Getting the Jab

Should I fear the future, its coming pain?
I know that it is unavoidable.
I must face the necessary refrain
If I wish to make my life bearable.
Are you willing to make the sacrifice
If it will grant you certain liberties?
A night time of discomfort is the price
To break apart the year’s eternal freeze.
This may not really sell you on this shot,
To do a deed that’s so amicable.
You will find that the horror that you fraught
Should not be deemed being so terrible.
You can think of it as your civic duty
To the American society.

Saying Goodbye

It is hard to believe that a short two months ago, I sat at the Bangkok airport with all of my bags packed, getting ready to head back to the United States for the first time in two years. As for most people around the world, it had been an interesting two years, and I was excited to get back to see the people I loved. It was going to be a little different from other trips back home because the threat of the pandemic loomed large over everything everybody did, and I was also going to go through the process of moving to a new country at the same time.

Despite all of this fear that was plaguing the world, there was still hope. A vaccine had become available and people were starting to take off their masks to get life back to normal. We were a little worried when we first started looking at coming back that we would have a hard time finding a shot, but by the time we landed in Portland, Oregon, there was enough vaccine in the United States to where we could walk into a local Target and get a vaccine without an appointment. We also were able to leave Thailand just in time. The numbers have skyrocketed in that country for the first time ever with the latest numbers showing over 17,000 new cases just the other day, and it does not look like it is going to slow down anytime soon. I feel for all of the people I left behind in that country, and I worry about them as they struggle through another school year. I hope that they can get things under control soon, and find a place where they can start easing up the restrictions that I got to enjoy while I was living out there.

As I went through my stuff in storage, my sights switched over to Jordan to see how they were handling this crisis. The numbers there a lot lower, but there has been a new creep up that I will keep an eye on. I also look at those numbers for overall vaccination, and though Jordan is not in a place where America is at, they still steadily move in the right direction. It gives me hope for the next year that it will be closer to a normal school year as opposed to the last two, and I will also be going on a new adventure in a new country at the same time.

The summer was still a great time to catch up with friends and family, and meet new characters along the way. I always find myself falling into that comfortability that it means being an American in America. The old relationships feel like we pick them up right where we left them off, and the conveniences that we have come to crave while away are once again taken for granted.

But we were able to discover some new ways that America has evolved as well. I remember being excited about the movie, Chef, right before we started our overseas adventures, but thinking that the land of food trucks that it described was a little taken out of context. There might have been a couple of places where these existed, but there seemed to be more of them during our return visit. It almost seemed that this was the preferred way of dining out, but summertime and Covid might have had something to do with it as well.

That didn’t stop me from searching out the more traditional way of eating out. Of course, I hit my fair share of Mexican restaurants while in Colorado because I needed to get as much green chili as I could. This is my favorite of all food groups, and everybody I meet who has ever eaten green chili understands my love for it, yet I am still confused as to why it can still only be found in three of the four states connected with the four corners region. It makes coming home that much better because I get to have this food again. I still do not believe that I got enough on this trip out, but I still enjoyed what I had.

I also love being able to see the beauty of America every time I am home as well. I am really lucky to be associated with what I consider to be two of the more beautiful states, Oregon and Colorado. I love seeing the mountains and forests that both of these places have to offer. Though I have seen some beautiful and amazing sights all over the world, my heart always returns to the mountains and I don’t think of any place better than these two for me to connect back with them. I was able to spend a good amount of time in them in Oregon, and I wish I would have ventured beyond the foothills during my stay in Colorado.

I was still able to make it outside quite a bit and enjoy the majesty that is Colorado. Whether it was taking long walks in many of the green spaces that can be found in many of Colorado’s neighborhood, or going out to Chatfield Reservoir, I was able to spend a lot of time outside. This is not something that is as enjoyable in a more tropical climate, and there are times of the year where Colorado is better spent indoors, but I was out here during the summertime and this is the perfect time to be outside there.

