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Many of my long time friends call me Imelda. I was surprised that it wasn't one of my friends who purchased the 50 pair shoe rack for us off of our wedding registry. In fact, just yesterday, I bought two more pairs of shoes. I love shoes. They offer protection from the elements (except for yesterday, when I walked through deep rain in some little satin flats), style (with the possible exception of my chunky yet oh-so-comfortable clogs), and comfort (had to come up with something so the clogs don't feel hurt). I literally have hundreds of pairs of shoes. And, though not practical, there are some shoes that I keep just because they have sentimental value. I love my Mizunos that carried me through my first marathon. I laugh when I see the flip flops I wore on my wedding day. Am I the only bride who has worn bright pink Nike flip flops down the "aisle" (which was a dirt running path for us)?


You might think that shoes are the be all end all for me. The answer to all of life's worries. Not true. There are a few things I do love more than shoes - among them is cleanliness. While cleanliness is not a thing, it can still be loved. Some mistake neatness for cleanliness. I am not neat. But I am **** clean.


You've read about and seen some evidence of the filth we encountered in Vietnam. Here are photos to prove that I embrace clean more than shoes.





Here's a photo of the tops of my shoes. They've gotten me through many 3-mile commutes. I wore them almost daily once I started shacking up with my now husband.





There's probably even a little remnant of San Francisco's financial district and the Mission on there.





Mmm. Appetizing.





I had "saved" a pair of shoes, keeping them clean and away from "ick".





And I felt emotionally ready to part with the shoes that had explored miles of Vietnam's beautiful countryside.





Some might wonder why I wouldn't just throw the shoes in the trash. Why leave the shoes in a place where someone could pick them up and use them?





Here's why. A sample foot in footwear from a Sapa local.





And an example of what one can find roaming the streets of Hanoi. The little bit of darkness under the cat's mouth is bloody. Open toed shoes + possibly rabid cat = not on Christina's list of loves.





Bye bye Vietnam. Bye bye shoes. Jeremy and I wondered how long it would take for someone to grab them. We thought it would be measured in minutes. I hope someone enjoys them.






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My dad's getting a shot of expensive medicine to try to stimulate his neutrafils (things in your white blood cells that protect you from infection). My parents will go home and wait for it to work. They're taking a walk along the Great Highway,where I've shed many tears, as this area has been the last 2.2 miles or so of the three marathons I've run. My parents appreciate that it's desolate. They likely won't come into contact with others, which means my dad stands a better chance of avoiding illness.


My dad will get another expensive shot on Superbowl Sunday, then back to the doctor next week for yet another revised gameplan. Perhaps by then, a hospital bed will open up!



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Mission Aborted

Posted by christina_teamaquaphor Feb 1, 2008

After 4 hours of lab work and premeds, the poison infusion has been aborted.  One of my dad's labs came back showing that his ability to fight infection is too low, so they won't be starting the intense chemo today.  He has an appointment next Tuesday, and we're not sure what this means.  ?:|

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Mmmm... Poison

Posted by christina_teamaquaphor Jan 31, 2008


I wonder how many lives would be saved were it not for the bureaucracy of health insurance companies and hospital administrators.  As a former strategy consultant, inefficiencies and stupid processes drive me nuts.  As a concerned daughter with an ailing dad, the delays and incompetency are maddening.



My dad is finally going into the hospital tomorrow to start his autologous stem cell infusion process.  The hospital is going to give him high doses of poison, hoping they kill the bad cells and spare a few of the good ones in the process.  They'll give him drugs to make his blood nice and rich with his own stem cells, then they'll collect the cells by filtering his blood.  After they've sufficiently poisoned him, the plan is to get his stem cells back into him so that his body can begin regenerating (hopefully) healthy bone marrow.  Well, that's my basic understanding of the process, at least. 



The doctors outlined the process over a month ago, and the timeline was supposed to start weeks ago.  Yet, my mom has been the project manager on this one, calling the hospital and leaving messages, calling the insurance company to identify if and where there's a hold up.  I suppose I shouldn't been too harsh on these people.  Afterall, they are going to be administering poisons to my dad.  notice I've not once mentioned names or facilities.



In any case, the whole point of this post was to let people know that my dad is still fighting the battle while my mom continues to be his biggest supporter, coach, and nurse.



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The Mayo Clinic sent me a wonderful birthday wish - an email reminding me that at my age, lots of things in my body are starting to fail, so I had best get to the doctor for a series of screenings so they can start to patch me up.  How kind, and what a wonderful way to celebrate!



