No News is Good News – Around the World Day 32

As I start to get ready to take my next jump west, things are starting to slow down in Colorado where I am staying right now. For almost two weeks, I have been a tourist in the town that I grew up in. I have visited some of my favorite places in this state, and even got to see a couple that I have never been to. I got to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a long time, and have some quality time with my family. At times, the trip has been a little hectic with one event planned after another, and even though this might be the case, I have really enjoyed the time I have gotten to spend out here. Just last night I went over to my sister’s house to have a home cooked lasagna, a delicacy that they haven’t quite figured out in Korea yet, and yes, it was delicious, but it was the conversation and the wine that I enjoyed the most.

I have found that since I have more time to relax, I have been able to reflect on the trip so far, and think about what it means. When you live out of a suitcase for a long time, it requires you to make some changes while you are doing it. One of the things I have noticed is that I have not watched that much television, and because my cellular service is from South Korea, I have not been as tied to my electronic devices. I have been out making connections with people and enjoying the sun while it out there. It made me think of what summer used to be when I was younger, spending time with my friends outside and not concerning myself with the larger problems of that come with the busier times of the year. It is all about living in the moment I find myself in, and letting my location become the most important one.

This has meant that I have not watched a lot of the news. In fact, I haven’t really picked up a paper to stay on top of what is going on in the world. I know that there are former students of mine that are screaming that I am being a hypocrite. I always preached the importance of reading the paper, and being well-informed. That you could not make a decision in this world if you didn’t really know what was going on in it. And I still do believe in the importance of the news, but I am also starting to see how little politics and the absurdity of the world-leaders actually affect my life. Nothing much has changed based on the lack of knowledge that I have about world events, and I do believe that for the most part I have been happier because I have not wrapped myself up in this absurdity.

It made me think about a quote that I used to spend so much time on when I taught American literature. It was from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and it voiced his opinion on the penny-post, or letters back in the day that cost a penny for the postage. He said, “For my part, I could easily do without the post-office. I think that there are very few communications made through it.” I used to make the comparison to the countless texts that the youth of today sends to each other. The message I was trying to make that they spend so much time on these messages that really do not mean anything. The messages can wait until they are face to face, and the communication prevents us from really concerning ourselves with what is happening right in front of us. The messages could wait.

I did not think to apply this to the news as well. Yes, there are many decisions made by politicians that eventually affect us in some form or fashion. But there is really not a lot we can do about those decisions until it comes to election time. In fact, all the news does in this day is to stir up dissension among the people and keeps us staring at the idiots who are running this world. Sometimes it is better if we turn it off and not worry about what they are doing. We will find that we are happier because of it. I have found out that this is the case while I am taking this trip. In fact the only times I have found that I have been tense about the world is when I have caught little bits and pieces of what is going on.

Now, yes, it is important to be informed, especially when it is time to make decisions that may impact others. But we do not need the constant campaigning and bickering that goes on during most of the time. The information that we are given is not worth the data that is wasted to deliver it to us. We instead should take the time to become informed when election time comes around, and visit the news from time to time to find out the bigger things that we need to know. I appreciate the way that elections are run in South Korea because it forces the citizens to do exactly this. Politicians are not allowed to campaign until a month before the election. They are not gearing up for the next election just as soon as they have finished the one that they won. This way, the decision that the citizens make is informed on the issues, and not on the inane bickering and sound bites that are presented these days. And after the election, the politicians can concentrate on their jobs instead of trying to get re-elected.

I see all of this better now because I have put the remote down, and have not picked up the paper as much. I will go back to it when I get back to my home, but I will continue to enjoy the moments I have been given for now without concerning myself about the worries created by the press.

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Americana in the Nighttime – Around the World Day 31

Last night I took a walk around the neighborhood I was staying at. It was something that I used to do in my younger days all of the time, but then life got busy and I no longer had the time for this. The walks allowed me to relax and reflect on the way things were going on in my life, and I always felt better afterwards, like I had stolen something back from the hectic world that I am forced to live in. It was the same feeling I got as I took my walk last night.

