Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Jennifer Egan: A Visit From the Goon Squad

Amazon.com kept telling me I needed to read this book, so finally, I ordered it and waited a couple months before I was ready. I just finished a major project AND I caught a miserable cold, so what better time?

I loved this book. It had a lot going against it; you know irrational factors like how you feel when you have a cold and your sinuses are all stuffed up and your chest is tight? A Visit From the Goon Squad took me out of my misery. While it appears random, it is tightly plotted, and I loved seeing how different strands intertwined. I also loved the effects of the goon squad (no, I am not going to tell you anything specific) and I loved how technology drove differences in how different generations thought and acted.

The last act takes place in a future where (this makes total sense) there is a high value placed on “pure”, no tattoos, no swearing – it is truly hilarious, the lengths to which we will go to NOT be our parents. Babies have their own hand-helds, which is already happening. My eyes have been opened, watching our own 18 month old grandson working an iPad and iPhone. It’s amazing to me the aps that are created to entertain, divert and teach our little ones.

This is not a straight line book, so there are times I had to go back and read a section again to remind myself where I met this character before, and how he tied into the plot earlier. It is a fascinating creation, this book, and I would love to sit down for coffee with this author, and her outside-the-box kind of thinking.

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Health Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

Bad Grandparents: Disaster Averted

“No! No!” he shouted, and pushed away the spoon full of rice and beans which he normally loves. No. He wanted BaBa to walk him around the restaurant some more, showing him serapes and sombreros and gaudily crowing roosters.

‘More. More,’ he signed.

“It’s dinner time, time to eat,” GaGa said calmly, signing for ‘eat.’

“No! No! Done!” He may not have a large vocabulary, but Happy Baby knows how to communicate pretty clearly. BaBa goes to pick him up, but I say no, it’s dinner time. Very calmly. The shrieks begin, the arched back, the tears. Baba looks at me accusingly; what to do? I know we need to hold our ground, but it is so hard when the piercing shrieks start.

And then, a miracle. The waiter shows up with a small plate of whipped cream with chocolate sauce over it.

What self-respecting grandparent would allow a child to feast on whipped cream??

Desperate grandparents. Grandparents who can’t bear to hear him shriek. We let him eat the whipped cream, but he had to eat it on his own, with the spoon. He’s not very efficient with the spoon yet, so he couldn’t really get much. And, between tiny spoon tastes of whipped cream, BaBa and I have discovered he will eat beans and rice after all. He ate all the beans and rice, and only got a little of the whipped cream, but he was happy. And so were we.

On some deep level I feel like we have shirked our responsibilities, but oh, those shrieks . . .

When we are at home, we can ignore the shrieks. One time he was shrieking, and when we ignored him, he stopped, came closer and then flopped down and started shrieking again. We couldn’t help it, we just laughed. It was so hilarious. When he saw us laughing, he gave up and got involved with something else. He is so much fun. 🙂

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Character, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, Family Issues, Pensacola, Relationships | 4 Comments

Polonza’s on Palafox

We tried to go to Polonza’s on Sunday morning, after church, but it was closed. (It’s now open for on Sundays, hurran!) We tried to go during the Saturday morning, but it was closed (I think it still is.) Polonza’s is perfectly located in the middle of what we call ‘The Church Souk’, i.e. next to the Methodist Church, catty-corner from Christ Church Episcopal, just down the street from 1st Baptist, the Lutheran Church and the Presbyterian churches, and several others. It only makes sense to open on Sundays for brunch.

Service was attentive without being intrusive. (Very good!) He brought us extra sauce when we asked, and was quick at refilling our glasses and asking if we needed anything.

They do a booming lunch time business during the week. Great lunch specials, sandwiches, main dishes, lots of choices for sides, and BBQ, wooo hoooo.

Whoda thunk? The soup of the day was GAZPACHO, which AdventureMan said is almost exactly as good as mine, and mine is really good.

