Category Archives: Key Learnings

Everyone thinks I hate traveling, BUT…

It’s only half true. I detest the amount of time we spend away from home, but I know it’s necessary. I abhor losing contact with friends and family (though tech makes it better), because it means if something happens, I’m not there for them. I’ve missed the births of my cousin and a dear friends baby. Heck, I’ve missed the first few weeks of school four years in a row, and every time I come back, I feel like the new kid. This time around we’ll be gone for 2 months, and over those months, I’ll slowly lose touch with friends.

But the traveling itself? It’s amazing! We see sights that people spend their entire lives trying to see! Stuff like the Coliseum in Rome, the Parthenon in Athens, and the Tower of London (take a guess as to where that is)! I hear and learn parts of languages that I might have never heard, like Indonesian or Icelandic. I experience things that help me grow and learn.

If you have been following us for a while, you all know that we try to serve others on these trips as well. These past few years we have been spending that time helping at a YWAM base in Bad Blankenburg, a little town in Germany filled with refugees. This has led to some memories that I will cherish forever, and will be eternally grateful.

I may have my grievances with parts of it, and while I’m not completely thankful of being told ‘Pack a bag, we’re going to _____!’, I’m glad that my parents take me with them.

Anyways, at this point I’m just rambling, so I’ll be going now.

Signing off,


Cash crisis 

Have you heard of the Indian cash crisis? I had read a little blurb last week on The Skimm, my daily sassy news blurb, but didn’t think a whole lot about about it.

“At the root of this chaos is the fact that India is an overwhelmingly paper currency country: some 90% of the transactions are done with cash….The two scrapped denominations – 500 and 1,000 rupees – account for more than 85% of the value of cash in circulation.” *

Basically much of India’s economy runs on cash and many people who operate in cash never pay taxes. In an effort to force the issue, make more people pay taxes, and register the money they currently have, the government declared the two biggest bills, 500 and 1000 rupees, worth just over $7 and $14 respectively, to no longer be legal tender. They gave 4 hours notice for this.

Can you imagine? Suddenly most of your money, say all your $20s, is completely worthless and ATMs only give out $1s.

There will be new bills coming at the end of December, but until then, the 100 rupee note, worth not quite $1.50, will have to be exchanged for at banks with ID and only those notes are available at ATMs.

I hope I didn’t lose you yet!

Blah, blah, blah…right? But this is significantly affecting our stay in India! Anywhere we can pay in card is fine…but those places are very few and tend to be the relatively expensive restaurants and shops. Most places operate in cash only. The cash that Paul had obtained from an ATM before this announcement is dwindling and it has proven very difficult to exchange the last big bill he has. The banks have gigantic lines spilling onto the streets long before they open every day.

Why don’t we just get more at another ATM? They are all out of cash. All of them! There are long lines or crowds around all of the ATMs and banks in the area until that machine is empty, then the crowd rushes to the next one only to have the same experience repeated. Not to mention, there is a really low weekly amount that can be withdrawn anyway. We have visited multiple ATMs multiple times a day since arriving with no luck yet!

We have been in countries with interesting government and bank situations happening before, but it has never affected us quite this directly. When we visited Athens, Greece last year we knew well ahead of our arrival of the bank crisis and were able to stockpile Euros in preparation. Unfortunately, the demonetization in India occurred while Paul was already here, and since there are no new bills yet, I couldn’t even order money ahead at home.

Yesterday and today, as the kids and I went in search of a place for lunch that would accept credit cards, we were told no at several establishments. As we walked around, we passed about 4 banks/ATMs with lines/crowds around them. All of us felt the frustration of the men there. That isn’t to say that I feel unsafe…I just don’t want to hang around any longer than absolutely necessary.

In a classic example of Indian culture and not telling someone “no,” the manager of our apartment has told us every day that he will exchange our big, now worthless bill at a given time or part of the day and then never shows. We will see! Today he says he will be here “post lunch” for the exchange…I’m not holding my breath!

In the meantime, one of Paul’s co-workers has kindly spotted us some cash and another is working with a reputable agency to help us exchange at a reasonable rate some American cash we brought.

