Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pensacola Ice Storm

Timing is everything. I had wait to get these photos until enough ice had formed to make it interesting, but before I lost what little light we had with the clouds, rain, sleet and now freezing rain.

If you are the praying kind, I ask your prayers for the homeless, those without heat, those who still have to make it home (so far the roads are OK but the bridges may start icing soon) and for these poor helpless birds seeking shelter on a night which will show them no pity.

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January 28, 2014 Posted by | Birds, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Safety, Wildlife | 6 Comments

Promises, Promises (Lies, Lies!)

West Virginia is one of the poorest – and most beautiful – of the 50 United States, green with forests and uninhabited spaces. It also has pockets of some of the poorest people in the United States. It is a state which accepts that which other states might find unacceptable. And when the chemical spill poisoned the water of thousands of people, Freedom Industries, the responsible company, declared bankruptcy.

Even today, while their water has been declared OK, people say it tastes funny, and chemists have found unacceptable traces of chemicals that other tests were not even measuring. Today, we have this report that the spill was much worse that the company originally reported.

Its sad, and it is disheartening.

In Florida, there are constant proposals for land use restrictions being lifted. The military, the companies – they all promise that this (whatever) will have no impact on the environment. Why, no one could be more environmentally responsible than (_______) fill in the blank with whatever the requestor is.

Yeh. Right.

My guess is that if the true cost of the BP oil spill in the Gulf were known, it would bankrupt BP.

Water Supply Threaten In Charleston Community Of Over 300,000 After Chemical Leak

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued an update on Monday evening indicating that the Elk River spill in West Virginia earlier this month involved more gallons of chemicals than previously reported.

Freedom Industries, which owned the tank that leaked into a river supplying water in the state, now says that approximately 10,000 gallons of the chemicals 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (also known as MCHM) and PPH were released. The company initially said 7,500 gallons spilled, and failed to disclose the presence of the second chemical until last week. The leak, first reported on Jan. 9, left hundreds of thousands in the capital region without access to tap water for days. Though the formal advisory on the water has been lifted, some in the region say they are still concerned about the safety of their water.

The DEP’s press release provides Freedom Industries’ newest estimate, but notes, “It is not known how much material spilled into the Elk River and shut down the drinking water supply for citizens across nine West Virginia counties.”

“We are not making any judgment about its accuracy,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said in a statement, referring to the company’s latest spill figure. “We felt it was important to provide to the public what the company has provided the WVDEP in writing. We are still reviewing the calculation, and this is something that will be researched further during the course of this investigation.”

“This is the first calculation that has been provided concerning the amount of materials that spilled on Jan. 9,” Huffman said. “This new calculation does not change any of our protocols in dealing with this spill, nor does it affect the ongoing remediation efforts. Our actions have never been dependent on what Freedom has reported to us. From the start, we have acted aggressively to contain the spill and remediate the site.”

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has called for the storage facility to be torn down, and for a full remediation of the site.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Environment, Financial Issues, Florida, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Birth to Gun in the South Sudan

This is the newest blog entry from my friend Manyang David Mayar in the South Sudan He visited Pensacola as part of an IVLP program with our Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council:

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Pregnant women fleeing the fighting in Jonglei state, South Sudan.
I was in the town of Bor when fighting broke out last month in South Sudan. I managed to escape the town despite being shot in the arm. But many other people had a far tougher time – people like Nyiel Magot, nine months pregnant and faced with the awful choice of staying in Bor’s hospital or fleeing into the bush.

Against her doctors’ advice, Nyiel decided to escape the immediate danger, and with her five children, took a narrow path out of town which was packed with people also heading to safety.

But, she told me, with every step she took, she grew weaker and more and more people overtook her.

“I was really tired and the pain became really unbearable,” Nyiel said. “I knew the time had come for me to give birth and I had to get out of Bor immediately to escape the attackers.”

Giving birth in the bush

Later that evening, the pain finally forced Nyiel to stop. Instead of a hospital ward, she found an abandoned grass-thatched house.

Luckily, there was a traditional birth attendant nearby who used her bare hands to help Nyiel deliver a healthy baby boy.

But the cold nights and hot days of December in South Sudan soon started to take their toll on the new born and reports of an imminent rebel attack forced Nyiel and her family to leave their hideout.

They walked for days until they crossed the River Nile and came to a large camp for displaced people in Awerial. And then her baby caught diarrhoea and started to vomit.

He was rushed to a hospital in Juba where, after days of treatment, he recovered.

A child of conflict

It was in the hospital in Juba that I met Nyiel and heard her story – and also learned the name of her little baby.

Nyiel had called him Matuor, the Dinka word for ‘gun’, because he was born amid gunfire.