I was even lucky enough to experience some of the wildlife during my trip. During the last couple of years, I had run into what many would consider exotic animals, with Thailand filled with many types of monkeys, tropical birds, and a variety of reptiles, and snakes. But this is only a matter of perspective. From the other side of the world, a herd of deer or elk is just as exotic as a monitor lizard is to the people of America. Being deprived of this view for so long has made it exciting once again, and I enjoyed it every time I came across the usual herds of animals that I grew up with.

Not everything ended up in taking me to the great outdoors. There were a couple of stops that showed me other great things that America had to offer, and they were not always Target stores. The greatest had to be the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs. It was nice to get out to museums once again, and though I had to spend my time in there wearing a mask, I have been doing it so much lately that it no longer bugs me. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon and a great way of celebrating the Olympics this year.

It has been great to get back to America, especially after two years away, but nobody can spend their whole life in rest and relaxation. Like an international school teacher under normal circumstances, I have to get back to the country where my work is, and I am complicating the process by changing schools and countries to Amman, Jordan. So I have packed up my bags, eaten those last meals, and given those last hugs to family and friends, and I have headed off the airport. I am confident that the world is moving in the right direction, and I will not be forced to stay away for as long this time around. So as I head off to a brand new adventure, I say goodbye to America, and guarantee I will be back soon.

A Small Business Story

Covid was hard for the little man. They did not have the resources or the established name to make it through this difficult time. It was even harder for those small restaurants and microbreweries that could not compete with the ones that have a corporate office and can continue to pump money into an establishment in order to keep it alive during this period when hanging out at a place like this is not safe and cannot happen. There are many empty buildings that highlight all of the businesses that did not make it through this period, but it is nice to see the smaller businesses that did make it through. These were the places that were meant to be because they had a product that could withstand the tribulations of this trial. One of these places hangs out on the corner of Prince and Littleton is downtown Littleton called Jackass Hill Brewery.

Now before I tell this story, I do think that it is important for me to explain that part of the reason I have come to this place is because my father’s cousin (which I think makes him my first cousin one time removed, but this is where things get confusing so do not hold me to that definition) is part owner of this establishment. I know that makes it sound like I have a say in trying to help him make it successful and I have written about this microbrewery before, but in full disclosure, I have not been able to come back for two years because I have been living abroad. I did not write about it during the time when it needed it most and it could have helped them make it through the pandemic. This is a story about how they survived the pandemic, and why they are still where they are today.

The last time I visited Jackass Hill Brewery was right before I left for Thailand, and they had been open for only a couple of weeks. They already had an established name from the brewer selling his beer out of his house on top of Jackass Hill, a famous stretch of road that connects Prince Street to Mineral Avenue in Littleton, but this was more of a public announcement of the great beer he was making. It isn’t that big of a place, as it has a bar inside with a couple of tables, and it spills out into the parking lot outside where they have a bunch of picnic tables. They don’t bottle their beer, but you can come out and get a growler filled. They also don’t have a real kitchen. When I went there first, they rented out another part of the parking lot to food trucks, but have since bought their own food truck where you can buy ten different items on a very select menu. The focus of the place is and always will be the beer, which, by the way, from the perspective of a long time beer snob is very good. They have a great Last Man Standing IPA, and fulfilling espresso porter.

It was a great model for a business as long as people kept walking through the door. It took a little bit of time for them to create a name for themselves, but they were able to do it in the first six months and were getting ready to become a steady presence in downtown Littleton.

And then Covid hit.

Businesses had to close down to keep people safe. Restaurants were allowed to sell food to go, and for a brief hour early into the pandemic, people made a mad rush to their liquor stores to buy a supply of drinks when the governor declared that liquor was not an essential services. Luckily that did not last long. It might have had something to do with the panic the announcement caused.

This allowed Jackass Hill Brewery to survive. People could run in and get a growler or two of beer. I don’t think they were able to sell the food, and to get by on only beer made things difficult, but they were able to sell enough of it to say that they had survived the pandemic and they are still around today. But it really came down to the customers that kept them around. They made the effort to make sure that the company survived. They could have gone to their local liquor store to buy their beer. There is not shortage of craft beer at the liquor and grocery stores in Colorado, so it meant something more that these people would continue to come to Jackass Hill Brewery to keep that around. It wasn’t just the beer that they loved. It was the atmosphere of the establishment that they wanted to see at the other side of this dark tunnel we have all traveled through. They wanted this small business to survive, and they are the ones that kept it open.

