The Neighborhood Pool

In the land without air conditioning, many people are asking themselves how to stay cool during this period of unprecedented heat. If have heard some unique solutions to that problem, some of which I am sure worked and some that might still be in the developmental stage. Some people would sleep with ice packs wrapped around a towel and resting on their necks. Some people would stand in front of the open freezer, or if they were lucky enough to be at a place that had them, would spend time in a walk-in cooler. Some people would run over to the faucet in their kitchen every once in a while to run the head underneath the cool running water. The main thing that everybody in the Pacific Northwest had in common the last couple of days has been that they have been looking for a way to beat the heat.

One of the most obvious ones has been the neighborhood pool. It is a staple that can be found in many of the communities across America, and it is on days like these ones that it really brings the community together. All of the neighbors can come to this place to shed their work clothes for a more casual approach, relax in the shade with the good company of neighbors or a book, and cool off in the water with family or friends. All pretensions seem to melt away at this place, and people can really just enjoy themselves. The place is made for relaxation, and becomes hard to do anything else while being there.

Growing up, this is where I would spend most of my days during the summer. Both my mother and father worked, and they did not want anybody at our house while they were away. They did allow us to go to the pool though and we would arrange to meet all of our friends over there during the day. I know now that it was because we could be supervised while we were there, but I look at how the herds of children move around the pools now and think back to those days when I was among their numbers. It amazes me how we could be easily entertained all summer long by diving after different things we would throw in the deep end, or show off our skills by jumping and eventually diving off the diving boards, or playing intricate games of keep away with all of the other kids in the neighborhood. They have become some of my favorite childhood memories.

The pool that we went to had ten minutes at the end of every hour designated for adult swims. It was basically a time during every hour where nobody would be in the pool and we always wondered why they would do this if nobody took advantage of it. I wonder if it is still a thing at some pools because I have not run into it for years, and I still can’t think of what the purpose of this time was. Even though I would complain about it as a kid, I still enjoyed those ten minutes every hour. It was a time where we get our drenched bodies out of the water and lay down directly on the hot concrete around the pool. That heat always felt so good on the skin, and I remember enjoying the way it would dry me off after a good hour of swimming.

The Snack Shack was also a favorite of ours. We would scrape together our nickels, dimes, and quarters, and bring them with us every time we went to the pool so we could spend it on candy. A snickers bar got quickly devoured; whereas, a box of nerds became a treasure that we would slowly share with everybody else in the group as we experimented with the combinations of all the different fruit flavors. It is probably where I developed the sweet tooth that I still have today.

I may not be as active when I go to the pool anymore, but I still enjoy going. I’ll hop in every once in awhile to cool down while trying to find a corner where I can talk with my wife while avoiding all the kids that are around. (Maybe that is what adult swim is for.) Most of the time, you will find me in the shade with a good book, and of course, I will always find a reason to visit the Snack Shack if they have one. Nothing exciting every happens at the neighborhood pool, but that does not mean that I still don’t get excited to go to it when I have a chance. I am glad that I had one growing up, and if you find that you have one in your neighborhood, you might want to think about checking it out a couple times this summer, just to see what they are all about.

A Walk Around Black Butte Ranch – Oregon

Summer has been hiding behind the clouds ready to pop out. It isn’t quite the weather for shorts and swimming pools yet in Central Oregon, but it will come soon. That does not mean that I need to hide in my house and wait for it to come. I could still get out there and enjoy the view of Black Butte Ranch. I just need to plan a little better and make sure I am wearing pants and warmer clothes.

Black Butte Ranch boasts some dramatic views no matter what the weather is. It might even be better during those cool, cloudy days because it add something more to look at in the sky than just a warming blue. It is also early enough in the season that the people have not flooded into the resort yet and taken over the paths. The cool weather reinvigorated me, making the length of this walk tick away with each happy step I took.

