The Search for the World’s Best Beer – Brussels, Belgium

There comes a time in everybody’s life when they have to stop what they are doing and go out in search of something that in the grand scheme of things is not really important. It may cause you to travel to corners of the world that you have never been before, and you may have a hard time justifying this search to the people who you have responsibilities with. But still you should put those responsibilities aside and go out on that silly quest and in the end, discover that this silly quest was more important than you originally intended it to be.

My call to adventure actually came last April when my wife and I were looking at where we would travel to in the upcoming school year. Being in Jordan, the thought of Europe always comes up, and eventually all things on the map pointed to the land of frittes, chocolate and beer, Belgium. But then we had to ask ourselves when would be the perfect time to go, and that is when we started looking at the beginning of December as a way of celebrating an important birthday, my fiftieth. Rarely do I take time off of work to go out and do stuff for myself. I figure as a teacher that I get enough time off already, and I should be able to plan around that. But considering my birthday always falls at a busy time of the year, and I never really get to celebrate it, this was excuse enough to go out to Brussels for a long weekend and take a couple of days off in the process.

It wasn’t until the dates came closer that I found the main purpose of this trip. I was always going to go out to Brussels to drink some Trappist beers. They are some of my favorite beers in the world. But I was talking to a friend of mine who used to live in Brussels, and he told me about Westvleteren. He was telling me that this is considered to be the best beer in the world, and it is hard to come across one of the unassuming bottles with this brown nectar inside. He told me about the hidden corner, a block off the Grote Markt, where I could find the local bar that serves this beer. He even warned me about the price of 17 Euros to obtain a bottle.

It was all the incentive that I needed, and I was off to Brussels in search of this perfect beer. Of course, I could not buy one early in the morning. The bar that served it did not open until three o’clock in the afternoon. So I spent the day sightseeing and enjoying the Christmas market. I was brought back to my childhood as I enjoyed waffles and my favorite Christmas cookie, the speculoos. My mom used to make these when I was a kid, and we would always enjoy them on St. Nicholas Day. I had no idea that these were common cookies in Belgium, and was happy to find them all over the place.

Speaking of St. Nicholas Day, the city of Brussels was celebrating it as well. It was almost as if they were expecting me to come to relive my childhood. Their famous statue of a peeing child, the Manneken Pis, was dressed up as the valued saint on this day, and it made me chuckle to see him this way.

The peeing child was a common sight all over the city. It does bring a lot of people to the city in hopes of watching it pee, and to see what he will be wearing on any given day. There are apparently over 1000 different outfits that he has, and there are seems to be something special going on where he is wearing one of them. The people of Brussels have also found a way to make a joke out of him in a million ways. It goes great with the attitude of the city, and allowed for many moments of laughter as I made my way around the city.

Eventually, the sun dipped below the horizon, and the bars started to open their doors. We made our way to Au Bon Vieux Temps and laid down the 17 Euros for the best beer in the world.

Was it worth it?

In more ways than one. What was a silly little quest turned out to be a memorable trip and a birthday I will never forget. I am glad that I took those days off, and maybe I shouldn’t wait another ten years to take a little side trip like this. They are always worth the quest.

The Gateway to Petra – Wadi Musa, Jordan

People travel from all over the world to enjoy the marvel that is Petra, and there is a lot that is written about this site. However there is more to the UNESCO World Heritage Site than just the city that lies behind the canyon. There is a whole city on the edge of it that is a wonderful location to set up camp before exploring all that Petra has to offer. It is called Wadi Musa and for a gateway town it does a good job inviting people in and preparing them for the adventure they will have in the park.

Of course, there are plenty of gift shops, and a few Turkish bathhouses, but one of the best places to unwind after hiking around the park is the Cave Bar. It is a short walk away from the entrance of Petra, and the prices on the drinks are a little higher than other places you will find in Jordan, but the atmosphere makes up for these small problems. It was built in an ancient tomb that used to be a part of Petra, and it claims to be the oldest bar in the world. There are plenty of cozy little corners in the bar to find a place to relax, but if you would rather sit and enjoy the company of a larger crowd, they do have an outdoor patio, and a larger room where you can watch a game or talk with other travelers.