These are the kinds of stories I have been enjoying during my stay in the United States. It is nice to know that the quality small companies out there had a strong enough product that they were able to have those loyal customers come back to keep them around. I am glad that Americans decided to spend their money here instead of the big corporations that would survive no matter what happened. There is a passion in those small business’s product that you will not find in those bigger organizations, and this is what America needs right now, that passion.

You might not live close to Jackass Hill Brewery, but you know organizations like it. So go out and find your Jackass Hill Brewery and give them the business that they need so we can continue to let the heart and soul of America surivive.

Where Are My Soldiers?

It was only a matter of time before I started to ease out among the people again. I had gone two weeks after receiving my first shot and I needed to get a couple of errands done before I got my second one, so I drove down to Bend to get them done. This is when culture shock hit me.

Culture shock happens doesn’t only happen when traveling to a new country, but also happens to a lot of ex-pats who come back to the country after an extended stay in another part of the world. It has happened to me every time I have come back to the United States after a year abroad, and I always tend to forget about it until I am in a situation where it smacks me in the face. It was even more pronounced this time around, not only because I had been away for two years, but during those two years, there have been a lot of changes in America’s culture and attitude that I was not expecting.

Some of it I was more normal, such as the over friendly attitude from cashiers. Coming from Asia where there is usually a line of people waiting to check out, even during the pandemic months. The cashiers just want to get through them as quickly as they can because they know that another person will extend the line in only a matter of moments. There is no mindless chit-chat, just a total due and them moving on of the customer. In America, a lot of cashiers believe they need to talk about your purchases in order to make you feel happy that you are making them. It slows down the process which is a little maddening, but it also makes you have to have that conversation that you are not really ready to have. It has been a long time since I have had to have those conversations, and I am a little out of practice.

These things are minor compared to the larger change I witnessed outside of a grocery store in Bend. To understand this moment better, it helps to know that Bend is traditionally a laid back town, but has been growing over the last twenty years. A lot of the people who have lived there for a long time are not happy about this change. It has brought a lot of money into town, rose prices with housing, and has changed the landscape of usually a beautiful part of Oregon. If it continues to grow the way it is right now, Bend will become one of the bigger cities in Oregon and start to swallow up some of the smaller towns around it. With all of that money and growth, it has started to bring the work force with it to support all of this change.

The biggest one I noticed was the southern twang in the accents of a few people walking around. It is out of place in this part of the country, but from what I understand, it is more common that I would suspect. I know that I should not be shocked by this, but when I have gone two years without hearing an accent like that, and then to find it in Central Oregon, not once, or twice, but a few times, made me take notice.

The moment that really stood out for me was when walking by the front door of the Food4Less where I came across one of these accents. It came from a man clearly mumbling to himself who did not see that I was right behind him. He was angry about an altercation that he had just gone through, and based on his appearance and the recent news stories, I could only guess what it might have been. He wore the leathery skin of a person who spent a lot of their time outside whether by choice or not, I could not tell. He did not wear a mask, even though he had just come out of a grocery store that had a sign declaring that masks were necessary in order to enter it. And I couldn’t tell if his wife-beater could hide a firearm, but I am sure he had figured out a way to make sure he was protected.

His mumbling is what highlighted his attitude towards his recent treatment. “They can’t do that to me. I will show them, but I need your help. Where are my soldiers?”

This is when he noticed that I was behind him. I had already started to pick up my pace, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out what he was really angry about. I am sure that it was nothing too crazy, but the news reports being exported out of the country, and the fact that I had not been around people so outspoken for such a long time, it made me experience that feeling of culture shock. It is something that people who lived through the pandemic from the American point of view might not notice. It was a subtle uphill climb to the point of where the country is right now, so they probably did notice the change. But for somebody who has been away for the last two years, and only in the country for short periods of time while the uphill climb was happening, it is quite the slap in the face when I come across it. I am sure that I will make more of an adjustment as I am able to get out more, but it made for an interesting night the first time I made that attempt since I have been back.

