Archive for the 'health' Category

What are Sarah & James Doing Now?

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Hello everyone!  Well, it’s been a long time – we’ve finished our year long bicycle tour and have been back in the United States, living in Seattle, for a year and a half now.  Time flies. is basically going to go into official retirement, but I’m starting a new blog at to follow us through a more hum drum type of lifestyle, so if you still want to see what we’re doing even though it no longer involves bicycles, come on over!

We’ve enjoyed the process of getting acclimated and settled into a more “normal” lifestyle, for the most part.  Here’s a brief update of what we’ve been doing over the past 18 months, including a sneak preview to our biggest news:

6 months

Living in Seattle, WA

We decided to return to the city we lived in before the trip. When we left Seattle back in November 2006 we thought we might never return.  We were considering a move to Austin TX, Minneapolis MN, Raleigh NC, Fargo ND, etc, etc.  When we re-entered the US in November 2007 we still hadn’t decided on where to live!  We spent a few weeks with each of our families while we explored our job opportunities and tried to figure out what we should do.  In the end, the pull of an established group of friends, plus an interesting job opportunity for Sarah, pulled us back to Seattle.  We do love it here, but we’re still not sure if we want to stay here forever…

Sarah’s Job

I am working for a small Business Intelligence company called Piraeus Data as their Director of Business Development .  The company was started by two of my friends & colleagues from Microsoft.  In fact, one of them (Sean) even met up with James & I during our visit to Croatia!  I started talking to them about potential work when we arrived back in the US, and finally decided that the opportunity to help build a small consulting company would be an interesting experience and a great fit for me.

James’s Job

James is working as a Software Developer, but he decided not to go back to Microsoft.  He’s currently working for a small company called Articulate.  There’s one interesting twist – the entire company works from home offices, spread out across the country!

Our House

We have been renting a house with a backyard & garden in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle for the past year.  We’ve had a lot of fun painting the house, planting the garden, and various other domestic chores.  It’s good to feel settled after a year on the road.  We were sickened by the amount of money we had to spend during the first year buying basic things to fill our house with: Couch, Bed, Dresser, Pots & Pans, Dishes, etc, etc.  Somehow James convinced me to splurge and buy a giant flat screen TV (which I totally regret doing).  On the other hand, I convinced James to buy a fancy new off-white couch that’s not very comfortable, which he regrets now (and I only sort of do).  Luckily we were able to get the majority of our things from craigslist & by scrounging through neighbors’ curbside garbage piles.


Here’s our backyard & garden – one of the very best parts about living in a house!!

Backyard Garden

New Dog

Right after moving into our new house with a big backyard, we got a puppy!  We have been wanting to do this for a long time and are finally in a situation where it makes sense.  We have a house, a yard, and James works from home.  One of our ongoing conversations during our bicycle tour was what kind of dog we should get.  We went back and forth, naming breeds and vetoing each others, until we named a breed we agreed on.  James wanted Doberman, Sarah wanted Boxer, James wanted German Shepherd, Sarah wanted French Bulldog…we reached a compromise at Great Dane!  When it came time to actually go dog shopping, we actually decided to go to the Humane Society first to look for a puppy.  We didn’t have much luck – Seattle area dogs tended to be a mish mash of breeds we didn’t really want to own as our first dog: Pit Bull, Border Collie, etc.  So then we decided to actually put the Great Dane plan into action, began researching breeders, and ended up with our new baby – Greta!

Jamie & Greta:

Greta & Jamie

Sarah & Greta on the couch:

Greta & Sarah

Greta at 18 months:


Backyard Chickens

Another thing we decided to do with our new backyard was to get chickens!  We couldn’t believe it when we heard that in the city of Seattle people can keep up to three chickens in their backyards.  We spent last summer building a chicken coop from scratch (what an endeavor), and then got our three newest pets in the fall of 2008.  Agnes, Dora, and Betsy have been endlessly entertaining.  We let them free range in our backyard, feed them fruit and vegetable scraps, and they supply us with fertilizer and three eggs each day.