Right up the hill from the bar, and the bigger tourist shops is the Petra Museum. This is a good place to visit before heading into the park to see all of the sites. It will take you through the history of the ancient city, and how it developed over the centuries. There is also a large collection of artwork that once graced the outside of many of its buildings, but were taken down when iconoclasts, or Christians who did not believe in icon and worked to destroy as many as they could. It is amazing that many of the statues survived because it depicts a civilization that was influenced by both the Greeks and Egyptians.

There are also many comfortable and affordable hotels nearby. We stayed at the Petra Boutique Hotel. It was a five minute walk from the entrance to the park, and served a nice breakfast in the morning. The only problem was that it sat right next to the main road of the town. At night the traffic disappears completely, but this allows for the packs of wild dogs to take over the street, and they are not very quiet. They did keep me up during my first night’s stay there, but I was so worn out from the long hike on the second night that they did not bother me anymore.

Also make sure that you have at least one of your meals at Mom’s Secret Recipe. It is a local restaurant that has really good food, and great atmosphere. It looks like the inside of a bedouin’s tent inside, and you can tell that the recipe comes from a mom who has spent many years perfecting her food.

Overall, the main attraction is Petra, but the town is a lovely place to stay as well. It is well worth staying there for a night or two because it makes the trip to Petra a little more relaxing. You will still find yourself on long hikes to amazing spots, but at least at night, you won’t have to worry about driving back to Amman or Aqaba because you will have a comfortable place to rest your head.

The Second Indiana Jones – Petra, Jordan

I know that I have a lot of readers screaming at me right now. They are all looking at this photo and they know that this image comes from the third movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Yet, I titled this post, the SECOND Indiana Jones. You are wondering if I know the difference, and by the mere fact that I acknowledged the difference in this post, I obviously must know that Petra is part of the better installment in the series, and I should not have referenced one of the lesser adventures as the title of my post.

To those people, I must acknowledge your movie brilliance, and at the same time, hope that you have stuck with me so far, so that I may defend my choice of title for this post. For those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that this is the second time that one of my adventures has made me feel like I am a part of an Indiana Jones adventure. The first one took place out side of Hua Hin, Thailand as I hiked to the Phraya Nakhon Cave. My visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra, in Jordan, would be the second time that I have had this feeling. This is where the title of this blog post comes from. I hope that clears up any confusion you may have experienced from reading the title, and I also hope that you continue to read to learn more about this exciting place.

Though there are many exciting places to visit in Jordan, Petra is the one that the country promotes the most, and the one that tourists make sure that they see while out here. It had remained hidden for many centuries and it wasn’t until 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt let the rest of the world know about it. He claims that he discovered it, but considering many people still lived in the buildings hollowed out from the mountainside, and he was shown where it was from a Bedouin, it is hard to say that it really needed discovering. Soon afterwards, people would come to see the site, and eventually those people were removed so it could become the tourist destination it is today.

The site itself sprawls all over the hills in the southern part of Jordan. There are some trails that have been created from the visitor center that allows for easy access to some of the more impressive locations, and most people who visit stick to these trails. For people that struggle with hiking, donkeys and camels can be rented and there are even options for select people that they can take a golf cart, but that will only take people to the Treasury, the location that was used for the Indiana Jones movie.

There are many other smaller hikes that will take people to the lesser visited locations, but it is recommended that you hire a guide to take you to these place. The mountains out there can be deceiving and it is easy to get lost. Plus, there are so many places where things are hidden, so it is helpful to have that person that knows what to look for so you can find those hidden little gems.

The two major sites at Petra are the Treasury and the Monastery. The Treasury is pretty crowded because it is the easiest to get to. It is about a kilometer hike all down hill from the visitor center through an idyllic canyon called the Siq. I would recommend going early in the morning because it got really crowded in the afternoon, and it made it hard to navigate through the people. The Monastery is not as crowded but takes a little more effort to get to. It is an uphill hike on a series of stairs that have sometimes been worn away by heavy rains. It is hard to tell how many steps you have to take to get there because they are not always organized, but the rule of thumb is somewhere between 850 and 900. Both locations are awe-inspiring, and are worth the trip, but it can get cold up at the Monastery, especially in the months of fall and spring, so I would recommend taking layers of clothes.

