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.

The Importance of a Break

I have a good friend who grew up in Britain, and he is always making fun of my work habit. Growing up, I was taught that hard work and constantly pushing myself to accomplish the things that my company or organization that I worked for would make me a valuable member of society. I pushed myself so hard sometimes that I would feel worn out at the end of the day and would work for long streaks without ever taking a break. There was one time when I was earning my teaching degree that I had a streak of 28 days in a row where I commitments with either work or school. In my mind, this made me important.

This idea is still a part of who I am. Rarely do I take a day off from work. Granted, as a teacher, it is actually more work to take a day off from work than it is to show up sick and just work through the pain. Of course, my thinking about this has changed with the recent pandemic, and I have since taken a few days off when I have had a cold, but even then it was a struggle.

One of the benefits of being a teacher though is having these times throughout the year where I get to take an extended break. With my work ethic, this does not mean that I stop working; it just means that I have more time during the day for myself. As an English teacher, I always have a stack of student writing that I have to chip away at, and during the summer, I have to read the works I am planning on teaching and coming up with ways that I can get my students to connect with them. But this only takes a couple hours a day as opposed to the ten to eleven hours I work on a normal school day.

If my British friend was reading this right now, he would be laughing at me and calling me a fool for putting so much effort in to an employer that would turn their back on me as soon as I decided to move on to another location. And I hate to say it, but he would be right. There are many other people that dedicate a lot of their time and energy to their profession. A lot of these people happen to come America because they are all chasing for that elusive dream that they have been told is out there. They just have to give a little bit more of themselves, and push a little harder in order to get it. What they do not realize is that this dream is already right in front of them, and as long as they accept that they already have what they are looking for, they won’t push themselves so hard to get that other things that the great American Dream is trying to sell us on. I would be a happier individual if I could only just accept this fact.

It shouldn’t come down to how much money I make in order to determine my happiness even though this is the thought that has been sold to me at a very young age. It also is sold as me working hard to make money for others so they could throw me bone from time to time and I will feel important. Another way of looking at it is trickle down economics. I work really hard to make money for somebody else, and it is not really about my happiness or how much I enjoy the work I am doing just as long as another dollar is made for the man on the top of the ladder.

But this is where my British friend comes in. Just not him, but all of the people I have met over the years from Europe. They have a different kind of thinking there. It is not about how hard you work, but how much you enjoy the work that you are doing. Now I know that there is not a single job out there where there will be a task that you will have to do that you will not enjoy. Being an English teacher is this way. I am not a big fan of reading developing writing about the same subject over and over again. It is really painful. But there is a payoff in the end. I do enjoy watching my students develop as writers as they slowly start how to get to that level as a writer that will make them successful in life. I enjoy talking about literature and thinking about the bigger ideas presented by the greatest writers in history. I love connecting students to reading and watching them become lifelong readers. I just love consuming media in general and I enjoy talking about how to consume it with an active mind.

This is where the problem comes in. For all of the things that I love that feed me energy to continue to do the job I am doing, the routine and humdrum existence of my job are enough to wear me down after awhile and make going to work a chore rather than a joy that I always hope it will be. I need a break from the routine to look at thing with a new perspective. I need to put the humdrum aside for long enough so I can get excited about all of the other aspects of the job that I love. For this reason, I need those breaks that so many people view as a benefit as opposed to something that I need in order to maintain my sanity. It is what allows me to be the effective and engaging teacher that I know I can be. 

But this is not the same attitude that a lot of companies in the United States take. They want to get the most out of their employees and they will do everything to make sure this happens. Yes, they will give them a couple of weeks vacation throughout the year, and they will close down for national holidays, but otherwise, they expect their employees to be there most of the time. This is taken up a notch in Korea too. They have their employees working ten hour days, and forcing them to spend their downtime with their bosses outside of work. They are not given much time off to recover from their hard work and they are constantly pushing themselves to do bigger things and more of them. The reality of the situation is that Korea has the most work hours out of any nation, and also the lowest productivity rate during those hours. Their workforce is overworked, and this is evident when you see the amount of effort they put in to get their job done. They spend more time scrolling through their phones rather than completing their tasks. If they were given more free time, they might actually spend that work time being more productive.

