The Simpson Journey

Four Simpsons on a journey through life and locations

Our trip to Seoul Korea

October 9- 15 we spent time in Seoul Korea!  Caleb had a work conference there so we decided to to take advantage of our time in Asia and see the sights of Seoul!  We even pulled the kids out of school!  You only live once!  We are so happy to be able to see this part of the world and learn about old rich cultures.  We contacted the kids’ teachers and asked how we could keep up with their studies and learning while traveling.  They worked on math practice and reading daily in addition to other tasks.  Annabelle’s teacher requested that she keep a daily diary to tell of our adventures…… minimum 3 sentences per day. She loved this task and did such a good job (writing much more than 3 sentences per day). I thought you would benefit from her tremendous record keeping and research from online sites and pamphlets so this 10 year old will be featured as a guest blogger in our Korea posts!   I hope you enjoy!

In other recent news I have begun to take photography classes. It has been a long term goal of mine to figure out how to use our DSLR camera.  So I have joined a group of 6 other women and we are taking workshop type classes with a professional photographer here in Tokyo!  Our first class met just before our trip to Korea so I used this a time good time to practice!  I shot so many photos and haven’t even begun to edit them but wanted to share our cool experiences with you!

So here you go……. a 10 year old guest blogger and lots of pictures.

We definitely learned something form our last trip to the airport.  We realized we do not know how to get to the airport from our house via subway in an easy stress-free manner! So this time we booked our tickets ahead of time on an Airport Limousine Bus and took a taxi to the hotel pick up spot in the morning.  It was a wonderful  experience.  We made it to the airport with enough time to eat ice cream before our flight!


Our 2.5 hour flight to Korea went well.  The kids played games on their phones while us adults read books, napped and enjoyed the peace.    When we arrived in Seoul and stepped outside the first thing we noticed was the cool beautiful weather.  Such a nice reprieve from the humidity and rain we had been experiencing in Tokyo!

We were ready to say goodbye to rainy Tokyo and hello to sunny Seoul!

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We had an hour drive in a Limo Bus from the airport and we we redirected to the partner hotel because they had switched our reservation for some reason.  It was a short taxi ride around the block. The two hotels were connected by a mall underground.  Then needed to switch rooms once we got to the hotel to get better sleeping arrangements for everyone.  We ended up getting a king suite room.  It worked wonderfully as the kids had their own sleeping space with a roll out bed and chase lounge and we could have time alone and a king bed after they went to bed.  Caleb and I chuckled remembering the days sleeping in the same room as our small children in hotels.  IIMG_1673 remember putting Anna to sleep in a pack and play and  then Caleb and I both diving on to the other side of the bed to hide on the floor until she fell asleep.  We weren’t very successful because we kept laughing!  We were all exhausted from travel and grabbed  food from the food court in the mall below our hotel.  We had some amazing spring rolls, chicken stir fry and spicy beef stir fry.  Zeke surprised us and LOVED the spicy beef.  He just kept eating it and said “Oh yeah my lips are burning” If you know anything about this child’s past relationship with food you would remember he was a very cautious eater as a small child.  We would reward the child with stickers and prizes for trying foods.  It was so hard to get him to eat anything besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  He is growing up and actually enjoying flavors of foods!  Way to go Zeke! After eating we headed to our room for sleep!

ANNABELLE: I really enjoyed my first day it South Korea!!!!!!! We went to three different places. The first one was Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is a place where we got toured around the palace grounds. I learned that the Kings and Queens were separated in different areas of the palace. The architecture looked like something out of a movie. When we walked through the front gate, I could imagine Korean warriors charging from either side of me!!!

J:  Check out this site to read about the huge palace grounds

ANNABELLE: The second thing we did on our first day was going to the street market. This is a place where there are little shops in tents that sell all kinds of things. We saw things like, clothes, keychains, food, Halloween costumes, Halloween props, and other things. I bought a choker and sunglasses!!!

The last and most cool thing we did on our first day, we went up into Seoul Tower!!!!!!!!! First we had to walk up 649 stairs in this HUGE park! We didn’t know that there was a cable car! When we got up the 649 stairs we first saw the tower then walked in a little more and saw these locks locked to each other. So my dad looked it up on google and he read an article that said they were “Love Locks”. Caleb explained, couples that are really in love  would prove it and climb the 649 stairs for their love. Then when (or if) they got to the top they would “lock up” their love for them by putting a lock on another lock❤. My highlight today was going to Seoul Tower because I liked how much things to see and do.