Until we get more cash, we will continue visiting a little “provisions” store that sells some western grocery items and accepts credit cards. Lunch yesterday ended up being an Indian version of Top Ramen with some eggs and Coke. It works for now. Just don’t tell my mom that I didn’t have any vegetables with that meal! 😊

Thankfully, this story is not going to end on a sad note.

Late in the afternoon, the apartment manager came to the door and exchanged the 1000 bill for us. Yay!

The Thomas Cook agency that exists only to exchange money is all tapped out. So, they won’t be of help to us yet.

But late at night, Paul went to three ATMs. He was the 26th person in line at 11:30 at night. 30 minutes later the machine still had money and we are thrilled to have some cash in hand!

Today, this is what victory looks like: brand new bills in serial number order. 

(Here is a good, quick, updated article on the situation and The Skimm linked to this article )


Thank You, Friends from Abroad in 2015

Starting off 2016 by giving a shout out to the friends (old and new) whom we met abroad in 2015. You shared meals; you shared your homes; and, some of you allowed us to become a significant part of your lives for a season. ALL of you gave selflessly to help enrich our #SeattleBundas Family Sabbatical.

どうもありがとう, Terimah kasih, ขอบคุณครับ, ຂອບໃຈ, cảm ơn bạn, អរគុណ, Danke schön, Merci beaucoup, Grazie, Hvala, Teşekkür ederim, ευχαριστώ, and


Knock, knock! It’s the Bundas calling.

We have visited so many places and the part of travel that is the most interesting and soul satisfying is connecting with people. This is one of those times when I feel like writing about our experience can only give a dull and flat reflection of something beautiful and rich. I wish that I was a real writer and could better portray these feelings! Sure, Disneyland Paris is amazing and we had a fabulous time time there. Seeing the wonders of Rome was awesome in every sense of the word. But spending time with new and old friends has made this time incredible. I could go on and on for ages about all of the friends we met and saw, but I will keep it to just the four families we stayed with.

We like staying with people for many reasons. We feel like we get a more realistic view of what it is like to live in a given place. What kinds of food are in the cupboards and what condiments are on the table? These things are different everywhere you go. Connecting with people is so much easier in a comfortable setting like a home. We had the opportunity to spend precious time with some old friends as well as stay with family of friends. Really, how cool is that: inviting strangers to stay with you based only on the fact that they know your sister? A couple of the friends we visited have children and seeing our children become friends is one of the most beautiful experiences!

In Paris we were privileged to be able to stay at the home of our old neighbor’s sister. I could not believe how welcoming they were! We were pulled in and treated as if we were part of the family even though we had never met and it was a little difficult to communicate due to the language difference. From the moment we walked on the door and were greeted with champagne and snacks while every evening we were absolutely spoiled with gourmet dinners as we began to develop a friendship. Their son, Antoine, was also home and added many memorable moments to our conversations and dropped us off at the train station in the mornings. Marie-Ludovich and Emmanuel hope to one day soon come visit some of the U.S. National Parks and I sincerely hope we are able to connect and spend time together again.

Emmanuel and Marie-Ludovique in Paris.
Antoine: “If it’s not French, it’s not cheese!” 🙂

Once upon a time I had a very cool youth choir director that became a good family friend. He married a very sweet gal from church and they are now serving with their three kids as missionaries in Brussels. Well, when you are spending almost two weeks only a couple hours train ride away from an old friend, of course we would pop over for a visit! This was the first time on this trip for our kids to have time with other kids. It was so much fun to see the kids playing together until late at night while we got to spend time chatting as adults. Glen played the role of fabulous tour guide, they treated us to spectacular dinners, and all of the kids were glad to play together. Visiting Glen, Dana, and the kids was a special time for us.

Moules-frites (Mussels and Fries) with the Johnsen Family in Brussells.
The Bunda and Johnsen kids are pals now!

In southwest England we had the blessing of staying with the Ackrill family. Clare had been on the same DTS school as Paul 21 years ago and I had the opportunity to meet this sweetie the following year. She and Dave jumped to volunteer to have us at their home. We spent time exploring the Somerset area (Did you know that Cheddar is a place? Like where the cheese comes from?) and generally getting along amazingly well. Their girls and Kamaile now regularly text and are Instagram pals.

