Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Watch Out For those Christians”

AdventureMan and I knowingly make bad choices every now an then, and Chow Time is one of them. We haven’t been for months, ever since the nearby Mediterranean Plus shut its doors because of the competition from Chow Time, it broke our hearts. But today, AdventureMan just had a hankering for Chow Time, and it’s fresh oyster day, so we went.

We had hit the early service at our church, 0800, so we had been home, changed, AdventureMan hit the garden and I hit the Christmas decor, taking it all down, which I do superstitiously since my Chinese friend told me the way I come into the new year is the way I will spend my new year, so you need to have everything done, EVERYTHING, so that your new year will be prosperous and easy and not full of tasks left undone. You have to have your bills all paid and money in your pocket and a clean clean and organized house.

Oh aaarrgh. It’s a lot of pressure to get it all done by New Year’s Eve. But we had accomplished a lot by noonish, and AdventureMan was hungry – STARVING! I like Chow Time, too, because you can have whatever you want, in the amount you want it. I like tiny bites of bad things, and I try to make myself focus on eating good things.

So I am thinking about my strategy when I see an older woman with a walker, the kind with a seat in it, so she has her plate on the seat and she is very carefully and sedately making her way along the buffet stations, but there are well-dressed crowds of people politely pushing in front of her, all around her. These are no-make-up, long skirt, long hair kinds of people, and they are all sitting together in very nice clothes at several tables in one area, and unbidden, the thought comes to me “Oh! Watch out for those Christians!”

And then I have to laugh, because of course, I am one of THEM. We all think we are so good in our own way, but don’t get between these Christians and the buffet, or, even if you are elderly and pushing your plate on a walker, you might get run-over by these good Christian folk!

I am telling you this, knowing that I have my own weakness. I can be perfectly polite at a buffet, I can patiently allow others to push in front, or rush to get all the crab legs – I’m not going to starve. I think of our Kuwaiti friend who would jokingly tell his wife “have you never seen food before?” He told us it was something Kuwaiti parents would say to their children, teaching them to be polite.

My weakness is airports, airplanes, air travel. Partly it comes from growing up in Europe, where even if seats were assigned, everyone just rushed on the plane and sat where they wanted. It was hilarious, but if you are from a culture where people think seat assignment means something, it is also kind of frustrating. If you didn’t edge your way onto the plane, you got a rotten seat, like the middle seat, where you have to sit stiffly so your shoulders don’t bump someone else’s.

These days it is even worse. Even if you have an assigned seat, with all the people afraid to pay a baggage charge, they are heaving these hefty bags on board, and overhead space is first-come, first served. Those late on the plane have difficulty finding a place in the overhead bins.

So here is the dilemma. Not even a dilemma, we all KNOW what the right answer is. Do you politely let others go ahead? Do we courteously allow those who are disabled, or accompanied by young children, or having trouble walking, do we courteously allow them to board first, with no grumbling?

I still remember being Platinum, getting to board first, getting frequent upgrades, getting all the perks . . . being treated “special.” It’s kind of addictive, being treated as if you are special.

I contrast that with what we KNOW to be true, that the first will be last, and that those who serve others, who wait upon others, who allow others to be preferred – those are the ones who will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

So as I sit in our little booth at Chow Time, I wonder if I show the face of Christ by my behavior, and I cringe a little at all the instincts in me that still want to be first. Even if I step back and allow the lady with the walker to go ahead, I still have my failures in other areas of my life, areas where I step up rather than step back. Food for a new year’s resolution . . . .

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December 30, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Social Issues, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Birding at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge

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Some mornings, I am astonished at how wonderful it is to live in a place where we have the luxury to set aside wide tracts of lands to preserve our natural heritage. St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge evokes that response in me. It’s even more astonishing that because a couple years ago I bought a lifetime Senior Pass, getting into the national parks is free – for the rest of my life. What a great country we live in. 🙂

It is a cold and frosty morning as we load up to head out to St. Marks for some serious bird watching and photographing. Serious, that is, for AdventureMan, who actually does birding trips with other serious birders. I am a bird-appreciator, as in I know what a cardinal is, and a blue jay. I can pretty well recognize a buzzard. Hey, show me a painting and I can probably tell you who painted it, but birds . . . not so much.

