Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

O’Yeah, Tasty; First Meal in Seattle

A month ago I was in Seattle when my 94 year old mother suddenly came down with influenza and was hospitalized for 13 days, drifting into pneumonia twice, and suffering several small strokes. It was a difficult time, and as I was running errands for her one day, I passed a new Chinese restaurant near the hospital, O’Yeah Tasty, Szechuan cooking.

Szechuan. Near Edmonds Community College. Hope springs eternal, maybe I can get some really good Chinese food in the midst of all this emotional chaos!

(When we were moving to Pensacola several years ago, our son sat us down, looked at us very seriously and told us he had something to tell us we weren’t going to like. With a long face he stated “You need to know that there is not a GOOD Chinese restaurant in Pensacola.” We searched. We tried them all. Most were sort of Americanized Chinese, none had the good strong flavors we had become used to overseas. Longing for GOOD Chinese food is something we have grown used to experiencing.)

I had something called Mongolian Delights, recommended from the Chef’s specials by the cashier/order taker. It was fabulous, and the Hot and Sour soup I had with it was really HOT. When I told my sister on the phone where I was, she said Mom wanted some Hot and Sour soup, so I took some to her, and she ate it, claiming it was delicious. It was just about the only thing she ate that day.  A day or two later, I ordered an old favorite, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken, and I almost cried when it arrived, it was so totally TASTY, so close to what I remembered from the Taiwan Tourismo in Amman, Jordan back in the day.

So when AdventureMan and I arrived in Seattle, at lunch time (our delicious breakfast from The Courtyard had finally worn off) we headed straight for O’Yeah Tasty.

We ordered fried egg rolls, and AdventureMan ordered the Seafood Three Delights, and I ordered my all time favorite Chong Qing Spicy Chicken.

 

 

And the dish that makes me cry, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken:

 

As we ate, the restaurant filled with Chinese students from the nearby college. We got to see what they were eating, even as we enjoyed our own food. There was so much food, we packed it up and took it with us to put in our hotel room refrigerator and have later for dinner.

This is how much I love this food: when we were talking with my mother who, by the grace of God is greatly improved, and improving more every day, she said she was able to go out for dinner this very night. A part of me ALMOST said “how about tomorrow night?” because I love that Chong Qing Spicy Chicken so much, but fortunately I love my mother more and the thought was just for an instant; we quickly made plans to take my mother to an Italian restaurant she loves this night and to have our treasured left-overs for dinner tomorrow.

If you are ever in Edmonds looking for spirited and authentic Szechuan cooking, hurry to O’Yeah, Tasty.

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April 12, 2018 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Dinner and Breakfast in The Courtyard

Sometimes you just take the easy way. We had a great lunch at Gojo, and we had a long day. We knew there were so many great places in Portland, and we were tired. We decided to grab something quick at The Courtyard.

When we walked the short walk down the hall from our room to the restaurant, we discovered it was packed!

We were happily surprised to be quickly seated, and were doubly happy when we saw the menu and some non-pubby kinds of food. We ordered the Curry Butternut Soup and the entree Heirloom Tomato Salad. The soup was a little sweet to our taste, but some like sweet more than others. The Heirloom Salad was fabulous, full of a lovely variety of tomatoes, really good and tasty greens, prosciutto, and a very tasty variety of olives.

We were very pleased. It was tasty, it was healthy and it was original in creation and presentation. We were so delighted that we decided to have breakfast in The Courtyard again the next morning. As we got there, one of the servers was loading the wood burning stove.

 

The menu had more surprises for breakfast, we found. AdventureMan ordered Biscuits and Gravy, but not your Southern biscuits and gravy. The biscuits are home-made and baked fresh, and the gravy was a gorgeous mushroom and rosemary combination that satisfied without coating his blood vessels. I had the smoked salmon benedict, which was served on rye bread and had lots of avocado and herbed cream cheese in addition to the salmon and poached eggs.

The day was cloudy and rainy but the warmth of the meal and service kept us cozy and happy and content all the way on the rainy drive from Portland to Seattle.

