Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh Canada!

In mid May we did all the paperwork – and that means ALL the paperwork – to apply for our Marriage License in Canada.

In fairness, the paperwork's not huge and nor is it particularly onerous. But for a control freak like me it's nerve wracking to fill in papers, pop them in the mail and send them to the other side of the world. I want to fill them in, hand deliver them, check that they get there, check that they're all correct and then hand deliver them to the next stop. I don't want to trust my papers to anyone but me.

But that was never going to be possible for our wedding ceremony in Toronto. So, in late May, we filled in the paper work to go to Bruce the lawyer. He needs to write a statement recommending that Amy's divorce be recognised in Canada. He needed picture ID -so we sent copies of our passports and drivers’ licenses – and an original – which means with the actual seal stuck to it – of Amy's divorce papers.

So we filled in the paperwork, and off we went to the Geelong Police Station. It all needed to be certified by a Justice of the Peace, and there's a JP who sits in the foyer of the police station every morning for a few hours and signs stuff.

He's a funny wee man. Turns out that he's a retired magistrate, and he takes this business very very seriously. As we'd decided to take care of a lot of stuff in the one go, we had a pile for him. As well as all of paperwork for Canada, we weren't happy traveling without our wills sorted out, and financial, legal and medical powers of attorney in place. So we had all the paperwork for those as well.

Lots of folks seem to think that there's little, if any, difference for me and Amy. I like to think that's because they don't see any difference between us, and their other friends who are married. They don't make any exceptions, they don't treat us any differently – and they don't run up against the legal system. On a day to day basis, things aren’t much different. But there are a whole heap of differences that come into play the moment that anything untoward – like illness – happens.

See – the stupid thing about all this is that we wouldn't need to do this if we were straight, if one of us was a man. Medical Guardianship takes care of the hospital thing. If either of us gets sick, or has an accident, we'd want the other to be making the decisions for us. Legally, at present (without the medical guardianship) the folks who'd make those decisions for me would be my adoptive family, the Howards. That's right – the folks who told me not to bother to contact them anymore over 10 years ago, and who carried through on that – would be the people making the decisions. Not Amy. As well as that, they'd also be the folks who would control my assets. Things like our home. They could block Amy out if they wished to. Any hospital that I was in could prevent Amy from seeing me or being involved in my care. They could toss Amy out of our home, and sell it out from under her.

So, we had all of that paperwork as well. Applications to have Amy's divorce recognised, so that we could get a Letter of Authorisation, and with that get a Marriage License, two wills, and four separate powers of attorney – one medical and one financial/legal for each of us.

The JP hadn’t seen the paperwork that Canada requires before, and being a fellow who takes it all very seriously, he went through it all very carefully. And being an elderly fellow, of a different generation so to speak, the application for marriage license paperwork certainly raised his eyebrows. To his credit, he didn’t raise them too far, and gave barely a pause as he plied his way through our paperwork. Amy chatted with him while we got the whole lot done – seems he spends a lot of time in aged care facilities sorting out various powers of attorney for old folks and their families.

Anyhow, in the end we got it all done. All signed and sealed – well, signed and stamped.

Then it was off to the post office. This is where my control freak bit got really freaky. I’d looked at courier companies – FedEx, DHL, and the like – but there were no guarantees of secure delivery there. So I sent it International Express – cheaper and safer than anything else I could find.

And then I waited.

And waited some more.

I sent an email to Bruce to let him know that everything was on its way to him. He emailed back that it hadn’t arrived at his end.

I waited some more.

I considered getting another set of papers together, traveling to Richmond in Virginia to get another sealed copy of Amy’s divorce papers and then traveling to Toronto to hand it all to Bruce in person and cursed that I didn’t do that in the first place. I checked out airfares.

And then Bruce emailed. It arrived. As far as he could see, everything looked in order. A few days later, a letter arrived in the mail from Bruce advising us that everything appeared to be in order, and that he’d forwarded it all to the Canadian Registrar General so that a Letter of Authorisation can be issued and we can get a Marriage License.

Now we wait again to hear from Bruce. He’ll let us know when the Letter of Authorisation arrives – we’ve asked that it be sent to his office. From there, we pick it up when we get to Toronto, take it to the City Hall and get a Marriage License. With our Marriage License we can get married.

