Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge

I grew up in a family that loves Trader Joe’s. We spent so many years living in Germany, and I believe Trader Joe’s is owned and operated by Aldi’s, a large German chain. Trader Joe’s often has things no one else has, at reasonable prices. They encourage their customers to bring their own bags, and they print up a lot of very colorful and attractive Trader Joe’s bags to encourage them further.

P1080550.JPG

This Trader Joe’s is in a really cool shopping area, which some long-time Baton Rouge people laughed when they told me it used to be an ugly WalMart. It is fresh, and full of really cool shops, unique furniture, a vintage clothing shop, a Baton Rouge favorite restaurant.

But this Trader Joe’s blew me away. I am used to little Trader Joe’s, no where near the size of a full service grocery store. Most Trader Joes are sort of like the size of a convenience market. This Trader Joe’s is HUGE, and was bustling with customers. I just wish Trader Joe’s would come to Pensacola.

P1080549.JPG

October 23, 2014 Posted by | ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Shopping, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to Louisiana

:-)

Welcome, indeed! First time we have see gas under $3/gallon in a long time.

P1080548.JPG

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Financial Issues, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Ninfa-mania in Baton Rouge

Ninfa’s is separate from the Crown Plaza in Baton Rouge, but plopped smack dab in the parking lot, and, as you read in the previous entry, right under our window, well, sort of.

When we had no room waiting, we knew we would feel better if we ate lunch. Mexican is always good with us, and the smells emanating from Ninfa’s were mouth-watering.

It’s about noon, and we walk in the door. There’s a gal at the bar, filling small containers of salsas, but no one at reception, and the gal filling salsas doesn’t even look up. No welcome, no explanation . . . . and it goes on and on. There is no one seating customers, who are lining up behind us and asking us what’s going on and WE DON’T KNOW! Finally, one rushed waiter told us that they were all busy cleaning tables and someone would seat us in a minute.

This was just another chapter on a day every monkey gets his roll in the barrel, and today, we is that monkey.

Soon after, a table was ready and we were seated. From there on, we have no complaints. Our waiter was supurb. He told us we was a former Spanish teacher – I wonder if you make better money waiting tables? I had a couple tacos, and the meat was wonderfully flavored, but . . . very gristly and chewy.

There were two very cool things. One is that when they brought the thin, crispy, fresh cooked chips, they brought three different salsas, a cucumber-y avocado green one, a mild red salsa and a jalapeno one – all good. The second very cool thing was that the tortillas were hand made by the lady you will see pictured below, who was delighted to have her photo taken and grinned from ear to ear.

So an unhappy as we were to learn that there was going to be a rock concert right underneath our window, we rolled with it. When you’re the monkey in the barrel, just roll.

The music was actually pretty good, although holy smokes, it was loud. And it ended right at ten, so we really didn’t lose any sleep.

Ninfa’s appears very popular. I thought the lunch specials were priced a little high, but hey, this is the big city, compared to Pensacola, and it was packed, so they evidently know what the public is willing to pay. The rice is still in the shape of the scoop that scoops it, and the beans were glue-y. I wish they’d pay a little more for their steak, but their marinade is a wow.

P1080546.JPG

P1080544.JPG

P1080545.JPG

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, Restaurant, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel

Sometimes there is no one to blame, not even a way to blame yourself and things just go off track. We had such an experience coming to Baton Rouge, a sweet drive on a beautiful day.

We had called the day before to tell them we would not be arriving that day, but we had already paid for the room and we asked them to hold it, that we would arrive the next day. After five hours on the road, we were eager for a chance to settle in and relax before AdventureMan headed off to his afternoon sessions.

The room wasn’t ready. The room we had paid for, and expected to be held, was not held. We were on the “wait list”, the snippy, disrespectful girl at the executive desk told AdventureMan as I circled the crowded parking lot, desperately seeking a spot. I curse you, big ass trucks who park over the line! I curse you, arrogant drivers who take two spaces when you park!

AdventureMan calls me; you do not want a call from AdventureMan when things haven’t gone his way and he cannot make his will dominate the situation. We decide the best strategy is to go to lunch.

