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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Pat’s from our pool in sunny Jakarta and The Stutz Family’s Groovy Gecko Grill!

St. Patrick's Day in the pool!

Christmas 2012

Our holiday season was festive and bright! We got the tree up and lights lit in November – the latest we’ve waited in a long time! The White Elephant was a huge success, and we had loads of fun getting everyone set for the holiday. Presents were opened on the 16th, and we are off in the morning for a 3-week adventure through Cambodia and Laos. Happy holidays to all!!

Eggcellent!

So we had all the traditional Easter goings-on this morning: Easter bunny – check. Hidden goodies – check. Egg cracking contests – check. Invasion of swarming ants – check.

Wait, what? We figured out – a little too late, it seems – that hiding eggs and chocolate in a tropical environment is a great way to invite bugs in for the party. We relocated all the sweets back to the fridge, but still had a lot of post-party cleanup to do.

Oh well – guess we’ll just have to jump in the pool this afternoon. I guess life in the topics has its advantages!

And, as they say in Greece – Χριστός ἀνέστη!

Holiday Greetings 2011!

The Stutz family is very excited to be sending season’s greetings from a new part of the world (for us!).  After four fabulous and rewarding years at the American School of Bombay, it was time to move on and explore another part of the planet.  In mid-January, we accepted jobs in sunny Jakarta, Indonesia at the Jakarta International School.

It was harder than we expected saying good-bye to India and all our friends and colleagues at ASB; not one of us was dry-eyed boarding the plane in June.  A summer of family and travel brightened our spirits and prepared us for new adventures in Indonesia.

Breck and Alea with their walleyeWe started off the summer in our “new home” in Minnesota, and got right to the serious business of supporting the American economy. Perennial early highlights of our vacation include shopping in Target, chowing down at Denny’s, and playing trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings. This year was doubly special, as we also had the chance to get together for a lunch with Dave’s sister and family, who were in Minnesota visiting their family farm.

Susan’s parents celebrated 50 years of marriage this year, so all five families trooped off to Canada for a week of fishing, playing, laughter and love.  The phrase ‘double double’ still emerges in our home in reference to fabulous fishing: two people, two bites, two fish in the boat and then two minutes later… two people, two bites, two fish in the boat…

Breck and Alea at Devil's TowerLeaving Canada, Susan immediately flew to New York to attend a reading conference, so Dave and the kids took off through Canada to spend a week at the cabin in Rimini. They had an epic journey on the trans-Canadian highway across 4 provinces, and then swung down through Montana and back across to Minnesota. They went through 4 national parks & monuments (Glacier, Little Big Horn, Devil’s Tower, and Mount Rushmore), spent quality time with the Montana Stutz’s, and survived “roughing it” with each other in the very best of spirits.

End of July brought us to Jakarta and we have been busy settling in ever since.  At JIS CIL, Dave teaches 6th grade math and at JIS PEL Susan teaches 1st grade.  Alea is now in high school (with a campus that prepares her for any university in the USA!) while Breck rocks the 7th grade.   We have a lovely, old home in the suburb of Cilandak.  After years in a tiny apartment in Bombay, we are free and easy with single-floor living, a huge lawn and a pool!  We were welcomed to the house by rats who had taken up residence, so Dori and Linsea soon joined the Stutz family as honorary four-legged members.

Alea has adjusted well to high school.  She is taking Spanish III, Physical and Life Science, Asian Studies, Algebra and Geo II, English 9, Concert Band and PE.  She is actively involved in a Gerakan Kepedullian (ask her) service-learning club and LOVES her rock climbing every Monday after school.  She went to Monado for a week of service learning and planted trees at the base of a volcano and removed Crown of Thorns from a local reef.

Breck has Algebra, Science, Drama, PE, World Studies, English, French and Band.  He joined baseball, basketball, softball, and track and field (top 5 in long jump AND javelin at the meet – a huge accomplishment given the size of the schools competing!!).  He also joined an animal rights service club and is supporting the animal aid network where we got Linsea and Dori. Rumor has it he also landed a role in the Middle School drama production for 2nd semester!  Slowly but surely, both kids have made new friends among the 2,500 students here.

