Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cleaning up after Typhoon Haiyan

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It's hard to imagine anyone in the connected world who wasn't aware of "Super Typhoon" Haiyan ravaging the central Philippines earlier this month.  For far too many of us, hearing once again about the massive destruction and 10,000+ people killed by the storm seems like yesterday’s news.  Yet for the displaced survivors in Tacloban and other populated areas in the storm’s path, the devastating impact of this typhoon continues to be a reality of life.

Since I first blogged about this elsewhere, conditions in the region have been improving.  Relief efforts from organizations worldwide have reported promising news about the effective distribution of aid, the prevention of anarchy, a reduction in looting, a more productive political climate, and the general assistance of injured and displaced people.

Menchit Wong, the child advocacy director for Compassion International, shared an encouraging update about answered prayers and new requests last week.  And Eddie Viray, the national leader of the Church of God in the Philippines, also recorded a YouTube video recently detailing the ongoing needs of Church of God Ministries' relief efforts in the region.

For readers, I share these reports to remind us that we can support these relief efforts through our prayers and our giving.  Sending foreign supplies often isn’t a practical solution due to the logistics of on-site delivery, so monetary giving is most helpful.

The Church of God Disaster Relief Fund and Compassion International are both wonderful organizations whom I recommend supporting in their relief efforts.  Here are their contribution links:

Church of God Ministries:

Compassion International:
Help Children Affected by Philippines Typhoon

On a personal note, I am thankful that Typhoon Haiyan never came within 200 km of my friend Robert's hometown of Muntinlupa.  He was visiting the Philippines when the storm hit, and he and his family were mercifully unaffected by this disaster.  Robert enthusiastically assured me this morning that he is grateful for the outpouring of support for his home country.

Let's keep it coming!

Coming this weekend on Garth's Blog...

Yesterday's treacherously icy trail run

And later...

Posts about surfing, pumpkin patches, traveling to Spain with Lena, and our upcoming Hamilton family Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Noordwijk, Netherlands: The almost daddy-daughter day trip

Running on Noordwijk Beach in the Netherlands last weekend, with friends from around the world

How did last weekend's impossibly fun day trip to Noordwijk turn out differently than planned? There were a couple of last minute changes:

  1. I swapped out a friend visit in Amsterdam for a one night stay in the coastal town of Noordwijk, the Netherlands.  Why?  Because...
  2. ...This trip was intended to be a daddy-daughter weekend away.  But at the last minute, the decision was made to keep our precious two year daughter old at home.
Lena would've loved her quality bonding time with Daddy in the Netherlands, and her hard working Mommy surely deserved a relaxing bachelorette weekend at home. And on the heels of my brief friend-visiting spree in northern Italy last month (link), I was anxious to squeeze in one more overseas family outing before our baby's January due date.

Sadly, Mommy was concerned that Lena may have still been recovering from a cold. So less than three hours prior to departure, Lena was removed from my flight listing.   Kathy requested that I reshape our travel plans for the Netherlands into to a solo day trip.

Even with these two last minute changes, the trip played out like a dream.

The bus from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to Noordwijk took about 1 1/2 hours (2 hours for the return trip to Amsterdam the next morning) to reach the coast.

The peaceful views of the Netherlands' misty countryside made my transition from a cushy 8 1/2 hours in Delta's Business Elite cabin to a public bus that much smoother.

My early morning arrival at the Flying Pig Beach Hostel gave me a chance to rest up before heading out for the day. Bianca from northern Ireland at the reception desk generously invited me to join the community for breakfast, making up in advance for my 5:45 a.m. checkout time that would send me away hungry the next morning.

I explored the town of Noordwijk for a while before heading back to the Flying Pig to round up some people.  A brisk beach run was the cure for my airplane/bus ride blues. Ishai and I assembled a crew of the willing and able from our hostel.  Israeli mountaineer Ishai, Brit Sophia (training for a marathon!), and Americans Christine, David and I all hit Noordwijk Beach to stretch out our legs.

It wasn't all sunshine and sand, of course. A couple miles or so in, a light drizzle escalated into a hail storm. We turned around, but not in time to spare our faces from a stinging microdermabrasion of ice pellets. We splintered apart into pairs running all directions, yet somehow hilariously got back to the hostel doorstep at the same time.


Here's a first: That night, we stayed in. When checking into any hostel, my customary shtick is to drag my fellow backpackers/accomplices out of their beds, couches, hammocks, etc. to join me for a rambunctious night out on the town.

No need. The Flying Pig is already a popular hangout for Noordwijk's locals. And our beach hostel had all the right ingredients for a memorable night: a fun party atmosphere, music for dancing, comfortable places to chill, and the perfect mix of people.

Our night at the Flying Pig beach hostel begins!

