Tag Archives: Paul

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.” โ€“ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bandung, Indonesia: Initial Impressions

After these first 4 days in Bandung, it is still difficult for me to adequately describe our experiences, thus far. 

Therefore, I’m going to start by taking the easy route, showing off my Google skills, and sharing some quick facts about Bandung:

  1. Located in the western part of the island of Java, about 3 hours from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. 
  2. Founded in 1488
  3. Approximately 2.6M people within a 65 sq. mile area. In contrast, Seattle has about 650K people in a 143 sq. mile area. Bandung is the 3rd largest Indonesian city (by population). 
  4. The Average Monthly Salary is 2,940,000 Rp. This is roughly $224 or what many of us spend on Cable, Internet, and Cell bills. Click here if you’re curious to see more cost of living info. 
  5. The majority of the people in Bandung are Sundanese

For those that are more visual, we recently found this guy named Kyle Le on YouTube. He primarily blogs about Vietnam (and food!), but he recently spent a couple days in Bandung. Check out this vid: Indonesia Shopping and Street Food in Bandung City

What you see in Kyle’s video is pretty accurate in terms of the general chaos (by American standards) that exists in the city streets. Signs of varying size, shape, quality, and state of disrepair advertise everything from the familiar (Ace Hardware, KFC, and Pizza Hut), to the unfamiliar (innumerable food carts occupy every available inch of ground; even blocking larger, more established shops), to the unusual (DMV? No problem! Just buy your custom-made license plate on the side of the street).

No license plate? No problem!

This visual cacophony is eclipsed only by the aural cacophony created by the way-too-many cars, motorcycles, minibuses, and people on the road at any given time. The ever-present hum of engines, brakes, and horns are akin to TEN Times Squares. To simply say, however, that the roads are really loud would do this daily motor-ballet a serious injustice.

Our host, Wally, says that traffic laws around here (heck, even traffic lanes for that matter) are little more than “guidelines.” Ultimately, the social contract between motorists and pedestrians alike is that it is acceptable to do whatever ever it takes to get from Point A to Point B as long as you agree to constantly watch out for the safety of your fellow travelers. Everyone must be present, aware, and very much in the moment to ensure that major road catastrophes are avoided. There’s something really beautiful about that dynamic to me. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing that zoned-out, zombie thing during rush hour around here like I’ve done more than a few times while slogging through I-405 commutes. 

Speaking of those motorcycles/scooters, I’m not only struck by how many there are on the road at any given time, but also by how many people can ride together on a single machine. One rider is the norm, two riders are common, three or more riders are far from unusual. We often see entire families on a single motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic. I tried to convince Laura that we could save a ton of money by taking a similar approach back home; she was having none of it (shocking!).

Family of 3 on one moto/scooter. The daughter is not only precariously perched, but very asleep.

The food here has been incredible, so far. We haven’t been too adventurous, yet, but it’s not like we’ve actively shied away from anything either. We’re all fans of what the locals deem staples here–Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Mie Goreng (fried noodles), Bubur Ayam (rice porridge with chicken), and Nasi Udok (rice with coconut milk)–and we’re just getting started. 

We even had a special treat today, as we were invited to have Lunch in the family home of Ibu Josie for a special meal, called Tumpeng. We were gathering to celebrate Josie and her mother’s safe return after 3 weeks of traveling in France and The Netherlands. Above and beyond the great food, however, was the hospitality shown by Josie, her family, and her friends. We laughed often and the general ease of our hosts reminded me of parties with my own family back home (sans ukuleles and endless singing, of course). Definitely my kind of people!

Ibu Josie (3rd from right); Josie’s Mother (Center); Partof the feast (Foreground). The rest of the party is off-camera.

I realize that this blog post has been long and somewhat meandering. So, I’ll wrap things up by quickly commenting on the people. The majority of the locals whom we’ve met have been extraordinarily warm and friendly. From the people in random nooks and crannies of the narrow neighborhood alley ways, to the chain store employees, to the parking lot attendants and unofficial traffic “facilitators,” to the guys at the coffee shop who knew less English than I know Indonesian, to Ibu Josie and her family, everyone has been genuinely excited about the fact that we’re here from half a world away to learn about them, their culture, and their city. 

While I still am far from certain how the coming weeks in Indonesia will unfold, I am definitely excited by the possibilities. Here’s hoping that as we learn more, we’ll be able to find a way to help and serve as well. 

      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.

      Tokyo Bike Tour (March 25, 2015 Recap)

      Trying something a little different for this post. Rather than all of us individually posting on the same thing, we’ll capture our experiences in a single post. Comment and let us know what you think. 


      One word friends…Biking.๐Ÿšต๐Ÿšด

      Today, we went on the Tokyo Discovery Bike Tour!


      Our family met the guide, Mr. Akira, in a sort of garage place (that wasn’t connected to a house), where he kept the bikes. Mom, Dad, and Trey all got big(ger) green bikes, and I got a smaller blue bike. ๐ŸšฒWe started off in a neighborhood called Akihabara, and then biked for 1.9km till we got to Ryogoku – Bashi bridge.


      It was super pretty there with such clear water and a beautiful skyline.๐ŸŒ‡


      After we stopped at the bridge for a water break, we continued on for 2.5km until we got to Ryogoku Kokugikan. Ryogoku Kokugikan is a venue for contests in Japan’s national sport, sumo. Three of the six official sumo tournaments that take place nationwide each year are held here, in January, May, and September.๐Ÿ“…๐Ÿ“†


      Then, after we looked around the museum part of the stadium, we rode 5.8km to the Tokyo sky tree! It was built in 2012 and is 634meters high-the tallest free standing tower in the world!๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒŽ ๐ŸŒ

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      Next, we continued on for 6.5km till we reached Sumida park. A great spot to go see cherry blossoms!๐ŸŒธ There are about 1,000 cherry trees there. But, it isn’t really a great time to see them now though, not very many blossoms, but Mr. Akira said most of the trees will be in bloom if we come back in the next 5-7 days.๐ŸŒธ (which, I hope we do!)


