A Day of Hope in Tiananmen Square

Finally getting caught up on video work shot, but not produced.

We are very fortunate to have many great interactions with people as we circle the planet. Often the best days are surprises that take on a magic all their own. November 19th, 2017 in Beijing was no exception. What follows is a collaboration between Nicky and Stacia filming, Nicky editing, Alexander and Annika playing, dad writing and narration by Alexander.                                                    Hoping you enjoy our message of hope.


Confusing times for a young man

When the same tech engaged son that sends me this video, also calls from the grocery store and says, “the lady at the cash register keeps asking me if I want paper or plastic, what do i do?”

That’s how you know you’ve been out of the country for too long…

When kids vote their own time, parent should listen.

They’re all different, and we love it. “Click-a-los” Balog, who loves really anything that plugs into a wall, as well as writing and producing video, has unbeknownst to me begun doing product reviews for no reason except, “I like doing it.”

And as parents, that’s more than OK by us. Enjoy.

Japanese culture: Gardening

The rock garden.
 Though the rock garden may be placing rocks in a bowl, if you get the opportunity to take part in this calming, and intricate activity, you will find it is a whole lot more. This activity takes patience, as well as a passion for what you are creating. You must feel as though you are standing right in the center of your tiny garden. Using this, I knew where and how to place my rocks and moss. After that, it all fell into place. After all, this tiny garden is perfected from your hands and only limited by your imagination.  – Alexander Balog


Japanese gardening with the master.

Little one, where does your heart take you?

Sensei, is it the items in the garden, or the space without, that makes the garden complete?

Master, how does one know when the garden is complete?

Japanese gardening. Who knew? #Alexander #kyoto

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Your garden is complete when the heart says it is complete.



A Day of Sumo by Nicholas

One of the coolest things we wanted to experience in Japan was the famous Sumo wrestling. Tickets were expensive and very hard to get yet my dad was determined to experience Sumo. We finally got tickets for Tuesday, September 19th. My dad wanted to see the ceremonies (we had no idea what those were either) which started at 14:20. Naturally, we arrived at 13:00, leaving us an hour and twenty minutes to check the place out until the ceremony started.

The first rule of Sumo, we can talk about Sumo.

When we walked into the stadium, we faced a huge room with a wall of people on the other side. We showed our tickets to the lady working at the stadium and asked her if she could tell us where our seats were located. In Japan, most people don’t speak English, but we were in luck. We were on the second floor, row 6, seats 3-8. I didn’t realize at first that there were only two floors. In comparison to a soccer or football stadium, this was tiny, holding a little over 10,000 people. The bottom floor had rows and rows of pillows that people would sit on to watch the matches. Hours seated in the small folded position with legs crossed! The second floor had fixed velvet chairs in which we sat,  and all of the restaurants were on that level. Only people seated in these sections with chairs could watch and eat. Strangely, the chairs had beer bottle openers attached with string to each little table. We remarked that in America, those would be gone in minutes. No one steals anything in Japan.

Next, we went looking for was food. In Sumo, chicken is a symbol of good luck because chickens stand on two legs and wrestlers need to stay on their feet to win. There were bento boxes, chicken skewers, and a sit-down restaurant. I love chicken, so I got the chicken skewers with fries. It tasted way better than I expected. We were allowed to take our food to our chair seats, so we could eat while Sumo matches took place.

In the Japanese sport of Sumo Wrestling, over 600 fighters called Rikishi strive to become the Yokozuna. The Yokozuna is the highest and most prestigious rank for Rikishi. In order to achieve this goal, the Rikishi must win many battles called bouts. In order to be eligible to become a Rikishi, you must weigh a minimum of 100kg and endure rigorous training. Bouts are held in a Sumo stadium. In the center of the stadium, there is a 4.55m wide circle made out of rice and straw. The floor is clay with two white lines in the middle indicating where the Rikishi begin the match. Around the circle is a square made of the same materials.

While the bouts usually last no more than 10 seconds, the preliminary rituals are quite intricate. First, the Rikishi step into the fight circle, then walk to one of the corners of the square. In the corner, there is a box containing a lot of salt. The Rikishi scoop up the salt with their hands and throw it into the circle. This is to rid them of bad spirits. They then return to the circle. They stand approximately 2 feet away from their white line. They lift their legs and slap their thighs then return to their regular position. They then bend down and rest their fists on the floor. Once both Rikishi has their fists on the floor the bout begins.

The face off, the PSYCHE…and the battle. I.Love.SUMO. #SUMO #ilovesumo #Tokyorocks

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During a bout, 2 Rikishi fight to either knock their opponent out of the circle or cause any part of their body to touch the floor, other than the soles of their feet. The typical duration of a match is only 5-10 seconds, whereas the rituals leading up might be 3 to 4 minutes. Sumo wrestlers propel themselves forward towards their enemy and collide with 4,000 pounds of force. They fight using their own distinct moves until there is one victor. When a Rikishi has won, the referee designates the winner by pointing his war flag to the side from where the winner began. Once the match is over, Rikishi bow to each other and leave the arena. Interestingly, the referee also wears knives on his waist. Those knives are now symbolic, but long ago were used by the referee to commit suicide in the ring if he made a bad call or decision in the match, apparently out of shame!