It felt as if the empty roads were built for me alone, and each bend gave me another view of the spectacle that is the natural landscape of Central Oregon. I am happy to be out of the towns and cities right now, and am able enjoy these quiet streets. It would be a different scene in Bend, or Redmond, or even Sisters as they get their businesses and restaurants ready for the summer rush that will happen as soon as the nod from the Governor comes, telling them that can ramp things up again.

It will nice to get back to that normal way of life, and hints of it keep peeking out from my periphery. But until then, I will enjoy the lack of crowds and having the feel that the ranch is mine alone.

Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

It happened last night during dinner. I was finishing up a wonderful meal of curry, when I looked out the back window, and there was a herd of elk grazing in the forest that is essentially the backyard of the place I am staying. It wasn’t the first time that I saw them that day. They were always at the edge of the forest just beyond where a camera could capture an image of them that was worth seeing. But here they were just begging to have their photo taken.

Seeing wildlife in Central Oregon is not a new thing, especially if you are staying at Black Butte Ranch, one of the quieter communities out here, nestled in the forest close to the Cascade Mountain Range. Going a day without seeing a squirrel or a variety of birds in unusual, and there are many days I have run into deer while I am out for a walk, or sometimes just hanging out in the front yard waiting to scamper off when somebody opens the front door. On a hot day, they like to seek shelter under the deck attached to the house, and will dash out if anybody decides to come out on the deck. It is not unusual to see these wildlife sightings, but elk seems to be a new phenomenon out here.

That is not to say that elk have not been grazing in the mountains of Central Oregon before, but to see them wandering through the yards of Black Butte Ranch in new. Elk are amazingly smart creatures. I have come across the herds in Colorado before. They amaze me how they always seem to know when elk hunting season starts as they move down to Estes Park to find safety there during this time, or how a creature this big can disappear in an aspen grove without a trace. It makes me wonder if they have finally found the safety that is Black Butte Ranch and decided to hang out there now. Or is this a ripple that has been caused by the recent pandemic? Did last year, when people were stuck in their houses, give them the freedom to wander around in places where humans used to inhabit, and now they have the courage to reclaim that space? Whatever the reason, it was nice to witness them casually grazing in the backyard while eating dinner. It was a nice feeling, knowing that we could live together in this space and enjoy all that it has to offer.

As a side note, I know that there are a few people reading this that are not impressed with elk wandering through a forest. It is something that they come across at least a few times a year. And there are places where deer is a common occurrence, so they are wondering why I dedicated a whole post to this phenomenon. I get it, but I have not been in the United States for a couple of years, and this is something that I do not get to witness very often. I also have other people who read this post who have never seen an elk or even a deer before, and to think about this happening in someone’s backyard in something that they could never imagine. To those people, I would say that this would be very similar to going to a beach town or the hills outside of Bangkok, and running into all of the monkeys you would find out there. Every place in the world has its wildlife that you run into. It is just sometimes it is such a common thing that you shrug it off as, “Oh, there is another elk, or deer, or monkey!” But when you think about it from the perspective of a person who does not get this opportunity very often, it is something to get excited about. And when it is something you have not seen for awhile, it becomes a new experience again. Maybe, we shouldn’t take for granted these small occurrences, and enjoy them every time we come across them, whether it is a part of our daily routine, or something we can only experience every other year. The point being, enjoy those moments when they come because you do not know when they will happen again.

Heat versus Warmth

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

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

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

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

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

Another Word about Black Butte Ranch – The Move Day 23

Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon is a strange blend of a lot of things that combined together make for an amazing vacation place. There are houses and cabins that are for rent, each one unique and comfortable in their own way. There are many things to do away from the commercialism that some vacation spots tend to throw in your face. And there is this harmony on the ranch with animals of all kinds. I believe that it is these animals that make the ranch a unique place to spend time at, no matter what season you decide to come here.

Underneath the shadow of the looming Black Butte in the middle of the ranch is a huge working field where workers move them around to make sure the fields are not destroyed by their grazing. There is a bike path that runs through the field that allows you to get closer to these animals and watch them as they go about their lazy day. The horses are also used to go on rides through the forests that surround the ranch, and during weddings, they will let them out in the fields giving photographers the perfect picture of the horses running free after the ceremony has taken place.

