Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It took 2-3 days before I knew I was on vacation. Vacation for me happens when I spend 24 hours without a single “school thought.” Vacation begins for me when I forget what part of the school year is coming up and what things need to get done. Vacation begins when I forget what day of the week it is. We left for vacation on Saturday and I think on Tuesday, I was finally there.
The itinerary was simple enough: fly to an Indonesia island called Sulawesi. Spend four days in a town called Tomohon (volcano climbing and white water rafting) and then four days on a much smaller island called Bunaken, famous for its coral reefs, snorkeling, and diving.
We did all that, as the photos will show. It was a good last memory/good experience with Ben before he heads off to college in September. We did lots of card playing and just hanging out together, too. Particularly on Bunaken Island it was a rich experience at the little beach cottages we rented. There were usually 10-15 guests each night and we all took a common meal together for lunch and dinner. It was fun to listen to their various travel tales and languages spoken around the table. On one night we had 2 girls from Denmark, 1 guy from Italy, 2 from Holland, 1 from Brazil, 3 from France, 1 from England, 1 from Finland, and 2 from Spain.
The snorkeling was as advertised: 200 feet from shore was an enormous coral reef filled with amazing colors and shapes and fish. Visibility in the water must have been 50 feet or more. Sparkling. And warm…at times even hot! Where the reef dropped off from 10 feet to 60 or 70 feet was this wonderful slow current that just carried you along at about 1 mile an hour, drifting and bobbing effortlessly in the water as this incredible underwater scene just moved across your mask like you were watching National Geographic.
And now it’s back to school for the final 7 weeks. Ben has no more classes, only final exams which start in one week. He takes on average one final each day (about 2 hours) for three solid weeks. Each of his courses has 2-3 parts to their final exam…it’s not one single setting for an exam. Looking forward to June 10!

I didn't actually take this picture, but I did see this fish

Saw this one, too

And this is really a screensaver but this is what it was like

Kayla and two of her "new" friends

Great diving spot. Good jumping spot, too.

Ben getting some last-second tips

Our cottages on Bunaken Island

On the trip from the mainland to Bunaken

Halfway point on our rafting trip. Time for a snack

Great rafting in Sulawesi

Just before the big launch

Family photo, April 2011

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trekking in India and Nepal

All ready to go!
Mother Theresa Home for the Dying in Calcutta

Hanging out in Darjeeling

First day of trekking

One of the little villages we stopped in for lunch

Watching our Tibetan bread being fried for breakfast

Many of our "home stays" for the night looked like Switzerland

As Ben would say: Just chillaxing after a long day of trekking

Just another lunch break

Mt. Kangchendjonga, 3rd highest peak in the world, through the clouds


Mt. Kangchendjonga in background...at 5:30 am

Sometimes nothing seems to go right. Other times, everything seems to go right. This was one of those times. Ben and I spent ten days hiking in India and Nepal for his graduation present and the time couldn’t have gone much better.
The area we chose for our trekking was around Darjeeling, a small town perched on steep hillsides and surrounded by famous tea fields. It was a little bit Kenya (Tigoni tea fields) and a little bit La Paz (built into a nearly perpendicular hillside and surrounded by towering snow-covered mountains).
First, we needed a 24-hour layover in Calcutta and used the time to visit the Mother Theresa Home for the Dying. Obviously quite a contrast to the next several days where both spirits and thoughts soared.
The hiking was a great mixture of culture, exercise, discussion, history, and reveling in the beauty of the scenery. The culture part came from the places we where we stayed for the night. Part home-stay and part youth-hostel we had just enough privacy (our own room) along with plenty of time with the families over meals. Few spoke English so it was mostly smiling and motioning whether or not we wanted more food or tea.
The exercise included hikes of 12, 13, 20, and 12 kilometers, mostly straight up and straight down. I think we started our hike at around 6,000 ft in elevation and then went up to around 12,000 ft. at the highest point. Since we stayed in “homes” each night, we didn’t need to carry sleeping bags or tents or food or cooking gear. We traveled pretty light and at 51 years of age, I wasn’t complaining.
The discussion times were memorable. Obviously I don’t get uninterrupted time like this with Ben very often and it provided lots of opportunity to talk about all kinds of things. Mostly he spent the time trying to convince me that Frank Zappa is the best musician ever and that Southern California will be lucky to get him if he goes to college there. I spent my time trying to convince him that he should pick a certain college in Michigan and that the Bee Gees were the all-time greatest musicians. I won’t mind losing the music argument but I hope to prevail on the college one.
The history part was great for me. I remember as a kid spinning the metal globe I had and letting my figure lightly touch the surface as it spun. Wherever it stopped I would look at the place and wonder if I’ll ever visit there. Over and over I’d spin the globe, fascinated with the world and particularly so with the raised, mountainous area between India and China…the Himalayas. The first pair to ever climb Mt. Everest was Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. I didn’t realize that Darjeeling was Norgay’s home…that he trekked and trekked the very same paths that Ben and I walked. He stayed in the same spots along the way. We visited the Himalaya Mountaineering Institute and saw all the original equipment used by Hillary and Norgay. Fascinating to see the maps and models of their ascent and learn more about what a feat that was.
The beauty of the area needs no explanation. While we didn’t see Everest (it’s actually 100 miles away and usually in the clouds at this time of year) we did see many, many other peaks including the third highest peak in the world and the one that shows up in several of the pictures I’ve posted. You will see from most of the hiking pictures that the area was very lush and again, very very steep. Lots of mist and rains at night kept things cool and green and refreshing to breath. Almost he only rain we had came when we were indoors for the night or driving to and from Darjeeling in the Land Rover.
Great time. Everything we expected and hoped for. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Cycling in the rice fields
Wow! That white body sure stands out against the green rice

