Our 2022 in Pictures

When I was growing up we would occasionally receive a cards around Christmas-time from old family friends and former neighbors with pictures and a brief explanation of what they’d been up to in the past year. Some people still do this. I like this tradition and have attempted my own version below.

In short, we spent the year in Azerbaijan, except for a few trips in the region plus a summer vacation in Oregon. Rachael and I are still working at an international school here in Baku. Idara is in kindergarten and Oren is still in preschool, attending half days, five days per week.

I’ve spent a lot of this year writing, though I’m directing my efforts away from this blog and toward journaling in the mornings and writing with the hopes of achieving publication elsewhere. For example, in September a short piece I wrote was published in The Sun Magazine – you can find it here. In November I started an online class in writing fiction. Still trying to figure out where that’s going, if anywhere, and what I ought to be doing with this blog, if anything.

39149-2022-Feb-26-AMJ-X.jpg There are two ski areas in Azerbaijan, both in the Caucasus mountains in the north of the country. This was Idara’s first time sledding last February.

39231-2022-Mar-25-AMJ-X.jpg In March we traveled to southern Turkey (Kaş) with Rachael’s parents. Here’s Idara coloring outside with Suellen, Rachael’s mom.

39271-2022-Apr-02-AMJ-X.jpg When we got back to Azerbaijan we visited one of the country’s many mud volcanoes. Imagine a hole in the ground where cold mud continuously bubbles to the surface and you’ve pretty much got it. Bathing is discouraged, if I remember correctly, but Idara fell in.

39306-2022-Apr-16-AMJ-X.jpg A few weeks later we drove out to Lahic (pronounced lah-HEJ), one of the coolest little villages in Azerbaijan. Most of the fields surrounding the village are unfenced, so we usually take lots of walks while we’re there.

39311-2022-Apr-16-AMJ-X.jpg Easter egg hunt with Gordy, Suellen, our friends Anna and Chino, and their kids, and Anna’s brother Jan.

39990-2022-Jun-27-AMJ-X.jpg Later on we went to Zaqatala, our home away from home in Azerbaijan. This picture (and a few others further down) was shot on Kodak Ektachrome slide film on an old Pentax ME SLR.

40010-2022-Jun-27-AMJ-X.jpg Playing in a small lake on the farm where we stay.

39395-2022-May-29-AMJ-X.jpg In May we finally visited Xinaliq, one of the most remote regions of Azerbaijan. On our drive in we happened upon what I can only describe as a traveling circus. Men were setting up a high-wire and dressing up for their performance. Needless to say, we stayed to watch.

39417-2022-May-29-AMJ-X.jpg The point of the trip was to take a two-day trek through the countryside. Idara hiked the whole way, five miles one day and three miles the next. Oren mostly rode on my back, though he did emerge from time to time to stretch his legs (and rest my back).

39421-2022-May-29-AMJ-X.jpg One of the many stream crossings. The man holding Oren is our tour guide, Elman, from one of the best companies in the country, Camping Azerbaijan.

anna and kids After our first day of hiking we stayed in a local family’s living room. Anna, center, and her husband Chino, on the far left, were our best friends in Azerbaijan. Anna and Rachael went to high school together and were reacquainted when we moved to Azerbaijan in 2021. Anna and Chino were our tour guides throughout Azerbaijan, and Anna organized nearly every outing we took, including this on in Xinaliq. They left at the end of the school year to take teaching jobs in East Africa.

39587-2022-Jun-21-AMJ-X.jpg After we left Azerbaijan we met up with my sister and her family, who we hadn’t seen in nearly a year. Here are Idara and Oren with their cousin Josie. We were on the train from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen.

39584-2022-Jun-21-AMJ-X.jpg My sister and her family at the top of one of many gondola rides.

39596-2022-Jun-23-AMJ-X.jpg We left our kids with my sister and her husband so that we could try a via ferrata, which is essentially a cliff-side hike. You’re roped in because if you slip you’re dead.

39607-2022-Jun-23-AMJ-X.jpg That’s the valley floor of Lauterbrunnen, about 1,000 feet below. I expected to be really nervous and even had trouble sleeping the night before, but really it’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Later, when I was talking to my brother about it (he’s an arborist with years of tree climbing experience) he said that 60 feet is scarier than 100, and I think that’s true. We were so high that it was difficult to even fathom. Though I suppose if something went wrong and you fell you’d have a lot of time to think about falling before it was all over.

39651-2022-Jun-25-AMJ-X.jpg Later on we hung out with my sister’s kids so that she and her husband could try paragliding.

39678-2022-Jun-27-AMJ-X.jpg Oren and her cousin Claudia.

39686-2022-Jun-27-AMJ-X.jpg We managed to fit eight out of the ten of us on a teeter-totter in Meiringen.

39690-2022-Jun-27-AMJ-X.jpg At the top of one of the gondolas near Meiringen is a children’s hike themed around the adventures of a dwarf named Muggestutz. There were tons of beautiful wildflowers, so I made bouquets while we walked.