After adjusting to a new country, new city, new house, new school, new colleagues, and new friends, we thought we needed something familiar for October break, so we returned to Bali for a week of fun in the sun.  We spent 3 days in Ubud getting our fill of culture and then continued on to Pemuteran Bay so Dave could actually snorkel the scene given he couldn’t last time we were there (because of the infamous monkey attacks!).  We went to Mengangan Island reserve and had a fabulous day of snorkeling – we saw sea turtles, clown fish, jellyfish, hard and soft coral and…  a wonderful day!

December holiday fever has begun as we prepare to go on our first tour around our new host country.  We head off to the Gili Islands near Lombok on the 18th.  All four of us will get PADI open-water diving certified.  Wish us luck!  We’ll also spend a few days driving the interior around Gunung Rinjani, Lombok’s largest volcano.  We’ll fly back to Jakarta for the New Year and then go to Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java.  Our main plan there is to climb the temple ruins of Borobudur and Prambanan.

Dave’s Grandma, Mildred Robison Stutz, died just last month.  She had a long and wonderful life and we celebrate her memory as we head into the holidays.  She was a delightful part of many of our summer trips out West; we are fortunate to have had her in our lives as long as we did.  Dave’s brother, Rob Stutz, is running for Congress for the state of Montana.  Sisters Karla and Shari have helped run, manage, and negotiate an active campaign. We wish him all the best and firmly believe he is the best candidate for the great state of Montana!

We continue to be blessed as a family – we have so much for which to be thankful – and we are!  We send forth all our best wishes to family and friends for a safe, joyous, and wonderful holiday season and 2012.

Celebrate good times

The holiday season officially kicked off this weekend. The Muslims are celebrating Eid, the Hindus are beginning the Ganesh festival, the Christians start up the Mount Mary cathedral Bandra Fair tomorrow, and the Jews mark Rosh Hashanah. The crescent moon is eagerly sighted from the rooftops, plaster elephant gods are paraded through the streets, firecrackers echo between the buildings, and shofar horns are blown beneath the Gateway of India. All in all, a loud, crazy, riotous season has begun, and we’ll all be lucky to have a good night’s sleep any time in the next two weeks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Fitr

Dahi Handi

Celebrating the zany youthhood of Krishna, teams travel the city today looking to make human pyramids and reach the ‘pot of curd’ hanging over major intersections. I caught a glimpse of some of the teams on the way home from volleyball practice – and got caught up in the traffic. I have become very zen-like in my acceptance of the road congestion. I just sigh (and smile if I have my camera:)).

When I got to the house, I got a call from Susan (who was at book club) telling me that a friend of ours wanted to take a look around but was not entirely comfortable going out alone. So with the spousal permission all taken care of, out I went and actually got to see a teal complete the human pyramid task.

Basically, groups of youths roam the city looking for these pots of smelly curds (usually dyed with food coloring) and try to stack each other up high enough to reach them. Every year there are plenty of accidents, as the pyramids tumble down, but every year the prizes (and the number of groups) increase. Take a look through the pictures and get a glimpse of yet another side of life in India…

Final Bali pages

They are finally up and ready! Only three months after the end of the vacation, we have sorted the photos, written the stories, and organized all the different stuff that needs to be organized to post our Pemuteran, Bali pages online and finish the trip!

Allow me my soapbox for a moment: I realize that many people prefer to post things on Facebook after their trips, and I’ve been given some grief for not doing so (*cough* Karla *cough*). I also realize that there are some very important positive aspects to doing so, especially 1) the immediacy and 2) the ability to get feedback.

In all fairness, I could easily enough put together an album of 142 pictures from every trip and upload them the day after our trip (taking care of #1 above). The problem that I see with doing this is that A) then there would be none of the quality control/cropping/etc (aka Photoshopping) that goes in to touching up the pictures on the webpage, B) there would be no descriptors or travel talk like we try to put in the webpages, and C) who really looks through albums of 142 vacation pictures with no idea of what is going on in them?