Sarah with new chicken Agnes & newly built coop behind us:


Most of our friends and family can’t believe we actually got chickens for our backyard.  I think after cycling through Asia & Eastern Europe and seeing how common it was for people to keep free range chickens the idea became much less shocking and foreign to us, and we started to see it as a fun little side project with free entertainment (chickens are so funny!) and free food (eggs!)

3 chickens

New Baby

This is the biggest news of all! We’re going to have a baby boy, due on October 7th 2009.  We can’t quite wrap our heads around it.  October is going to be a busy month for us: James’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, and now the baby’s birthday.

Here I am at seven months:

7 months 2

I’m feeling great so far – no morning sickness, a brief period of cravings for hamburgers (which I have never liked before now!), and a baby that is starting to kick like crazy.  He seems to wake up at 10pm every night and go nuts…we’re getting worried that we’re going to have a night owl on our hands.  Now that we feel like we have something exciting happening in our lives we’re going to try to get back into the swing of this blog.  Stay tuned!

7 months

Bangkok Convalescence

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Back in Bangkok! We arrived yesterday without much trouble on the two day journey here. For the first leg, Luang Prabang to Vientiane, we hired a private minivan for $140. The tourist VIP buses would not allow us to bring our bikes on board, and the public buses would have been a 12 hour, 100 degree, sweat and vomit filled nightmare. So we were very willing to pay an extra $100 to avoid that experience again. We were joking that we’ve already been worn down by the third world enough that we’d rather throw money at a problem than suffer through the “experience”!

From Vientiane we had to cross the border into Thailand before boarding the night train we’d reserved to Bangkok. A mini-bus picked us up, threw our bikes on the top without tying them down, and whisked us away to the start of the Friendship Bridge. We had to get out here and walk through the checkpoint which took us a long time because we had to reassemble our bikes and panniers. At the other side of the checkpoint, we were supposed to meet another mini-bus for transport to the train station but because we were so slow we got abandoned by our tour group. So, we rode across the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong and into Thailand. It was more fun than riding over in a bus like everyone else!

Next we boarded the night train to Bangkok. We reserved a 1st class sleeper unit which turned out to be a nice surprise in terms of comfort. It had two beds in the compartment, air conditioning, a little sink, and a waiter that would bring you dinner, beer, breakfast…and he would also rip you off a little bit if you weren’t careful. We weren’t careful enough and ended up getting overcharged for breakfast. We paid for everything and also gave him a tip because he was such a nice guy, and then as soon as he left it dawned on us that we had just been ripped off! Practically every time we take public transport this happens; it is very frustrating. We can’t decide if it is a cultural thing and he thinks it is OK to cheat us because we’re rich westerners, or if he is just an unscrupulous character. Anyhow, we left Nong Khai at 6:30pm and arrived at Bangkok at 6:30am. Jamie kept saying that our compartment was just like a jail cell, but I was so comfortable and happy with my books, snacks, and A/C that Jamie decided I’d actually enjoy jail as long as I had enough books and food to last me through the years.

In Bangkok we found a guy at the train station with a pickup truck to take us to our hotel. We were instantly covered in exhaust residue as we whizzed through the dirty streets; Bangkok Fingernail is about to make a comeback!

As soon as we got to the hotel we checked email and were very happy to find that I’d gotten an appointment at Bumrungrad Hospital for 1:30 that afternoon. We went to the hospital a little bit early and hung out at the in-house Starbucks to people watch while we waited. We were amazed at the number of different nationalities milling around in the hospital – people must fly in from all over the world to get treated there. We saw people representing maybe 40 different countries waiting to get treated; it was definitely a high grade people watching experience.

The actual doctor appointment involved lots of waiting, as usual, but the facilities were all very new and modern. When you arrived at the hospital you filled out one form with your information and got your picture taken with a digital camera. Everything was then input into the system and sent ahead of you wherever you went to check in. The picture idea is ingenuous because when the Thai staff attempt to call out names from 40 different ethnicities it is very confusing. I was “Miss Sadah Cat-ee” instead of Sarah Kathleen, which I found quite difficult to realize was me. But because they had a picture of me they’d just walk right over and pick me out of the crowd and lead me to the doctor.