But the animals that inhabit this corner of the state are not always domesticated. There are a lot of wild animals that make their way through the grounds. Besides the squirrels, chipmunks, and various types of birds, I have heard coyotes howls in the middle of the nights, and have spotted so many deer that it become commonplace. Just yesterday, as I left the place I was staying, I saw a deer grazing on the wild grass in the front yard. It quickly bounded away when he saw that I was there, but they have also found shade underneath decks, and I came across this one off of the bike path near one of the gold courses, just enjoying an early afternoon munch.

But the animals are also brought in by the residents of the ranch. Early in the evening, you can always see people out walking their dogs and there are even more lounging on the decks that overlook the various bike trails. Some of them have even become staples of the people that come to visit on a regular basis. They are probably the most friendly of the residents of the ranch and are always willing to get to know a stranger a little better.

Overall, it is the animals of the ranch that transform the place from a mere vacation spot to a place of fun and surprises. It is one of the main reasons that I love this place so much.

Time to Take the Summer in – The Move Day 22

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I have really enjoyed the time that I have gotten to spend with family in friends over the last couple of weeks in both Colorado and Oregon. It is great to catch up and to go out and see a bunch of spots that I am familiar with as well as some new ones that have popped up since I have been away. Being back in the country that I grew up in brings back a comfortability that can’t be matched, but it has also worn me out.

It is probably one of the biggest complaints that I hear from people who decide to make a career out of international teaching, coming home can be exhausting. It is not a bad kind of exhausting. You get to see the people that you love and catch up, but the problem that comes is when you are being pulled in twelve different directions so you can make sure that you spend enough time with everybody you have come back home to see. By the time I get back to my job overseas, I am worn out and I need to get back to work so I can schedule some down time.

Glaze Meadow Pool at Black Butte Ranch

I know it sounds kind of bad that I am whining about going out to eat on a regular basis, hanging out with family and friends, and taking a break from the grind of being a teacher. Do not get me wrong. I love my summer vacation. I need it in order to recharge my batteries, so I can take on the pressures of the work that I do. I also love seeing all of these people and the fun stories that I get to create along the way. But I also need that time of mindless vacation where I have no concerns or worries, and I can take in the moment a little for myself.

Some of the trails at Black Butte Ranch

I am lucky in this aspect for there is a place where my path leads me every summer where I can do this exact thing, Black Butte Ranch. This little gem in the high desert of Central Oregon forces me to take time and just relax. It is a beautiful spot filled with lodgepole pine trees and clumps of aspens. It boasts of four pools where you can just kick up you feet and soak in the sun, and if you want to take a more active break, it has miles of bike paths that will get you lost for a time but also will take you back to a familiar spot eventually. There are also tennis courts and two amazing golf courses. You can go enjoy yourself at the parks or the little lake in the middle of the ranch that rents out paddles boards and kayaks or during the dusk hours attracts fishermen and bats looking for bugs that you can watch. There are three different restaurants and a couple of snack bars so you can grab a tasty bite to eat or a drink. All of this and more is at least a ten minute drive from any form of commercialized civilization that just pushes you into that stage of being completely disconnected from your problems and worries.

I am glad that I have been able to make it out here to really take in the summer months and relax for a bit. So for all of you that I have caught up with over the summer, it has been great seeing you and I miss you already, but I need a little John time and the best place in the world I have found where I can get this is Black Butte Ranch. So I am going to take this time to recharge the batteries and get ready for that next jump over the pond to my next adventure in international teaching in Thailand.

 

 

A Wintery Walk – The Holidays Day 10

One of the things that I miss the most while living in South Korea is the ability to go outside and take a stroll after a nice snow storm. I can do it, but I find myself deep in the city crowd, and it is not really fun because the wind bites, and the cold digs down deep into my bones clinging to them for hours after I return home. Being in Central Oregon at Black Butte Ranch, I was able to take the time to go out on one of these walks through the various bike paths and enjoy the scenery and the calm and quite.

