New Zealand III

We had a couple of days before Michelle and Brian showed up so we took the TSS Ernslaw (a ferry) across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak farm. Walter Peak is a 6,000 ft peak that is fairly pretty and back around 1900, a dude with a german sounding name started a farm here for sheep raising. At its height, it had something like 40,000 sheep. Now it’s a tourist destination, where you can watch sheep-dog demonstrations, traditional sheep sheering with those old-fashioned scissors instead of electric shears, and they feed you a nice meal and provide you with a place to wash the lanolin off your hands if you touched the fleece.

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

On this trip, we decided to go full-family super-hero shirts. Everybody got a half dozen matching shirts and each day, we’d decide which to be. Most days, people happily high-fived us or called out, “Superman!” or “Batman!” but poor Green Lantern got no love. When people saw all of us in Green Lantern shirts, they said things like, “Green team?”, or “are you from Ireland?” Poor Alan Scott (or Hal Jordan, if you prefer). We wore our Green Team shirts on the day we went white-water rafting. Surprisingly, the drive there from Queenstown was probably more scary than the rafting experience itself. We took some pretty narrow roads that hung over rather large drop-offs that were nevertheless, quite beautiful.

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

As we drove north toward Christchurch, we came around a bend and beheld an ocean that we just had to stop at. We went to New Zealand for Christmas, which makes it summer in the southern hemisphere so we expected the water to be pretty warm. What we didn’t do was the math on exactly how far south New Zealand is. It’s something like 3,200 miles south of the equator, making it about as far south as Prince Edward Island is north, so the water was plenty chill. Still, the kids had a good time and as I write this, three years later, I am smiling fondly at the fact that Reid was still young enough to not feel too embarrassed to shuck his pants when they got too wet and play around in his skivvies. Porter, at the ripe old age of nine, was apparently too mature for that.

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

One thing we have noticed as we’ve traveled is that a playpark is often the highlight of the trip for the kids.

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

As we drove around, it wasn’t uncommon to say, “Whoa! look at that!” and stop to check it out. We found ourselves frequently pausing for a hike or a view that may or may not have had an actual trail.

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Hobbitses! While we were visiting, the final installment of the Hobbit came out in theatres and since much of it was filmed in New Zealand, it felt like we really needed to go. Plus, we found a nice Hobbit House hotel to stay in, and we visited the set of Hobbiton from both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies. We were basically the best parents ever: We watched a Hobbit movie, we slept in a Hobbit house, and we went to a Hobbit village. It doesn’t get much more fantastic than that. It was actually a very enjoyable town. They had several games set up from Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party, a really great green space with an amazing tree, and it was all quite beautiful. There was even the inn from Bree where you could get a drink and do a bit of dress-up. Apparently, the village was made as cheaply as possible for the Lord of the Rings movies, but so many tourists wanted to see it that they made it more solidly for the Hobbit movies in order to have something to show off.

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

Russell Anderson: New Zealand III &emdash;

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New Zealand Part II

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

One day, while we were driving, we came up over a ridge and saw the most amazing blue lake we’ve ever seen. The blue is hard to describe, but we had to stop because we just couldn’t believe it was real. The pictures don’t do it justice, and I have no idea which lake it was, but if you get the chance, go drive around New Zealand until you find an unparalleled blue. Betsy and I were also in a fight at this point, but I don’t remember what for. If you want to know, you’ll have to ask her.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Christmas breakfast was a complete bust. We tried to make pancakes with some funny ingredients, and fry them on an oven baking sheet. Gifts were small trinkets and some candy, and we had fun, even without all the toys. I’m not 100% sure, but I bet we did some gifting before we left or saved some for when we got home. it just doesn’t seem like us to not have stockings.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Our friends, the Johnsons, told us about an unexpected highlight from their trip to New Zealand, the International Antarctic Center. This center (spelled centre by the natives) is home to the offices of a number of countries’ antarctic exploration teams. They prep and depart for Antarctica from here, and so they built up a bit of a visitors’ center to help us get excited about Antarctica. When Jason Perry heard we were going to stop there, he made me commit to reading Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, a book about Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole. It was a fun read, all about how they survived when their boat got first trapped, then crushed by the ice as they approached Antarctica. They didn’t reach the South Pole, but Shackleton managed some amazing feats of celestial navigation, and kept his people alive and reasonably unharmed despite taking something like 11 months to get them off Antarctica.