There are many other places to view along the way including the Royal Tombs and the Great Temple. Some of these locations had been lost to the desert and are only being uncovered at this time. Archeologists from Brown University were at the site and discovered the Great Temple buried underneath the sand. They have been spending the couple of decades slowly digging it out and restoring it to its original glory. There are a couple of amazing corridors that you can walk down, and there is a small theatre placed right in the middle, but the most impressive part of this location is the rows of columns that are on either side of what would have been the huge foyer.

There is also the large amphitheater in what would have been the center of this hidden city. It made me wonder what the bustling atmosphere of this place would have once been like as people made their way up and down its various streets. They would have been covered with merchants selling their wares, and to an extent they still are, except now they are different variations of the same collection of souvenirs. The amphitheater is also quiet now, as in the past, I am sure that it would be filled with great speeches, and amazing performances that would be overheard by everybody that happened to pass by.

To travel to Petra is to travel back in time to a place and a culture that could have easily been swept under the stiff wind of the Jordanian desert. It truly feels like you are an archeologist that has come to find s great treasure among its many buildings. It is an adventure, and I can see why George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg chose it for their third installment of the storied franchise. If the theme song isn’t playing in your head as soon as you step foot on the dusty paths, it will soon play because there are always people singing it or humming it, so everybody else can join in. It makes you feel like you are a part of the movie, but in the end you marvel that there is so much more to it than what little they showed in that full length feature.

Petra should be on the top of everybody’s bucket list. It is an amazing place to visit, but not enough people know about it to add it to the many places that they need to travel to before they die. I am glad that I have added it to the places I have been, and I doubt that I will quickly forget its grandeur. Considering I am also currently living in Jordan, it is a place that I will go back to. I covered the more touristy part of the site, and I want to go back to travel the less explored areas. It makes it one of those places that you will always be happy to go back to, and I hope you have the opportunity to make it out there at least once.

An African Safari

I feel like I have lived a pretty lucky lifestyle. There are not many people in the world that can say that they have had the opportunity to travel to five different continents and have been able to have visited over forty different countries. Some might think that this would get repetitive after awhile, and after seeing something, it would be hard to be amazed by it the next time you came across the same kind of sight. But it is hard not to be amazed at rhinos when you come across them in the wild, or to be taken to see the wildlife of one of the most beautiful continents in the world, Africa. I have been lucky enough to be able to do this twice in my lifetime, and both times, I have enjoyed the experience immensely.

Of course, going on safari like this is not only about the rhinos. It is about seeing all of the animals as they try to survive in the wild. To be fair, where I went was not exactly a safari. I got to travel around the vast expanse of land that had been designated as a nature preserve. The same type of interaction I would have been able to see on the plains of the Serengeti are not the same where I went on this trip. A nature preserve wants to make sure that the animals do not let nature take on what it is designed to take one. They keep the predators separated from the other species to help preserve them and help them to once again grow in population so they do not become extinct.

The black rhinos we saw are a great example of this. They have been hunted for their horns because in some Eastern Asian societies it is believed that they have the power to cure cancer even though this has been debunked by science on numerous occasions. In fact, I have been asked by the nature reserve to not disclose their whereabouts because they fear the information might get into the hands of the wrong people and they would come after the rhinos that they have on their lands. They even take other precautions to help these animals survive by making sure that there is someone watching them so hunters do not try to come in and steal their horns. It is strange to think that this is the reason that these animals are becoming extinct.

They are not the only animal that they protect. There is also the African wild dog that is facing the same problems with extinction. The problem with their extinction is a little different than the one with the rhinos. There is no foreign power that is making strange claims that have nothing to do with science. Instead, there problem comes with the ranchers and farmers of Africa itself. The wild dogs are killed because they are always sneaking onto the ranches and are killing the livestock. This is just as difficult of an issue to overcome, but because of the reasons behind it, the solution to the problem is completely different.

It was a nice experience to go out and see these animals in the semi-wild. I also felt good about giving this organization my money because their main focus is to protect these animals, and work to make sure that they are not going extinct. It would have been nicer to have seen them in the wild, but at the same time, I understand why this is so difficult to do. If I were to go out in the wild, I would have had difficulty trying to see all of these animals due to humanity’s impact on their lives. It is great that these organizations exist, and I hope that they continue to do their good work so future generations can enjoy watching these animals as well.