Thank goodness for Google Maps, which gets us in and out of cities in the most efficient, least trafficked way, and which has a voice that will tell AdventureMan in advance what is coming, and which lane he needs to be in and which way he will need to turn. We occasionally get into trouble, but rarely, and can quickly orient ourselves to where we need to be.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Gojo Ethiopian Food on Alberta Street in Portland

As if the easy access and the great hotel weren’t enough, within four minutes of our hotel is a delightful little Ethiopian restaurant, and we can’t get Ethiopian food in Pensacola. There were two or three groups already eating, and the smells drove us wild.

We ordered quickly, a vegetable combination plate and Doro Wat, a spicy chicken that always comes with a thick, hot sauce and a hard boiled egg. Actually, I don’t care that much about the chicken or the egg, it’s that thick hot spicy sauce I love. We also loved the smokey green beans and the vinegary greens, the pickled cabbage, the beet colored potatoes and the red and green lentils – it was all good, and not dumbed down.

Our meal:

 

Extra injera:

 

There are so many good possibilities for good food in Portland, but we are so stuffed we think we will never eat again!

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Local Lore, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel in Portland, OR

We don’t like cooky cutter hotels. When we start thinking about a trip, I put a lot of time into looking at hotels. I ask AdventureMan “do you want to stay downtown?” “What would you think about staying in a former poor-house?”

Not every choice turns out, but AdventureMan was kidding me because I still remember one really bad hotel in France in like 1987.

This time, I nailed it. I hit it out of the park. When I saw his face, I nearly danced for joy. He loves this place.

McMenamins is a trendy Oregon brewery that has done some really smart things – put good food into their breweries, and bought up old, decaying buildings, restored, renovated and turned them into hotels with charm and character. The one we are staying at is an old elementary school, and much of it is still in place – the wide hallways, the fabulous wooden floors, the signs for restrooms, gymnasium, etc. and classrooms which have been turned into guest suites.

The closet in our room is the former cloakroom, just like the very old school I went to school in, with hooks in place for students to hang their coats:

 

This is the major restaurant. There are also at least three bars, maybe four, and other spaces which are used for meetings and events.

 

 

 

 

One of the things we love is that the neighborhood and community gather here. There is a movie theater that plays current films; guests at the hotel get free admission, but other people are here, too. There is a soaking pool outside near the old gymnasium, and local mothers had their children in the pool, warm enough to be teaching them to swim on a cool rainy day in Portland.

 

 

It hits a lot of blocks for me – high ceilings, huge windows, wooden floors, all this and a sense of history and a gathering place for the community. Nearby is a growing arts and crafts street, gentrifying, with lots of really good restaurants. This is a really cool place for us. AdventureMan loves the history of the place, the glory of the vibrant plantings in the gardens, free parking and nearness to culture, food and convenience (drug store, very trendy grocery store, etc.) We like the Portland vibe.

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

Our Spring Adventure Begins: We Land in Portland

AdventureMan always know when I need to roam . . . I get edgy. I get bored. I get this trapped, wild feeling and I have to go roaming. I have to hit the road. For forty five years, God bless him, he has hit the road with me. He loves Adventures 🙂 and he is my best travel partner.

So we are up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the early flight to Atlanta and the ongoing flight to Portland, and the longer flight, Atlanta to Portland, isn’t full! We each have aisle seats, and we each have an empty seat between us and the closest other passenger! In this era of cattle-car air transport, we revel in space and celebrate these rare occasions.

When we arrive in Portland, the car rental pick up is right in the airport, just a short trek from the baggage pick-up. We are with Enterprise this time, and it was an easy check in and then a concierge car service as he told us to pick a car from those available. They were large trucks, and vans, and very big and not what we wanted, and then a Nissan came in and we said that one would be just fine. Within minutes we were on the road, and mere minutes later, at our hotel.

Great start to a great adventure.

 

 

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

Some Things You Can’t Make Up

In Pensacola, as in other places I have lived, I have met some very fine people. It isn’t unlike my other adventures, I have had to learn to observe and to adapt. Sometimes I may disagree, but most of the folk I deal with are civil people, reasonable people, and if they don’t agree with me, most of them have the generosity of spirit to just shake their head and chalk it up to my eccentricity.