The Antarctic Center has some really fun activities for kids, plenty of old gear they can dress up in, a room that they cool to -40 F, and some cool sciency things that help you understand things like antarctic night and how penguins live. They had a whole penguin exhibit and a 4-D movie. The best part, however, was the Haaglund Snow Cat. It’s the vehicle that explorers use nowadays instead of sled dogs to explore Antarctica. It’s got the ability to climb super steep angles, can cross chasms of ridiculous width, can turn into a boat if it goes in water, and they let you ride it like a roller coaster.

Posted in Family | Comments Off on New Zealand Part II

New Zealand

A long time ago, Abby went to New Zealand as part of her degree in Playing and Having Fun. That’s a real degree that she got at BYU for going kayaking, water-skiing, hiking, and playing Ultimate Frisbee a lot. Not 100% sure how it works, but there must have been a general authority whose son or daughter wasn’t too into book lernin’ but wanted to graduate from college anyway. Somehow Abby found out about it and made all us classical studies types jealous because we didn’t know it was a thing until we were practically graduated with solid employable skills. But I digress. Point of all of that was, she had a great time adventuring in New Zealand as part of her degree and so when we sat down one time to talk about where to go on our home leave, New Zealand was a place we thought of with great positivity.

New Zealand isn’t really close to anything–you think it’s close to Australia, but it’s still over a thousand miles from there. That being said, at roughly 5,000 miles from Tokyo, it’s still about 2,000 miles closer than it is to Portland, so we decided to go there for Christmas. Betsy followed a friend’s recommendation for a travel agent, and things kind of spiralled out of control. Seriously. As part of working abroad for Nike, they provide a “home leave” benefit, which means they’ll fly the family home one time per year–or–you can take the cost of those flights and apply it to travel somewhere else. And when you’ve got a family of six, that can add up to a significant vacation. And there’s zero benefit to not using it–you can’t receive any money, buy anything else, and if you don’t go, it just disappears. (Even so, I asked my boss if it was truly cool to look into spending thousands of dollars to take my family on a vacation, and he was pretty firm with his “of course”.)

So, we rode a hot air balloon at sunrise.

Went to an observatory at midnight.

We rode go-karts down winding mountain paths.

Twice.

We bungee jumped.

We went mountain biking, sailing, and spelunking to see glow-worms.

We went zorbing, rode the Haag-lund at the International Antarctic Center in Christchurch, rented a Porsche, and slept in a Hobbit House.

We went to a traditional Maori pig-fry, a real wool-farm, and went mini-golfing.

We went water-skiing, visited Hobbiton, hiked to waterfalls, and went white-water rafting.

We went to the beaches, playparks, tide-pools, amusement park rides, zoos, and hot-springs.

And we did it all in full family super-hero T-shirts. The Super-hero shirts were a fantastic hit–everywhere we went, we were treated like the cool family that people wanted to have around–a serious improvement on the normal response of mild annoyance when people see a lot of kids. We also did it with Michelle and Brian. They were the family that was most able to be adventurous at that point in time. They flew themselves over to us, and we all fit in the car we had rented, and into the hotels that were covered by our budget, and it was awesome.

