Welcome

I guess you are here because you have discovered one of my books and enjoyed it enough to find out more about the author, me. Either that or you’re a potential employer who is investigating me to see if I would be a good fit for your organization. In which case, surprise, I write books as well as teach. Some might look at that as a bad thing, and if so, please explain to me how.

For whoever finds my site, I want to welcome you, and also allow you the opportunity to follow me on a regular basis. Anybody is welcome as long as you keep your posts appropriate, and respect the other followers to this site. As long as everybody follows those two simple rules, I won’t have to kick anybody off. Let the friendly banter begin.

I am hoping to create an interactive site that everybody can enjoy. Of course, I will keep you up to date on the latest writings coming out of my head, and I will also let you know when and where I will be in the world, so someday you might be able to meet me in person. Most people regret that decision, but who knows, maybe you’ll be in the minority.

I will also tell you about my world-wide travels as this is something I do on a regular basis. I’ll show you pictures from places I have been (this one is from Dubrovnik, better known to fans of The Song of Ice and Fire as King’s Landing), and tell you the exciting stories that happen to me along the way. You are also welcome to ask me any questions you may have about the place I have been, and I will try to answer them in a timely manner.

I know it all sounds amazing, and I can see you wondering why you haven’t been a part of this fantastic experience so far, but let me tell you about the most exciting part of following this site – the interactive part.  You were probably wondering when I would get to that part I had promised you earlier. Well, I plan to create a list every month, and I want you to participate in its formation. I do love countdowns, but I am always disappointed in them. So I have decided to take matters into my own hands. You will be able to post your top ten of each monthly list and at the end of each month, I will comprise the total list to give you the countdown for that subject. Look for each new subject on the first day of each month, and the final list of the previous month by the fifteenth.

Otherwise, it is very nice to have you a part of this experience, and I look forward to all of our future posts together.

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On the Banks of a Clear Lake – Around the World Day 35

I have taken my last jump west before taking the final leap back to Seoul to complete my trip around the world, and I have found myself in central Oregon. This state used to be one of the ones that many people did not know much about. They thought it was nothing more than a place where people carried an axe to cut down a tree in order to make a log cabin they could live in while they took care of their ranch. And even though there are a few ranches in this state, this is not always the case. That’s when people thought they knew the other half of Oregon where young kids go on crazy treasure hunts in order to collect enough money so they can save their homes from greedy land developers. And this is not the case either. But people think these things because they are never been to Oregon and they base what they know about the state from the pictures they have seen for it or the movies that have been filmed there. There is so much more to Oregon than that, and more and more people are finding that out as they make their way to this part of the United States.

First of all, Oregon supports one of the most diverse landscapes of any of the states. There is the coast with it huge rock formations that hand in the water just beyond the sandy beaches. It has a big city that still holds on to that small town feel while supporting a creative group of people who make the concrete jungle winding it way around the Columbia River one of the more unique cities I have ever visited. It has long plains filled with the grain and wine that makes the rest of the United States happy. And it has my favorite place in the state, a place on the other side of the Cascade mountains, central Oregon. This is where you will find the state’s mighty forests and is the playground for the people who live here. There are many paths that can take you deep into the wilderness, and also support perfect places to rock climbing or camping. It has mountains that in the winter turn into some of the best ski resorts in the nation. Cars always have mountain bikes, or kayak mounted on the back as they go to that perfect spots that they know about.

One of these spots is where I found myself yesterday, Clear Lake. It is this calm lake nestled in the Cascades. The water is a clear blue, and it will always remain that way because nobody is allowed to bring motor boats onto the lake and ruin the purity of its water. The water is fed into this little valley by underground streams, so it always remains a little cool even during the heat of summer, so you will never find anybody swimming in this lake. But it is the perfect place to take a kayak to, or rent one of the row boats that you can find at the docks at the place. It is easily the perfect place to learn how to paddle board. You cannot rent them here so you would have to bring one to the location, but the calm water is ideal to allow a person to wobble on the board without having to worry about the wake of a passing boat to knock them off. There are no real beaches to hang out at but you can find some nice little coves among the tree that allow you to sit back while people take turns with the paddle board. It turns into a nice place to spend the afternoon on a hot Oregon afternoon.

