Monday, April 23, 2018

Christmas in April!

Chad and Brynn and their four kids live in Jacksonville, NC, near the coast.  Their deck was starting to fall apart, so for Christmas we agreed to help them rebuild it.  On Monday morning after Christmas on Sunday, it was off to Lowe's to buy the materials.  Yes, those are 16-footers in a 7-foot bed of Paula's Tacoma.  You just put a bunch of concrete on the other end and drive re-e-e-a-l slowly. 
Chad had already taken apart the old deck, and a couple of pickup loads got it all to the landfill.  Along with a no-longer-repairable piano.
Ever toss a piano in to a 10-foot deep landfill bin?  As the piano crashed in, I smiled and thought of every piano teacher of my youth (the memory of them has probably been poisoned by my lack of practice).
Back to work.  Augers?!  We don't need no stinkin' augers!
Every sixth grader should know how to mix a wheelbarrow of concrete, right?  
Chad gave instruction on the fine art of mixing the stuff.
Once the placement of the posts had cured, the frame construction started.
The guys at Lowes just shook their heads as we loaded up Brynn's minivan with more stuff.
Chad's eight-year-old son Joshuah has a love of all things tools.
He volunteered to help in all sorts of ways.
Despite the gloves and eye protection, we waved him off.
Power tools and 2nd graders - not a good mix.
Annie was caught red-handed. Or pink-handed, I guess.
She arranged her "office" on the under-construction project.
The deck gradually, and I do mean gradually, began to take shape.
Chad proved to be as adept at fine-cutting deck planks as filling teeth.
We finally finished up last week, on the third visit to J-ville to help with the construction.
The benches held up to the test of the entire family plus Grandma.
Old joke - How many gynecologists and dentists does it take to build a deck?  And how much time will it take them?
In the end, it all turned out pretty well, and looks to be very functional.
We hope that all your projects turn out OK, but that they don't take so long.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, April 22, 2018

"We thought you'd started a day care!"

That and other such comments by the neighbors heralded the arrival of Ashley and her six kids from Tajikistan a couple of weeks ago, their departure brought forward about six weeks due to a medical concern that luckily blew over without a problem.  Brandon was left behind to finish things up in Dushanbe, and will come in early May for family leave and training before they all go to Uzbekistan for their next posting.
So, what happens when seven folks with a combined age less than mine show up?  Delightful chaos!
Easter egg hunts!
Untidy rooms!
Gangs infesting Monkey Palace!
Having to put a new edge on my screwdriver tips!
Fishing in the garden pond!
Piano concerts!
Hiking in a local park!
Krispy Kreme!
So once again the house echoes with kid sounds.  It has been just great, and a lot of fun.  And we can make their mother do the dirty work.
We hope your grandkids are half as much fun.
Dave & Paula

Monday, April 16, 2018

Avoiding growing up! The Old Guys' Kite Camp!