As the conflict continues in South Sudan, I fear he won’t be the last baby born in the bush with such a name.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, South Sudan, Survival | Leave a comment

Kind Mothers Raise Kind Daughters

I’ve lived a lot of places, enough places to know that as women, we are more alike, no matter what our culture, than we are different. And there is one thing about women – sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

Learning to be kind was a life-long journey for me. I can spot the unkind now; they are the ones who hiss in the corners, saying mean things – usually about other women. They are the ones who will point the finger and you know that they are pointing at someone else because they are so afraid someone will look too closely at them.

I choose kind friends; they are pearls without price. (LOL, I actually wrote “pears” without price 😉 ) I look with awe on my sweet daughter-in-law who is both kind, and raising kind children. As the singer Jewell says – “in the end, only kindness matters.”

I did not write this. This is a reprint from a Huffpost News article, reprinting from the original blog, which you can see at the bottom of the article. It is a cold wintery day in Pensacola, and this story warmed my heart.

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When my daughter Ella was in fourth grade, she got in the car one day after school and announced her plan to run for student council.

At her school each class has a representative, and I was thrilled she planned to put her name in the hat. Even if she didn’t win, it would be a good experience.

She told me almost every girl in her class was running, as well as one or two boys. As kindly as possible, I mentioned the boys might have an advantage since the girl votes could be split, as that can happen in elections. I told Ella I was proud of her for putting herself out there, and that she’d make a great representative if elected.

The next day after school, Ella mentioned a dilemma she and her friend Annie had “figured out.” On Friday all candidates had to give a speech. Since our family was going to the beach Friday, Ella wouldn’t be there to give hers.

“But Annie had a great idea,” Ella said, referencing one of her best friends, who was in Ella’s class that year. “She suggested that I do a video speech, and she’ll play it for everyone.”

I was very touched by this suggestion from Annie. Why? Because Annie was running against Ella for student council. Yet instead of treating Ella like a competitor, she treated her like a friend.

Ella’s teacher agreed to the video speech, so we made it and sent it on. I didn’t think much more about the election until Friday afternoon around 3 p.m., when I was soaking up an ocean view of the Gulf Coast and received an email from Ella’s teacher. She had great news: Ella had won the election! Her classmates had voted her onto student council.

Our family hugged and congratulated Ella. I could tell by the shy smile on her face what her peers’ vote of confidence meant to her. About ten minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was Annie’s mom (one of my close friends) calling us from her cell.

“We are so thrilled about Ella!” she said, her voice joyful and triumphant. “It was the first thing Annie told me when she got in the car! She’s sooooo excited! We couldn’t be happier if it happened to her!”

The phone call didn’t surprise me, because that was typical for this family. What caught me off-guard was the timing of the call. These were 10-year-olds, after all, and 10-year-old emotions can be fragile. Their automatic instinct isn’t always happiness for a friend who got something they wanted, too. Had the tables been turned, I’m not sure the call would have happened so fast. We may have had to work through a little disappointment — if even for a minute — before focusing on our friend.

But to Annie and her mom, a victory for Annie’s best friend was a victory for Annie. A win for one was a win for both. If you ask me, that’s the perfect illustration of true friendship. It’s how it should work at every level.

All four of my girls have found friends similar to Annie. While no friendship is perfect, I’ve been surprised by some of the kindness I’ve seen at young ages. They know how to look out for a friend. They get it. And can I tell you what their kind friends all have in common? Kind mothers. Time and time again, I’ve become friends with the moms I meet through my children’s beloved friends because they’re good souls. I don’t think it’s a coincidence their children are, too.

We all want to raise kind daughters. We want them to be good friends and have good friends. While I give Annie full credit for supporting Ella — she suggested the video, after all, and was quick to celebrate her win — I know she didn’t pull that mindset out of thin air. She picked it up from her family because that’s how they think.

A win for a friend is a win for both.

Kindness among young girls doesn’t start on the playground or in the locker room — it starts at home. Most notably, it starts with kind mothers raising kind daughters. Our girls see how we treat our friends. They also notice how we treat their friends.

If we treat their friends as competitors, our daughters will, too. If we love their friends like we love our own children, they’re more likely to see them as sisters and part of the family.

Keep in mind it wasn’t just Annie cheering when Ella won student council. It was Annie’s mom, too. She was just as enthusiastic. Can I tell you what that meant to me? Can you imagine the trust that added to our relationship?

Quite honestly, I think it’s rare for both a mother and daughter to instinctively rejoice as these two did. Then again, maybe it just proves the point.

We moms rub off on our girls. Over time our way of thinking becomes their way of thinking. If we want to raise kind daughters, we need to start by being kind mothers.

This post originally appeared on KariKampakis.com.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Parenting, Pensacola | 11 Comments