J: Here is a slideshow of Day 1 Sightseeing in Seoul: (click the arrows on the left and right to scroll through the pictures!)

http://Palace, Market, Seoul Tower



Today we went to Seolleung’s Royal Tomb. It is a place where two Korean Kings and one of their Queen were buried over 600 years ago. They are still in their original spots surrounded by statues that “guard” them. There are other sites to see. An example is the “Spirit Road” which is a road that leads to the tombs of the two Kings and one Queen. The Queen’s name was Jeonghyeon. One of the King’s name was Seolleung, he was the ninth ruler of Korea. The other ruler that was buried in that area was Jeongneung the eleventh ruler of Korea.

Today we also visited a temple called  Bongeunsa Temple. This is a temple that Korean people come to visit worship and meditate. There are multiple buildings. Some are for singing, and some are for being quiet and meditating. I could hear them singing this little song. It was in Korean of course, but it was still interesting. My highlight today was going to Bongeunsa Temple. I enjoyed all of the things we did today.

J: Here is a slideshow of our 2nd day sightseeing  in Seoul

http://Temple, Tomb, Food


Stay tuned there is more to come.

Another Weekend, Another Festival

This weekend we walked around 15 minutes from our apartment and attended the Belgium Beer Festival. With 113 different beers, live music, and food it was was a fun night for the whole family. This was held in the very trendy and popular Roppongi Hills shopping area and despite all the people there we randomly met up with two different expat families that we knew through our kids school! It was a lot of fun to hang out with some other expats and enjoy the event. Zeke was especially a free spirit, dancing like crazy. At one point he danced with a Japanese young person who thought he was a blast and then he lead the conga line that went around the whole venue during one of songs.

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So everyone had a great time and the kids loved the chocolate waffles that were made from something like brownie batter.  Yum!  I guess we should have at least taken a selfie.

It has been raining so much lately that we were very happy to get out of the house and enjoy the night. We have finally experienced a few cooler days but in general it still feels super hot to me.


The Daily Grind

Things are feeling a bit more normal here.  We are fitting into daily routines and schedules.  I figured you may be curious what our days look like here.

4-6 days a week Caleb and I have been getting up at 5:45 am  to go to 6:15 am crossfit class at Chikara  Crossfit.   Our bikes help us get there much more quickly!  We are enjoying this time together and building some skill and strength.  Recently I set a new PR (Personal Record)  for unbroken double-unders.  I got 26 unbroken!  Yeah!  The programming is different here than what we were used to at our old gym and they use the metric system so that has taken some time to get used to.  We have been focusing a lot on tempo training and endurance training but this week we got to try for some one rep max oly lifts so that was fun.  This week Caleb hit TWO new PRs for Hang Clean @109 kilo and Power Snatch @ 76 kilo!  Way to go Caleb! I almost got a video but someone walked right in front of me before i could get it! 🙁  Here is a picture of us during one of our first Crossfit classes in Tokyo!


I also joined a group of girls at the gym for a challenge event.  We had 2 hours to complete a set of 10 challenges through the city.  We followed clues and ran from location to location.  We may not have won the event but we had lots of fun dressing up, (even though we were the only ones in costume) working out, and laughing together.

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I cannot believe I am willingly getting up early to go workout but it is going surprisingly well.   To make our morning work outs possible the kids wake up to alarms on their phones at 7 am and get up, get dressed for school and eat breakfast that I have prepared ahead of time for them.  We are back home by 7:30 and I pack lunches, while Caleb showers and gets ready for work.  The kids are out of the house by 7:45 to walk to their bus.  They have about a 5 minute walk to the bus stop.  We run a tight ship to get everything done in the mornings but it seems to be going fine for all of us!

Here is a sneak peak into some of my make ahead “overnight oats” and of course a pic of the cute kids!