Black Butte Ranch turns into a place where I can breathe easier and reflect on life during the winter. When I left on my walk, I thought that I would be the only person out on the bike paths, but I was surprised at the amount of people out there doing the same thing. Most of them were families taking the time away from their televisions and warmth of their houses to enjoy what the Ranch has to offer. Or they were out to give their dogs a little bit of time in the snow. But they were few and far between, so most of the time I felt like I had the whole place for myself.

Every turn took me to a place I was familiar with due to all of the time I have been able to spend out here during the summer. But with a blanket of snow over it all, it gives it a new look like it was the first time I was seeing it. I know I was out on the Ranch by myself, and not sharing these moments with anybody else, but it was the fact that I was out there by myself that made me feel like I was walking away with something that was completely mine. It was the walk that returned me to a simpler time when I had these moments to myself instead of the hustle and bustle and the constant contact of the busy city.  Even though it was a little bit of exercise, the walk was the thing I needed in order to recharge the batteries I needed to take on the last semester at my school.

I love the activity that can be found at this vacation spot during the summer as I hear the voices of children laughing from the various pools or the folks taking their voyages on the horses that they can rent out there, but I think the winter time is my favorite time at the Ranch. The fact that there is not as much to do forces me to take the time to stop and look at the Ranch a little more closely. The ruddiness my cheeks gathered and the calm I collected made it one of my favorite moments on this trip so far.

 

There is a Place – Around the World Day 40

I have been spending the last few days in Central Oregon, and like always, I have loved the time I have gotten to spend out here. Most of the time when people think of Central Oregon, they think of three different towns, Sister, Redmond, and Bend, but my home base is not any of these three places. Instead, I have been able to stay under the shadow of one of the smaller mountains in the area, but still one of the more prominent ones. It is a quiet collection of houses, a twenty minute drive from Sisters named Black Butte Ranch, and it happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.

This is the place I go to recharge my batteries. After a long, hard school year, I need the time to collect myself and feel like a human being again. It has also been the perfect place to have a vacation from my vacation. I know it sounds kind of snobbish, but all of that running around I did earlier in the summer wore me out, and if I did not take a little time to relax and slow down, then I would not have been ready for the next school year. That is why this place is so important to me.

Black Butte Ranch is located in the middle of national forest, and its borders are limited, so it will never experience any growth, and the people who own places here like it just that way. It does have three different restaurants that a person can enjoy, each having a different level of service associated with it. It also has two world class golf courses that you can play with some of the best views I have ever seen on a golf course. If this is not your cup of tea, there are a bunch of tennis courts, and they have been adding a few pickle ball courts for people who do not like to run as much. There are four different pools, each having a different level of activity involved with them, so you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing lounge next to a pool at one of them, or get crazy with the kids running around and screaming at another one. There are also a great amount of bike paths that will take you to many beautiful spots around the the place, and also make it easier to travel around the ranch on rather than driving a car all of the time. And there is also a small pond in the front where you can rent paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes, or join the other people that go out there with their fishing gear to practice catching a fish or two.

Even though it has all of this to offer, it is not the thing that I enjoy the most about being able to stay here every year. It is the fact that the people who run Black Butte Ranch have made a conscious choice to keep all of the commercial endeavors from the place. There are a couple of shops that will sell some select items, and there is a small convenience store that you can get some basic necessities at, but if you want to do some serious shopping, you need to go off to one of the other towns around the area. It is an opportunity to get back to the simple things in life, and put those other concerns away. Every time I do this, I am happy that I get to slow down for a bit because that is what Black Butte Ranch forces you to do. And even though I do take advantage of the facilities of this place, it is more about getting back to nature, and enjoying what that has to offer. I am glad that I have been able to stop here on relax on my trip around the world. It had helped me get back to where I need to be in order to be effective during the rest of the year.

