Where to Quarantine

I can already hear people screaming just from the title of this post. Yes, I know that the pandemic situation is getting better with each person that has been vaccinated. Yes, I have gotten the shot myself and I am over the two week period after the first dose, so I should be at little risk for getting this deadly disease. Then why am I still quarantining?

Well, I still can carry the disease and give it to somebody else. I did just get off a long 26 hour flight less than ten days ago from the other side of the globe where the inflection rate was on a steep incline instead of a decline like in the United States. Yes, I did have to prove that I was Covid free before I got on that flight, but I did travel through some extremely busy airports, and just because I got one negative test, it does not mean that I would a day or two later. This also includes all of those people that I came into contact with. The bottom line is if I want to do the responsible thing, I should avoid contact with people.

This brings me to the location where I am spending those two weeks. I do believe that this is important, especially for the sanity of an individual. Being stuck in a small hotel room with another person, no matter how much you love them, would drive anybody crazy, and would push any relationship to its limits. Spending it alone in a room might even be worse, and one of the loneliest experiences that a person would have to go through. Now, I do have a lot of friends that live in various places around the world, and they are not given the option of where to stay for their quarantine. The friends I have in Vietnam probably have it the worst right now. Quarantine there is a three week affair in a government sponsored hotel, followed by a two week stint in your own place where you are closely monitored. Whereas, in the United States, it is a suggestion that I am pretty sure most people getting off a plane from another country just ignore. Now, I can’t be sure, but the numbers that the United States has gone through indicate a more relaxed policy to this global problem.

But if you are flying into the United States from a foreign country this summer, and would like to do the responsible thing, I would like to make a couple of suggestions to insure that you are not spreading this disease further while making this time as comfortable as possible.

First, try to find a place in a more rural setting. The United States is known for its wide open space, especially the further west you go. This will mean less population of people, and less contact with crowds. Granted, you should spend most of your time in the place you have chosen to quarantine in, but if you are in this rural place, you can go out for walks every once in awhile and enjoy a little time away from that place. If you pick a place with a lovely setting, it will make those walks even more pleasant, and you won’t go crazy watching the same scene play out through your window.

Second, try to stay with a pet of some kind. I would suggest a dog, but I know that there are enough cat people out there, and if that is what you prefer, go for it. I know that this is not always a possibility, but the world changes when you have this added roommate. Dogs and cats are both a wealth of entertainment when you spend some time with them. They always want to spend time with you, and will show how much they want to by doing some of the silliest and more memorable things. If you don’t believe me, go to YouTube and watch the cat and dog videos you will find there, and it will be hours of entertainment. But there is something better than YouTube or television, and that is having this source of entertainment in your own home.

Third, and this one is a must, stock your place with healthy food and snacks. I know I have been guilty of this during quarantine, but I always want to stuff my face with a snack. It seems like this is way to make the time go by quickly, but all it does is waste time eating stuff that makes you feel wiped out and tired. If you do not have all of this junk food around, you will not eat it, and you will look for a healthier alternative. You will feel better if you eat healthier, and you won’t come out of quarantine five pounds heavier.

Four, get some exercise. This goes hand in hand with the previous one. A body in motion wants to stay in motion; whereas, one slouched down on a couch with nothing more than an iPad to stare at all day will try to find something else on that iPad to swipe through. I know that some quarantines do not allow for you to get out of the house and exercise because you find yourself in a place with a greater population, but that does not mean that you can’t find a way to make it work inside. I had a friend in Korea that did two mile hikes by circling around their little apartment. It allowed them the time away from their devices and they felt better at the end of the experience. If you are in that rural area, those walks or runs will become the most exciting part of the day, and will give you something to look forward to.

Five, put the electronic devices down for a good portion of the day. I know that this is hard to do in modern times. Those electronic devices hold an endless chest of entertainment, but there are numerous studies that show that looking at a screen that long during the day is not good for you, or your sleep patterns. Find something that allows you to turn it off and be more interactive with those that you are stuck in quarantine with. Play a card game or if available, a board game. Have a conversation. Open up a book and read it. Just make sure you stay away from that device for some time every day.

For the most part, nobody wants to stay in quarantine, and I know that the United States does not require it if you are flying in from a foreign country. But it is the right thing to do, and can be a mild inconvenience if you plan for it and work through it with a positive attitude. It is only two weeks of your life, and it allows the rest of the country function at normal without having to worry about having a lockdown for everybody. The most important thing to do though is get vaccinated. It is the one thing that will allow us to put all of this insanity behind us and go back to living a normal life. The most important rule to live by is do what is right, and together we will get all of this behind us.

