(See more pictures on Joel’s Fickr Photostream)
It’s been quite the year… Lots of surprises.
The first surprise was when Joel decided that he was ready to move on. He decided that he was ready for bigger and better things, greater challenges, and more of what he loved. While it was sad for the kids to give up their weekly weekend trips to Microsoft, the big summer picnic, Halloween, and Christmas parties. Even Virginia was sad to give up the doctor visits with no co-pay. It was like loosing a kidney leaving Microsoft. It was painful. After 7+ years, it was tough. No hard feelings, Joel obviously learned a ton, and continues to have a special place in his heart for Microsoft, and his romance with SharePoint continues.
In a trip to investigate Nintex and the opportunity to live in Australia, the family took a trip to Sydney and Melbourne Australia. The family favorite was our venture to Philip Island, a small island off the coast of the south eastern corner of Australia. The fairy penguins were truly amazing. It was a wonderful family bonding experience. As a family we decided it was a great opportunity and one that we decided to do. The interactive zoo and seeing native kangaroos in the blue mountains was incredible. We really enjoyed our time with the Australians and both the boys and parents alike had strong impressions that this was somewhere we would like to live.
So Joel announced he was leaving, and opened himself up to options. Shane Young, Andrew Connell, Bob Fox, Dustin Miller and many others had lots of advice for him on his big move. Ultimately he decided the best way was to go independent over the summer for the maximum flexibility and join Quest at the end of the summer in a bit of an acquisition if he played his cards right. Joining up with Nintex as a product evangelist as his first real gig outside of Microsoft, next advisory and professional blogging with Bamboo Solutions, and even fitting in training with Ted Pattison group doing a 5 day intense Admin training course co-taught with Shane Young, including co-authoring a Governance course with Nicola Young and John Ross. You might think that would be enough to fill a summer. Not even close.
On the day he left Microsoft, Joel left for the airport for the Middle East. With a SharePoint Conference in Dubai and Istanbul, he wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to visit a new region. Through his blog he conversed with Mo and Avi (Moss is my middle name), both relationships grew and blossomed. Mo would surpass expectations and give him the trip of his life visiting Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and Petra with an incredible life experience in the desert changing a flat tire, and riding on a donkey up steps leading to more mystery.
Avi risked more than his name to come pick up Joel at the border of Jordan and Israel in the West Bank. Joel and Avi would create an incredible bond through sharing Shabat with his family and what an amazing family. As Avi put it, Moses only made it to Jordan, and Joel needed to come to the promised land. Incredible. So Joel visited the land of milk and honey including Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, the wailing wall, Joppa (Jonah and the whale), amazing markets, and other historical religious sights including the Jordan river from the Israel side.
After a bit of a challenge in the Israel airport over his lack of papers (Why didn’t you print your itinerary) and numerous or odd stamps (Why were you in Indonesia?) in his passport, Joel did make it out of Israel and on his scheduled plane. The SharePoint conference in Dubai and tubing with Todd Klindt, and craming into the tiny car with Mo and his pals… (Don’t forget the Iranian hospital) it was a blast. Hanging out with real Palestinians and hearing the story from their lips was incredibly enlightening. Talk about a rich experience of a lifetime all wrapped into a single trip.
That wasn’t enough. It was then onto Istanbul where after seeing the whirling dervishes, Joel would find some trouble on Taxim. A great learning experience. More on the blog on that one. Word to the wise; don’t ever buy drinks for someone without knowing the price. The drink might be champaign, and it just might be $200 a glass and you find yourself in the middle of a $1000 scam.
After the Middle East there were some small gigs with SharePoint911.com, our SharePoint Survival Camp, some of which included providing training and workshops in Las Vegas, Ohio, and Switzerland. While in Ohio he visited Kirkland, an early Church history location where he visited the Kirkland temple and Niagara Falls. Andre Heymann, a good SharePoint friend from a past life in Microsoft IT, arranged for the Switzerland trip including swimming in the lake in Zurich, an invigorating experience. Then up to the “Top of Europe” in Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps. I forgot to mention Tech Ed. An annual highlight for Joel. This year he some how ended up in a fountain with Bob Fox. You’ll have to ask him about that some time.