      After we took a water break, we kept on riding and did a couple of more stops, but, I can’t remember what the names were (they weren’t very interesting to me๐Ÿ˜)! ๐Ÿ˜

      Well, that’s most important stuff (to me) that we did yesterday friends!๐Ÿ˜›

      โœŒโญ•โ›Žโž• (aka peace out)



      Hey guys, today we got to go on a bike tour! First we had to find the place, where our guide gave us the rundown of our route.

      We went to the sumo stadium, the sky tree, and tons of parks! After we got back we met some relatives who were visiting Japan with us. By that time I was falling asleep so after a while we went back to the apartment and fell asleep. See you guys later!


      I think you get the idea that we all loved the bike ride. Hands down, the coolest way to see a city! To get to the bike ride, we had our first chance to ride the subway. Yes, it was a bit stressful trying to decide exactly which ticket we wanted to get, and yes, the waves of people passing us in the all black business uniform made me feel like I was in a science fiction movie, but we made it on to the right train and off at the right station on the first try.  Hooray!

      I really enjoyed our time biking and the numerous stops we made. As we rode, we passed the Fine Arts University and Tokyo University, both of which were holding commencement ceremonies with men in nice suits and women in traditional Hamaka dress. 

      After a short rest back at our room, we headed out to meet April and Lowry, Paul’s mom and step dad. We wandered around Ginza together and explored the many food vendors, meats to sushi to mochi and fancy chocolates, on the bottom two floors of a department store before deciding to eat at a cafe on an upper floor instead. (There were no places to sit or stand to eat all of the food being sold on the lower floors.) 

      We finished the night at a coffee and dessert place called Choco Cro where we indulged in some yummy treats! Hopefully you got to see Kamaile’s video of her devouring her dessert. 

      Overall we are loving this country. It is overwhelming to navigate to crowds sometimes, but we have a pretty good system of Paul leading the way and me bringing up the rear with the kids in the middle. It is a big adjustment to getting used to walking on the left side of the sidewalk, passing on the right, and looking for cars approaching from the other side. 

      Looking forward to seeing more of the country in another way tomorrow: Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi by bus and bullet train.


      First things first, let me just say that my quads and butt are sore! The all-day ride was amazing, but 20-kilometers and a couple hills made for an achy morning today.

      We found out about Akira and his company through Trip Advisor and decided to give it a shot with the hope that we’d be able to get a taste for the city that neither tour buses nor trains could provide. Thankfully, our hopes were not only met, but FAR exceeded. 

      We were very fortunate to have Akira as our guide. He was knowledgeable and provided not only the “typical” facts, but also shared other interesting tidbits along the way. Akira was patient as we slowly became comfortable with weaving through often extremely congested car and foot traffic with our bikes. As cyclists, I would consider us remedial, at best, yet we managed to feel relatively safe in short order. Akira was also very flexible in giving us choices along the way. The pace of the trip was just right for our family. 


      Some thoughts/observations:

      1. I was surprised by the many quiet, even peaceful, neighborhoods throughout Tokyo that totally shattered my pre-conceived fantasy of a dystopian, Bladerunner-like metropolis.
      2. The Japanese are on a different level when making order out of chaos. The sidewalks have different lanes designated for bikes, regular (fast-walking) pedestrians, and family (slow-walking) pedestrians. Stay in your lane or get rolled, Sucka!
      3. It’s difficult for casual riders like us to imagine biking around like we did on this tour in other world cities like Honolulu, New York, or Rome. By and large, courtesy still rules the day here in Tokyo. Even if your vehicle happens to outweigh my bike by a couple thousand pounds, I’m remain confident that you’re looking out for me. Perhaps I’m just naive.
      4. The kids handled the ride like champs. I rarely had to worry about Trey. He has proven to be quite capable of taking care of himself in many situations. Meanwhile, Kamaile surprised me, yet again, as the youngest/smallest in our group with her determination and grit. She never complained and was far from quitting when tackling a nasty hill just seconds after taking her one and only spill of the entire day (darn those sneaky curbs!). It was also another confirmation for us that the kids are at the right age for traveling.
      5. It seems like everyone wears some sort of uniform. The business people collectively form a sea of black, which is only broken up by the ever-present surgical masks. The students wear their school-mandated uniforms. Even the construction workers wear something more formal than the hard had and orange vest I’m accustomed to seeing back in the U.S.
      6. After the tour, we went back to trains and walking like “normal” folks. Immediately, we ALL lamented not being on bikes anymore despite our aches and pains. Just weird.

      Finally, on a day that featured a series of amazing moments, one of the best was when we stopped in Yanaka (Taito-ku) to visit an “old world” market. We picked up bento boxes and decided to eat in a little neighborhood park were some school-children were playing a netless form of badminton. The children initially shot a few curious glances our way–I’m guessing because we’re foreigners and had 2 kids with us–but they quickly decided that we were harmless enough for them not to mind. Trey hung out near the kids for a few minutes and even chased down a couple wayward shuttlecocks, but never actually tried to engage. We didn’t quite stay long enough for him to take that next step, but it was easy to imagine him being able to figure out a way to connect with people from a completely different culture even without the benefit of a common language. We’ll get there soon enough…