It also allowed me to get closer to the neighborhood. America is definitely a car culture, and we will hop in our vehicles anytime we need to get anywhere. Sometimes it is the only way we can get from one point to the next, but a lot of times, we can get to places just as easily by walking. During my time in Europe on this trip, I was forced to walk to places, and there were many people out using the same mode of transportation to get where they were going. The same thing happens with home in Seoul. But I do not see these same crowds when I walk in the United States.

There is something to be said about being out among those people though. Granted, I never talked to any of them, but I did get a greater sense of community because I was out among them. I wasn’t hiding behind the closed doors of a car, or staying huddled inside some building because I was swiftly swept from one location to another. I was forced to interact with the people on a certain level if I wished to get along. Even though I enjoyed the moment to myself last night as I took my walk, I wished there were more people out there taking a walk with me. It was the perfect night to do it too. The cool night was a great reprieve from the hot weather that Colorado has been experiencing this summer.

My favorite part of my walk was when I got to pass this old house that I have always admired. This house has sat on this huge plot of land as long as I could remember, and nobody ever seemed to live in it. It looked like an old farmhouse that was left over from a day when people worked the land out in this neighborhood. I always liked the place because I could watch it slowly deteriorate over the years, and I would think about buying the place and fixing it up someday. Because I moved away, I wasn’t able to see the house as much, and there would only be a couple days out of the year that I would get to pass it by as I sped down the road that it found itself on. But last night I was able to walk by it, and take a little more time to see it for what it was. While I moved away, somebody had bought the property and had spent the last couple of years of getting it back to its original glory. I don’t think I would have noticed this if I was in a car. It just showed me that sometimes it is important to slow down, so you can really appreciate what it is around you.

Even though cars are great inventions and allow us to get to places quicker, I like to step out of the car from time to time to take a walk. I’m glad I did it last night, and even though it was nothing special, it might have been one of my favorite moments on this trip around the world.

Donor Dash – Around the World Day 29

I have been spending a lot of my time on the trip around the world visiting amazing sites, eating great food, and catching up with family and friends. I have not always made the healthiest choices while on this tour, and I will admit that my exercise has been nothing more than hiking around the towns I have been in or the mountains I have found. It has been a lot of fun, and I have really enjoyed writing about it as I have gone along, but I felt that there should have been an opportunity to give back to the communities that I have been lucky enough to stay in. That is why when I found out about the Donor Dash taking place last Sunday, I decided to get out there and run it. I would be getting some of that much needed exercise, and helping to create awareness to a very important cause.

I do know that there are Donor Dashes in both Wyoming, and Denver, and while doing my research for this post, I discovered that there is another one in Philadelphia. I am sure that if you look hard enough, you will be able to find a Donor Dash near you. It does not cost a lot of money to participate in the event, and they will give you a really cool t-shirt with your entry fee. The Denver race attracted over 6,000 people who participated, and there were many others who were walking around the park at the time, and learning about the message that the promoters were trying to get across. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about the importance of being an organ donor, and to try to get more people to become an organ donor when they renew their state IDs or driver’s licenses.

There are many myths about being an organ donor. The big one is that if you have the fact that you are donor indicated on any identification that EMTs and doctors will let you die so they can have your organs so they can let somebody else to live. The mere fallacy of the logic of that thought is so absurd that it does not make sense. Why would a doctor let one person die on the rare hope that they can help another person live?

The truth about being an organ donor is that you can save somebody’s life. During the event, many people stood up and told their stories of how their lives were saved because of the kindness of a stranger. My niece is one of these people. She received a kidney donation at a very early age in life and because of this, she has been granted many more years of her life, and a better quality of life during that time. I also met another young man who is only fourteen and getting ready to start high school, and he told me about the heart transplant that he received. An event like this really helped me to see how important that awareness grows, so more lives can be saved.

In the state of Colorado alone, there are more than 25,000 people on the waiting list to receive an organ donation that could save their lives. This is why an event like this is so important. But that does not mean that there are not other events that support others causes out there. In fact, I knew that when I was living in the state of Colorado, I was able to find a race every weekend if I felt like I wanted to compete in one. Most of them were designed to either raise money for a cause or at least awareness for that cause. It only took a simple search to find that event. If more people spent time to do this, I do believe that the causes would no longer be causes. The problems of our society would slowly solve themselves. This is the campaigns that actually change the world for the better, and I do think that the Donor Dash is one such cause. I am glad that this is the way that I got to spend my Sunday morning on this super expedition in my life.