There is the other end of this spectrum as well. Scandinavian countries give their employees on an average three to four weeks of vacation time per year with Sweden claiming that the average worker there only works a six hour work day. Looking at the quality of life index and the rate that people are happy in that country, and you will see that most people are happier here than anywhere else in the world. It might be because they have a healthy balance between work and life where they do not have to feel stressed out about getting those little things done during the day and still have time to enjoy with other people. Now, I have never lived in any of the Scandinavian countries and only visited there for about two weeks over ten years ago. I cannot say if this is the reality of the situation or not, but I am willing to find out.

Basically, my point is that we are all happier when we take time off and enjoy the world around us. We all have stressful jobs, and working as a high school English teacher is no exception. Even though I still do work during those periods that I am supposed to be off, I value that time and look forward to it every time it comes close. I also find that I am more productive and a better teacher when I get back into the classroom after an extended break. I know this goes against the bottom line for a lot of companies, but if they started to do the same for their employees, they also might find a change in the work force production.

10 Moons – Koh Lipe, Thailand

Most of the time I do not concern myself with the places I stay while traveling. I rarely spend time in my hotel and I am usually out and about, so why would I spend a lot of money at a place I would only use for the bed. But there are certain places in the world where the place can make the difference between a great stay and a forgettable one. The island of Koh Lipe is one of the places, and though I cannot compare the place I stayed with other places on the island, I was so pleased with the experience that I had at 10 Moons resort that if I ever came back to the island, I would stay here again.

10 Moons is located on the Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe just over the edge where many of the other resorts park their longtail boats for the evening, so when you come down for breakfast or hang out on its sandy beach, you do not have this eyesore to look at. Instead you get to look at a clear blues water that stretches out over an expanse of coral reef. And if you get up early enough, the sunrise is worth the alarm clock. I did not do it every morning, but was happy that I had gotten up at least once during my stay there. The mornings are a calm time on the island and the view is just spectacular.

There are plenty of fish swimming around the coral reef which makes it the perfect spot to go snorkeling. 10 Moons have a plethora of snorkels that are free to use if you are a guest there, and they did a great job sanitizing them during this time of Covid, so it made me feel safe to use them.

And if you tire of the scene right out of the hotel, 10 Moons included a snorkeling day trip for us to an even larger stretch of the coral reef with even more fish swimming around it. It was a long day the day we went, but it was worth the effort. The sights I saw while swimming over this expanse of ocean forest was mind blowing, especially for a guy that has spent more time in the mountains than looking out over what nature has to offer in the oceans. If you like more adventure and prefer to do scuba diving, this is also offered at the hotel. Another group that was staying there with us went out every day scuba diving and went on one trip that was organized by 10 Moons itself.

There is a ton of wildlife that is able to be spotted on the shore as well. I came across many crabs, both soft shell, and hermit, as well as a ton of bird including crane, and monkeys and monitor lizards. You also have the soi dogs that can be found anywhere in Thailand, but they are friendly out here and not very teritorial.

10 Moons basically adopted the most famous of the all, Smiley. When I first saw her when we first arrived, I felt sorry for her and the obvious deformity around her mouth, but we were told her story about how a couple of the local boys tied plastic around her mouth when she was young and she lost her lips because of it. Once we learned this, we felt sorry for her, but that soon faded as well. She just became a part of the place, and was always wandering around with her tail wagging. She never really learned about the way she was mistreated because of the amount of love she received from the staff and most of the customers.

The rooms were very comfortable as well. There are a couple of them that are available right on the beach with their own deck furniture, and there are more on the hill that sprawls out behind the resort. Each place has its own patio with amazing views of the beach below though the higher up you get the more likely you are going to lose the view of the sea and the sunrise to the trees. But this is a small price to pay for the comfort of the rooms. The wifi got a little spotty if you left the resort’s reception which was a little annoying, but at the same time, I was not out there to be contacted by work, and this was the best excuse as to why they couldn’t get in touch with me.