Heat versus Warmth

Thailand is hot. I think that this fact is not contested very often, but what people don’t seem to understand is that Thailand is hot. I mean always. Yes, there is a little bit of a reprieve in the dry months around December and January, but it is still hot. 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels pretty cool when you have been suffering through the 90s, but that is just a relative figure. There are many place around the world who have suffered through an extremely cold winter around that same time and would beg to experience an 80 degree day.

But before we left, the heat became oppressive. It wasn’t measured in actual heat, but instead was measured in real feel. I would get up at the same time as the roosters in the morning to go out on my daily run before it got too hot out there. I would check my weather app on my iPad I left to see how hot it was out there. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do because it drained my energy as soon as saw how hot it actually was out there. Though the real temperature would dip down to 80 degrees at this time in the morning, the real feel would never get below 90 degrees. And this was constant for a couple of months. We never got to experience temperatures below 90 degrees, and it made for a lot of indoor living. The only time that it got bearable outside was when the sun went down.

The strange thing was that the heat was one of the main factors we considered when planning our vacations, especially our longer summer excursions. Because we were working on the other side of the world from our families, we knew that we needed to spend time with them over the summer, and the fact that they lived in two different parts of the United States meant that we had to split our time between two locations, Colorado and Oregon. They are both amazing places during the summer with plenty of outdoor activities offered, but Colorado gets warmer in June where Oregon is trapped in a drizzly cool warmup still. For this reason, we elected to go to Oregon first this time around. The cool weather would be a welcoming change from the heat we were experiencing in Bangkok.

And let me tell you that it has been heavenly. I know that many Oregonians are waiting for this cool weather to break so they can enjoy the warmth of summer, but having a change of season if only for a couple of weeks has been exactly what we have been looking for. Our trip to Central Oregon had the temperatures drop even more. We arrived at my wife’s parent’s house in Black Butte Ranch and it was really cold outside. Once again, we had to scurry inside to feel comfortable, just like in Bangkok. We huddle next to the fireplace and turned the heat up in order to get warm again. But it is a different kind of feeling escaping the cold as opposed to running away from the heat, and I miss that feeling. When I got inside in Bangkok after being in the heat, I would strip off my shirt stand, grab a glass of cold water, and slump in a chair hoping to get cool off, and sometimes achieving that goal. Whereas, coming in from the cold, meant stomping our feet, building a fire, and huddling next to it with a mug of hot coffee as it warmed our hands. It required more activity to get warm and there was a camaraderie that went with it. I know that after awhile it gets old, and I will want warmer weather, but for the time being, it is a welcoming change.

I have looked at the weather for the next couple of days in the place I am at, and it will warm up again, but it won’t be as hot as Bangkok. It means that walks, kayaking and bike rides will be in order. I look forward to getting out there in the fresh air, and enjoy what Central Oregon has to offer. It is the perfect weather to enjoy summer, and I look forward to bringing that experience to you as well. Thanks for joining me, but I am going to go back to that fire to warm up a little more before the sun can do it for me. Until next time.

Closing the Chapter

I don’t think that anybody is going to disagree with me when I say that the last couple of years have been strange ones. A lot of people had to reimagine what their lives were, and many routines that we lived by had to be thrown away as we tried to figure out a new way to make it work. Teaching was probably one of the biggest fields that really had to rethink the way it did things, and it wasn’t always easy. It definitely tainted the way that people in this career viewed their profession. It was hard to recognize how effective they were being.

Elementary school teachers told tales of students easily distracted and who were more interested in showing off their pets to the rest of class than engaging in the lesson. Middle school teachers also struggled delivering concepts that were verging on being a little more abstract and students being able to follow simple instructions. My experience as a high school teacher showed me a new perspective. I can tell you what the foreheads of all of my students look like, but beyond that I haven’t a clue. I was amazed at the amount of students that could not figure out how to tilt the cameras on their computers so I could see their whole face. Of course, this was a great way to hide what they were really doing, texting their friends, or playing video games. I completely understand why they loved this style of learning because it meant that they didn’t have to do much and then later pretend that the stress of being online all of the time was the reason for their low production.

Of course, I was not much better. There would be many times that I would stare out my window wondering what the outside world had to offer when I should have been doing some work instead. It was really hard to stay motivated in the place I had reserved for relaxation. The lines between work and home blurred, and I am still struggling to separate the two even though last night was my last night of the school year and the last time I would work at this school. I still woke up this morning thinking that I needed to check my email, grade some papers and prepare some lessons, but this was not the case. It will take a few days before I will be able to shed this feeling and see life in a different light.