As always, it was my mates who made the night so unforgettable. The night flew by for our gang of five fearless beach runners plus Stu, Mariah, Rick, Jacques, Keelie, Kat, Michael, Bianca, Vanessa, and everyone else who drew us in for the laughs, stories, surprisingly deep discussions, and ridiculous drama.  I wouldn't have traded a minute with those friends for the extra hour or so I could've spent sleeping.

My night continued straight on until dawn. It was cringe-worthy to wake up Sophia (and Kat!) at 5:45 a.m. to get my passport back, but the rest of my return trip went off with a hitch.  Fading quickly, I was out like a light as soon as I boarded the early morning bus to Amsterdam.

It seemed as though I didn't finally wake up until my plane prepared to land at PDX 13 hours later.

Waking up to the familiar views of two of my favorite climbs, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams

Back in Portland I helped a friend in Italy fly back to the U.S. with one of my buddy passes, hooked up with a compadre here in Beaverton, and then hurried home to Lena and Kathy, the love of my life.  I walked into the house to find my baby girl in good health.

Lena, I'm glad that you're feeling better now. I still owe you a daddy-daughter trip.

Better start packing!

Coming up on Garth's Blog...

Recent family surfing weekends at the Oregon Coast!

And then...

Lena's 1st international trip to Madrid, Spain!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Video: Dance war!

1, 2, 3, 4... I declare a dance war!  Our Delta Airlines dance crew has a new challenger.

Poke the play button above to watch us dance in our 2012 "Delta Wanderland" Christmas music video.

Our choreographed dance routine for last year's "Delta Wanderland" Christmas video was a novel idea at the time: encourage actual Delta employees to audition, send the finalists (myself included) to L.A. to learn the dance moves, and shoot the music video all night on location at the LAX Airport. As an actor, it was a change of pace for me to rehearse dance moves rather than block action and memorize my lines from a script.


My blog offered a series of behind the scenes looks at shooting our music video last year. Three of the four most the popular posts from that series are listed below.  Here are the links:

Behind the Scenes in LA Pt. 1- Dancing Near the Stars
Choreographing our dance moves at L.A.'s International Dance Academy on Hollywood Boulevard

Behind the Scenes in LA Pt. 2- On Set: Delta Wanderland
Stories and production stills from our all night video shoot at LAX airport

And of course...
Bonus Documentary: "Delta Wanderland: Behind the Scenes!"
Sharing our official behind-the-scenes video, including a rare, brief clip of me busting some moves during our freestyle dance off!

We were proud of our production. Our Delta music video even beat out companies like HP to receive a trophy this year, winning an OMMA award for best Online Media, Marketing, and Advertising!


But a few weeks ago, Virgin America challenged us on our own turf: the dance floor. Their creative new safety video features professional dancers (unlike us) and pizazz to spare. Clocking in at a whopping 5:00, readers may want to skim through the clip:

I'll concede, our Delta dance troupe seems to be out-sassed on this one.  But does our 2012 "Delta Wanderland" music video stand on its own merits?  And is it fair to compare our one night production using authentic, non-dancer Delta employees against a professional music video?  Personally, I think it's impressive that we pulled off "Delta Wanderland" on such a tight shooting schedule last year.  Our team did such a great job!  Readers can be the judge of that.

We may have barely lost this dance battle, but not the dance war.

Coming this weekend on Garth's Blog...

Yesterday's day trip to Noordwijk, Netherlands: An almost daddy-daughter visit!

And then....

Cold water surfing in Oregon with the fam!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Northern Italy, Pt. 2: Verona, Venice, and beyond

Readers:  This brief European visiting spree from a couple weeks ago was a mini-continuation of our family’s vacation in Spain, our trip that got cut short a few weeks earlier.  Stay tuned for our family’s Madrid travelogue from September, coming soon!

…Continued from last week’s Northern Italy: Confrontation in First Class (link), and written on the return train from Verona and also in my Venice hostel:

Planes, trains, automobiles, and boats.  Dabbling in nearly every conventional mode of motorized transportation was the only way to reach my first stop: Verona, Italy.

It felt like I had already been gone for days.  In reality, quick visits to friends in Edinburg, Leon, and Rome were sadly cut from the itinerary prior to my seatmate’s drunken scuffle with airline crews on the taxiway in New York.  It was a bummer to waste two whole travel days when Kathy and Lena were already on their way out of town… we USUALLY travel together as a family.  My goal was for us all to return home at roughly the same time, so the clock was ticking.

My Venice flight’s emergency return to the gate in JFK had delayed my arrival in Verona even longer.  Once the onboard hubbub died down, most of my comfy flight time was spent reading and studying. [11/6/13: Also see the comment section from last week’s post].  I should have been sleeping.


After 20+ hours of driving, flying, and layovers, I hit the ground in Venice.  A ticket lady at Venice's Marco Polo airport directed me to a boat that would supposedly connect with my train to Verona.  I should’ve known there was an easier way.

The boat driver was in no hurry.  Now I’m not saying that he was slow, but at one point I seriously considered diving into the canal and swimming ahead to shave off some time.

