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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Camping at Lake Motosuko

When we moved to Japan, we really didn’t think we’d be spending much time outdoors. So we shipped most of our camping stuff back to America. We kept sleeping bags, since they see more use as sleds down the stairs than as actual sleeping accommodations anyway, but we got rid of the dutch ovens, the tents, and I don’t even remember what else you normally have on hand for pretending you’re part of a civilization that hasn’t developed power tools and insulation. Whatever it is, we’re about out of it. But I am a big believer in rope. You really can’t have too much rope. Or line–line being a thinner version of rope. I usually have three or four different lengths of line on me at any given time, because you never know when you’re going to think, “Dang, if I only had a bit of line…” Well, I rarely think that. I learned a long time ago that if you carry a bit of line around you find a use for it most days. (We’ll come back to the rope in a bit.)

Imagine our surprise when camping turns out to be a fairly common practice for the Tokyo 1st ward! God Bless the USA, because the Air Force base at Yokota has a pile of land for the airmen to enjoy getting in touch with nature. It’s got campsites, ball fields, even a bit of a putt-putt course. And best of all, it’s free to military and something like $2.50 for families they invite. We camped there quite often. On the flipside, camping is also surprisingly popular for Japanese residents of Tokyo, but it’s a bit different. It starts with the gear. I’m used to going to target or walmart and seeing some pretty cheap camping gear. I know that there are high-end camping stores but I’ve certainly never bothered with them–why should I when I’m generally driving to my campsite? Well, not the Tokyo crowd. There are no $35 tents or all-purpose tarps to use as groundcloths. Only $3,000 tents and custom fitted groundcloths for them. I feel like you can get a Lodge dutch-oven in the US for less than $50, but the only dutch oven I could find in Tokyo was too small to feed six and cost $200. And having the best technical gear is part of the experience for them, and when people on my team at work heard that I was taking my family camping, I saw some seriously shocked folks. When we got down to the reason for the shock, it was primarily around what they imagined we had shelled out to equip the whole family with the thousands of dollars worth of camping gear. When I explained that most of our camping cost us $2.50 plus a bag of marshmallows, they really didn’t believe me.

So, when Bishop Linder invited us to join with a number of other families to go camping Japanese-style, we said sure, having experienced only the Tama Hills Recreation area style prior to that. It wasn’t quite the same. The site was a lot more expensive, and you camped pretty much on top of the other campers, could have fire only in special metal cages, and even then, only with charcoal. There was a convenience store at the camp manager station, and the site was much more like camping in a park than in the wild. Quite luckily, I had a bit of rope and was able to rig up a tire-swing with an old motorcycle tire we found lying around. We got a few angry looks for the happy child noises, but nobody fell and everybody came home with all their limbs. It was actually really fun, and we got to know several families better than we would otherwise have, like Chloe Anderson, the Robisons, the Humphries, and of course, the Kartchners. And we did a fun hike to the top of a foggy hill and go row-boating on Lake Motosuko.

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;

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;

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

The very next day, it was Canadian Thanksgiving and our great friends, the Aufderheides, invited us over to celebrate. So we all put on our Team Canada hockey jerseys and had a fun time with them and the Farnsworths. (Nate Farnsworth, by the way, is famous on youtube for eating disgusting foods and talking about how awful it is. I can’t even play Beanboozled without losing my lunch, and he videos himself eating peppers that make your innards flee and Japanese delicacies that exist only to torment diplomats when negotiations are going poorly.)

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;

Oh, and Porter hates his hair buzzed like this. He is reluctant to get a haircut of any sort because he is concerned it will end up looking like this again.

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Of Course We Did…

Betsy tends to plug in to social groups wherever we move–whether it’s a group of runners or a facebook association that she stalks without comment. This has helped her twig to some pretty amazing things for our family to do. One of them, of course, was to dress up like Mario Brothers and drive street-legal go-karts around Tokyo for a date. It was awesome, and reasonably priced. We ordered some pretty cheap Mario-Kart costumes off amazon and went over. The employees were a bit surprised to see that we brought our own costumes, and they had a great selection if we had wanted to use theirs. (We had to go with the two brothers, because the cheap options were Mario & Luigi, or Mario and risque Princess Peach. Of course I thought Betsy would look great in the Princess Peach outfit, but she wasn’t comfortable flashing that much skin around town.) The Karts went pretty fast, but didn’t have speedometers, so we couldn’t be too sure exactly how fast. We drove them to our house, to say hi to the kids, swung by the Wares’ house, and of course, buzzed Shibuya crossing and Omotesando and Harajuku. It was pretty awesome, and to top it off, when we went to church the next day, Nate Farnsworth had been in Shibuya and caught us on video!

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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Typhoon? What Typhoon?

Japan is a land that is plagued by natural disasters. It is literally the result of volcanos and earthquakes pushing rocks up from the bottom of the ocean. On top of that, it is subject to some of the worst natural disasters available. Tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions are all common enough that you have to layer Godzilla on top to bother watching the news. While we lived there, we had to cancel church in parts of our stake twice due to volcanic eruptions that made it unsafe to breathe outside for a bit. We commonly had minor earthquakes, and a couple that lasted long enough for Betsy and me to wake up, wait a bit, realize it wasn’t stopping, and then decide to go to the kids rooms and be prepared to evacuate. Of course the kids slept right through those. Typhoons came through a couple of times, most often further south than us, but they always brought fun wind and water. (For clarity, a typhoon is a hurricane that originates in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Don’t ask me why–I don’t know. The same swirling vortex of wind and water in the south pacific is called a cyclone.)

Typhoons, and their slightly weaker cousins, monsoons, were great fun for the kids, and both really allowed the marvel of civil engineering that is Tokyo city to shine. During a serious storm, water would be dropping in bucketloads, and the streets would fill up, but quite literally within minutes of cessation, the streets were drained and passable again. Luckily, with my dad being a civil engineer, I was able to pause to gawk at the amazing systems that must exist beneath Tokyo streets to move that much water that efficiently.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo: Sep-Oct 2014 (Fuji hike, Tokyo Game Show, MarioKart, typhoon, lake Motosko camping, halloween) &emdash;
I still rode my bike to work, but had to don the yellow crabbing outfit that Tim Hershey gave us at an offsite he held back when I worked in North America.

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;
And of course, it was all a game to the kids, who are blessed with solid walls and the great engineering I mentioned above. May they never know otherwise.

Posted in Family | Comments Off on Typhoon? What Typhoon?