So even though I still expect to see the random log cabin on my voyage through Oregon, I know this state has a lot more to offer than the stereotype that a lot of people think about when they are presented with the name of this place. I am glad that I have ventured to this place in the world as my last destination as I circumvent the globe. It is the perfect last stoop and I am sure will be filled with many adventures to wrap up this crazy excursion.

Grainy Memories – Around the World Day 33

It was my last full day until I make another jump west to continue on my quest to travel all the way around the world, and I started to say my final goodbyes, and pack up my bags to get ready to board another flight. Before I got all of this ready, I spent a day with my parents, teaching my dad how to transfer some old VCR videos to DVD so he could preserve them and share them with the rest of my siblings. I was a little nervous about the process because it involved some equipment that I had not played around with for years, namely a really old computer, and a VCR. It was all set up in the dining room of his house which has turned into an old editing studio, much like the one I used when I earned my first degree.

The program we were using wasn’t user friendly, but after a little screwing around with the device, we were able to figure out how to easily transfer the images from the video tape to a DVD. It just required us to play the video tape while the computer recorded it directly to the DVD. We were only able to get through one of the video tapes, and my dad might need to record it again because there was a glitch in the recording that caused the disc to skip, but I think he understand the process and should be able to go through the process of recording all of these old tapes to a modern format. I know that in this digital age that DVD is a technology that is slowly disappearing, but the footage he is saving is important and personal, so I think it is the best medium to use for this task. It will just mean that future generations will have to pull out a DVD player if they wish to watch the movies that were created.

What could be so important that my dad wanted to preserve them for future generations to see. While I was growing up, my parents owned a super 8 camera, and they would pull it out for all of the important moments in our lives and those happy moments that come along while a family is growing. My dad used to have these moments developed and would pull out the old movie projector every once in a while to show us these movies on time reels that we would rotate through as we went through those old memories. The only sound that accompanied it was the clicking of the reel flipping through the projector and the laughs of us as we commented on those moments, the bad haircuts, poor clothing choices, and items that could still be found somewhere in the house. It was what we did for entertainment before the explosion of VCRs in people’s houses.

I had forgotten how fun these films could be. My dad understood their worth, and had all of the old movies transferred to the video cassettes many years ago when my siblings and I had moved out of the house. The video cassettes sat in a dark room hardly ever watched for many years until my dad got it into his head to transfer the footage to a different medium. Yesterday was the first time that I had gotten to see the footage in over a decade. There is something to those quiet, grainy images that hold more power than any show on television during the summer months. We were not able to get to far into the history of the family. By the time the first video finished, my sister had just learned to walk, and my other two brothers, and I weren’t even thought of yet. But it was interesting to those shadows of the past and be able to connect with the people they have become today. I could see the conversations that happened between the subject of the picture and the person who was taking the picture and could only guess what they were talking about. I had to fill in the missing pieces but it created enough of a story that I was drawn into the various characters whose lives played out on the screen in front of me. It was a great find, and a perfect way to say goodbye to the people I love before moving on. These are the memories that I always have had about growing up with them, and even though I had already given my official goodbyes, it allowed me one more time with them before I left.

No News is Good News – Around the World Day 32

As I start to get ready to take my next jump west, things are starting to slow down in Colorado where I am staying right now. For almost two weeks, I have been a tourist in the town that I grew up in. I have visited some of my favorite places in this state, and even got to see a couple that I have never been to. I got to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a long time, and have some quality time with my family. At times, the trip has been a little hectic with one event planned after another, and even though this might be the case, I have really enjoyed the time I have gotten to spend out here. Just last night I went over to my sister’s house to have a home cooked lasagna, a delicacy that they haven’t quite figured out in Korea yet, and yes, it was delicious, but it was the conversation and the wine that I enjoyed the most.

I have found that since I have more time to relax, I have been able to reflect on the trip so far, and think about what it means. When you live out of a suitcase for a long time, it requires you to make some changes while you are doing it. One of the things I have noticed is that I have not watched that much television, and because my cellular service is from South Korea, I have not been as tied to my electronic devices. I have been out making connections with people and enjoying the sun while it out there. It made me think of what summer used to be when I was younger, spending time with my friends outside and not concerning myself with the larger problems of that come with the busier times of the year. It is all about living in the moment I find myself in, and letting my location become the most important one.