Instead, we're going to go look at some real estate later today.  I was recently reflecting that we spent last Valentine's Day quickly eating dinner over the kitchen sink before meeting with a realtor.  Time passes, but certain things just never change.



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I had been in New York earlier this week, flying out on my holiday, Monday, so that I could work a full day in the office on Tuesday.  Given that schedule, I decided to come back early on Thursday so that Jeremy and I could watch the Spirit of the Marathon movie.  I am now a huge movie person.  I think I've seen fewer than 20 movies in a theater my whole life (of 36 years come Monday).  I watch most of my movies on airplanes.  Sad but true.



I loved Spirit of the Marathon.  Even though Jeremy and I are both sick, we wanted to go running after the movie.  We didn't, but we wanted to.  The most significant take away for me is purely self-serving.  I am impressed with myself that I can finish a 26.2 mile run with minimal training.  I say that now.  Who knows what will happen come March.  My groin is still injured from crouching through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam and squatting on the sidewalks to eat.  And my IT bands are not happy.





This is a picture of me entering the tunnels.  As soon as I emerged, I knew this had been a big mistake.  My groin is still suffering.





I really lack flexibility.  If there were a million bazillion dollar bill (my 6-year old nephew's descriptor for so much money that you could afford to live in a house built with LEGO) on the floor, and I could only have it if I could reach it by stretching down without bending my knees, I would remain poor and left to eat on the Streets.  Actually, I enjoyed the food quite a bit; I just didn't care for the tiny stools we had to sit on.



I may have also injured myself in Japan.  Perhaps I shouldn't have demonstrated my delight in vaccuuming.





Do notice that I was wearing the Sony jacket.  Jeremy recently showed his office the pictures from our honeymoon, propting his coworkers to ask whether I work for Sony.



And finally, I perhaps exacerbated some of my pain while partaking in Japan's latest exercise craze.  We visited an area that showcased the newest electronics, including the Wii Fit (we can't wait to get one in the US).  I road on a number of bucking broncos, which is supposed to strengthen your core and your legs.  This would be a lot more funny if you could view the photos like a flip book, but you get the point.

















Provided injuries and illness don't overcome me at the end of February, I'm going to attempt to keep the Spirit of the Marathon alive in Napa - woo hoo!

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You're probably envisioning me sitting on the couch watching TV while snacking.  While that may be the case much of the time, I'm referring to not having any discipline when it comes to my marathon preparation.  Two weekends ago I finished a 10 miles run.  Last weekend, I ran 12 miles, and it felt pretty good but Jeremy got frustrated with me because I ran a bit too fast.  I just can't help it.  I'm not used to runningn with music.  Instead, I listen to my breathing and just thinking about pushing myself forward, step by step.  Pretty soon, an hour has passed and I've run seven miles when I'm supposed to be taking it easy at a 9:30 or 10 minute pace.  Fingers crossed I won't injure myself.  And no matter how hard I run, no matter how long I train, no matter what sort of coaching I might receive, one thing is for **** sure - I'd be lucky if I even get close enough to see Tilson disappear into the distance come race day.



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Count Me In

Posted by christina_teamaquaphor Dec 31, 2007


After feeling pretty good following a 10-mile run on Saturday, despite the chilly and wet weather (I really just wanted to stay in bed all day), I feel pretty good about my prospects for turning in a PR come March 2, so I put my money behind my legs and registered for the Napa Valley Marathon.  It's an easy course, and it's usually ideal race-day weather at the beginning of March.  I'm psyched!



Now, I just have to find a little time to train.  I'm going to Hawaii and likely going to NY in January, and we have finally scheduled our Washington D.C. wedding celebration for February, though I'm pretty used to that amount of travel.  My dad will likely be hospitalized for the month of February as he undergoes and recovers from his stem cell transplant, but I'm now used to the hospital routine.  Looks like my training program this time around won't be too much different from the past three attempts at turning in a decent marathon time.  There's nothing like added challenges to make things really interesting.



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I'm supposed to be running a marathon in two months.  I type that sentence while sitting on my growing behind as I savor a piece of chocolate.  Hmm.  I've been out running a couple of times, and I've been feeling pretty good, though it's been tough to get motivated, with the weather being on the bone-chilling side for my fragile California-bred body.  I suppose if I can manage to complete a 10 mile run this weekend, I'll feel confident that I can work hard enough over the next two months to turn in a decent time by the first week of March.  Though really, all I seem motivated to do these days is sleep.  I haven't even gotten around to writing more details of our big trip... I promise, commentary and photos are coming.