Bundas and Ackrills in front of the Wells Cathedral.
Fish and chips together at Papa’s in Weston-super-Mare.

So, what is it about the combination of spending time with people we haven’t seen for ages with seeing our children get along? There is something special there that is really difficult for me to articulate!

On the last couple days of our adventure we were able to stay with the Dahers in Switzerland. They treated us like family, welcoming us to their home and table and showing us some fabulous sight of the area. They introduced us to my new favorite food: reclette. If you need to know more about this heavenly dish, you can read this.

Lawrence and Doris were fabulous hosts in Thun, even introducing us to reclette here in their sunroom.

We are forever grateful to each of these families who provided us with a comfortable place to stay, introduced us to delicious local food, and welcomed us in their homes as family. We feel blessed for our time together and have come away with a richer experience than we even hoped for!

Down Day

We have been going hard for weeks now. We have all been thoroughly enjoying our travels but have gotten pretty exhausted by the pace we have been keeping. We have all begun to have shorter tempers and frustration levels.

Paul and I had initially talked about planning some rest days in our calendar, but somehow when you only have 2-3 days in any given place it is hard to make yourself stop. There is never enough time to see and do everything!

Last night we were out until 1:00 am with the kids. The Milan Expo 2015 was fun and worth our time there, but we are wiped out now! You should have seen us dragging ourselves home.


The USA Pavilion at the Expo. Interesting, but not as impressive as many of the other exhibits.
So, we slept in until after 10:00. Then we got up, hung laundry out to dry, I cooked some food (Risotto was a hit!), and we proceeded to stay in our pajamas…for hours. I admit, it is nice! We parents took care of some travel details. The kids worked on blogs, caught up on social media, and read. But that is all. 


Trey working on his next blog.
I’m sorry, Milan, that we have missed almost a whole day of time with you, but I am not sorry for the day we are enjoying! I promise we will hang out tonight. 

All in all, it has been a good day. A necessary day. Congratulations, Kamaile: it is 4:00pm and you are the only one dressed. 

Foods, Friends, and Family.

Ever since I was able to talk, there was one prayer that we would always say. It goes like this: “Thank you Jesus for this food, and our friends, and our family. Please help us to make wise choices. In your name we pray, Amen.

I wish to share this with you because the three topics that I am going to talk about today are Food🍔, Friends😜, and Family😀, and how I have specifically missed (or not missed) parts of each one during this trip.

“…I learned during this trip that you don’t need as much as you think you need to live.”

Some of the food that I missed during our trip was Mexican food. I totally didn’t think I would miss it, but the air here smells like a Mexican restaurant and it drives me nuts! When we get home, I hope that the first restaurant that we go to is Santa Fe, a really good Mexican restaurant in Kirkland, or the food truck at the bottom of the hill. The food that I thought I would miss was practically all American-style foods, but since there are tons of tourists here, I am able to have plenty of burgers, which is really surprising to me. 

I am missing a lot of friends that I have back home, like Piers, one of my best friends, and Awsumb (pronounced awesome), my best friend at ICS. I have actually found some other friends in Indonesia, the Johnsons who live just down the road from where we were staying. My biggest surprise was that I was able to still text my friends in the States, even though I am fourteen time zones away.

I am sad because of how much I miss my family. This year we missed the Fourth of July party at my grandparents house, and I was really looking forward to seeing family and awesome fireworks. What surprised me though it’s that we have been able to FaceTime family and friends back home, and that helps me not miss them as much.

That is how I have missed food, friends, and family throughout our trip. The biggest surprise was that I really missed  good ramen even though there are a bunch of other Asian noodles!😜  But I learned during this trip that you don’t need as much as you think you need to live.

See ya!!

Damn, I’m Grouchy

It’s Wednesday afternoon here in Bandung. Sitting here at our favorite western-style-coffee-donut chain not named Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, neither an Iced Hazelnut Latte nor a Choco Forest J.Cronut (see Wikipedia under “chocolatey, croissanty concoction created by the Devil”) can break my funk. I’m irritable. I’m snapping at Laura and the kids for the dumbest reasons. Frankly, I need to get a grip. 