The restaurant had decent food as well with option both in Thai cuisine and western dishes. I liked to eat there for lunch because of its convenience, but there are many other places on the heart of the island which served better food. But the staff was friendly and they got to know us pretty well and our tastes as well.

It is a little bit of a walk to Walking Street, the heart of Koh Lipe, and I would not recommend going down there during the heat of the day. But as soon as the sun starts to set, it is only about a fifteen minute stroll down there, and there are a lot more restaurants to choose from down there. You can get any type of food you want as well with restaurants serving Thai, Italian, Steaks, American pub, and breakfast 24/7, but my favorite was the Box. It is a Spanish tapas places with a couple of Mexican items on the menu, and the food is pretty authentic. If you plan ahead and make a reservation the day before, they can even put together an amazing paella dish that would rival some of the best I have had in Spain.

I do think that Koh Lipe is a place that everybody should add to their itinerary if they are planning a trip to Thailand even though it does take a little while to get down there. If you go, do plan on staying for a few days, and I would highly recommend staying at the 10 Moons resort while you are there. It is one of those places that will stay with you long after you have left.

The Three Beaches – Koh Lipe, Thailand

Anytime I find myself on an island, the first thing I ask myself is how are the beaches. Koh Lipe is no different. The island has basically three different sides, and each side offers its own beach, and each beach has its own thing to offer. The first beach I saw was Pattaya Beach. It stretches in a horseshoe on one side of the island and has a couple of docks along it. It is the place where the ferries drop people off and it has quick and easy access to the Walking Street. The sand is nice, and the water is warm, but every time I made it to this part of the island the shore was covered with boats and tourists wanting to get on and off the island with their bags. It is an extremely crowded part of the island, but I also came out here during one of the busier times of the year, the Songkron holiday, and I am sure that if I had planned a little better, it wouldn’t have been so crazy.

Looking out over to the west is the Sunset Beach. This is the least developed part of the island. Part of the main reason for this is that the beach is completely covered up here during the high tide, and the only thing that is left is a rocky shore with a couple of hotels. The beach is wide open during the sunset and there are a couple of ways to get there. You can follow the shore line until you get to the tip of the island or you can head inland and walk down the main road until you get there. It is a great place to view the sun as it dips over the large island just a little ways away from the shore, but it is usually crowded and once again that might be because of the time I was here. The people who stay on this side of the island like the quiet that is offered during the day, and the ability to quickly leave to head out to the many dive sights that around the area.

I stayed on the Sunrise Beach. The tide does take away a lot of the beach, but there is always enough room to find a nice spot to relax on. There are a bunch of resorts that line up and down the beach, and each of them likes to park their longtail boats just off shore during the night. During the day, most of these boats are used to pick up customers from Pattaya Beach or taking people out to the many spots on the other small islands around the area. Luckily my hotel was at the very end of the beach where there was a little more privacy and less boats, and offered what felt like my own sandy paradise.

All in all, it doesn’t matter where you stay in Koh Lipe, all of the places here are great. And if you are not supper happy with the place you find yourself, it does not take much time to move over to another spot, and enjoy the view from there. Koh Lipe is just a great place to be for vacation and I am glad to have been able to make it out here during my time in Thailand.

Dri-Dock, A Review – Koh Lipe, Thailand

It is a common sight to see people walking around the island of Koh Lipe with either scuba diving gear, or on a lesser note, snorkeling equipment. The island sits right next to a huge corral reef, and there are amazing spots to go check out the fish and what else might be hiding in between the nooks and crannies underneath its sea. We were able to go just off shore from our hotel to see some amazing sights, but yesterday we took a trip to another island to check out the reef in all of its majesty.

In anticipation of this event, I made an impulse buy on Walking Street, a phone case that claimed that I would be able to take pictures underwater up to 30 meters down by a company called Dri-Dock. Considering I was only going snorkeling, this seemed like the perfect thing to take out on this trip. I took my purchase back to my hotel and tested it out in the little bay just a few steps away from reception.