The End of Quarantine

As the United States edges closer to the 4th of July, and the Joe Biden goal of having 70% of Americans vaccinated by then, certain states are opening up again, and people are taking advantage of this fact by leaving their homes. I am one of those people who are excited to get out of their homes and be a part of society again, but for the time being, the state I am in has not yet reached its goal and it has not opened up yet. It might take awhile too. According to Our World in Data at the time of writing this, only 50.4% of Oregonians have been fully vaccinated with 57.1% of them receiving one dose. It is behind that magic number for herd immunity, but there is hope as the number of cases continues on a downhill trend even with the threat of the Delta variant creeping into the count in many places in the United States.

With all of this going on, I have reached the two week mark of arriving in the United States. And I know that there was not a hard rule in the United States about what incoming people to the United States should do with quarantine, but that did not stop me from doing a self-imposed quarantine. Why? Well, because it was the right thing to do. Granted, if you have been reading this blog lately, you know that it wasn’t a very strict quarantine where I stayed inside all of the time. I did go for a daily walk, but I was in a good position where I did not need to be around anybody on these walks, and I was never in close contact with anybody. The only time I have been inside with a group of people was when I got off the plane as I went into a local Target to get my first dose of the Pfizer vaccination. I think I did a pretty good job of making sure that if I brought the disease into the United States, I did not give it to anybody else and caused this pandemic to ravage on further in this country.

But I think that is part of the problem with the United States. There are some policies that if they had made a little different, it might have stopped the spread of this disease from being so bad, and with the recent push to get vaccinated, more of the country might have been open right now. I know a lot of people would claim that hindsight is 20/20 and if we had only done this, that, and the other thing than things would have been better, but how could we have known to do these things. All you have to do is look at what other countries did to know that there could have been ways of lessening this impact.

First off is to look at who was being let into the country. The borders should have been locked down, and people should not have been allowed to come and go. Many countries locked down their borders, such as New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan. All of these place had their first initial jump, but as soon as they got that under control everything flatlined. The only place that had another jump was Taiwan, and it happened around the same time that they opened up their borders for travelers again.

Looking at my three examples show that they all have something in common. They are all island countries, except for Singapore but it is close enough to being one, and it would be easy to lock down these countries. What about the ones with border butting up to other countries. If you look at Vietnam, it closed its border early in the pandemic, and has it very difficult for anybody to enter that country. For the most, they have done a very good job of keeping this pandemic under control until recently. The numbers have gone up for them, and it is probably due to the fact that they can’t control every inch of the border allowing a case or two to slip through, and any time this happens, the rate of infection will go up. It is still at a manageable rate though. If looking at a longer border, Canada would be a better example. They have been very strict about who can come in or out of the country, and even though they have had a lot more cases than these other countries, they have all been at a very manageable rate, and the impact this disease has had on this country is minimal.

All of this brings up the question of quarantine, and how other countries handle this issue that helps to minimize the problems of Covid-19. The United States does not have a policy. They do not even really screen people who come off of planes to make sure they do not have the possibility of carrying the disease. It is a free as you will kind of attitude as soon as you get off of that plane. Of course, they pull over the random individual to check to see if they have the disease to say that they are doing some form of testing, but this screams the same type of racial profiling that can be seen in their prevention of terrorism on planes. The sad reality is that this disease does not pick a certain race or nationality to attach itself to, and anybody can get the disease. It will slow things down, but everybody needs to be tested and quarantined.

It was a night and day experience when we flew into Doha, Qatar for the first leg of our flight as opposed to Seattle. Before getting off the flight in Doha, all of the screens froze, not matter where you were in the movie you were watching, and an informational video going through the steps of how to quarantine, and how to help those that you might be quarantining. It went through where to place the person, how to sanitize objects they might have used, proper glove and mask use, and cleaning procedures. It even designated which bus you would take to get to your quarantine location, whether that was a national or a visitor. The contact that a person was allowed to make with people when they got off the plane was non-existent. Qatar was making sure nobody brought this disease into their country.

