Heat versus Warmth

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

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

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

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

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

Closing the Chapter

I don’t think that anybody is going to disagree with me when I say that the last couple of years have been strange ones. A lot of people had to reimagine what their lives were, and many routines that we lived by had to be thrown away as we tried to figure out a new way to make it work. Teaching was probably one of the biggest fields that really had to rethink the way it did things, and it wasn’t always easy. It definitely tainted the way that people in this career viewed their profession. It was hard to recognize how effective they were being.

Elementary school teachers told tales of students easily distracted and who were more interested in showing off their pets to the rest of class than engaging in the lesson. Middle school teachers also struggled delivering concepts that were verging on being a little more abstract and students being able to follow simple instructions. My experience as a high school teacher showed me a new perspective. I can tell you what the foreheads of all of my students look like, but beyond that I haven’t a clue. I was amazed at the amount of students that could not figure out how to tilt the cameras on their computers so I could see their whole face. Of course, this was a great way to hide what they were really doing, texting their friends, or playing video games. I completely understand why they loved this style of learning because it meant that they didn’t have to do much and then later pretend that the stress of being online all of the time was the reason for their low production.

Of course, I was not much better. There would be many times that I would stare out my window wondering what the outside world had to offer when I should have been doing some work instead. It was really hard to stay motivated in the place I had reserved for relaxation. The lines between work and home blurred, and I am still struggling to separate the two even though last night was my last night of the school year and the last time I would work at this school. I still woke up this morning thinking that I needed to check my email, grade some papers and prepare some lessons, but this was not the case. It will take a few days before I will be able to shed this feeling and see life in a different light.

I did say my final farewell to the school last night after watching the awards ceremony for the high school. It was a little bit of relief, but I will not be able to celebrate until tonight. Because I was working in Oregon at the time, 14 hours ahead of the time of the school in Thailand, it was really late at night and I just wanted to get to bed instead of unwind from the school year. Blowing off a little steam will help me make this adjustment as I say goodbye to the school.

It is something that I have wished to do for about a year now, and my negative attitude towards the school is not necessarily fair. Yes, the school has some problems that will take an uncomfortable couple of years to overcome, and I do not necessarily agree with a lot of its philosophies, I have dumped an undue amount of negativity at the school. Most of this is because I have associated the school with the problems of Covid and teaching online. I don’t think I could be at any school and spend time teaching online and look at the school favorably. It is not an easy thing to do, and I am happy that it is all over. I hope that I will never have to spend time teaching online again.

On the other hand, I do not think I can look past the pain of online teaching when I look at the school. It will always be looked at through that lens. Even during the times I got to spend teaching my students face to face, it was stressful. It gets really tiring to tell students to put on their masks correctly to stop the spread of this deadly disease while other teachers on campus make comments about how the disease is a hoax and masks are useless. It is a noble fight against a losing cause.

Overall, it is a chapter in the book that is my life. I could close that chapter and hope to never revisit again, or I could look at the pain and frustration from this time in my life and learn from the experience. It will always be what it was, but I may look back at my time with this school in Thailand with some fondness. There were always the students, some of my all time favorites in my long career, who worked hard and were so eager to learn. It was the best English department I ever worked for. And most of the time that I lived out there, I did not have to worry about this world wide pandemic in the same way that many other people elsewhere had to. I just need to close that chapter for right now, and prepare for the next one coming up at the end of the summer. It may be an opportunity to put this Covid kind of lifestyle behind us, and look to a future that resembles that happy life we all once lived.

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.

The Last Hurrah!

Now that the end is almost upon us,
We will travel on the road one last time,
And though our work may put up quite the fuss,
I think they will survive losing the dime.
Though there is nothing left for us to see,
We will still go out to see an old sight
Because what is in this moment for me
Is to reminisce for a single night
About my life living in this city,
And how my return may never happen.
I don’t want to remember with pity,
And that’s why I am going out again.
I’ll have to say goodbye to all of ya,
And that’s why I’m taking this last hurrah!

