaur sites in Wyoming are a dime a dozen, but at this one you can pay extra to be taken round the actual excavation site and observe people digging.

However, we did have a long drive ahead of us to get to Cheyenne, and we wouldn’t have had time to have our Adventure along the way if we had made it to the Dinosaur Center.

Next up: Oregon Trail sites and Cheyenne.


[1] My family went skiing in Red Lodge when I was 13 and I couldn’t wrap my head around reports that it’s now *nice*.

[2] At that point in time the World Domination Plan was to buy some of the land that’s for sale in Wyoming and start an angora goat farm.

[3] Originally Germania, WY and changed in the anti-German frenzy of WWI.
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Sometimes being stuck at home being in pain instead of out doing interesting stuff with actual other people turns up something cool.

Last night I caught part 2 of 3 of Matt Frei's short series on architecture in Berlin on BBC2. Need. To. Go.
I suspect a few of the places he visited are off limits to those without a BBC film crew, particularly the old listening post at the top of the pile of rubble in West Berlin.

Have resisted booking trip (Euro is still hammering the pound into embarrassing pulp, and 5 minutes of searching recently revealed that a long weekend in Berlin is a LOT more expensive than a long weekend in Vienna, which is next on my list of European cities to visit).

I will have to iPlayer for the first episode.

This was followed by Ugly Beauty, in which Waldemar Januszczak (the guy who made the fantastic series on the Baroque not too long ago) tells us why modern art is not rubbish. As someone who Doesn't Get modern art unless it's explained to me, I found this really interesting. I was still unimpressed by some of it, but a lot of it made sense with some context. Anything which broadens my horizons can only be a good thing, right?

He filmed a lot of it in Venice. Same effect as above.

I've been meaning to catch Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness since it started (and will iPlayer it all, honest), but tonight I made a point of watching tonight's as it was about a great Canadian and personal hero of mine, David Thompson. Fascinating stuff.

I felt less of a need to immediately book a trip; we drove through the Rocky Mountains yearly when I was growing up.

mmm.....old maps...
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Or, why I always book my breaks in the off-season. Due to ineptitude on both our parts, Jason and I failed to book any leave during May and have had to settle for the first week of June. The start of high season.

The original plan was to go to Northumberland, but we also see the appeal of Pembrokeshire.

Everything is eye-wateringly expensive if there's only two of you, as most self-catering places sleep at least 3 or 4 and B&B is even more! I suppose it doesn't help that the area of Pembrokeshire where I want to stay is around St David's, which seems to be more up market than the south coast (ie Tenby). It got to the point where I was searching for static caravans but they're not that much cheaper! The only reason I'm that bothered about not staying in a caravan is that if the weather is crap and we're stuck indoors all day (which may be the case), I want to stay somewhere that doesn't feel like it's about to blow away.

Anyway, we've finally found a studio flat not too far from Alnwick that we can just about afford, but I have to hope it's still available on Monday, as I have not yet booked the pet sitter.

It would be cheaper to go abroad, but I really do want to explore more of Britain, and I have yet to fill out my passport application form so there's little chance of having a passport by the end of the month. (One suspects the Canadian Consulate isn't to keen on "chronic disorganization" as a reason for needing an emergency passport.)
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There's not a lot that I'm unequivocably and irrationally shit-scared of. One of these very few things is the vastness and emptiness that is most of Russia. Probably brought on by reading too much Russian literature & staring at maps at an early age, and encouraged by my Russian history professor who liked to freak us out with tales of how in rural Russia, nobody cares if you live or die. Zero points for the wit who points out I grew up somewhere nearly as empty and open. There's a world of difference, goddammit.

So, I'm watching Russia: A Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby, Siberia episode, and he goes to Tomsk. (Map here. Zoom out till you get the general idea.)

Those old wooden buildings are simply one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I'd wonder why I've never heard of it before, but it's a three-day train journey from Yekaterineburg!

Doing the Trans-Siberian Express was always my brother's aspiration, not mine (not that I've even checked that Tomsk is on the TSE, I meant the concept).

Fortunately I can claim poverty and ill health as a reason not to do this, not abject & stupid fear. Honestly.

PS - If I'm ever insane enough, who's in?
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The 2009 National Trust handbook came yesterday, and I realized that a sensible resolution would be actually getting our money's worth out of our membership this year (last year, between the weather and being away so much, we used our membership twice). And get better at packing my own picnics, as food is Not Cheap at National Trust cafés, and my other goal at the moment is to get back into the habit of saving.

Yesterday I transferred all my "must visit" tabs from last year's handbook into this year's. Today was meant to be spent planning a military-style (for me) timetable of NT sites to visit over the coming months[1].

(Yes, I'm a humongous nerd. But you already know that).

Now I know a few of you are avid visitors of National Trust properties - any recommendations? We plan to travel wtihin the UK this year, so recommendations outside the South West area gratefully received. One in particular that I'd like to organise a group excursion to is West Wycombe Park (the Francis Dashwood place).