Most of the time the Japanese people watching were quiet except for the occasional “ooh” or “ah.” When the matches become very close the crowd could become quite boisterous, a huge contrast to the Japanese people’s typical calm demeanor. During the crescendo of the final matches, the crowd was yelling and shouting. When the last match ended, the people sitting on pillows nearest the ring began to throw them into the ring in disgust. We learned the crowd did this because the underdog had defeated the favorite.

And when your guy doesn't win…out come the cushions. We're addicted #ilovesumo #Tokyo

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Since we really knew nothing about it, Annika, Ali and I voted before each match as to who would win, as a way to keep us interested. Over 4 hours, there are a LOT of bouts. (The day actually begins at 8:00 am and ends at 18:00 pm) At first, I was more interested in the preparatory rituals, than the actual matches. There was always a quick winner and the matches rarely went on for more than 5 seconds. Then we got to the big ceremony, when all the senior level Rikishi walking out, forming a circle, and then the circle of Rikishi then walking off. This was interesting to see. But what really became interesting were the bouts that followed. These were much more exciting as they were using tricks during the rituals to psyche out their opponent. The matches were also much closer, and sometimes even took more than 30 seconds. There were about ten matches until another ritual ceremony. After this second ceremony, we got into big dude territory. You could almost feel the collision from hundreds of feet away. The crowd also got much more involved. These matches were really fun and exciting, making the whole day worth it!

All in all, we really enjoyed watching 300 to 600-pound people slam into each other. Next time, I would go later in the day and only watch the last 30 matches. While the ceremonies are interesting and eating the famous chicken skewers while watching sumo is amazing, I think arriving later and having the big matches be the primary focus might make the experience more enjoyable. I think that my overall sumo experience was quite enjoyable, and I would likely go again.

more links:



11 Amazing things you probably never knew about sumo wrestling

Revenge of the Jellyfish. (Nicholas)

Hi , Nicholas here. I have a really crazy story to tell you about what happened last week. (We’re a bit behind, it’s been hectic)

After eight nights in Ubud, Bali, we had done a bunch of cool stuff, but we were ready for a change. We had the opportunity to go on an old wooden Indonesian sailboat called a Phinisi,  where we sailed across the Flores Sea. We wanted to see Komodo dragons, go snorkeling to see sharks and manta rays, and make videos about our travels. We were leaving civilization. No restaurants, no cozy hotels, and certainly no Starbucks. Oh yeah, and no wifi, no Instagram, no Facebook, and no more news about the new iPhone. The iPhone part was the worst for me.

On a smallish boat, you learn to get along with the people around you, and in certain situations drastic measures may be necessary.

Late the day of departure, we set off and anchored for the night near a beautiful remote beach. Surrounding the island, was a shallow colorful reef. The island looked like a good place towards which to swim, and walk around on, and play. After morning class, we were hot and sweaty, and ready to go swimming. I nervously climbed the sail rigging and leapt off the boat into the water. When I came to the surface, I felt as if I was getting poked repeatedly with really tiny needles, all over my body. It didn’t  hurt so much as it was very uncomfortable. Out of curiosity, I asked the crew if they recognized the sting marks. They informed me that the stings were from tiny invisible jellyfish.

I continued jumping off the boat, as the smaller jellyfish stings, although uncomfortable, weren’t very painful. After I had leapt off the boat five or six more times, I had minute red marks all over my body from the mini-jellyfish.

My dad decided to swim the 300-ish yards to the beach to play soccer with the crew. Alex and Annika chose to join him on the beach. I decided I would wait for my mom, and we would swim over to the shore together. Alex, Annika, and my dad were almost to the shore when my mom and I began swimming over as well.

For the first 50 yards or so, my mom and I evaded the stings of the tiny jellyfish. After that, however, the stings began again and continued to worsen until we were like hay in a needle stack. When my mom and I were about halfway to the beach, the crew “seized” the motorboat from the Carpe Diem and headed toward the beach.

About two thirds of the way to the shore, I suddenly got an unbelievably excruciating sting in the crease of my right arm. It felt like all the needles in the needle-stack had been combined and jammed into my arm at once. I screamed in agony and begged the crew to let me onto the motor boat. When I showed them my arm they hurriedly said,” yes,”  and assisted my mom on board as well. We quickly climbed in the boat and I showed my arm to my mom.  She looked as if she was experiencing the pain with me. The crease of my arm was bright red and extremely swollen. The line where the jellyfish stung me looked like the veins in my arm had been ripped out, and taped back onto the outside of my skin. My arm felt like someone had cut it open and poured molten lava into my blood.