The quarantine time was two weeks for people flying into Qatar, and this is the typical quarantine period for most countries. Some countries, such as South Korea and Qatar allow people to stay in their own homes if they live in the country, but a lot of other countries have required people to stay in a quarantine hotel which they pay for. This is the case for Thailand, the country we just came from, and I do believe that they are exploiting people a little bit, but it is a way for them to keep their economy running. A person can chose on what level of hotel they would like to stay in, based on how much they are willing to pay, with the more expensive one providing certain amenities and better food.

Vietnam is taking this to the extreme. They are so worried about an outbreak that they are requiring people to stay in a quarantine hotel for three weeks on arrival which they have to pay for, before moving on to their own homes for two additional weeks. I know there have been a couple of cases of people getting out of quarantine and then testing positive for Covid, but they are rare, and a five week quarantine period that would cost a couple $10,000 to go through seems a little excessive.

But all of these things would not be necessary as much anymore if the government can get people to participate in the third most important thing, getting vaccinated. This is the one thing that will allow us to get over this pandemic, and the faster that the country can get to herd immunity, the faster we can return to a more comfortable lifestyle. Certain countries are already bypassing the quarantine period for people coming into the country if they can prove they have been vaccinated, such as my next stop, Jordan. And there are a lot of countries that are working hard to get as many people vaccinated this summer so they can open up schools and business at an introductory level in the fall.

This is where the United States is driving me crazy. People are looking for an excuse not to get vaccinated and complaining about the restrictions at the same time. Yes, there were a couple of missteps when it was first rolled out almost seven months ago, and there were some legitimate concerns, but we are long enough through the process to indicate that those concerns have been addressed. The people who have been arriving at the hospitals with severe cases of Covid all have one thing in common, they have not been vaccinated. I also find that these are the people who are the most vocal about opening up the country again. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have the country open, and not have a protected population at the same time.

The vaccine is available to anybody living in the United States right now, and it just sits on the shelf waiting for people to come by and get their shot. America is the only place in the world that has this problem. Where I came from just a couple short weeks earlier, the people there would do anything to get vaccinated, and return to a lifestyle consistent with what it used to be like before all this started. I stayed in my home for two months waiting for that moment that I could get back to the United States so I could receive the vaccine and be able to breathe a little easier. I am not quite there yet. I still have one more shot left to receive, but I am happy about being able to return to society safely and responsibly, and I hope in the coming weeks, more American take that plunge. This way, more people around the world will be able to get vaccinated, and life can return to one where we don’t have to think about quarantine or the shutting of borders.

Where to Quarantine

I can already hear people screaming just from the title of this post. Yes, I know that the pandemic situation is getting better with each person that has been vaccinated. Yes, I have gotten the shot myself and I am over the two week period after the first dose, so I should be at little risk for getting this deadly disease. Then why am I still quarantining?

Well, I still can carry the disease and give it to somebody else. I did just get off a long 26 hour flight less than ten days ago from the other side of the globe where the inflection rate was on a steep incline instead of a decline like in the United States. Yes, I did have to prove that I was Covid free before I got on that flight, but I did travel through some extremely busy airports, and just because I got one negative test, it does not mean that I would a day or two later. This also includes all of those people that I came into contact with. The bottom line is if I want to do the responsible thing, I should avoid contact with people.

This brings me to the location where I am spending those two weeks. I do believe that this is important, especially for the sanity of an individual. Being stuck in a small hotel room with another person, no matter how much you love them, would drive anybody crazy, and would push any relationship to its limits. Spending it alone in a room might even be worse, and one of the loneliest experiences that a person would have to go through. Now, I do have a lot of friends that live in various places around the world, and they are not given the option of where to stay for their quarantine. The friends I have in Vietnam probably have it the worst right now. Quarantine there is a three week affair in a government sponsored hotel, followed by a two week stint in your own place where you are closely monitored. Whereas, in the United States, it is a suggestion that I am pretty sure most people getting off a plane from another country just ignore. Now, I can’t be sure, but the numbers that the United States has gone through indicate a more relaxed policy to this global problem.

