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Expat wanderer

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 . . .

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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:

 

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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.

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Oops, only one left :-)
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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:

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‘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.

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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

Domestic Violence: What is Wrong With this Picture?

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At first, I thought oh, that is amazing, Florida has the lowest rate of all the states. Then, I looked a little closer . . . no data? No data on homicides related to male partners?

Here is what the report summarizes:

The States Where Women Are Most Likely to Be Killed By Men

Every year, the Violence Policy Center tracks which states have the highest rate of incidents in which one man kills one woman, a typical indicator of domestic homicide. The Huffington Post crunched the data to find the worst offenders over the past decade. Between 2003 and 2012, Nevada had the highest rate, at 2.447 women killed per 100,000. In 2012, however, the most recent year for which data is available, Nevada’s rate dropped to 1.83, and Alaska took the top spot with 2.57 women killed per 100,000.

It is horrifying in Florida; men killing their wives, their live-ins, their daughters, men and women striking or burning their children, or shooting them . . . but it is also horrifying that Florida can’t – or won’t – provide the statistics when every other state has.

It all goes back to the idea of women as property. Arrrgh, I am speechless with frustration.

October 9, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Quality of Life Issues, Statistics, Women's Issues | | 3 Comments

Khons Asian Bistro on Palafox in Pensacola

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One of America’s best streets just got better with the addition of another great eating adventure as Khons Asian Bistro on Palafox opened a month or so ago with Asian fusion cooking. While most of the diners there were ordering sushi, we opted for the miso soup and hot plates. The waiter particularly likes the fried rice dish, which we considered, but ended up ordering the Cambodian chicken, me in lettuce wraps and AdventureMan with rice.

When our main dishes arrived, he grumped – just a little – because he paid three dollars more, and the only difference was that his lettuce was chopped, and he got rice.

“I paid three more dollars for rice” he mourned.

Not for long. The food was delicious, all the tastes fresh and tasty. Just enough spice. In fact, while I really like spicy, I got a hunk of jalepeno in my soup that nearly took my breath away. Our very helpful waitress said next time she would personally make sure that all the seeds were removed. I don’t mind spicy; this just caught me by surprise.

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What I love, in addition to the fresh, healthy, tasty food, is the interior. Khon’s uses a deeply greyed blue, very undersea feeling, and silver. Even the chairs (which are comfortable) have silver seats, and that piqued my sense of fun. I love the scaly backdrop behind the sushi bar; the suggestion of a fish tail. We really enjoyed the entire experience, and we are glad they are there and doing so well. They have a brisk lunch crowd, so get there early.

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October 9, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant | , , | Leave a comment

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Today I received a text from my bank telling me that a document from them had been returned as undeliverable and telling me to click on the blue hypertext with my banks name dot com.

It didn’t smell right, so I called my bank, and no, they had not sent that text.

Did you know when you get a phone call or text that seems odd to you that not only do you not have to answer, but you can go online and check that number? Just google the exact number and you will find records that show if it is a scam or telemarketer. It is a wonderful resource.

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Financial Issues, iPhone, Scams, Technical Issue | , | 2 Comments

Headless Horseman at Pensacola Ballet

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Today is a day to make the heart joyful. Yesterday, we had thunder and lightning, so much that my water aerobics class was cancelled and I made that drive for nothing. Even when the sun came out, hours later, there was so much water soaked into the ground, the evaporation made it feel hotter than it really was.

The best part of the whole day was knowing we were headed to the opening of the Ballet Pensacola Season last night.

Who knew when we came to Pensacola that there would be so many fun things to do? And that we would have the time to try them all? Pensacola has an Opera, a Symphony, many many parades, some kind of fest, normally featuring seafood and/or art, and sometimes also the sugar white sands, wine and/or rock bands almost every month, AND the Ballet Pensacola.

Nothing about the Ballet Pensacola is ordinary. Ballet Pensacola has a husband wife team, artistic director Richard Steinart and his wife Christine Duhon, the ballet mistress, who also does the costumes. Her costumes are often spectacular. Lance Brannon does the sets which are are often minimalist and always wonderfully creative. You know public arts are almost totally public and community supported, you know they must have a tricky budget to work with but the sets and costumes are wondrous to behold.

We were debating whether The Headless Horseman would be a good ballet for our four year old grandson. AdventureMan thought it might be scary. There is a witch, a wonderfully convincing witch. There is a guy with no head. There is a skeleton horse. I countered that he sees worse on his cartoons with Spiderman and BatMan and whoever those heroes are that “Assemble!” The Headless Horseman is a lot of fun; it even looks like the dancers are having a lot of fun with it, and of course, there is this incredible skeleton. We leave our evenings at Pensacola Ballet delighted.

One of the things we love about the ballets this team creates is that it isn’t easy to get most men to love ballet, but many of the ballets they do have appeal to men – The Matrix, Dracula – they are not dainty ballets, but strong, dramatic ballets. In addition, they are, as I said, a lot of fun. When we offer up tickets we can’t use to our son and his wife, they jump at the chance. I want to make Nutcracker an annual event, but I recognize that if I want grandchildren who will love the dance, I will be likely to take them to some of this stronger stuff. We already have an extra ticket for Ali Baba, coming up in the Spring, so our grandson can come with us.

It was still warm when we left the theatre, but this morning it is like we are living in a different place.

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The air conditioner is OFF! The windows are open! Fresh clean air is flowing through the house, the sun is shining without wilting anything, and, thanks to yesterday’s rain, the entire world looks fresh and clean and welcoming! The fun times begin in Pensacola, the cooler weather has arrived!

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | , | 4 Comments

The Lesser of Two Weevils

It is so depressing.

AdventureMan is gritting his teeth. We are in despair.

We received our mail-in ballots yesterday and are filling them out.

It almost begins to seem as if political life discourages normal, thoughtful people committed to SERVING the public, and attracts those who love public acclaim and private gain.

October 3, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character | | Leave a comment

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