Since 1992, we have rented a house with my brother and our friend from medical school, Winston Trice, and our wives at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  This has been during the fall, and sometimes again in the spring, which are seasons when the winds are dependable but the water's not too cold.  For the first 16-18 years, the trips were for windsurfing..
Sailing around on the Pamlico Sound behind Hatteras Island was a blast.
Great sessions were followed by peeling off the wet suits and doing a cannonball in to the hot tub!
However, Winston started kiteboarding when it was just starting to take off as a sport, and he tried for a number of years to get us to try it.  We fumbled around some, and finally in 2008 my brother Mark and I each bought a kite and a board, and the fumbling got serious.
A couple of years after that, Paula and I were assigned to South America for almost five years, and by the time we got back, Mark was getting pretty good at the sport, Winston was getting great, and I had been left miles behind in the eternal outdoor sports arms race.
I kept fumbling, experiencing major frustration.  I finally got some better kites (the equipment had evolved, whether I had or not) and an easier board, and I began getting some short runs on the relatively flat water of the Sound.
The 2018 Spring Old Guys' Kite Camp rolled around last week, and we packed eleven people in to a beautiful house on the Sound, with two rank beginners, a couple of experts including one of our missionaries that served with us in Peru and his brother, along with the usual suspects, my brother Mark and his wife Amy, and our buddy Winston.  The several 20-something people skewed the average age downward, but it was still over 45.
And it was a stupendous week!!  There were buckets of wind all week long, and we kited for six out of seven days, resting on Sunday.
I believe that the conditions were the best ever, though it was cold enough to warrant dry suits for a couple of days.  (This is Winston 'boosting' over an old nasty shipwreck in the Sound.)
I became known as Mango Man! for the color of my dry suit.
By the first couple of days, I was finally getting around on the kite!  And after that, it was fun!
And what do you do when it's too dark to kite, or your muscles finally yell, "ENOUGH!?"  Duh!  You go shop crawling!  There's always some new shiny object to buy!
And you watch kiting videos!  And eat lots!  While you're watching kiting videos!
Everyone made great progress, including the experts, who leaped ahead and learned 'foiling' which involves using a kite and a hydrofoil board to ride up and out of the water.  (I found the image online - the guy's not wearing a dry suit!)
OK, I admit that in the grand scheme of things, kiting is of little or no importance.  However, it has been fun (at occasional moments) learning it, and hanging out with friends.  As the average age at the OGKC advances, we hope to be doing this for a good while longer.  
We hope that you also continue to learn new things, and that you remember to point your forward foot downwind when you water start.
Dave & Paula

Friday, March 9, 2018

So, what do they speak in New Zealand?

We learned a lot while we were in New Zealand.  For one thing, it has only been inhabited for something like 800 years; before the Pacific Islander ancestors of the Maoris landed, it had been almost exclusively the home of birds, who filled nearly all the niches of the animal kingdom filled elsewhere by mammals.
Europeans sighted it first in 1642, though the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman didn't actually land.  Captain Cook circumnavigated the islands in 1769, and soon European folks were exploring and living there, though not without conflict with the indigenous people.  
"Mocking Australia's criminal heritage is something of a national pastime," says one source, which we found to be hilariously true, but by contrast, those who settled New Zealand came voluntarily.  They were largely Englishman, with a liberal smattering of Australians coming over, and so English became the official language.  Sort of.  
Oh, sure, there are the usual differences that are in common with the UK.  For instance, it's not polite to run around in public in "pants" in either country,  
rather, you wear "trousers" when you go out.
When you say "chemist" in the US, various things come to mind, some of them not so happy.
In New Zealand or England, he or she is more likely to sell you an antacid, instead of meth.
However, it goes even further in New Zealand.  It first hit us when the cheerful flight attendant greeted us with "Kia ora!" when we boarded the plane with the big fern painted on the side.
Many place names, greetings and daily words are Maori in origin.  If you're told you have a nice kuru, you can be complimented (or slap the guy) for being told you have a good looking derriere.  Wait, that's some other language...
The Maori tongue was actively suppressed for many years, however by some accounts over 1,000 words from that language are now in active daily use by non-native speakers, and it is taught in schools.  Words like waka (technically canoe, but often used to describe any motor vehicle, kai (food), puku (belly, stomach), and whanau (family) can now be heard interspersed in everyday conversation. 
Then there are some colloquialisms derived from (surprise!) the sheep industry.  If you've been "pinked," it means you may get sunburned, as you've been trimmed a bit close to the skin, and such.
However, that's not all.  There is a distinct accent difference, different from Australian, South African, English or whatever.  This became apparent one day during our cycling adventure, when the van had to park on the grass in front of a farm to help one the riders.  I was in the vehicle when the unhappy farmer confronted the guide about having stopped there.
I swear he yelled, "Bloody terrorists!"
OK, we were wearing unusual colorful Spandex clothing, helmets and weird shoes, but "terrorists?!"  I don't think so!  I mean, all we did was park the van on his bloody grass for about two minutes!
When I voiced my objection to our guide, she scratched her head for a moment, then said, "'TOURISTS,' not 'TERRORISTS!; TOURISTS!!"
Anyway, I was just starting to pick up the lingo when our trip ended, unfortunately. 
We hope you have a tino pai day, mate!
Dave & Paula