Monday, April 29, 2013

China: Beijing in My Sights

Beijing is in my sights! This is not a declaration of war on the People's Republic of China. And certainly not on the capital city of Beijing. This is the first day of my extended weekend in China!

My legal restrictions to remain within Beijing city limits should allow me to visit minor sections of the Great Wall...but not the biggies like this one.  Photo credit: cescassawin/

3:30 a.m. was a familiar time for me to leave the house for PDX airport this morning. But a plane ride, not a Jeep drive, will mark the end of my Delta shift today.

I was warned to expect some possible resistance tonight in Seattle due to the, um, complex nature of my attempted entry into China. The details won't be divulged here, but suffice it to say that everything I'm attempting is 100% legal and ethical. And if I actually pull this off, tomorrow morning I'll be strolling through Tiananmen Square and into the Forbidden City!

Note: The point of these brief, occasional weekend trips is to scout out places around the world where Kathy will feel comfortable visiting with our 19 month old Lena. As soon as we agree on a destination and the appropriate age for Lena, I can't wait to bring the family along for adventures that we'll never forget!

My fast paced travel style may not allow on-location Garth's Blog updates like those from Bogota, Colombia (link) last February. But stories from my current Chinese adventure (assuming I am granted entry into the country) will be shared here soon!  In the meantime, here's what I'm working on as I travel to Asia:

Coming this week on BlogSpot...

We conclude last month's story (link) from Milan, Italy!

And later...

Photos from the journey of Lena learning to walk!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Huge Anniversary: Celebrating the Big 1-5!

A surfing weekend at Seaside, OR to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary

15 years of marriage. How is that even possible? How did I find someone who could put up with me for 15 years?

Some guys are fortunate enough to marry out of their league. Clearly, I married out of my species.  It's hard to imagine anyone else on Earth that could tolerate my hyperactive and sometimes immature antics for as long as Kathy has.  Seriously, she deserves a medal!

Case in point:  Would any other wife allow me to drag her all over town on St Patrick's day (multiple gigs on a work night AND finals week, no less) as part of a 15th anniversary weekend that should be celebrating BOTH of our interests? I won't kid myself into thinking that Kathy appreciates late nights, loud music, and dancing as much as I do.

Don't worry, I delivered some more "Kathy friendly" anniversary surprises earlier (and coming up!)... hopefully that should make up for St. Paddy's night.  And Kathy's characteristics that make her such a wonderful wife and mommy will be featured in next month's "Mother's Day" blog post!

Baby Lena got in on the anniversary festivities last month, too!

Before unstrapping the surfboard, Daddy and Lena snuggle in the back seat at Seaside.

The more family oriented moments of our 15th anniversary celebration included a fun weekend at the beach in Seaside. Kathy and Lena played on the sand while Daddy surfed the waves.

At night, we sought refuge from the chilly Oregon coast weather with a seafood dinner at Dooger's and a relaxing soak in our hotel room's jetted tub.


Admittedly, the day of our actual anniversary ended up being a romantic disaster that then morphed into one long library study session for Kathy.  None of my ideas to spice things up could salvage it.  Lena and I barely even got to see Kathy that day.

To top things off, Kathy was stuck at PCC taking finals while Lena and I went hiking on some nearby trails.

But Kathy was eager to put that day in perspective.  After all, why limit the Big 1-5 celebration to a single day when the fun can last all month long?

Happy 15th anniversary to the best wife ever, Kathy!!  I thank God for you every day.  You just made my last 15 years fly by like a week!

Coming next week on BlogSpot...

We conclude last month's story (link) from Milan, Italy!

And then...

Photos from the journey of Lena learning to walk!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Switzerland: A Protest in Lausanne

This was the photo I tweeted from Lausanne, Switzerland during a large and very loud protest.

...Continuing our story from last week's Home from Colombia, Leaving for Switzerland blog post (link) about last month's trip to Europe!

Our previous visits to Switzerland have been more eco-trekking oriented, allowing time to backpack through the Alps near the Matterhorn and also the Italian region near Lugano.  This time, I was traveling solo and only staying long enough to hook up with my buddy Sebastien in the French speaking Romandy region of Switzerland.

The Zurich train station is conveniently located downstairs from the ZRH airport. Even at that early morning hour, the long billette line for the rail tickets moved slowly enough for me to reply to messages and download a map of Lausanne to my phone.

The train ride from Zurich to Lausanne was smooth and peaceful. As Swiss mountains and countryside blurred past my window, I tried piecing together some possible Lausanne itineraries on my phone. The beautiful scenery ultimately won the battle for my attention.

The train dropped me off in Lausanne on Monday morning, leaving me most of a day to kill until Seb got off work.

Hiking in the nearby Jura mountains or through the Lavaux vineyard region would've been doable if there was more time. Seeing sports memorabilia at the International Olympic Headquarters and Musee de l'Art Brut at Beaulieu Castle would also have to wait until the museums were open.

A stroll along the Ouchy waterfront of Lake Geneva made for a serene start to my day. From there, I made my way back up to Old Town to blend my researched finds during the plane/train ride with some of Seb's recommendations.

