Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Shoot Out in Pensacola with the new Bonnie and Clyde

 

We’d been up late. This was the first text I received, early this morning, as we entered our day a little more slowly than usual.

 

“Shoot-out in Pensacola! Are you OK?”

 

Yes, we are OK, and we were in the thick of things last night. We’d both had long days, and we were headed to bed a little earlier than usual. I had just finished my prayers when I heard a very loud screech of wheels going around a nearby corner. Usually when the screech is that loud, it is followed by a crash or a thud, but this time the car seemed to be OK. Very soon after that, however, I noticed flashing lights on the ceiling, flashing and dancing in red and blue.

 

I know those lights. When we lived in Kuwait, we lived on a busy corner, a corner where the Kuwait police frequently set up check-points to check people’s residence cards. AdventureMan could sleep right through them, but sometimes I was wakeful, and would watch. There was a lot of drama as the cars had no where they could go, there was no where they could turn off, they were trapped. Many people who lived in Kuwait illegally, or whose visas had expired were caught and taken in to be processed and, if they couldn’t prove someone was sponsoring them, deported.

 

It was ugly, and heartbreaking, and sometimes . . . comical. Ancient Arab men would talk to the police, it was begging of a different sort, and kiss the policeman. Kissing a policeman is just something that would never occur to me, so to me, it looks absurd, but in the context of Kuwaiti culture, it is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the old Arab man would get a pass, just as a pretty girl in the US will sometimes get a pass.

 

So I “arose from my bed to see what was the matter.”  There were big SUVs with flashing lights blocking traffic to the south, seven or eight cars in an array to the north, cars blocking entrances to several streets to the east. The only traffic were Sheriff’s department cars, trucks and SUV’s, some with flashing lights, some unmarked. They were all working together.

 

I called the Police Department.

“I live at blah blah,” I said, “and there appears to be a lot of activity, flashing lights and stuff, is there something I should know?”

“We’re looking for some suspects,” the officer answered tersely.

“OK, thanks!” I chirped, not knowing any more than I knew before.

There have been gangs of kids who come through the neighborhoods from time to time, looking for unlocked cars to steal cash, guns, or even the cars if the owner leaves the keys in them. Recently three young teens in Pensacola stole a school bus and drove it for about three hours before being stopped. This response seemed a little extreme for neighborhood looters, even more grown burgers. There were a lot of resources involved, people, cars, canines, a lot of man-hours and teams of people going door to door, searching the backyards with flashlights and the dogs.

They searched our yard twice.

We have a high fence and keep our gates locked. When I saw the team methodically making their way towards our house, I called out to AdventureMan to go down and unlock the gates. As the team was trying to get in, I opened the window, and flashlights zipped up to illuminate my face.

“My husband is on his way now to unlock the gates to let you in,” I said.

One of the guardians of the law looked at me, astounded, and said “You lock your gates?”

It seemed very funny to me at the time, considering the activity, but I didn’t dare laugh, clearly this was serious business, and around then AdventureMan opened the gate for them.

It was a cold cold night in Pensacola, near freezing, and I felt sorry for the pure, hard work of searching house-to-house in the very cold temperatures.

A part of me also felt sorry for whoever was being chased, hunkered down somewhere, being chased by dogs, and, once the adrenalin wears off, being really cold.

Cars raced here and there, the teams continued their searches and we kept watch. We heard a helicopter, briefly, and we don’t know if it was a police helicopter or a news helicopter. Then, around 12:30, all the cars raced off. Somewhere. It was very quiet, and we gratefully went back to bed.

This morning I didn’t feel quite so sorry for the couple, who had invaded a house in our neighborhood, held a couple hostage, and then stole their car to escape. Those were the last few minutes of a man’s life, and he spent them terrorizing and stealing that which was not his. After another – their third – dangerous fast car chase, they were trapped, and a gunfight ensued, killing the man. During this final gunfight, Blake Fitzgerald used his girlfriend, Brittany Harper, as a shield.

I was never afraid. If you had seen the number of police / sheriff’s deputies out last night, you would understand. They were focused and professional. They were given an opportunity to practice their skills. They performed as a team, and you could feel that they were excited to be doing the job, on a grand scale, that they are trained to do. They stopped a couple on an interstate spree of kidnapping, abducting, robbing, invading houses, burglarizing and terrorizing. They can feel good today, about what they accomplished last night.