J.Co at Ciwalk
What’s the deal?!

It wasn’t the 3-mile walk we just took through back-alleys, a graveyard, and countless stares from the locals. We’re quite used to sticking out like sore thumbs and we’ve really come to love and appreciate the beauty in that which we once considered messy. 

It wasn’t the nasty snarl of moto and mobil (car) traffic. While crossing the street was particularly hairy this afternoon–no doubt due to the many people scrambling in preparation for Lebaran (or Idul Fitri, a major Indonesian holiday)–it was way more fun than stressful. Kamaile even mentioned how much she prefers traffic here over what we experience in Seattle.

It wasn’t the overly persistent street vendor trying to sell me something despite the fact that I had no clue what that something was. I could’ve sworn he said it l was for weed, but that would make zero sense around here. According to this guy that I met while hiking recently, not only is weed illegal, but it’s really hard to get. But I digress…

Heck, it wasn’t even the heat. If you’ve been following this blog for the past few months, you know how much I like to complain about heat, humidity, and my sweat. The high today was 82F with 81% humidity. Funnily enough, I didn’t even mind. 

As I write, I’m suddenly realizing that I’m grouchy because this SE Asia leg of our Family Sabbatical is about to come to a close. 4 sleeps and we head back to the states.

I’m excited to go home and see family and friends. I’m excited to eat decent Mexican food. I’m excited to sleep in my own bed and shower in my bathroom. I’m excited to have people over for BBQs and s’mores by the fire. I’m excited for some of the creature comforts that my comfortable First-World life affords (e.g. Hi-speed WiFi, my huge 4K HDTV, playing Destiny with Trey, etc.). 

On the flip side, I’m sad to leave Waldemar and Rosemarie Kowalski, Pauline, Josie, Friska, Pak Asep, Ibus Assih and Apong, the Street Kids at Stasiun Hall (more in a future blog), and the many other new friends we’ve made during our time here in Bandung… I’m also frustrated that we didn’t make more progress connecting with potential local partners for the Kowalskis.


Pak Asep, Pauline, and the #SeattleBundas
Finally, I’m a little scared about what happens next. We remain on track to keep this train moving from a financial perspective, so that’s not the issue. We’re still planning on heading to Europe, but in the absence of firm plans or even plane tickets, we’re facing at least a solid month of uncertainty. In the meantime, I will undoubtedly wrestle even more with that voice of doubt that I’ve somehow managed to keep tucked away in far reaches of my mind these past few months: “Are you insane? Shouldn’t you be saving money? You’re throwing away your career! What about your family’s future?”

So, yeah… this is more of a vent than a blog, which at least would have the potential to be valuable to you. Regardless, I’m trusting that if you’ve read this far you can handle it. I’m also trusting that we’ve made and will continue to make the right decisions. For as long as Laura and I have been together, things just have a way of working out. God is good. All the time. 

Keeping it real. 

My feet have dust…

…on them from five countries I never thought I would visit. It never occurred to me to see Thailand or Indonesia. When growing up, it was crazy to think of one day traveling to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Now I have been to all of these. 

My tongue has tripped to say thank-you in those languages as it has appreciated the tastes of so many new dishes and flavors. Who knew you could prepare rice in so many ways. 

My eyes have seen amazing ancient wonders and sites of horrible human atrocities. We saw signs declaring areas now clear of landmines. We spoke to people who had parents imprisoned and “re-educated”. We climbed over temples and grounds a millennia old. 

My ears have grown used to ignoring the sounds of unfamiliar languages that mystify me and perking up when I hear any English. Mosque prayer calls, the ringing of a bell in a Buddhist temple, chickens and roosters all hours of the day, and someone always trying to sell me something are all in this month’s soundtrack. 

My heart is full of appreciation and love for the people we have met. I am touched that we have made friends all over. Our family of four is now knit tighter because of our shared experiences.*

The next phase of our adventure has us in Bandung for a few more weeks. I am looking forward to many more new experiences and friendships.

