Christmas came early for me this year. How early? Well, on November 18th, I left Australia to go to Bali for roughly 2 ½ weeks. I was actually planning to stay longer, but revised my plans to make it back for Claudia's sister's wedding. Georgia (Claudia's sister) and Andrew were married on December 8th. And then off to the United States for a surprise visit to my friends and family. While back in the US, I went over to Minnesota to attend my Cousin Signe's wedding to Todd. Afterwards I returned to California for Christmas and New Years. Finally, after seven weeks of sun worshipping, partying and sleeping in, I planted my feet back on Australia soil on January 6th.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you'd like to fast forward to the photos, click here. Otherwise read on and I'll give you the low down on my extended holidays.
Tabitha and I decided to head off to Bali after her former company made her redundant. I suggested it as a mini-holiday between jobs. At that time, I wasn't actually planning to head back to the US for Christmas. But as it turns out, I had enough frequent Flyer points to do both. Anyway, back to Bali... In short, I didn't do a whole lot while we were there. This is actually our second trip to Bali. We were there back in 1998. When I think about it, I really didn't do a whole lot while I was there. I drank, I ate yummy Indonesian food. I soaked up lots of sun and suntan oil. And I slept in a lot. Oh, did I mention the super-cheap massages on the beach? We stayed at the Bali Padma Hotel, which is in Legian. I did a fair bit of shopping in the local markets. Not because I needed a new wardrobe. I like going out and interacting with the native folks. I picked up a handful of Indonesian and Balinese words. Enough to be dangerous, and call myself a chicken head (capala ayam). We made a one-day dash to Ubud which is inland. Here I purchased a very large Commodo Dragon woodcarving. I wasn't originally planning on spending so much on the beast (about 6 feet long) but I got myself caught up in it, and I love a good bartering session. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was shelling out millions of rupia! Mind you, you get 5000 rupia per Aussie buck. To keep a long story short this dragon cost me a small fortune. It was shipped home via boat as the box was way to big for air freight. The shipping was almost as much as the dragon itself.
We met lots of cool people while we were there. In particular, Jen and Angela certainly put an unexpected twist in our holiday. Jen and Angela are also from Sydney, although Jen is currently living in New York (I know, what is she thinking????)
After a restful two plus weeks, I left back for Sydney. But my stay in Sydney was very brief (5 days) to attend Georgia and Andrew's wedding; and then off to the US of A.
Georgia is Claudia's sister. Her wedding was lovely. The wedding took place in Kiama (central coast, NSW Australia). The reception was at Georgia's parents place. They have a beautiful holiday home in Kiama. But this was no ordinary wedding. I'd call it a two-day wedding. After the wedding and reception, the next day everyone gathered for brunch and coffee. Then, to top it all off, we went down to a local beach with the wedding party for a few more hours of frolicking in the sun. It was awesome.
From here, I left Sydney to surprise friends and family back in California. As it turns out, my cousin Signe was also getting married. Originally, I wasn't planning to attend, but after rearrange a few flight details (at great effort) I managed to bump my flight forward so I'd make it back in time. My sister Katrina was the only person back in the states that knew of my surprise visit. After my sister picked me up from the airport, we drove back to my parents place. As luck would have it, MoM was walking to the street to pick up the recycling. I waved to her as I drove up the driveway. She didn't recognise me. I got out of the car and said Hello. She still didn't realise it was me, so finally I said, "Mom, it's me, your son" For the next few hours, you couldn't peel the smile of MoM's face. My surprise worked well. DaD's surprise was similar. Katrina rang the doorbell, and I hopped out of the bushes when he opened the door. The look on Dad's face was priceless. It was one of those very perplexing looks, like "who is this dude that looks like Randall?" I'm just glad that my surprise didn't cause any physical damage to anyone, i.e. heart attack or something.
So after just one day back in CA, I'm back at the airport leaving for Minnesota. God bless Minnesota and its butt cold weather. It was as cold as -40f / -40c with the wind chill factor. Needless to say, I hardly packed the correct clothing for such weather. Only a week prior I was basking in sun, wearing as little as possible. Now I was wearing every article of clothing I owned. But it was well worth it. The wedding was excellent. It was so exciting to see so many of my relatives (like thirty of them) that I haven't seen for years (8 years or so). Unfortunately, not everyone could attend because there was a bad storm the day of the wedding and many people who planned on driving up on the day got snowed in.
I think weddings are a bit contagious because three days after the wedding, another of my Cousin's, Sara Peterson got engaged to her boyfriend, Brandan. Sara- let's shot for a summer wedding this time eh?
Xmas and New Years
Usually, the entire family gets together in either CA where my folks live, or in Texas where my brother, wife and three kids live. But Daniel (my brother) and Linda were not able to make it back to CA this year because Linda just gave birth to their third child, Laura Sell on December 20th. Congratulations you two! Now put a lid on it!
Christmas with my family was excellent. As always, we open our presents on Christmas Eve after church. Following the present opening we have oyster stew (a twisted tradition) and drink Tom & Jerry's. A T&J is a fancy way of saying alcoholic eggnog. For New Years, I joined my sister and a large group of her friends to go party hopping. A good time was had by all, the only part missing was a certain someone special to kiss when the Crystal Ball hits the floor. So I substituted the kiss for a beer and partied on.
That about wraps up my holiday. And believe it or not, I tried to be brief. Enjoy the photos and all the best into the new Millennium!