[1] Which y'all are spared for you on account of sleeping badly last night, with consequent zombie-dom today.

I've had to live with insomnia all my life, and I've suddenly hit the wall in terms of being able to cope emotionally. I have just HAD ENOUGH and want to sleep properly. Not that I know what proper sleep is, but I've read about it and it sounds rather keen.

ION, I have some book reviews to type up but one of them requires some consideration & content, so they'll have to wait.
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I finally got round to watching BBC 2's "World War II: Behind Closed Doors" this week. This has left me with a burning desire to visit Lvov/Lviv/Lwow[1] Old City. Some basic web searches make it sound even more appealing.

Has anybody been? Any advice?

It's entirely possible that I should be a good Eastern European travel novice and start with somewhere easier like Prague or Krakow, where I still don't speak the language but they use the Latin alphabet and they're a lot more used to lost western tourists wandering around.

It's also possible I need to get my UK passport sorted out first - I know UK passport holders don't need visas, but I bet I do.


[1] pick historical name of your choice & add apostrophes.
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I've been inspired by some of your new year's travels to start planning some trips, regardless of how realistic doing them will be. Gives my brain something to do, and makes me realise I'm not as depressed as I thought.

[livejournal.com profile] zoo_music_girl went to Alnwick. So far, Northumberland has been a drive-thru for me, and I've wanted to visit the castle there for years. In the same trip I could probably take in Lindisfarne and Jarrow Abbies (yes, I know - bad Anglo-Saxonist for never having visited either!), Durham Cathedral and whatever other oddities the area has to offer. Plus side - I can do while currency- and passport-challenged, down side, it's England and thus everything will be ridiculously expensive & the weather will probably suck.

[livejournal.com profile] naturalbornkaos went to Vienna, and I'm totally sold for going there next New Year. Even if the Euro is still pummeling the pound into submission, that gives me time to save. I do have some ethical problems with going to Austria[1], though - it's still very racist and anti-Semitic. (As is most of Eastern Europe, I know).

I think how much German I understand has to do with accent and dialect - I caught <1% of both Goodbye Lenin and Downfall, and just accepted that I've forgotten what little German I ever knew, but a few weeks ago I saw The Lives of Others, and understood an astonishing amount of it, to the point where I was getting things before the subtitles came up and some of what the subtitles missed - I didn't think I ever knew that much German! So I could hope that the Viennese dialect is one I can't understand and can go about going "la la la look at all the pretty buildings".

At least it'll be a proper dry cold.

Additionally, I've been watching Andrew Graham-Dixon's Travels With Vasari, which has led to a desire to spend a couple months driving around Italy looking at art and architecture. Which is much less realistic than the former two, but something to keep in mind anyway.

[1] Yes I've been before, but I didn't know that then.
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Jason and I expect to be rolling into Tampa some time tomorrow afternoon. Have noted numbers and will start texting when we get checked in.

I was going to take time this evening to update about our adventures in Savannah and the Charleston area, but have ended up in a motel beachside instead of I-95 side as anticipated, so I had a swim and am going to sit on the patio and look at sand dunes after dinner.

Florida

Jul. 30th, 2008 11:18 pm
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Currently in St Augustine, the oldest permanent European settlement in the continental US. It's beautiful. Books on the history of Florida have been purchased. Enough that the lady on the till at the Castillo asked whether I'm a teacher.

Other highlights so far include the Keys, particularly Key West - it was too hot & humid and too full of people, but it's still gorgeous, interesting and fun. Also high on my list of "Things I'm really glad I did" is the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. We took the glass bottomed boat tour out to the reef, which was nothing short of awesome, and I swam in a beautifully warm ocean.

Palm trees and mangroves. They just don't get old.

It's hot and humid, but not oppressively so - a breeze, or rain, or both, come up frequently, and as long as one can find shade it's fine. Besides, after the last couple weeks I was in England, particularly the day I was freezing at the bus stop because it didn't occur to me I might need an extra sweater under my waterproof IN JULY, I frankly prefer this.

Only a little bit sunburnt so far. Occasionally the Factor 50 wears off and I don't notice. Trying not to be pink for Convergence but having too much fun to really care.

Last night I had one of the best oriental style meals I've had in my life - not something I expected to find in St Augustine. Otherwise, I'm keeping pretty well to the all-pancake diet.

It's cooling off now, so I'm off to go wander on the beach. That novelty factor for that isn't wearing off any time soon either.

Tomorrow we head Savannah-wards.

Expect brief updates rather than novels as I still can't get the hang of the keyboard on the MacBook.

Back

May. 5th, 2008 07:55 pm
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Back from Ireland. Did anybody miss me? Notice I was gone? I've skimmed through 5 days of posts, so if there's anything I need to know, drop me a line.

I may or may not ever get round to properly writing up the holiday and putting up my pictures. Previous experience suggests not.

I got a stamp in my passport! EU citizens didn't.