First of all, it did keep my phone dry. In fact, it did a really good job of this. I was impressed by the way the slip of plastic would seal up and prevent any form of moisture from getting through. And when it was above water, it did a great job of taking pictures. It did not look like the phone was in any case whatsoever, and the pictures turning out as great as the normally would.

But when I tried to take underwater pictures, it did not work as well. Now, keep in mind that my phone is an iPhone6 and I know that the technology has gotten better over the years since I bought it, so some modern phones might have a better ability to take these pictures. But I would press the button on numerous occasions, and sometimes it would click, and sometimes it would take a burst of photos sometimes up to 275 of them, or it would just not work at all.

When there were no fish in the picture, it did much better, but that is not why I wanted this addition in the first place. This corral reef had some amazing fish swimming around it and I would have loved to have gotten a couple of pictures of some of them. If I did get a picture of a fish, it was too blurry to really see what it was, and I just had to settle of photos of the underwater landscape.

I can’t complain too much though because I was able to get a couple of great pictures that I would have never gotten otherwise. It did do a good job of keeping my phone dry, and I only spent twelve dollars to have this ability. Overall, it was worth the purchase.

I don’t plan on going snorkeling again anytime soon, but I will use the Dri-Dock bag again on one of my many adventures on a kayak or out on sea. It will give me the piece of mind of have been looking for when I go out on these adventures and I worry about taking my phone with me. Now, I can get those shots that I have always hoped of getting. I just wish it worked a little better underwater.

Camera Play – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I have been told that it is no the camera, but it is the photographer that makes the picture. And to a certain extent I agree with that assessment. It is about the knowledge of how to use light and composition, and if you know those two things you can take some amazing pictures even using a disposable camera if you can still find one that is.

And I don’t claim to be an expert photographer and there is a lot that I still need to learn about the craft, but I think I take some pretty good pictures using an iPhone6. It has treated me well during the six years I have been putting together this blog, but I am starting to see some limitations with the device. The zoom features does not work great and cause me to get some pixilated pictures if I zoom in too far. When the sun goes down, the hope of taking a good picture gets thrown out the window, even with its flash feature. And when I am close to water I am afraid of getting it wet, and let’s not even talk about trying to get a picture underwater.

But I have reached a place with my phone that I am willing to take more risks to push the limited capabilities that it does have. Being in Thailand, there are many photo opportunities I did not try for because I didn’t want to ruin my phone. But considering the last time I took my cracked screen to an Apple genius and they laughed at me before changing their expression and saying, “Oh, you’re serious,” I think that it might be time for an upgrade.

This means that I went out and purchased my first ever accessory for my phone, a Dry Dock camera case. It is a camera case that seals up my phone airtight, and allows me to take pictures underwater. It doesn’t have the greatest capabilities and claims to only go down 30 meters. Considering that I don’t plan on going that far underwater ever, and that I will be going on a snorkeling trip to see the coral reefs off of the coast of Koh Lipe, it seemed like a safe purchase to make. I would still a little nervous about how well it would work, so I went out to take it for a spin in the area by my hotel.

The first time worked well. It take a little effort to take a picture, but it seems like I will get a couple of great pictures and my phone my survive for another year of taking pictures for my blog. So here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping for an amazing photo shoot as it becomes more about the camera and less the photographer.

Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I know a lot of people think about vacation and they get this image in their heads that all they will is find a hammock somewhere, nestle into it with a good book and ask the closest waiter to bring them another smoothie. And yes, a beach vacation involves a lot of that, but every once in awhile, you need to remove yourself from the hammock and see other parts of what the island has to offer. Koh Lipe has a nice section of the island devoted to this other activity and it is the perfect place to head to as the sun starts to sink in the sky, and things start to cool off, Walking Street.