39736-2022-Jul-06-AMJ-X.jpg Back in Oregon, we took the kids to Oaks Park in Portland.

39748-2022-Jul-09-AMJ-X.jpg We visited our adoptive godmothers Jane and Joan and sat on the grass eating raspberries and eating ice cream.

39752-2022-Jul-11-AMJ-X.jpg Camping along the Metolious River with Gordy and Suellen. Who needs shoes?

39818-2022-Jul-13-AMJ-X.jpg I’d driven by it a million times but had never hiked to the top of Black Butte, so here we are.

39823-2022-Jul-14-AMJ-X.jpg Reading in the woods with Suellen. I think they read every single children’s book Roald Dahl ever wrote.

39828-2022-Jul-14-AMJ-X.jpg Crime scene or Gordy napping in an empty campsite. You decide.

39840-2022-Jul-14-AMJ-X.jpg Who needs a chair when you have Mama?

39847-2022-Jul-18-AMJ-X.jpg After camping we stayed at my Dad’s. When we were cleaning up before we left I tried to clean their shellacked table with alcohol and promptly left a galaxy of white stains. So we carried it into the garage and refinished it.

39854-2022-Jul-18-AMJ-X.jpg Our good friends Mike and Liz and family (and the makings of a new furniture refinishing business).

39916-2022-Jul-21-AMJ-X.jpg After Dad’s we went out to Manzanita to spend more time with family. Here’s Oren and my mom.

39926-2022-Jul-21-AMJ-X.jpg Oren helping out with the first annual Johnson Molitor Rinker Wood Stackathon.

39939-2022-Jul-21-AMJ-X.jpg Me and Gordy and Suellen and Oren and Idara.

39946-2022-Jul-21-AMJ-X.jpg I always get really into dam building whenever we’re at the beach. Oren gets really into running around naked.

39963-2022-Jul-24-AMJ-X.jpg Forrest and I went dry camping in the Coast Range. When we were packing up in the morning one of his dogs decided to wander off in the woods (probably because of all the people target shooting in the area). It took us several hours to find him, hence Forrest’s look of relief/exhaustion.

rick denise 2022 Idara and Oren with my dad and stepmom at a park in Portland.

rick denise 2022 Idara and Rachael went to a Cirque du Soleil show with Rachael’s folks and aunt Susan at the Portland Expo Center. I’m not sure what Idara’s face is saying, but I’m guessing that the M&Ms havae something to do with it.

39974-2022-Aug-02-AMJ-X.jpg Shortly before we returned to Baku we met up with our good friends Jake and Bethany and their family. We worked together for a few years in Qatar but now live in different countries.

40261-2022-Dec-13-AMJ-X.jpg Oren and Idara on the first day of school.

40272-2022-Dec-13-AMJ-X.jpg A trip to a beach on the Absheron Peninsula.

40289-2022-Dec-13-AMJ-X.jpg Sometimes Rachael sleeps in and Oren ends up with a mustache.

40096-2022-Oct-13-AMJ-X.jpg Sometimes in Azerbaijan we happen on these places that I can only describe as Influencer Shrines. Neither of us are influencers but we’re still holding out hope for Oren. This was during a trip west through Ismailli and Zaqatala.

40144-2022-Nov-08-AMJ-X.jpg In November we traveled south to Sim, a village in the mountains on the border with Iran. It’s one of the lushest and wettest places I’ve ever been.

40049-2022-Dec-10-AMJ-X.jpg Rachael cutting off Oren’s mullet. I was sad to see it go. Afterwards he tried to explain to us how he was still the same person even though his hair is different.

40199-2022-Dec-23-AMJ-X.jpg For Christmas we returned to Italy with our good friends Jake and Bethany and their family. Part of the objective was to teach the oldest two to ski. This is Idara at a ski area in South-Tyrol.

40230-2022-Dec-25-AMJ-X.jpg Oren and Idara sledding. Idara had lost one of front teeth a few weeks earlier and while we were in the car driving away from the airport Oren accidentally hit her in the face with a water bottle and knocked out the other one.

40247-2022-Dec-26-AMJ-X.jpg Rachael on a hike near one of the farms we stayed on near Bolzano. 🥰

40254-2022-Dec-26-AMJ-X.jpg Building a snowman on a (very well-frozen) pond near the farm.

40259-2022-Dec-31-AMJ-X.jpg Christmas morning (more or less) back in Baku. This is Idara with the American Girl doll that Rachael had when she was little (and when I say little I mean 5th grade).

40280-2022-Dec-13-AMJ-X.jpg In writing a post like this it’s possible to trick yourself into believing that the year was a steady stream of happiness and leisure. And yet every year brings challenges and sadness, too. One of the students pictured here, blurred out of respect for his family, died unexpectedly in the fall. The photograph I took of him and his friends a few weeks before he died shows them at a beach cleanup, leaving the world a little better than they’d found it. It’s something we can all aspire to.