(see entry for Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant)

After lunch, we try again, softly talking with the desk clerk, Scott, who is helpful. He takes pity on us, and finds us a room which is ready, and accommodates us. He soothes us. AdventureMan heads off for his garden talk and I head off on a reconnaissance mission – I have seen there is a huge mall nearby with a Macy’s. I find it, and some other wonderful places for the next day’s adventures, and then, on my way home, I get another call from AdventureMan.

He is fuming. I hadn’t answered his call because I was driving, no matter, he kept calling and texting “call me!” until I could find a red light and call him.

He heard loud chords of a band starting up. Very loud. He went to the band and casually asked them how long they would be playing, and was told from six to ten. He went to the desk and asked for a room change, and was told the hotel was full. (He also mentioned that he was SO glad to have been helped earlier, as there was a huge line waiting for rooms at 4.)

“We need to change hotels!” he started and told me the whole story.

“I’m almost there!” I responded, but it took me another ten minutes to find a parking place.

By the time I got to the room, he had calmed down – a little – and had found a wonderful place to go for dinner. We heard a few chords – actually not bad – and headed out for a wonderful dinner at Al Basha’s, and it was a total mood changer :-)

When we got back, the band was blasting, and we are one of the nearest rooms to the band, and the hotel is full of people around our age, but the truth is, the band was pretty good, and we had some shows we like on cable, and they really did quit at ten, well before we turned out the lights.

When things go not-quite-right – and that happens to everyone – I just sigh and say “every monkey gets his turn in the barrel;” I guess it’s sort of karmic, but bad things happen, they happen to everyone. This was not earth-shaking bad, just annoying, not going smoothly bad. We will never stay in this hotel again, even if the conference is held here again; there are lovely hotels nearby in Baton Rouge.

P1080546.JPG

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, Gardens, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Faithful Friends

Today’s reading in the Lectionary is from Sirach, one of the books of the Apocrypha, and features wisdom on faithful friends. I especially love “let your advisors be one in a thousand.” I have been greatly blessed to have found a few of those, and they stick with you for a lifetime.

Bless you, bless you, faithful friends!

Sirach 6:5-17

5 Pleasant speech multiplies friends,
and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
6 Let those who are friendly with you be many,
but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
7 When you gain friends, gain them through testing,
and do not trust them hastily.
8 For there are friends who are such when it suits them,
but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
9 And there are friends who change into enemies,
and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.
10 And there are friends who sit at your table,
but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
11 When you are prosperous, they become your second self,
and lord it over your servants;
12 but if you are brought low, they turn against you,
and hide themselves from you.
13 Keep away from your enemies,
and be on guard with your friends.

14 Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
15 Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
16 Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.
17 Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright,
for as they are, so are their neighbours also.

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Relationships | 2 Comments

Meeting For Lunch on the Bayou Texar

We are having a streak of amazing weather, cool cool nights with lovely mornings and warm, but not steaming afternoons. Yesterday, on the way back from lunch, we saw a gathering of hundreds of pelicans on Bayou Texar, munching away on whatever was plentiful at that neck of the Bayou. I really like pelicans; refugees from another era, looking like little pterodactyls . . .

00LunchMeetingBayouTexar2

00LunchMeetingOnBayouTexar

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Beauty, Birds, Florida, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Weather | Leave a comment

Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

 00CanoeTrip

00PreParade

00Ravens

00ClawDancer

00Eagles

00Beaver

00TransmittingCulture

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shux Oyster Bar on Palafox

It’s the perfect weather for Al Fresco; the heat has broken and just about everyone had the same idea – head downtown for lunch, find a restaurant with outdoor seating and revel in the moderate temperatures and full sun.

This glorious sunny day was preceded by one of those thunderous rainstorms to beat all rainstorms, but it washed Pensacola clean and left it cool and shiny.

We wanted to try Shux Oyster Bar, and this is the perfect day for it. We shared an order of grilled oysters, no cheese, AdventureMan had a Rachel (a Reuben but with fish) and I had the Crafish GritCakes (or something like that.) We both ooohed and aaahed over the sauces; the Remoulade on the Rachel was phenomenal and the horseradish sauce on the gritcakes got my attention in a totally good way.