Forensics – A Trip Back to Normal

In a post-Covid world, t is a nice feeling to see things slowly going back to normal. It is not quite at where we were before the pandemic froze the world, but we are now taking the steps to get back to that place. For instance, I have talked about how I have moved to Jordan a year and a half ago to start teaching there, and one of the programs I picked up was the Speech and Debate, or Forensics program. It was something that had been huge at the school, and one of their prides, but when I came last year, it was hard to get students to want to participate in the event. All we had to offer was a weekend where we would meet at school and have a virtual meet where we competed against schools from India, and Africa. After being weary of being on-line all the time for classes, and not really knowing what Forensics was all about, we only had a few of the dedicated ones who helped keep the program alive for one more year. This year was a little different as we were invited to a meet in Africa, and could entice people to join by promising them that this would be the culminating event. Still participation was weak, but we the enthusiasm was up from the previous year. It felt like jumpstarting the program from scratch, but in the end everything came together to produce a great event that surprised me in more ways than one.

The first was how amazing the trip was. It was nice to be able to take a trip with students again. We didn’t just go down to participate in the meet, but we also made sure to include some cultural experiences as well. We were able to go visit a nature preserve, and explore the Apartheid Museum, two dramatically different experiences, but ones the students will never forget. Despite this, we were also able to enjoy the regular cultural experiences, nice hospitality, and a new cuisine that none of us were really familiar with.

We were also able to make some new friends. In fact, I was really proud of the way my students got out of their comfort zones and got to know the other participants around them. What I like about forensics as an extra-curricular activity is that it is not always about winning. It is more about gaining a skill set that the ones who participate will be able to use later in their lives. And they know that they are not going to be amazing at it to begin with. The whole experience is about the growth in the field, and when they go into it with that mindset, the people that they are competing against are not enemies, but other friends who are going through the same experience that they are. All it takes is the right attitude, and I am proud of my students for having that attitude. By the end of the event it was fun to see them mingling with kids from other schools, and cheering for each other at the award ceremony. They were sharing Instagram accounts and making plans to stay in contact with each other even though they lived over a thousand miles away from each other. It was what made me proud for having had been a part of this trip.

But this wasn’t the only thing that made me proud of what they were able to accomplish. Even though, for most of the students that came, this was the first time that they ever competed in a forensics tournament, they all did exceptionally well. It was fun to watch to them compete for four rounds. With each proceeding round, they did better and better. And on the second night of the tournament, when they starting naming who would be in the finals, and they could barely contain their excitement, I loved to watch them jump up and down when they got the news that they wanted to hear. And finally, when they started to hand out trophies for first, second, and third place in each category, I was just as excited to see them walk across the stage to receive their trophy as they were.

Overall, it was great to have these trips start up again, and it is also interesting to see that every school is on the same playing field. Each one of them struggled with putting a team together, and making sure that their students stuck with it through the whole season, the same that we did. There was even one school that pulled out at the last minute. Yet, it was important that we took that flight and did our best. If we backed out at the last minute then the program at the school could have faltered, the meet could have been cancelled, and then, it would have been impossible for it to start up again anywhere. It was not the most impressive meet I have ever witnessed, but considering what we all went through the last few years, there isn’t a school in the world that has been able to pull off the impressive meets that they used to have. But this is the first step of getting back to those great events. I’m glad that it happened too, because the benefits of this program is too great to let it go by the wayside. Next year will even be better, and we might even be able to build a season around this one event. I can’t wait to see how this grow over the next year, and I can’t wait to see how it affects my students again. 

I wished to add pictures of my students participating in this event, but due to privacy reasons, I declined showing any of these pictures. Instead, I have included other pictures from the trip instead to respect their privacy.

A Lazy Vacation

As the sun set over the distant hills in Egypt, and I sat on the beach in Aqaba watching it go down, I thought about the close on another vacation. It was not one of my typical vacations where I would go out and try to see as much as I possibly could. Instead, I spent a lot of my time sitting next to a pool, and reading a book. Are there things to do in Aqaba, and could I have gotten out of my seat to do them? Of course there are plenty of things to do. I could have visited the castle that was once built to fight off any invaders that might have shown up to this shore. I could have explored the Roman ruins that are being unearthed here as they are in many other places in the area. I could have booked a snorkeling trip to check out the sunken boat or crashed commercial airplane. They would have made for an adventurous holiday, but it is not what I needed at this time.

I needed a vacation where I sat around a pool and relaxed on the beach.

