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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the sun finishes another lap In the northern sky, I watch the shimmer Of its light glimmer on the ocean’s sap. I know the night will only get dimmer, So I can sit out here a bit longer, And from my well deserved drink, take a sip. As a distant brewing storm gets stronger, And threatens to give the air a sharp nip, I will breathe in deeply this last moment As I wait for its coming arrival. For the sun in the sky has not been spent; I will bear witness to its survival. What else can I do on this grassy shore, But enjoy the scene that’s been laid before?
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
There are many things that you can learn while attending college, but the most important one come when a friend asks you what you are doing the next day. You always tell them you are busy even if you are not. This goes double if you are the proud owner of a truck. The reason for this is because nine times out of ten, that friend of yours is looking for your help to move them. This is never a fun experience, and the only reward you usually get for all of your time spent might be a slice of pizza and a Keystone Light. Never think that they will be around to help you when it is your turn to move because they already played the mental chess game of asking you what you are doing the next day, and where that will lead them.
I know that moving is never a pleasant experience. It is even worse if you are only moving from one storage unit location to another. When that happens, you don’t get the joy of actually putting your new place together and getting to feel what it is like living there. During this experience you are just looking through your stuff that you haven’t seen for awhile, and putting it some place else where you won’t look at it again for another long time. Even though this is the case, there is something to take out of the experience.
The reason we got a storage unit in the first place was because there was a lot of our stuff that we wanted to hold on to, so when we wrapped up living overseas and moved back to the United States, we could have that stuff to start over again. What we didn’t realize was that we would soon forget all of the stuff we packed into that tiny space, and what was not really worth holding on to in the first place. This opportunity of going through that stuff again allowed us to rethink what we were saving. In other words, it was a great time to purge and reduce our possessions down to the think that really held value to us. Too often, when we are living in a space, we collect stuff, and have a belief that this stuff is important because it is what we can see and hold on to on a daily basis. But as soon as you pack that stuff up and move it to a place out of sight, it quickly moves itself out of your mind.
But that’s the thing. If it is out of mind, how important is that thing really for you. This was the standard that we created for ourselves as we went through our storage unit. We had to do this. We went from a 10 by 15 foot unit to a 10 by 10 unit, and not all of our stuff would fit in the new space. So if the item wasn’t unique or special to us, or we would have to buy it again when we moved back, it went into a pile that went to Goodwill. There were some tough decisions made along the way, but in the end, we were able to organize ourselves, and load up the storage unit with just the stuff that was really important to us.
Most people would think that this kind of purge would leave them feeling deflated, like the years of living ends up in a pile on the donation site at a Goodwill store. It can feel that way, but if you are being honest, there is a lot of stuff that we collect over our lifetimes, and we need to purge it from our lives. These stores that collect the stuff that you no longer need know ways to repurpose it. There are plenty of people out there that would love to have that stuff in their lives for a reasonable price as well. and when you look at the clean and clear space that is left behind, you will feel better about your lives because you will no longer have that clutter hanging over your head. So, yes, the two days I spent moving from one storage unit to another, and the various trips I took to Goodwill to purge some of this stuff was exhausting, but in the end, I feel a lot better for having accomplished the task. I feel like I have simplified my life, and what I have now own, I truly appreciate.
I will close the door on my new space as I get ready to move back overseas for another year of teaching, and I am sure I will forget about all of the stuff that I have collected in that space. Who knows, maybe in another seven years, I will have the opportunity to purge again, and bring it down to exactly what I need, but I am not sure if I can simplify it more than I already have. Then again, in seven years, I may wonder why kept all of this stuff and feel the joy of bring it down to an even smaller unit that will be the essence of my life.
Right before I moved overseas, I was given this old clock. It used to belong to my father’s uncle who had just passed away, and it was given to my as a family heirloom. It no longer worked, but I was told that if I invested a little time, energy, and money that I could get it working again. At the time, I didn’t have any of those things to offer, but I thought that it was a cool looking old clock. I knew that one day I would look into getting it fixed, but until then I needed to store it some place. We had just sold our house at that time, and we were moving most of our worldly possessions to a storage unit. Obviously, the clock was going to be one of these things that went into the storage unit, and as I started on my adventures overseas, I soon forgot about the clock.
This was until recently. The price of our storage unit kept on rising over the seven years we were overseas, and we noticed that if we moved to a new storage unit, we could lower our price by almost a quarter of what we were paying. It seemed like a no-brainer, except for the fact that we were going to have to go through all of our old stuff, get rid of some of it because we were moving to a smaller unit, and go through the toil of moving it from one place to another. While we were in the process of moving, I came across the old clock again. I recalled the vow I had made to get it up and working again some day, and I knew that it was small enough that I could find a place in the new storage unit that I would be able to get it fixed when I moved back to the United States. So there it sat as I worked on moving stuff from unit to another.