And some people, you just don’t even bother to disagree. You don’t comment. You look the other way. I was lucky this time, to have my camera with me because if I didn’t have the picture, I’m not sure I would believe me telling the story. Here is what I see:

 

 

I see this and I am a stranger in a strange land.

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

The NRA Solution to Gun Violence: More Guns

I am livid. I am almost breathless with the shocking audacity of it. “Harden our schools.” And what does that mean, exactly?

“Harden our schools” means putting more armed people inside and outside. Arming our teachers, if Trump and the other NRA supported politicians have their way. More guns. More opportunity for fatal human error.

Our grandson goes to one of the sweetest elementary schools on earth. The thought of his teachers packing heat makes me ill. The thought of armed guards on his school outrages me.

What message does this send our children? Schools should be SAFE, fun places to learn and explore who they are and all the wonderful ideas in the world, places to learn to tools of learning. Guards? Guns? That describes a prison, not a safe, fun place to learn.

Yes, I am all for better mental health. Since the Republicans put the mentally ill out on the streets, back in the good old days of Ronald Reagan, we’ve had increased problems with crime, homelessness, and heartless policies of incarcerating the mentally ill because we no longer give them asylum. The prisons are full of the mentally ill.

Many mass killers have no prior criminal record. The Las Vegas killer was a very “normal,” if strange, man who had a lot of weapons, assault weapons.

I’m not opposed to guns. I am opposed to people owning guns that are neither for hunting nor for sport, weapons designed for killing, weapons that make a mass killer efficient.

“Guns don’t kill people,” say the NRA, “people kill people,” but killing people without an automatic or repeating weapon is a much less efficient kind of killing. While you are in the slower process, you can be attacked and overcome. Banning assault rifles just makes sense. Tightening who can own weapons just makes sense. Oregon just passed a landmark bill taking weapons away from domestic abusers, some of the smartest, most progressive legislation in the nation, passed by lawmakers with backbones and brains. You tell the parents of Sandy Hook students, tell the parents of Parkland students that “guns don’t kill people.” They will have a very different point of view to your own.

I challenge you to Google this: Mass School Shootings in the United States.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive, if incomplete record of many, not all, of the school related shootings. Some take place in school parking lots. Some target school buses. Many shooters have no criminal records, no mental health records, but – they DO have guns.

2nd Amendment rights were created to protect our country; the rights were for militia, not people with a grudge against a woman who is divorcing you, a teacher whose assessment prevented you from attaining your graduate degree, the woman who scorned you, revenge against those who bullied you, showing what a big “man” you are (not a single mass shooter has been a woman.) Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

Those who know me, know I grew up with guns. The first thing we did, in the Alaska where I grew up, was to go to rifle club to learn respect for our weapons. We learned how to clean and care for them, we learned how to shoot them safely, and we learned how to lock them up. We used our rifles for hunting (we ate the meat) and for occasional target practice. We didn’t even carry them when we went berry picking or hikes in the woods; we learned to avoid bear and other dangers, to walk away. I am in favor of responsible gun ownership.

I am opposed to hardening schools as a solution to mass school shootings. It isn’t effective, and it sends a terrible message to our children.

February 28, 2018 Posted by | Alaska, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Parenting, Political Issues, Rants, Safety, Values | 1 Comment

Grandkid Update

 

Grandchildren activities take up a goodly portion of our current life here in Pensacola. They are a lot of fun, and they are also exhausting.

Q, who loves to read, is the happiest we have ever known him to be. He has a teacher who truly loves children and facilitates their success. He is excelling; it is like flying to him, he loves learning. We dance for joy that he loves to read; it is one of the most valuable tools in the tool-box. He is full, each day, of joyful energy. He comes in and immediately starts to jump on the trampoline, and, after snack, will climb back on to practice his spelling or vocabulary words. Baba / AdventureMan enriches his lessons and helps him research anything he doesn’t understand. Stopping by the grocery on his way home from school this week, AdventureMan asked if Q would like a cookie, and he said “No, but some of that smoked trout would be nice.” LOL! I love it that he loves smoked fish; it’s in the genes.