* Editor’s Note: This is the first post in nearly 3 weeks. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you know that much has happened since then. Be on the lookout for a series of posts from all of the #SeattleBundas capturing some of those experiences in the coming days. Thanks!

Laos: I Gotta Get, I Got-Got Ta Get It.

The tune to “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” had been on repeat in my brain for nearly 24 hours. The words, however, were slightly altered and far less catchy:

“I left my iPhone in Kuang Si Waterfall. I left my iPhone in Kuang Si Waterfall. I left my iPhone in Kuang Si Waterfall. I gotta get, I got-got ta get it.” – A Tribe Called Quest

Saturday was shaping up to be one of our very best since we left Seattle back on May 11th.

Our Itinerary:

  • Have breakfast in a peaceful, serene setting at our ridiculously cool hotel (My Dream Boutique Resort).
  • Take a blissfully lazy, 4-hour ride on the Mekong River via Long Boat (or as our guide, Sengphone, calls it, “Tourist Boat”). 
  • Buy whiskey from a riverside village distillery, where they were known to include Scorpions and Cobras in the bottle. Come on, Tequila makers, is a little worm all you’ve got?
  • Visit literally thousands of Buddha statues at Pak Ou Caves.
  • See 28 bears from the region that have been rescued from poachers trying to illegally bring them into China.
  • Swim and dive in the cool, refreshing waters of Kuang Si Falls.

The weather here in SE Asia has been incredibly hot & humid. I’d actually prefer to use words like “oppressive,” “swampy,” and “unbearable” here, but I’ll do my best to tone down the drama. While we’ve finally come to accept the fact that we will be drenched in sweat at least a couple times a day, the prospect of cooling off at Kuang Si Falls made us all lose our minds a bit.

In fact, WE ALL GOT A LITTLE GIDDY as we approached the beautiful, light-blue water. The pools and surrounding areas were filled with countless groups of both locals and tourists vying for places to establish a home base. While a pragmatic approach for us would’ve been to work together to find a spot, change, swim, etc., we each kicked immediately into auto-pilot, scattered upon arrival, and raced to get in the water. This moment of exuberance would later come back to bite us in the butt. Hard.

Diving off of the tree (or half-falling, or half-jumping, or belly-flopping) and into the pool was a blast. After a couple “safe,” feet-first jumps, Trey tried a front summersault and almost nailed it. Meanwhile, Kamaile, as the only girl her age even trying to jump, quickly amassed a cheering section of local women and fellow travelers. We swam around the pools and giggled at all the little (we hope) fish that constantly nibbled at our feet. When we eventually decided to sit at the base of the smaller waterfall for a few minutes, I remember thinking how magical the past hour had been. 

About 10 minutes later, it was time to dry off and head further up the falls to see the main waterfall. As we gathered up our belongings for the quick walk, Trey turned to me with an ashen look in his face saying, “Dad, I’m pretty sure I left my phone in the changing room.” I know how difficult it is for the kid with the eternally golden tan to look that way, mind you, so I knew we were in trouble. 

The next 15 minutes were a blur. We raced over to the changing room and gave it a once, twice, thrice-over. Gone. In between each pass, anyone within 50 meters heard (or at least saw) me alternating between interrogating Trey to retrace his every move; and, unfairly, unkindly, and dare I say inappropriately berating him for “just not thinking, again.” It. Was. An. Ugly. Scene. Definitely not a proud moment as a Father. Definitely not my proud moment as a man committed to showing people–family, friends, strangers–the Jesus kind of love. 

“I gotta get, I got-got ta get it.”

Unfortunately, we couldn’t just call the phone or ping it via Find My iPhone as we normally would. Laos is one country with whom T-Mobile does not currently have an awesome international roaming agreement. Since we were only going to be in Luang Prabang for a few days, we decided not to buy local SIM cards and instead kept our phones in Airplane Mode–basically giving us off-line, WiFi-only devices while there. 

The phone was officially M.I.A. Trey was certain about where he’d left it, so the only logical conclusion was that someone either still had the phone in their possession or had already turned it in. Our hope was that whomever picked up the phone would be gracious enough to return it.

“I gotta get, I got-got ta get it.”