Once again, I put the clock in the back of my mind. That was until, I started to hear it tick. At first, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The clock was supposed to be broken and badly in need of repair, so I moved closer to it to see if what I was hearing was accurate. It was working now not only because of the ticking, but the minute hand had advanced seven minutes from when I first pulled it out of the storage unit. This would have been a creepy enough thing even if it wasn’t for the fact that I had just watched the fourth season of Stranger Things a couple of weeks earlier. I looked around to see if Vecna was going to pop out and take me away to the upsidedown. I did not see him, but I did see my wife walked back to our original storage unit.
Of course, I beckoned her over to see if she would hear and see the same thing that I was at that moment. I pointed out how the clock was ticking away, and I started to take a picture of it with my phone. She agreed that she could hear it too, and when I finally snapped that picture, the clock let out a gong that made both of us jump back. It only took a couple of minutes after that when the clock returned to its usual state of not doing anything, but my heart was still pumping away from just having gone through the experience.
For those of you who were worried, first, thank you for your concern. Second, I am sure that it was a freak occurrence that had something do with me triggering the clock to get it started up again, and Vecna is not going to come out of the woodwork to take me away. Despite all of this, it made what would have been a dreary day of moving into something a little more fun, and lively. Plus, now I know what this clock will sound like the day that I get it up and running again. At least it will not be out of my mind until the next time I run across it because it is too good of a story to tell to forget about it now. I guess that is what makes it a true heirloom.
For those of you who follow this blog, you know that my wife and I travel a lot. Usually, I like to bring a smaller game with me, so during those down periods, we will have something to play. Usually this means a card game, and because my wife love the game so much, it usually means that we will be bringing Phase 10 with us. As far as card games go, I really do enjoy playing this one, but I have played it so many times, that I need to put aside for awhile. So when I started to prepare for a three week long Iceland trip, I started to look for a new game that I could take with me that would be refreshing, and a little more complicated. That is when I found one that might work from Leder Games, the king of board games with only four letters in their titles. I thought the theme, and the use of a simple resource management mechanic combined with deck building might make for the perfect game to bring on this trip.
You are a kid who likes to hang out with his friends, eat pizza, play with toys, and most importantly, build a fort in your backyard with this group of companions. Like any group of friends, there is a rival group of friends who want to outdo you by eating more pizza, playing with more toys, and making a better fort in their backyards. Of course, the friends that are collected are fickle. If you don’t play with them, they will run off and join some other group to help them build their fort, so it is important to make sure that they get some use. You can always make sure that they remain your friends forever by giving them a prestigious position in the lookout, but if you do that then they loose their special abilities, and can only help out by helping with which resources they bring to the mix. Of course, your best friends will never run off, and will always be by your side, and they will also help you come up with your own special rules to help you make the best fort possible.
I absolutely love this theme, and it works so well with the gameplay. The amount of characters that are represented in this game are numerous, and there are only a few repeats of cards. The fact that you bribe these kids with pizza and toys just adds to the overall theme, and there are moments when you want certain kids to play with you, so you are always looking at the ones that did not get used by your rivals. Certain kids get passed around all over the place, making the most popular kids in the game. Despite this, it is not as immersive as some of the other games I have played, though it does work well with the story that it is telling.
Rating – 8
Leder Games is known for its complicated games that take multiple plays to become comfortable with the system that they have built. This has been a turn off with my wife who like medium level games where she can wrap her mind around the system rather quickly. Out of all of the Leder Games that I have played, this is the one that is the least complicated, and can be learned in fifteen minutes. Even though this is the case, it does take a couple of games before you can start to develop of strategy with the game.
At its heart, Fort is a deck building game. Each player has a player mat where they will pay attention to the resources they collect, and the level of their fort. They will also have a collection of ten cards to start off with, five of which will always be in their hand. Each card will have two actions that a player can take if they play that card. The top action is a shared action that if the other players meet the requirements of that action, they can do the same thing. The bottom action is a private action, and can only be used by the person playing the card. These actions allow you to do certain things like gain resources such as pizza and toys, build up your fort, or move a friend of yours into the lookout. A combination of these things set allow each player to reach a winning condition that will being about the end of the game.
Each card also has a suit with it that can trigger certain things from taking place if enough of the same suit is played. This means that if a player plays his or her cards right, they can use all of the cards in their hand at their turn. This is important because any cards that are not played go into the player’s yard unless it is one of their best friends which instantly go into their discard pile.
The last action that a player takes on their turn is to add a new friend to their deck. This is where the game can get a little brutal, and shows you what kind of friend you really are. The selection comes from three cards that are always shown from the unused deck of cards, or the cards that are out in other players’ yards. This means that the card that you did not use and were hoping to use at a later date could be stolen by another person and end up helping them instead.
The gameplay is not that complicated, even though there are a lot of actions that a person can perform. The design of the game was smart enough to give every person a cheat sheet that explains what each of these actions are and how you can use them. It does take one play-through to start to formulate a strategy that might work for you, but a game does not take long enough that you feel like you can’t collect everything up again and play another round after you have figured out how everything works together. Of course, the first play takes a little longer than following games, but when you get into the groove, a game plays around thirty minutes.
