Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Mileage Makes Me Smile

We just got back from our road trip. This time we took my little Rav4 since I barely put 5,000 miles on it this last year. We put 2255 miles on it, and (Ta DA!) we got an amazing 28.814945436888241 miles per gallon during the trip, even counting all the in-town travel we did in Pittsburgh (yes, photos and write-up to follow, first we have to get unpacked and I have to get some laundry started.)

Back a long long time ago, when I was in 6th grade, my parents took us out of school for a road trip, and my teacher gave me several assignments I had to do while I was gone those two weeks. One assignment was to keep track of the mileage, the gas consumption, and to figure the miles per gallon. (I also had to keep a daily journal, and to see how many different state license plates I could find while we travelled.) I’m such a geek, keeping track of gas mileage has fascinated me ever since. Cars do so many things better than they every used to. Nearly 29 mpg makes me smile.

Travel over the Memorial Day weekend also made us smile. We expected horrendous traffic and found calm, rational driving everywhere we went, even through the larger cities. . . it was heaven.

I love road trips. I get time with my husband, I have him all to myself and as we drive along every now and then he will start talking and – after all these years – I will learn something new about my husband. Someone makes the bed I sleep in and irons the sheets. Someone fixes my meals, and I get to eat what I want. I get to see new things and take a few photos. This trip we got to spend time with a very special group of friends we grew close to in Doha . . . What’s not to love?

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May 31, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Statistics, Travel | 5 Comments

Islamic Architecture from YouTube

I still get e-mail from I Love Qatar.com and even though I no longer live in Qatar, I love their e-mails, I love hearing about what is going on in Doha socially and culturally, and I love this fresh, enthusiastic group of people who promote having fun and learning more about Qatar.

In today’s e-mail was a reference to this lovely video collection by Mballan which I recommend you watch when you have a few peaceful moments to enjoy it – he – or she – has found some magnificent sights, and the collection is beautiful. I only wish more of the selections were identified; I could recognize several, but far from all. Enjoy . . .

May 30, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Doha, Entertainment, Qatar | 1 Comment

Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and WOW

“Isn’t it funny,” I said, “here we are in West Virginia, and I haven’t seen an ounce of coal. Like here are all these mountains, there must be coal, West Virginia is famous for coal mines . . . ”

And just then we saw the first of the coal processing places to our right, huge, and it was just the first. AdventureMan laughed, it happened just as I was saying we had not seen any. I just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, part of which takes place in Welch, West Virginia, but it was off our route, and I didn’t get to see it. I looked for run down shacks, and saw a few, but found West Virginia green, and beautiful and actually very prosperous looking.

All in all it was a really great day of driving. I got the first shift, and drove until lunch, when AM took over until time to stop. The WOW was that I discovered I can put in a destination and ask for directions on my iPhone, and the iPhone shows where we are as a pulsing blue dot, and draws a line to where we are going. The hotel we wanted was not in view from the highway, and we never would have found it otherwise. It was so totally cool; I could tell AdventueMan which street to turn on and which direction.

It’s quirky. There was actually another way, a way that did not take us through the University of West Virginia (!) and past the hospital entrance and through the parking lot (!) but it got us there, relatively directly, and it was a total hoot getting there.

I love this capability. I love my iPhone. We used to joke about how I needed one for our road trips, but oh, I never knew how much. I am having so much fun. I can just ask “hotel in Morgantown, WV” and it gives me so many options! I ask for BBQ restaurants and it gives me the nearest ones; it knows where I am! I love this capability!

There was another bad storm yesterday, in Oklahoma, with a lot of damage and people missing. Doesn’t it seem like there have been more damaging storms this year than most? I hope this does not foreshadow an active hurricane season.

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel, Weather | 2 Comments

Storm Damage

We’ve taken a brief trip to be with friends for a wedding and reunion, and en route, passed through the areas of Georgia and Tennessee where there was so much storm damage.

The damage was shocking. Entire areas just flattened, with people’s lives, their accumulations, scattered to the winds. It looked like a tsunami hit.

There was one room at the inn, and it wasn’t cheap.

“Why are all the hotels so full?” I asked. “They’re never this full!”

“We’re full with families whose homes were destroyed,” the clerk explained quietly. “They’re trying to figure out what to do, what the insurance will cover, what it won’t.”

Oh. Oh. Oh. We saw this in Pensacola, too, after the stunning Hurricane Ivan. Hotels were full of people trying to get back into their houses, and also full of builders and roofers and carpenters and finishers, there to try to help people put their lives back together.

It puts things back into perspective, quickly, when you are surrounded by those whose lives changed in a heartbeat, and who are trying to figure out where to go from here. We’re just glad to have a room. And a home.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | Leave a comment

A God of Infinite Mercy

This morning, Father Neal Goldsborough of Christ Church Pensacola gave a sermon that held us all totally spellbound. It had to do with the fundamentalist preacher who – once again – forecast the coming rapture, which he says was scheduled for yesterday. (I wonder what he has to say today? He was wrong once before, in 1994. Or maybe people were raptured yesterday, but all the folk I know are, like me, sinners who didn’t make the cut.)