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Sure, the airport is a great place to sleep and all.





But, I'm referring to the goodness of my real home.  It was great to drink tap water, do a few loads of laundry, and lounge in our bed.  We had been filthy.  The next photo is of some sink water after we had rinsed out a few articles of clothing.  It's not a doctored photo, and the water did start off clear in color.





We've now pretty much recovered from jet lag and are continuing on with our regular lives.  I'll post more photos and recaps of our trip, but wanted to let people know we did survive and had a great time.



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We are enjoying the cleanliness of our hotel room.  Having both showered, we feel reborn.  Jeremy is sleeping quite soundly, and I don't want to disturb him.  Our train last night left at 8:15PM, but we were sharing a cabin with two locals who stayed up and chatted for a little while, though once we turned in, they soon followed.  The train stopped a number of times, waking us up, as we were both sleeping with one eye open in case of attack or robbery.  I was awake at 11:15, 12:21, 3:25, 3:53, 4:15, and finally about 4:30 when we pulled into the station.  Having nothing else to do so early in the morning, we decided to walk back into the Old Quarter of Hanoi.  This proved to be an interesting experience, since we didn't really know where we were going, we were limited to the maps in our Lonely Planet guidebook, it was pitch black, and we both really needed to use the restroom.  While it was somewhat tranquil to not hear the constant beeping of horns (they were sporadic), it was a bit unnerving to know that we were walking blindly through the filth of the streets, sometimes walking on the sidewalk and sometimes walking next to it, feeling wetness or squishiness with a few of our steps.  I let out a shriek when I stepped on a stick - I thought I was being attacked by a rodent.



With the help of a few kind people, we made it back to our hotel and enjoyed breakfast.  We then wandered and looked at backpacks.  We were interested in buying one, but I guess we spent too long at one store examining our many options, for the proprietor waved us away and grabbed the bags from our hands as if we were disgusting creatures (perhaps she has a keen sense of smell) who had just sullied her merchandise by being in its presence.



We were able to get an early check in, and we quickly broke into action, wrapping up the truly vile clothing, figuring out what was wearable, and determining what needed a wash so we could use it during the next 48 hours.  We washed out a few items, and I'll later post a photo of the wash water, for it was so surprisingly gray I had to take a picture of it.



Jeremy is stirring.  Perhaps I'll soon be able to convince him to venture out of the hotel (we can come back!) to get some lunch.  Many of the tours we've booked have included our food, which isn't the way either one of us likes to eat.



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Jeremy entertained himself so much coming up with this title that I wondered whether he wet his pants. That would have done them a favor.


We're standing in the lobby of the Hanoi Elegance Hotel #2, our tiny space of sanctuary, as we wait for our room to become available. We have just spent the last three nights and two days traveling by two overnight trains, enjoying the terraced rice fields of Sapa, and spending time with some of the local tribes (among them the Hmong). The trains make the ~8 hour journey in the middle of the night, so we arrived back to Hanoi at 4:30AM. Jeremy had done a little sniff check last night and concluded that his clothes are potent weapons of mass destruction. I don't know why that would be the case. We only hiked in the direct sun, in 90 degree weather, through dust and mud for 15 km, visiting a few local villages and their pigs and water buffalo before riding in a packed van with others who had done the same, sharing air space with nasty fuel-related fumes along a windy road to the Vietnam-China border before getting on our sleeper train. But, we have a plan. I will shower while he calls in the Hazmat team to contain our clothing. We believe war will be avoided.


I feel like I'm not that bad off. Sure, my clothes feel as if they have a bit of a sticky dried sweat coating on the inside, but my shirt actually doesn't smell too bad. Nonetheless, we're thankful that we splurged on the Hanoi Elegance Hotel #2.


Talk about romance, here's a photo of our overnight train car that we shared with two locals.







Modeling the shirt of mass destruction.





For earlier in the day, we hiked for hours in the sun on our Vietnamese safari.







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I had forgotten how popular the phrase, "same same but different" is here in Vietnam. Our bitter and talkative Cu Chi Tunnels tour guide screamed at us during our indirect route to the tunnels. We had to stop at the boat dock so they could try to upsell us on taking the boat to the tunnels. He said we'd get there more quickly, though everyone was to meet in Cu Chi to tour the tunnels together. Same same but different. A little more expensive. A lot faster in transit, though the end result being the same. And no mention of the fact that you'd get to avoid the free tour of the handicraft center along the way, which is probably the real cause for the transit time difference.