 

The Pool Life – Around the World Day 37

Sometime during the day, take a step outside of your house and listen really carefully. You can tell what time of the year it is by what you hear. If it is winter a muffled hush will try to make itself heard over the fallen snow. Autumn will have the sounds of cars rushing by as people return to their busy lives that they had left behind during the previous months. But if you hear the sound of splashing water and kids screaming in the distance, you know that it is summertime. It does not matter where I have settled down in the United States, this sound was always someplace in the background during the summer months. It is either the sound of summer for the United States, or I have always lived within earshot of a pool.

It is the same for the quiet community I have found myself in during the last part of my trip around the world, Black Butte Ranch. This place is a paradise in central Oregon. It is full of houses that people either own or rent for a week, and they use it to get away from the bustle that their real lives force them to live. One of the features of this place is the four pools that they have in various parts of the grounds. During the summer months, these are the places that are packed with vacationers trying to unwind a bit and escape the heat. They allow families the opportunity to spend some time together and have fun. It is also the place where kids can play games that have nothing to do with their electronic devices. It might be the last bastion where you can hear the shouts of joy from children left in the United States because it is the one place where Apple, Android and Microsoft can’t invade.

Where I grew up, there was a pool a fifteen minute walk away from my house, and the call of it always sounded in my ears during the summer months as this joy of my friends having fun floated over the roofs of the houses and made it to my front yard. I spent my summers at the pool helping to create that lure. It was my escape. I would spend forty-five minutes of every hour playing some kind of game in the pool, whether it was Marco Polo or some kind of elaborate team game of keep away involving a beach ball. If we ever tired of those games, we would go over to the deep end and show our skills on the diving board for a while. During adult swim, we would find a warm piece of concrete that we could lay down on to quickly dry off before we ran to the snack shack to fill up on candy so we would have energy to run wild in the water after the fifteen minutes was over. If I think back on the summer months of my youth, I automatically go to these.

Going to the pool does not hold the same magic. My wife does not want to walk around the pool with her eyes closed yelling Marco while I swim just out of her reach responding with Polo. It is still a great place for us to hang out during the hot summer months. We just find a comfortable recliner around the pool and bathe in the rays of the sun while losing ourselves in the story of some novel. The children screaming and having fun might reach our ears, but it turns into background noise that reminds us what time of the year it is. We will still grab a treat from the snack shack but it will be a cool drink or some ice cream to cool off a bit. Every once in a while we will dip into the water to cool off a little further, but we do not play games. Instead we wade around the water, occasionally going completely underwater, and talk about what the future holds for us or what the past has taught us. It may not hold the same appeal that I found when I was a kid, but it does not mean that I do not enjoy them any less. It is still the one thing that pulls me to it every summer.

I have not spent a lot of time around a pool this summer because I have been busy doing a lot of other things, but as the sun started to beat down a little more than usual, I was glad that I was able to find some time at one this summer. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, it is the sounds of pool life that makes me know that it is summer.

 

Fare Thee Well

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This story starts a year and a half ago with my best friend, Bear. He was a great dog, and he went on many adventures with my wife and me. We loved him very much. This was, until like all of our furry friends must eventually do, he passed away. It was a devastating blow to us and even though this happened a year ago last February, there still isn’t a day that goes by when I think about his smiling face, his joy of walks and chasing squirrels, and his love of food. Like all animals, there were some things he did that annoyed me, but now these are the things I miss the most.

Even though this story starts with the passing of Bear, it is not about him. This was just the catalyst that caused Christine and me to make a life-changing decision. As I have mentioned before, Christine and I love to travel the world. It is a lot of fun to see other cultures, but when you visit a place you are not really experiencing everything that the place has to offer. You are not really absorbing yourself in the culture and you come home knowing something new about the world, but you still feel like you are missing something. The only way to truly experience a culture is to go and live in that country. This is something Christine and I always talked about doing some day. We are both in education and we knew that there were many great opportunities overseas. There was only one thing stopping us from doing it, Bear.