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Caleb heads out the door around 8:15 and I spend some time doing chores before I shower and get ready for my day.  I am adjusting to being a housewife  (“sufu” in Japanese).  I enjoy having my own space during the day.  I try to keep up with housework, laundry, scheduling, grocery shopping and meal planning.  I also have a Japanese lesson every other week and will be taking a photography class starting next week.  I have attended multiple social events at the kids school and the Tokyo American club.  These 2 networks will be very important to keep me connected.

I recently made (another) trip to Ikea to get some household goods and artwork to liven up our walls.  You will be happy to know that I successfully make it home via subway with my purchases.  After making my purchases I spent 30-45 minutes trying to figure out the best, most efficient way for me to cart my purchases home.  The biggest item (and biggest problem) was a large chalkboard map that I couldn’t resist!   We do not have access to a car yet.  I took this challenge on with my little cart, bungee straps, rope and elastic cargo nets.  I got lots of strange looks as I carried them up and down stairs getting to the train on the way home. .  It wasn’t until I was walking home from the station and it began to RAIN that I almost lost it.  I stood there, both hands full and tried to figure out how I was going to hold an umbrella while rolling a cart and carrying a large map.  My efforts proved unsuccessful after I attempted rearranging my load to potentially hold the umbrella.   As I was trying to rearrange things I was getting frustrated. I was  finally getting tired of people staring.  I lost my patience at one point in which I stared back and gave an exaggerated smirk to a man staring at me.    I ended up walking home in the rain occasionally standing under an awning for shelter.

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I guess my hard work paid off, as I like my (almost) finished product! IMG_1247

The kids are involved a couple after school clubs:  Zeke is taking a Medieval Combat Fighting class in which they build weapons out of foam and other materials and learn how battles were fought in Medieval times.  Both kids are taking a rock climbing class.  These are great opportunities for them to meet more friends.  Annabelle was quick to make friends with a girl named Lauren from day one. They already enjoy texting and facetiming after school!  Zeke is keeping an open mind but has not quite found his niche yet.  We know these things take time.   Over the summer Zeke has developed a big interest in art.  He spends lots of time sketching, tracing, and trying out new art techniques.  He even got some alcohol based  markers.  These Copic markers are unique because you can blend colors with them!

Caleb often arrives home around 6 pm and we often have dinner and do a family activity.  We have recently enjoyed watching old episodes of the Simpsons, playing pictionary, Peanuts, or video games.  We have all been spending more time reading.  Here is our book list:   Zeke is rereading the Percy Jackson Series, Anna is on Book 2 of Harry Potter, Jenny is on book  6 of Harry Potter and Caleb is reading Game of Thrones.

Anna has also been reading to our new friend.


As you may have guessed after our last post we recently adopted a sweet little turtle.  I visited multiple aquatic  pet shops, and did some research online to find out what  would be needed to care for a turtle.  We ended up getting a “Stinkpot Musk” turtle.  Her shell is only about 1 inch big now, and full grown she will be about 4-5 inches.  We named her Suki , it means beloved in Japanese.  She  has already brought excitement and joy to our family as we all enjoy watching her swim, climb, eat and sleep.

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To read more about this breed of turtles go here.

In October our sweet kitty Sawyer will be able to join us!

Our weekends are pretty open and we will sometimes find a festival or event around Tokyo to do.  We are still hopping between churches and are not sure where we will land.  We may try to get involved in small groups soon to see what community life is like outside of the church walls.

That’s all for now, but look for more updates coming soon. Thanks for reading!

Hong Kong (part 2)

Apologies! After the last Hong Kong post I realized I left out some other pictures we took while we were at Ngong Ping village and  Tian Tan Buddha! The architecture and details really were amazing.  Some areas prohibited pictures to be taken and would not let us enter but here are a couple more pictures!

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Day 2 in Hong Kong started out really slow since it was raining and most of the things we had planned to do were outdoors. We wandered around the courtyard and the mall below the hotel a bit. We found some delicious donuts at the grocery store bakery and enjoyed some coffee. Eventually, and after a wardrobe change, we decided to venture out and head to Victoria Harbor and Victoria peak even though it was still drizzling.

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In order to get to Victoria peak we needed to take a taxi to the Harbor, then a ferry across to Hong Kong island.  The ferry was very fun.  We had to purchase small plastic tokens from a vending machine to use for the ferry.  We boarded and got on the lower deck.  It was a fun 10 minute ride to Hong Kong Island and was very cheap something like $2 for kids and 3 for adults. We caught a sunset while on the ferry on the way home.  The last picture in this group is the Star Ferry boat.


