Spring Break 2016: Bali


Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Work lately has been pretty demanding—I got nominated to participate in Nike’s Xcelerate program, a leadership development effort that combines some elements of a condensed MBA and a strategic priority project with a global team. Marshall likens it to having two jobs for six months. It has required a bit more travel than we prefer, and when we were planning for all it would require, Betsy said, “that’s all fine, and I will support you but WE ARE GOING ON A SPRING BREAK AS A FAMILY.” She didn’t shout, but I wasn’t to argue.

So she booked us flights to Bali, a smallish island in Indonesia, and found us a little villa that was absolutely amazing. It was spread out with several structures; the kitchen/dining room/living room was more like a pavilion with open sides, and the bedrooms had walls; the bathrooms were outdoor, shower privacy was provided by plants. It was fairly remote, outside a pretty small town called Ubud, and we went on several lengthy walks and saw nothing but rice fields and irrigation ditches.

We lazed about in the humid hot air, swam, got sunburned, and did a few activities. Among them, Betsy signed us up for a Batik class. You outline a drawing with beeswax, then paint it. The beeswax keeps the colors from mixing and then you boil it out so it looks pretty cool. We managed to hook up with Chloe, who was in our ward in Tokyo but moved to Hong Kong a couple months ago for that. We also went to a place called monkey forest, which is chock full of smallish monkeys that aren’t afraid of jumping on you and stealing your tissue that you brought in case you need to pop a squat with runny poo again because you aren’t sure what you ate for dinner. They’ll then get in a fight over it and try to eat it. Stupid monkeys. We went to Tanah Lot, a cool temple on a bit of rock out in the ocean. While there, we ran into Joey, Afton’s school teacher and his fiancé (whose name might be Gabbi). We went to an amazing ropes course place with about a dozen different courses with increasing difficulty, ranging from easy for Lea to hard for me. Their philosophy on safety was fully aligned with mine—they told you to be safe, showed you how, and then it was up to you. I loved watching the kids exercise safe practices and then letting them go off on their own way up high. Only saw a couple times where one of them accidentally unclipped both safeties.

We were supported by Made and Agung, a cook and a driver. They helped us a ton, were friendly and kind, gave the kids rides on their scooters, and Agung even invited us to his home where the kids met his family and were completely oblivious to the fact that they lack many of the things we take for granted, being happy to hold the puppies and goggle at the pigs and chickens.

All in all, Bali fully lived up to its reputation as one of those exotic islands somewhere in the Far East that you hear about amazing adventurous families visiting and wish you could someday be that cool.

There’s a whole collection of pictures here and a sampling below.

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

Russell Anderson: 2016.03 Spring Break &emdash;

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Cambodian Thanksgiving

The kids get a break from school for Thanksgiving, even though we’re in Japan, thanks to attending the American international school. Someone Betsy knows had recently gone to Cambodia and told her it was the greatest place since Disneyland and so we started looking into it. Trevor Hall served his mission there and also gave us some good advice.

For reference, Cambodia is in Southeast Asia, in between Vietnam and Thailand. It shares a great deal of cultural heritage with Thailand and is home to world heritage sites like Angkor Wat. It’s where Lara Croft found some cool treasure in the movie Tomb Raider.

Starting in about 800 AD, there was a big empire based out of Cambodia and they built a lot of awesome temples that are now amazing ruins. A few are really famous but for every famous ruin, there’s a dozen equally cool but somehow not famous options to explore. We spent a few days with a Tuk-Tuk driver taking us around and stopping whenever we said we wanted to. (A Tuk-Tuk is a chariot but the horse is replaced by a small engine scooter. You can hire one for a day for around $20.) Whenever we stopped to explore, we took turns letting one of the kids lead our explorations, and the Cambodians seem share my view of safety—which is to say, they hope you stay safe. The ruined temples were awesome with maze-like layouts, with varying levels of decay and stability. We definitely climbed on stuff that wasn’t safe and Betsy for sure had some heart-squeezing moments but nobody died.