Depending on which side of the island you find yourself on, it is either really easy to find or rather difficult. If you are on the Pattaya Beach side, there is a big entrance marking the street right across the sand from the plastic dock where the boats will drop people off at. But if you are on the Sunrise Beach, it is a little more difficult to find. First you have to locate the Anda Resort and then walk through its grounds and the nice big pool where everybody is relaxing. You then look for the big entrance to the right of the resort that will indicate you have made it to the bustling part of the island. You will have to watch out for the motorcycles on this street because it is one of the main thoroughfares but if you keep looking to the left, you will eventually find walking street and will be a lot safer.

Walking Street has a lot of shopping opportunities, but more importantly, it has all of the best restaurants. None of these establishments look over the ocean, so in order to attract the tourists that make it to this island, they have to try a different approach; they have to have good food. There are a variety of food options from vegan and vegetarian dishes, to Spanish tapas, American cuisine, Italian, seafood, and of course, a bunch of Thai restaurants. Two of my favorites so far are the Elephant which has a great bar and some really good burgers, and the Box which is a Spanish tapas place with a chef that came from Spain to add some authenticity to the dishes. If you call ahead, you can even get him to make a paella for a larger party.

It is not just the night life that makes it a fun place to visit. There are many sites that will keep you turning your head every minute, and of course, if you pay close attention, you will come across those minor details that prove that you are in a tourist destination. It is always one of my favorite things to read signs that have been translated from the native tongue into English in order to attract more customers. I don’t know if these mistakes are made on purpose in order to bring people in to have a little laugh, or if they discovered the magic of the mistake after it is made. Either way, it is always something to look for, and for some reason these are usually the places that have the most amount of customers.

Walking street is the place to make it to during the nighttime while in Koh Lipe. It gives this small island a little bit of everything you look for when choosing a getaway vacation. You have your beach living during the day, and vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down. It is a site that must be checked off your list if you ever make it this far south in Thailand.

The Slow Life – Koh Lipe, Thailand

It might have been a long day of travel to make it all the way from Bangkok all the way to Koh Lipe, and my first evening here was more to decompress from the travel rather than soaking up the island life, but after a good night’s sleep, and a change of perspective, I really found the groove of this place really quick.

And that is to move slow. There is no reason to rush anything because everything I really need is right within my reach, and even more than I really do need.

I have landed on the far corner of the beach that stretches along one side of this tiny island at a spot they call the Sunrise side. It is supposed to be the perfect place to rise up early and get some amazing photos of the sun rising over the horizon. I am not at the place in vacation yet where I want to set my alarm so I can see the sunrise, but it will be one of the things that I will do while I am out here. It is also nice because it makes this the quieter part of the beach. Many of the people who choose to stay here do so because they know that people will be going to bed earlier because of the allure of that sunrise option in the morning.

But if there is a sunrise side of the beach there needs to be a sunset side as well. When the tide rushes out, the beach becomes wide enough where you can make the walk easily to the other side of the beach and watch the sunset from over there. When I first heard of this feature, I though that meant that I would have to curve around the island to get to the other side, but it shaped more like a horseshoe or a bay with each side looking out over the other side of the island. Once again, I have been only here for a day and have not made it to that other side yet, but it is in the plans to make sure I get in one good sunset while I am here. This one should be easier to do because it won’t require me to set an alarm to make it happen.

In between the sunset and the sunrise, there are all the things one would expect to see on an island. There are great snorkeling opportunities, and I have been out a couple of times already. The fish that hide among the coral reefs right off the shore are amazing and I need to figure out a way to take pictures underwater so I can share some of these treasures. There is a Market Street to explore that has a lot of great restaurants and a night life scene that I will have to participate in a couple of times while I am out here. And there is always the surprise around the corner. I have heard wild boar rooting around underneath my cabin at night, and I have run into a couple of monitor lizards enjoying the beach as much as the tourists.

All in all, now that I have slowed down a bit and am able take in things at a more reasonable pace, the vacation mindset has taken over. It is nice to be a part of the slow life every once in awhile, and it looks like Koh Lipe is the perfect place to take in this slower pace.