Turns out the entire boat ride in Venice was both unnecessary and uncalled for.  The Italian woman at the ticket booth heard my request for “Verona” and must have translated it to “Murano.”   That’s right, Italian auto-correct in action.  She sold me an expensive ticket for a water taxi (no destination printed) that I caught at the docks, thinking that it would take me from the Venice airport to the train station.  Nope!

I switched boats.  A nautical hour later, our boat eventually floated into one of the narrow canals and docked next to a waterfront café.  The amazing race was on:  find the train station, and then catch a fast train to Verona.  I wouldn’t be racing untethered, though…

Euji from the boat christened me as her personal tour guide to untangle the confusing walkways of Venice.  My expertise must have been determined by me stepping onto dry land a whole five seconds before she did, right?  I didn’t have the heart to keep explaining to Euji about the American phrase, “the blind leading the blind.”

After hurriedly helping my enthusiastic Japanese friend locate a couple of tourist sites, I ran to the Venice station to hop a westbound fast train.  My friend staying near Verona was patiently waiting, although we had already scaled back our plans due to my late arrival in northern Italy.  A weekend of hiking, sightseeing, and whatnot was reduced to whatever we could squeeze into an afternoon and evening.

Carli, the WWOOF farmer, arrived about the same time as I did to meet me at the Verona Porta Nuova train station.

Sharp readers may remember Maggie's sister Carli and other friends from this trip being mentioned in previous posts.  Maggie's still awesome as always, and her and Carli are the the two sisters who signed up with Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms a couple years ago to WWOOF their way through Italy.

Maggie stayed in the U.S. this year as Carli returned to Italy in April for more exploring and farming, spending the bulk of her current stay working in and above the majestic Arpisson Valley.  Some earlier missteps this year tragically prevented me from visiting that beautiful countryside near Cogne.   But it was certainly worth the side trip to Verona yesterday to include her in my latest Italy visiting spree.  Maggie and Carli write about their adventures here, and a widget for their blog can also be found on my “Garth’s Blog” sidebar.

Being first time visitors in town, neither of us could tell apart Verona from Khumbu, Nepal.  We discovered that fans of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” would find much to appreciate in the historic center, as well as ancient Roman and Gothic architecture buffs.  Some of the monuments and structures that we walked past dated back to the first century A.D., like the Arena di Verona coliseum.  Checking out the walking trails at nearby Lake Garda may have been a more fitting activity than urban sightseeing, though.

The friendly locals were brimming with that famous Italian hospitality of the region.  A helpful café owner even loaned us an umbrella for a few hours to fend off the rain as we explored the town.  And we weren’t even his customers!

Refreshing afternoon gelatos, antipasto, tasty pizza, and a calzone (the only actual meal I’ve had so far) took the edge off our hunger for the walk back to the train station.  If only I had remembered to grab the leftovers!  By the time I retrieved my backpack from the luggage locker, the last slow train to Venice was only a few minutes away from nearing the station.

Back in Venice, a boat picked me up in front of the train station, cruised through the city’s canals in the dark, and dropped me off at the Generator Hostel Venice around 1:30 a.m.  I’d need to rest up for joining my friend Chris in the morning near his campsite, and also for hooking up with the gang from the Tuscany region later on.

My exhausting, mostly sleepless string of travel hours should have sent me immediately into bunk bed hibernation.  But a rambunctious party in the common lounge downstairs tempted me with a more enticing option.  Bout in Venice, first round:  Much needed sleep vs. bonus fun with fellow backpackers.  Anyone who knows me can definitely guess which choice won out!

One of these days, I’ll learn.


It remains to be seen if this trip will live up to the “beyond” section of this post title, as planned.  It all depends on my meager budget, time, and how close my other friends in Italy are at the moment.

But one thing’s for sure:  I can’t wait to get home to Kathy and Lena soon.  Unlike our family trip to Spain last month, our time off work and out-of-town schedules didn’t line up this time.  I’ll be hurrying home shortly, anxious to whisk them away to somewhere else across the globe!

11/6/13: Rather than further delaying this two-week old post to find free time for updating, I added the intro/pics today and pretty much published it as is. And now that I’m back in the States, I’ll consider adding a fourth wrap-up post (no promises!) to Part 3 about my less than smooth exit from Italy.

11/10/13: Part 3: Reunions in Venice was posted yesterday, but it has been removed indefinitely.  I'll replace that post with another post that I wrote here in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

And to all of you amazing friends still in Italy whom I had to bail on AGAIN… Nick, Ben, Jeremiah, Houtan, Eric, Gerardo, and pretty much everyone I know down south… we’ll have our day in the Italian sun some other time!

Coming this weekend on Garth’s Blog…

Reunions in Venice!

(11/10/13 Post removed)

And then…

Cold water surfing in Oregon with the fam!

And later this month…

Madrid, Spain:  Lena goes from nationwide to worldwide!