The gameplay also represents the theme well, and it creates a fun experience. Like most Leder Games, it has a learning curve that might discourage certain players, but if they can get over that hump, I believe they will eventually come to enjoy the game.
Rating – 8
I may be a little biased, but I love Kyle Ferrin’s artwork. It is one of the things that always draws me to Leder Games. His cartoony figures add as much to the game as does the gameplay. Fort may be the game where his artwork fits in with the theme the best. Playing the game, and seeing all of these children sketched as cartoon characters, it makes me feel as if I am a part of some Saturday morning cartoon that never actually got produced. Each of the characters are completely different, and there personality seems to jump off of each card.
The design is not only based upon the drawings either. The resources that you gather are nice chunks that have a toy box or pizza painted on one end. They fit in nicely into each player board. The player boards themselves are these chunky pieces of cardboard that has indents in them that allows for fun manipulation of all the piece that you collect throughout the course of a game. And on the back of each board is the background of each player’s best friends which though not necessary, is a still a nice detail that adds to the overall enjoyment of the game.
Basically, I don’t think that there is any game that Kyle Ferrin could not do the artwork for that I would not be drawn to, and is one of the main reasons that I like to bring this game to the table. It is a little deceiving though. These characters that look like they could have been drawn by Charles Schultz make the game appear like it could be enjoyed by a much younger age. But this just adds to the nostalgic feeling that I get when playing this game.
Rating – 10
The game is fun to play because of your always changing deck. This deck changes not always because of the cards that you pick up from the big deck, but because of the cards that you take from other players’ yards. It makes this fun interaction take place during the game. This gives you the ability to manipulate other people’s hands, and at times, it hurts when a friend that used to be yours shows up in somebody else’s hand, especially if that kid has a power that you desperately need.
This interaction does add a little bit of fun to a two player game, but because only one kid from your yard can be taken each turn, your hand does not change that much throughout the course of a game. In a game with more players, this interaction becomes more important. Players can gang up on another player if they see that this person is getting closer to one of the win conditions. One player could lose a lot of their cards making their hands less powerful and they would need to build up their group of friends again. It adds for some fun moments and the kids that get traded around start to get their own personalities that add to the overall story you are creating as well.
Players are also interested in what other people are doing during their turn. The shared action on the cards allow the other players to do something even when it is not their turn. It also forces you to think about which card you are going to play because there are times when other players cannot do something with that shared action, and you will want to think about whether or not this is a good time to play that kid. It just means that you are constantly thinking about what other people are doing while planning out your strategy as well.
The design of the game was put together so the various players around the table are interacting with each other, but that interaction works better on higher player counts than it does with only two players. It is still fun with two players, but I find myself wanting to play with at least three.
Rating – 9
Leder Games is known for their expansions to their games. They know that some games can lose their edge if you play them over and over again because it feels as if you are playing a round that you have already experienced. When they design their expansions, they do it in such a way that does not just add new cards to the game, but also adds new rule sets, so the game feels just as fresh as it did the first time that you played it. I have the feeling that Leder Games has these expansions already in mind when they release their games because the original boxes seem to have spots for these expansion already in them. The game, Fort, is no exception. They have just recently released the Cats and Dogs expansion that is packaged in a nice card box that slides in nicely next to the original deck of cards.
The cards add three new ways to enjoy the game. You can play with the dogs who will always be loyal to the player who can lure them into their doghouse, or the cats who are fickle and will jump around the table to different players sometimes granting them special things, sometimes hinderances, or both at the same time. They do add some victory points for the players at the end of the game, so it is important to pay attention to them while playing the game, but the dogs have the potential of becoming a distraction for the players; whereas, the cats can sometimes be forgotten if you get to involved with what you are doing with your fort.
Still they are both fun, but if you decide to add them to your game of Fort you will want to make sure that you are first very comfortable with the game. They do throw a big enough monkey wrench into the gameplay that it can make the game unbearable if you play with them before you are ready. When you do start to add them, I would recommend playing one at a time before adding them together. I would suggest starting off with the dogs because they are more apart of the gameplay; whereas, the cats can become an afterthought, and you might forget to hand off one to another player. But once you become comfortable with them, they become the only way to play the game.
Rating – 8
I love playing this game, and always look for a way to bring it to the table. The theme is great enough that it will attract others to it, and the explanation of how to play is not that hard that you can teach it relatively quickly. But this is not a game for everybody. Like most of Leder Games, the learning curve of this game to make it feel like you know what you are doing takes a little time, and it might discourage some people from playing again. Still, it is the most accessible of all the games I’ve played from Leder Games, and a great gateway game to get those other games of theirs to the table more often. If you are a fan of Oath or Root, you will love this game as well. It also plays a lot quicker than those other games, making it more of a casual game to play.