I couldn’t resist trying the BBQ chicken, which was good. I loved their BBQ Sauce, a little vinegary, not too sweet. You’ll notice I ordered the vegetables (in addition to the sweet potato fries 😦 )

AdventureMan ordered the BBQ Pork Sandwich, which he said was also really good.

Overall, a very positive experience. If you get there between 11:30 and 12:15 you will have to wait for a table on a week-day.

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola | Leave a comment

What’s Lost is Found

I published the last entry – about my lost thimble, the thimble I have looked for over three weeks now – and I went to lunch. I have a project I have been putting off; I need to stitch down a binding on a quilt, but without my silver thimble, I didn’t want to do it. I have other thimbles. My finger loves my little silver thimble.

It’s down to the wire. I need to get started, no more putting it off. I have a deadline, tomorrow, and I need to start NOW to be finished for tomorrow.

Oops – no needles, but I know where they are. They are in my sewing kit. I pull out my sewing kit – and there it is. My thimble.

What’s lost is found. Thanks be to God. And here is what I can’t figure out. I looked in this little sewing kit several times. It was one of the logical places. I felt it, for the unmistakeable shape of the thimble, I could swear it wasn’t there, but I would be wrong.

It’s a GREAT day. My little thimble is found!

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Survival, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Foolish Worries

I am a believer. I am not a superstitious person. Neither am I a big worrier. Having said all that, and I think it is important to put the forementioned on the record, so you have context, I have recently suffered a series of losses, and it troubles me.

First, I lost my YMCA card, which I always keep in the same place, and suddenly, it just wasn’t there. Not only was it not there, but it wasn’t in any logical place, where it might have dropped, or where I might have placed it in a careless moment. Just gone, totally gone.

Second, my credit card disappeared. I know exactly the last time I used it, and I remember seeing it NOT in my wallet, in its accustomed place, and picking it up and thinking “I need to put this in its accustomed place, so it doesn’t get lost.” Then, I noticed it wasn’t there. Just not there. There isn’t any other place I would put it, even to keep it safe. I spent a couple days going over just about any place it could be, and it is simply gone gone gone.

Third – and I hope last, because we have a saying that bad things come in threes (yes, yes, I know, it’s pure superstition) I can’t find my treasured silver thimble from Oman. I bought it at the Al Bustan Hotel gift shop, and I paid way too much for it, and I have never regretted it. It fit perfectly. I love using it. It has beautiful silver filigree embellishment, not a lot, just right, so it is both beautiful and useful. It’s not that I LOVE my thimble (I really do) but I appreciate that it is so beautiful, and it works so well for me. And it is gone. I always keep it in the same place, and it is not there. I am thinking I might have put it in “a safe place” as I was cleaning off my quilting area to be able to quilt a large quilt, but it’s been a couple weeks I’ve been looking, and it isn’t in any obvious ‘safe place.’

I am a very organized person, bordering precariously on obsessive-compulsive. I think about where to put things, and then I put them there conscientiously. It sounds prideful when I say it this way, but I always know where to find things. If they are not in the first place, they are always in the second or third. I am not in the habit of losing things.

It’s just my husband and me in the suite of rooms where thee things went missing. Oh yes, and the Qatari Cat, who shows absolutely no interest in my Y card, or my credit card, or my silver thimble. I totally know these losses are on me, and I am at a loss. Am I beginning to lose my mind?

No! No! I won’t even go there!

I trust that I have thoughtlessly misplaced, even lost these items. I replaced the Y card, and the credit card, but my silver thimble is irreplaceable, and I can only hope that it shows up, once again, in a place I never expected. I do have other thimbles. Still, I mourn the loss of my beautiful Omani silver thimble.

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Living Conditions, Oman, Pensacola | 1 Comment

Terrorism at the Mall of America

I’ve been listening to a very painful report on National Public Radio, Under Suspicion at the Mall of America, a report about counter-terrorism measures being taken at the Mall of America, a huge mall, in Minnesota. One reason I’ve always wanted to go there is that I think I remember it having a huge, huge swim area, with lots of water slides and wave machines, and it just looked like a lot of fun. When I look at the mall map, I don’t see any pool area. You know malls – they change, and it’s been years. It was probably a liability issue.