The Path of Suffering – Koh Lipe, Thailand

According to Buddhists, the only way to achieve nirvana is by traveling down the path of suffering. There is a lot that can be learned during traveling down that path as long as we are willing to sit down and reflect on those moments and think about how they have affected us. In principle, this sounds like a beautiful thing, but it is really hard to reflect back on those moments and think about how they have changed us or what lessons we are supposed to learn from the experience. Sometimes this is just something we wish to forget all about.

My travels to my Songkron Break location, the island of Koh Lipe in southern Thailand, was one of these experiences that I would love to forget about and I don’t know if I will ever want to revisit the experience to see if I can come up with a lesson that I have learned from the experience. There were a lot of steps that I needed to take on this commute, but one of them hung everything up and turned what should have been nine hour travel day into one that took a little over fourteen hours to arrive at our destination. We scheduled a driver to take us to the airport at five in the morning, and we had plenty of time to get on our seven o’clock flight which left on time. It took a few extra minutes to find out driver to take us down to the pier where we were going to catch our ferry to Koh Lipe, but once we found him, he did a great job of getting us there on time.

It was when we hit this part of our travels where things came to a grinding halt. After a year and a half of getting hit with low tourism, the industry saw a sudden surge in travelers this week. Some of them took advantage of this fact by overbooking certain services. The ferry was one of these services that was overbooked. We were a little late for the ferry we booked a month ago, but it didn’t matter because they were running so far behind that we were not able to get on a ferry four hours later.

There is nothing like sitting on a crowded dock during a pandemic with dreams of a sandy beach dancing in your head. I looked at the people not wearing their masks and wondered if they were going to be packed in my ferry, and I wondered if I would ever get off of this concrete slab protruding out into the sea. It didn’t help that the only shops in the ferry building sold either expensive jewelry or coffee drinks, neither of which would satisfy my grumbling stomach. I might have left to go to another restaurant close by to get a quick bite to eat, but we had to wait around in the hopes of getting on whatever ferry they deemed us worthy enough to join.

It might not have been the worst suffering that anyone had to endure in their lifetimes, but I did feel like I was on Buddhism’s famous path, and I should meditate about the moment in order to reach my Nirvana. And now that I have finally reached Koh Lipe and have a whole week to do nothing but enjoy the beauty of this small island far away from the hustle and bustle of my regular life. Yes, it was a painful day and some of that pain seemed a little unnecessary with a little more organization, but in the long run I made it to Koh Lipe. I am safe. I have a comfortable hotel room. I am surrounded by kind and caring staff. I have choice of excellent restaurants to eat at. I have options of many sea activities to entertain me during the next week.

Maybe there is something to that path of suffering.

Maybe I have reached my Nirvana.

NerdFest 2021 – The Allure of the Game

While I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to play board and table top games. I spent a lot of time with my friends playing Dungeons and Dragons, Monopoly, Axis and Allies, and any new game that we could get our hands on. Most of the games had not been updated for years, and it caused us to think of ways that we could create our own games to see what other worlds we could create or how we could adapt the games we already loved to make them more exciting. Some of them got a little too complicated while others were a little too simple, but every once in awhile we hit that sweet spot and created a game that we all really loved, and it became our new favorite.

As years went by, my friends moved to other parts of the country or got to busy to play a game. Soon all of these games got put away into a closet and collected dust. I am actually not quite sure what happened to all of them after I moved away to college because my parents eventually moved into a new house and I don’t know if the games made the move or not. At the time, I didn’t care much because the idea of playing a game seemed childish and I was too busy with my life.

When I moved overseas, I was looking for that way to connect with people again. There was always the option of heading out to the bars, and that can be fun for awhile, but after working in bars for so long, I knew that this could get old after a little while. I was lucky enough to get hooked up with a Dungeons and Dragons group in Korea, and it got me interested in the game again. A lot about it had changed since my days of hacking and slashing my way through dungeons in search of riches. The Wizards of the Coast had bought the rights to the game, and added to the story aspect of the game. It changed how the game was played, made it simpler and yet more of a sandbox that allowed creative minds to play off of each other to create wonderful story moments. Being an English teacher and a writer, I instantly got sucked back into this world of table top games.

Then Covid happened.