There was no way we would have left Bear behind. He meant too much to us. We couldn’t take him with us either. Too often in these overseas excursions, the country won’t allow you to have your dog with your right away. In many countries, they will quarantine your pet for up to six months before you can enjoy their company again. I couldn’t do this to Bear. He would have been miserable living in a cage while Christine and I were free to roam the world around us. We were happy to enjoy Bear in Colorado while keeping the idea of working overseas in the back of our minds. This was until he passed away. Then this dream of ours started to grow again. We could now look for jobs overseas, and this is exactly what we did.

The process for looking for teaching jobs overseas is long and complicated and I won’t bore you with the details. But in February, Christine and I were able to land positions at Korea International School in Seoul. This started the process of saying goodbye to our loved ones.

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It is a scary prospect letting go of everything that you have become familiar with, but in life, you really don’t live unless you do this from time to time. This is exactly what Christine and I did. Just as the wise Transcendentalist stated we simplified, simplified, simplified. I had been preaching this message to my students for years, but I never knew how liberating the process of doing this was. Of course, the process of simplifying is complicated. It takes a lot to get rid of the big things in your life, but at the same time it shows you how much junk you truly own. We had two garage sales and sold both of our cars and our house.

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It was the most liberating experience in my life. You never realize how much your possessions own you instead of the other way around until you get rid of them all. A house needs constant care. Things fall apart, and grass continues to grow. Even though you would love to let it go, society won’t let you do that because it does not conform to the expectations of people they have created. A car is the same thing. We put too much stock into these things believing that we can not live without them. Even though, at times, they make life easier and bring us closer together, they are constantly demanding our attention. They want you to clean them, both on the inside and the outside. They scream for gas at least once a week, and if that wasn’t enough, you do have to take time out of your busy schedule to maintain them. Even though it was hard to give these creature comforts up, each time we did, a weight lifted off our shoulders that we never knew was there. We were happier people without all of these possessions possessing us.

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As the process continued, we found that everything we needed fit into a couple of bags and a few boxes. In fact, before we sold off our last car, we were able to load everything in the back of our Subaru Outback to travel across and do the thing that was more important than the accumulation of things, seeing the ones that we loved so we could say, “Fare thee well.”

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I was raised in Colorado, and this is where Christine and I had lived together for the past thirteen years. It was hard to say goodbye because this is what I’ve always known. Even though I have lived a couple of times in California, I don’t have any memories of that place. All of my experiences have taken place in one of the most beautiful states within the U.S.A.

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It is where my family lives.

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It is where my friends are.

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It is where I have worked my whole life.

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It was not going to be easy to say goodbye. I know I will miss many aspects of living on the Front Range. I will no longer be able to find west by searching for the outline of the mountains. I will no longer be able to go on extended hikes through some of the greatest terrain that this world has to offer. I won’t be able to ski through the powdery slopes of the Rocky Mountains. I won’t be able to order a Mountain Pie at Beau Jo’s. I won’t be able to stuff myself with the cholesterol packed burgers at Crave. I won’t be able to find green chili to smother my burrito with. I won’t be able to cheer on my Broncos with my friends on a Sunday afternoon. There are a lot of things I will miss from my hometown.

Then why would I leave it? Because I find danger in complacency. Yes, all of these things made me comfortable and I was happy within this feeling. But if I didn’t get out of my comfort zone, I would never grow as a person. I would have stopped at that moment in my life where I had a two car garage attached to a house that slowly filled itself up a little more every year. I really do believe that we need to purge every once in a while in our lives and go find some place that makes us struggle a little bit. This is how we grow as people. If we find ourselves in a comfortable position we are no longer living.

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Of course, not everybody feels the same way that I do. Some people have a hard time with change because it requires them to visit the unknown. Not every change goes smoothly. Sometimes it is a big mistake that you wish you never took the risk on, but sometimes it takes you to a place that is better than any you have ever experienced before. But you can’t take the unwilling on the voyage that you go on, and you need to respect their decision to stay where they are at. At the same time, I couldn’t just leave without saying goodbye. This is why Christine and I took the trip across the country to say goodbye. Otherwise, we would have the same problem with the ones we loved that Cooper has now.