Father Neal talked about his service in the chaplain corp overseas, and faiths which exclude based on narrow rules, specific rules, churches and religions who say ‘this is the only way and all the rest of you are damned to everlasting fire” whether they use those words or paraphrases. He pointed to Jesus, who broke the rules of his time and flagrantly spent time with sinners, and the unclean, and showed them by his love and by his actions what the infinite love and mercy and forgiveness of Almighty God looks like.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

Soon, I will be meeting up with three women who are particularly dear to me, friends for many years in Qatar, friends who worshipped at the Church of the Epiphany in Doha, Qatar. The new Anglican Church of the Epiphany is being built on land dedicated to church use by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and will be used by many denominations.

My friends and I all returned to the USA within months of one another, and have been sending e-mails with “reply to all” as we struggle with our re-entry into our old church communities. We struggle with the hatreds and prejudices and ignorance about our Moslem brothers and sisters, and we struggle with the narrow strictures imposed by our churches and study groups. I thank God to have these wonderful women among whom we can share our dismay and our hurting hearts, and re-inforce the lessons we learned living in a very exotic, and sometimes alien culture, but which had so many wonderful and mighty lessons to teach us. I often joke that in my life, God kept sending me back to the Middle East (Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait) until he saw that I finally got it. My sisters-in-faith were quicker studies than I was. 🙂

It was a breath of the Holy Spirit I felt this morning, as Father Neal spoke about God’s mercy, his plan to redeem ALL of his creation, God’s desire for our love and our service. I couldn’t help it, it made me weep with relief to know my church is a church that serves God by including, rather than excluding, and which mercifully welcomes sinners like me.

Here is the really cool part. Christ Church Pensacola has recently begun putting the sermons online. If there is one thing Christ Church has, it is great sermons – and if you want to hear Father Neal’s sermon, you can click HERE, in a few days and you can hear his sermon for yourself. 🙂 Look for the May 22 sermon by Father Neal Goldsborough.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Jordan, Language, Leadership, Living Conditions, Middle East, Moving, Pensacola, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Tunisia | 4 Comments

An Ad that is a Total WOW

At first you don’t know what is going on. Keep watching. This ad is a total WOW. Thank you, Kit-Kat, for sending.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Beauty, Marketing, Music | 2 Comments

Perfect Pensacola Evening

After weeks of early and sultry heat, Pensacola has had a spell of cooler weather, nights down into the 50’s and even high 40’s, and days in the mid 70’s – and not humid. Great weather for working in the garden or going to a park, weather that just makes you want to be outside.

Last night we went to a meeting of the Gulf Coast Diplomatic Council at a beautiful home out in Gulf Breeze, with a view of the water that goes forever. As you walk in, you can smell wood – or at least I can. I grew up with houses that used a lot of wood, and I love the smell. The heart of the house was a kitchen – dining room – sitting area with that forever view.

It was a lively group. The group only gets together a couple times a year, but what a fun group – all people who are willing to host foreign visitors when they come to Pensacola. I am guessing one of the reasons that Pensacola gets so many groups (besides those glorious sugar-white sand beaches, and the multicolors of the Gulf, and all the seafood and palms and balmy weather) is that the GCDC has developed a sterling reputation with visitors, and the Department of State is happy to send them to a place where they will get such a warm reception.

Attending also were some delegates from other countries. We spent some time with a Namibian farmer, who wants to find market outlets for poor rural women in Namibia. We spent two weeks in Namibia – it seems a lifetime ago – and loved our time there. We made a circuit of the country, from the farms in the east to the great Etosha game park, to the Demaraland, and down the Skeleton coast to Sossossvlei, where we climbed the mountainous sand dunes. It was a great adventure for us, and we have such happy memories of Namibia, and our delegate was so happy to meet people who had spent time in her country, We had a great visit with her and a great time altogether.

There were mountains of food available, but you know how awkward it is to be talking with people and they ask you a question just as you have taken a bite of something that needs to be chewed and swallowed before you can answer? We passed on the food so we could focus on the conversations. In the back of our minds, too, we knew we were close to one of our favorite places, Flounders, so we popped over there for a bowl of chowder, grilled grouper po’ boy (AdventureMan) and grilled shrimp Ceasar (me). The evening was perfect – no humidity, temperature perfect, slight breeze but not too hot or too cold – perfect.

This weekend we are taking care of Happy Baby while our son and his wife head off to a family wedding. Happy Baby is fifteen months old, and a live wire. So much energy and no inhibitions! You have to watch him every minute. He loves climbing, but he has no sense of danger. It takes both of us to keep up with him! He is so much fun to be around, that although it will be exhausting, it will also be a lot of fun.