And then, in five – and maybe six if California manages to hold its ground – places in the world we won’t have to worry about all the powers of attorney, and medical guardianship papers.

Where the spiritual and emotional commitment that we’re making to each other out of a deep and abiding love is recognised and valued.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Grand Tour Itinerary

I don't like travel agents. I'm just too much of a control freak to hand it all over to someone else. Amy and I've been talking about and thinking about this trip for the better part of a year and we knew what we wanted, where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to see and and do. So thank goodness for the internet - a control freaks greatest friend. Off I went onto the world wide web. I found all sorts of websites and ways of booking bits and pieces. Amy, trusting soul that she is, let me go to it.

Unless you like fiddling around a lot and can be pretty organised about it, I wouldn't recommend the do it yourself approach. But if you're a control freak, there's no better way to travel!

Here it is - the final version of our itinerary. The bits that don't have accommodation listed, or that just say 'Arizona' or 'Washington' are deliberately up in the air. We're looking forward to just having the freedom to figure it as we go.

The Grand Tour

June 28 – August 19

June 28
Depart Melbourne

Qantas, QF 458 Tullamarine: 18:00. Arrive Sydney 19:20


Airport Sydney International Inn

Address: 35 Levey Street, Arncliffe 2205 NSW,
Phone number: +61 02 95561555

June 29
Korean Air, KE 122 Sydney: 08:00. Arrive Seoul 17:40

Korean Air, KE 11 Seoul: 19:30. Arrive LAX 14:30

Arrive LAX. 14.40

Travel to Disneyland

Los Angeles Airport Shuttle to Anaheim Area Hotels: 17:00


Anaheim Quality Inn and Suites

Includes 3 day Disneyland pass.

June 30 - July 2


Collect car 12:00, July 2

Budget, Los Angeles Anaheim Disney.

Star Ford Mustang Convertible.

July 3
Check out of Anaheim Quality Inn and Suites

Drive to Las Vegas


The Las Vegas Hilton

July 4
Las Vegas – The Star Trek Experience

July 5
Check out of Las Vegas Hilton

Hit the road to Arizona and New Mexico

July 19
Return car

Albuquerque Airport, New Mexico, 12:00

Fly Albuquerque to Birmingham, Alabama

Southwest Airlines, WN1094. 13:10

Arrive Birmingham at 18:00


We’ll figure it out when we get there.

July 21
Fly Birmingham to Richmond VA

US Airways US 2236

Depart Birmingham 10:40
Arrive Charlotte North Carolina: 12:58

US Airways US 2290

Depart Charlotte: 14:29
Arrive Richmond Virginia: 15:35

Collect Car, 15:00

Alamo, Richmond International Airport

Chevrolet Equinox SUV 4 door automatic


Best Western Governors Inn
9826 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond.

July 24
Check out, 12:00

Hit the Road travelling north

July 30

Return Car

Alamo, Washington Union Station 06:00

Train to New York
Depart: Washington Union Station, (WAS) 06:35

Arrive: New York, Penn Station (NYP) 09:59


We’ll figure it out

August 1 - 3

August 4
Collect Car:

National, New York Manhattan West 77th. 06:00

Head to Toronto

August 5

Arrive Toronto

See Bruce the Lawyer
Bruce E. Walker
65 Wellesley Street East
Suite 205

Collect Marriage Licence
Toronto City Hall


Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Toronto Hotel

475 Yonge St

August 6
Wedding 1:30pm Toronto Civic Wedding Chambers

August 7
Back on the road again – travel to Chicago

August 10
Arrive Chicago

Staying with Robin

Return Car

National, Chicago, Downtown, 20:00

August 14
Train to LA

Southwest Chief

Depart Chicago Union Station (CHI)


August 16
Arrive LA

Los Angeles Union Station (LAX)

08:15 am


We’ll figure it out

August 17
Depart LAX

Korean Air, KE 18 Los Angels 12:30. Arrive Seoul: 16:55

Korean Air KE 125 Seoul 19:25.

August 19
Arrive Melbourne 07:20

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Geeky Stuff List

We're on the countdown now. My diary has the number of days until we leave. I'm excited. Amy's excited. We're beginning to do all the last minute – well, the last 3 week – things that need to be done. I'm making lists. I get to do the Geeky Stuff List.