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Yes, Cooper is another dog. He is the loyal companion of Christine’s parents who live in Portland. His best friend in the world was Bear. They had a mutual respect for each other, and Bear was one of the few dogs that Cooper would go out and play with. This was probably because they had spent a lot of time together. Christine and I would go out and spend a month with her parents every summer. This is one of the perks of being in the education field, and Bear was able to benefit from it. Cooper loved having another dog in the house with him, and Bear got to believe that he was the alpha dog by being around Cooper. It was a match made in Heaven.

The problem came when we visited Cooper the next summer after Bear had passed. Cooper came running out of the house to greet us after we had arrived. He jumped all over us and then started looking behind us. It was the greatest greeting we had ever received from him, and at first we couldn’t understand why. Then it hit us as he looked in our car and all around our baggage. Cooper was looking for Bear. It was the one friend that he always felt comfortable with.

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But Cooper’s problem is humanity’s problem. We are all looking for that moment that makes us comfortable. It is a nice feeling to be comfortable with the ones we are with, but reality is that we can’t always find ourselves in that position. If we expect ourselves to always be comfortable then in fact we will never be able to achieve that high standard of living. The fact that we can’t achieve this in our lives will make us feel uncomfortable all the time. This is what happens with Cooper. There are very few people, and even fewer dogs he can find companionship with. He always comes across as being a little nervous, and any small change to his environment will set off nervous ticks within him. This constant alert feeling never allows him to unwind and enjoy the world he is in. He needs everything to be perfect before he can let himself go and just enjoy the moment.

We can learn something from this behavior. We need to quit finding that perfect place of true comfort and instead try to find comfort in the uncomfortable situations. I am trying to take it even further by no longer searching for the comfortable situation, but instead the one that makes me uncomfortable. This will allow me to explore the world that we live in, and recognize that my culture is not the only one there is. It is a humbling experience to do this, and I will learn not only a lot about myself, but also the people who I meet along the way. I will learn about their beliefs, passions, and cultures. This new perspective on life has been inspiring over the last couple of months and I am excited to see where it takes me.

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It leaves a lot of questions about my daily routine. The way I used to organize my day in the past has been destroyed, and I have been searching for a new routine. I will admit that sometimes I fall back into my old one, but the way my life is structured now, this is not always possible. The world looks different now because of it. The little things that I would have missed in the past become spectacular and I find myself looking at the world as a whole.

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My Fare Thee Well travels took me to San Francisco where I got to spend a few days taking in the sights. I have been here before so many of the touristy areas I had been to earlier. I needed to find new little corners of the city that I had not seen before. Because my mission was to find these nooks, I was able to discover a beach that I never knew existed. Of course, I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge before. It is impossible to go to San Francisco and not find this landmark, but I always stood at the doorstep of this marvel and tried to find the best way to take a picture of its magnificence. It is impossible to do from the tiny park that most cars stop at before they make the trek across the bridge. But in my wanderings I was able to see the view that you find on all of the postcards. If you want to see this view, you have to go to the North Beach. I wandered there by mistake because I was looking for the Presidio. It was a place I heard about on my last trip to the city by the bay, but I had never seen it. I’m glad that I went in search for it because I would not have experienced this view with the fresh salt water air filling up my lungs if I had not taken that chance.

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Of course some of the places remained the same as the last time I saw them. It might have been a different set of tourists taking pictures of Lumbar Street, but the principle remained the same. The cars lined up to take their turns winding down the street, and the people who watched wondered what it would be like to live on such a spectacle.

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Other places put me in the uncomfortable situation that I had been looking for. I took a short trip over the Bay Bridge to watch a baseball game at the Oakland Coliseum. Some people might wonder why that would be an uncomfortable situation, but the folks from Denver know that this is walking into the lion’s den. It would have been a little more dangerous if I had worn my Bronco’s gear, but I wanted to return to my bed at the hostel that night, so I elected to wear a green and gold t-shirt, and blend in by buying an A’s baseball cap as soon as I got there. I almost wish I had taken that chance because it would have made for a more interesting experience.