Colorado’s Renaissance – Around the World Day 29

It has been around for 42 years, and there were many times that I have been to it when I was younger, but it had been awhile since I have been at the Colorado Renaissance Festival. It took me coming back to Colorado to get me to go back to this iconic location, and it had changed a lot since I last remembered it, or it may not have changed at all, and just my memory of it had adjusted to make the place seem more different than what I thought it was when I was younger. That is not to say that it was not still a fun place to visit, but I started to see through the glossy presentation that once made this a magical place to visit, and start to show me what type of place it actually was.

It really started before I even got to the place. There was a lady protesting the use of elephants for rides and from my earlier trip to Laos, I understood her frustration and anger, but I had no idea why she was so mad at something that was happening half way around the world that she would stand on the highway to this place to protest it. That was until I was inside the confines of its walls and saw that they had an elephant that they would walk around the grounds while people rode it. And even though I could see that he didn’t have scars on his head due to the mistreatment sue to its handler, I could see that they had cropped his tail and chopped off his tusks, making it impossible for him to live a normal elephant life. It made me wonder how well they were actually taking care of the beasts, and if they were just as bad as the other owners of elephants that the woman was protesting about earlier on the road.

But this was the only complaint that I would have about the place. Otherwise it was as much as I remembered it when I was growing up except the act had changed a little bit. One of the new ones that surprised me also made me wonder about the elephants I had seen walking about. This was a group that displayed great cats that operated in Oregon. It was very educational, explaining the threat that was going on with these beasts, and what we could do to make sure that they would no longer be endangered. It made me wonder why a company would bring in conservationists with great cats, and then go off and display elephants afterwards. Was it really about educating people about these animals, or just finding the quickest way that they could make some money.

The rest of the festival lend itself more to the later. Even though we had to spend a solid entry price to make it into the grounds, there were still many other features that required an extra entrance fee if we wished to see them. One was a torture museum that had some interesting things inside of it, but it only took ten minutes to stroll through and was clearly not worth the two dollar entrance fee. I went to a different torture museum in Rothenberg, Germany that was more informative, with better displays, and yet the same price.

There were also a couple of rides that required a couple of extras dollars if you wanted to ride them, and some of these actually took a little longer than two minutes to enjoy the rides. The prices were absurd, but it was interesting to see how they operated the rides. They were all moved by guys pushing the rides forward and by no electronic gears. This made it interesting to watch and made me realize what rides might have looked like back during the Elizabethan Era. It was interesting to see that these rides could still fly even though they were propelled by human effort.

Of course, the biggest money maker and my favorite spot on the whole grounds was the Tomato Toss. It was fun to sit there and watch for a long while because you knew it was spontaneous, and you didn’t know what was going to happen next. Basically, a guy stuck his head through a hole in a wall, and started to insult people who passed by. For five dollars, the passersby could get five tomatoes to throw at the guy to quit his insults. Sadly, only a couple of them were able to hit the guy, but there was a constant supply of people lining up to see if they could hit this guy. It was fun to see them get riled up from his insults, but it was more fun to hear his insults.

Overall, it was a fun place to visit, but I think I had my fill after the day. I would not need to go back to see it again for another ten years, but the memories I had created yesterday would help me hold off the urge until then.

 

 