After asking me a few questions and squeezing my arm a bit, the doctor decided I needed an x-ray and sent me over to that department. As soon as I walked into the radiology department a man materialized out of nowhere and said “Hello Ms. Sadah. You need an x-ray on your right wrist? Please follow me.” The system was flawless and efficient – I was impressed. Everyone in the hospital spoke perfect English and they also employ interpreters to cover almost every other language in the world. Wow! I got one funny question as I was sitting down to get my x-ray. The technician asked me, “So, what is your problem?” It made me laugh and I wasn’t sure what information he actually wanted from me, so I just said “I fell of my bike and hurt my wrist.”

As for the final verdict on my bird bones, the diagnosis is pretty good. There is no big fracture, and the scaphoid bone is unharmed. Yay! There is a crack in my radius and lots of swelling around it, but the doctor thinks this will feel better in about two weeks. He also said that sometimes you can’t see wrist fractures right away and so he wants me to come back in one week for another x-ray if the wrist is still hurting. He gave me a wrist brace to wear for the next week to hold everything still which is great – I was not looking forward to the possibility of a cast in this hot humid climate. I am sure my arm would be covered in green fur after 6 weeks in a cast! This is all good news because now we know that we most likely won’t have to stay here for 6-9 weeks waiting for it to heal and I don’t have to have surgery! The cost of my appointment and x-ray was astounding, especially considering how nice the facilities were. Here is what my bill looked like:

Facility: $3.62
Doctor’s Fee: $15.10
X-Ray: $8.15
X-Ray Radiologist’s Fee: $3.93
Medicine: $6.65
Wrist Brace: $37.60
Total: $75.05

So, it looks like we’ll be here in Bangkok for about two weeks and are trying to decide what to do next in terms of our trip. We are considering sticking to our original plan of China and then India, or going to India right now and attempting to cycle the Himalayan region of Ladakh, or maybe flying to Eastern Europe to do some cycling there during the summer months.

Bird Bones

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

We’ve spent the past three days in the stunning city of Luang Prabang. During our ride here from Vientiane we were in the mountains at elevations high enough to feel cool, but now we’re back to asking each other “Are you feeling hot?” and then laughing hysterically because we look something like this:

One of the reasons Luang Prabang is so beautiful is that it is almost completely made up of historic French Colonial architecture. It is a nice change to be in a city that completely lacks billboards, neon signs, cement highrises, and luxury resort hotels. All the shops and guesthouses have been built into they city’s original refurbished buildings.

The city also has quite a few ancient Buddhist wats which are full of brand new novice monks at this time of year. They walk through the city streets for the alms ceremony each morning, and then the disobedient monks hang out in the internet cafes in the evenings when they’re supposed to be meditating. There is a lot of controversy over the fact that all the tourists flocking to Luang Prabang could be corrupting some parts the religious lifestyle; for his part, Jamie gets mad at me if I walk too closely to a monk on the sidewalk. They are supposed to keep their distance from women!

The city borders the Mekong river. It is beautiful at sunset:

Now for the details of the crash. I read tons of books and blogs about cycle tourists before we left on this trip and if any of them got into an accident that resulted in pain they were either super-humanly able to ignore it, or glossed over it in their journals. Maybe that’s just a part of the trip you don’t want to remember in detail. Either way, I’m not going to gloss it over – you get to hear all about it right here, right now. Jamie says that’s because I’m a whiney person by nature; my brothers would probably agree. I roll my eyes to that!

We were cruising down the pass at somewhere around 20-25 km/hr when I locked up my front tire on the slippery pavement and crashed. It was extremely frightening which I think is mostly attributable to: the speed at which we were traveling, the quickness with which the accident happened, the fact that we were on mountain roads with no shoulder and sheer drops of 1000 ft, and the feeling of total loss of control. I hit the ground and skidded for a ways, Jamie collided directly with me and somehow actually flipped over me, and the main thing I remember seeing were the bananas strapped to the back of his bike rushing towards my face. I really wish we had a video of the crash so I could see what happened!

