I Failed My Test

I just sat down to write this blog post about getting ready to travel back to Jordan and having to get my PCR test done before I made it on to the flight when from upstairs at the house I am staying at, I heard the words I wanted to hear, “You’re negative!” It is a relief to know that I will not have to worry about that aspect of my travels right now. There are many other things I will have to think about as I try to make a couple of connections, and hope that all of the flights continue on the way that they are supposed to, but for right now the first hurdle has been cleared.

Flying across the world has always been a stressful experience because there are so many little factors and if one of them falls apart along the way, it will mess everything up in ways that could make the events a disaster. But now with Covid-19, there have been a few more wrinkles that have been thrown into the plans that add a few more factors that could make things fall apart happen more. Some countries are asking for a negative PCR test 72 hours before boarding a flight, and the United States has upped that by making the PCR test within the last 24 hours. It just means that any trip that I take internationally, I get to take a trip to a PCR testing site to get my test taken to make sure I can return back to the country where I live. I completely understand the reason why, but that does not mean that I will always enjoy the experience.

I had to actually go out twice to make sure that I had gotten my results in time. The new omicron variant complicated things as well. Because of the rise of Covid-19 right now, there are many people that are going out to get their tests done. This has created long lines not only at the testing sites, but also adding backing up the places where they processed the tests to get the results back to the people who took the test in the first place. I could also not just show up at a place to get a test done. I had to schedule an appointment and still sit in long lines before I was able to get a swab stuck up my nose. Luckily, my wife scheduled two appointments, one at a place that would get the results back in 72 hours, and rapid results place. Both of them were difficult to schedule, and we were lucky to have them.

I did go out on a rainy day two days ago to get my first test done. We were able to sit in our car as we waited to get to the place where we would get our test. This was nice because it was a rainy Oregon day, and I don’t know what that would have been like if I had to sit outside while waiting to get tested. I sat in the line for a couple of hours, and eventually got tested. As of right now, I still have not gotten the results back yet, and the lady that administered the test told us that getting the results back in 72 hours might not happen because of the amount of tests that they had been given recently.

I took my second test a couple of hours ago, and this was a completely different experience. I had to drive to downtown Portland, park the car, and stand outside to wait for my turn to get the test. Luckily, the rain had stopped while we were waiting. I could not imagine someone who was sick right now, standing in that line in order to get tested if it had been raining outside. That could not have been good for them, so I wonder what they do when that happens. This line only took about 45 minutes to get through, but you could only join it if you had an appointment. The lab where they were doing the results was at the site, and they were able to process it quickly. In fact, on the ride home, my wife was given her results. I had to wait a little longer, but it was within a couple of hours of having taken the test.

It was a little bit of an inconvenience to have to do this, but that is the kind of world we live in right now. It is nice to know that I am safe enough to fly and that the people I will be sharing the flight with will also have the same negative results. I also know that it should not be forever, and there will be a day when we can go back to taking a flight the way we always used to without having these extra hoops to jump through. I am glad I made it through that first hoop, and I know I have a few more to get through, but in the end, I should find myself back in the safety of my home with the memory of spending the holidays with family and friends to hold on to.

Work, A Cure for Jet lag

For a world traveler, there are many obstacles that a person can face, losing their passport, language barriers, and cultural misunderstandings, but the one that every traveler will experience and hate to fight through is the dreaded jet lag. Those days of wandering around like a zombie as you try to catch up to the time zone that you find yourself in are the worst. You will find yourself sleeping in the middle of the day, and missing out on the experiences you could be having just because you can’t get your head straight.

Many people have come up with various ways to minimize the impact that jet lag will have on you, such as staying awake the whole way there wile avoiding an stimulants, to having various catnaps to on the trip to try to make the adjustment. You can try taking melatonin right before getting on the plane and crash for the whole flight to feel refreshed, or when you arrive, you could keep yourself busy to trick your mind into thinking that it has been there for its whole life, and quickly fall into that time zones groove. These have varying degrees of success that are different for every person who attempts each strategy. I even find that what worked for me once does not work at all the next time I attempt it. But thanks to Covid, I have come up with a new way to get over jet lag that has actually been very effective every time I have used it as a method, work.

I know, you are calling me crazy. You go traveling to get away from work, and why would you want to bring this with you when you go and see what the world has to offer. But if given this rare chance to battle jet lag in this way, you should try it because it really works.