So this is the ten year anniversary of 9/11, an event so awful most of us barely want to think about it. There are some things that just go so deep, you could get lost in the horror of it all. Officials are warning of the possibility of anniversary acts of terrorism, and Mall of America has always felt itself to be a vulnerable symbol, due to its name.

This is a lengthy report of “suspicious” incidents at Mall of America. They make me want to cry. You can read the report, but if you listen to the audio (you just click on the audio symbol) it is a richer, more detailed report. Listen – and weep.

Under Suspicion at the Mall of America

Below is an excerpt:

A Missing Cellphone

Yet look what happened when Najam Qureshi’s father came under suspicion at the Mall of America.

Najam Qureshi was born in Pakistan, but he’s been a U.S. citizen since he was a teenager. Today, he manages computer systems for a major company near Minneapolis. He and his family live on a pretty suburban street.

Najam Qureshi’s father came under suspicion at the Mall of America after leaving his cellphone in the food court.

In January 2007, an FBI agent showed up on his doorstep. It turned out that a few weeks before, Qureshi’s father had left his cellphone on a table in the Mall of America’s food court. When the mall’s counterterrorism unit saw the unattended phone, plus someone else’s cooler and stroller, guards cordoned off the area. Qureshi’s father wandered back, looking for his phone, and the RAM unit interrogated him and then reported him to the Bloomington police. In turn, the police reported the incident to the FBI. The documents we obtained show that the mall’s reports went to state and federal law enforcement, in roughly half the cases. The incident with Qureshi’s father led the FBI to want to question Qureshi himself, in his own home.

“He asked me if I knew anybody in Afghanistan. And that was kind of like, what?! And, then he asked me if I had any friends in Pakistan,” Qureshi says.

The FBI also asked him if he knew anybody that would try to hurt the U.S. government, according to Qureshi.

“My reaction in my mind, was, ‘How dare this guy in my house, come in and say this,’ ” he recalls.

But mall officials stand by their program of identifying suspicious people.

“You’re talking about a handful of people that are complaining, out of the 750 million plus that have been through these doors since 1992,” Bausch says. “And we apologize if it, you know, if it caused them any inconvenience, I mean we really do.”

“Unfortunately the world has changed,” says Bausch. “We assume you’d want your family and friends to be safe if they are in the building. And we simply noticed something that we didn’t think was right.”

A commander with the Bloomington police said these reports would be kept on file for decades. When Qureshi found out that the 11-page report reading “suspicious person” would be kept that long, his eyes filled with tears.

“It shattered an image of the U.S. that I had, fundamentally. I don’t know, especially when I saw some of these reports. It’s definitely bothersome, how small things can just, you know, trickle up that quickly, and all of a sudden you’re labeled. And once you’re labeled, you’re basically messed up, right?”

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Building, Bureaucracy, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions | Leave a comment

Oops! Five Year Blogaversary Almost Slipped Past

Holy cow, how could I forget my own blogoversary? Five years. When my son and daughter in law got married, they had a cake that totally knocked my socks off. I wish I could think of a good occasion to have a cake like this made . . . not so much to eat, but oh, they are so beautiful!

We’ve been through so much together – three years in Kuwait, a move to and another year in Qatar, and then the move, about 18 months ago, to Pensacola. These cakes are good reminders of all three countries, loaded with the blessings of blue skies, sand, glorious seas and seashells. Join me in a bite of cake 🙂

Pensacola, with the light house 🙂

Beaches I’ll remember 🙂

September 6, 2011 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life | 6 Comments

Warden Message 9-11 Anniversary

Travel Alert
U.S. Department of State

9-11 Anniversary
September 02, 2011

As we mark the 10th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
the Department of State informs U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad of
the continued threat posed by al-Qa�ida and its affiliates. While we have not
identified any specific threats from al-Qa�ida affiliates and allies to attack
the United States or our interests on the 9/11 anniversary, U.S. citizens should
be aware that al-Qa�ida affiliates and allies have demonstrated the intent and
capability to carry out attacks against the United States and our interests
around the world. In the past, terrorist organizations have on occasion planned
their attacks to coincide with significant dates on the calendar. This
Worldwide Travel Alert supplements the July 26, 2011, Worldwide Caution, and
expires on January 2, 2012.

