Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Snow on the Mountains

The very first morning I was here, as you might imagine, I was up very early. As the sun rose, I was heading down the hill to my Mom’s and saw, off in the distance, the Olympic Mountains, covered with snow. Totally awesome. It is the first snow of the season, and everyone is talking about it. In spite of all the rain, which washes down into Puget Sound, this area also suffers from occasional droughts. Temperatures are rising, and a good snow pack on the mountains is critical to maintaining a good supply of water through the year. Seeing the first snow on the mountain lifts everyone’s spirits.

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November 19, 2007 Posted by | Living Conditions, Seattle, Spiritual, Weather | 7 Comments

Ken Follett and World Without End

Oprah has just chosen the predecessor to this book, Pillars of the Earth, as her monthly book club choice. I am so glad! Ken Follett and I have a very mixed relationship; I used to think he was brilliant, and then he wrote one book that just disgusted me so much I stopped reading him altogether until he wrote Pillars of the Earth, which has to do with the building of the very first cathedrals in Europe. It was one of those books that you hated to have it end, and you remember years later.

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World Without End follows up Pillars of the Earth. We follow the lives of several people we meet as they are children, and we discover that their lives are intertwined in intricate ways. Two of the characters, Caris and Merthin, love one another from childhood, and we wonder throughout the book if they will ever find a way to be together. Merthin is a builder, descending from the main character of Pillars of the Earth, and shares his way of being able to look at problems from a new perspective and build in new ways based on stepping outside the box to solve problems.

Ken Follett is good at describing the lives of his characters in the 1300s, as farmers try to survive the rainy summers and crop damage, as laborors become independant from the abuses of feudal overlords, as the plague strikes rich and poor alike, as spiritual leaders cope with the demands of daily life and needs. We learn about the living conditions in England in the 1300′s, we learn about the early trade guilds and merchant guilds, we learn how disasters can be an impetus for social and political change, we learn how women used what little control they had over their own lives to their advantage. World Without End is a book rich in texture, sensually layered and visually vivid.

I have a strong feeling that people are pretty much people, and that we haven’t changed too much over the centuries. We HAVE made some advances, we have carved out rule of law, and ways for communities and nations to function together in relative peace, but I still feel that some of the interactions between men and women have a feeling that is too modern. I could be wrong. A few of the the scenes just didn’t ring true to me; it was as if modern people were transposed back to the 1300′s and thinking in modern ways, and it just seemed . . . well, I guess anachronistic!

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Community, Cross Cultural, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Special Needs

This time in Seattle, I am staying at my sister’s house. Here is what I really love – she does so many things to make me feel welcome. She has a beautiful room for me, with a television and wireless internet and lots of hangers in the closet for all my clothes. There is a private bathroom, just for me . . . and as nice as it all is, that isn’t the best part.

The very best part is that her cats love me. They remember me, they remember my voice, they gather in my room and tell me how happy they are to see me.

My sister and her husband are two of the sweetest hearted people you could meet. They adopt animals. They don’t adopt just any animal, they only adopt animals that need them.

This is Bella. She is 19 years old, and she is BOSSY. She tells all the other cats what to do, and they don’t mess with her. She is totally deaf, or so my sister believes, but the way to Bella’s heart has always been to tell her how PRETTY she is. (Even male cats have this quality – every cat likes to be told he or she is PRETTY.) When you tell Bella she is PRETTY, she turns somersaults, she is so happy.)

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This is Wally. Wally was a street cat, who got adopted and then was either thrown or jumped from a very high balcony (who knows with cats? They don’t understand high balconies – he might have jumped) and his front paws are crippled. We don’t think he knows he is crippled, he is the sweetest hearted cat you have ever met. All Wally wants is love, and lots and lots of it.

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The other two cats are Jasmine and Tux. Jasmine is all black, and is fat and fluffy, and very shy. Tux is still a kid – and full of energy and mischief. When I can get him to hold still long enough to take his photo, you will see why he is called Tux. Tux is his formal name, though, my sister calls him “stinker cat” because he creates so much trouble, but then just sits there looking cute. Both Tux and Jasmine showed up at my sister’s door and said they want to live here, and she figured they were meant to, since they showed up. Can’t you see why I love staying here?

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Community, Living Conditions, Photos, Relationships, Seattle | 3 Comments

Mr. Plopper

The plane was filling up fast, but so far, so good – the seat next to me is empty! I can tell that the cabin crew is getting ready to fly – they have started closing up all the bins. I’m afraid to even hope that I will have the serenity of an extra seat, the space, the silence – it’s a very long flight.

“I was hoping this seat would be free!” says a long, tall man who has just plopped himself into the empty seat next to me. I didn’t pay for that seat, it isn’t MY seat, but neither am I feeling particularly friendly to this very tall man who sat himself down so emphatically next to me, and then FLUFFED himself up so that he is everywhere!

His shoes are over on my side, so while he is busy shaking his paper noisily (more fluffing) I quickly scoot them back on his side with my feet. He is leaning over into my seat and OUR SHOULDERS ARE TOUCHING and he isn’t apologizing or moving back away or anything, I guess I have lived in Kuwait for too long but this is a STRANGE MAN and his shoulder is over the arm rest touching my shoulder!

Just in the nick of time, I discover I have one of those slipping-back seats, where you put it in the old “full upright position for take-off” but it won’t stay there, it keeps slipping back, although not too far; the seats don’t seem to be able to go back farther than five inches or so, even when broken. Anyway, for the next ten hours, every time that shoulder encroaches back into my space I hit the button that brings the seat back up with a jolt, hitting his shoulder and reminding him to keep to his own seat.

All this is done without raising my eyes from my book.

This man desperately wants my attention. He has discovered his shoes, back under his own feet, and he gives a deep, disturbed sigh. You can kind of tell that this guy arranges the universe to suit himself, and he is not used to being crossed.

He leans across me and shuts the window shade and says “I am going to be using my laptop and this creates a glare,” and I lean over and open it back up about three inches and say “and I am using it for reading, so we will have to compromise.”

He says “you can use the light” and I reply “and you can turn your laptop” and I give him a huge, insincere smile, the kind with your mouth closed and sort of tight. I am sending a strong strong message – don’t screw with me, buddy. I can’t keep you from sitting here, but you are not going to encroach on ME.

I ignore his deep sighs, which continue every time I press that button to hit his encroaching arm.

I ignore whatever it is on his laptop. I think I am supposed to look and understand that he is an important man, but here it is – I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care. You can sit in that seat; I can’t stop you, but I don’t have to interact with you and I don’t have to share my space with you.

It’s a great book. Ken Follet’s new book, the follow up to Pillars of the Earth, called World Without End.

When I finish my book, I sleep for a couple hours so I arrive in Seattle rested enough to pick up my rental car and drive through Seattle. In Kuwait, KLM was kind enough to put big PRIORITY tags on my bags, which, we all know, means “take these bags off the plane last of all” so it took me a while to get through the airport.

It is, once again, L’heure bleu a la Seattle. It may be four in the afternoon, but it is raining and dark, and traffic is slow enough on the interstate heading north that I can even take (very carefully, of course) a couple shots to share with you the thrill of coming into Seattle in November:

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Kinda different from L’heure blue in Kuwait, hmmmm? ;-)

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Biography, Books, ExPat Life, KLM, Spiritual, Travel | 12 Comments

   

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