Since all of these take time, having the choice between putting things on Facebook or my own webpage, I prefer to put them on our own webpage. There is an additional reason to consider: what happens to those pictures on Facebook? If something happens to the site (notice the news about Bebo today?), what happens to all your pictures?

But having said that, I also realize that the number 1 thorn in my side right now is the inability for people to comment on pictures (or even just pages) in a static webpage. That is an ENORMOUS advantage that putting something on Facebook enjoys, and one that I’m really not sure how to address. If I could find a snippet of code that would allow me to turn my Web1.0 pages into something with more interactability, I would certainly do so.

But, until I find that magical snippet of code, please enjoy the Pemuteran pages from our Bali trip!

Bali pages update

Resting during a camel trek in RajasthanYeah, yeah, yeah. So it has been a long time since I’ve added a posting here, mostly because we’ve been on vacation for the past week. Not to Bali, mind you, but to the deserts of Rajasthan. We enjoyed days of 100+ (Farenheit) degree weather, incredible rock fortresses, and wild journeys through a wild country.

But this post isn’t about Rajasthan (although just to be fair, I’ve posted what is currently my desktop wallpaper: an image taken on an afternoon camel ride).

Nope, this post is about our Christmas trip, from which I am still organizing and setting up the webpages. This section is, understandably, the most involved, as Ubud was our ‘cultural’ stop and had a lot more to see and do in terms of shopping, temples, dancing, etc.

Rice paddies surround the town of Ubud, Bali

As I was looking at the Bali pages that have already been posted, there had been a total of 8 previously completed. Today, I present to you 9 new pages, all about the city of Ubud. There are a couple in here for which Susan wrote the travelogue, and even a video – plus a bloody picture of a post-monkey-attacked-finger, so go ahead and enjoy yourself!

Holi fun abounds

Holi ColorsYes, it is Holi again, and just like last last year and the year before, once more we threw ourselves head first into this celebration of water and rebirth. We rounded up all sorts of non-toxic powders, and had a huge water and paint fight at Kiara, squirting everything that moved.

Following the morning battle, Alea and Dave ventured out into the neighborhood and got even more appropriately colored. The excitement on young kids’ faces was evident when they realized we were going to let ourselves get all colored up!

We finished off the afternoon at a colleague’s get-together, where we ate, drank, and soaked in the bright sunlight. My favorite Indian holiday! You can check out all the exciting pictures from hour day, now posted on the webpage…

Bali trip – snorkeling off the east coast

Our second stop over the Christmas vacation was to a dive area on Bali’s east coast.

I’m sure you are saying to yourself, “But wait – what about the first stop?!!” Really, I know you are.

Don’t worry – we are putting these up all out of order. This is the second stop (Amed), next up will be the first stop (Sanur), and then we’ll go on with places three (Ubud) and four (Pemuteran). Trust me.

In any case, the Ahmed webpages for our Christmas trip are now online.They don’t hold any navigation to other parts of the Indonesia pages because, honestly, none exist right now. But scoot on over and enjoy the pictures and stories that are already posted – if you are enjoying a nice cold winter, the sun will help warm you up inside!

Happy New Year – we’re back!

View over the Balinese rice paddies to a volcano in the distanceInstead of the traditional “pine cones and holly berries” this holiday season, we enjoyed “palm trees and lots of snorkeling.” Our Christmas jaunt was to the island paradise of Bali, where we enjoyed 3 weeks of sun, water (both in the seas and from the skies), shopping, and a bit of culture all rolled up with a healthy dose of relaxation.

Part of that relaxation piece was a complete disregard for any sort of electronic access. Sorting through hundreds of emails this weekend has been a daunting task, but I think we’re just about caught up. Now all we have to worry about is school starting again!

In terms of stories and pictures and all, those are all coming up at some point – but not tonight! Here is a quick list of some highlights (and lowlights) of our time in Bali: snorkeling right from the shore, schools of gorgeous fish, colonies of radiant coral, sunburn, sunken warships, rice paddies, motor scooters, monkey attacks, wood carvings, dances and chanting, tropical skin disease, sea turtles, and of course – ice cold Bintang!