Lea’s absolute favorite part was that we got to ride an elephant. It was about as fun as you’d expect—slow and slightly wobbly. But the girls’ elephant handler played a tune on a fat leaf and Lea talks about how awesome it was still. They let us overpay for some small pineapples and feed them to the elephants, which was cooler than the actual ride.

Our hotel had a salt-water swimming pool and we forgot water wings for Afton and so she learned how to swim. We’re pretty happy with how that worked out. One of the days, we went to a local street market and there was a barber who would cut the boys’ hair for $0.50 so we eagerly signed them up. Sadly, Reid’s haircut was so bad that we didn’t make Porter follow him into the chair. I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever seen a worse haircut. Luckily it was Reid who went first—Porter’s got a lot more vanity about how his hair looks and gets pretty worked up if it gets cut too short and we ended up buzzing Reid’s head when we got home. All through the market, people kept trying to touch Afton and Lea and whenever they were able to speak English, they told us how lucky we are to be able to have four kids.

Reid had been studying the life-cycle of a silk-worm at school and Betsy found an opportunity for us to go to a silk-worm farm that was really fun to see. They showed us the whole process from larva to woven cloth and it was one of those things that makes you pause and say, “yeah, but what made that first guy say, hmmm…if we boil this cocoon in this odd liquid, and then use a funny fork, we can get a really delicate string that…” I mean seriously. The fact that we humans can innovate like that is amazing.

All in all, great trip that we highly recommend.

Here are some selected photos and the full album is here

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Nov. 2014 Cambodia trip &emdash;

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Taka’s Studio

We like to get family pictures taken each year around Thanksgiving. The timing stems from our habit of using the photo in our Christmas cards. I mentioned it at work one day and Stewart said that Taka was an amateur photographer whose father owned a studio and he might be interested in taking our pictures.

We had a great time with Taka and it was fun to watch his father giving him tips and helping him out but definitely letting him run the show. We were joined by Stewart and Tara and their daughter, Amu.

The full shoot is here and below are some highlights.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Family Portraits (studio) 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Family Portraits (studio) 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Family Portraits (studio) 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Family Portraits (studio) 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Family Portraits (studio) 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Family Portraits (studio) 2014 &emdash;

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Mount Fuji

Each year the Boy Scouts in the Tokyo 1st ward hike up Mount Fuji. Google refuses to answer the question of the actual distance you cover, preferring to give insufficient comments about time expectations (5-7 hours)and altitude (12,000 feet).

The scouts open the invitation to the whole ward and we decided to go, because it seems like the thing to do in Japan-eat sushi and hike Mt. Fuji. We figured we’d start out with the scouts, let them rush ahead and we’d go as fast as our kids would allow and stop when we had gone far enough. Don’t forget, Lea was only recently three years old.

The hike was pleasant for the first five or ten minutes. Nice wooded trail through foresty space. One unfortunate drawback is the common challenge in Japan—a million people trying to do something at the same time, but that was not unexpected. After the first five or ten minutes, we left the forest and moved on to lava gravel. If you’ve never hiked up a hill through something like that, let me tell you, it sucks. You slide back half a foot for every foot forward. And you just signed up to do this evil stairmaster for 5-7 hours.

So we did it. We hiked up switchbacks in a gigantic pile of gravel for hours. And our kids were so tough they amazed all of us. We caught up to the flagging scouts around lunch time and finally turned around after station 8. If you ever have a chance to hike Mt. Fuji, I highly recommend you just charter a helicopter and photoshop something. Reid wrote about it when he got back to school and I think he pretty much nailed it.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;

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Settling in

We were able to find a great little house in the middle of Tokyo. We live in Minato ward, and Hiroo district. Our house was a good choice—not as nice as some of the apartments we might have chosen, but, as Betsy put it, we would have “daily anxiety” about whether or not the kids were irritating the neighbors on six sides had we elected to live in a nicer apartment. We also have a great little courtyard that we can tell the kids to color with sidewalk chalk, or kick a soccer ball when they get too bouncy.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

