Exploring Vietnam, small victories

Scooters everywhere. Helmets are officially required, but often children won't have one. Yesterday I saw a woman with FOUR children on one scooter.
Scooters everywhere. Helmets are officially required, but often children won’t have one. Yesterday I saw a woman with FOUR children on one scooter.

October 3, 2014

Big successes today. First I seem to have adjusted almost to the time change. I woke up early and was out of the house for a walk during the cool of the day. I went to Vo Thi Sao (VO TEE SOW) Street and walked to the next major street, Ha Huy Giap (HA HUIE YAP Yes. It’s very tough to remember the names. I take photos of the street signs to help me remember the names, then look them up on Google Maps). On the way I found Pegasus Plaza, which appears to have a working ATM and a movie theater (which I could not find the entrance to). I also found the train tracks and think I may know where the train station is. But the biggest thing is that I was able to buy iced coffee (cha phe sua, pronounced CAW FEY SWAY) AND I understood the price: muoi lam (MUHEY LAAM), which is fifteen thousand Dong or about 80 cents. Then stopped at a different food cart and accidentally ordered FOUR bao (steamed buns with meat and eggs inside). I was trying to say Bo or Ga (beef or chicken) but I said Bon Ga which is four chicken. But they were just 20,000 Dong a piece (about a dollar each), so I took them. It was probably a big sale for him.

This is Ga Bao, or chicken in a steamed bun. This one also had two tiny eggs inside. It's yummy and because it is steamed, it is one of the few items I will buy off the street that I don't watch being cooked.
This is Ga Bao, or chicken in a steamed bun. This one also had two tiny eggs inside. It’s yummy and because it is steamed, it is one of the few items I will buy off the street that I don’t watch being cooked.
There are chickens everywhere and you can hear the roosters crowing at all daylight hours. Also, notice the shoes outside the door. Asians don't wear their street shoes in the house, though they may have a pair of slippers or sandals just inside the door.
There are chickens everywhere and you can hear the roosters crowing at all daylight hours. Also, notice the shoes outside the door. Asians don’t wear their street shoes in the house, though they may have a pair of slippers or sandals just inside the door.

Speaking of outside, the apartment building I’m staying in is on the edge of town in an area that used to be swampy. They’ve drained and raised the land, but the empty lot beside us is still a bit marshy. A man brings his cows in each morning to graze there. They look like Brahman cattle, dark brown with a huge hump at the withers. There is an assortment of stray dogs about. I asked Thom about them because they seem to run in packs, which seemed dangerous. Thom says they are all friendly dogs, because if they weren’t, they’d be eaten. I don’t think he’s kidding.

I don't know what kind of cows these are, but they graze through the day in the empty lot behind my apartment building. Sometimes they have a rope around their neck, so I assume they are tied or led with that. They seem gentle and are always gone by late afternoon.
I don’t know what kind of cows these are, but they graze through the day in the empty lot behind my apartment building. Sometimes they have a rope around their neck, so I assume they are tied or led with that. They seem gentle and are always gone by late afternoon.
This cow was actually afraid of me.
This cow was actually afraid of me.

High on my victory, I made it back to the apartment and figured out where the trash goes (down the hall, though I have not figured out the recycling yet), swept the kitchen floor and used the odd mop to clean it, which it really needed. There is no hot water in the apartment, BTW. If you want to wash dishes, you heat water in the hot pot. My shower has a small water heater, but it’s been so hot that I’ve not bothered to use it yet, though I shower every day, sometimes twice. Next I’m tackling the unusual washing machine. I put in a very small load of safe items—mostly well-worn shirts and cleaning rags. I’m pretty sure I accidentally added some floor soap before I found the laundry soap, so let’s hope that isn’t a problem. There is no dryer, so you just hang things up to dry on the side balcony.

Nguyen is the most common surname in Vietnam. It's unpronounceable by a westerner, but WIN is close enough.
Nguyen is the most common surname in Vietnam. It’s unpronounceable by a westerner, but WIN is close enough.
The streets are busy, but as you an see it is mostly scooters and motorcycles. Few cars. Thom tells me that in an accident, it is ALWAYs the car's fault, regardless of the situation.
The streets are busy, but as you an see it is mostly scooters and motorcycles. Few cars. Thom tells me that in an accident, it is ALWAYs the car’s fault, regardless of the situation.