We’ll start getting things sort of organized for the webpage and all, but for now this is just a shout out that the Stutz family is back online. Whoo hoo!

Tis the season

Alea on the sax - winter 2009We have a slow moving family this morning, as we all nurse the excesses from this ‘start of the holiday season’ weekend. The events began on Wednesday, with Alea’s band concert, and things will just get ever more crazy from that point on.

This weekend is chock a block with doings: Friday night was an impromptu rooftop gathering in celebration of a colleague’s new job in Bucharest, Saturday night was the school’s Christmas party at Aurus, a swanky beachside club (open bar and all, thus the quiet music and dim lights this morning), today is an art show followed by holiday sing-a-long, and Monday is the Grand Hyatt’s tree-lighting ceremony showcasing the ASB elementary schoolers and also including copious amounts of first-class food and drink (unfortunately on a school night!).

Alea’s play practices – the show is called “Online – An Internet Fantasy” – are revving up in intensity, as her performances are Friday afternoon and evening, Susan has a chick-flick movie night organized on Saturday, our White Elephant party is Thursday evening, and then we are outta here for Bali. Whew. I’m glad we got our tree up as early as we did, ’cause there’s no time to do it now!

Thanksgiving post-game report

Oompah-loompah doopidty doo: that’s how we all felt last night as we tried to sleep on tummies stuffed with food. We had an outstanding meal, made all-the-better by the fact that we had good friends as guests, really making the holiday complete.

So let’s see – the menu was rotisserie chicken (which we cooked for the first time ever on the barbecue and which turned out great!), mashed potatoes with gravy, yams (Indian yams: not really yams and not really sweet potatoes and the only disappointment on the table), squash, green beans with almonds, stuffing, pumpkin muffins, jello, spice cupcakes, apple crisp, and ice cream.

We ate and drank to excess, and then finished off the evening with rousing games of Eye-to-Eye and The Game of Things, and the promise of an invite to Google Wave (which we’re still awaiting, BTW). All in all, a nearly 6 hour festival of gratitude. My “what are you thankful for” was that this year, unlike last, we were not celebrating the holiday under an umbrella of uncertainty and fear.

This weekend doesn’t just revolve around the giving of thanks and the consumption of copious amounts of fowl, however. It is also the Muslim holiday of Eid, so our basement is once again filled with goats.

Eid goats in the basement

They don’t know it yet, but they are scheduled to be ritually slaughtered today – Breck has been asking whether or not he can watch. Raising your kids internationally lesson #274: instead of crass commercialism during the holiday season, we get a discussion on the differing religious traditions.

But I suppose it is not much different from that-which-gave-Alea-great-pleasure this weekend: Uncle Billy got a big buck hunting, which means there will be venison sausage for her this summer!

Hiking in the Himalayas

Monks spinning prayer wheels in Mcleod GanjThe webpages from our Dharamsala trip are online and rarin’ to go. This last week has been really weak on the blog entry front, and I’m worried that trend might continue as we enter the holiday season of things.

We did have an exciting event this last weekend, as we went to downtown Mumbai for dinner with the parents of one of my students. The interesting thing about it is that the husband happens to be the 34th richest man in the world (this after having his net worth drop by $42 billon last year. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s only worth $10 billion now). When all is said and done, however, he and his wife were delightful hosts and we had a fabulous time.

But that doesn’t excuse me from neglecting my internet duties now, does it? Until I get back into the real swing of things, go take your mind off your other problems and check out all the fun we had a few weeks back!

Trick or Treat

Halloween Kids 2009We had our traditional Kiara Halloween fest last night, with a ton of kids from school visiting and a bunch of parents doing the same. The young ones roamed up and down the stairwell, going from room to room collecting goodies, while the old ones congregated in one apartment, enjoying adult beverages and even special jello!

Halloween 2009 dadAfter the tricks and treats were done, the kids came to our place to watch Charlie Brown and Monsters Inc. All reports indicate that they were well behaved, even with the sugar high they were sporting.

And the Stutz costumes? Susan wore her Boo!! T-shirt and kept the home fires burning, Breck was Billy the Kid from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Alea was an Emo (not Elmo, but Emo) and Dave played a suave Hugh Hefner.