And I was just telling you in my last entry what a quiet life we lead . . . :-)

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

Monday is Homework Day

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This is not the life we expected – it is so much better. Before we retired, my husband asked me what we would do, and I said I knew what I would do, but I didn’t know what he would do; he would have to figure out what he wanted to do. But I was wrong. I didn’t know what I would be doing.

Life evolves. One decision leads to another, down paths you can’t foresee.

I had no idea I would love my grandchildren so much. I had no idea how much joy being close to our adult son and his wife would be, watching them mature, seeing them parent so lovingly and patiently. The other day, he spotted a photo of a time we were on our way to a German Military Ball; he said “How old were you in this photo?” and as we figured it out, we were almost exactly the age he is now. That was a moment of wonder to all of us. It helps us to remind ourselves that he no longer needs parenting, no more than we did at his age. He needs respect, and the support of a loving family that can mind their own business unless asked for input.

Doing kindergarten homework is mind-numbing. Q, who is a smart little boy, looked at me and said “when you do the same thing over and over, it is really boring.” He loves new words, so I said “when you do the same thing over and over again, that is called ‘repetitious’,” and he said “Yes, so it is repetitious and BORING.” We both laughed.

While it IS boring, what he is doing now is also crucial, mastering his numbers and how they work together, and his letters, and distinguishing “b”s from “d”s, and “g”s from “q”s and a lot of learning just requires that repetition to engrave it in your mind. He is learning to write, and he is adept at reading books above his level – but it all takes work.

We have some break activities. He can run laps around my first floor, running a circle which I make him change direction every now and then. He can jump on my running trampoline. He can play hide and seek with his Baba. We are working on jig-saw puzzles, and for fun, he gets to play one of Baba’s computer games requiring strategic thinking skills.

We still do our volunteering, our church activities, our house things. We have lunch out almost every day; we are free until after school.

While the homework is for the whole week, we have discovered that dragging it out is just that – a drag. Get it done! Just do it! We are learning to focus, and the work is not that hard. When we finish the homework, we have the rest of the week to play!

Today I was exploring online, looking for an old African recipe I have for African Gingerbread. This is a really old recipe; what I liked about it is that when you add the baking soda and molasses, it fizzes and bubbles. I looked in all my books, but in my never-ending quest to get rid of, get rid of, get rid of, not to burden myself with too many THINGS, I must have given away that particular book. But as I was looking for the recipe online, the only place I found it . . . was here. On my own blog! Old Fashioned Gingerbread. It makes me grin, thinking of how thrilled this five year old will be when we make old fashioned African gingerbread and it all starts fizzing. Woo HOOOO!

When the homework is done, the fun begins!

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cooking, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Language, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Recipes, Relationships, Work Related Issues | 5 Comments

Business in New Orleans

Once we discovered how easy it is to go to New Orleans, even just for the day, we are hooked. When Zito’s Metal Polishing & Plating called to tell us our pieces were finished and offered to mail them (free of charge) to us, AdventureMan said “Oh no, we’ll come get them” and set the date. We invited a friend who also has some pieces that need re-tinning to be usable, and off we went.

You may think this is trivial, but for us, it is beautiful:

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Gas is so much cheaper in Louisiana. Of course, it takes nearly half a tank to get there, so I don’t suppose we are saving so much, LOL.  When I saw my old friends, my copper pots, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think they looked this good in Damascus, where I bought them, on The Street Called Straight. Who knows if we will ever be able to walk the streets of Damascus again?

 

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Zito’s was able to replace a handle on the brass piece we bought, oh so long ago, in the Khan al Khalili in Cairo.

 

These pieces are, I believe, more beautiful now than when I bought them! I had the pots re-tinned because I have used them cooking many many times over the last 35 years, but now I am afraid to use them, they are so beautiful!

 

We stayed out of the tourist areas with Mardi Gras madness in full swing, and found a fabulous Thai restaurant, La Thai, on Prytania, (voted Best Thai in New Orleans,) when our two Ethiopian restaurants were both closed. It was a wonderful happenstance; we had a great meal (scallops!) and we also were able to finish our day in New Orleans with a tour of City Park and ice cream at the Creole Creamery. Oh wow. Flavors like King Cake Ice Cream, and Red Velvet Ice Cream and 5 Spice Ginger. It was a great day.