But if you are flying into the United States from a foreign country this summer, and would like to do the responsible thing, I would like to make a couple of suggestions to insure that you are not spreading this disease further while making this time as comfortable as possible.

First, try to find a place in a more rural setting. The United States is known for its wide open space, especially the further west you go. This will mean less population of people, and less contact with crowds. Granted, you should spend most of your time in the place you have chosen to quarantine in, but if you are in this rural place, you can go out for walks every once in awhile and enjoy a little time away from that place. If you pick a place with a lovely setting, it will make those walks even more pleasant, and you won’t go crazy watching the same scene play out through your window.

Second, try to stay with a pet of some kind. I would suggest a dog, but I know that there are enough cat people out there, and if that is what you prefer, go for it. I know that this is not always a possibility, but the world changes when you have this added roommate. Dogs and cats are both a wealth of entertainment when you spend some time with them. They always want to spend time with you, and will show how much they want to by doing some of the silliest and more memorable things. If you don’t believe me, go to YouTube and watch the cat and dog videos you will find there, and it will be hours of entertainment. But there is something better than YouTube or television, and that is having this source of entertainment in your own home.

Third, and this one is a must, stock your place with healthy food and snacks. I know I have been guilty of this during quarantine, but I always want to stuff my face with a snack. It seems like this is way to make the time go by quickly, but all it does is waste time eating stuff that makes you feel wiped out and tired. If you do not have all of this junk food around, you will not eat it, and you will look for a healthier alternative. You will feel better if you eat healthier, and you won’t come out of quarantine five pounds heavier.

Four, get some exercise. This goes hand in hand with the previous one. A body in motion wants to stay in motion; whereas, one slouched down on a couch with nothing more than an iPad to stare at all day will try to find something else on that iPad to swipe through. I know that some quarantines do not allow for you to get out of the house and exercise because you find yourself in a place with a greater population, but that does not mean that you can’t find a way to make it work inside. I had a friend in Korea that did two mile hikes by circling around their little apartment. It allowed them the time away from their devices and they felt better at the end of the experience. If you are in that rural area, those walks or runs will become the most exciting part of the day, and will give you something to look forward to.

Five, put the electronic devices down for a good portion of the day. I know that this is hard to do in modern times. Those electronic devices hold an endless chest of entertainment, but there are numerous studies that show that looking at a screen that long during the day is not good for you, or your sleep patterns. Find something that allows you to turn it off and be more interactive with those that you are stuck in quarantine with. Play a card game or if available, a board game. Have a conversation. Open up a book and read it. Just make sure you stay away from that device for some time every day.

For the most part, nobody wants to stay in quarantine, and I know that the United States does not require it if you are flying in from a foreign country. But it is the right thing to do, and can be a mild inconvenience if you plan for it and work through it with a positive attitude. It is only two weeks of your life, and it allows the rest of the country function at normal without having to worry about having a lockdown for everybody. The most important thing to do though is get vaccinated. It is the one thing that will allow us to put all of this insanity behind us and go back to living a normal life. The most important rule to live by is do what is right, and together we will get all of this behind us.

The Best Benefit of Zoom

It was about a month ago when my school in Bangkok made the call to remain on-line for the rest of the year. They debated whether this was what they were going to do or not for a long time even though most of us already knew that this was going to happen. The number of cases in the country were on the rise, and things were slowly closing up. We could not understand why the government would close up all of these businesses but then turn around and demand that the school open up again. Even if they did open up again it would only be for the last week, and what would we be able to accomplish during that last week of school. It was pretty obvious that staying on-line for the rest of the year was inevitable.

But looking at it from the school’s perspective, I can see why they held on so long to not telling anybody that this was going to happen. As soon as they made the announcement, teachers in all three levels changed their flights to earlier, and every weekend, there was another batch of friends we were saying goodbye to as they made their way back to America. We even pushed up our return date up by eleven days. We would have made it earlier, but there was still a lot of little things we needed to take care of before we could leave, and it caused us to stick around longer than usual. The school was going to have a hard time making sure that everybody did the work that they needed to do when they now worked in various nooks and crannies all over the planet. And there was the added disadvantage of some teachers missing a day or two from school as they made their long commute back to their home countries.