Carving up the pumpkins

Carving the pumpkinsSince Susan is hosting a book club meeting tomorrow night, we figured we’d get our jack o’lanterns done a few days early. Our maid had picked up a few (greenish yellow) pumpkins from the market, and a neighbor from downstairs brought up carving magazines and stencils (I kid you not).

Oh, in case you were wondering – here’s a little bit of international Halloween trivia to keep handy: Indian pumpkins are MUCH easier to carve than Serbian pumpkins. They are soft and scoop out with very little effort.

In any case, there were some scary faces, a stenciled-on spider, and Breck even carved his very own pumpkin for the first time – a zombie! Aside from the cheesy (pumpkin) pi tattoo I gave mine, the evening was a success. Plus we’ll have lots of roasted pumpkin seeds to eat!

So now we are all set for the girls coming over to talk about “People of the Book.” I won’t be attending, but just for the record I thought the end of the book ruined the whole thing: how in the world could he have recreated – perfectly (except for the wrong skin) – the book. Silly, silly, silly, and there goes all pretense of reality for me.

Oh but wait, this post is about pumpkins. OK – so this is what they looked like in the end. Now we’ve gotta see if they last until Saturday!

Final Faces

Ganesh finally gets online

GaneshIt has been a while, but I finally have finished up all 4 Ganesh immersion pages. There is some good stuff here, lots of which didn’t make it into the Facebook spread, so check out the better-late-than-never edition of this holiday.

And yes, I am away this week with Alea on our Week Without Walls trip, but though the wonder of the Internets I could schedule this in advance! How technological are we these days!

Free verse Friday – Oktoberfest ’09

Photo by Martin Reinsmoen

Photo by Martin Reinsmoen

With apologies to Nat King Cole and other singers of “O Tannenbaum”

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
It’s fast approaching this way
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
A time for all to come play

Good times do always there abound:
Beer, schnitzel, brats, and oompah sounds

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
Come eat and drink on Saturday

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I’ll have my little hat on
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I’ll wear fake lederhosen

Though German pictures all will show,
Alas, few women here have dirndls

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
Despite our clothes we’ll have fun.

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
This year we’ve got kazoos
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
We’ll have the hookah too

On Kiara’s vast rooftop expanse
We’ll drink and do the chicken dance

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I hope we don’t get rained out

Holi cow!

Holi Dave!We took full advantage of today’s colorful Holi festivities, setting up a water fight at home and traipsing around the neighborhood to catch a glimpse of India at its finest.

We missed a lot of the excitement last year, and so wanted to make sure we caught what all the fuss was about (and we did!).

All the pictures are over on our webpage, so pop on over and check them out!

Love is a battlefield

Pink Chaddi PosterAt least it is in India. Valentine’s day has become a major cultural flashpoint here, as modern holidays clash with ancient traditions. Decrying the Western notions of amorous love and displays of affection, Hindu nationalist groups have threatened to raze shops that sell Valentine’s day gifts and beat up couples holding hands today.

While it may seem like a pretty innocuous holiday about which to raise a fuss, tensions in the major cities have been running a bit higher than normal lately due to a recent event in southern India. A group of men beat up women who were in a pub, calling them un-Indian for engaging in behavior that was as deviant as having a drink in public and dancing with men.

As an example of some of the thought processes at play, here is part of an actual comment about a Valentine’s Day news piece (from the article linked below):

There is conspiracy plotted by jehadis and christian church and have openly asked men to lure hindu girls whenever they can and after marriage convert them to their religion and have as many children as possible to increase the head count. Valentine Day is just another invention by christian church agents to lure and trap hindu girls.

Tempers have flared on all sides, and V-Day (as it is referred to here) has become a central theme. Some groups want to ban it as an indicator of a moral slide brought on by the abandonment of traditional values, while others want to elevate it as an indicator of India’s emerging acceptance of and presence on the world stage. Because of all this, we awoke to a news paper declaring that all police vacations had been canceled and the city would be on high alert all weekend.