So I got all this done and before 7:30a. I’m pretty proud of myself. So I went back outside for another hour walk, while I listened to my Vietnamese.

Speaking of outside, the apartment building I’m staying in is on the edge of town in an area that used to be swampy. They’ve drained and raised the land, but the empty lot beside us is still a bit marshy. A man brings his cows in each morning to graze there. They look like Brahman cattle, dark brown with a huge hump at the withers. There is an assortment of stray dogs about. I asked Thom about them because they seem to run in packs, which seemed dangerous. Thom says they are all friendly dogs, because if they weren’t, they’d be eaten. I don’t think he’s kidding.

I had my first real classes tonight, two of them back to back, so I spent the afternoon preparing. The first class was teenagers and it was a listening class. I’d been told it might be tough because listening skills are obviously one of the most difficult things to do. But the students did a great job. I had enough activities and material and it went even better than I had hoped.

But the second class was a different story. These were adults, but they looked like they were about fourteen. It was a beginning class and so I had to speak extra slowly and be sure not to talk over their heads. The first half hour was almost complete silence. Every response was practically pulled out of them forcefully. I must have looked pitiful because Thom looked in on me and decided I needed a hand. He was wonderful and I’m so grateful that he came into my class. The students clearly like and respect him and it was like he had personally endorsed me. The mood changed and they began to loosen up. The lesson was on Health, specifically symptoms and remedies. The remedies in the book were pretty straightforward and it was easy for them to respond with those answers. But the idea was to get them to suggest other home remedies for ailments, and they looked at me with blank faces. “What does your mother give you when you are sick with a cold?” Nothing. I stood in silence for a full minute, which seemed like hours. “Vietnam has the BEST soup on the planet. Doesn’t your mother give you soup?” Nothing. Until I said, “pho.” Their eyes got wider. “I know I’m not saying it right. How do you pronounce it?” And they told me. I got them to write it on the board. Next I tried the word ginger as a remedy for an upset stomach. They taught me to say it, though they laughed out loud at my first half dozen attempts. Next was garlic, then tea. It worked. And it kept working. By the end of the class, half the women wanted photos with me. Yeah.

Living in Vietnam

 October 2, 2014

While I am very excited to be here in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, the reality is that everything is so much more difficult. I speak only a few words of the language and I read even less. I don’t know the area, so I can’t find much of anything. I don’t have a car or scooter so I can’t go far. Honestly, I’d be afraid to drive here just yet. The traffic is scary. Even the simplest chores are tough for me. AND I’m doing all this while learning a new job, new people, and still getting used to the new time zone. It’s tough, but it’s what I signed up for. So enough whining.

Today Thom took Bob and me to a lovely coffee house called Nirvana. The gardens reminded me of places I saw in Tokyo (though much larger), but the restaurant next door could have been a building from the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Of course Vietnam has been influenced heavily by these two cultures, but they also put a spin all their own on things, which I am also learning.

The entrance to the coffee house garden. There was a meandering stream with koi, lots of statues and a photographer snapping pictures of two lovely young women.
The entrance to the coffee house garden. There was a meandering stream with koi, lots of statues and a photographer snapping pictures of two lovely young women.
Garden at the coffee house also had bonsai trees.
Garden at the coffee house also had bonsai trees.
This is Bob, in front of the coffee shop we went to this morning.
This is Bob, in front of the coffee shop we went to this morning.

SHOPPING Then Thom took us to Metro, a huge supermarket, like an Asian Sam’s Club. This was my first shopping trip, and it was much more difficult than you’d expect. Finding dish soap, body soap and toothpaste were the biggest struggles. There is little English on the packages and so you have to guess what the item is by the pictures on the packaging or the items sitting next to it. Is that toothpaste or hemorrhoid cream? Most of the body soaps for women have a “whitening” agent and I’m not sure I want that at all. Women here are very concerned with their skin. They are careful to stay out of the sun and not to get a tan–evening wearing a sweater with a turtleneck on warm days. White skin is considered beautiful, so my pasty complexion must be coveted. I bought three bags of groceries and household items and it cost almost 2 million Dong. Don’t worry. The exchange rate is roughly 21,000 Dong to 1 US Dollar. I spent about $86, which is still a lot, but not for a first shopping trip to stock an apartment.

The Metro is just like any other huge superstore. It's hard not to buy things in bulk.
The Metro is just like any other huge superstore. It’s hard not to buy things in bulk.

