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.

The Mud Dance

It is time to go and play in the mud,
Lathering it all over your body.
It will help you pump out all the bad blood,
And take your living, that has been shoddy,
To allow for it to feel young again.
Getting sloppy is not only for kids,
So do not allow pretention to win,
And do as the wallowing custom bids.
If it’s too much, look to the salty sea,
And let the warm waters wash away clean
The grime of the day, leaving you pretty,
Ready to return to the adult scene.
You don’t know when you’ll get another chance
To lose yourself in another mud dance.

Salt

If I were living in the Dark Ages,
Where my feet tread would be worth a fortune.
The spice that’s collected here in stages
Would have been mined from the base of this dune.
What could be carried away in a sack
Would be stored away in someone’s attic,
And when a little flavor they did lack,
A tiny pinch from their stash, they would pick.
But it did not work well for currency
Because it would diminish when they ate,
Then they would have to go back to the sea,
So they could buy more morsels for their plate.
You cannot give them grief for this small fault,
For life is better with a little salt.

The Dead Sea, Jordan – The Salt Flats

There is a certain kind of beauty in Jordan that I did not expect. Once I finally got out of the city and started to explore what the country had to offer, I was shocked to find this vast expanse of desolate isolation that many would consider stark, but it holds something to it that I don’t think you can find anywhere else on earth. I do believe that this is the reason why so many movies make this the location for their filming because it makes the setting a character all its own, and Jordan’s landscape is definitely a character.

The Dead Sea adds so much to this character, and the more I learn about it, the more interesting it becomes. It has been basically retreating over the last century, and it is not near the same levels that it once was at. Much of this is due to the fact that water is taken out of the Jordan River to cultivate agriculture in both Jordan and Israel, and because of this, there is not as much water left for this huge body of water situated so far below sea level. If you look closely, you can see the scars in the rocks that has been left behind because of this retreat which present a new sense of history that I have never considered before.

But on the shore of this location there is another sight that is even more impressive than the scars in the rocks, the collection of the salt on the shores of the sea. The simplest of spices clings to anything that it can find and creates a bizarre grouping of waves that never will move, even if the water laps up against it.

It will take the forgotten branches of trees and turn them into a piece of art that only nature could create. There is a beach on the Dead Sea that is covered with sights like this one, and it makes for one of the most interesting day trips I have ever taken. It was only a fifteen minute drive from the collection of resorts that most people stay at when they come down here, and just a little south past the entrance to Wadi Mujib.

We went down on a Sunday when everybody was back at work, and there were only a couple of other cars there, and only one other couple that we came across while we were exploring the flats. It is easy to miss too, but it was free to go explore, and I am so glad that we did.

Every turn we made gave s a new view of spectacular natural structures that made we want to spend the whole day exploring the beach. I would recommend going down early in the morning because it can get hot during the day, and it does bring out the flies, but it is still fun to explore in this kind of heat.

It just made me fall even more in love with Jordan, and made me realize that this might be one of those hidden gems that not many people know about. I am glad that I have gotten to explore it, and can’t wait to see what other amazing sights I will come across while I am living out here.

The Dead Sea, Jordan

For my first trip to explore my new home country, Jordan, I decided on a must do, the Dead Sea. It was not high on my list, and I will be honest with you, I was a little scared about getting in the water. There are numerous stories about people who have dunked their heads under the salty water, or have it squirm its way into somebody’s forgotten cut, and then having to deal with that discomfort for the rest of the day. I have had several mosquito bites that have been healing, and I didn’t not want to literally pour salt into that wound.

But the salty shores are one of those things you have to experience while you are out here, and considering I won a free night at one of the hotels by the Dead Sea through a raffle at my new school, I figured this would be the perfect time to go and check it out.

First, it is quite the descent from the high elevation of Amman. The whole trip down was literally down the mountain from 1000 meters all the way to 400 meters below sea level. My ancient Mitsubishi Lancer did a great job going down, but I am worried if the two cylinder car will be able to make it back up that hill when it is time to go back home. It is something that I can’t worry about right now. Instead, I had to make the most of my time at the lowest point of land on the Earth.

The water has a very high buoyancy level. I have heard about how it is impossible to sink in it because of the level of salt that is found in the water, and there is a lot of truth to that claim. All I had to do was raise my feet off of the floor, and they floated to the top of the water on their own, and I was able to relax as if I was on one of those six feet floaties that people put into pools so they can stay dry and still read their books.

The water wasn’t that bad either. It was really warm, and though my cuts did ache a little bit, it wasn’t the excruciating pain that I thought I would have experienced. There is a little bit of a routine that you are supposed to participate in to make the most out of the experience. First, I hopped into the water to become accustomed to it. When I got out, I quickly rinsed off, and then lathered up with mud that they kept in huge stone vessels on the beach. It is supposed to be good for your skin. Some people covered themselves from head to toe, but I went for a more sparse amount, only covering my limbs and my chest. I then sat down to let the mud dry before getting back in the water and feeling the exfoliating experience that comes with the combination. Though the mud was a little slimy to put on, it was worth the experience because it felt really good when I got back into the water.

It made for a fun day that I won’t soon forget. It is not everyday that you can get slathered up in mud and float in an ocean without any assistance, and feel great out afterwards. I can easily see why it is one of the places that people make sure they visit when they come out to Jordan, and it has gotten me more excited about what adventures I am going be able to encounter.