There are all sorts of bits and pieces that you think about when you're going to be away for a few months. A few weeks – easy. You can wing it and make do on a lot of things. But two months leaves me reluctant to just make do. Especially when you're traveling around as much as we are, and have big chunks of time on our itinerary labeled 'we'll spend time in this state' with not much else - like somewhere to stay – planned for it.

Most mobile phone networks work on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies – but in the US they use the 850 and 1900 MHz frequencies. So if we have a quad band phone – one that works on all four GSM frequencies - we can use the US network. And with a quad band phone we can use any other network in the world as well. With a US prepaid sim card, we get a US phone number and pay local call rates for calls in the US. We could have used my phone - but that gets expensive and inconvenient. It means we make international calls every time we want to make a local call in the US, because my phone will come back to it's network in Australia, and then call the US. So even if we're calling the pizza place down the street in NYC, it'll be an international call. Or I could get a US sim card and put it in my phone – but that's a nuisance because there are folks that have that number for contacting us in the US – like the marriage ceremony folks in Canada.

I found this neat website that sells US prepaid sim cards and quad band phones that'll work in the US. I've ordered a quad band phone and prepaid sim card for T-mobile, and all being well, it should arrive in the next day or two. That gives us a US cell phone number. (see – I'm getting in the swing of things – Australians have mobile phones, but Americans have cell phones).

Then there are the travel books and guides. I've got a pile of them on the bedside table at home. Big, with pretty pictures and lots of detail. Most of it’s really useful detail. And as heavy as.......well, really very heavy. I could use up all of my luggage allocation on travel guides and pay excess costs to bring a spare pair of knickers and a clean t-shirt. I thought about scanning and then transferring to my laptop, but that seemed like an awful lot of work. And then I visited the Lonely Planet website. And there it all is – all ready to download a chapter at a time. So I burned through some bandwidth and now I've got the lot on a USB stick.

We'll take tons of photos – but I've heard too many horror stories of stolen cameras, and SD cards that fail to rest easily with that. Problem solved – 160 GB portable hard drive. And some spare USB sticks just to be sure.

None of this is any use without a computer to run it through. So, I’ve got a tiny Asus EeePC. Weighs less than 1kg, has flash memory – so it it’s a bit sturdier than one with a hard drive, even though it doesn’t have a lot of memory. A 7inch screen is fine, and the webcam and internet connectivity do their respective jobs beautifully.

Then we need something to put it all in. I'm a big believer in the just the right piece of luggage idea. This works along the lines of don't make do – get the bit of luggage that will do the job right. And have as few pieces of luggage as reasonably possible. This means that Amy and I've been having long discussions about camera bags. Well in fairness to Amy, I've been having long discussions and she's been listening. I reckon that if we're going to be on and off all sorts of planes and trains and automobiles and doing a lot of walking and wandering around – then we wants something that's easy to carry, and won't drop and droop all over the place. And I wanted it to keep all our stuff safe – Amy's Nikon SLR, my little waterproof, droproof, indestructible Olympus, the video camera. And all the assorted cards and drives and stuff that go with them. And there's also the tiny laptop. And the portable hard drive for backups. We've looked at things on eBay. We've looked at things in hiking shops. We wound up at the camera shop and got a nifty backpack. It's got a part for the cameras, with little bits for all the storage cards. It's got another padded bit just for laptops, that'll make it easy to get it out at the x-ray things for security at airports. And there's another bit that's normal backpack, so we can out bits and pieces in that as well. It looks like an ordinary back pack, so I'm hoping that it won't be a target for theft. Just The Right Thing.

In the end I couldn't help myself and decided that I wanted a new Crumpler bag as well. Yeah – I could take the grey Crumpler that I bought in Singapore. Or I could take the grey and brown Valaguzza laptop bag that I took to Harvard. But I wanted a bag that was 'the bag I got for our big US trip'. And heck – new bags, new camera bag. New Crumpler bag too.

So the geeky things are sorted. Yeah - we'll pack some clothes and stuff. I'm lucky that Amy's great at sorting all that, and she's having conversations about shorts, and jeans and t-shirts. But the important things are all sorted.