I knew that getting married meant that the world would change, and things would always be subject to "discussion". It's alright, but somehow things are never exactly as they seem before you actually experience them. Know what I mean? Ever since the age of 12 or so, I've been making my own meals (I mean just look at me, do I look like I ever starved?) and even doing the occasional bout of laundry. In short, I established my independence early. So, one can imagine that the co-operation of marriage does not necessarily come easily to me, especially with all the little things that one finds so mundane, yet so simple, that there is no way you could ever believe that anyone would do them any differently than you do. I will never forget my Uncle Donald's simple, yet ever so accurate words on the day of our wedding: "Ted, you can either be right, or be happy - the choice is yours". Hmm....
Some of you might be wondering what it's like to spend 24/7 with your wife. Some of you would be thrilled about it, and I suspect others would be terrified. I think it's a little like visiting India - you wind up loving it and hating it at the same time, but on the whole, you'd like to go back again some day. The trick is to become comfortable with this fact. Sometimes we ask other couples we meet who have been married for longer, what the secret is to a long and happy marriage. They all have the same blah, blah, blah, good communication, understanding, compromise (I hate that word because it implies each person giving something up), respect, yada yada yada. So the story goes. "Collaboration is the operative "PC" word I suppose.
So now we are back in Bangkok (for the 5th time now), the city of sin, planning the next few months of the journey. We went straight from the airport to a visa service company who charged us lawyer like fees to help us arrange our Russian and Mongolian visas for the upcoming trans Mongolian/trans Siberian train journey later in the summer. What is it with the lawyers and their fees anyway? Unfortunately this means we are sans passport for a week and a half and are therefore "grounded" from leaving Thailand. This is not so bad, since the beaches are generally good, if not for the monsoon rains that pour in every afternoon for an hour or so this time of year. Still good fun though. We're going to spend the time on Koh Samet, for which we depart tomorrow.
The next part of the trip was certainly up in the air. With visas for Myanmar and Vietnam already arranged, a desire to also visit Laos and Cambodia (for which no pre-arranged visas are required), and our trip from Hanoi to Beijing scheduled to start on August 3rd, we needed some careful calculations in order to make things work out. Then marriage interfered.
"I want to go back to Australia and see her new house!" Actually, it had been going on for several weeks. Kristine had been racking her brain, folding the itinerary over and over and twisting it in different ways to see where a week or two might fall out where we could bounce back like wallabies - like a boomerang if you will. At many points, the itinerary was examined. "What kind of flight can you take from South Africa to Australia?" "Can we fly to South America from Africa via Australia?" How small does she think the planet is anyway? I mean yeah, the flights are possible, but the budget gets hammered and then maybe we miss some really special places like say Bolivia.
There were also several clandestine operations afoot. Several E-mails a week are exchanged between my wife and several accomplices (Australian Robinson, Hendrickson, Zanotto, Kizzina, just to name a few). In an almost al-Qaeda like fashion, I am certain they were planning a "Ted friendly conversational strategy" for weeks in order to devise the correct method to make things a reality. Oh yeah, and that reminds me of some of the other things coming out of the clandestine operations. We have one E-mail box so usually we both read everything, and that's the way we like it because we can all stay in the loop together like one happy family (ughh...). Anyway, I see in Kristine's correspondence that I am sometimes thoroughly slagged for my budgeting as follows: "Surely Ted would have budgeted for shopping and mailing things home"? Surely Ted would have budgeted for increased expenditures when people come to visit them on their trip"? I'm sure it's all good honest fun, and everyone likes to slag Ted because of his planning idiosyncrasies I know, but hey, here we are, and we are still going - somebody has to keep the wheels on! Folks, it's a BACKPACKING trip, not a sip as much whiskey from the mini bar as you can trip... (OK, I'll go as far as flashpacking then...). She's even slaggin' me right now on the computer beside me - I can tell because she's laughing at herself, and she doesn't do that unless she's up to no good.
There was this book we got a hold of a while ago called the "Shopaholic" or something like that. Unfortunately, the story was about a newly married couple traveling around the world for one year. The wife was an obsessive shopper and was buying things like an Indonesian gamalan and shipping them home along the way without telling the husband. Great. I couldn't see how the book related to us. Nevertheless, it scared the shit out of me. I read it and then had an incredible desire to burn it so it could not further infect any more women out there, thereby protecting the unsuspecting husbands of the world; but being a papermaker, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm pretty sure we sold it anyway.
So, on with the story. We spent all day today with our chosen local travel agent, Welcome travel. They have been very good for us, making all our arrangements right back to when we came back from India. It was a 6 hour adventure, but eventually we hammered out a schedule and got flights tentatively booked. And you guessed it, Australia is in the itinerary. It's probably the craziest thing we'll ever do, and everyone will probably think we're nuts, but we're doin' it anyway. I just hope I get to see Bolivia before the money runs out. It sure didn't help that the agent had an ad outside for $515 CDN return to Melbourne in the first place (of course, we paid much more, because that fare was for the highly restricted once a week flight, without taxes of course).
I'm a little worried about Kelvin actually. I think he might start to think we're stalking him; maybe he'll even start to think that we'll plan a move down there to Waurn Ponds and we can become "good neighbours". I mean, he and Catherine came to Canada for our wedding, and we had seen them in April earlier that year, and then we were just there in January, and now were coming back? He must be thinking we're like the plague, or rotten cheese smell in the freezer or something - damn friendly Canadians just won't go away! I have this dream where I'm the guy next door and I go over and borrow the weed whacker or a skill saw or something like that, use it, and then stick it in my garage and never give it back. I don't want to become a guy like that! Kelvin's probably dreading it....
Anyway, we're going, and below is how things ought to workout on the whirlwind tour of Indochina with the unlikely sidebar to Melbourne. It's a special itinerary not to be repeated ever folks, so cut it out and frame it like your first speeding ticket. We even get to spend a night in Manila, thereby adding the Philippines to the country list which was never intended:
June 15 - June 26- Myanmar
June 27- July 4- Laos
July 5 - July 13 - Melbourne (via Manila - I'm not kidding)
July 14 - July 18 - Cambodia
July 19 - Aug 3rd - Vietnam
Sometimes Kristine is 10 years old. Actually, she's mostly 10 years old because when things go her way she's as happy as a 10 year old that just fell into the vanilla ice cream vat at the local Haagen Daz factory. After getting all this sorted out, we went for a swim at the D&D Inn here in Bangkok, in the pouring rain. There she was, my wife, all alone in the centre of the pool, while everyone else (and there were quite a few people) was huddled under the awning where the pool table and bar were, singing out "I'm swimming in the rain, just swimming in the rain..." You know how the rest goes. You all know her very well. The whole scene reminded me of a far side cartoon that Kristine showed me her co-workers gave to her once. It was the one where there's a guy moving a wheelbarrow full of rocks in burning hell while smiling and whistling away a happy tune. Everyone around him is sweating away with sad, exhausted looks on their faces. Someone had put the title "Government of Canada" on the top and labelled the whistler "Kristine". That about sums it up.
I just hope I get to see Bolivia. And most of this is just tongue in cheek as I am sure you all realize, especially you Kelvin. I'm sure you'll let me surf your couch for a few days with little in the way of painful estrogen based banter. :P