I will always enjoy those trips where I go out and see and do a lot of things, and there will be many that are coming up where I will do exactly that. But there also comes a time where I need to recoup, and that is what this vacation was all about. Things have been a little crazy at work, and when I get back in a couple of days, they will pick up right where they left off. There are a couple of trips thrown in there as well, one with students of mine, so I needed to make sure that I was up for the challenge of this next run.

So am I going to remember a lot from this trip? Probably not.

It is okay though. I still had the sunset. I still had the beach. I still had the couple of days of complete relaxation. And all of this allowed me to keep my sanity.

Thank you, Aqaba for the wonderful vacation. I am sure I will be back again soon since you are not that far away, and during that time I hope to see more of what you have to offer.

A Beach on the Red Sea

The thing that strikes me as being the most strange with my time in the Middle East is visiting these place that are in the Bible. I grew up with these stories from such an early age that I couldn’t think of them in any other capacity other than tales full of fantastical places that couldn’t possibly be real. Now that I see these places for myself, the first thing that pops into my head is, “This place really exists.” I have had this experience with the spot on the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the top of Mount Nebo where Moses was able to look on the promised land before her died, and now I have travelled down to Aqaba in Jordan, and can sit on the Red Sea looking over its waters to Egypt, and the place where Moses parted the Red Sea so he could bring his people over to freedom.

Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan, and give the citizens of this country 32 kilometers of beach front property to play around in. It is a tiny sliver of land situated in between Saudi Arabia, and Israel with a clear view of the Sinai Peninsula within clear view of its coastline. The Jordanians have made the most out of this little stretch of land. Not only have packed it full of resorts, and places where people can go out to enjoy waterskiing, scuba diving, and lounging out on their boats, but it is the only port city in the country. Anything that comes in or out of Jordan has to pass through Aqaba first.

A certain amount of history can be found in this city as well beyond the stories that are told in the Bible. Aqaba was used by the British during World War I as a base to help the Arabs in their fight against the Turks. T. E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame would retreat back often to Aqaba to resupply or just collect himself before going back out to gather together forces or blow up train routes. It was the one place that they were able to hold on to and may be the reason that they were able to push the Turks out of the area, and is probably one of the big reasons that the Middle East is shaped the way that it is today.

Despite all of this that is offered, the thing I looked forward to the most was finding a beach chair next to the warm waters with a good book to keep me company. It is a nice weekend getaway place from Amman, and I am glad that I can take a quick four hour car ride down here to unwind a bit. I did get a chance to explore a bit of the town, but for the most part, it was all about relaxation this time around, and Aqaba is the perfect place for that. After I collect myself more, I will go explore more, and even if I don’t get it all in this time around, I can always make my way back here. That is the nice thing about living in a country that offers places like Aqaba, you don’t have to squeeze out every moment you are in the place to make sure you saw everything. Instead, you can take your time and savor what it has to offer. So thank you Aqaba for these days of relaxation, and I hope to dive deeper into what you have to offer soon.

The Street Art of Amman

When I first moved to Jordan, there were a lot of things that I was expecting to see, beautiful mosques, markets on busy streets, and a stark landscape that is hauntingly beautiful. There were a few sights I did not expect to see, but after further thought, it made perfect sense such as the important places that are mentioned in the Bible, old Roman ruins, and buildings all different variants of the color light brown, but that still have their own unique style because of the architecture. What came as a total shock was the government’s partnership with the hip hop community in Amman and the street art that has been left behind all over the city.

About a month ago, I went on a walking tour of downtown Amman to check out some of the street art that can be found all over the place in the city. Ever since arriving, I always knew that it existed. It is hard to walk anywhere and not come across some of the pieces that are found on various walls all over the city. But what I learned from the tour is that these pieces are partially subsidized by the Jordanian government and some of the most famous artists in the city are the ones that leave these wonderful pieces of art behind. The most prominent of these artists is a man that calls himself Sardine. I had seen his pieces here and there in Amman, but I had no idea now much he had contributed to the culture of the city. His art always features a paper boat in it somewhere, and now that I know what to look for, I see his art all over the place.

And like all great art, some artists try to push for certain causes that are dear to their hearts. Yara Hindawi is one of these artists. She will paint her subjects with missing eyes and clouds floating in the background. Her characters are depicted this way to bring the issue of mental health to the spotlight, and to demonstrate the missing piece in a lot of people’s lives who suffer from these problems. I had come across her art a couple of times, but it wasn’t until this tour that I was able to understand the message behind it.