I needed something to lessen the pain, so I asked Cécile, our steward, if she had anything to reduce the pain. Apparently, one normally uses vinegar to counteract the effects of jellyfish venom, but the nearest grocery store was an hour flight away.

Plan B.

Cecile then told me of another solution. She asked, “Nicholas, do you need to pee?”

“Huh?”, I replied.

The ammonia in pee counteracts the venom temporarily until we could gain access to vinegar.


My sister Annika giggled and happily volunteered to provide me a pee specimen.  Annika, mom and I walked away from the group. Annika preferred to pee in a large shell she found, and pour it onto my arm. Unfortunately, she got stage fright, and was too shy to produce. Thankfully, Ali volunteered instead. He peed in the shell and my mom emptied it onto my arm. Instantly the pain disappeared. I felt like the fire had been doused with a huge bucket of ice cold water.

Finally, I could think again, I felt relieved, I never thought I would be glad to have pee poured on my arm. Then the pain returned and I needed more pee, ha ha. Luckily Annika peed this time and poured it onto my arm. Shortly after, Cécile brought over the vinegar. The vinegar completely relieved the pain. Cecile specifically told me not to scratch it or it would get worse. I couldn’t imagine it could get any worse than it already was, but I decided to leave that investigation for another day. About 10 minutes later it started to itch. When I say itch, I mean really itch. Thankfully, my mom being a forward thinking mom, had some anti-itch cream on the boat, so I paddle boarded back to keep myself from scratching it and having that experience all over again. Here’s some video from the Sea. Unfortunately, the video of the pee medicine incident got deleted from the Go pro. Oops.

World School Month #1Done. Nicholas


8/20 30 minutes reading, 30-minute essay writing on video editing, prefixes
8/21 Eclipses, equations step 1 to 5, reading, Chinese tea ceremony, Hike to sacred cliff dwelling, Tanah Lot
8/22 Equations steps 1-6, Chinese tea ceremony writing, Classic music, Story time, Business cards
8/23 Classical music, game theory, paper airplane contest, nature hike, City research, literal equations, reading, rice cultivation, business cards
8/24 Cooking class, simultaneous equations with substitution, writing recipes, story time
8/25 City presentations, walk through town, Bali architecture, Bali reed weaving, elimination method, reading
8/26 Elimination method harder problems, reading, nature walk, origami, city research, reading
8/27 Culminating activity, exit interviews
8/28 Travel day. Sacred pool. Car bingo
8/29 Reading, research Hurricane Harvey, Early walk to sacred pool, system of equations
8/30 Volcano hike
8/31 Simple probability, special system of equation, reading, vocabulary, video script, math puzzle, estate walk
9/1 Green School visit. Video volcano production
9/2 Video volcano production, tea ceremony five paragraph essay
9/3 Geometric shapes and markings, tea ceremony essay, vocab, White water rafting, video reading
9/4 Video editing, exit interviews
9/5 Travel day, Carpe Diem boat, water activities
9/6 Komodo National Park, writing, reading, vocab, water activities
9/7 Graphing intro, slope of a line, reading, editing writing, water activities
9/8 Equation of a line, slope intercept, intercept-intercept, descriptive writing, reading, water activities
9/9 Combining like and unlike terms, water activities, video editing
9/10 Singapore video, writing, reading, x&/ exponents, classical music, tenmarks &physics intro, editing paper
9/11 Singapore video, writing, classical music, TM intro, reading
9/12 Art & Science Museum of Singapore. Travel to Tokyo. Reading TM graph interpretation, Japan videos
9/13 Travel morning. Walk to Imperial gardens, essay writing, video production.
9/14 Buddhism, Shintoism, Sumo, Tokyo research, reading, equations, interpret graphs, Planet Earth science, bus ride & train rides through city, reading
9/15 NYC video, Japanese business card ceremony, Planet Earth science, Museum of Innovation, reading, NYC video, Japanese business card ceremony, Planet Earth science, Museum of Innovation, equations with fractions, vocabulary, writing vocabulary sentences.

Ding, Ding. School is in session. Arthur has sent your first assignment.

Kids, your new teacher, Arthur has sent your first assignment.   “In a brief video, no more than 3 minutes each, tell me about yourself and show me who you are.”

Teacher feedback:

“Annika’s vocabulary and comprehension are off the charts. She will be (is?) a force to be reckoned with.

Alexander: introspective and humble. Perhaps the Philosopher-Scientist.
Nicholas: favorite comment: American kids are more American. When I was in Europe it was so easy to pick out the Americans.
I do play video games: Simcity, Civilization, Pokemon Go (caught 230), Battlefront.
Most important thing to convey about school next year: each child will have a significant voice in what they will be learning. If Alexander wants to learn more astronomy then that’s what we’ll do. If Nicholas wants to learn more technology then that’s what we’ll do.
The video was amazing. You were correct when you felt that your kids felt comfortable in front of a camera.
Two weeks!”