The Best Posts of 2021

2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.

#10 – Hindsight

This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.

#9 – The Dead Sea, Jordan

I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.

#8 – Rain on a Work Day

I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.

#7 – A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.

#6 – Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.

#5 – Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.

#4 – Problems and Possibilities

Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.

#3 – Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.

#2 – The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.

#1 – Wingspan versus Everdell

Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.

Honorable Mentions

Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Never Forget Dachau – Germany

A Toast to the End of the Semester

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Lessons from Angkor Wat

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

Meow Wolf – Denver, Colorado

When I was making my plans to come to Denver for the Winter Break, I got in contact with my brother to see if you wanted to do something while I was out there. He told me that he had scheduled an entry time to Meow Wolf and if I would like to go with him and his family. I had no idea what Meow Wolf was, so I looked it up before I made a commitment to go. What I found out did not help much with telling me what Meow Wolf was, and as I attempt to explain it here, I am still not quite sure what it is even though I have been there.

From what I have learned, Meow Wolf started in Santa Fe, New Mexico at an old bowling alley. A bunch of artists got together and designed interactive rooms that connected with each other. They then charged people money to explore their creation, and it became so popular that they were able to open up two other sites, one in Las Vegas, and the other in Denver. After finding this out, I figured that it would be a fun way to spend a day, and decided to go with my brother and his family.

What I walked into was an experience unlike any I have ever had before. The exhibit (if that is what I should call it) sprawls out over three floors with various rooms that each have their nooks and crannies that you have to explore. Each corner that I walked into sent me to another thing that I had to look at and ponder. Each room had its own theme to it that told its own story with smaller parts that would expand on that story. Some of the room really spent time to flush out that story; whereas, others just did things that were weird.

For instance, there was one room that was designed like a trailer park home. In it there was a lot of surveillance equipment, and information about a beast called the yalp. It even had a collections of reference books and videos that you could sort through. On a big screen television there was a video feed out in the middle of the forest that was used to see if the person who lived there could catch sight of this elusive creature. If you stayed there long enough, you would be rewarded with the beast coming up to look directly into the camera.

It was quite the experience, and a lot of fun, but I don’t know if it was worth the $45 entry fee. I did like the fact that they had entry times to limit crowds and made sure that there were plenty of sanitizers stations around to make it safe during this weird time we are living. Despite all of these precautions, it is not an experience for everybody. There are a lot of weird sights that sometimes push the boundaries of what should be acceptable. Though it looks like the perfect place for kids to run around in, there is some more adult content in there. But if you have an imagination that likes to get itched from time to time, this could easily be the place for you. The stories that it tells are numerous and they will help create those stories of your own.

The Difference a Year Makes

Many people think of this time of the year as an ending, and time to renew our lives to push for something new and better. Though this is a great way of thinking about the year, I rather like to look back at where I was and the voyage I have taken during the year.

The year looks like it is going to end much the same way it began, with Covid being the major concern of nations. When the year began, I was living in Thailand and the government was threatening to shut down the country at any time. We were constantly keeping one eye on the news as we rode the vacation wave that we were on touring the country.

We still had to cut that trip short. There were many places we had visited on that trip but there were a couple that we were unable to go to because we had come back early. The big one was Khoa Sok in the southern part of the country by Phuket. It was the one place that did allow us to change our date though and didn’t just take our deposits as the natural consequences of making these choices during this unstable time in the world. We were able to go back in March and enjoy the beauty of that part of the country.

In April, things around the world were starting to loosen up, but Thailand was still dragging its feet on collecting vaccines for its population and hoping that tourism could save their economy. We took advantage of this sliver of time before thing really locked down to go to the very southern tip of Thailand to the small island of Koh Lipe. It was my last hurrah in the country because I had signed for a new job in Jordan the next year, and this would be my last opportunity to enjoy the beauty that this tropical East Asian country had to offer. It ended up being one of the best trips I had taken in that country, and I felt lucky to have gotten it in.

By the time May had rolled around, the country was in complete lockdown and we were back online. It made my last few days in the country seem very anti-climatic. My last moments were a mad rush to an airport as we took one of the few planes flying out of the country to make it back to the United States. It made me feel like I had left a couple of loose ends that needed to be taken care of, but for the most part, this wasn’t the case. Thailand disappeared quickly in my memory as I made the needed adjustments for my next adventure in the International teaching scene.

But first, I got to have some time in the United States visiting with family and friends who I had not seen for a couple of years due to the pandemic. More importantly, we stopped at a couple of pharmacies so we could get vaccinated. We did spend a lot of our time away from the general population until we got this done, but it was nice to be back in America and making steps to get back to what we would hope would be normalcy again.

And for a time in July, it felt like this was the case. I spent most of that month back in Colorado with my family, getting ready to take a hop over a different ocean this time, instead of my usual voyage west over the Pacific. It was nice being back in the cooler, drier air of Colorado, and I was glad that I got to spend a lot of time outside, going back to a lot of the places I had not been to for a long time.

But like all trips, it eventually had to come to an end, and I had to pack up my worldly possessions in August to move to Jordan. As far as Covid was concerned, things were looking better in this part of the world than Thailand which had shut down completely as it had just started to get its population vaccinated. It was a new challenge moving to my new school, but one that I was happy to accept, and the best part was that the school year would be in person and no longer on-line.

The school year definitely kept me busy, but it was a fun kind of busy. I enjoyed working with my new colleagues, and we had made some good friends along the way. This wasn’t all without heartache. We had a short time where we brought a new puppy into our lives, but she had come down with distemper, and we had to say goodbye quickly. It still made me realize how much I loved having a puppy around, and it made me realize that we would need to add an addition like this to our lives very soon.

In October, we were able to have our first break since we arrived, and it was fun to get out and travel again. Leaving the country we were in was still not an easy endeavor, but it was a new adventure as we got to explore what Jordan had to offer. We instantly went back to the water and took a short trip down to the Dead Sea first.

And by November, we continued to explore Jordan by leaving all water behind, and going to the set of Dune down at Wadi Rum. It amazed me to think that I had started the year in the Tropical environs of Thailand, and ended it up in this start landscape where I had to bundle up at night to stay warm.

By the time December rolled around, the rumbling of a new variant was working its way through the news, and there were threats of going back online. Countries around the world are once again shutting their doors to travelers, and it indicates that the struggle I was witnessing at the beginning of the year is still a threat. Even though, I have made an exciting journey during the course of this year, it is funny to see that the world is still in the same place. It still does not mean that I am not excited for what the next year has to offer, and I hope to see those changes that I long for so I can get back to telling you stories about the amazing places that this world has to offer.

The Sight to See in a Morning’s Beam of Light

We should all take the time to watch the grains
Of dust as it swirls in the morning light.
The weight of responsibility’s pains
Are the ones that we must battle and fight,
But they don’t mean a thing against the beam
Throwing a spotlight on the dancing specs,
Losing its inhibitions to the dream,
Living a schedule that has such flex.
They wait about for the closing of night
Before they jump up to perform their show.
You have to look closely to see the sight
Of their gently played ballet done in slow.
It is a choice they are willing to make,
So we may learn that ours is a mistake.

Life of a Bedouin

It’s a long day’s journey through rock and sand
Before I can reach my intended goal.
Though the trials I face never go as planned,
A miracle’s in each moment I stole.
I will teach my children to hide behind
A boulder, so a weary traveler
Will find our game of Boo! the merry kind
That makes any hard hike less of a chore.
I will find my friend with a hot kettle,
Making a sweet tea with the herbs he has found.
In the west, when the sun starts to settle,
I will watch it on a soft patch of ground.
Everyday is a day that I win
When I live the life of a Bedouin.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Jordan is the hidden gem in the Middle East. Before I came out here to live, I did not know about many of the amazing features that were held in its small borders. I have visited a couple of them, and there are many more that I will visit while I am living here, but they will have to be pretty impressive to beat out the experience I had at Wadi Rum.

It is not a hard place to find. Wadi Rum is located three and a half hours south from Amman, and if you get up early in the morning you can squeeze in a whole day of excitement. But this is not something that I would do. The experience is so much better if you book a stay with the Bedouins who live on this UNESCO World Heritage sight because you can make the most out of a couple of days, and get to experience what it is like to live the lifestyle of a Bedouin, if only for a little while.