The prestige of the city with its embrace of this culture became so widespread that other prominent street artists were asked to come and contribute during festivals that happened before the Covid years. My favorite one was entitled Blue Boy. The haunting look in his eyes was highlighted by the fact that a couple of years after it was painted, the city came in to repair wall and covered up his mouth. I don’t know what it looked like before the city came in and did this, but I think it is one of those happy mistakes. I believe that this makes the piece say more than whatever the original smile might have been. It is the picture I return to more than any other that I saw on the tour.

There are many other hidden gems throughout the city, and now that I have been on the tour, everywhere I look I see another one. It is a part of what gives the city of Amman its charm. I am sure that many people that travel to Amman would not consider this as part of their trip when there are the Roman ruins, and Rainbow Street that attract so many visitors, but it is one of those tours that are really worth the time. They are run by an organization called Underground Amman and the tours are conducted by a man named Alaeddin Pasha. I would call it a must see if you come to Amman, and it is one of the most surprising experiences I have had since I have moved out here.

One Long Summer

It has been a long time since I have seen this view, the city of Amman from my back porch. I spend a lot of my time during the school year looking over this perch, and it has been almost ten weeks since I have been back. When I was younger, this was a normal amount of time for summer break, but the schools have slimmed them down a bit. There are numerous reasons for this. Schools wish to have more breaks during the school year to help reduce the pressure that many students feel at certain points of the schedule. Districts also wish to reduce the summer slide when students put the books down and pick up the game console controllers. It is also a long time to be a way from work, and by the end of it, people are bored, no longer being productive about anything in their lives. This is the reality for many schools around the world, but for me this year, it was not the case. There were a couple of complications with the way the holidays landed this year that complicated things, and extended the summer. The school I work for now also does not believe in the smaller breaks, following the work hard, play hard philosophy. Because of these things, I have had a long summer to explore the world.

When I first thought about what this prospect of a long summer meant for me, I started to think about how I would spend my time. Most of the time, I head back to the United States and visit with family and friends, but there is a limit you can stay at a place before you wear out your welcome. I prefer to have my time spent with these people to be quality time, and not just passing the time. Also considering that the last couple of years had made travel difficult and I now had an opportunity to see a part of the world I never had before, we made arrangements to spend the first part of the summer in Iceland.

Iceland seemed lie the perfect place to go in a world still getting over its post-Covid hangover. The danger of the disease still lurked around every corner even though right before we boarded the plane to start on our travels, the United States followed suit with a lot of the other countries in the world, and decided to no longer make having a negative PCR test part of flying into the country. Everything was coming together to make for a great summer of travel. Still, it was going to be nice to be in a country without many people in it and the main attractions that tourist go and see being outside. We didn’t even need to worry about catching the disease in hotel rooms because we spent our time traveling around the island in a camper van and rarely did we have contact with other people.

Still, this did not make our travels easy in Iceland. We ran into rain and cold weather during most of our three weeks we were there. The people we did interact with told us time and time again that Iceland was experiencing the coldest June in thirty years. It created some challenges along the way, and there were many nights that we were huddled up in our van staying warm in our sleeping bags while waiting out the rain and blowing wind that was beating itself against the side of our vehicle.

Still, there were plenty of moments where the sun came out and we took advantage of those times to gaze upon the beauty of Iceland. It was the perfect way to start this long summer. I was able to let go of all the stress and pressure that comes with the school year, and concentrate on something else. I didn’t have a lot of down time that usually comes from vacation, but it was okay because I had plenty of time later on to take advantage of that. I also did not experience a lot of heat, but I knew I would eventually run into it when I made it to the second part of my trip Oregon in the United States.

But the Pacific Northwest can be a fickle place as well. My father-in-law is always telling me that he never expects it to get warm in Oregon until after the Fourth of July, and not to get mad if it doesn’t happen until after the fifteenth of the same month. Well, this summer put that saying to the test. I would like to say that I had made it all the way to the 24th without experiencing a day over 90, but that was not the case.