Both my knees were thoroughly scraped and bruised; same for both elbows. My left hip is road rashed and has a giant bruise surrounding the raw area. Every knuckle of every toe also got all the skin scraped off – I guess that’s what you get for having really bony feet. I have a line-shaped bruise on my butt which I assume is from some part of a bicycle frame. I hit my head on the ground pretty hard, but my faithful helmet completely prevented any injury there. The foam in Jamie’s helmet actually cracked during the crash. I don’t remember landing on my wrist at all; I’m not sure how I managed to injure it. When I woke up the next morning I felt like I’d been hit by a bus – everything on me hurt including parts that showed no sign of hitting the ground. I have been taking lots of ibuprofen; we officially used up the supply we brought with us and had to restock yesterday!

All this happened only 6 km into our 50km day. We were literally in the middle of nowhere and had to pick up and keep riding. It was terrifying for me because I was practically riding my bike one-handed and didn’t have enough control over it to feel comfortable. After the second crash of the day, which thankfully took place in slow motion on a 10% grade, we started walking our bikes on the downhills. This made for a long and tedious day – not fun at all.

One of the worst things about having open sores on a ride like this is the flies. They are like sharks – they can sense one tiny drop of blood from miles and miles away. As soon as we would stop to eat or drink I would have nasty little flies sucking away at all my wounds. I was worried they were going to try to lay their nasty little eggs on me so I never rested and focused all my energy on swatting them away!

As for my wrist, things are not looking good. Today is the fourth day since the accident and it hasn’t improved much at all. Medical care is basically nonexistent in Laos, so tomorrow we’re going to start looking into getting back to Bangkok where I can visit a doctor and get my wrist x-rayed. If it is actually broken Jamie has decided that my new nickname has to be Bird Bones (I once broke my elbow by falling off my bike at a complete standstill). Once we know the state of my bird bones we will figure out the next part of our route. We were originally going to ride north from here into China. We might skip that now. Other destinations under consideration are Eastern Europe, Northern India, and possibly South America in the fall if we can find tickets that aren’t too outrageous.

Overall this incident has been pretty depressing for both of us. We had all our plans figured out nicely including visas, Chinese maps, routes, etc. Now everything is up in the air because we’re not sure how long my arm will take to recover and where it will make the most sense to go at that point. Heading back to Bangkok is also psychologically difficult because we’re backtracking for the first time on this trip. Life sucks when you fall off your bike!

A Love Affair with Marlboro Reds

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Illness strikes again, and this time Jamie is the unfortunate victim. It all started with cigarettes. We bought three packs of Marlboros in Phnom Penh because we’ve heard they can be very useful tools for greasing the wheels in sticky situations, especially in China. If someone wants to charge us a big fine, throw us in jail, rob us, etc, our big plan is to pull out a luscious Marlboro Red and smoke all our troubles away with our new friend. Right after we’d purchased the cigarettes we decided to practice smoking – neither of us have had a cigarette since college and we’ve heard that if you just hand over a cigarette to the person that wants to arrest you it can be interpreted as a bribe. You must smoke cigarettes together to truly forge the new friendship! Jamie took one puff and started choking. I was so grossed out by the smell and the remembrances of how cigarettes make you feel like you’re coming down with a cold that I couldn’t even manage one puff.

Here in Vietnam we’ve met lots of friendly people and it seems that the tradition here, too, is to offer a cigarette. Lucky for me only men smoke so only Jamie gets offered cigarettes. We’ve read that it is really rude to decline the cigarette and unless you have major issues with smoking than you might as well just take it and puff a little bit to avoid offending someone. This means Jamie has been fake-smoking on average one cigarette per day – yum!

He didn’t finish this cigarette with one new friend and instead rode off still smoking. How effortlessly cool!