Short Termer’s Disease in Times of Covid

Everybody has been waiting for a change to happen. We all have looking forward to going back to a time where everything was not wrapped up in uncertainty and caution. The times have been awful to live through, nobody doubts that, but at the same time, it has exposed the flaws of many organizations, whether that is the smallest of businesses to the most powerful nations on Earth. It allowed us to ponder whether the place we found ourselves in were the places that were the best for us, or were there other opportunities that would fit us better; thereby, making a big change in our lives the only thing that gave us the feeling that we were in control of our own destiny.

This is what I did. I took the frustration that I had about being stuck in a country far away from home, and the frustration I was having as I started to see the place I work for start to crumble. I was given a new opportunity in a new country with a new school with a strong reputation. I didn’t have to take it, but it felt like a way of escaping the current situation, and getting away from the home I had found myself trapped in during the Covid lock down. When I first took the opportunity, it felt great. Life was exciting again, and I just couldn’t wait to make the change.

But then things got worse in Thailand. Covid became a problem for the first time in the country, and it meant that we were once again regulated to spending our time at home. I was once again teaching online, and I felt like I was no longer the teacher that I knew I could be. Add on to this the frustration of trying to organize a move, preparing for the next school year, and the worst case of homesickness I have ever experienced, then it makes it harder every day to try to push on, and do the job I need to do.

I now know what it feels like to be a senior. They have always driven me crazy at the end of their senior year. They no longer care about doing a good job because they have already received their acceptance to their university, and it feels like the place that they are in is doing nothing more than begging more and more from them while they feel like they do not owe the school anything. They just want to move on, and the school keeps on reminding them that they have to finish their obligations first.

It makes every email I get, and every request I am asked make me want to rant about all of the flaws that I have noticed about the place. It is not fair to the place, but I am having a hard time caring about the school anymore. This is not the first school that I have left, but for some reason, this time it feels completely different. I don’t have that bittersweet feeling of leaving this school behind. That excitement of going out to a new experience, but at the same time, the sadness of leaving the place behind, is just not there.

I put a lot the blame for this feeling on Covid. For the last couple of months, I have done all of my teaching from a tiny box on a Zoom screen. The distance that is created between my students and me is larger than that of our locations all over Thailand. I have watched as one by one each of them have disconnected from the school and their learning to the point where only a couple of them are even trying to engage in class anymore. It annoys me, but at the same time, I get it. What do they have invested in the school that would allow them to remain connected? They are left with just going through the motions with some talking head in the hopes that the pain they are enduring with every passing day will eventually end.

And that is where I am too. It does not help that my school called the school year a couple of weeks ago, and my fellow colleagues rearranged their flights to get out of Thailand and back to their home countries as fast as they could. I have watched as one after another has made their way to the airport with their Covid test in hand and that anticipation of getting back home in their hearts. It has made staying behind that much harder. I need to do it though because there are still a couple of odds and ends that I need to take care of. I keep checking off the boxes and yearning for the day that I can take my cab ride out to the airport, but it is still a couple of weeks away.

Until then I have to sit in my home and look out the same window I have looked out way too many time over the past couple of months and count down the moments until I can leave. It is the true feeling of short timer’s disease, and I can’t wait until it is over.

Work in a Hotel Room

There are advantages to teaching online. I can take care of my classes from any location as long as it is quiet, and they have strong wifi. I am not saying that this is my first option when faced with teaching online, but it does help me get those last minute things done before I leave Thailand without having to take a whole day off to do it. I was faced with one of those situations. I needed to get some paperwork taken care of at the U.S. Embassy, so I went downtown the night before so I could get to my appointment quickly and still take care of my classes for the day.

The only difference with this trip downtown was that I never really left my hotel room. Yes, I went to my appointment at the U.S. Embassy and walked to the corner of the road from the hotel room to pick up some food as it was delivered to me, but otherwise, all of my time was spent staying in that small little room. I really did not want to risk being exposed to Covid as my time in Thailand started to wind down. My whole focus is to make it on to that plane out of the country so I can get back home and see people in the United States that I haven’t seen for two years now.

It might sound like a maddening way to experience downtown Bangkok. Nobody thinks of going to a nice hotel to spend their time inside, doing the same work they would have done from home, but considering everything is closed down right now, and there is nothing to do downtown, I had to look at the opportunity as something completely different.