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Victoria peak was highly recommended by the tourist blogs and research I did. One other cool thing is that there is a tram that goes straight up the mountain. When we arrived at the tram station the line was so long. We were afraid we would be standing in line for 2 hours before we even got on the darn thing. This is where my research paid off. From what I read you can take a taxi up the mountain and ride the tram down to get the tram experience. We aren’t huge on waiting in unnecessary lines so we found a place to hail a taxi (read more about Hong Kong taxi’s later) and headed up the mountain. In general taxis in Hong Kong had proved to be very inexpensive,  but the the trip up the mountain was a little more pricey than the local trips we had taken.  The cost was the equivalent of about $30 USD but totally worth it. The road was very winding and the driver dove pretty fast. Maybe it was just me who was being tossed around a bit because my seat belt buckle was stuck and I could not fasten my seat belt. We eventually made it up to the peak and walked around the tourist area a bit. My research also told me that there was no need to pay the extra fee to go to the special viewing deck. Just down a path there was a lookout! By now the weather was cleared up a bit and we had some great views of the Hong Kong Skyline on Kowloon and the bay. Very cool. After walking around a little bit we were ready to head back down via tram. We waited in a much shorter line and bought tickets for our ride down.




Ok, I admit I did not understand the hype of riding a tram down the mountain but it was quite crazy. Everyone jammed into these 2 train like cars. There was enough space for about 30 people to sit on wooden benches, and another 20 people stood in the aisles. Once were loaded we headed down the mountain. It was much more of a thrill than I anticipated becasue a times you felt it was quite possible for the tram to race down the hill out of control. The Maximum Steepness: 48 % Track Gradient: 4–27 degrees  We even caught a bit of the ride on video for you.  I enjoy roller coasters more but this was a unique ride. 🙂

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Near the tram station is Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Garden and Hong Kong park. It was nice to be out in nature a bit but it was very hot and humid. We were quite uncomfortable climbing stairs and being bitten by mosquitoes. We were disappointed to find out that the Conservatory and aviary were closed for the day. We followed the paths found a waterfall, lake and lots of cute TURTLES.

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If you didn’t know I have become quite fascinated with turtles lately. Actually, I have always thought turtles were quite cute. My fascination only increased when we went to Mexico in 2012 and we actually got to swim with sea turtles when we were scuba diving. Consider yourself warned: I may end up getting a new pet in the near future. I am researching breeds of turtles that stay small. The pet store near us has a “Stinkpot musk” turtle that I am currently considering!

On the way back to the hotel be decided we should eat some traditional Chinese/ Hong Kong  food.  We looked through the menus at the restaurants in the mall at the base of our hotel.  We ended up going to Tim’s (yeah I know it is a really authentic name)  for some traditional Hong Kong food: Peking Duck! None of us had ever had this dish before but when we told the hostess we were interested in eating Peking dusk we were immediately treated like honored guests.   We were all happy to rest our weary feet and quickly dove in to the celery and scallions dipping them in a  sauce provided.  Soon after our duck arrived on a platter, with it’s head still attached.   It was all eyes on the chef as he carved the duck right at our table.   We were very surprised that the restaurant manager, several servers, and other tables were staring!  The chef presented us with the platter of sliced duck and we were given some thin crepes.  It was at this point that we realized WE HAD NO IDEA how to eat this meal.  Thankful for google (Again) we quickly learned how to properly eat the Peking duck, wrapping the thin slices of duck in the crepe, adding the celery and scallions and hoisin sauce.  So I guess we weren’t supposed to have eaten all those vegetables they had put on our table.  oops!  Soon the server realized our error and brought some more out.   The Peking duck tasted really good, the fatty skin was crispy, meat was tender and flavors were good.  Upon further speculation we feel that there should have been more meat on the duck but then again we had never eaten a whole duck before.   Maybe they are much leaner than a chicken!  Hmmmm, thoughts to ponder.   The remainder of the meat was stir fried with rice and brought over at a later time.  Over all it was a great meal and we left the restaurant full and happy!