After the third day of this in Buon Ma Thuot Jamie started to feel like he was getting sick with a cold or the flu. We spent one rest day here to recover from the hills we’ve been climbing that we’re not used to anymore, and during that one day Jamie got sicker and sicker. Last night he came down with the runs and spent all night running to the bathroom. As you may or may not remember, this is Jamie’s “Thing you most dread on this trip” – see the About Us page for proof. In addition to the runs he feels really achy and slightly feverish, so we both hope it’s not something more serious.

Last night I looked over at him and here’s how he was coping with his illness. Not sure how a towel around the head helps, but he seems to like it:

Today we’ll spend another day resting in Buon Ma Thuot which is not a bad thing because the spring rolls here are truly excellent, the town has a bakery, internet is only 25 cents per hour, and we have A/C in our room. This is my new equation for pure happiness (minus the sickness of course).

More views from the glorious Hwy 27:

Day Two, Sunday May 27th

We’re taking a 2nd rest day in Buon Ma Thuot, Jamie is still very sick. We’re going to try to find a clinic tomorrow if he doesn’t improve today. I spent yesterday alternately walking around town alone and then hanging around in the A/C room watching television with Jamie. He spent the day alternately running to the bathroom, watching television, and glaring at me from his sickbed.

I ate lunch alone at the spring roll place that I love so much, only this time it wasn’t much fun. One of the workers had her baby there and the baby was not happy. I could hear it in the back room screaming and crying like crazy, barely stopping for a breath. Then the mother got an idea: try to distract the baby from its crying jag by showing it something really bizarre – a white person! So she brought this red faced, sobbing, gasping one year old out to my table, pointed at me, and said “Hello!” to her baby. This is what parents here always do, they point at us and then try to get their little children to say hello to us. Sometimes the kids love this and other times they clutch at their parents clothes, hide their faces, and quiver with fear.

Now, if you know me, you know I do not have the appropriate amount of sympathy for crying babies and their unfortunate mothers so you can imagine the furious thoughts running through my head. This one year old baby was not at all impressed that there was a white person eating lunch in her mother’s restaurant. She stopped crying for a split second (I think it was most likely just to take another deep breath) and then started shrieking again. I felt sorry for the mother, but I also felt sorry for myself because the mother kept bringing the baby back to my table over and over again in a desperate attempt to distract it. I finished as quickly as possible and left.

Right now I’m sitting in one of the many cafes in Buon Ma Thuot drinking an iced coffee and listening to the funny songs they play here. One example: Rhinestone Cowboy. Country music has been really popular throughout Southeast Asia, we can’t figure it out!

Resting & Roasting in Ranong

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

The boat ride from Koh Phayam to Ranong was quite nice yesterday, other than the fact that I wound up with the only seat on the boat that wasn’t in the shade. After 30 minutes I couldn’t handle the feeling of the sun creeping up to barbeque first my hand, then my arm, then my shoulder, then my neck…! So I sat on the floor with the bugs and ants and read my book for two hours. I was happy to be in the shade & happy I remembered to get my book out for the ride, so it wasn’t too bad. View from the pier, before getting on the boat at Koh Phayam:

Another pretty fishing boat:

I spent a very productive morning studying Thai. I am trying to learn the characters so I can recognize some common words. I can count to ten now, too! Here’s my study sheet:

We ate lunch near the pier in Koh Phayam, and Jamie sneakily took this picture of a Thai family taking a break in the restaurant’s back room. They were playing a card game and having a grand old time:

Upon arrival at the pier in Ranong we hopped on the bikes to ride into town and back to the same hotel we stayed in last time. It started to rain, which created a strange feeling. Our upper bodies were wet from the rain and so felt nice and cool in the breeze created by riding. But as the rain hit the hot pavement it created a steamy heat wave swirling up around our legs. When we rode through deep puddles, the water splashes were actually hot.