I sprint-walked back to the park entrance and tried to explain to the guards what had happened. Needless to say, I was disappointed (and more than a little ticked off) when they chuckled as they told me all about how tourists lose phones every day and that we might get it back. This exchange was almost entirely in Laotian, but I could understand their meaning quite well.

“I gotta get, I got-got ta get it.”

At this point, we felt a sense of helplessness, each for totally different reasons: Trey beat himself up over the whole thing happening in the first place; Laura fought to keep Trey and me from biting each other’s heads off; and, Kamaile struggled to merely endure the tension–something she does not often handle well. 

Meanwhile, it slowly dawned on me that I had taken the password lock off of Trey’s phone a few days earlier. Crap! This would mean that anyone with bad intention could potentially start messing with the thousands of pics, vids, contacts, files, etc., via the apps on the phone. Worse, yet, if that person were to enable data roaming, etc., he/she would have the ability to quickly rack up thousands of dollars in charges. We needed to get to an Internet connection quickly so that I could lock the phone down before too much damage was done. I frantically directed Sengphone to get us get us back to the hotel ASAP.

“I gotta get, I got-got ta get it.”

The 45-minute ride back to the hotel was excruciating. Knowing that we were in a race against both time and the nefarious phone-finder (as I’d built him/her up to be in my head by then), just sitting there in the transit van proved to be the perfect way to inspire a kind of pointless rumination that sent my blood pressure soaring. The awkward silence in which we rode was broken occasionally by Sengphone asking well-intentioned but tech-clueless questions, Laura giving Trey a few reassuring words, Trey praying, and me sighing deeply every 30 seconds or so. 

As soon as we arrived at the hotel, I jumped onto WiFi and completed all of the steps recommended by Apple. Then the waiting game began.

My best guess was that one of following scenarios was most likely to occur:

  1. Some Good Samaritan either turns the phone in or texts me directly (I had previously placed an “If found, please contact” lock screen message on the phone); or,
  2. Apple’s Lost Mode feature kicks in as soon as someone tries to use the phone to access either a cellular or WiFi network.

Either way, getting the phone back was an iffy proposition, at best. 

“I gotta get, I got-got ta get it.”

On Sunday morning, our Luang Prabang itinerary continued with the 5:30am Alms Giving Ceremony, and visits to nearby villages whose people specialized in making crafts such as Silk, Paper, and Ceramics. All of these were wonderful experiences, but it was hard to escape thinking about the missing phone and/or data every other moment. I know, lame. 

On Sunday afternoon, we were supposed to do more of what I call “Tourist See, Tourist Buy” visits, but I called an audible and asked that we be brought back to the hotel so we could check out early and spend some time in back in the City Center before heading out to the airport.

As soon as we got back to our room, I received a notification from Apple that Lost Mode had been activated on Trey’s phone just 4 minutes earlier, meaning that someone had just attempted to connect to a network. It worked! Even crazier, Lost Mode gave me an approximate location of that attempt via a satellite map on my phone. It was less than a block away from the hotel!


Our hotel was the purple dot at the far left.

I could not believe what was happening. We were fortunate that the phone might be only a couple blocks away, but why did the phone immediately go back offline again? Why hadn’t the person on the other end followed the Lost Mode prompts to contact me via phone, text, or email, yet? Was he/she planning on keeping it, after all? What do we do now?

As a family, we made a pact about a week ago that we would keep each other accountable as Jesus Followers by actually asking God for guidance whenever we were in a sticky situation before setting off to solve the problem. Suddenly, we were facing our first opportunity to put our beliefs into action. We said a simple, earnest prayer, then asked our family and friends via Facebook to do the same.

Thanks for your support!

We decided to enlist the help of the hotel manager, Joy, to act as our guide. We didn’t know the neighborhood, would need a translator as we chatted with folks in the area, and were counting on him to help us sniff out any dicey situations we might encounter. While the kids stayed back at the hotel, Laura and I headed off to the last known location reported by Apple. 

We arrived at a building that looked like it could be the one shown on the satellite map, but there were huge gates at the front. I figured that anyone wanting to keep the phone as their own would attempt to purchase a new SIM card, so we checked with the little store next door instead. No dice. No recent customers requesting SIM cards or new activations. 