Despite these concerns, I think, from my perspective, there was a minimal impact to the everyday business of the school as the teacher slowly filtered out of the country. All of this was because of Zoom. Classes could still take place the way they normally had for the last couple of months because teachers could log on from anywhere in the world and teach from there. It allowed for these people to get to places where they have not been for a couple of years and see loved ones again while still doing their work.

I am glad for it. My departure from Bangkok was welcomed and I have loved being back in the United States. Not only have I gotten vaccinated, but I have been able to reconnect with loved ones. I am also lucky to have landed on the west coast so the time difference is not ridiculous and it is helping me get over jet lag. Tonight will be the first night of teaching online, and it is really more about finishing up the school year rather than teaching. Thank you Zoom for making this opportunity possible. Not that I think teaching on-line is a good thing, but it is the best option for the way the world is right now. I will take it, and the extra time I have in America this summer. Every moment back with here is precious, and I now realize how much I missed it now that I am back.

Now all I have to do is just one more week of work and then I can really unwind for a well deserved break. For all of those teachers who had to teach their lessons over Zoom this year, I hope you enjoy your break, and next year, you can return to the better way of teaching. I know it might have pushed your sanity a little bit, but at least because of Zoom, life has been able to go on, and we should be thankful for that small benefit.

What Are You Going to do Next?

“You have jumped through thousands of hoops and flown for over 26 hours to finally arrive back in America after being stuck in a foreign country for two years; what are you going to do next?”

“I going to go to the CVS at the closest Target in order to get vaccinated.”

“Wait, you’re not going to one of the world’s most famous amusement parks?”

“Do they have vaccines there?”

“Well, no, but they have a lot of other exciting stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Long lines to really short rides.”

“Anything else?”

“Overpriced food, and cheap trinkets for sale.”

“Something more substantial.”

“Thousands of maskless tourists waiting to be your friend in the shared experience.”

“How about something more topical?”

“A heightened chance to catch the world’s most deadly disease.”

“And what do you call this place?”

“The happiest place on Earth! Can you think of any place happier?”

“Yes, the CVS at the closest Target where, if we all go to vaccinated for free, we can get back to a normal life. There is nothing happier than that.”

Vaccination Tourism

It does not take much observation to notice that the world is still frozen in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Walking into any business, you will see people socially distancing, and wearing masks to protect themselves from getting this deadly disease. There has been some hope lately with the release of the vaccines this year, and some countries are starting to see things opening up again because a good amount of their populations have been getting the vaccine. There are a lot of countries though where people are fighting to get the vaccines any way that they can.

Thailand is a great example of this. The first waves of this deadly disease did not affect the country much, and though there had to be some adjustments made to life, most people continued to live their lives the way they normally did except they would wearing that protective piece of cloth over their face when out in public. The government knew that relief would eventually come around, and they were playing a game to be able to make the most out of the opportunity that they could when it came around. They waited a little too long though and while other countries were vaccinating their citizens, they were still sitting on their hands.

This is when the second wave came around and really hit Thailand hard. Something that many of the people there took for granted became a really big problem that they were not prepared to handle. As the second lockdown started to stretch on and people watched as other countries started to open up, the desire to get vaccinated grew in this country, and people would do anything if they could get a shot.

Some people started turning to one of the places that had been ignored over the last couple of years, the airports. If their country could not do for them what needed to happen, they would turn their vision to other countries. They would take a plane ride to the United States to get vaccinated there.

It is not as easy as it sounds though. The airports are deserted right now for a reason. I just recently flew out of Bangkok and I got to see this first hand. The main reason for this can be seen at the departure board. A quick glance of what is going out of the country indicates that there are only ten international flights a day. With the numbers surging in Bangkok, and other countries struggling to vaccinate their populations, Thailand has become a red spot that makes it hard to prove that you are safe to fly to another country. In order for us to fly out, we had to obtain doctor’s notes saying that we were Covid free for the last 72 hours. We had to then go through the usual Thai bureaucracy before we could get to the gate. It took us almost three hours to do this in a place where there were no crowds.