The steep, winding avenue that leads to Old Town

The Swiss Reformed Church of Saint-François

Notre Dame Cathedral

An orchestra rehearses inside Notre Dame Cathedral

A panoramic view of Lausanne; I hung out with some new friends up here while waiting for Seb to get off work.

Sebastien was planning to meet me after work around 5, so I found his flat and started waiting. He let me know that he was still stuck at work.

Then I had another idea. A worse idea.

Why not text Seb that I would wait for him across from the Church of Saint-François instead? The public square had gelato stands, free WiFi, chairs, benches, and a mellow atmosphere that was popular but not overcrowded...

...But a large group of protesters started filling the square just as I was sitting down, determined to prove me wrong on all counts.

The food vendors shut down and backed away, the WiFi went down temporarily (possibly overloaded from tweets and Facebook posts?), and protesters started climbing over the chairs and benches.  It was chaos.

Spotting Sebastien amidst this mess would be a challenge.  He then texted me that he would be even later.  The chanting and shouting was so loud that playing phone tag would be useless anyway.  As the man with the megaphone raged, I shrugged and waited for it all to blow over.

Eventually, the boisterous mob marched on.

Seb arrived on the scene just as the faint mix of angry and festive shouting had faded away into the streets.  The two of us walked downhill back to his flat, hidden above a trendy clothing store.

From Seb's Facebook page: Anyone who was quick enough to see the original photo that he posted from that night knows EXACTLY why he swapped that pic out for this one!

We shared appetizers and a toast before devouring a delicious curry dish.  We traded crazy stories from our long day and the past year.  We caught up on each other's lives and relationships.  Admittedly, we had probably had too much fun for a work night.

And what would I do on my next visit to Switzerland?
Running the international Lausanne Marathon in September? Finish backpacking the trail through the Alps that we started a few years ago, all the way to the Matterhorn? Skiing in Zermott?

The next morning, I planned to board a train for Zurich to catch a flight out of the country.  How plans change!

Coming Friday on BlogSpot...

Surfing, hiking, and playing at the coast: Celebrating 15 years of marriage!!

...And then, we continue our story in...

Milan, Italy!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cold Hands, Warm Heart: Remembering Olga Trapp

Garth's Blog readers: We'll continue our Switzerland travelogue on Monday where we left off, in Zurich.

"Cold hands, warm heart."

Those were the words that Olga Trapp often spoke to me after being jolted by a cold handshake on Sunday mornings. I had typically just returned from some frigid morning rounds of picking up middle/high school students for church with my Jeep's soft top down.

Olga's celebration of life service this afternoon reminded many of us about the other countless inspirational and encouraging words that she spoke during her 92 years on this earth.

From this afternoon:  Pastor Tim shares about "Living a Life of No Regrets" during Olga Trapp's celebration of life service.

Olga displayed the characteristics of a Godly woman which are seemingly harder to find to find these days, at least to the extent that she had them. She was a faithful prayer warrior. She was an encourager. She was a good listener.  She was always willing to share with me both uplifting praise and/or brutally honest criticism of my sermons. Above all, she loved Jesus, her family (including 43 grandkids and great grandkids!), and her friends.  She was a true saint.

This is such a sad time for those of us who loved Olga. After all, the Trapps were one of the founding families of Aloha Church of God in Oregon over 63 years ago. Richard and Olga were the sweetest people, and thus were dear to many of our hearts.

But there couldn't be a happier day for Olga than today. She is partying as hard as she can with Richard, with her friends and family that beat her to heaven, with people whom she's loved and prayed into the Kingdom, and with the Lord whom she loves with all of her heart.

Olga Trapp's celebration of life service at Aloha Church of God

If there are Jeeps in heaven (and why wouldn't they be?), I can't wait to take my soft top down and go for a chilly early morning drive to Olga's house. She'll get a big warm hug and the iciest handshake she's ever had!

Coming Monday on BlogSpot...

Unrest in Lausanne, Switzerland!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Home from Colombia, leaving for Switzerland

White washing my recent trip to Bogota (or alternate link) won't fool anyone... readers who have been keeping up with Garth's Blog know I had a few rough moments down in South America. But it was a fun 2 1/2 day excursion overall, made even more enjoyable by the fantastic friends I made along the way. And some of the best stuff was left out of this blog!

My hopes were to fly home from Colombia, pick up Kathy and baby Lena, and then fly them both to Europe last month for a week to visit friends in various countries.  It didn't turn out that way. Kathy decided that she wasn't too keen on studying for finals in the Business Elite cabin of an overseas flight. Concerning Lena, we each had differing opinions on her readiness to start travelling the world with Daddy.

Sadly, Kathy and I agreed that a second solo international trip was the way to go. A few of my friends scattered throughout Europe received my infamous "1-3 day heads up" messages, letting them know that I may be dropping by their neighborhoods. Based on their responses, I couldn't go wrong with any destination!