RELATIONSHIPS Bob had a difficult time getting out of the grocery store because the women always seem to be interested in him or at least interested in setting him up with their friends/daughters. Bob is probably mid-40s and is certainly a good looking guy (with a great head of hair), but these women are probably looking for security. An American man is “clearly” rich. Vietnamese women, traditionally, are less concerned about love than about security. Bob doesn’t let the attention go to his head. Thom says that even when they have a boyfriend, they are willing to trade up for something better, so they are always looking. Thom is married to a fairly young Vietnamese woman and informs us that it is a myth to think that the women do as they are told. While they certainly work hard, they also like to run the marriage and especially the finances. The men do not appear interested in a middle aged white woman, however. Clearly, I would be too much trouble. 😉 I’m sure they are right.

LANGUAGE I continue to listen to my Pimsleur Audio program to learn Vietnamese, but I’m simply not happy with it. Pimsleur focuses entirely on listening and speaking. That’s fine for languages like Italian or Spanish where you can guess how the words are spelled by the pronunciation. That’s not true with Vietnamese. You do strongly need an audio component, since that’s the only way to learn the tones, but I need the written as well. I will continue with Pimsleur, but have found an online guide put out by the Foreign Service Institute that has audio files. It’s pretty dated, but the instruction focuses on the south. There are three distinct language accents in Vietnam and each uses different words and pronounces things differently. I don’t learn languages easily, but I will work every day at this.

BABY, IT’S HOT OUTSIDE Have I mentioned how very hot it is here? At night it drops to about 80F and it goes up through the day to 90F and above. Humidity is very high. Without an air conditioning unit in my bedroom, I’d have a tough time sleeping. I try not to lower the temperature much as it makes for too much of a contrast when I walk outside. This should be the rainy season, but it’s barely been raining since I arrived. Not even clouds in the sky this afternoon. Thom says it’s going to be a problem for the farmers.

These are Mina and Thao (Tao), receptionists at the school. I'm having a hard time learning names.
These are Mina and Thao (Tao), receptionists at the school. I’m having a hard time learning names.

TEACHING CLASS Tonight I had to review vocabulary about body parts (hands, head, toes, elbows) to two classes of very young students. It was such fun. First we went through some flash cards and worked on their memorization of the new words while wiggling toes, putting elbows akimbo, rolling our shoulders and stomping our feet. These kids have energy to burn. Then we taped the laminated flash cards to the board, broke the group into three lines and the first person at each line got to throw a sticky ball at the correct word. Then the next person got a new word until we’d gone through the line three times. Most “sticks” on the right word wins. Why haven’t I been teaching kids all along?

Everyone drives a scooter and they rule the road, though they don't always follow the rules of the road. There are few cars and in an accident, it's always the cars fault. These are parents, waiting for their kids to get out of an evening class.
Everyone drives a scooter and they rule the road, though they don’t always follow the rules of the road. There are few cars and in an accident, it’s always the cars fault. These are parents, waiting for their kids to get out of an evening class.
After I got back from class, I went for a walk in the neighborhood. This is one of the major streets, Vo Thi Sao., just a few blocks from my apartment.
After I got back from class, I went for a walk in the neighborhood. This is one of the major streets, Vo Thi Sao, just a few blocks from my apartment.
A café near my apartment
A café near my apartment

My first day in Vietnam

This is the entrance to the school I'm teaching at. For now, I'll mostly teach young children. Eventually, I will be teaching SAT prep for high school students as well.
This is the entrance to the school I’m teaching at. For now, I’ll mostly teach young children. Eventually, I will be teaching SAT prep for high school students as well.

The flight to Vietnam was long, boring, and–fortunately–uneventful. There was only one small delay in Hong Kong, so the flight from Newark was about 23 hours. If my dear friends (thank you, thank you Julia and Kathy!) had not agreed to (go out of their way to) take me to Newark and had let me fly from Albany, it would have been over 30 hours, so it could have been much worse.

My luggage arrived with me and there was no issues with acquiring a visa or getting through customs and immigration. Best of all, Thom Comfort, the head of the school, and his very lovely wife, Khang, we’re waiting for me. It took about an hour to drive to Bein Hoa where my roommate Robert had gotten up to greet me when I arrived a bit past 2a. What a trooper!

With the help of melatonin and Tylonal PM, I went right to sleep.