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For your reading pleasure:  This is a tutorial on how to eat Peking duck:


Thanks for reading!  Look for more Hong Kong posts and other posts too…. we have so much more to share!


Tokyo Festivals 8/27

So this last weekend we did not have any big plans so Saturday we decided to check out some of the happenings around Tokyo. We all rode our bikes for the whole day and probably saved $50 versus riding the bus. There was rain off and on during the day but we were able to avoid it for the most part. The first event we went to was the Super Yosakoi dancing competition with over 100 groups competing. Here is the description from the event:

The original yosakoi dance started life in Kochi in 1954, where it was intended to help revitalise the struggling post-war economy, and Tokyo’s own Super Yosakoi festival has been going for over a decade now. The event sees 100-odd teams of brightly attired dancers trying to outdo each other as they strut their stuff to the rhythm of the naruko – a type of clapper that the people of Kochi originally used to scare birds away from their fields.

Anna bought a naruko that she decorated herself. The dances were very different from one group to the next, sometimes very traditional feeling, others very contemporary with moves stolen from hip hop and other styles. Here are some of the pictures and videos from the event. Continue reading

Meeting Caroline Kennedy

I should’ve posted this a while ago but better late than never. As we were packing for our relocation I received an email from the Japan BSC office saying that our Japan BSC president was invited to the US Independence Day celebration at the US Ambassador’s residence but as he was unable to attend would I like to attend in his place. This was a big surprise but also a big opportunity so I accepted and 8 days after our plane landed I was to attend the party and meet Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan. The funny part was that during the frantic packing in our final days in the US we did not strategically allocate belongings that should be in our carry-on luggage versus our air shipment. The air shipment would take 1-2 weeks to arrive so it wasn’t a huge gap except that all of my dress shoes were in the air shipment!

We were monitoring the progress of the air shipment day by day and hour by hour towards the end to see if we would get it before my event at the Ambassador’s residence. The air shipment arrived at like 3 pm and I eventually found my shoes and left the apartment around 4:30. That was cutting it very close!

The party was so much bigger than I expected and it was so very hot. The reception line to meet Mrs. Kennedy was quite long for a 5-second greeting and photo. It was a very short interaction but I was still quite nervous.  It felt so surreal; her father is JFK (she was 5 when he was assassinated) and she has a very high approval rating by the Japanese. This was my first event like this and I wasn’t sure of protocol or anything. Overall it went just fine and it was a short walk from our house so it all worked out.

They had all sorts of food and drink, a live band, and color guard presenting the US flag, etc. It was a cool event and I feel very privileged that I was able to attend but being so new to the area and Japan market, I did not know a single person there and we did not have any source for childcare yet so Jenny stayed home. So it was pretty lonely but a very cool party. It would have been super awesome and 10,000 times better if she was there with me.


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Here’s a video of the color guard. It was great to see the US represented in Japan.

Kindness of strangers

We recently became proud owners of bicycles.  It turns out it is a bit more difficult obtain a car.  We walk lots of places and take subways a lot.  Buying bikes has allowed us to get to and from places much quicker.  We all got the proper gear: helmets. lights, and a bell.  Tokyo is a bike tolerant city.  There are not very many “bike lanes or bike paths” but drivers are very aware of bicycles. The left lane (they drive on the left here) is mostly for left turns or parked taxis.  Often times bikes are also allowed on sidewalks.   We have our preferred riding order. Caleb leads, followed bu Anna, Zeke and I.

Last night we decided to ride our bikes to a restaurant to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary! Since we weren’t sure exactly how to get there, we ended up going a bit out of our way to cross streets safely.  We were almost to our destination when we needed to ride our bikes up on to the sidewalk from the street.  What  we didn’t know is that there was a sizable lip on the driveway entrance.  Caleb managed the transition just fine but Anna tried to turn into the driveway and her bike slipped out from under her.  I will let you know she is just fine. As her bike tipped over she  fell into the sidewalk. Caleb, Zeke and I  pulled our bikes aside to help her but even faster than we could help, several pedestrians stepped in to help. We were overwhelmed with the fact that 3 or 4 strangers  immediately rushed over picked up her bike and made sure we were all safe.  One kind lady also brought her band-aids and a small package of kleenex!   Annabelle recovered AMAZINGLY.  After some hugs, and wiping her tears we rode off to dinner.  She has a scrape on one elbow, a small bruise on her leg, and said today her back and neck were a little stiff.  Praise God for protection and for the kindness of strangers.