We went back to the gate of the first building. The woman who answered tried to identify the building on the satellite map, but couldn’t manage it. She called out to a man who happened to be walking down the street towards us. He wasn’t any more successful at pin-pointing the building, but rather than shrugging and say “good luck,” he invited me into his bosses office to see if we could get a better map on his bosses computer. This was HUGE.

Within seconds, that man, his boss, and 2 other co-workers were all huddled with me around the computer. After a barrage of words I could not understand, they all agreed that the location in question had to be the guesthouse another 100m down the road. Joy, Laura, and I headed over to the guesthouse. The crazy part is that we had no clue what we’d do when we actually arrived. 

This particular guesthouse was like a collection of 6 studio apartments that were being rented out to local for medium- to long-term stays. Joy parked the van in the driveway and asked if there was anything specific I wanted him to say. I immediately replied, “You’re the expert. What do you recommend?” I think Joy actually puffed out his chest a bit in that moment, as if to say, “You’re right, I GOT THIS.” 

We stepped up to the first apartment. This buff Laotian dude in a tight t-shirt that read “Oh My Buddha,” jeans, and a cowboy hat introduced himself as Le. Joy told him that we were asking around to see if anyone had found a black iPhone 5 in the last 24 hours; and, that we were offering a reward for the right one. Le said that he hadn’t seen any, but that I should definitely ask the people next door. Le also said that he knew the owner of the guesthouse and he offered to leave my contact info with him. In Le’s words, “I just have to help.”

The second apartment turned up nothing, but Laura mentioned later that she’d noticed a woman replacing the SIM card in her phone just moments before Joy started talking to her. Fishy, IMO. 

As I wrapped up with both Le and the woman at the second apartment, Joy had already moved on to the third apartment. He was leaning on a motorcycle just outside the door with a little smile on his face. I remember thinking as we approached that Joy looked like a cat that had finally caught the mouse he’d been chasing all afternoon. He said that the woman standing in the doorway in front of me had a friend who’d recently found an iPhone. That friend was on her way and would be back in a couple minutes. 

Sure enough, that friend arrived in her scooter about 2 minutes later. The woman held her purse nervously in front of her, but did not show the phone until I told her (through Joy) that the phone was now of no value to anyone but me because of the software that I’d enabled which she’d activated as soon as she tried accessing the network. Joy went on to explain that the software was the reason we were able to find her so quickly (of course, we know that the software got a ton of help from real people). The woman sheepishly showed the phone and said through Joy that there was no case. I think she was trying to say that the phone might not be the one we were after, so I asked if I could see it for a second. I powered it up and immediately the Lost Mode prompts which I’d put in the day before appeared on the phone, as designed. This confirmed, undeniably, that the phone was Trey’s, so the woman quickly acquiesced. 

Despite my suspicions that the woman did not originally intend to return the phone, I told Joy that I still wanted to give her the reward. $20 USD and 1 LifeProof case lighter, we were on our merry way.

The story I’m telling myself is that the woman bought the phone on the black market and whatever little money she paid for it was now lost. I’m choosing to believe that she was an innocent player in a bigger game who thought she got a great deal on a legit used phone that she could use to take pics of her cute little baby girl. I’m choosing to believe that she’ll use the $20 to someday put towards another cool phone that isn’t stolen and will not be retrieved by some foreigner immediately after purchase. 

Ultimately, I am blown away that we actually got the phone back, avoided being fleeced by someone with darker motives, and that all 1200+ of Trey’s pics/vids were left intact (the woman attempted to delete the files, but left them in iPhoto’s ‘Recently Deleted’ folder). I am thankful for those that prayed and sent well wishes from thousands of miles away as we headed out to find the phone. I am thankful for Joy the Hotel Manager, the various multiple neighbors, Le the Cowboy Rocker, Apple the Company, and Lost Mode the Magical Software. I am thankful that I’ll have more opportunities to not be such a jerk to my kids in future stressful situations.

I am just thankful. I get it. 