The Boys of Summer – Around the World Day 28

The weather has been really hot this summer in Colorado. If you have friends from the area, I am sure you have seen the posts on Facebook about people melting in the street, and how on some days it has been hotter here than it has been in Las Vegas. Denver is turning into a dessert, and when things cool off a day, people look for something to do outside so they can enjoy the Colorado summer while it is available. The best way I have found to do this is to go to Coors Field and watch the boys of summer try to stay in the running for the playoffs in October.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the low 80s with a lot of cloud cover that made for the perfect day to go and see the Rockies play. Coors Field is also a great ballpark. It has been a dream of mine to see a game in all of the ballparks in America, and this has now become really hard to do that I live in a different country, but that does not mean that I can’t enjoy the ballpark that was in my backyard for the last twenty years. When they designed the park, they wanted to give it that classic ballpark feel with a couple modern upgrades. It has a nice open air feel to it, and there is not a bad seat in the house. They do have ivy growing in the right field behind a series of fountains that they will turn on full blast anytime one of the Rockies hits a home run. It does have a bigger outfield than a lot of other parks but that is because balls have a tendency to fly longer in the thin air. And if you are looking for a good beer, there is a craft brewery in the building. A perfect addition for the people of Colorado who love their beers.

But they have since added some other features. There is a huge scoreboard in left field that highlights many part of the game on its high definition screen. There is a series of bars on the top level that are always full even if the Rockies are doing poorly because it is a great place to be seen on the Denver scene. Many people were angry at that addition when it first came out because it seemed like a waste of money for a team that could have used a better bullpen, but ever since it has shown up, the Rockies have been contenders more than they have been in the past. It does clear out the stands though because everybody wants to hang out there instead of in their seats.

No matter what you think about the addition, it is still a great place to see a game, and I was surprised at the crowd that had shown up in the middle of the day on a Thursday. The announcement that they make every game stated that there were 41,000 people in attendance, and this is pretty amazing considering that there are only 50,000 seats in the place. A lot could have contributed to this. The Rockies have won 12 out of their last 16 games, making them only three and a half games out of first. They were also playing the team that was in first so this would give them an opportunity to catch up a game. And it apparently was kid’s club day. There were groups of kids screaming in the upper level and they did not necessarily know what they were screaming at, but they were having a good time. They also had to leave early so they would be back at their kid’s club location so their parents could pick them up, but it all added to the atmosphere.

It was a great game. The Rockies came back in the sixth inning to win the game five to one and the bullpen did a great job not losing the game in the final inning. It was the perfect way to spend a warm Thursday afternoon, and it will keep me interested in what is happening with the Rockies as they make the push to the end of the season. I just wish that it did not take so long in-between times that I got to visit the place because it is easily one of my favorite ballparks in the nation.

On the Rocks – Around the World Day 24

I was very fortunate growing up. I live within driving distance to what I consider the greatest concert venue ever built, Red Rock Amphitheater. Every summer, I would pull out the concert schedule and pick one or two shows that I would go see in this iconic place. I have seen some of the greatest artists perform here, bands from Radiohead to the Grateful Dead, and artists from Ben Harper and Beck. If I consider all of the moments I have at this place, a few of my fondest come while I was here.

But I would not only come up here while there was a concert. I would come up during cross country practice in high school so we could run up the hill that is used as a load in station for bands, and though some of my students who run for me right now might disagree, it was the most difficult hill to run up. We snuck in a couple times on weekends during the fall to hang out with friends on the stage. I did a report on the place during my seventh grade, and I remember coming up during the winter months and watching the snow gently fall down on the empty seats and breathe in the silence. When I think of Denver, I instantly think of Red Rocks, and if I can share the same joy that bubbles up inside of me when I think of it, I want to do so.

If you have never been there, it is a natural amphitheater built during the 1930s as one of FDR’s ABC projects to get people back to work during the Great Depression. Two huge red rocks stand on either side of the seats creating perfect acoustics for the bands who play there. The venue cannot seat that many people as there are just under 10,000 seats, but even if you find yourself in the back of the theater, you still can enjoy the sound because there really is not a bad seat in the place. It is the Mecca for many bands, and if they get to play there that means that they have made it. During my disc jockey days, I actually got to perform a wedding in the restaurant that is situated in the back of the amphitheater, so when I talk to my musician friends about the fact that I had the chance to do this, they always get really jealous. To get there you need to drive through the quaint little town of Morrison that only get busy when an event is taking place at the venue, and when you are there you can look out over the plains as the light of Denver start to wake up for the evening. Many iconic bands have recorded live albums at the place including U2, O.A.R., Moody Blues, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band (too separate concerts are available from him). And it has even hosted the likes of the Beatles and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. How can this not be the best venue in the world?