A traditional romantic honeymoon versus one spent sleeping on beds as hard as concrete slabs, with my husband taking one for the team by sleeping on the side that had more of an ant infestation - same same but different.


Pictures of us photo-shopped together because we can't trust anyone with our camera versus an actual photo of us together - same same but different.



Here are our attempts at self-couples-photography.









Jeremy does have long arms, and the camera's flip around screen helps to make sure we're both in the shot, but these were not ideal honeymoon shots.



We traveled to Hanoi yesterday, arriving at just before midnight. I had emailed City Gate Hotel because it was a Lonely Planet pick. They had a room for us, though the rate was higher than the one listed on their website. They sent a driver to pick us up, even though we didn't want one. The proprietor didn't bother to respond to my emails asking why the rate was so much higher than that advertised on his website. At nearly midnight, we just decided to take the car ride, even though we were being charged a premium. The driver said that the taxi rates just went up in December. It's possible, though as probable as our Halong Bay tour's price going up tomorrow, which we also heard. When we arrived at City Gate Ant Farm, we were told that the rates online were incorrect. So we're paying a little more - same same but different.



Here's a picture of Jeremy stomping on the ants in our disgusting City Gate room.





City Gate was disgusting. Do you hear me Lonely Planet authors? Disgusting. And by the way, they are selling illegal copies of your book for $4 in their hotel lobby. Same same but different? I didn't think so.



Jeremy wants to go to bed now. We splurged on a good hotel, so hanging out in the room is not a disgusting thought. Tomorrow, we're off to Halong Bay for two days followed by Sapa for three.



Some photos of the lovely Hanoi Elegance #2 room.







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Ho Chi Min City is stuffy today.  We ventured out, looking like tourists in our wicking, quick dry clothing.  I stripped down to have a massage, storing my shirt with a hidden pocket of money, in my backpack for the hour that I was walked on and battered, only to find that my shirt quick dry shirt was still damp with sweat after my hour of massage.



We decided to do a half-day tour of the Cu Chi tunnels tomorrow, and we're on the late night flight to Hanoi.  I'm excited.  It's further north, so I think it will be a little cooler in climate.  And, neither of us have been there yet, so it's new territory to conquer.



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We arrived in Tokyo yesterday afternoon. Our flight was good in that we were able to eat eel and Haagen Daaz ice cream while drinking sake, watch some movies (many of which I have already seen thanks to lots of time in the air), and play a little solitaire using the airplane's entertainment system. Because of my status on United, we were also able to gain access to the Red Carpet lounge, where Jeremy ran into a good friend from business school with whom he had lost touch, and I got to snag us a few granola bars for our trip.


When we arrived, we explored the airport as we waited to meet Yuriko, Jeremy's "Japanese sister." I was excited to see a Citibank ATM machine, since the only reason I've kept that account open is to access money around the world. The machine kept rejecting my card. Turns out, it expired 11/07. Grrr. So, we're paying money exchange fees when we use our credit cards, and we're paying a premium when exchanging traveler's checks.



I first experienced the washlet, an incredibly fancy toilet, in Narita. I sat there and played with the many features, which included different spraying options and a button you could push to simulate the sound of flushing in order to mask bathroom noises. There was even an extra deodorizing option if needed. I hadn't needed any of it, since I was simply relieving myself after having had a lot of water on the flight, but that didn't stop me from sitting there and trying every combination of options.



The trip to Saitama (where we are staying) took 2 hours by bus and cost around $26 from the airport. We enjoyed a lovely meal and a nice visit with Jeremy's Japanese family. The real treat came at the end of the evening when I used the family's washlet. The whole family got into the toilet closet to explain the different buttons on their machine. I think we got some good photos that I'll post once I'm back in the US. I sat on the throne and was in heaven. The seat is heated! And there are different pulsing actions with the water, and even a little dryer, though I can't figure out how long you're supposed to sit there with a fan blowing on your hoo-hoo, so I usually hav it blow a little and then just wipe again. Being able to spend some quality time on the washlet is the best reason I can think of to eat a lot of fiber.



Yuriko had to explain how to use the washlet.



She's showing me the different squirt and dry options.



But even she was confused with the meno of delights, so we had to bring Otoosan in to impart his wisdom.



Ahhhh - clean and refreshed!

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Member since: Oct 18, 2007

I'm spending the next months in San Francisco, NYC, Washington DC, Hawaii, Tahoe, Japan, and Vietnam, and I?ll remember exactly where each incident occurred, thanks to the Sony GPS system. Read about my adventures and get a peek of my experiences.

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