(We didn’t stop to take pictures of our injured girl, but here are some pictures of us on our bikes from the other day!)



Zeke is proud to pose in front of the Ferrari car dealership with his Ferrari bike!

Hong Kong Day 1 (of 4)

We are barely feeling settled into our home and our routines but we took a vacation anyway. Caleb had a work event in Hong Kong that would require him to be gone over the weekend. With one flight and 2 nights hotel paid for we decided it was a good opportunity to have a little vacation. Caleb took a couple days off of work so we could spend some time together  and explore Hong Kong.

Day 1: Our trip from our apartment in Japan to the airport ended up being quite crazy. We got up and ready to leave the house for our 9:25 am flight. Of course we had a couple last things  to throw in the suitcases but we headed out the door in what we felt was plenty of time. Instead of riding multiple trains, or one taxi the whole way, our plan was to take a taxi from our apartment to a station that ran a train that went directly to the airport. It seemed like a great plan until…….

As you may know Japan subway system is extensive. It really makes it possible to get just about anywhere without a car. We got to the subway station just fine, looked at the maps, followed the signs, went to the right platform but we got onto the wrong train. We found out later that one train would  turn into an airport express train. We were NOT on THAT train! After some time checking the subway maps on our phone, reading the scrolling announcements that are displayed in the subway cars (mostly in Japanese, with occasional English) , and having a fair amount of panic we decided it would be best to get off the train and get onto another one. At the station we determined we  indeed had been on the wrong train and needed to wait another 10 minutes to get on the correct one.

We finally got to the airport and knew we were cutting it really close for our flight. We tried to check in on-line, at home before we left but no luck, we tried to check in at the kiosk at the airport, no luck. We followed to signs to the ticket booth for Japan Airlines only to be directed to another counter for their partner airline. As we finally got to the correct desk we told the receptionist we were in a big hurry and needed to get our tickets right away. We got to cut in line and we got our tickets but our seats were spread throughout the plane. At this point I think we had 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off. The kids had been doing really good with our chaotic morning but Zeke was REALLY starting to panic now. We rushed to security and were able to get through fairly quickly! Next, we headed to immigration. The line was pretty short and we were feeling like everything may work just fine. When we got to the counter we were turned away because we had not filled out the proper paperwork. We exited the line and began to fill out the papers. I had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins that my hand was shaking while I was attempting to fill out the papers and needed to start a new form because I switched the kids birth years. Sometimes having 2 kids with birthdays in the same moth is hard!   Once we got the paperwork filled out correctly we had to reenter the line. Soon after, someone asked us if she could cut in line because her flight was about to leave. We found out she was on the same flight as we were. I guess we weren’t the only ones running late. After getting through immigration we ran, fast,   all 4  of us carrying backpacks and rolling our carry on roller bags, down the 5 moving walkways to the gate. You should take a minute to visualize this.  It is quite hilarious!  I am sure we turned lots of heads! As we arrived at the gate out of breath we told the attendant our flight number and she informed us OUR FLIGHT HAD BEEN DELAYED! It was only then that I noticed the hundred people waiting next to the gate, all staring at us! We caught our breath and waited in line for an additional 15 minutes before boarding. The flight went fine and the kids did great even though our seats were spread throughout the plane. So happy to have older kids! There is no way this would have worked if they were younger!