There were two days early on in the month where we traveled down to Tucson, Arizona to attend the wedding of a couple of friends from both Korea, and Jordan. We ran into day over 100 degrees there, but if they weren’t that hot in mid-July there, I would have been worried. The wedding wasn’t an actual wedding either. The happy couple had gotten married the previous summer to allow them to move to Jordan without any trouble. The problem with that first ceremony was that it only involved a handful of people due to the speed in which it happened and the fact that the world was still in lockdown during the summer of 2021. This time around was a celebration of a marriage that had already happened, but it was with all of the people they would have invited if it wasn’t for those strange circumstances surrounding their first ceremony. It was more than just a celebration of love because a lot of the people invited to the ceremony were also people I had worked with in Seoul, and had not seen since I had left that country. It became a reunion as well from people who live all over the world now. The world had moved on from Covid and was willing to get back together again. All of these things were expressed in that tiny ceremony, and it was one of the highlights of this summer, right around the halfway point of my time off as well.

I did not get to enjoy the heat for long though because it was back to the Pacific Northwest, and though I got a couple of days in the high 80s in Central Oregon, we left that behind to go up to the Puget Sound of Washington. Being so close to the ocean so far north meant cooler days, and nights where we actually built a fire to enjoy the evening outside. It was around this time that I was hearing about the heat that the rest of the country was experiencing and I felt really lucky that I kept avoiding it. I was even able to dodge that bullet when those temperatures finally hit the Pacific Northwest by making the jump to another part of the country, but I knew that I had a long way to go this summer, and there was no way I could avoid it forever.

But I wasn’t that far north to enjoy the weather. It was for another celebration that was put on hold because of, once again, Covid. My in-laws had been planning a little getaway for their whole family to celebrate one of them hitting a significant milestone in age, and both of them celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. This trip had been scheduled early in 2020 before Covid became a worldwide pandemic. I remember many conversations from that year about whether the trip should be canceled or not. It is funny looking back and thinking that it would have been a possibility in 2020, but I am sure many people had the same kinds of conversations. I am just happy that we were able to eventually get to celebrating these moments, even if they were a couple of years later; they were still important, and still needed to be recognized. I am sure that there were a lot of people around the world who also wished to make up these lost moments for the last two years, and that was probably the reason that travel was so crazy this summer.

It wasn’t just the visiting of family and friends that returned to a sense of normalcy this summer. Business was also getting back to the way that it once was. Some considered this a good thing; whereas, others thought that something could have been learned about the way we conduct business from the last couple of years. As a teacher, I am required to take class to keep on top of the latest developments in education, and they have been annoying the last couple of years. I have had to sit in front of a computer, and watch a tiny screen as some trainer babbled on about what I should know. This is not a good form of education. It is easy to get distracted, and all of the teachers I had in this kind of experience, rambled on about nothing for way too long. I get a lot more out of the experience if I show up and have face to face conversations with my colleagues, and interaction with the person running the training. This summer, I was able to enjoy that kind of experience again. During the end of July, I flew to Wisconsin to have some training on English Language Learning with the WIDA Institute. It was a great trip, and I got a lot out of the experience, and am looking forward to more like it.

Though I appreciated the in-person conference, I understand why things have changed for companies all over the world. A lot of money has been spent on office space over the years, and they have learned that this is not necessarily needed. They are beginning to see that their employees will get their work done from their homes, and there is no need for somebody to watch over them to make sure they are doing their work. These companies are starting to recognize that they do not need to spend a lot of money on office space, and have their employees commute into work every day. They can have happy and productive employees and allow them to make their homes their workspace. This rethinking of the way we do things is one of the effects of the last couple of years. Both the old and the new ways have advantages and disadvantages to them, and it is interesting to see how the world makes the changes because of the adjustments that needed to happen the last couple of years.

Of course, as anybody living in the United States over the summer can testify, it was impossible to escape the heat that gripped a lot of the country. It was only a matter of time before I ran into that heatwave in my home state of Colorado. I enjoyed it at first, but of course, heat is always oppressive and I found that spending my time indoors was more comfortable than being outside in the heat. Still, it was nice to make it back home and have the chance to visit with family and friends. The time always seems so short for this, and I try not to fill it up with too many other things that would take up my time.