I had gotten a ticket in the cheapest seats I could find, the bleachers. I didn’t know that this is where the craziest A’s fans gathered to watch a game. One of my goals in life is to see a baseball game in every stadium, and even though I have only been to five stadiums so far, I would have to say that the Oakland A’s fans are the most passionate about their team. I know I have caused some people to stand up and puff up their chests to prove me wrong, but keep in mind I have 25 stadiums to still go. When I saw the game, the A’s were at the bottom of their division, and still they had a lot of people at the stadium. Where I was sitting, they had brought flags to wave, they had cheers that they performed, and the camaraderie among the people had me believe that they were about to win the World Series. I just sat back and enjoyed the whole experience.

This brings me to the man who took that chance that I didn’t take. The Oakland A’s were playing the Kansas City Royals that night. With the Royals being in the World Series last year, fans started to emerge from every corner of the United States. One such fan decided to attend the game that night, and he was determined to show every person in the bleacher section what a fan he was. In a sea of green and gold stood this lone person wearing white and blue. He was even bold enough to jump up among those in attendance as he cheered for his team loudly. It didn’t help that his team was winning the game. There were many A’s fans who wanted to take this guy behind a shed and beat him until his face matched the color of his hat. The amazing thing was he was able to overcome this adversity and endure himself to those around him. By the end of the game, he had become friends with those around him, and it added a little fun to the game. The fans now had a person that could fuel a rivalry for them and spark their competitive nature. He was able to create a moment, not only for himself, but also for all those who attended the game by willing to feel uncomfortable for a while.

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I learned a lot from that Kansas City fan. We need to take those chances in our lives. Though the path through the woods may be daunting, we don’t know what we will find around the corner, but we need to be up for that challenge. We might run into a crazed group of fans that wish to pummel us, or we could find that moment in nature we weren’t expecting to find.

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The further we walk away from our door, the more we experience. The people that are willing to do this are the interesting people that you meet in life. They are the ones who have adventures all the time and these are the ones whose lifestyle you covet. You wonder why these same kind of adventures do not present themselves to you, but the thing is, you too can have these adventures. It is all a matter of choice.

Are you the type of person who has to have their cell phones with them at all times? Is your greatest desire to make it home so you can continue to participate in the video game you haven’t finished playing yet, or to continue watching the television show you are binge watching on Netflix? Do you need to spend your weekends making sure that your home is clean in case some visitor decides to drop by? If you said yes to any or all of these questions, then you are probably one of those people who find themselves jealous of others who happen to have strange things happen to them. You need to quit worrying about these small things so much and go outside of your house to see what adventures you might find.

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There is a whole world out there to explore, but it takes those first steps out of your door before you can go out and find what the world has to offer. But this is not enough. You need to sometimes take a right when you usually take a left. Try new things and it will make your life more rewarding. At first the large things will present themselves to you.

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Then you’ll find places that you never knew existed.

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If you keep on looking and following this philosophy, you will start to see the small things pop up, and every moment will become one of joy because you will be experiencing something new every time you go out your door.

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Even though this is a story about saying goodbye to the ones we love, it is also a story of saying hello to a new adventure. It is time for a change in my life, and if I am going to make a change, I am going to make sure that it is so big that it will be a remarkable milestone I will always look back upon with great fondness. I will miss Colorado and all of the people and terrain that makes it a wonderful place to live. I will also miss all of the people and places that make Oregon such a wonderful place to visit every summer. But I cannot continue to do the same thing all the time. I will come back again next summer to revisit these people and places, but for now I need to go in search of an adventure.

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I also miss Bear every day, and the smallest things remind me of his smiling face.

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But I am also grateful for the opportunity that his passing has given me. It is time that Christine and I go off to Korea to teach students there and learn about the way they see the world. For those we leave behind, collect those stories so when we meet again we can tell them to each other and laugh and enjoy the moment that we are given. Until then, Fare Thee Well, and have an amazing year. I know that I will.

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