Friday, June 18, 2010

in the city by the bay

I'm composing this late night long overdue post (about 1:13am EST) from my hostel in downtown San Francisco. I arrived here around noon local time.

The past several weeks have been extremely busy . . . almost hectic with the end of school coming, preparing for my Sloan-Kettering survivorship speech (which was a wonderful success), and getting ready for something else which I'm about to explain. I was waiting to make sure everything was in place before announcing my summer plans. I didn't want to jump the gun in the event it didn't work out as in previous years.

If you've been following my story for some time, you're probably aware of my wanderlust and my disappointment of not being able to travel like I've wanted to since my cancer diagnosis back in 2003. You may recall that around this time last year I was preparing for a big bi-cross-country trip through the US and Canada before these plans were shelved due to a chronic GvHD flareup. I continue to deal with chronic GvHD, but thankfully, it has been controlled very well ever since then by Tacrolimus.

When asked about taking a big trip this summer, Dr. C-M and his colleagues had no qualms as long as it didn't involve Africa or perhaps the Indian subcontinent where the risk for an infectious disease was likely the greatest. Originally, I had proposed the South Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia back in the fall when I wasn't certain of my employment status come the spring 2010. If my contract wasn't extended, I figured February or March would be the ideal time to visit the Southern Hemisphere. And how would I get there? But by a freighter! Yes, by sea. I had found a freighter line offering passage to civilians, which services New Zealand and one or two of the nearby island nations. New Zealand and the Cook Islands especially had always been on my list. However, when my contract was graciously extended until the end of this past academic year that took care of this traveling scenario. I gladly wanted to work.

With the spring no longer an option, what about the summer months? I still was very much interested in traveling by sea, so I looked at what other routes would be of interest. I was still searching for a freighter to bind my travel plans together. The only appealing option encompassed the US West Coast, South Korea, China, and Taiwan. And so, this is the one that I chose.

I'm exploring San Francisco for the very first time (moreover, this is my first visit to the West Coast) right now preparing to board the vessel, Hanjin Yantian, in Oakland on June 24th bound for Busan, South Korea via Seattle. From Busan, I plan to travel through South Korea where I'll meet up with an old college classmate and friend, whom I haven't seen in 8 years. From South Korea, I'll head over to neighboring China traveling alone southwards hitting the megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, along the coast before reaching Vietnam and exploring it north to south. While in Vietnam, if time permits I'm thinking about a brief foray into Cambodia to visit the ancient ruin complex of Angkor Wat. I will, then, fly home from Ho Chi Minh City.

After months and months of saving a healthy percentage of my work pay, I've been able to make this happen. In all, the trip will be about 10 weeks long (June 18-August 30), which gives me about 2 weeks free before school begins in September.

My medical staff made sure that I received all the necessary vaccinations before traveling - typhoid and Japanese encephalitis - and had filled prescriptions of malarone, an anti-malarial, and ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. In addition, I'm well-supplied with the usual supply of over the counter medications taken on trips in the event of say, diarrhea, motion sickness, fever, or cold. A sufficient supply of the usuals - Tacrolimus, Acyclovir, Penicillin VK, and the other four - were taken too.

Deciding to traverse the north Pacific by freighter raises certain variables notably time. Schedules are subject to change. I'm at the mercy of the freighter's schedule. It has changed twice already. As of now, the Hanjin Yantian is scheduled to depart Oakland on June 25th and arrive in Busan, South Korea over 2 weeks later on July 12th. I'll be checking with my contact at the Port of Oakland regularly between now and the scheduled departure date to make sure all is on target.

Looking north across the bay at Oakland and the Bay Bridge from Farmers' Market this afternoon, I saw its mighty port facilities. That's just where I'll be in a several days.

You can join me in checking the up-to-date schedule of the Hanjin Yantian here.

This interesting video is of the Hanjin Boston, its sister ship, which has the same dimensions.

It is my intention to continue to update my blog from time to time while away, but this isn't a farewell. I'll update it again before I leave San Francisco. Stay tuned!


Comment Blogger Michelle said...

Wow Duane. How wonderful.

Have a great great time. You so deserve it!!!!

Be careful out there!!!

7:15 AM  
Comment Anonymous EFG said...

BON VOYAGE and safe travels.......

8:28 AM  
Comment Blogger Mary said...

Um, this is awesome! I hope you have a great time!! I can't wait to read about it!

3:07 PM  
Comment Blogger laulausmamma said...

How absolutely awesome!!! I'm thrilled to read all about your plans and will look forward to your updates and pictures. Have a safe and wonderful trip Duane!!!

5:39 PM  
Comment Anonymous Stratman said...

Hey this is great news Duane! I felt your disappointment in the past when your travel plans where sidelined. It's fantastic to see you back on track.

Two weeks at sea, been there done that. I hope you find your sea legs quickly.

Good luck and safe travel!

12:46 PM  

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