This has meant that I have not watched a lot of the news. In fact, I haven’t really picked up a paper to stay on top of what is going on in the world. I know that there are former students of mine that are screaming that I am being a hypocrite. I always preached the importance of reading the paper, and being well-informed. That you could not make a decision in this world if you didn’t really know what was going on in it. And I still do believe in the importance of the news, but I am also starting to see how little politics and the absurdity of the world-leaders actually affect my life. Nothing much has changed based on the lack of knowledge that I have about world events, and I do believe that for the most part I have been happier because I have not wrapped myself up in this absurdity.

It made me think about a quote that I used to spend so much time on when I taught American literature. It was from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and it voiced his opinion on the penny-post, or letters back in the day that cost a penny for the postage. He said, “For my part, I could easily do without the post-office. I think that there are very few communications made through it.” I used to make the comparison to the countless texts that the youth of today sends to each other. The message I was trying to make that they spend so much time on these messages that really do not mean anything. The messages can wait until they are face to face, and the communication prevents us from really concerning ourselves with what is happening right in front of us. The messages could wait.

I did not think to apply this to the news as well. Yes, there are many decisions made by politicians that eventually affect us in some form or fashion. But there is really not a lot we can do about those decisions until it comes to election time. In fact, all the news does in this day is to stir up dissension among the people and keeps us staring at the idiots who are running this world. Sometimes it is better if we turn it off and not worry about what they are doing. We will find that we are happier because of it. I have found out that this is the case while I am taking this trip. In fact the only times I have found that I have been tense about the world is when I have caught little bits and pieces of what is going on.

Now, yes, it is important to be informed, especially when it is time to make decisions that may impact others. But we do not need the constant campaigning and bickering that goes on during most of the time. The information that we are given is not worth the data that is wasted to deliver it to us. We instead should take the time to become informed when election time comes around, and visit the news from time to time to find out the bigger things that we need to know. I appreciate the way that elections are run in South Korea because it forces the citizens to do exactly this. Politicians are not allowed to campaign until a month before the election. They are not gearing up for the next election just as soon as they have finished the one that they won. This way, the decision that the citizens make is informed on the issues, and not on the inane bickering and sound bites that are presented these days. And after the election, the politicians can concentrate on their jobs instead of trying to get re-elected.

I see all of this better now because I have put the remote down, and have not picked up the paper as much. I will go back to it when I get back to my home, but I will continue to enjoy the moments I have been given for now without concerning myself about the worries created by the press.

Americana in the Nighttime – Around the World Day 31

Last night I took a walk around the neighborhood I was staying at. It was something that I used to do in my younger days all of the time, but then life got busy and I no longer had the time for this. The walks allowed me to relax and reflect on the way things were going on in my life, and I always felt better afterwards, like I had stolen something back from the hectic world that I am forced to live in. It was the same feeling I got as I took my walk last night.

It also allowed me to get closer to the neighborhood. America is definitely a car culture, and we will hop in our vehicles anytime we need to get anywhere. Sometimes it is the only way we can get from one point to the next, but a lot of times, we can get to places just as easily by walking. During my time in Europe on this trip, I was forced to walk to places, and there were many people out using the same mode of transportation to get where they were going. The same thing happens with home in Seoul. But I do not see these same crowds when I walk in the United States.

There is something to be said about being out among those people though. Granted, I never talked to any of them, but I did get a greater sense of community because I was out among them. I wasn’t hiding behind the closed doors of a car, or staying huddled inside some building because I was swiftly swept from one location to another. I was forced to interact with the people on a certain level if I wished to get along. Even though I enjoyed the moment to myself last night as I took my walk, I wished there were more people out there taking a walk with me. It was the perfect night to do it too. The cool night was a great reprieve from the hot weather that Colorado has been experiencing this summer.

My favorite part of my walk was when I got to pass this old house that I have always admired. This house has sat on this huge plot of land as long as I could remember, and nobody ever seemed to live in it. It looked like an old farmhouse that was left over from a day when people worked the land out in this neighborhood. I always liked the place because I could watch it slowly deteriorate over the years, and I would think about buying the place and fixing it up someday. Because I moved away, I wasn’t able to see the house as much, and there would only be a couple days out of the year that I would get to pass it by as I sped down the road that it found itself on. But last night I was able to walk by it, and take a little more time to see it for what it was. While I moved away, somebody had bought the property and had spent the last couple of years of getting it back to its original glory. I don’t think I would have noticed this if I was in a car. It just showed me that sometimes it is important to slow down, so you can really appreciate what it is around you.