N, the four year old, is hilarious. Daughter and granddaughter of women who don’t accept boundaries (her mother played rugby!), she is all girl. She loves to wear dresses, especially those with twirl and sparkle, and skirts made out of netting, skirts that remind me of ballerinas and tutus. At the ballet last week, she was totally engrossed, moving her hands in attempts to mimic that motions of the dancers. She gets into my Middle Eastern perfumes and ends up smelling like a babe from the house of the rising sun. She loves to practice writing her letters, and she paints wonderful pictures.

I think of this one as “In a Gadda Da Vida” because of the leaf and the glued on droplets :-).  You know it is me in the upper right hand corner because of the eyelashes.

 

 

I can only guess that the smiling face next to mine might be AdventureMan. Maybe he is wearing the fig leaf?

 

And here am I, in all my radiant glory. Can you figure out how I know it is me? No, not the green complexion, it is the big eyelashes and lipstick. Go girly girl!

That might be AdventureMan/Baba down at the bottom. We are never entirely sure without obvious clues.

February 25, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Family Issues | Leave a comment

“We Don’t Know What it is, but it is not Breast Cancer”

(This is just an example, not my real image)

I like to stay out of medical facilities. I think it’s better for our health. 🙂  People who go to doctors tend to be sick, and we still have a lot to learn about germs, viruses, flesh-eating diseases, and even intestinal distress, and how they all spread. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of things you can be exposed to in hospitals and doctors’ offices that you are less likely to be exposed to elsewhere.

On the other hand, I am all for preventive medicine, and by the grace of God and my husband’s military service, and the American tax-payer, I have decent medical coverage. I see my doctor twice a year, and he reminds me if there are other things I need to do. Some, like an annual skin scan, and eye exams are easy. Mammograms, not so much. For me, it is easy to skip a mammogram for a year, or two, or three.

(Segueing into an aside – if men had to put their testicles in between two sheets of cold plastic and then have the sheets tightened by turning a knob until it was really, really uncomfortable, I am willing to bet they would find a more efficacious way to do the job.)

So it has been three years, and I scheduled, and went in for a routine mammogram. The technician was cool and I was in and out quickly; next contact should be a letter saying a radiologist has examined the photos and all is well, that’s routine.

Umm. Next, I get a call saying we need to schedule right away as there were some . . . I can’t remember the word. Sort of like ambivalencies or ambiguities in the films, and we needed to redo those on one of the breasts. And she got me in like day after tomorrow.

So we re-do the shots, and then we do them again. This is taking a long time. Then she comes back and tells me that they have an ultrasound scheduled for me just down the hall to get a better look.

I’m pretty cool. But I’m starting to get a little nervous.

The ultrasound lady is very professional, very thorough. Very thorough, and finally I glance up at the screen to see flares of blues and reds and yellows as she moves the scope around and I don’t show it but I am seriously starting to freak out.

She tells me she needs to talk with the radiologist and leaves the room and it seems like a long long time and then she comes back in and tells me the radiologist needs to talk with me. If I were the kind of woman who cries, I would cry, but I’m not, not in front of other people, so I just look cool.

The radiologist comes in and says a lot which I hear as “blah blah blah;” when I am freaking out, I have trouble understanding words strung together. I can understand each separate word, but I can’t understand them in a sentence, like “what does that mean?”

And then he says “so we know it is NOT breast cancer, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not even something we could biopsy. I’m not calling you back in six months because it isn’t something that has form or substance but be sure to come back in a year this time so we can take another look.” (I might have paraphrased everything after “We know it is not breast cancer . . .” Everything is pretty hazy except that I do NOT have breast cancer.)

Walking out of that clinic (it took hours) was like getting my life back again.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Life is Complicated: Maintaining Balance

It’s been an odd new year. It started with loss and grief, and quiet introspection. Once the season ended, we were caught in the whirl of daily life, amplified by our son’s need for an ACL fix, which has totally immobilized him for a couple weeks and which requires we all pitch in to help keep life going smoothly.

And, I had a major birthday.