I coped much better with the driving than I ever thought I could; there's some part of the lizard brain that remembered more than my conscious mind did. I occasionally even enjoyed it.

We stayed on Galway Bay just outside the village of Spidal, and could see the Burren across the bay and took various day trips. Everything we did was quite lovely, except for driving in and around Galway City. It's grown a lot in recent years; the roads haven't. 24 hour gridlock.

The big highlight for me was going out to the island of Inishmór. Everyone who didn't get a text saying "I'm on Craggy Island!" can consider themselves lucky.

I saw the new John Connolly in a bookshop in Galway (it's not out here for another two weeks) and was extremely restrained and didn't buy it.

I was completely blown away by the size, quality and ubiquity of gorgeous home baked goods. Chocolate Guinness cake is every bit as awesome as it sounds.
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C14 is going to nearly coincide with my 40th birthday.

So, who's going? Am I going to be there on my own trying to convince random people I really was on a.g. Back In The Day even though I've since completely disappeared from the face of the earth?

The plan (such as it is at this stage) is to fly to either TO or NY and ROAD TRIP. I have yet to do the serious research into what I want to see, but given that most things that I want to see in the US are within striking distance of the eastern seaboard, I'm thinking this can be as long or as short as we like. Top of the list is Washington DC with my glasses this time.

Actual birthday, if funds allow, will be spent driving around Miami in a convertible. I have no shame and no class. And I like the art deco hotels.

If we book and start paying for things soon enough, it shouldn't mess up the finances too badly - car rental's going to be the killer. I can't actually buy laminates until I find out whether my current employment is going permanent, so I might miss out on the money-saving there.

Looks like this year I'll be spared the agonising over whether to spring for the official hotel. That is some deal! Would book now, but somehow can't cope with the idea of actually planning anything that far in the future.
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Back from Toronto! Not surprisingly somewhat disoriented and broken, but I've been worse.

Apologies to those of you I didn't get to see, or didn't see enough of. My limited energy was more limited than usual (though not as bad as it was before the holiday). Also, it's been a big year for two close friends who are not on LJ - one lost both her parents, and the other had a baby, so there was some intense shit-talking and quality baby time.

My shopping was of a distinctly amateur nature, even given my restricted budget, due to expenditure of energy trying to find Christmas gifts for the miserable family, and vagueness of my brain. Realised that if I didn't aspire to unemployment in the near future I could have treated myself to either an ipod or a pair of Fluevogs. I'm not sure which Fluevogs though.

I have vague intentions of properly catching up on 8 days of posts, but realistically if there's anything I should know, drop me a line or call me.
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There was an interesting article in the Guardian today about whether young people on "gap year" packages that include charity work in the developing world are the new colonialists. I was particularly struck by the bloke who'd been teaching English in Ecuador quesioning the rationale of teaching English in the developing world in the first place. I have similar reservations. English, French and Spanish may have made worldwide communication easier, but they've wiped out an awful lot of indigenous languages and cultures. It may be easier to travel around the world now that you can always find someone who speaks English, but it's a lot less interesting, and a lot harder to work on the language of wherever you are visiting (and I'm only trying to improve my French & Spanish, not learn an actually difficult language).

This was interesting to me for a practical reason as well as on a philosophical level. My latest, and actually less than stupid, idea is to take a TEFL course and teach English part time and write or do voluntary work for aid/ development agencies until such time as one of them wants to pay me to work for them or do another masters in international development issues. Because of my health I would mostly be looking at teaching English here, but I could take short contracts abroad. Unlike most of the teaching-English world[1], I have no desire to go to the Far East, but to Eastern Europe and Latin America. Or France, but I don't think they need English teachers.

Which gets into issues of it may be a good way to earn money while travelling, but do I really want to be furthing the cause of anglo-american cultural imperialism? Particularly in South America, a place whose culture I've been fascinated by since I was 8 years old. On the other hand, it's a good way to learn about the countries that I'd eventually want to come back here (or Canada) and get involved in development policy for.[2][3]

If I want to work in Europe, I'm going to have to get off my arse and get UK citizenship.

It really is a less than stupid idea - one of the "proper" qualifications (ie the two month rather than two week or two day course) is available in Bristol and doesn't cost as much as I thought it did. Unfortunately, I think most of the money in teaching English in the UK is to foreigners who come here for intensive language classes rather than to recent immigrants, which is what I want to do. Maybe I could put a sign in the window of the Polish grocery store in the neighbourhood.

I've been looking into it, and there's a bewildering variety of opportunities available, from jobs that aim to rip off young people travelling to quite cushy numbers indeed. Because I have a masters' degree and my work in my English degree was as much on language as on literature, I should be in a good position to do something interesting and, one hopes, useful.

[1] Sorry, [livejournal.com profile] mindme, I avidly read your stories of life in Korea, but it's Not My Thing.

[2] Least articulate sentence ever. I'm tired & can't explain it better just now.

[3] Because I don't earn little enough money as it is, obviously.

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