U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad should enroll in the Smart Travelers
Enrollment Program (STEP) at the following website: https://travelregistration.state.gov.

U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or
Consulate at their destination. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for
the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

Updated information on travel and security may be obtained from the Department
of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or,
for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at
1-202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Worldwide Caution
and other consular information, including Country Specific Information, for
specific countries. These products and the latest international travel
information for U.S. citizens are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs
Internet website at http://travel.state.gov.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14,
Bayan, Kuwait. If you are a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance in
Kuwait, you may reach the U.S. Embassy by calling +965-2259-1001 and requesting
the duty officer.

American citizens in Kuwait who would like to receive future Warden Messages
from the Embassy directly by e-mail may sign up for this service by sending an
e-mail to the following address: join-wardenmessagekuwait@mh.databack.com
This message may be accessed on the Embassy website, http://kuwait.usembassy.gov
Please note that the Consular Section is closed for U.S. and most local
holidays. The current holiday schedule for 2011 is posted on
http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/holidays.html.

September 6, 2011 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Events, ExPat Life, Kuwait | Leave a comment

In The Middle of the Storm

When you’re in the middle of the storm, it is hard to imagine just how BIG it is. It isn’t a hurricane, because the winds are not high enough, but oh man, the rain. Poor Pensacola has been about 10 – 15 inches short of its annual average, and I think we are getting all caught up this weekend.

AdventureMan is outside, picking up dead tree branches that came down last night. On our way to church, early this morning, we saw the electrical crews out trying to fix a line that went down. God bless these heroes who get out of bed on a national long weekend, early in the morning, so that people might have lights, and power, and air conditioning. We take them for granted, and yet they are everyday heroes.

September 4, 2011 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Environment, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | 4 Comments

A Different Perspective

“It’s going to be a great weekend! We’re expecting sun and temperatures of 85°F!” my Mom enthused, from Seattle.

“We’re expecting a great weekend, too,” I enthused right back, “the temperature will be down to about 85°F and it’s going to RAIN!”

We laughed. It’s all a matter of perspective.

“We’re staying in this weekend,” said one of my co-mother-in-laws. “When it gets like this, we just hunker down.”

“We went out to the beach!” I crowed! I wanted to see the waves, and when the temperatures go down and it rains, I feel re-energied!”

We laughed. She’s married to a man from the Pacific Northwest, so this perspective is not new to her.

What was not funny was when I had just started a load of laundry, and the electricity went out. Electricity goes out all the time, or from time to time, with frequent thunder and lightning storms, but this time it went out and stayed out. Without the ceiling fans going, it wasn’t hot, but it got stuffy. We have a covered and protected area outside, so we went outside and sat and watched the gusting winds and the flying rain beating down our tomato plants. Mostly, the rain has been drizzling down, but for an hour or so, it really battered and flew about. It’s just a normal small storm, though, nothing like it could be, nothing like Hurricane Irene, which devastated the East Coast last weekend.

And it was a good thing. We have hurricane preparations, but . . . sometimes we rob the Hurricane supplies, or borrow them, and forget to put them back. While it was still daylight, I wanted to check on candles, matches, etc. and I discovered the matches had been MISPLACED. I finally found them. I gathered candles, and checked the weather station on my radio that you wind up during electrical outages (it worked fine) and started a list of additional things I want to gather to have on hand in case the electricity goes out for any length of time. It’s good to be prepared. 🙂

Electricity is back on now, adventure over.

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment