One Long Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tucked Away on the Bay – Anacortes, Washington

Up on the northern end of the town of Anacortes in the state of Washington is a ferry port that will send people out into the San Juan Islands and beyond. You can work your way down to Seattle, and if you plan it right, you can even find a way to get up to the southern shores around Ankorage, Alaska. There are many sailboats that make their way up here, and if you look out into the water from certain points, you can see the constant flow of boating activity. At the same time, you can also move a little further into the bay and avoid all of this activity, and find yourself a quiet little bay instead.

This completely changes what Puget Sound can be. Instead of being staying on a place where you are constantly watching the passing of boats, you can nestle back in a chair and enjoy the quiet beach and calm waters. It makes the place the perfect place to come on vacation. A calmness comes over you as you sit back and enjoy the scenery, but there is still enough to do so you don’t get bored with your time there.

Most of it involves being on the water. I was amazed at how few boats I found on this cove, but the ones I did see were very active. There were a couple of motor boats that were floating waiting for their owners to come use them, and a couple of sailboats doing the same thing. But the others I saw were manpowered, and that was the way most people enjoyed this little corner of the Puget Sound. I went out a couple of times on a kayak, and my wife took it a step further to go paddle boarding. The currents in this bay made being on a paddle board difficult if you moved away from the shore. Kayaks were a little more stable but it was still a bit of a workout.

Getting across the bay took me to places even quieter than the simple Air B+B that I was staying at. There was some tribal land that is available to hike, but you are not allowed to dock your boat there. It does not make it any less beautiful as you can simply coast down the shore and look at the forest, beaches, and cliffs that make its landscape.

There are a couple of other islands that have easy access from this bay as well, some of which can give you the perfect private beach for an afternoon picnic. It does take a little bit of effort, but not enough to wear you down before you get there, and not so hard as to make it a chore to get back home. All of this, and free from the crowds that can found a little further to the north. It is a great escape, and if you can find that perfect little bay, you will get that quiet weekend getaway we are all looking for.

Deception Pass – Anacortes, Washington

On the northwestern tip of the contiguous states of America lies one of its greatest treasures, the Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands. There is a lot of protected land out here, and many little place to explore using many different ways to explore those areas. The main town to jump off and explore this area is Anacortes, Washington, the home of the ferry that will take people out to the islands, mainly the biggest attraction out there, Friday Harbor. Many people make there way out here to take this journey and explore that town, but they miss a great spot that only takes a short drive from Anacortes to explore, Deception Pass.

Deception Pass is a state park that is celebrating its 100th year this year, and cover over 3,800 acres in the San Juan Islands. Its most prominent feature though is the Deception Pass Bridge which was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1982. The bridge basically connects two islands, Whidbey and Fidalgo over the expanse of water that rushes between them that gives the park its name. The reason that this rush of water has earned the name, Deception, is because of the way the water has caused problems for so many sailors over the years. The water changes speed based on the flow of the ebb of the tide. At its greatest speed it can reach 8 knots that can make life difficult for people in kayaks, and they can be sped through this narrow pass, making it hard for a return trip.

The bridge is of course, a great viewpoint for the area, and there are walkways that people can take to safely walk leisurely over it. But this is not the only reason to come out to visit this state park. There are horse trails, bike trails, and 38 miles of hiking trails that will take visitors to various beaches, tide pools, and lush forests to explore. There is also kayaking, fishing, boating, camping and of course, for those just coming up for the day, picnicking.

The wildlife out there is worth the trip as well. There are tons of birds hunting for their next meal in the water with the herons being the most impressive of the ones that I saw. I also saw a few small fury creatures scurrying about, and there were signs for deer, so I am sure that there are sighting for those as well. If you stand at the shore long enough, you will also see seals pop their heads out from time to time. And of course, it is dog friendly, and there is always one of them that are willing to come up to greet you.

It is a beautiful park, and a must see if you ever make it up to this part of the country. It is a twenty minute drive from I-5 on highway 20 in Washington, and the drive over there is just as amazing as the park itself. It is also a great jump off point for exploring other parts of the San Juan Islands as well. I just spent an afternoon exploring what it had to offer and barely scratch the surface of this place. It will be a place that I will come back to visit again sometime.