Check out our Middle East Videos:
The whole family planned a trip with the Beaulieu’s to Hawaii (Virginia’s sister Christine’s family). We covered the whole island of Oahu from tip to tip both ways including enjoying lazy days on the beach and snorkeling at Molokai some of the world’s best from Maui, the endangered HUGE sea turtles were awesome, everyone saw them. The kids loved it. That was the highlight of the trip for all of us. Even after Scott lost his breakfast on the road to Hanna, we finished the trip to the black sand beach and enjoyed the numerous waterfalls. It’s easy to see how that could happen with sooo many turns.
Joel had this grand plan of putting the house up for rent, going to Asia for a month while we rented the house out, then moving to Australia. While disruptive and exciting at the same time, we packed up the entire house and moved our stuff into the basement.
The trip to Asia was incredible. This was Joel’s third trip, but the first opportunity to bring the family to Asia. Essentially he had lined up Tech Ed South East Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia. While they weren’t exactly back to back, we’d spend the time in between (~1.5 weeks) across Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. After the cyclone in Burma/Myanmar, you’d think it would be crazy to venture into a place where relief workers were denied access, but we were able to sneak an afternoon into Northern Myanmar to visit some temples and a market. We’ll all remember that experience for the rest of our lives.
Visiting the tribes in Northern Thailand with the ladies with the rings around their necks, the Elephant trekking, and bamboo rafting really stood out to us as once in a life time opportunities. We had some special experiences there. The boys really enjoyed connecting with the little girls from one of the hill tribes. Cruising the canals in Bangkok, visiting the floating market, and spending time together as a family in this friendly country was an incredible experience. While Joel was enjoying the local cuisine of crickets, Virginia was taking in the art and culture. Everyone enjoyed the monkeys… one of Joel’s favorite things. Everywhere we went we had to find the monkey cave(s), monkey shows, and place where the monkeys hang out. We had multiple times to enjoy the elephants both at the Elephant reserve where the boys rode elephants into the river and were dumped into the river, as well as the elephant trek outside of Chiang Mai where we all took the elephants trekking over an hour out into the jungle up steep hills and through the bush catching breath taking views. Even seeing elephants roaming the streets with their handlers in Bangkok was a bit wild. I bet we saw more than 30 Buddhist temples, 5 or so Hindu temples across Thailand and Malaysia with a few grand and National Mosques and Chinese temples mixed in, not counting the Royal Palaces in Seoul and Bangkok. After the trip Scott shared some deep thoughts on world religions… Buddha vs. Christ vs. Mohammed. It was profound to see him at such a young age grasping the concepts of religion and really thinking about the origins of God and mankind’s relationship to God. I was hoping both boys would learn to appreciate what they have, and I think we succeeded in that plus a number of surprises we didn’t expect.
Check out our Asia Videos:
After Asia we flew to Auckland, New Zealand and drove to Rotorua, a place not unlike Yellowstone with its geothermic activity. Spending the evening with the Maori peoples, rubbing noses and learning house to Hakka and dining like kings we topped off the evening with a visit to the sacred pools and glow worms. Another unreal experience, that I hope we can remember forever.
Sydney was a special time where we were really able to relax. (Not that the 2 massages each we had in Thailand didn’t hit the spot) Coogee Castaway was a beautiful place on the beach where we didn’t have the hastles of a hotel and we were able to really integrate and see what it would really be like in a neighborhood in Sydney. Coogee beach was within minutes and despite it being off season, we just had to jump in and hit the waves. Adam and Anastasia were very easy to work with. We even had breakfast with them and even walked with her and the girls to school one day. Cute outfits. Joel met up with some SharePoint MVPs at the conference and thanks to Steve Smith he saw Sydney Harbor from a jet boat doing some crazy 360 tricks. Taronga Zoo lived up to its worldwide fame. It was incredible. Best Zoo ever. Awesome layout, great design, wonderful animals. The only thing better than the Zoo is real world interactivity and man were we ever able to get that on this trip, from elephants, to tigers, snakes, monkeys, from least 5 different troops.