Thom also took me out to dinner, not far from the school's apartment where I will stay until I can find a place of my own. Beside him stands the floor manager of the restaurant. Thom has lived in Vietnam for sixteen years.
Thom also took me out to dinner, not far from the school’s apartment where I will stay until I can find a place of my own. Beside him stands the floor manager of the restaurant. Thom has lived in Vietnam for sixteen years.

Got out of the house about 9a and Thom (school manager) took Robert (my roommate and also a new teacher who has been here just less than a month) and me out to breakfast. We had a lovely been (Bo) soup ( not pho, but a simpler soup) with short rice noodles (bun). Lots of people all and iced coffee (caw phe sua). Thom drove me around a bit, gave me a bit of a tour, then dropped Robert and I off at our apartment to get to know each other. Bob is great, mid-40’s, new to teaching, but very excited and he has a humility and openness that will take him far. Plus he’s musical and has a great sense of humor.

This is the first class I observed, The Mushrooms. The kids are about eight years old, very bright and high energy. The kids start their classes at 7a most mornings and often don't get home until 9p. They go to school all day, even on Saturday and part of Sunday as well.
This is the first class I observed, The Mushrooms. The kids are about eight years old, very bright and high energy. The kids start their classes at 7a most mornings and often don’t get home until 9p. They go to school all day, even on Saturday and part of Sunday as well.

This evening I got to observe my first classes. The children are amazing. I should have been teaching kids all along. Tomorrow I will teach two short segments! Talk about hitting the ground running! Personally, I’m just glad I could stay awake all day. Going to the large supermarket tomorrow to get some basics. I’m mostly unpacked, which is pretty easy because I don’t own much. Falling into bed now……

The view from my apartment balcony on the fifth floor.
The view from my apartment balcony on the fifth floor.
The view from my apartment balcony on the fifth floor.
The view from my apartment balcony on the fifth floor.

My last week in The States

I’ve been staying with my dear friends Kathy and Julia, just outside Albany, NY. Tomorrow I leave for Vietnam. It’s been a whirlwind of activity here as my friends send me off with a greater appreciation for upstate New York.

Kathy took me to Van's, a Vietnamese restaurant in Albany. This is a tofu steak with a tasty lemongrass sauce.
Kathy took me to Van’s, a Vietnamese restaurant in Albany. This is a tofu steak with a tasty lemongrass sauce.
We had some great food, including fish at The Cat's Meow, a local lunch spot.
We had some great food, including fish at The Cat’s Meow, a local lunch spot.
I helped Julia with a lovely fundraiser at this historic house in Albany, NY.
I helped Julia with a lovely fundraiser at this historic house in Albany, NY.
I love caves and we had a particularly good tour guide at Howe Caverns.
I love caves and we had a particularly good tour guide at Howe Caverns.

 

At Howe Caverns, it's really dark. This is one of the best photos inside the cave. We also went on an underground boat ride during the cave tour.
At Howe Caverns, it’s really dark. This is one of the best photos inside the cave. We also went on an underground boat ride during the cave tour.
Kathy took me to a small, but well done Iroquois museum. This tells a bit about these Native Americans. Wish the photo was better.
Kathy took me to a small, but well done Iroquois museum. This tells a bit about these Native Americans. Wish the photo was better.
At the Iroquois Museum there is a small pool in the basement activity room with real turtles swimming around a turtle sculpture, In their creation myth, the earth is a turtle.
At the Iroquois Museum there is a small pool in the basement activity room with real turtles swimming around a turtle sculpture, In their creation myth, the earth is a turtle.
Julia and I went to The Big E, a regional state fair. This bunny on the left was the oddest animal we saw.
Julia and I went to The Big E, a regional state fair. This bunny on the left was the oddest animal we saw.
There were draft horse pulls in the arena at The Big E.
There were draft horse pulls in the arena at The Big E.
MIdway at The Big E. We also did a wine tasting where I was stung by a wasp. Worse wine I've ever had, so we didn't buy any.
MIdway at The Big E. We also did a wine tasting where I was stung by a wasp. Worse wine I’ve ever had, so we didn’t buy any.
But I got a lot of wonderful wine during my stay. Kathy, Julia and I stayed in a cozy cottage on Seneca Lake, one of the FInger Lakes. It's become quite a wine growing region. This was outside our back door. We could see the sunrise in the morning.
But I got a lot of wonderful wine during my stay. Kathy, Julia and I stayed in a cozy cottage on Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. It’s become quite a wine growing region. This was outside our back door. We could see the sunrise in the morning.
We saw a lot of grapes growing in Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. We tasted a LOT of wine too.
We saw a lot of grapes growing in Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. We tasted a LOT of wine too.
In addition to wines, we also tried a few spirits. This place made their own gin and whiskey.
In addition to wines, we also tried a few spirits. This place made their own gin and whiskey.
Julia and I went to the Garlic Festival. You just never know what you might see there.
Julia and I went to the Garlic Festival. You just never know what you might see there.
There was lots of produce at the Garlic Festival and over a dozen different kinds of garlic. Who knew there were so many. The local garlic is called "Music" so I brought some of that home for Kathy.  Julia and I also tried Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies. I can cross that off my list for the rest of my life. I'm a culinary adventurer, but some things I don't eat twice.
There was lots of produce at the Garlic Festival and over a dozen different kinds of garlic. Who knew there were so many. The local garlic is called “Music” so I brought some of that home for Kathy.
Julia and I also tried Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies. I can cross that off my list for the rest of my life. I’m a culinary adventurer, but some things I don’t eat twice.
...and Julia brought me back a Moxie soda from Maine.
…and Julia brought me back a Moxie soda from Maine.