At the end of last school year, my school was on-line due to the pandemic, and the school announced that it would end the year that way. This gave me the opportunity to leave the country early, and do my work from anywhere in the world where I wanted. I just needed to make sure that I was doing my work in the same time zone that my work was in. Over the weekend, I flew to America, and during the night I spent my time finishing up the school year. I was staying with my in-laws so I had to adjust my clock a bit to finish the day with school instead of starting with it. When the week was over, making the next slip in time was no struggle at all, and it took only a minor adjustment to get over jet lag.

Because of the omicron variant, the school I am working at right now is starting the second semester on-line. It is only a two week adjustment, but it allowed me to extend my stay in the United States. I still have to work this week, and it will take place in the middle of the night, but I am in the process of the same adjustment with time. I worked late last night and slept away most of the morning. Over the weekend, I will make the jump over to Jordan, and when I get there, I will have to hop into that time fame and work right away. I won’t have time to think about jet lag, and I will already have made half of the adjustment this week. I believe that I will be able to get into the groove rather quickly.

It might sound silly, but it is a great way to get over this greatest of inconveniences for any traveler. Of course, this is not something that will be made available at all time because most people are not allowed to continue doing their job from anywhere in the world. But this is one of the small advantages of the Covid pandemic that we are given that chance from time to time. It still involves making some adjustments, but they are smaller and I find that they are easier to get over. I am in the first part of the process right now, and will continue the next step in the following week, but I am expecting the minimal effect from this long travel around the world this time around.

Back to the On-line Grind

I know that the New Year should be greeted with renewed optimism, and excitement for the days ahead. We should be looking at what has come in the past, and how it has allowed us to grow in the future. It is a time of reflection, and adjustment, one that we should look forward to every year.

This was before the advent of Covid-19. The last two year have felt like a decade and it is hard to believe that this world-shattering event hasn’t even reached its second anniversary. We always seem to be able to take a couple of steps forward so we can return to a lifestyle we once knew, but then something else comes into play that reminds us that this pandemic has not ended yet. First, it was the Delta variant over the Summer, and now it is the evil sounding Omicron that is producing numbers the likes of we have never seen since this pandemic began. It has forced us to return to the ways that we were hoping to avoid all along. So 2022 will start with the one thing I have been hoping to avoid all school year, on-line learning.

A recent email from my school stated that when we return to school after the break, we will be going on-line until the 17th. This date may be extended depending on what is happening with the Covid pandemic at the time, and the way it is going, it looks like this is a strong possibility. I know that it is the right thing to do. Schools need to keep their students and staff safe, and we should not be subjected to the chances of people who are not willing to take the necessary precautions to make sure everyone is safe. Schools are also a great breeding ground for the disease. There is not a single a elementary school teacher that can go the whole year without catching some disease from their walking petri-dishes that inhabit their classrooms. And it should not surprise people that high school students can be just as bad. They share food and water bottles without thinking what they are doing and what they are spreading. Many of them complain about having to wear the masks in the first place because it hinders their ability to look good, so it is a constant battle to get them to put them on correctly. With all of these factors, it is no surprising that we are going back on-line, especially as the numbers worldwide spike to more than a million new cases a day.

Still, it is not a great way to start the new year. There are many challenges that come with teaching on-line. Many students are not as engaged in the lessons, and many of them fall further and further behind in their studies. My students this year are significantly behind where they should be because they has spent all of last year on-line, and they are complaining that they are being pushed too hard. It scares me to think what the next generation of people will bring because of this pandemic, and the holes that students are getting in their learning. But the battle must rage on and I need to prepare to push through. I need to make sure that my students get the education that they need to be successful in life and to take the ever increasing challenges that the world will present.

The point being is that if you know any teachers who are going through this, please understand that they are doing their best to give the best education possible. Also remember that students are going through a lot at this time as well, and they need the encouragement to keep moving forward. There are also the parents of these students whose lives have been turned upside down because of this new way of living. They have to give up a lot to make sure that their sons and daughters are being taken care of properly. Give them all the patience that they need as they continue to work their way through this challenging time.

And most importantly, do what you can to bring this pandemic to an end. Avoid large gatherings, wear your mask, and most importantly get vaccinated. They are small things, but if we pull together as a world society we will defeat this ugly beast, and return to a world that is better for everybody involved.

Thank you, and have a Happy New Year.

The Best Posts of 2021

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

#10 – Hindsight

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

#9 – The Dead Sea, Jordan

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

#8 – Rain on a Work Day

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

#7 – A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

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

#6 – Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

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

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

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

#4 – Problems and Possibilities

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

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

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

#2 – The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

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

#1 – Wingspan versus Everdell

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

Honorable Mentions

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

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Never Forget Dachau – Germany

A Toast to the End of the Semester

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Lessons from Angkor Wat

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

The Difference a Year Makes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.