Joel really tested our limits with a flight from Sydney to Bangkok, with a one night stop over (where we crammed in even more J) and then an 8 hour layover in Korea (with a 6 hour city tour planned) before returning to Seattle. I think it was easily 44 hours with one night squished in their somewhere.
When we arrived back in Seattle we grabbed the closest hotel, and slept with no commitments. We then picked up our vehicle and headed to Saratoga Springs, UT to stay with Joel’s parents. It was expected that we’d wrap things up and head to Aus. Unfortunately the market took a dive and the number of showings went down to zero despite the numerous attempts to reduce the price. So that story ends with us deciding to put Australia on hold.
The news doesn’t end there. Something good happened in Thailand, and something in the water in Utah along with some morning sickness, and WOW we’re having a baby! Now at 19 weeks, due on May 28, we are all excited to welcome a new one.
Scott, now 11 was in the reflections contest this fall for a video he put together which involved stop motion video and Legos along with some music by Moby. His video won both the school competition, and the district. We’re waiting to hear how he does at the state competition. We’re all very excited for him, and encourage family and friends to check it out.
Robot Rock Yall (Youtube video)
"These crazy lego storm troopers get down to Moby. One storm trooper takes it too far and gets ran over! There’s no doubt …"
He did all the editing while some sections of the stop motion were Jared, and some were Joel’s. (The parts with the Soup can and Cake mix – he was testing product placement.)
Jared really enjoyed the travel. He turned 9 this year, and had a huge pool party. He and Scott had over 20 kids at the Lehi pool. They had a blast and got tons of Legos. Their favorites. Both Scott and Jared made friends in Utah and will be sad to have to leave. Jared earned his wolf badge in Cub Scouts and enjoyed his first year at Cub Day Camp. Jared’s looking forward to having a furry friend for Christmas. He really enjoyed his time in Korea and hopes to go back to live there some time.
Virginia is now busy with focus on the baby. She’s sewn a blanket already, and has read a ton of books since our time in Utah. She stays busy with various projects and has made really good friends. Trying to keep the apartment clean and dealing with the pressures of the move, Joel in and out of work projects and frequent travel has been a challenge, but exciting at the same time. It seems something is always going on. She looks forward to the birth.
Joel, the world traveler and (Microsoft) SharePoint guru is now enjoying his employment with Quest Software. He sees this opportunity as a way to do and see even more. He’s already planning two keynote speeches at prominent SharePoint Best Practices Conferences in both London, and La Jolla (near San Diego). His evangelism role promises to lead him to connect with more SharePoint User Groups and conferences around the globe, his blogging has provided him with global visibility with recent readership in more than 134 countries and a regular readership and subscriber base of over 4000.
Our little family is truly blessed. We thank God for our blessings. We pray that God will bless you and yours this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanza, Al-Hijira and Ashura, Asala, Bodhi – Happy Holidays!!! If I’ve learned one thing well in my global travels it’s that God loves everyone, everywhere and every soul has worth.
The Oleson Family
(Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii)
Joel, Virginia, Scott, Jared and TBD
Joel’s 2008 Countries: (* 8 New 13 Total)
*New for Joel
You can find them all by searching for "joeloleson" on youtube.
Beautiful White Temple Chiang Rai, Thailand
Joel Oleson family takes a crazy elephant ride in to the Thai forest outside of Ch…
Petra the Reveal (Indiana Jones …
The most amazing adventure meeting the hill tribes of northern Thailand and Burma …
We load up this elephant outside of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia (Kuala Gandah) and it dumps us…
Joel ventures into the middle east and lands in Jerusalem, source of the worlds religious beginnings…
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