The options of where to go were minimal as well. We ended up having to fly through Doha, Qatar and taking 26 hours in the air to finally arrive in Portland, Oregon. It was a very long day, and a very long time to wear that mask without it getting too annoying. But we made it, and there were a lot of the same conversations that were overheard along the way. The United States has become a new tourist destination for a reason that not many would suspect. They have an overabundance of vaccines and not enough people are snatching up the opportunity to get one. If somebody wants to get vaccinated, the United States is where to do it.

I don’t know if a country wants to build its tourism reputation on this kind of focus, but it is interesting to see how the focus of America has shifted so quickly. During the height of this pandemic, America was the last place that anybody wanted to go to, and now because of its excess of medicine, it is the place where everybody wants to come to. There is some danger to this. If these people keep showing up, even with the strict restrictions applied to international flying, there is still a possibility that some people who have been inflected with slip through and start the pandemic up again in the United States. But at the same time, a lot of money from around the world could give a booster shot that the economy needs right now, getting the U.S. back to the place it was four years earlier. But if we let the pandemic rampage again then we will just go right back to closing down the economy again to keep people safe. It is one of those conundrums that would take a month to take apart.

The bottom line comes to the fact that the more people that gets vaccinated around this world, the faster we gain control over this virus. So if people all across the world believe that they should continue to come to America to get vaccinated, I guess I am for it. It will allow me to get back to one of the things that I love to do the most, travel the world, and experience various cultures. So I say if nobody in this country wants to get vaccinated, and you have the opportunity to get out here to get the shot because they country you live in has not gotten its act together yet, then come on out. We will be happy to see you, and get the world back to normal.

Waiting for Transit

The other day, one of my students asked me what I did while they were writing their journal in class. They could see me walking around the room that has been my virtual classroom over the past couple of months, and I didn’t think that they were paying attention to me when they should have been doing their work. But it was true. I was not in my seat, and I was walking over to the window in my room to stare at the world as it continued to move. I was in a holding pattern, waiting for my chance to join the world again.

There wasn’t a lot that I could do besides wait. My school had announced a month ago that we would be staying online for the remainder of the year, and this meant that we could head back to our respective countries as long as we still tuned into our Zoom classrooms at the same time no matter where we were. My colleagues started to disappear. Everyday there would be another mention of a new one that had caught their plane out of the country, and we were left with less and less people. My wife and I had a date scheduled, but there was a lot of little things to do to get ready to get on that plane. We had to sell of our stuff, have our checkout on campus, clean up our house, and take care of so much paperwork.

The one that hung over our heads the most was the Covid test. International airlines will not let people board their planes if they do not have proof from the last 72 hours that they are Covid free. I get it. Nobody wants to be responsible for keeping this pandemic going, but it is nerve wracking knowing that this will come, and having to stay away from everybody in the meantime so we are not accidentally exposed to this disease. It caused the usual stress of moving from a country to another to amp up even more and made the eventual date of departure seem so surreal dream that we would never reach.

So we broke up the monotony of our mundane existence with walks around the neighborhood, and the occasional meal being delivered to our home. The rest of the time was in waiting as we slowly chipped away at our to do list, and it felt like the day would never come.

Finally, all of our bags were packed and we went off to the hospital to get our Covid test done. All we had left to do was wait for the results, get a cab to the airport and be off. Thoughts ran through my mind about what would happen if I received a positive result on my test, and could not fathom how all of this work would be put on hold for a couple more weeks while overcame the disease. But then the results came in, and it gave me the go ahead to finally be on our way.

It had been the most welcoming news to have had the last couple of days, and now all I need to do is load up my bags and head off to the airport. I am finally going to get to come home after these couple of years being stuck in Thailand because of Covid. I am excited to be out of here soon, and I can’t wait to see my family and friends again, and most importantly, get the vaccine that seems only available in the United States right now.

So get ready America, I’m coming back home, and I’ll be there soon.