We flew into Queenstown and made our way north to eventually fly out of Auckland. The Porsche was amazing, but, of course, broke down after three days. We had to drive on the wrong side of the road, but did just fine. New Zealand was amazing in its beauty. We had a GPS unit that was apparently set on “avoid freeways” but we didn’t know it so we found ourselves often turning off of perfectly wide roads to take narrow, winding country lanes and having to stop when we’d come upon pastoral scenes of such beauty that you could not focus on the road until after you had stopped to get out and appreciate it. flocks of sheep being managed by sheep-dogs with no shepherd in sight, lakes so startlingly blue it beggars belief, mountains, valleys, rivers and leas that astound in their beauty, and a vista of stars that take your breath away. If it was closer, it would for sure be ruined by too many visitors, and we would be among them.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

This was really fun. We had never been on a hot air balloon before, and I think I expected to notice the movement more than we did. It rose so gently into the sky that you were hardly aware of any movement until you suddenly realized how far away things had gotten. And since you move with the wind, there isn’t any blowing on you. We got to help get the balloon going and all had to pitch in to pack it up. Betsy had a few moments of panic when the kids tried to climb up to see better. The vistas were amazing, and our balloon pilot pointed out several places where notable scenes from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were filmed.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

These luge-style go-karts were awesome. They have mild steering capability and pretty good brakes. And somebody paved a fairly wide sidewalk down a mountain. You ride a ski-lift up, strap on a helmet, and race down the mountain. They had a few levels of speed and tortuousness, and if you decided to go too fast around a corner, well, that’ll teach you, because you’re going to crash and it’s nobody’s fault but your own. This was a generally accepted mindset throughout New Zealand: be responsible for your own decisions, because you’ll surely be bearing the consequences. The boys were tall enough to ride their own carts, and the girls had to go with an adult. It was on a run on this event that Brian (with his video camera recording) crashed with Lea and bloodied her leg and his arm, and then tried to convince her not to tell me and Betsy about it. We forgive him–that’s what cool uncles are supposed to do. We could have spent all day doing this, but eventually we had to move on–to crazy scare-you-to-death swings. Most of us screamed, but Reid stoically clenched his jaws and affirmed that he wasn’t scared in the slightest. I screamed louder than Afton for sure.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Brian and I went Bungy jumping, and it was AWESOME. And terrifying. There’s a true primordial fear that crawls up from your belly and out your eyeballs and mouth as you look down and realize that’s the ground. It completely overrules your conscious mind that is trying to remind you that you are tied to something that will catch you and screams, “we’re gonna hit the ground right there!” I think I squeaked a little bit. Brian went off backwards, hoping that doing that way would lead to a more severe heart attack, while I sought the beauty of the superhero pose. I was wearing Superman, after all.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

We rented bicycles in a town that I honestly can’t remember the name of and spent a full day pedaling. For non-bikers, that’s about 4 or 5 hours too long. We rode out to this great town where we stopped and picked berries and had some ice cream and the kids played a bit on some play-structures. We should have turned around at that point, but instead we soldiered on and kept going to a town where we got some terrible pizza, played darts while it was heating, and then turned around. Sadly, the wind didn’t turn around, and the gentle breeze at our backs became a gale in our faces for the next few hours. Michelle was the smart one, because she saw it coming and played sick. She was really just hiding the fact that she was very recently pregnant, but we left Lea with her and the rest of us went on the ride.

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

Russell Anderson: Tokyo & New Zealand: Dec 2014 and New Zealand Trip &emdash;

We rented a sailboat with a skipper. I can’t remember his name, but he was a “salty dog” straight out of the bar at the beginning of Treasure Island. He had a trimaran and we went out and saw the place where Chuck Norris picked Scissors against Rock in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. (Obviously, he still won.) We had a blast climbing around and enjoying the wind as we went around the island to an amazing beach place where no one else seemed to have been and we had a great picnic lunch while we explored. It was really neat because the tide was out when we started exploring and then came in before we got back and we had to get wet in a number of places where there was mostly dry ground before. We paused at one point so we could all jump in and swim around, and Lea was not happy with my insistence that all the kids would jump in.

Posted in Family | Comments Off on New Zealand

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;

Posted in Family | Comments Off on Spring Break 2016: Bali

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;

Posted in Family | Comments Off on Taka’s Studio