Of course, an event like this takes on a life of its own, and a self proclaimed “Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women” has declared war on groups that attack women. They have started a campaign to send pink panties to the headquarters of the Sri Ram Sene, the organization behind the pub violence. There has been enough success thus far to earn the attention of local papers (check out the comment wars on this one) as well as the New York Times, so it will be interesting to see if this manages to get the Hindu groups’ “panties in a bundle.”

Merry Christmas!

Because we are on our way to Thailand early, early Monday morning, we’ve combined a number of “Holiday Steps” together.

First and foremost, we wrote up our Season’s Greetings: The 12 Days of Stutzmas for your reading pleasure.

Secondly, we made a special arrangement with Santa to stop by early, so we celebrated Christmas morning a few days ahead of schedule.

And third, to join the Wagner Christmas event, we recorded our very own super-secret 13th Day of Christmas holiday greeting.

As we head out for almost three weeks, we wish everyone the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of New Years, and the jolliest of holiday seasons!!

Goats in the basement

With the “Big Eid” celebrations taking place tomorrow, Muslims all over the country (and throughout the Islamic world) are getting ready for the day.

Remember the story of Abraham, and how he was told by God to sacrifice his son? He was all set to obey the Word of the Lord, only to have an angel appear just as he was ready to strike. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of the wisdom of obeying such an command from a supposedly loving deity, this holiday commemorates that event. Traditionally, then, animals are ritually slaughtered and shared out with the less fortunate.

Our guards, drivers (that is Iqbal sitting behind Breck, the driver who worked for us last year), and the Muslim family that lives in our building are keeping up with the spirit of the holiday, and procured 6 goats to serve as the sacrifices. The animals have been living in the basement for the last week or so, and Breck and dad went down tonight to wish them farewell on their last earthly night.

We won’t be able to join in the festivities, as they take place in the morning after we’ve already left for school, and I’m guessing that things will be all cleaned up by the time we get back. Oh well – maybe next year!

Diwali celebrations

Our school held its observation/celebration of Diwali yesterday, and the entire campus was decorated in colors, flowers, and streamers. Our family was no exception, as we put on our finest Indian gear and posed around the rangoli that graced the cafeteria floor.

The holiday itself is not for another few weeks, but with the middle and high school basically emptying out next week for the week without walls trips and everyone leaving the next week for the Diwali break, we all got an early start on the holiday.

Shops around town are just starting to gear up – stringing lights, putting candles on sale, getting lanterns out for people to see – so for once I feel ‘ahead of the curve.’ We are headed to Udaipur for the the real holiday, so we’ll let everyone know how they celebrate it in Rajasthan!

But for now, zip on over to our regular webpage to see more images from the kids, the activities, and the sights of the day.

Happy Teachers’ Day

Today is Teachers’ Day in India, and we were all welcomed with flower garlands (mala in Hindi) and little boxes of sweets as we entered the school grounds. Alea took a fun picture of Dave and Susan before the school day started!

The date for the holiday is actually derived from the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second president of India. When he was approached for permission to celebrate his the date as a holiday, he reportedly responded that he would be more privileged if it was remembered instead as Teachers’ Day.

It has been a fun day – as the thunder rolls and rain pours outside, we have been treated to some food and drinks by the PTA as well as the occasional gift from a student. A perfect end to the work week, going into a full weekend. Breck has a sleepover planned, Alea is going swimming with a friend, and we are all going to Elephanta Island on Sunday. Fun!

Ganesh is back in town

Ganesh idol around the corner from our home  

The idols are all over Mumbai again, as Lord Ganesha makes his yearly visit to homes everywhere. Our school librarian put together a great little summary of the Ganesh story and the symbolism of the holiday. It is the most popular holiday around town, so it is handy to know what all the excitement is about.

Our corner of the city is no different. Just outside our house are strings of holiday lights hanging down over the street, and they lead up to the pandal that houses the neighborhood Ganesh. I went out for a walk last night just to see everything at night, and it was pretty spectacular. I have more pictures posted on the webpage with a little description of what was going on, so you can pop on over to see them.

I’m going to try to talk the family into taking a walk with me some evening – although now it is thundering and raining, so it might not be tonight!!