I know that there are a lot of people out there that here that statement and divide their lives to before this event and after it. The pandemic has changed many people’s lives and the way that they look at the world. Many people can look at this in a bad way, and there are times where I fall into this category. But not everything that has happened during this world wide event has been all bad. I went on the search for things that my wife and I could do while being confined in our house that would not drive us crazy, and this brought me back to a love that I had in my childhood with board games. I also did not realize how much the hobby had changed over the years and how much it is now directed towards an adult audience. There are so many games out there with amazing puzzles to unlock your imagination, and tickle your strategic ingenuity. It was hard to decide which games I should get into first because there were so many out there, but I did some research, and with the help of my new favorite YouTube channel, Shut Up and Sit Down, I was able to find a couple that I would love as well as my wife.

It helped us get through that tough time this year, and we still pull out a couple of these games from time to time to play. But there was another benefit to them that I did not expect as much.

It introduced me to a whole new group of people who shared the same interest. These board games have not only become a way to challenge myself intellectually, but also to visit and hang out with people on a regular basis. It is a trend that I hope continues because I am loving the games that I am playing, whether it is a simple card game or a complex role playing game. They all tell stories and I get to be a part of those stories that are being told. And most importantly I get to also create stories with other people as well.

Until the next NerdFest, thanks for coming along.

Nerdfest 2021 – The Start of the End

I belong to a Dungeons and Dragons group.

Years ago, this would be something that people would just not admit to other people. It would be something that they would keep quiet because there was this stigma associated with it that they person was not living in reality, or was exceptionally nerdy. People would stop associating with others who played this game would gather in the woods to roll dice, conduct Satanic rituals, and throw play fireballs at each other. The people who played this game were thought of as not having one foot in reality.

In recent years with the arrival of the newest edition, 5e, and the inclusion of the game in shows like Stranger Things, the bad image associated around this game has dissipated a little bit, and people don’t look at you as weirdly when you tell them that you like to play this game. They still think of you as a nerd, but all of the throwing fake fireballs, and committing acts humanity are no longer associated with it. I can handle being called a nerd, and I admit to playing the game more easily now. In fact, I enjoy the game so much that I will spend time talking about it with people who show even the slightest interest in it.

The reason for this enjoyment is partly because of the group that I am playing with at this time. They are a great group of people who know each others’ strengths and how to use those to create a single story that builds in intensity and hilarity. The current campaign I am playing is definitely episodic, and has a lose story arc with it, but some of the most epic moments I have ever experienced in a story has come from it, and a lot of it comes from us playing together. Leaving this group behind is going to be one of the hardest things I am going to have to do when I move to Jordan next year, and I hope I am going to be able to find another group of people to play with next year. It has become something that I have looked forward to doing no matter where I live in the world.

With that being said, the group is breaking up. Being in international teaching, people moving on to new locations is something that I have become accustomed to seeing every year, and after a year of being locked up, there are a lot of international school teachers looking for a change of scenery this year. Four out of the group of six is doing this. One of those rare moments in life where you find that perfect connection with group is falling apart. In order to hold on to that magic for just a little longer, we decided to have a getaway weekend where we found a big AirB+B with a large table so we could do a marathon session. We would call it NerdFest 2021 and we would go down to Pattaya and play a bunch of games.

People who are aware of the culture of Pattaya would think that we had gone down there to do other things, but in all honesty, we went to play games, and enjoy each others’ company. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to this group. Yes, we would get together at another time later on before we made the final move, but this would be the special session that we could take with us to our new locations. It marked the beginning of the end of this final campaign for this group, and it had a bittersweet feeling to it. It was fun to get together to laugh and enjoy the story we have created together, but at the same time we knew that it was coming to a close.

But I guess that is what happens with all great things. They can only occupy a small place in time and space, and then they need to move on. It is just the random luck of this world that we were all able to come together to create this moment. I will be sad when it finally ends, but while it still goes on, I want to hold on to it and experience it as much as I can, so when it finally does have to come to a close, I have created the best memories I could. That was what this weekend was about, letting the story be told in its fullest, and I am glad that I got to experience it.