Hong Kong Geography

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Hong Kong International airport is on Lantau Island and since this was 30-45 minutes from our hotel.  We decided to do some sightseeing on Lanau Island right away. I had done some research ahead of time to see which things we should see and do. On the top of the list was visiting Tian Tan “Big Buddha” From the airport we to took a taxi to the cable car station. Luckily we were able to put our luggage in storage there. We bought tickets for the cable car. It was an amazing experience. We got in the gondola type cable car and off we went on our 3.7 km journey through the mountainous Island. At one point they stopped us because it was windy. That was a bit freaky. Our car didn’t move much but we just sat there for a couple minutes dangling in the sky watching as clouds rolled over the hill in front of us! The cable car ride took about 25 minutes for us to get the Ngong Ping village which hosts the Tian Tan Buddha.
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Ngong Ping Cable Car is a visually spectacular 5.7km bi-cable ropeway. As the first of its kind Hong Kong tourist destination, the cable car journey begins from Tung Chung, crossing Tung Chung Bay to reach the angle station on Airport Island and turning about 60 degrees in the air towards North Lantau. Visitors looking for something to complete their Hong Kong tourist attractions list will enjoy some of the best views during their joyful 25-minute ride: the vistas of the distant and vast South China Sea and the rolling grassland slopes of North Lantau Country Park from the cable car slowly take over from the hustle and bustle of the city. The journey also offers a breathtaking panorama of the Hong Kong International Airport, verdant, mountainous terrain of Lantau Island, Tian Tan Buddha and the 360-degree view of Ngong Ping Plateau.

The village was cute and filled with shops, a tea house, theater, restaurants, cultural demonstrations, shrines and statues. We even saw cows! They were resting in the grass near some of the statues. It was funny to watch tourists cautiously walk up to pose with the cows that were very tame and used to people  So of course we followed along and took pictures of the cows too 😉IMG_1021 After walking around the village a bit and looking at the shrines we headed up the 262 stairs to get a better look at the huge statue. It was pretty incredible to see this piece of culture. To find out more visit this site:

Here we are at the entrance!





The climate in Hong Kong is quite tropical.  We were all quite tired and warm after our busy afternoon.  We decided it would be best to head towards the hotel to unwind a bit.  From Npong Village we took the cable car back to the station and then figured out how to get train tickets. We bought a pre-paid sim card for my phone and used the change to purchase subway tickets to our hotel. It was only a 30 minute train ride and the station was in the basement of our hotel / mall so that was super convenient! Caleb’s work event was in Kowloon at the W Hong Kong,  a luxury hotel with an outdoor swimming pool on the 76th floor!

Instead of switching hotels midway through our trip to save some money we decided to make things easier and enjoy the extra comforts!  It was a nice hotel with lots of little extras. We discovered the basement levels of the hotel connected to a large shopping mall complete with ice rink, movie theater and grocery store.  We picked up some snacks and headed to our room .  The kids were impressed with the glass elevators  that had lights in the floor!  Most of the time there was a concierge waiting to push the elevator buttons for you.  The room was nice and we were happy they were able to find us a room with 2 beds.  (Although the beds felt quite small.  I think they were somewhere between a full and queen size)    The kids got changed right away because they wanted to check out the pool!    They insisted on wearing the fancy robes. 🙂  They are such silly kids.  I think they kind of looks like scientists on their way to the lab!  The kids spent an hour or so in the pool while Caleb and I sat poolside with a drink!  We were all we were all ready for bed soon after.

People Matter part 2

As promised I wanted to finish up my people matter post! (but of course it’s later than I hoped to be posting this)   I mentioned in our last post being in a new city, away from all things familiar makes you have a new respect and gratitude for friendly, kind, and familiar people.

In our last weeks in Minnesota we were so happy to spend some time with family!  Caleb’s parents (Loren and Colleen) came to visit.  We were in over our heads with things that needed to happen prior to moving.  They pitched right in and helped with everything from putting the kids to bed, to  repairing water or insect damage on a window ledge using a sticky bondo substance, and painting walls.  Thank you Loren and Colleen for your help, prayers, and support.  We made sure to add a little fun and went to Valley Fair with the Boston Scientific Family Fun day!

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My parents (Tom and Julie) are helping us maintain long term valuables.  They are  tremendous help by fostering our sweet dog Shadow and storing our van wile we are gone.    3 days before our move I drove with the kids to Madison to drop off the van.  It was a great time to visit with my family.  My brother Nick even came to see us for a bit and help with the transport of the van back to Illinois.  We got to stay in a great hotel with pool and had a great visit.  Thanks Tom and Julie for the prayers, support, hotel stay, storing our van, and caring for our dog! 

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Sadly Caleb was stuck with the dirty work of spraying the ceiling, and multiple other moving tasks.   Thanks Caleb for letting us go to Madison and spend time with my parents!