It is an opportunity to get out of my house, and have a different view. I know the world knows what I am talking about right now. Cabin Fever has been a real thing over the last couple of years due to the way we have been forced to huddle inside waiting for the worst of this event to pass us over. Any opportunity that we have to look at a new landscape out of our windows will be a welcomed one. We also edge closer and closer to opening up again completely, and it is nice to know that there is light at the end of this very long tunnel. I just need to do what I need to do to make to that light and get back home where I have friends, family and a chance to get vaccinated, the one thing that will allow us to get out of this mess.

So as I wrap up my time in Thailand, I will take in any opportunity that I can and make the most out of it because as soon as I leave here, I do not know when I will ever come back. And considering the current state of the world, this means that a work day in a hotel downtown is one thing that I have to hold on to, that is what I will do. Otherwise, I look forward to the end of that tunnel, and getting back to the place I have been away from for so long.

Limbo’s Pier

Will this path of suffering never end?
The brochure did not prepare me for this,
Forcing the bamboo of patience to bend
Just to find that place of eternal bliss.
It all went as planned when it did begin,
But then I reached this old pier halfway through,
A place to pay for my life time of sin,
And I was stuck there with nothing to do.
I couldn’t move forward or track back;
I had to wait for my absolution,
Searching my life for the thing it did lack,
Giving my soul a sense of completion.
I thank you for this time to meditate,
But Nirvana won’t be reached at this rate.

Smiley’s Tale

Smiley does not knw that she is ugly.
She does remember the ruthless children
Who wrapped her muzzle in plastic to see
If she could escape what they put her in.
She was able to survive that cruel day,
But she lost her lips and was disfigured.
Now her fans jut out in a weird display
Like she is growling at what she endured.
She’s found a life under the protection
With the gentle staff on a remote beach.
At the 10 Moons she finds the affection,
And no longer cower from a child’s reach.
Smiley does not understand her sad fate
Because she now receives more love than hate.

Fizzling Out – The Last Hurrah!

It is not like I had grand plans for these couple of nights in downtown Bangkok. The whole reason I had come down here was to get some paperwork taken care of so I could move to Jordan next year. I also did not plan for it to be my last hurrah in Thailand as the rest of the year looks like it will be online and in my home. Like the rest of the world, it will be looking at the simple life and staying safe, and I just have to accept that this is the way of the end, not an a grand epic image, but a quiet fizzle sitting in my hotel room after getting some business taken care of.

Granted, things could open up again and I might have the possibility to have a quick trip to a nearby national park I haven’t been able to see yet, but the new cases in Thailand have stayed at a steady 1,500 a day, and the holiday of Songkron had sent people all over the country creating what will likely be a super-spreader event. Thailand has still not rolled out the vaccine yet waiting until the fall before they set their plans into motion, so it does not look like relief will happen soon. People will just have to hunker down and hope for the best.

Even my school is starting to dig into the trenches. There were a couple of close calls over the last couple of weeks, but finally a person has come down with the disease and nobody is allowed on campus anymore. Luckily, most people have not been on campus for a couple of weeks because of Songkron break, and the fact that we had gone to online learning right before the break, but it is still disconcerting to know that Covid is creeping ever closer.

But for a lot of other places in the world, this has been the norm, and nothing new. I have been lucky that most of the time I have spent in Thailand was Covid free and I was still able to get to know this country I had just moved to. But there is really no way to keep this pandemic from reaching the borders of all the countries in the world. Even though North Korea claims that they have never had a case, I’m pretty sure that it has visited there as well.

With all of this in mind, it just means that my time goes out in a fizzle. Rain kept me inside most of yesterday after I got my chores done, and even if I wanted to go out and explore, a lot of the businesses are starting to get ready for the oncoming onslaught as well and it just meant that things would be hit or miss to begin with. But with each ending, there is a new beginning. Things may be looking down right now in Thailand, but they are starting to improve in many places in the world. I have a new adventure to look forward to soon by moving to a new place in the world, and in a couple of months I will be back in the United States and get to see my family again. So even though this is not the ending I was hoping for, the beginning is looking good.