I did say my final farewell to the school last night after watching the awards ceremony for the high school. It was a little bit of relief, but I will not be able to celebrate until tonight. Because I was working in Oregon at the time, 14 hours ahead of the time of the school in Thailand, it was really late at night and I just wanted to get to bed instead of unwind from the school year. Blowing off a little steam will help me make this adjustment as I say goodbye to the school.

It is something that I have wished to do for about a year now, and my negative attitude towards the school is not necessarily fair. Yes, the school has some problems that will take an uncomfortable couple of years to overcome, and I do not necessarily agree with a lot of its philosophies, I have dumped an undue amount of negativity at the school. Most of this is because I have associated the school with the problems of Covid and teaching online. I don’t think I could be at any school and spend time teaching online and look at the school favorably. It is not an easy thing to do, and I am happy that it is all over. I hope that I will never have to spend time teaching online again.

On the other hand, I do not think I can look past the pain of online teaching when I look at the school. It will always be looked at through that lens. Even during the times I got to spend teaching my students face to face, it was stressful. It gets really tiring to tell students to put on their masks correctly to stop the spread of this deadly disease while other teachers on campus make comments about how the disease is a hoax and masks are useless. It is a noble fight against a losing cause.

Overall, it is a chapter in the book that is my life. I could close that chapter and hope to never revisit again, or I could look at the pain and frustration from this time in my life and learn from the experience. It will always be what it was, but I may look back at my time with this school in Thailand with some fondness. There were always the students, some of my all time favorites in my long career, who worked hard and were so eager to learn. It was the best English department I ever worked for. And most of the time that I lived out there, I did not have to worry about this world wide pandemic in the same way that many other people elsewhere had to. I just need to close that chapter for right now, and prepare for the next one coming up at the end of the summer. It may be an opportunity to put this Covid kind of lifestyle behind us, and look to a future that resembles that happy life we all once lived.

Seeing the Finish Line

I know that I have been talking more about my career as a teacher lately, but that is because I am finishing up my school year in a remote location. It is not the typical way that I have done it in the past, and with all of the ways we all have done things differently over the last two years, I thought it would be interesting to document my feelings along the way.

I am getting to that point of the school year where things are wrapping up and I am starting to work on thinking about what I will be doing next year. This time of the year is always busy and very stressful, and Covid has not made it easier. Tracking down students to get them to turn in missing assignments and finish up the school year is made more difficult by the fact that I am hoping that they will eventually check their email to see the urgent message I have sent them. I get that the latest video game is more exciting than an email from an English teacher, but I wish they would prioritize enough to make sure they finish the school year before they start playing their game. But I can’t blame them because I would be in the same spot if I was them.

Despite this, I have gotten to the point of where I have checked all of my boxes and completed most of my duties. There are a couple of other responsibilities I need to take care of before I go, but they are minor and don’t add to the level of stress I am starting to shed. Really, all I am doing is waiting around for that final metaphorical bell to ring so I can log out of email account one last time, and get to enjoying the summer. It is a lot of sitting around which has made me feel bored and busy at the same time, but I will take this feeling over the stacks of papers I had to work through a couple of weeks ago. It is nice to know that it is finally coming to an end, and I am looking forward to next step in my career as I switch schools and countries next year. It is the spark I need right now, but I am just not there yet.

It is that finish line that is always the hardest to cross. All of my years of running has taught me this. It is the time of the race where you are spent. You lungs are burning, and your muscles are wishing to seize up, but in order for the pain to stop, you have to keep plugging away at it. The location of the finish line never changes, just your relation to it. I can see that finish line right now, and I know what it feels like when you finally cross it. All of the tension and pushing you have done during that long race is finally released as you can now take life at stroll and collect your breath. Their is always a refreshing drink waiting for you at the end, and the rest of the day can be spent the way you want to. But looking back at the path you came from, you can give yourself the satisfaction that you just finished that race, and accomplished something many people are afraid to. It is a simple feeling, but it is one of the best feelings in the world, and I am looking forward to it.

There are only a couple of days left until I get to cross that finish line, and I will keep slowly plugging away at it until I reach it. And once I cross it, I can go back to the usual posts that having nothing to do with work, and have more to do with taking the world in I get to visit. I hope to see you there.

Waiting for Transit

The other day, one of my students asked me what I did while they were writing their journal in class. They could see me walking around the room that has been my virtual classroom over the past couple of months, and I didn’t think that they were paying attention to me when they should have been doing their work. But it was true. I was not in my seat, and I was walking over to the window in my room to stare at the world as it continued to move. I was in a holding pattern, waiting for my chance to join the world again.