The Kecek Dancers...more impressive live than in photos

Dancing on the coals and fire

This is the kind of path / road we were on most of the time

5 happy campers and one scowling tough guy!

Kayla's been lovin' having her big sister around

Again, 5 happy campers and a tough teenager. You can't tell
it maybe from the pictures but he really did have a good time

I love the crashing surf in the background

Cartwheeling in Bali

At the end of a boogie-board run

Yes, I did actually learn to surf on a beginners board
but it still felt great!

Ben, working on the tan

Yes, that's her personality coming through

Comparing tans

Extreme Boogie Boardin'

My girls!

We are in the midst of vacation-cramming. That means after years and years of summer holidays beginning June 1 and lasting until early/mid August we now have a mid-June to mid-July holiday. Seems pretty short but how can I complain when many people don't get that much time and millions around the world wish they even had a job. And besides, the vacation-cramming has been fun.

Rebekah Joy arrived while we still had a week of school. That gave her some good time to get over the jet lag and get ready for our summer plans.

Last week the cramming started. We flew to Bali on Monday and spent 4 nights at the beach. Surfing, boogie boards, and just playing in the huge surf was great. The beach was massive. Sunsets were excellent. And, of course, the waves were unlike anything we have enjoyed before.

Then it was on to Ubud, another town in Bali. Another world, too. Ubud was my favorite. We did bicycling, white water rafting, took in cultural dances and music. The dress and food and scenery reminded us every minute that we were not in Kansas, nor even Jakarta. The only disappointment was that I didn't take the camera on the white water rafting. I thought there would be no opportunity to take pictures and only opportunity to damage the camera. So, the most spectacular scenery is missing.

Enjoy the photos. We are resting up at home now. That really means lots of small day trips. Like today. The girls and Rebecca all went in to Waterbom, a water amusement park. Tomorrow I think they go ice skating and movies. On Monday we're up to a mountain villa and safari park for a couple of days and then back home to get Rebekah Joy on her flight.

I guess I should say that while the girls are out ice skating and water sliding and other such things, I'm getting in 18 holes of golf every morning. And when I say morning, I mean I'm teeing off at 5:45 am. That way I can be done by mid-morning and have time to work a bit in my office to get ready for the new school year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Break, Nice and Easy

Hannah being hugged by an elephant

Kayla looking a little "unsure" about being this close

Ben said, "I want one of these for a little brother!"

Now that's what I call GREEN

Great early-morning moments with Kayla

As mountain villas go...this one ain't bad

We had to bring our own game of Twister.
Can you believe it? A villa without it's own game of Twister?

Lots of small, easy stuff for us this year. We started off with a day trip to the beach (Anyer) along with 3 other school families. It's about a 2-hour drive to get there. A hotel with a pool is happy to rent a "day pass" for about 2 dollars a person which allows us to use the pool and enjoy the beach. Boogie boards rent for $1.50. It's really quite inexpensive so, of course, I'm all for that. We pack our lunches to be even cheaper. Anyway, that was how we started our break.

Next up was a trip to Jakarta's version of Disneyworld. Sorry I left the camera in the car. You'll just have to imagine the whirling teacups, Dumbo rides, 4-D movie/ride with the moving, lurching seats to go with the movie, etc. Kayla loved it. Ben and Hannah were convinced they wouldn't so we went without them. They were probably right that it was more of a little kids and old parents' park. And again, things are relatively cheap, so that makes me glad. A full-day pass is $13.00. Inside, meals are still in the 4-5 dollar range. If you were at a real Disneyworld you could hardly get a Coke for $4.00.

We also just finished another trip to Puncak, sort of a mountain escape. By mountain, I guess I mean 5,000 feet at the most. It does get cool at night which is something we never get in Jakarta. Attached pictures are from the home we stay at in Puncak as well as the Safari Park nearby. Brings back good memories of Kenya. Tomorrow it's ice skating. Today it's a movie. Oh, and a few rounds of (bad) golf in between times.