I had booked my stay with Nomad Tour Group, and they kept my group pretty busy while I was down there. Despite this fact, they also supplied me with everything I needed, transportation around the desert, a warm tent to stay in on the cold nights down there, and some of the best food I have ever eaten on a tour group. It made for a memorable trip to a unique location.

This sights I saw did not only consist of seeing incredible formations made out of sandstone, but also a bunch of examples of the other inhabitants of the desert. There were, of course, many lizards that I had come across, and a few birds, but it was a lot of fun when I came across random camels wandering around the desert. I was told by my tour guide that they were owned by another Bedouin which it made it easy to get out and feed them, but it was still fun to get close to one of these beasts for the first time in my life.

It is also amazing to see what survives out in this harsh environment. I went down in late November, and I would highly recommend trying to make it down in the fall or if not then, the spring. Both of them will give you temperate weather, but the fall is right before the rainy season, so you won’t be in danger of getting washed out. Despite the dry climate, I still was able to come across a couple of amazing trees, and saw some desert flowers poking out of the sand in a couple of spots where I never thought life would have existed in the first place.

There is also some amazing rock formations that you will be taken to. If you get the right guide, they will get you to these places before the tours really start to pile in, so it will make you feel like you have the place to yourself.

And if the rock formations are not enough for you, there are also places where you can make your own in a crazy version of Jenga. At one time, we were taken to a field filled with a bunch of cairns that had been made over the years, and it was fun to find the right rocks to try and make your own creations. This is one that I spent a little time one, but I liked the way that I got everything to balance precariously on top of each other.

Overall, it is a must stop place if anyone ever travels out to Jordan. The sights are too many to count, and everywhere you look, you want to take another picture. I spent three days, and two nights down there, and I felt like I got a good feel for what it has to offer. If you make it here, you need to definitely mark this as one of the spots that you will want to stop at on your visit.

A Bedouin’s Lifestyle – Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum has been one of those places that people told me that I had to visit at least once in my lifetime, but I will be honest, I did not see how visiting a desert could be that exciting. To me, it looked like a beach without the water, so why would I want to go to some place where I would have to endure the heat, and bring nothing back from the experience but a bunch of sand. But there had to be a reason for me constantly hearing about how great this place is, and why so many movie came out here to film, so I needed to come out and see for myself. Plus, it was only a three-and-a-half hour drive from my house in Amman, so when I was presented with a three day weekend, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. And I am glad that I went because I learned something there that I had forgotten.

Wadi Rum is an adventure. I had not gone on an adventure for a long time. I had spent a lot of time over the last couple of years stuck in my home, making sure I did not get exposed to the deadly atmosphere that existed beyond my door. When I did leave my home, it was to find a beach to unwind on, and I would return back home feeling refreshed, but not as if I had experienced anything. I would still be connected to the outside world while I was relaxing on the beach, and I wasn’t able to let go of all of the responsibilities I piled up on my lap. I thought that I would be able to stay connected when I went out to Wadi Rum, but I ran into a group of people that saw life in a different way, the Bedouins.

The Bedouins roam around this huge desert landscape just like they have for centuries. They might have a couple of modern conveniences like trucks, and lights, but they like to get away from these distractions and find themselves among the rocks and sands of Wadi Rum. Because of this, they are completely off the grid, and anybody that comes out to visit them is forced to get off of the grid as well.

This means that the only distractions I had on this trip were the small wonders that could be found out in the desert. I couldn’t plug into social media to see what I was missing someplace else in the world. I couldn’t tackle the stacks of work that I had to accomplish to make sure my students were getting the education I think they need. And I had to let go of past frustrations that seemed to haunt me. I could only live in the moment and make the most of it.

It is amazing what comes out of the desert when you take on this kind of lifestyle of the Bedouins. At first, they are pretty obvious such as a camel looking for a piece of pita.

But then you start to notice the smaller things that you might have passed by because your mind was in a completely different place. It might seem obvious at first that you should have seen them because green like this just doesn’t happen in the desert. But when you stop to look at them, it makes you start to wonder why there is this kind of green out in the middle of the desert, and how does it end up on top of a mountain where the harsh conditions are made even harsher with the winds that blow over the sands.