At bedtime we realized that the screens in our windows didn’t close all the way and one of them had a giant hole, offering a myriad of ways for the mosquito population of Ranong to pay us a visit. I went on a mosquito killing spree and then turned off the lights hoping they wouldn’t be smart enough to find their way in. No such luck. After an hour we gave up trying to sleep and got out of bed to kill more mosquitos and duct tape the edges of the windows to block further attacks. This is exactly why we brought duct tape, and we felt like geniuses for having it!

At this point I thought I felt an eyelash in my eye, so went in the bathroom to get it out before continuing with the killing spree. I looked in the mirror and realized that my entire eye was bright red and very swollen – so much so that the clear membrane of my eye was actually wrinkling up when I blinked. Yikes! Nurse Jamie held my eye open and vigorously sprayed it with saline solution in case there was something in there. Naturally, my pajamas got soaked with saline, too. It is so hot here I didn’t care, though, and just went to sleep and hoped it would be better by morning (it is – just red, not too swollen anymore). I also decided to shut off the alarm for 6am…lack of sleep from mosquito attacks, inflamed eye, and the fact that Jamie needs to go to a bike shop to get new rim tape in his back wheel mean we will take a rest day in Ranong. (Since New Zealand, Jamie’s rear tire has been going mysteriously flat. He has had six flat tires already, most of them are on the inner side of the tube and we can never find anything that looks like it is causing the flat. A mechanic in New Zealand thought our tubes were faulty, but replacing those and the tire itself hasn’t helped so now we are going to try re-taping the rim to see if that fixes the problem. The rear tire we swapped was trashed anyway. It developed a large double-humped bulge after 2500 kilometers of cycling. That’s two Panaracer tires that have failed on us so far, so we are in the market for new tires. We are hoping we can get the Schwalbe Marathon tires in Bangkok.)

Last time we were in Ranong we discovered a restaurant that has the BEST iced coffee – D.D. Coffee. It is like a melted coffee milkshake and tastes like real, strong espresso because they actually have an espresso machine at the restaurant! This is a majorly exciting discovery because every other time we’ve had “coffee” in Thailand it has been that nasty instant Nescafe crap. Needless to say, we made a beeline back to D.D’s today!

Fun fact: we’ve spent the past five days going into every drug store and pharmacy we pass, looking for dental floss. No one sells it anywhere! Today we finally found it in Ranong…thank goodness!


Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Yesterday, James & I went to Northshore Public Health, in Bothell WA, to get immunizations for our trip. We had no idea how many diseases we’d need to be immunized for, so the first part of our appointment was a consultation with the nurse. As we listed all the places we plan to visit (New Zealand, Southeast Asia, China, Eastern Europe), he said “Whoa, we are going to have to sit down and think through all the stuff you’ll need.” Then, when we told him we’d be biking the whole way and spending a lot of time in rural areas, he blew a gasket and exclaimed “You are at high risk for practically every disease known to man! Are you nuts?” After calming him down, we ended up deciding on four vaccinations – Hepatitis A/B, Tetanus, Polio, and Japanese Encephalitis. We’ll get Typhoid pills next week. We skipped Rabies. If one of us gets bit by a rabid skunk, bat, or dog we will have 24 hours to get to a hospital for a vaccation. Let’s hope our pepper spray and rocks work well against all the rabid creatures in the Russian countryside. Our nurse then loaded up 8 syringes, lined them up neatly on a tray, and said “Who wants to go first?” James was the brave volunteer. The nurse swabbed his arm with alcohol, said “I think I can get all four on one arm” and then went at it. He was a complete maniac (a very competent maniac, I must admit) with his execution – he’d grab a syringe, jab the arm, squeeze the plunger, and then theatrically toss the used syringe up into the air behind him before speedily grabbing the next one & starting over. He did all four in about 15 seconds. I was next – same speedy & frantic routine. It was great to have it over with so fast, and I can honestly say I barely felt a thing. Grand total for 8 vaccinations? A whopping $678! We are submitting the bill to Microsoft insurance today. My fingers are crossed that they pull through on their reputation for stupendous coverage…