We also started exploring our neighborhood and found a number of small parks. To be completely honest, they make me a little sad. It’s nice to see a little play structure and all, but they’re so manicured and any place where grass is supposed to grow, it’s fenced off lest it be trampled to death by the four million people who live within half a mile of the park. Even so, it’s nice to find them, and there’s one with a slide made out of the rollers you generally see in a distribution center owned by FedEx. At least they have bathrooms.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

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Toronto to Tokyo

When we left for Canada, I received some good advice from a coworker about how Nike handles International Assignments. He explained that because it is considered an investment for Nike to send someone on assignment, they have a robust process of evaluating transferees at 12 months, with three possible outcomes:

  • You suck: If, after 12 months, you are not successfully achieving the goals for your position, they would immediately pull you back to the US and stick you in whatever job was available, and it probably wouldn’t be one you would want.
  • You Rock! If you were doing well, then they would put a star by your name and talk about a good move that you would like and try to make it happen sometime in the next 12 months or so.
  • Meh: If you don’t suck, but you aren’t a rockstar either, then you just kind of ride out your assignment’s full three years and at the end, nobody remembers who you are, and they don’t know what to do with you.

This context was in my mind in December when I got an “off the record” warning from a coworker that my name had been tossed around in regards to some jobs in North America DTC, and that I might get a call from my U.S. based boss about them. (Remember, I had had an amazing first 7 months, followed by an “upgrade” to the distribution center that crippled our business for several months. I also had a new U.S. boss who didn’t really know me.) Betsy and I spent a week or so trying to wrap our minds around the idea that circumstance was against us and I might be yanked and demoted to a lame job. There were even two absolutely terrible jobs open that I knew I would hate but fit the bill perfectly if you were punishing a failure.

After not sleeping for a week, I got a call from my U.S. boss, who was clearly out of breath running between two of buildings on campus. “Hey…your name…has come up…in relation to…some jobs…in Japan.” Pant, pant, “If you…aren’t willing to go to Japan…tell me now…so I can tell them…not to call you.” Pant, pant.

Well, that sure put a whole new paint job on things. I didn’t know what jobs were available in Japan, but shoot, it was JAPAN. Of course I was willing to talk to them.

Fun video interview process later and I was on a plane to find us a house. Betsy was welcomed but declined the invitation to go on the house-hunting trip, so I went on my own. I called her the first night to say, we’re in trouble. These places all pretty much suck. I think that is a ploy used by our agent to ensure we agree on day two, because after spending 12 hours looking at places I wouldn’t wish on my worst sister-in-law, when I saw one that didn’t smell like smoke, fish, or have walls that are literally made of paper, I screamed, “I’ll take it!” and we were done.

Luckily, our house is big enough for everyone. I’m betting Betsy will write more about it later. We got to fly to Tokyo in Business Class, which is a treat that I don’t think you can really appreciate until you try it. Sure, you might think it’d be nice to have a little more leg room, or perhaps you’d like some real food, or a stewardess that actually tries to help instead of being irritated that you breathe, but until you try it, you’ll never understand just how amazing it feels to pretend to be rich. It’s no wonder the rich are snobs–it truly is a different world.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

We arrived pretty late and went straight to the hotel, where we stayed on the 50th floor and had a great view of Tokyo. We went to church all dressed up in the amazing Church clothes that Alex and Marina had given us. Church has been great, although we found out how much it’s like college when the summer hit and suddenly, we were freshmen and all the seniors we’d started to befriend left town forever because their assignments were over.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

As we got settled in, there were a number of things that turned out to be harder than we were used to, among them, getting the house stocked with everything we would need. While I went to work, Betsy walked the mile or so to the grocery, with a duffel or a back-pack so she could load it back up and then walk back home. There were a number of texts designed to make me feel like a terrible husband for dragging my poor wife across the world and making her carry 50-lb bags of food and cleaning supplies up hills in foreign countries.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: March 2014-August 2014 &emdash;

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