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Florida, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola | | Leave a comment

For Me, Two Special Offers, Money Money Money

To me, it’s just amazing; they don’t know me and yet I am a winner. They want to give me lots of money. Big Whoop.

Attention Winner

Greetings of the day, Hoping that this mail meets you in a perfect condition.

(UN Information Service) — The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) has made available today a total of $595,044,579.38 to six governments for distribution to 8,303 successful claimants.

Payment is being made in respect of 2,946 claims in category (A-(claims of individuals for damages up to $100,000).

Claims in category (B-(claims of corporations, other private legal entities and public sector enterprises), that were approved for payment by the Governing Council at its fifty-fifth session, held from 8 to 10 March 2005.

Today’s payment are being made in accordance with the Governing Council’s decision 227, which extended the temporary payment mechanism set out by the Governing Council in its decision 197, under which up to $200 million from the Compensation Fund will be made available for the payment of claims every quarter. In the present round of payment, all newly approved claims, i.e. claims approved for payment at the fifty-fifth session, will receive $500,000 or the principal amount of the award, if less, and some claims will receive up to $300,000.

The present payment brings the overall amount of compensation made available to date by the United Nations Compensation Commission to $500,000.00.

Participants for the online version were selected randomly from World Wide Web sites through computer draw system and extracted from over 100,000 unions, associations, and corporate bodies that are listed online. We are using this opportunity to thank you for using the internet daily.

We do hereby Congratulates you, as your e-mail appears among one of the list extracted from this websites.

The card center will send you an ATM DEBIT CARD, which you will use to withdraw your money in any ATM machine, Banks and Union Pay Credit outlets in the world; you are hereby selected as an honour for this payment approval, which you are to acknowledge the receipt of this mail to the Logistic Department by email listed below.

Contact Mr. Peter Nick with below e-mail;

Mr. Peter Nick
Manager Foreign Operation
E-mail: mrpeternick@yahoo.co.jp

Good luck and kind regards,
Making the world a better place

Adam Shamir
Personal Assistant To
Dr. Ban Ki-Moon
{Send copy of email to: mrpeternick@yahoo.co.jp}
In respect to the delivery of this ATM Debit card, you are to bear the cost

And on the same day, this one in from Ouagadougou – don’t you just love that name? People in the state department used that as a threat, like if you aren’t good, you go to Ouagadougou:

From the desk of Mr. Hassan Ahmed.

Auditing and Accounting section of

Bank of Africa (B.O.A)

Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso

West Africa

Good day,

I wish to know if we can work together because i would like you to stand as the
beneficiary to a deceased client Mr. Emmanuel Etukudo who made some deposit sum
of_ ($15.5million) fifteen million five hundred thousand united states dollars
in my department in the Bank of Africa Burkina-Faso, West Africa before his
death.

He died on the 2nd may 2007 without any registered next of kin and as such the
funds now have an open beneficiary mandate. Upon your reply i will give you
details on how the transaction will be executed, and I’ am assuring you that it
is 100% risk free hence you co-operate with me.

Best regards and expecting your response.

Mr. Hassan Ahmed.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Scams | Leave a comment

Expat Workforce

I received this e-mail asking for publicity and participation in a new website. Maybe you would like to help?

Hi Expat Blogger !

My name is Melanie, I’m the Community Manager for a new site called Expat Workforce. I thought you might be interested in the site since we hope it’ll allow more people to pursue their expat dreams. I’m writing to ask for your help.

Expat Workforce is the only site of its kind. We connect expats with Western businesses who want to outsource jobs to talented expats around the world. Whether it’s copywriting, telesales, customer service, or bookkeeping – because of technology it’s possible for businesses to save money by hiring expats to do these jobs.

We just launched last week and are still in “beta mode” and recruiting expats. We plan to begin promoting aggressively to businesses in approximately 1 month.

I’m writing with two requests:

In order for businesses to see the site as the “go to” place for finding expats, we need a critical mass of expats. Could you take a minute to build your profile at: http://expatworkforce.com/ ?

If you are intrigued by the idea of Expat Workforce, would you be willing to write a short blog post or mention us in a Twitter message? We greatly rely on support from the expat community to help us spread the word about the site.

If you have any questions, just hit “reply” and I’d be happy to tell you more. Also, you can check out FAQ here: http://bit.ly/expatFAQ to learn more.

Thank you for your consideration.

Warm regards,

Melanie
Community Manager
Expat Workforce

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/expatworkforce
Twitter: @expatwork

Empowering entrepreneurs and expats to realize their dreams

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Start of Ramadan 2011

The calendars are proclaiming that the first day of Ramadan will be August 1st this year, and the Eid al Fitr will be August 30th.

I cannot imagine Ramadan in August, especially in Kuwait and Qatar. It will be a brutal test of self-denial.

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Ramadan, Spiritual | 3 Comments