Caleb has loved the Ultimate Frisbee community in Minnesota.  He has played on leagues and at pick up games.  It was always a great source of joy for him. Thanks to Plaid Pickup Ultimate “Game to 100” for giving him something fun to do in the weekend we were gone in Madison.


We also had some dear friends invite us over on our last nights in Minnesota.  Thanks to Scott and Amy Whitmore for sharing your new home, a delicious meal, and your wonderful friendship.

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In our last year in Minnesota we discovered we had fun friends just across the street.  Thanks Pete and Lesley for the evenings of friendship, laughter, hot tubbing, and for feeding us one of our last MN meals! Totes! (twice).


We are beginning to make connections in Tokyo.  The kids attended one week of suIMG_0807mmer school at Tokyo International School (TIS).  It was a wonderful opportunity for them to be around other kids, get familiar with their school, and have fun learning.  Anna made quick friends with a girl named Ashley.  Since she also got on the bus at the same stop I got to know her mom Emma as well.   Emma and her kids were in Tokyo visiting from Taiwan.  I was so happy to meet a friendly mom who spoke English!  We spent a couple afternoons with the kids at the American club and at a kids gym place.  Sadly, they returned home to Taiwan just days after we met them. When they left Emma shared a box of Traditional Taiwanese Pineapple cake with us.  Such a sweet and tasty gift!

IMG_0773 IMG_0912Emma told us about this cool gym place, I think it’s called Nandemo; its like a community center that is all free for Manato-ku residents.  We filled out the registration card and got to use the whole center. They had a craft room, a toddler kids room, a gym (with unicycles, soccer, small kids climbing structures, and other equipment you could check out).  You can also check out video games to be used on their system.  In the video game room their is one play station.  The check out a game from the front desk, then need to set the timer on the basket for 15 minutes. When


the timer goes off its the next kid’s turn.  What a cool idea! While we were there Zeke spent A LOT of time trying to ride a unicycle.  There were lots of smaller kids zooming around this gym.  Zeke’s determination paid off and eventually he was able to ride a short distance!!!! Way to go Zeke!!!!

We have attended two churches in Tokyo so far.  We have not settled in to a “home” church yet but are  we are encouraged to know God is here and people who love him are here too.  The kids also attended a week of VBS at Tokyo Baptist Church.  I was a week full of fun songs, snacks, crafts, and more. I spent a couple mornings volunteering in the craft station.  We made friends with another nice family who was in Tokyo for 6 months from Texas.  Elizabeth Clark and her husband are both professors and have spent time in Tokyo 10 years ago. They returned this January with their 3 children to stay for 6 months.   The kids and I made quick friends with them and spent a couple afternoons after VBS hanging out.  Sadly they are leaving in a couple weeks as well.

We are hopeful that we will continue to make connections and hope to keep in touch  with many of you from the US.

People Matter… part 1

One of the hardest things to leave in Minnesota was our friends and  support network. We have now been in Tokyo for a little over a month and it is safe to say we miss our people.  We are thankful for technology and have been able to keep in touch with some people via google hangout video, facebook messenger and facetime!  We even have gotten a piece of personal mail, which is incredible also for the fact that most mail we get is in Japanese!?!!

As we were busy packing and preparing for our big move I continually reminded myself “PEOPLE MATTER.”  Our to-do-lists were never ending and we were stressed out but we knew people were more important than things.  We tried to prioritize people as much as we could.

We felt so blessed our small group and some folks from Mercy’s Care team were willing to help us prepare our house for rental. Thank you small group!
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Our dear friends Annetta  and Barnabas Howard offered to host a going away party for us.  When Jess Carlson also offered the help I knew they would get the job done!   Life was chaotic for us but  they handled it all beautifully.  We are so blessed by all the hard work they put in.  We had so much delicious food left over I didn’t even have to cook for a week! Thank you Annetta, Barnabas, Jess, Brett, and everyone who came to our party! I know there are some pictures that we missed 🙁  But we are thankful for everyone who came out!

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There are also a couple people who stopped by in the last couple days before we left…. notice Caleb and I are looking pretty tired and sweaty from working on all the house stuff. Thanks friends!

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I have so much more to write, more people to thank but I am going to post now with the goal of posting “People Mattter Part 2” within one week!  Stay tuned.  As always THANKS FOR READING!



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