Even though cars are great inventions and allow us to get to places quicker, I like to step out of the car from time to time to take a walk. I’m glad I did it last night, and even though it was nothing special, it might have been one of my favorite moments on this trip around the world.

Donor Dash – Around the World Day 29

I have been spending a lot of my time on the trip around the world visiting amazing sites, eating great food, and catching up with family and friends. I have not always made the healthiest choices while on this tour, and I will admit that my exercise has been nothing more than hiking around the towns I have been in or the mountains I have found. It has been a lot of fun, and I have really enjoyed writing about it as I have gone along, but I felt that there should have been an opportunity to give back to the communities that I have been lucky enough to stay in. That is why when I found out about the Donor Dash taking place last Sunday, I decided to get out there and run it. I would be getting some of that much needed exercise, and helping to create awareness to a very important cause.

I do know that there are Donor Dashes in both Wyoming, and Denver, and while doing my research for this post, I discovered that there is another one in Philadelphia. I am sure that if you look hard enough, you will be able to find a Donor Dash near you. It does not cost a lot of money to participate in the event, and they will give you a really cool t-shirt with your entry fee. The Denver race attracted over 6,000 people who participated, and there were many others who were walking around the park at the time, and learning about the message that the promoters were trying to get across. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about the importance of being an organ donor, and to try to get more people to become an organ donor when they renew their state IDs or driver’s licenses.

There are many myths about being an organ donor. The big one is that if you have the fact that you are donor indicated on any identification that EMTs and doctors will let you die so they can have your organs so they can let somebody else to live. The mere fallacy of the logic of that thought is so absurd that it does not make sense. Why would a doctor let one person die on the rare hope that they can help another person live?

The truth about being an organ donor is that you can save somebody’s life. During the event, many people stood up and told their stories of how their lives were saved because of the kindness of a stranger. My niece is one of these people. She received a kidney donation at a very early age in life and because of this, she has been granted many more years of her life, and a better quality of life during that time. I also met another young man who is only fourteen and getting ready to start high school, and he told me about the heart transplant that he received. An event like this really helped me to see how important that awareness grows, so more lives can be saved.

In the state of Colorado alone, there are more than 25,000 people on the waiting list to receive an organ donation that could save their lives. This is why an event like this is so important. But that does not mean that there are not other events that support others causes out there. In fact, I knew that when I was living in the state of Colorado, I was able to find a race every weekend if I felt like I wanted to compete in one. Most of them were designed to either raise money for a cause or at least awareness for that cause. It only took a simple search to find that event. If more people spent time to do this, I do believe that the causes would no longer be causes. The problems of our society would slowly solve themselves. This is the campaigns that actually change the world for the better, and I do think that the Donor Dash is one such cause. I am glad that this is the way that I got to spend my Sunday morning on this super expedition in my life.

Colorado’s Renaissance – Around the World Day 29

It has been around for 42 years, and there were many times that I have been to it when I was younger, but it had been awhile since I have been at the Colorado Renaissance Festival. It took me coming back to Colorado to get me to go back to this iconic location, and it had changed a lot since I last remembered it, or it may not have changed at all, and just my memory of it had adjusted to make the place seem more different than what I thought it was when I was younger. That is not to say that it was not still a fun place to visit, but I started to see through the glossy presentation that once made this a magical place to visit, and start to show me what type of place it actually was.

It really started before I even got to the place. There was a lady protesting the use of elephants for rides and from my earlier trip to Laos, I understood her frustration and anger, but I had no idea why she was so mad at something that was happening half way around the world that she would stand on the highway to this place to protest it. That was until I was inside the confines of its walls and saw that they had an elephant that they would walk around the grounds while people rode it. And even though I could see that he didn’t have scars on his head due to the mistreatment sue to its handler, I could see that they had cropped his tail and chopped off his tusks, making it impossible for him to live a normal elephant life. It made me wonder how well they were actually taking care of the beasts, and if they were just as bad as the other owners of elephants that the woman was protesting about earlier on the road.

But this was the only complaint that I would have about the place. Otherwise it was as much as I remembered it when I was growing up except the act had changed a little bit. One of the new ones that surprised me also made me wonder about the elephants I had seen walking about. This was a group that displayed great cats that operated in Oregon. It was very educational, explaining the threat that was going on with these beasts, and what we could do to make sure that they would no longer be endangered. It made me wonder why a company would bring in conservationists with great cats, and then go off and display elephants afterwards. Was it really about educating people about these animals, or just finding the quickest way that they could make some money.