And for my last evening meal in the USA, I had pizza. Can you think of anything more American that that? LOL

Vietnam in one week

I am on my way to Vietnam in only one week. There’s still a list of things to take care of, but I’m mostly ready to go.

The last document needed for my work visa is in the mail. I’ve bought my ticket and packed the items I’ll carry with me. I’ll be spending my last week in The States with my dear friends Kathy and Julia, outside of Albany, New York. We’ve got a few adventures planned, mostly involving wine, good food and a little sightseeing. Kathy and Julia rescued me off the AT when my foot was too injured to hike on. I am indebted to them forever and can’t possible express the kindness they have shown me.

Everyone says how jealous they are that I’m “footloose and fancy free.” But it’s not that easy. This has taken some careful planning, more time than I expected, more money than I’d hoped, and every ounce of persistence I possess. And I’ve given up most of my stuff. Here are a few random details for those of you who might consider an adventure like this:

EVERYTHING I OWN I’m not taking much with me. The first thing I did when I realized I was definitely going to tropical Vietnam was to shed all my warm clothing. I’ll be lucky if it ever drops below 60F. I’ll be carrying most of what I own on the plane. I’ll have two carry-ons—a backpack and a large handbag—which will have a change of clothes, my documents, electronics, camera, a couple fragile items and a few toiletries. I’ll check two bags, mostly with clothing and personal items. The first bag is free and I’ll have to pay about a hundred dollars for the second checked bag. That may seem pricy, but it’s less than sending it later, plus I’ll have the items immediately. That will leave about two boxes of things that my friend Kathy will mail to me when I have a permanent address. I’ll be sending items USPS. A box of 25 pounds will cost roughly $125. I’ll store my hiking equipment with Kathy, but not much else.

Please remember that I used to own a three story, two bedroom, two and a half bath condo, filled to the brim with stuff. I’ve shed most all my belongings. The folks at Good Will know me very well. All my books are electronic, my photos digital. Even the art my niece sends me is scanned and kept electronically. My clothes are horribly boring and all intermix. My hairstyle requires little more than a comb and my makeup routine takes a minute and a half. I have nothing decorative, nothing to dust, no furniture, no kitchen equipment.

Ladies, I only own four pair of shoes. And I might get rid of one pair.

Most of what I kept when I started hiking was stored in my friend Sue’s attic in Atlanta. Another friend who has shown unbelievable kindness and support.

CAR Julia’s husband, Bill, has arranged to sell my car after I leave. Bless him. It’s a 2001 Saturn with 200,000+ miles on it, so I’m not expecting much money. But it has served me very well. I can’t imagine what I would have done if dear friends Ann and Nelson in Snellville had not kept the car in running order for me during the summer while I was hiking the AT. Another set of friends I am indebted to for life.

TOURIST VISA I’m going initially to Vietnam on a Tourist Visa.  Many countries require a visa, but most you can get on arrival (Visa On Arrival, VOA). Here’s the details for getting one in Vietnam. And this is the company site I used to get my letter.