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

AdventureMan Scores!

When I got home from my volunteer job yesterday, I chatted with AdventureMan while I puttered in the kitchen, and asked where we were going for lunch – it was his turn to choose. It was hard to hear him, for some reason he was hanging out in the entry hall around the corner. He asked where I was and I told him I was in the kitchen.

“Let’s get going,” I said, as our grandson needs to be picked up when he gets out of school.

“Ahhhhhk! I can’t stand it! I can’t wait!” he said. “Please come here!”

He was still in the hallway, looking out the window, so I looked out the window and he told me I was cold, and getting colder.

I turned around, confused, and then I saw them – perfect, long stemmed white roses, surrounded only with white baby’s breath, oh, it’s a combination that always makes my heart flutter.

” . . . . ” (That’s me, not knowing what to say, stunned.

“But it’s not my birthday!”

He had a doctors appointment in the morning, and is doing well. So well, he had one of those epiphanies, when you are happy and you know it (LOL, clap your hands!) (It’s a children’s song “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap) . . . )

He’s happy. I’m happy. We had a sweet lunch together at one of our favorite eateries. Life is sweet.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Mating Behavior, Pensacola, Thanksgiving | 1 Comment

“You’re Not Wearing a Coat!”

My friend exclaimed as we left church on our way to breakfast with our husbands. “I have never seen you wearing a coat!”

Well, actually, I remember maybe four years ago on Christmas wearing a coat, but hey, this is Pensacola, and for the most part, it just isn’t cold enough for me to wear a coat. I have some nice sweatshirts with hoodies that get me through the post-water-aerobics chill, and that is usually enough.

Yesterday morning, however, was coat weather. This morning is even colder, but since I can wear jeans and a heavy sweatshirt, I won’t need the coat. It’s 28 degrees (F)

 

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January 11, 2016 Posted by | Friends & Friendship, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Beryl Markham and the EPIC Book Club

When the EPIC Book Club met this month, we were discussing Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun.  Several of us had enjoyed her book about Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Wife, and had thought this one, about the famous early aviator, would be another great book. I was so impressed with The Paris Wife that I immediately read Hemingway’s The Movable Feast, his novel about the same period of time, and loved the way the books “danced together”. I think good historical fiction needs to stick to known facts.

It was a lively discussion; Beryl Markham was an unusual woman in an unusual culture in a time of transition. She grew up in Kenya as the British were beginning to colonize just after the first world war. Her mother abandoned the family, taking her frailer younger brother and leaving her, with no explanation. Some other woman moved in with her father; Beryl greatly raised herself with the indigenous people. Her father loved her, but was distant. He was first and foremost a horse breeder, and Beryl worked closely with him in breeding and training the horses.

She made a disastrous first marriage, leaving it to pursue a certificate – the first ever for a woman – as a horse trainer. She was spectacularly good at it, and worse (when it comes to the opinion of other women) she looked terrific in riding breeches. Men liked her. She liked men. She was not particular about boundaries, like marriage to other people or being the consort of her good friend, Karen Blixen. Later, she set records as one of the earliest female aviators.

It was also a time when women had few options, and most of the options required a man to take care of her. Beryl Markham had skills, and had more options.

So as we are discussing her behavior, which could be self-defeating and self-destructive, we discussed it in the context of Kenyan colonial society. Then one of the EPIC members mentioned that the same behaviors in the very church where we meet have been the spice of Pensacola gossip for more than a couple centuries; that people don’t change much. We were laughing, and another member mentioned being forbidden to read Peyton Place, many years ago when it was a banned book, and his wrestling coach told him “All the world is Peyton Place.”

I think of all the places I’ve lived and I am inclined to agree.

 

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Africa, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, EPIC Book Club, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Humor, Interconnected, Kenya, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Cold Enough

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Poor AdventureMan, I’ve whined and complained through the unusual heat of November and December, when I usually get really happy. Fortunately, we had one good cold snap in October, and I got my Christmas shopping done, and another very short cool time early in December, so I could get the house decorated. If it’s hot and humid, it’s just really hard for me to get motivated. I also hate having to use the air conditioning in December; “it’s just not right!”