The rest of the festival lend itself more to the later. Even though we had to spend a solid entry price to make it into the grounds, there were still many other features that required an extra entrance fee if we wished to see them. One was a torture museum that had some interesting things inside of it, but it only took ten minutes to stroll through and was clearly not worth the two dollar entrance fee. I went to a different torture museum in Rothenberg, Germany that was more informative, with better displays, and yet the same price.

There were also a couple of rides that required a couple of extras dollars if you wanted to ride them, and some of these actually took a little longer than two minutes to enjoy the rides. The prices were absurd, but it was interesting to see how they operated the rides. They were all moved by guys pushing the rides forward and by no electronic gears. This made it interesting to watch and made me realize what rides might have looked like back during the Elizabethan Era. It was interesting to see that these rides could still fly even though they were propelled by human effort.

Of course, the biggest money maker and my favorite spot on the whole grounds was the Tomato Toss. It was fun to sit there and watch for a long while because you knew it was spontaneous, and you didn’t know what was going to happen next. Basically, a guy stuck his head through a hole in a wall, and started to insult people who passed by. For five dollars, the passersby could get five tomatoes to throw at the guy to quit his insults. Sadly, only a couple of them were able to hit the guy, but there was a constant supply of people lining up to see if they could hit this guy. It was fun to see them get riled up from his insults, but it was more fun to hear his insults.

Overall, it was a fun place to visit, but I think I had my fill after the day. I would not need to go back to see it again for another ten years, but the memories I had created yesterday would help me hold off the urge until then.

 

 

Downtime – Around the World Day 28

Anybody that really knows me has heard me talk about the importance of experiences. I believe that this is the currency that we should live by. Too often we collect things and hope that these hold the memories that we are looking for, but it is not stuff that makes life exciting. It is moments that are created with other people that help to create those memories that we treasure, and I believe that when all is over, these are the things that we will go back to that shows that the life we lived was the gift that it actually is.

My trip around the world has been about this. I have had many opportunities to make the most out of life, and I have picked up some great memories along the way. It seems like everyday there is a new and exciting adventure scheduled for me, and I have not regretted any of the moments that I have experienced. But as of late I have hit a wall. I have been coming back to the place I am staying, completely exhausted even though I have not really done anything too strenuous. It might be because I have been going the whole time since I left on that plane almost a month ago, and it is starting to catch up with me.

This brings me to the point of this post. It is not always important to be at making sure that I am experiencing something all of the time. Every once in a while, I need to make sure that I sit back, relax and recharge my batteries, so I get the most out of the experiences I have when I come across them. If I am go, go, go all the time, I am no longer enjoying the experience. I am just trying to make sure that I have enough experiences so that at least one of them is worth the time that I invested into having experiences. I cheapen all of the experiences I have by looking at them this way. I need some time to let this stuff go so I can sit back and reflect on the experiences I have had.  That is what will make them a true memory that I will want to revisit some day.

This why I spent yesterday on a couch, sitting back and reading a good book. It was a great day because I was able to do that. But on the other hand, if this is all I did, it would be a problem as well. Not to take away anything from reading because I think it is really important. It makes us more intelligent because we learn something every time we read something, and most importantly, we learn the valuable trait of being to empathize with other people. But you cannot experience what life is really about by reading a book. You need to put it down and go out there and see, and experience life at the same time. The combination of both of them is the most valuable thing I think anybody can do.

It is about finding that moderation in your life. You need to go out and experience life and see what that is like, but at the same time you need to have that downtime so you don’t run out of gas too early in life. It is hard to find that happy middle ground because both of these lifestyles can be seductive, and you can find yourself wrapped up in either one of them if you are not careful. It was nice to have that easy day in this crazy trip so I could collect myself and get ready for the next stretch.

I am sorry that today did not have an exciting adventure for you to follow, and this post may just include a philosophy that I try to live by, but I hope that you still get something out of it to consider when you think about your own lifestyle. How much do you wrap yourself in either side of the issue, and what does your life look like because of that? I think those are both important questions for us to answer, and when we come up with the answer, hopefully the most important thing is presented to us, our memories.