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I love being outdoors in Florida on a wonderful clear cool day with fabulous conditions for taking photos. I love just wandering along some of the birding trails and seeing what we can see. It’s an amazing place; in some of the areas where we stopped to wander, it reminded me of places we like to go in Africa, of Zambia, of Namibia, of Botswana . . . some of the habitat is so alike, I can almost hear those tectonic plates creaking apart, drifting, and wonder how much of the flora is directly related to African flora.

 
We had these in Tunisia; we called them Prickly Pear, and the Tunisians used them for borders to separate their lands. They also made jam with the prickly pears, and they skinned the leaves and fried up the meat from inside the thick prickly pear leaves. I think what a great border they would make in Pensacola, but a very unfriendly border. Good for keeping away thieves and burglers, but not very attractive, and not very welcoming . . . but very very African:

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Some fishermen, probably setting some crab traps near the shore:

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The St. Mark’s lighthouse:

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Every now and then you have a lucky moment, and I happened to shoot this heron just as he had a wiggling sparkly fish in his beak, just before he swallowed it. I admit it, I wasn’t trying. If I had been trying, I could never have gotten it just at the right moment:

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Some very clever park person went around and made all the deer crossing signs into Rudolph signs, LOL!

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The park is full of very serious-faced people carrying HUGE lenses on cameras attached to seriously sturdy tripods, lenses meant to capture the details of the pinfeathers, cameras to document a rare sighting. These people don’t talk about ducks, they talk about Merganzers and Koots, and the rarely seen such-and-such, and I just listen and keep my mouth shut while my head spins.

For me, it’s enough to see these wonderful creatures, free of fear, safe in their migrations. It’s enough to have a cool day, a great day for walking, and NO mosquitos. It’s a great day for my kind of birding, which is very non-serious to be sure.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Birds, Botswana, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Florida, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Savannah’s in Wakulla Springs for Breakfast

Sometimes I can be too exclusive, literally, for my own good. The first time I saw this place, I said to myself “no no no no no.” The sign says it all. Not my kind of place. Full of things that are bad for me. Bad! Bad! Bad!

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And yet, when The Black Bean was not open, and we were on our way to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, one of the coolest places on earth, we needed breakfast. I needed coffee. You need a little fuel to run the engines, you know? So, sighing, we pull into Savannah’s.

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As soon as we walk in, I realize I might have made a big mistake, meaning, if we hadn’t come here, we never would have known how cool this place is. Sometimes snobbery can get in the way of having a good time, you know?

It’s exactly the kind of small town breakfast place – and restaurant – that I grew up with in Alaska, and my husband grew up with in his small southern town. The furniture is all locally made. The place is full of town folk, local people who all know one another, and a few birders on their way to St. Marks. There is a large menu of choices; yes, I don’t see any healthy choices, and at some point, it just becomes irrelevant. This is a great experience.

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AdventureMan orders the Biscuits and Gravy, a sort of quintessential Southern breakfast dish and I order a biscuit breakfast sandwich. It takes a long time – they are baking fresh biscuits. 🙂 The coffee is good, not fancy, but well brewed and fresh.

When the breakfast comes, it is delicious. The biscuits are crumbly and flakey. The sausage is tasty. Yep, Pork Fat is Where it’s At.

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Savannah’s Breakfast Buffet gives you an astonishing breakfast at very reasonable cost, great service. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and you can learn a lot about the community by listening to the local discussions. Here’s how you find Savannah’s:

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December 30, 2012 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Health Issues, Local Lore, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips | , | 2 Comments