AdventureMan laughs and tells me that in the South,  you crank the air conditioning up so you can build a big fire in your fireplace. It’s true! Especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can walk the neighborhood and smell the lovely smell of firewood, but it’s a little jarring when the temperatures are close to the eighties (F).

This week has been cold. It’s been wonderful; I can wear my Levis, I can wear a sweater, I can wear silk scarves – all things that can make you sweat at any temperature above 70 (F)

But today, it is a little warmer, maybe hitting 70, and we have a huge storm moving in, which hopefully will expend itself and move on, clearing up and cooling off for the big Mardi Gras parades starting today. AdventueMan is starting his day with a bowl of hot cereal. “It’s down in the 60’s (F) you know” he says, and I grin.

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Humor, Mardi Gras, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

When The Waiter Really Screwed Up

Today AdventueMan and I went out for a quick lunch at a local Chinese buffet restaurant, a larger restaurant that has a lot of selection and several rooms. We asked for a booth. I got a bowl of soup and came back to the table. The waiter had gotten everything wrong!

We had asked for a pot of hot tea and water, but there was no hot tea there, and when I put went to drink the ice water, the waiter had given me sweet iced tea, not ice water! I saw the waiter hurrying toward me with an odd look on his face, but before he could get there, some other guy was standing next to me grinning and saying “they sat you at our table?”

All of a sudden, it all fell into place and I realized no, I hadn’t been seated at the wrong table, I was in the wrong room, at the wrong table. I was SO embarrassed, but the other guy and the waiter just laughed.

I wasn’t laughing then, but I think it’s kind of funny now.

I left so quickly, I didn’t even apologize for having drunk out of the other guys iced tea!

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Eating Out, Humor, Pensacola | Leave a comment

The Fleur de Lis, Chartres Street, New Orleans

When we awake, it is raining once again, raining raining raining. AdventureMan knows just the place we need to be, we jump into our levis and clothes that rain can’t hurt and hurry up the street and around the corner to the Fleur-de-Lis, a little breakfast place beloved by locals and tourists alike.

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Once again, we feel like we are just in time. We get a great table, and place our order, and before our orders arrive, every table in the cafe is filled and the place is hoppin’. The tables are so close together that I can’t photograph my french toast and fruit bowl, made with slices of French bread (delish!) or AdventureMan’s eggs and bacon special. I got a great cup of coffee. AdventureMan said I like the Fleur de Lis better than he does. It was a perfect rainy morning place for breakfast. And really good coffee.

 

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January 3, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 2 Comments

The French Market Restaurant, New Orleans

Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? That injera is so delicious, but hours later, it has swollen in your tummy, and even after a long long walk, and several hours, even though it is dinner time, you are still not very hungry.

We didn’t want to go to a restaurant with courses and sauces. We weren’t that hungry. We had passed the French Market Restaurant as we strolled through the old French Market, and we liked that they had a good selection of boiled, steamed and healthy foods on their menu. It was just a few blocks from our hotel, an easy walk, so we decided to go there for dinner – or anyplace else that struck our fancy, but this was our destination if we didn’t find any place else.

We passed a lot of restaurants with lines, but not the foods we wanted.

When we got to the French Market Restaurant, we were so glad we had waited. The greeting was warm, the wait staff looked happy and like they knew what they were all about, and we had a nice table. The place was about half full when we got there, and within the next fifteen minutes, was packed. The tables are close together, so you get to see what everyone is eating, and hear about everyone’s lives, but it’s just that kind of place; cozy, comfortable, and the food is divine.

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I stuck with my plan – I ordered the shrimp and crab salad. It was perfect. AdventureMan ordered the oyster poor boy, of which he could only eat about half, and just the oysters. Oysters are rich! Battered oysters are richer! We started with the onion rings, which were fabulous, real onions dipped in a peppery batter, big pieces of pepper. This was unusual, the batter was light and tasty, and the dipping sauce piquant.

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We split a dessert. Hey, it’s New Orleans. I’m not a big sweet eater, but we ordered a piece of the Bourbon Pecan Pie which arrived cut in half with about a cup of whipped cream. It was SOO good. They were kind, my piece was the smaller “half” but still, if it weren’t so good, I wouldn’t have eaten my whole half. It’s all their fault, making such a delicious pie. AdventureMan is intrigued, and thinks he will try incorporating bourbon into his famous pecan pies now, too. (Wooooo Hooooooooo!)

 

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January 3, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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