There wasn’t a lot that I could do besides wait. My school had announced a month ago that we would be staying online for the remainder of the year, and this meant that we could head back to our respective countries as long as we still tuned into our Zoom classrooms at the same time no matter where we were. My colleagues started to disappear. Everyday there would be another mention of a new one that had caught their plane out of the country, and we were left with less and less people. My wife and I had a date scheduled, but there was a lot of little things to do to get ready to get on that plane. We had to sell of our stuff, have our checkout on campus, clean up our house, and take care of so much paperwork.

The one that hung over our heads the most was the Covid test. International airlines will not let people board their planes if they do not have proof from the last 72 hours that they are Covid free. I get it. Nobody wants to be responsible for keeping this pandemic going, but it is nerve wracking knowing that this will come, and having to stay away from everybody in the meantime so we are not accidentally exposed to this disease. It caused the usual stress of moving from a country to another to amp up even more and made the eventual date of departure seem so surreal dream that we would never reach.

So we broke up the monotony of our mundane existence with walks around the neighborhood, and the occasional meal being delivered to our home. The rest of the time was in waiting as we slowly chipped away at our to do list, and it felt like the day would never come.

Finally, all of our bags were packed and we went off to the hospital to get our Covid test done. All we had left to do was wait for the results, get a cab to the airport and be off. Thoughts ran through my mind about what would happen if I received a positive result on my test, and could not fathom how all of this work would be put on hold for a couple more weeks while overcame the disease. But then the results came in, and it gave me the go ahead to finally be on our way.

It had been the most welcoming news to have had the last couple of days, and now all I need to do is load up my bags and head off to the airport. I am finally going to get to come home after these couple of years being stuck in Thailand because of Covid. I am excited to be out of here soon, and I can’t wait to see my family and friends again, and most importantly, get the vaccine that seems only available in the United States right now.

So get ready America, I’m coming back home, and I’ll be there soon.

Work in a Hotel Room

There are advantages to teaching online. I can take care of my classes from any location as long as it is quiet, and they have strong wifi. I am not saying that this is my first option when faced with teaching online, but it does help me get those last minute things done before I leave Thailand without having to take a whole day off to do it. I was faced with one of those situations. I needed to get some paperwork taken care of at the U.S. Embassy, so I went downtown the night before so I could get to my appointment quickly and still take care of my classes for the day.

The only difference with this trip downtown was that I never really left my hotel room. Yes, I went to my appointment at the U.S. Embassy and walked to the corner of the road from the hotel room to pick up some food as it was delivered to me, but otherwise, all of my time was spent staying in that small little room. I really did not want to risk being exposed to Covid as my time in Thailand started to wind down. My whole focus is to make it on to that plane out of the country so I can get back home and see people in the United States that I haven’t seen for two years now.

It might sound like a maddening way to experience downtown Bangkok. Nobody thinks of going to a nice hotel to spend their time inside, doing the same work they would have done from home, but considering everything is closed down right now, and there is nothing to do downtown, I had to look at the opportunity as something completely different.

It is an opportunity to get out of my house, and have a different view. I know the world knows what I am talking about right now. Cabin Fever has been a real thing over the last couple of years due to the way we have been forced to huddle inside waiting for the worst of this event to pass us over. Any opportunity that we have to look at a new landscape out of our windows will be a welcomed one. We also edge closer and closer to opening up again completely, and it is nice to know that there is light at the end of this very long tunnel. I just need to do what I need to do to make to that light and get back home where I have friends, family and a chance to get vaccinated, the one thing that will allow us to get out of this mess.

So as I wrap up my time in Thailand, I will take in any opportunity that I can and make the most out of it because as soon as I leave here, I do not know when I will ever come back. And considering the current state of the world, this means that a work day in a hotel downtown is one thing that I have to hold on to, that is what I will do. Otherwise, I look forward to the end of that tunnel, and getting back to the place I have been away from for so long.

Limbo’s Pier

Will this path of suffering never end?
The brochure did not prepare me for this,
Forcing the bamboo of patience to bend
Just to find that place of eternal bliss.
It all went as planned when it did begin,
But then I reached this old pier halfway through,
A place to pay for my life time of sin,
And I was stuck there with nothing to do.
I couldn’t move forward or track back;
I had to wait for my absolution,
Searching my life for the thing it did lack,
Giving my soul a sense of completion.
I thank you for this time to meditate,
But Nirvana won’t be reached at this rate.

Staying on Top of a Mall – The Last Hurrah!

