Tuesday, January 27, 2009

California Dreaming

We spent a couple of days in Disneyland. The temperature was supposed to be 55-65 degrees (13 - 18 if you prefer Celsius) but it turned out to be 80 - 85 (26 - 30). This was apparently due to El Nino. This was good because a few years ago in Canada, I was unreasonably cold because of El Nino so he owed me one.

Our holiday was largely financed through the generosity of some friends who had given us a gift with the stipulation that it be spent on "something fun for the family". We enjoyed being back at Disney and seeing some of the familiar things but also new things which have been added.

One of the things which impreses me about Disney is that they are constantly looking at ways to improve. The biggest change I noticed was how they have added interactive gaming experiences where you are given a score. This Midway Madness game had the longest queues at California Adenture. Interesting how they have made participation more of a thing. Leonard Sweet would think it was EPIC.

On the other side in Disney Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters allow you to email a picture with your score to a friend who can also play online at home and have their score added to yours.

California Screaming is the big roller coaster. Jamie was desperate to do it last time but it was closed for maintenance. It involves looping the loop inside Mickey's head. Luke and Jamie had decided they were going to do it together and the rest of us had decided that we were not going to be doing it at all. Luke and Jamie went off, only to reappear some minutes later with Luke having changed his mind. Jamie did not want to do it on his own but had waited years to do it.

This was a Dad moment. A clear choice of courage or cowardice. I chose to go with Jamie, this meant I could talk to Luke about what it was like and the next time he went with Jamie and went on to do it 10 times. Craig also decided to do it on the last day provided I sat next to him the first time. It was actually good fun.

Ailsa was also rather brave going on the Maliboomer and The Tower of Terror. She does know how to scream on these rides as the close up of Splash Mountain shows.

We had a great time and especially enjoyed the parks being a bit quiter than in the height of the summer. Disney has been one of the benefits of travels from Scotland to New Zealand.

We went to stay with our friends the Kellys in San Diego. They have 4 girls and they all got on surprisingly well together considering how seldom they see each other.

One afternoon they took us to Old Mission Dam. This was built 200 years ago by the Spanish to provide a regular supply of water for agriculture and development. For its time it is an impressive structure but is now mostly a fun place to play.

The area was also used as a millitary training base in WW2. The tranquility of the bush with bird life was a little reminiscent of New Zealand. We walked the loop track back to the car and made our own pizzas for dinner.

I think the Kellys have been another benefit of travel from Scotland to New Zealand. We certainly have as much fun with them as we do at Disney. We went to their church on Sunday morning and the boys enjoyed playing with some of the Somali kids who go there.

We drove up to San Francisco and managed to visit Alcatraz. I had wanted to do this the last time we were in San Francisco but it had been fully booked. I am not sure why Alcatraz has captured the public imagination in the way that it has. From military fort, to federal prison, to Indian occupation highlighting injustice it has had a checkered career.

It is easy to imagine what life in the Cell Blocks must have been like. D Block which was used for punishment had no windows in the cells. The regulations stated that the light should be kept on but in fact they were not. One ex con on the commentary explained that to keep himself sane in D block he would tear a button off his shirt and throw it in the air and then crawl around until he found it and would then repeat this. I was interested that this was what "kept him sane" as it sounded just a little bit crazy to me.

It was a grey day when we were there which seemed an appropriate atmosphere to explore "The Rock". Many of the buildings are crumbling but that adds to the sense of history. You could almost hear the voices of those who had gone before echoing in the empty buildings. I had a similar sense on Ellis island in New York in the months after 9/11.

One of the things we discovered was that there had been quite a few children on the island whose parents worked there. They went to school by boat each day and returned each afternoon. They described it as an idyllic place to grow up with space to play, no traffic and no worries about strangers. Funny to think that you could play so close to some of the most dangerous criminals in America and feel totally safe. They said that they hardly ever saw the prisoners at all.

The other thing that struck us was the abundance of plant and bird life. The plants have been cultivated by soldiers, prisoners and now volunteers. It presents an interesting contrast. The buildings speak of death, are grey and crumbling but the plants proclaim life with colour and vitality. It reminded me of that phrase from the Shawshank Redemption "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies".

Koala did not make the trip with us from LA to San Francisco. Despite our best efforts to track him down he has gone walkabout. Having been to 4 continents he was a well travelled little friend and we were all a bit upset by his loss. Sophie will understand more than most having made the original purchase 15 years ago. There are some things you can fix for your kids and some things you can't.

We arrived safely back in New Zealand on Saturday and I preached twice on the Sunday morning at Knox. It was good to see a few people who were pleased to see us. On Monday we drove up to Staff and Families Conference at Papamoa near Tauranga. There are almost 60 of us now and there is definitely a growing sense of family and team which is exciting.

So where do you think this was? Disneyland, San Diego, Alcatraz, Kiwi Beach or Scottish Garden?

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