Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What to eat?

Another problem J and I are discussing right now is: What to eat when we're travelling?

As many of you know, we are vegetarians, and we've heard that, in Japan, it can be quite difficult to find vegetarian food (see this, for example). Of course we'll be bringing along some of our own food (protein bars, etc.), but I don't really want to walk around with food for a month in Japan. I'm hoping that it won't be too much of a problem in other countries (except maybe South East Asian countries, where they eat a lot of seafood) because there's a strong Buddhist presence in India, In China it's easy to substitute tofu for meat, Nepal has lentils and rice, and Aus. and NZ are 1st world nations, so we can go back to fresh fruit and veggies. I guess in Japan and Thailand we'll have to find kitchens for ourselves and we'll have to print out a bunch of these.

The countdown is on, by the way. We now have exactly 11 weeks before we leave. J and I have been packing up a bunch of stuff in the last week and are already selling some of our furniature on Craig's list. It's refreshing to get rid of some of our accumulated crap, but we've barely made a dent. At least we've started, unlike the other J&M, who are leaving in 3 weeks and just barely started their clean-up.

In an unrelated side-note, I'm about to become a Dr. By the end of this week, it should be official.


Saturday, May 13, 2006


UPDATE - 22 May 06 @ 10:30 am for spelling and grammar

A lot of people have asked us how we feel about giving money to the Chinese government on this trip. The question is an important one, since we'll be in China for a long time, even though the Chinese government doesn't take care of their people or environment and have no de facto free press or speech. These are clearly ideals we do not support, yet a large fraction of our travel expenses in China will go directly to the government. We've also been asked about our feelings towards visiting Tibet, a once-soverign nation that was taken over by China in 1951. And now, we find out, we won't even be able to access blogspot.com (which hosts this very website) when we're there because the Chinese Gov't. has such harsh restrictions on internet access! Even the all-mighty, pro-capitalism Google has bowed to China's pressures and influence. So the focus of this short post is: "Is it ethical/moral to visit China/Tibet?"

There are a lot of answeres to this questions, which itself begs many more, such as how do we (or even should we) put our own ideas of morality (or human rights, environmentalism, government, etc.) in the context of other cultures, and why are we traveling in the first place? We'll try not to get caught up in these other questions and debates in this post, since there is an easy to answer the question of giving money to the Chinese government: we don't like it. From what we can tell, the Chinese government does not treat their people, history, or environment justly. It would be great if the new global community and increased capitalism in China pressures the government to let their people be educated; that the communist regime in China begins to embrace democray; and that our dollars aren't going to be used to harm people in any way. Although this is probably not a reality, it doesn't mean we're against the idea of giving money to CHINA, or to China's people. Investment and infrastructure, tourism and foriegn eyes, will all help foster a better future for China, as long as it's the right kind of investment. So the question becomes a blanance of our own personal mores and world-view with our goals, intentions, and actions.

We'd like to think we do our best to minimize the negative impacts that come from where we spend our money, even at home. We try to buy sweatshop free, American-made clothing, organic fair-trade foods, and support the local businesses and people we like. There's a good chance that the Chinese government will take our tourism dollars to do things that we don't agree with. But I think it's far more important for us to become citizens of the world and try to make an impact on the ground with individuals. When we're there, we'll be trying to buy food from individual street vendors and farmers, and not from the large chain restraunts. When we stay in hostels, we'll be trying to find ones owned by independent businesses and not owned by the gov't. Same goes for Tibet: When we book tours and hotels in Lhasa, we'll be trying to do so with Tibetans, not Chinese (since they're typically given extra tax benefits and incentives that are not open to Tibetans).

We think it's important, personally, to be in China, to try to connect with some of our cultural history, and to try to understand what life in China is like. It's arguable and probably true that in 10 years or less, China will be the most important county on the planet, with an economy surpassing India's, the EU's and even our own. Understanding China's people and its place in history (past, present, and future) are vital to our development as good global citizens of the future. These arguments far out-weigh the negative impact our dollars might have in China. By making choices we believe in, both at home and abroad, we hope to become better people and to make China and the world a better place.

So we leave you with a question of your own to ponder: "How can one make moral and informed decisions if one is not himorherself aware and connected to people everywhere?"


Monday, May 08, 2006

Packing: What are we doing?

I have no idea. We're only going bring the two packs you see in the pics below, but we've also got a ton of books to bring (Rough Guides: India, Japan, South East Asia and Lonely Planet: China, NZ, and Australia), plus a huge camera, a water filter, so many meds (uuhhh.... thyroid problems, allergies, malaria, other antibiotics, tylenol, adrenaline, etc.), sleep sheets, and a bunch of other crap. Do we even have room for clothes? The answer: NO! At least we won't be carrying around tents and sleeping bags, which take up tons of room, but don't think that this didn't come with some serious arguing!

Justine: I think we should bring sleeping bags.
Mike: Nah. They're too big, heavy, and expensive. Plus, we'll be in India and South East Asia... we're gonna be sleeping naked with only a mosquito net over us.
Justine: You're going to get diseases from the beds.
Mike: So what?
Justine: ...
Mike: Look, if you want to bring a bag, go ahead, but I don't want to.
Justine: ...
Mike: Okay, it's settled then. No sleeping bags, right?
Justine: You're going to get scabies and other skin diseases. You should get a bag.
Mike: I think there's a Sharks game on.

Am I in denial here? Our other friends (also with initials J & M) are bringing bags. But I'm just so lazy. Plus, we have the silk sleep sheets, which should keep most bugs out and keep us from having to use gross, stained comforters.


These pics are from when we went camping with James and Meghan at the beginning of April. We went out to Santa Cruz Island (one of the Channel Islands of the coast of Calif.). It was fun, except for the Lyme's disease!

Friday, May 05, 2006


This is the web-log (or blog) for our travels. We'll be trying to post here as frequently as possible, when we're on the road, but you probably shouldn't expect something every day. This page is also a great way to contact us from the road, and we'll probably read messages here more frequently than we read our email, but if you really want to email us, send it along to mbedard.hearn@gmail.com. Okay, that's it for the first post. We won't be leaving the US for Japan until August 15, 2006, and I think my mom will be throwing us a bon voyage party sometime in August. We'll keep you posted.