The view from outside my hotel window at the Centara Grand hotel on top of CentralWorld in downtown Bangkok, Thailand

The big department store in Thailand is Central. It is basically like any other department store that you would find in any other mall across the world. When you enter one, you have the option of many different levels you can go to with each one designed to meet the needs of certain individuals. There are usually two levels designed for women, one for men, one for children, a combination of all three for sports gear and sports equipment, and couple more for toys and knick knacks, and another for kitchen supplies. Central takes it one step further with having some of their department stores adding one more level that features many fine restaurants that you can dine at like a five star food court including glass ware and fancy silverware.

Central also takes things one step further than many of the other department stores around the world. Though all of their shops are found in malls like many other department stores, unlike the other department stores, Central owns a lot of the malls that they reside in. They don’t only make money off of their own store, but they also make money off of all of the real estate that they rent out to the other stores in the mall. These big monstrosities are in all the big cities across the country with Bangkok having a few sprinkled throughout the city.

The biggest of all of these malls that I know of is the one in downtown Bangkok off of Sukhumvit, the main thoroughfare in downtown, called Central World. Just like any other mall, it is filled with a bunch of the biggest brand name stores, and tons of restaurants to eat at, both quick and sit down. It even has a movie theater. But what makes it stand out over all the other malls would have to be the luxury hotel that has been built on top of it.

Granted, this is downtown Bangkok, one of the places in the world where any piece of real estate is worth a small fortune. Add on to that, that this is the central part of this downtown area. It makes sense to make the most out of any space that is offered. Building huge, multi-purposed skyscrapers makes the most perfect sense. The CentralWorld Mall has done a great job of capturing this aspect with a large sprawling shopping area, a convention center, and a Centara Hotel to top it all off. It comes with its own outdoor pool and two full-sized tennis courts. It offers comfortable rooms with amazing views of the Bangkok landscape.

It is a little weird having to walk through a mall with all of your bags to get to the elevator that will take you to the Hotel’s reception, but otherwise, it has been a great spot to get done what I need to get done in downtown Bangkok. It is close to all of the places where I need to go, and it is connected to a BTS station so I can get to any other place quickly as well. I know it is not the craziest experience of my life, but under the current situation and the fact that this will be my last hurrah for my time in Thailand, I will take it and enjoy it while I still can.

The Last Hurrah! (Maybe)

It wasn’t planned this way. Of course, a lot of what happened over the last couple of years have taken all of our plans, thrown them out the window, put the car in reverse so it could run over them and drive them into the mud, and then had gotten out of the car so it could have the pleasure of smashing them further with the heel of its boot. The common phrase I have heard during this time is that we will have to wait to see what happens, and then plan for the worst. And the worst is never the worst; the last couple of years have always found a way to make it worse.

But I have tried to keep a positive outlook on life, and luckily I have found myself in a place that was not hit as hard by the Corona Virus pandemic, so at least I could travel around the country of Thailand and enjoy it beaches and beautiful sights. I just couldn’t leave. It led to me making the decision for seeking a new position in a new country next year, and as the days ticked closer to the last days in Thailand, I kept anticipating the last trip I would take in this country. It would be my last exploration of this culture, the last run through the tropics, the last hurrah of Thailand.

But then Covid reared its ugly head again. It has come and gone many times throughout the last couple of years, but it was never a huge threat. It would just shut things down for awhile and then open them up again so we can go back to life with a semblance of normality. But it came again as I was taking on that final stretch into the end of my time out here, and now, what my be my last hurrah is not as exciting as I thought it may have been.

One of the things I needed to get done before I left was to visit the police station in downtown Bangkok in order to get a background check for my time out here in Thailand. It wouldn’t take that long, but I would need to take a day off in order to go through the process and considering that it is so difficult to drive down to downtown Bangkok and back, we decided to get a hotel room to take care of it. We could get a nice meal out of it, and hit our favorite spots down here one last time. But considering that everything is closing up again in Thailand, it might be the last time that we are able to get out of the neighborhood before we leave. It is not as exciting as I was hoping, but it is all I am going to get, so I have to make the most out of it.

It is a typical way of looking at what has been happening to not just me, but all of the people all over the world. The expectations we have had over the last few months keep getting put on hold, and we have to make these adjustments to allow for life to continue. Of course, it is not the ideal, but it is also not as bad as I thought it might be either. It just a lesson in being flexible and making the most out of what life gives us. It might not be the last hurrah, the amazing blowout, that I had hoped for, but I am still getting the opportunity to have a last hurrah. I should be happy that I am getting that because there are many people all over the world that are still stuck in their homes and haven’t had much to hurrah about over the last months at all.

And who knows? Thailand may get this outbreak under control quickly, and I will be able to have that last hurrah I was hoping for. Either way I will be ready for it.

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.