00AlFresco

00CrowdAtAlFresco

00EntryShux

00OutdoorBarShux

Oops, only one left :-)
00GrilledOyster

00RachelSandwich

00CrayfishGritcakes

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Eating Out, Pensacola, Restaurant, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Kuwait in Fight Against Money Laundering and Drugs

This from yesterday’s Arab Times Kuwait:

5519626-3x2-700x467

‘Kuwait In Fight With Drugs, Money-Wash’UN Briefed On Efforts

NEW YORK, Oct 10, (KUNA): A Kuwaiti diplomat has briefed a United Nations commission about the State of Kuwait efforts to combat money laundering and other illegal financial activities as well as menace of narcotics. Ibrahim Faisal Al-Da’ee, the third secretary serving with the permanent Kuwaiti mission at the UN, in an address to the UN Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs Committee (SOCHUM), underscored necessity of taking effective action against crime and boosting coordination at the international and regional levels in this respect. As to combating “corrupt financial activities and funding from illegitimate resources,” the third diplomat noted that the State of Kuwait issued lawinto- decree number 23 in 2012, setting up the public authority for combating corruption and issuing special rules for financial assets’ disclosure, as well as the Ministerial Resolution No. 37 (2013), containing executive regulations for combating money laundering and terrorism funding.

Established 
On basis of the above mentioned, diplomat Al-Da’ee continued, the national commission for combating money laundering and terrorism was established. Moreover, the Central Bank of Kuwait issued a number of decisions aimed at clamping down on money laundering, in tandem with Kuwait’s endorsement of the UN convention for combating corruption. Regarding the drugs, Kuwait urges for taking necessary precautions to resolve this international problem by means such as encouraging planting of legitimate crops and improving living conditions in rural regions. Also in this respect, he pointed out, Kuwait had signed international conventions concerning such issues. According to Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior, number of drug-related crimes, during 2010-2013, dropped 6.4 percent, drug dealing cases 7.2 percent and narcotics-linked deaths 30 percent. He concluded his address to the international commission, stressing on respect for human and basic rights, through action against crimes, urging for collective global efforts against narcotics.

5519606-3x2-700x467

So . . . now we have legislation and a decree. Does Kuwait have the resources and/or the will to go after those who are funneling the funds to ISIS? Legislations and decrees are great, but even greater is following through; it gives a government credibility.

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Fund Raising, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues | Leave a comment

Cash or Credit or Debit: Generational

cash_2285410c

 

AdventureMan and I are not even typical of our generation. Living overseas, living in so many countries, we just got used to paying in cash. In our early years, even countries like France had more places that didn’t take credit cards than places that did. When it comes to buying gas in France, you’d better have a bucketful of cash ;-)

 

But even those in our generation tend to pull out their credit cards for meals out, so this week AdventureMan asked wait staff percentages of who paid cash and who paid with cards. The most common answer was around 85% paid with a card.

 

I can understand. The restaurants/stores don’t have to keep as much money on hand for change, so it is easier on them, and those who pay with a card can track their expenses. Part of me laughs and says I think we don’t want to track our eating-out expenses, and another part thinks that because we pay cash, we probably don’t indulge in extras so often, which, for us, is a good thing. If we have dessert, we normally split it.

 

peage10

I do remember how wonderful it was to be able to pay all the tolls on the toll roads in France with a credit card, how wonderfully easy it was to use my credit card and the ATM’s in Kuwait and Qatar and Saudi Arabia – for some reason, it was like they were years ahead of the USA in banking technology, and banking by phone. But even there, in the smaller shops, you needed cash.

So I read with interest this column from The Motley Fool, on AOL News:

 

Pssst, Millennials! When You Pay, Choose Credit, Not Debit

Friends with woman holding out credit card at coffee shop
Wavebreakmedia Ltd PH29L/Alamy

Hey, millennial! Yes, you there, standing in line at the Starbucks (SBUX) counter, tapping away on your smartphone, with the button-like doodads growing into your earlobes — put away that debit card.

No, don’t worry. No one’s going to nag you about buying a cup of overpriced coffee. We all have our vices. And you’re still basking in the fresh glow of youth. At least your vices won’t hurt you as much as they’d hurt us old codgers.

But the way you’re buying your coffee — you’re doing it wrong. And you’re not alone.

Paper or Plastic?