But of course, you can’t head back to the place where you used to live and that has a part of your life still at it, and not have some business that you need to attend to. For me this time around, it was with my storage unit. It had been getting to be a mess from years of just rummaging through it without me giving much thought to how well I organized it after I had left. The company I was renting from was also raising the price, and it was getting to be a little ridiculous with how much I was paying per month. So I spent a couple of days going through all of the stuff I had left behind, so I could move it to a new storage space that was more reasonably priced. There were moments with it that had a nostalgic feel to it. I was looking at stuff I had not seen in over seven years and it brought back some great memories. Of course, there was a bunch of other stuff that I went through and wondered why I had kept it for so long. When it was all said and done, it was great that I had gone through it all, and my stuff was a little more organized.

It was a great and busy summer, and it was a great time to make up a little bit of what was lost over the last couple of years, and I feel that a lot of people had the same idea with their summer. I was lucky to avoid the heat that many other people had run into on their summers, but in the end, we were all able to form some great memories with the adventures we had. It is back to the grind, and based on the adventures I had, I am ready to take on that challenge to build up to that next time I get to go out and have another adventure. Until then, keep on

Missing My Puppy

Don’t get me wrong, being a teacher and getting a long break during the summer is great. Being a teacher in an international setting, it is a necessity of life. It is a time for us to recharge our batteries, and travel back to our home countries so we can see our families. I really enjoy this time off for these reasons, but it is not always as easy as it seems. There are a couple of drawbacks. We spend a couple of months every year living out of a suitcase, and leaving behind the lives we have built in those faraway places. Sometimes, there are others that we have left behind that we really start to miss as we continue on our long trips. It is about the time that we are supposed to be getting back to those lives that those people we left behind start to be thought about a lot. In my case, it is my puppy that I miss the most, and can’t wait to see again soon.

We got Zoey in late January of this year, and she is a little bit of a handful. She was a rescue dog who got picked up off the side of the road in Amman when she was tiny. We met her a few months later when they believed that she was about a year old. She was playful and knew how to use that to her advantage. We instantly fell in love with her, and a week later, she was living in our home. Even though she looked like a full grown dog, what we did not know at the time was she had a lot of puppy still in her. She still had a lot of energy that took some time to work out of her, and when we had to go to work, she would have separation anxiety. It caused some moments that made living with her difficult, but that is what it means to have to train a puppy to come to an agreement where we can all be happy with each other.

Zoey had a bunch of stinker moments as well. She knows that she shouldn’t be on the bed, but every morning when she believes that it is time to get up, she will hop on the bed, and try to cuddle with us. It is adorable, but at that same time, I know that I cannot let it continue; otherwise, she will start to think that she can do it whenever she wants. It forces me to get up and get her needs taken care of, even if I have another hour of sleep that I can get that morning.

She is also a little destructive. We are constantly looking for new toys for her that she won’t be able to destroy, and when she does not get her way, she will rip up her blankets, or bed. We even had an incident with a couch, and will have to buy a new one when we move out of our house. This has made Zoey a more expensive dog than we intended.

So, why am I excited to get back to her if she is such a stinker? Despite all of her drawbacks that we have with her, she is still has a charm that draws you to her. We get to go on long walks with her where her infinite curiosity allows me to explore the neighborhood I live in, and her desire to be friends with everybody has introduced me to new people in our neighborhood. We do go out in our backyard from time to time, and I will kick a soccer ball around that she loves to chase after and carry in her mouth, and if she isn’t into that at the time, she still loves to play her own version of keep away in our yard.

Zoey also will calm down eventually, and when she does, she turns into the cuddliest of canines. She will lay down on me while I am watching television, and give me a kiss from time to time to remind me that I am there. She also will pat her paws while she sleeps and when she is having a good dream. And the best part comes when I come home everyday. People who own dogs know what this moment is like. The expression of unconditional love that happens as the dog rushes to greet you is unforgettable. They are all paws and wagging tails as they wish to show you how excited they are that you are back home. No matter how long you are gone for, eight hours or fifteen minutes, they will always greet you in this way. It is that love that can turn a terrible day into a great one.

This is the greeting I am looking forward to when I get back home. I know that she can be a stinker at times, but I am looking forward to seeing Zoey again. It is just an indication that I am ready for summer to wrap up so I can get to a life that I left behind a couple of months ago. It has been great to have this break, and I have enjoyed seeing all of the people I have gotten to revisit with during this time, but I am looking forward to getting back to the folks in my other life, especially my puppy.