And then you start to see the strange patterns that nature makes in the rock. It seems almost too perfect to have been created by nature, but then again there is too much of a randomness to it to be created by man. It makes you wonder if mankind is only a amateur artist compared to the crazy creations that nature can put together.

It takes you on journey that you know you should have been on a long time ago, and wonder why you didn’t push to get yourself on it sooner. It gave me an appreciation for the world around me that I had not experienced for a long time, and I have to thank the Bedouins for forcing me to disconnect so I could appreciate it the way that it was meant to be appreciated.

It gave those small moments that we pass over in life the importance that they deserve. It might not have been the relaxing break that I was looking for, but it was something better. It was the vacation I needed. I needed that adventure that only a Bedouin could give me, so I could regain that appreciation for life I had lost during the last couple of years. It makes me excited for the next adventure I get to have, and I won’t soon forget the one I just experienced.

A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

To my American friends, I am sorry I am late, but I would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope that you were able to spend it with good people, sharing good food with them, and making good memories. To all my friends who come from other places in the world, I hope that your adventures allow you to experience the same kind of joy that makes Thanksgiving one of my favorite American holidays.

Living away from the United States makes this holiday a little harder to celebrate. Many of the places I have worked for as I moved overseas has not seen this day as an important holiday, even though they celebrate holidays that are very similar to Thanksgiving. Luckily, I have found myself in a community that appreciates this day, and made sure that my coworkers and I were able to celebrate it in the best way we could find. I took advantage of this fact, and got up early on Thanksgiving morning to take a three and a half hour drive south to Wadi Rum, a Unesco World Herritage Sight, and the movie set for such famous films as Dune, The Martian, Prometheus, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Lawrence of Arabia.

This desolate landscape might not be the first choice for many people when they think of gathering together for a big feast, but there is much more to this location than the stark beauty. There is a whole community of people that live nomadic lifestyles among the sand, and rocky mountains, and they welcome people with open arms to take a couple of days and feel what it is like to live this way.

It might not have been what I was expecting for a Thanksgiving dinner, but the food and the way it was prepared made for a great Thanksgiving experience. The Bedouins having been preparing huge feasts for centuries out in this desert. It basically starts when they dig a hole in the ground and fill that hole up with burning coals. They then add vegetables, and chicken, cover that hole with a blankets and some sand, and let it cook for two hours.

After two hours, they dig away the sand, pull back the blanket, and pull the feast out of the hole.

And it is quite the feast that they pull out of this hole. Just like a great Thanksgiving meal, there is not a lot of spice added to the meal. For the most part, it is about the preparation of it. Simple ingredients cooked well and combined in the right way to make the perfect meal, and though it was not turkey and mashed potatoes, it was still the perfect meal for this day.

But it was the friends I got to share this meal, and all of the other meals this weekend, that made it a Thanksgiving. Though we may talk about the food, it is the company and the experiences we remember. I feel lucky this year to have spent it with a great group of people. It may not have been my family, and I do miss sharing this day with them, but if I can’t be with them, I am glad that I was still able to have an experience that I will soon not forget.

I hope your Thanksgiving was just as good, and that continues on through the whole holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Insurrection

Are you ready for our revolution?
‘Cuz we are comin’ with our wife-beaters,
And flags bearing forgotten solutions.
Look at our ideology’s features,
And accept them as what should be believed.
We’ll open your eyes to hypocrisy,
And in the end, you all will be relieved
That we have shown you what you could not see.
Do not talk to me about what is true
Because all those facts cover up the lies.
It is more about what you wish you knew
As you sit back and watch how the truth dies.
Peace is over. It is time for combat,
So I will yell, “Where are my soldiers at?”

Puppy Love

We found you among the garbage and trash,
But your big eyes instantly stole our heart.
We will never think our decision rash.
To find within our busy lives, a part
Where you could stumble and pounce and grow up.
We would play with your younger energy,
Cuddle when you tired of being a pup,
And create a life that was struggle free.
Into our home, you brought your innocence,
And left us with joy swelling in our chest,
While lingering was a distemperence
That we could not save, though we try our best.
While you look down on us from up above,
Please understand, we did it out of love.