The woman who returned the phone took about a dozen pics with her baby girl before getting online and triggering Lost Mode. Immediately, she could no longer access those pics, or anything else, for that matter. Trey decided to keep the phone for fun. 🙂

Visiting Japan Was Like a Pre-Season Game for Us

Me using a sports analogy is so predictable, isn’t it?

The #seattlebundas just returned yesterday from 9 exhilarating, yet exhausting days in Japan. We brought back to Seattle lifetime memories, as many pics as the total number taken when I spent nearly 2 years living in England in the mid-1990’s, and some important lessons which will serve us well when we embark on longer-term travel later this Spring.

Like coaches that prepared all off-season with new plays, systems, and game plans, Laura and I hoped to use the trip to help us gauge how ready we are for our future adventures (aka “Regular Season”). Mission accomplished.

Key Learnings:

  1. Trey and Kamaile really are very good travelers. The flight to Narita was 10+ hours; the flight back was 8.5 hours. Adding in Customs and Immigration, airport transfers (cars/trains/subways), etc., on both ends meant very LONG days. No complaints, or at least no more than their big baby of a Dad. I’m especially proud of how Kamaile handled herself throughout: she has to physically carry more (pound-for-pound), exert more energy (2 steps for every 1 that I take), walk at a faster pace (just to keep up), and do it all without the benefit of being able to see well where she’s going.
  2. We can actually travel with just carry-on bags, after all. Laura mentioned in an earlier post the many hours we spent researching bags. It appears that we’ve found the right bags for the kids and a sweet bag for Laura. Meanwhile, I’m still deciding whether to keep my bag. We packed minimally (e.g. 4 T-shirts, not 7) and efficiently (packing cubes are your friend). Being able to carry our bags allowed us to transition quickly and easily between cars, vans, airplanes, trains, and subways. Not having roller bags meant that we could better traverse even the worst walkways and paths, when needed.
  3. We found a “system” that works for us when navigating new places on foot. This typically involves me leading, followed in order by Kamaile, Trey, and Laura in single file (especially in busier, more crowded areas). Laura and I also realized after about 5 days that at least 2 of us needed to know where we were headed to help ensure that we didn’t veer too far off course. Sharing the burden of figuring out where you are at any given time is HUGE.
  4. We are improving at our decision-making while in the moment. Often, it’s about me needing to be a better, more patient listener. Sometimes, it’s about Kamaile being more bold about saying what she wants. At other times, it’s about Trey being better at articulating what he wants, as opposed to moping or grunting disapproval.
  5. Trey is growing up FAST. We have him a number of small opportunities to exert some independence or leadership. He purchased items on his own without us to help guide him–figuring out on the fly how to work through language and cultural barriers. He went for a walk in the neighborhood where we stayed to a store that was nearby, but definitely out of eyesight. Trey even led us through the maze of rush-hour subway traffic a couple times, which is no easy task when you can’t read most of the signs. So proud of that kid.
  6. Sticking to a semblance of a budget is generally difficult to when traveling, let alone when visiting another country. Math, conversions, relative value, need vs. want, long-term usefulness, blah, blah, blah. The better I get at this, the longer we’ll be able to travel.
  7. Free Walking Tours are legit. See this earlier post for the one we took in Tokyo. I understand that most major cities have something similar. My intention is to do one of these as early as possible whenever we visit a new city.
  8. Bike Tours are legit. See this earlier post for the one we took in Tokyo.
  9. We can live for a short while in a studio-sized apartment, if necessary. Whether we can do that for more than a couple weeks at a time remains to be seen.
  10. I can still be challenged in areas that I believe are my strengths. I like to think of myself as one who is calm under pressure, embraces change, leans into ambiguity, and can adapt very quickly to new surroundings or situations. Being in another country, not really knowing anyone there, not being able to communicate well (Sorry, Mom and Dad, my 6 years of Japanese language studies as a kid were only marginally helpful), and still being responsible for my family’s day-to-day well-being felt overwhelming at times.

There were many other lessons learned (or still outstanding) that I may try to capture in future posts.

Moving forward, as we prepare for the next part of our journey, I’m excited to know that we have a great shot at being ready for our regular season.