WORK VISA I did most of my research about teaching English more than three years ago. The rules have changed and it isn’t as easy as it used to be. There are new laws, Hague conventions, which require more documentation than I was prepared for. Most countries that want English teachers require only two things: English is your first language and you have a four year college degree. That’s still true. And you can travel there on a tourist visa, though you can’t legally work on one. For the school to get a work visa for you, you have to prove you are not a criminal and that your documents are legitimate. Basically, I needed an FBI Background check and a copy of my diploma. And EACH had to be “apostilled.” An apostille is an authentication process. Quoting the FBI website: An apostille is a certification that a document has been “legalized” or “authenticated” by the issuing agency through a process in which various seals are placed on the document. So far it sounded easy, especially for someone who has no felony convictions and hasn’t even had a parking ticket in three decades.

It wasn’t.

The diploma had to be sent to my college, who verified that the diploma came from them, and then sent to the Illinois Secretary of State office for a seal and letter of authentication. It took 6 weeks and about $30. The FBI background check took FOUR sets of fingerprints before I got success. The first three were ink and were turned down as un-readable. The last set was digital. I paid a “channeler” $50 or more for each set, even the ones that didn’t work. According to the FBI customer service person I spoke with, “a high percentage” of inked fingerprints are turned down by the FBI, but digital prints “almost always work.” Please note that the FBI website gives instructions only about inked fingerprints. That took two months and more frustration and tears than I care to remember. It could have taken a year if I’d done it without the channelers. Then the background check had to have an apostille. If I’d had 2-3 months, I could have sent it to the US State Department myself. I paid a courier service about $200 to take care of it. I’ll have the document this week.

All of this to prove I have a real college degree and that the FBI keeps my criminal file in a folder marked “Harmless.”

LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE I’m flying out Monday. My dear, dear friends have agreed to drive me to Newark Airport rather than have me fly from Albany. It won’t save any money, but it cuts off about ten hours of travel time. It’s roughly 22 hours, with one stop in Hong Kong. Flights of that length, especially sitting in coach, are brutal. Though it’s important to move around when you can, I do my best to be unconscious for as much of the flight as possible. I wear eye shades, ear plugs and take a sleeping pill. I especially try to sleep on the NEW schedule of the country I’m flying to—it takes a bite out of jet lag later. I don’t drink alcohol as it makes jet lag worse. I won’t arrive until almost midnight Tuesday.

HOUSING IN VIETNAM That remains to be seen, but initially, I can stay at the school’s apartment. Many English schools in Asia provide housing, but this one doesn’t. On the other hand, housing is fairly inexpensive. I hope to find a small, furnished apartment. I’m sure I’ll have a couch for friends to visit. (Hint, hint) I’ll be 20 miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in a town called Bien Hoa. It’s the site of the former US military base.

TRANSPORTATION My school host, Thom, has promised to meet me on arrival to Vietnam. This is a true kindness. It will be midnight before I walk out of the airport outside Ho Chi Minh City. The apartment I’ll stay in initially is on the same block as the school and I’ll have use of a scooter. I expect to buy one after I arrive and get up enough nerve.

LEAVING MILLINOCKET, ME Remember than most of the above was arranged while working twelve plus hour days at a hostel near Mt Katahdin, the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. I’d like to say that my work/live stay at the Appalachian Trail Lodge was a lot of fun, though very hard work. I’d like to say that. Well, the hard work part is certainly true. While I won’t waste time or energy on details, I will say that my time with the owners of this lodge sucked from me much of the joy I initially felt about the Appalachian Trail. While I may be able to finish the hike eventually, I won’t be staying here.

I will miss my co-worker and roommate, Tie. She’d like to manage a trail hostel next year. No one would be better or harder working. Whoever is smart enough to hire her will be delighted with their choice.

THANKS Barring injury, hiking the Appalachian Trail (I initially typed the word trial. Freudian Slip?) is mostly mental. It’s hard to stay positive unless you have people behind you. No one hikes alone. I want to take this time to thank all of you who supported me in my hike north on the AT. I was blown away by trail angels, kind words on my blog, offers of support, soft beds to sleep in, cold sodas, donations to keep me on the trail, encouragement on social media and many smiles. It helps more than you can know. I didn’t finish the hike the way I would have liked to, but I did FOURTEEN HUNDRED AND FIVE miles. Nothing to be ashamed of. You helped.

Things I’m still working through:

  • Insurance. I expect I qualify for travel insurance and have asked for a couple quotes.
  • Notifying my credit card companies
  • Canceling my phone. I’ll get a new service once I’m there.

So that’s the update. The adventure continues…..