I still think about the place when I come home every summer. Around March I start to look at what bands have been scheduled to play there as I try to find one that I might enjoy, but all the good ones seem to be coming either before or after I am there, and if there is a band that I might be remotely interested in seeing, they are charging way too much to see their show that I wait until something better comes along. This is why Movies on the Rocks was a better option this time around.

Movies on the Rocks is a series of events that is put on by the local radio station, KBCO. They find six or seven cult favorite movies to show under the stars, but the party starts a little earlier than that. They also book two bands, and last night when I went to the event, they also brought out local favorite, and winner of the Last Comic Standing, Josh Blue. After all of this, they played one of my favorite Coen Brothers’ movies, The Big Lebowski. It might not have been one of the amazing concerts that I was able to catch in my past, but it was still a fun time. People came dressed up as some of the characters, and they served white Russians so people could feel like they were part of the story. It is a great way to get into the venue if you find yourself here for a short time, and there are not any bands that really appeals to you. It was one of my favorite nights so far on this trip because it was reminiscent of times that I used to have here. It will always be one of my favorite places.

 

 

Quandary Peak – Around the World Day 23

Though the world may not know much about it except for the place you go to for skiing, Colorado, does have a tourist season during the summer. The mountains are still a fun place to go to, and there are many things to do in the small towns there. One of the things that many people try to check off of their lists is to summit one of the 58 14ers that the state boasts about. A 14er, is a mountain peak that reaches over 14,000 feet above sea level. It is way above timberline, and the air gets pretty thin up there, so it is quite an accomplishment to make it up one of these mountains, and it is even a bigger challenge if you can do it when you come from sea level before you do it because there is always the danger of altitude sickness that can make the hike a challenge to get over. I wanted to add to the challenge so I decided to take on one of these peaks a day after I arrived from Europe, so I was living in a different time zone and my mind was trying to get over jet lag when I tried this.

It is important to take on one of these peaks early in the morning because Colorado has a tendency to afternoon thunderstorms, and you don’t want to be up on top of a peak without any cover where lightning has a shorter distance to strike the tallest object, you. It also gets pretty crowded on some of the peaks during the day because of the tourists try to tie this into their vacation. Quandary Peak, the mountain I took on, is one of the busier ones. It is only a few miles outside of the popular town of Breckenridge, and it is one of the easier mountains to summit, so this is the one that many people take on. I had gotten there at 5:45 in the morning and it was already packed with people. Even though some people might complain about these crowds, it didn’t bother me much because I had just experienced some of the crowds in Europe and they were nothing like the one I had on this day.

The cool thing about the hike is you can see the summit most of the way up. It is not like some of the other peaks where the top hides behind false summits, disappointing you sometimes when you thought you had made it to the top but in reality you still had a ways to go. It also has a pretty well maintained all the way up to the top as opposed to other mountains where the trail disappears to a field of rocks that can add to the challenge because they are not always secured and you might have to dodge a rock rolling down the hill from someone up above you from time to time.

It is also still had small snow fields near the top even though it was the middle of July. I have been told that these snow fields are small this year because it has been a dry year for Colorado, but it was fun to see snow during this time of the year. I have attempted this mountain at a different time of the year, May, and this spot was covered in snow, and I couldn’t summit because I got caught in the middle of a blizzard when I made it to this point in the hike. But this time, the weather was perfect, and I even wished I had worn shorts because I was getting a little hot when I made it to this point of the hike.

The best part of the hike was when I got to the top. I was able to stand on the edge of a precipice and look out over the Rocky Mountains and could even point out the two other 14ers that I had summited the summer before. I got to get to know my hiking partners a little better, had wonderful conversations with other hikers taking on the challenge from other parts of the world, and earned a sense of accomplishment on a day that I would usually have spent trying to figure out a way to get over jet lag.

It is a great way to spend a day in Colorado, and it is one of the things that made this part of my trip around the world great. It is funny that I had to move away before I attempted to reach the top of these mountains, but it is the way of the world. We don’t really appreciate the things we have in the places we live until we no longer have them at our disposal. That is one of the things that this trip is teaching me. Appreciate everything that I can while I am there to appreciate it.