According to a recent survey by CreditCards.com, only about 1 in 3 American consumers currently uses a plastic card — credit or debit — when buying something that costs $5 or less. Most folks still pay with cash for such small purchases, with folks ages 65 and up having the greatest fondness for paying with greenbacks (82 percent).

But when it comes to the Millennials, 51 percent use plastic to pay for such purchases.

On one hand, that’s not terribly surprising. The younger you are, the more comfortable you are paying with plastic, which didn’t gain widespread acceptance in America until the 1960s. Conversely, the older you are, the more likely you’ve been told, at some point in your life, that shopping with cash is a good way to limit your spending and encourage saving.

There’s only so much cash that will fit in your wallet, and if you limit yourself to paying in cash — you eventually run out. Old folks like me, whose memories aren’t what they used to be (and maybe never were), like this “automatic” check on spending. And as a result, CreditCards.com reports that the older a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to pay for small purchases in cash than to pull out a plastic card.

Not All Plastic Is Created Equal

Among plastic cards, nationally, consumers are about twice as likely (22 percent) to use a debit card to pay for a small purchase as to put the purchase on credit (11 percent). When the data is broken down by age group, it turns out that millennials are even more fond of debit cards than the average shopper. Consumers ages 18 to 29 use debit cards more often than any other age group when making small purchases.

But here’s the thing: Debit and credit cards may be nearly equal in their convenience of use when shopping for small items (eliminating the need to carry weighty pockets, jingling with unwanted coins). But they’re not at all equal in the financial benefits they convey to a consumer.

To cite the most obvious example, credit cards often offer you “rewards” for using them. With card companies charging retailers fat interchange fees for every transaction they process, they can afford to pay you generously when you “choose plastic.” Airline miles; “points” redeemable for cash back, account credits, merchandise, and gift cards; and just plain cash-back offers, as high as 5 percent, all make the choice between credit and debit a bit of a no-brainer. (Granted, some debit cards offer rewards of their own — but they’re rare, hard to find and usually much less generous.)

But rewards are only the most obvious monetary benefit of choosing credit over debit. Consider: When you pay for a purchase — large or small — with a debit card, that money is almost immediately deducted from your account.

What Warren Buffett Thinks

In contrast, a charge placed on a credit card is a debt that doesn’t come due — and needn’t be paid — until your credit card bill is sent to you. Depending on the date of purchase and the due date on your credit card bill, you may not have to pay that bill for as long as a month — which means you may be able to hang on to your money, and collect interest on it at your bank, for that time. (Super-investor Warren Buffett calls this concept of using someone else’s money, and collecting interest on it for your own benefit, “free float,” and deadpans that his business partner “Charlie and I find this enjoyable.”)

Granted, with the ultra-low interest rates that banks are paying on checking accounts these days, free float isn’t as profitable as it used to be — probably only pennies per credit card billing cycle. But still, free money is free money. Are you going to turn it down because you’re not being offered enough free money?

Of course, you do need to remember to pay your credit card bill on time, so as not to get hit by late fees. But as long as you can manage that, a credit card isn’t really a card you use for taking out long-term credit at all. It’s a pay-once-a-month debit card — that pays you free money every month.

The High Cost of Not Buying on Credit

Another advantage: CreditCards.com quotes Martin Lynch, director of education of the Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. of Massachusetts, noting that “debit cards … can’t be reported to the credit bureaus and, thus, they don’t build [up] credit [ratings].” Building up a strong credit rating is crucial to a young person looking to buy his or her first car or to secure a mortgage on a starter home.

Getting charges and on-time payments, onto your credit report — to establish a track record as a reliable borrower — is therefore a good thing. It’s something you want to do as often as possible, and using a credit card to pay for small purchases is a great way to build up your credit report quickly.

Melinda Opperman, senior vice president of community outreach at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management Inc., another expert interviewed by CreditCards.com, echoes the sentiment: “We like the idea of using credit cards frequently for small, manageable expenses. This gives users the benefit of an active credit history, but leaves them with monthly bills that are small enough to pay off in full, so they don’t have to pay any interest.”

Suffice it to say, any idea that’s supported by professional credit counselors, and by the world’s third richest man, is one that millennials would be well advised to take to heart.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned, and hasn’t used a debit card in years. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Starbucks. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.

 

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, France, Generational, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Travel | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 464 other followers