The last major birthday I had like this one was when I turned 35 and realized that I hadn’t accomplished my major dreams. I cried all day. People kept stopping by, bringing gifts and cards, and I just kept crying That year, I started graduate school, and never looked back. I was a military wife at an overseas post, with duties to my husband, my community, my church and my job, and I piled on evening classes and all the attendant work of research and studying on top, and I had never been happier. Going back to school was like flying. I loved my studies, and on the days I felt overwhelmed, I would realize that grad school was the only thing I could resign from and I would choose to go forward. My studies were my reward for good behavior in all the other areas of my life.

“What? You didn’t love being a mother?” I hear you asking. We had an oddly shaped room in our quarters, long and narrow. My desk was at the far end, and next to it was my son’s desk. We would do homework together. I adored my son. I would take him to karate lessons, iron his acolyte robes, be there when he got home from school; he enriched my life. But what made my spirit fly was my studies.

Yesterday, things were relatively quiet and I started a project I usually start in January, cleaning out. We haven’t moved in nearly eight years. I tend to be pretty good at cleaning out and passing along or throwing out, but when you are settled, you don’t do so as conscientiously as when you live with a weight allowance. My weight allowance always heavily favored our items collected from foreign postings, and everything else was expendable. Now, the expendable is taking up space, and I want to clear out that which only burdens me and ties me down, and make way for whatever is coming.

En route, I came across a large packet of printed out letters from my earlier lives, one entry in particular, 5 pages describing our arrival in Kuwait. Oh! There are so many things I have already forgotten, so I read it through, and then passed it along to AdventureMan, and listened to him laugh as he hit the funny parts. I owe my Mother a great gratitude for having saved all those letters, for which, having gone through several computers since I wrote them, I have no records. Those were pre-FaceBook times, when we still sent out group e-mails, which then got forward on. Now, we have less time – or we take less time – to write at length about what is going on in our lives.

I made room for my growing collection of religious-oriented books. I have a shelf for them. I have my spiritual disciplines, like doing the Daily Lectionary, but for additional readings, books were scattered here and there. If I am going to get serious about reading them, I have to have them where I know where they are, and I can retrieve them easily. They don’t call it “discipline” for no reason.

When I was a nomad, life’s busier moments were balanced by the enormous quiet of being in a new location. There were the logistical challenges of deliveries, moving out / moving in, looking for the good grocery stores, the cleaners who could do your nicer clothes without ruining them, getting new visas, driver’s licenses, memberships, etc. but in general, life could be very quiet for up to six months. I always found those quiet times, before new friendships, meetings, commitments, etc. very nourishing to my spirit.

I’ve never been so settled. There are times when my spirit rebels against the sameness of it all. There are times when I miss being around people who don’t always use deodorant and who smell sweaty; it takes me back to riding the strassenbahn (street car) in high school in Heidelberg, or to Africa and our adventures there. There are times I catch a whiff of Desert Rose, and feel an urgent upwelling of nostalgia for walking down a Gulf Arab avenue, or through a mall, and how it was the men who smelled so good. There are times I would kill for real flatbread, fresh out of the oven, or for a Tunisian “brik,” done in pure olive oil, or for the simplest French dish, moules frites, mussels in a simple wine sauce with fries.

I do love Pensacola. I have friends here. I’ve always been lucky that way; people take me in and take me behind the scenes. I hear the old stories of how Pensacola used to be, and I hear the new stories, that corruption is never hidden enough to go undiscovered. People in Pensacola, like people everywhere, know things, and I am honored that they share these insights with me. I have found religious community here. I have found meaningful work.

I have a son of whom I am enormously proud. I love and admire his wife. And I have two of the smartest, funniest grand-children on earth, with whom I love spending time.

(Did you know that the use of “whom” is generational?)

It is a sodden, rainy day in Pensacola. AdventureMan is on the couch, here in my office, snoozing as I write. We are on our way to church, then I have a meeting before coming home to do my studies for my class this week. As it says in our Episcopalian Forward Day-byDay: Oh God, Give me strength to live another day. Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties: let me not lose faith in other people   . . .

On on.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Books, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings | Leave a comment