My time in between continent hopping, spent mostly at home in the U.S. with Kathy and Lena, topped all of my international adventures in February and March.  Our family outings included playing at home, eating out, hiking, and soaking in some sunshine at Hazeldale Park:

Daddy slings around 17 1/2 month old Lena at Hazeldale Park

Mommy and Lena on the playground slide

Lena and Daddy on the playground swing set

Daddy watches as Lena explores the park on hands and knees


That weekend, I drove back to the airport to make the most of my remaining vacation time.  Two days worth of Delta flights departed without me, forcing me to sleep overnight in my Jeep Wrangler parked in the PDX employee parking lot.

A couple days (and few cancelled tickets on other airlines) later, I finally caught a Delta flight to Atlanta.

My connecting flight from Atlanta to Zurich had plenty of open seats in all cabins.  Checking my messages onboard, I quickly jotted down my friend Sebastien's Lausanne address before the 767 boarding doors were closed.

Too excited to sleep for much of the Zurich flight, I studied, blogged, struggled through most of a chick flick, and poured over maps of Swiss hiking trails.

Coming next week on BlogSpot...

Unrest in Lausanne, Switzerland!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Video: Breaking News- Lena's First Steps!

Minutes after our first glimpse of Lena's first steps, our 19 month old shows off her hands-free walking skills to Daddy!

Good things come to those who wait.  And wait.  And wonder when baby steps towards progress will turn into actual baby steps.

Kathy and I have waited 19 months for this day, and it's finally here!  Our family and friends have been walking Lena around by our fingertips for months.  All the while, we've been fending off requests from Lena's pediatrician to schedule appointments with a neurodevelopmental specialist.  Nah!

What took Lena so long? Was she too tall?  No, but her 34" height DOES place her in the 95th percentile of 19 month old babies.

Did she lack physical stamina?  No way. She always has energy to spare!

The most likely reason that we're just now witnessing Lena's first steps is... Lena finally decided to show the world what she can do.  Watch out, world.  It's on!!

Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll dedicate an entire Garth's Blog post to previously unseen pictures of Lena getting ready for what happened this evening.  In the meantime, enjoy a video of this God-given historic occasion:

Hit the "play" button above for a video of a momentarily fussy Lena showing off some of her first baby steps this evening!

Coming tomorrow night on BlogSpot...

Home from Colombia, Leaving for Switzerland!

And then...
Milan, Italy!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sunriver, Pt. 2: A Wild Wedding (feat. Kathy)

This morning’s conclusion to Kathy’s “A Wedding Countdown” post (link) is being served with a steaming side of déjà vu.  Or maybe just a starting appetizer.  My intro to Part 1 has been tightened up and recycled here out of sheer laziness… not to be confused with contempt for you terrific readers!

My opening words may be the same, but the rest is all Kathy.  Feel free to skip down to the new stuff.

Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Brent Bishop… You may now kiss the bride!

Warming up the dance floor at the wedding reception!

What could possibly top our previous visit to Brent and Cheryl’s house in Bend for a weekend of Thanksgiving hiking, skateboarding, dancing, live music, great food, and family time?

Why, Brent and Cheryl’s wedding in Sunriver last month, of course, with snow tubing, hot tubbing, hiking, bicycling, dancing, and celebrating!!

Let’s turn over the rest of this post to my talented wife.  In the words (in italics) of special guest blogger Kathy, the sister of the bride:

It was a weekend every girl dreams of, family, friends, fun, laughter and marrying your best friend.  That dream became a reality for my little sister, Cheryl, on Saturday February 2, 2013, married her best friend, Brent Bishop in Sunriver, OR.  I was excited for many reasons: a road trip, gaining a new brother-in-law, seeing my brother Tony who lives in Kabul, being with family and most of all seeing Cheryl so very happy.

After months of prep and anticipation, the BIG day was finally here. Decorating and rehearsal were all done before 11:00.


By 2:30 that afternoon, we were dressed and ready to go.




Then it was time.  All the months of planning came down to this moment, to this hour.  The bride was gorgeous and the flower girl was stunningly cute (but who’s bragging?).


Tobi's daughter Maddie, who was the flower girl at our own wedding nearly 15 years ago, walks 16 1/2 month old flower girl Lena Hamilton down the aisle.

Lighting the unity candle

The reception was one of the more fun ones we’ve been to.  Food, music, and dancing- all night. 

Brent's brother Josh, the best man, gives a toast at the wedding reception.

The cake cutting started innocently enough...

...But then Brent smears the cake, and Cheryl retaliates! This cake fight got hilariously out of hand.

The bride tears up during the father-daughter dance.

Brent throws the garter.

Lena’s dance card was full most of the night.  Between dancing with Daddy, Uncle Tony and Auntie Cheryl, she was tearing up the dance floor.





The next morning, we had brunch with Mr. and Mrs. Bishop before heading home.

 Day 4- Saying goodbye to newlyweds Brent and Cheryl over brunch at the Sunriver Village Bar and Grill

Lena sleeps in the backseat of the Jeep Wrangler on the drive home to Beaverton .

It was truly a fabulous weekend filled with lots of love, family and friends.

Coming Tuesday on BlogSpot…

Home from Colombia, leaving for Switzerland!

And then...

Milan, Italy!!