Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Happy Heidelberg

My high school stomping grounds; this video makes my heart flutter seeing all those wonderful sights with wonderful memories:

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Germany, Music | , | 1 Comment

Love That Technology, But Sometimes it Takes Me a While . . .

Another way of saying “I’m slow, but I’m slow . . . ”

As I was sitting in a meeting, I watched one of our delegates take a photo and then she zoomed in by doing that finger thing that works on my iPad.

“She must be using an Android or a Samsung” I thought to myself, as I have often wished my iPhone had a zoom feature.

And it dawned on me . . .

after owning my phone for three years . . .

and wishing I could zoom . . .

that the delegate’s phone looked a lot like my iPhone.

So I tried it. And it worked.

So the good news is that I can zoom photos on my iPhone. The bad news is that it took me so long to figure that out!

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Humor, iPhone, Technical Issue | Leave a comment

Empowerment

I’m working with a group, one of whose goals is empowerment. They are all from the same country, but not the same parts of the country, nor the same ethnicities, but they all get along well with one another and the group does fine. I admire each of them, and even better, I like these women.

00RoundTable2

Here’s the LOL, empowered people have ideas and opinions. We have a format to adhere to, and empowered people come up with other ideas and alternatives. Here’s the problem: other ideas and alternatives, especially good ones, mean a lot of extra focus, it creates more work for facilitators and program managers. Sometimes you need permissions, sometimes you need transportation arrangements, and always, you need to assure a delegate’s safety. All this on top of the changes that will have to be made because of this unusual weather.

First, yesterday as I met the group, I had to apologize for the weather – usually mild, sunny Pensacola was having a howling storm; sheets of water being blown by a raging wind, tree limbs falling, the sky grim and dark and grey the entire day. In the midst of this, I was with one delegate on a tour of the Port of Pensacola, where it was like being in the middle of a huge storm at sea, with squalls. The man giving the tour carried on, they had a great discussion while the wind howled around us and at times the rain fell so hard on the tin roof that we couldn’t hear one another.

00DelegateWindstorm (Those lines you see coming in through the door are wind blown rain. The drops on the camera lens – ditto)

Here is what I truly admire about this group, all their empowerment is for the good, their suggestions are making this visit even more productive and helping them exceed their goals. Their alternatives were doable, and will be accomplished. I can also tell you that at the end of a day dealing with a lot of good ideas and changes, my brain is happily fried. Guess the LOL is on me.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Pensacola, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Declares All Foods Clean

I watched a woman eat a cockroach yesterday. (When did all restaurants start having TV’s in them??) It was at the worst time, I was eating lunch, and the only thought that allowed me to continue was thinking about this verse, where Jesus declares all foods clean.

Christians who are looking for where Jesus the Christ declared all things clean (halal, kosher) look to Mark 7. Today, in Forward Day by Day, the author of the meditation combines todays lectionary readings with Matthew 12:34: For from the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Mark 7:15. There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.

Words are powerful. Our speech, for better or worse, can either build up the kingdom of God or attack it. We might want to dismiss the power of words, but all we have to do is look to history.

Throughout history, often before the murder of a people, propaganda started. People would listen to the hateful speech of their leader, and then they would act (or not act). “They are just words,” people would say, but those words wormed their way into a nation’s mind, allowing callousness and cruelty to grow.

At the same time, the words of great men and women inspired nations to work toward equality. Their words moved individuals to change or to act. Even in our personal lives, we can all think of those healing words of a dear friend. We can also remember the cruel taunts of bully. Words are important.

Words come from within us, and once they are released into the world, they live. Within each of us is the potential for the infliction of great harm or the gift of grace. We must choose our words carefully because our hearts, our souls, and even our lives depend upon our words.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Character, Faith, Food, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual, Words | Leave a comment

The Creole Nature Trail

creolenaturetrail

In the next to the last episode of True Detective, at the very beginning of the episode, you see this sign, old and beaten, alongside a narrow country road.

And here is one reason AdventureMan and I have been married over 40 years. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and we knew where our next mini-adventure would take us. The Creole Nature Trail is mere hours away, in a part of Louisiana we love.

Even better, this is so cool, you can download an app for The Creole Nature Trail, free, and using your geo-tracking capabilities in your smart phone, it can tell you about each stop along the 180+ miles of natural wilderness along the trail. I love technology.

True Detectives was atmospheric; the atmosphere was so thick it was like it was a character in the series. The cameras loved the bayous, and the shacks, and the run-down bars; the cameras loved the trees and the semi-swampy lowlands – and they made Woody and Matthew run through them often, LOL. The end comes in a fortification that looks a whole lot like our own Fort Pickens, but is one of what must be several colonial forts, some abandoned, some maintained, along the Gulf coastline.

The Creole Nature Trail is just past the area we know from our visit to the James Lee Burke sites around New Iberia, one of our favorite trips. We know it will be wild, and beautiful, and in some places, a little bit bleak. We know to take insect repellant, as they have world famous mosquitoes in Louisiana. This photo is from our trip to Avery Island, where they make the world’s most famous Tabasco Sauce.

I’m just thankful to be married to a man who is up for the same adventures I’m up for 🙂

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | Leave a comment

I’m Screwed

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It runs in my family – I can remember my Dad on the phone for hours, booking our hotels for Italy, especially, making sure everything was perfect. We like to be in control of the details, we like to make sure everything will run smoothly. We like to have records to back us up and to insure our trips will not run into any snags.

Oh well.

Yesterday, on the way to our son’s house to take care of the sweetest little baby in the world, I got a phone call from Alaska Airlines that my carefully crafted reservations, all paid for, were not going to work now that there had been a schedule change.

For a minute, it was like my brain went on hold. I had worked SO HARD to make those reservations, with just the right routing and just the right amount of connecting time and everything was PERFECT and now it wasn’t going to work? She was offering me alternatives, but all I could think of was having to change our cat’s reservations, having to re-arrange all my PERFECT arrangements.

Hmmm. . . Even at the time, I could laugh at myself and my horror that now it wasn’t going to be PERFECT. Even at the time, I could hear God laughing and saying “maybe I have something better in store for you.” I could hear him, but getting off that hamster wheel in my brain is like trying to make a steaming locomotive make a 90 degree turn. I need a few minutes for the gears to shift, for the impetus to slack; change does not happen quickly, it happens in stages.

She had an idea, but had to call me back. That gave me the time I needed to take a deep breath and roll with it. When she called back, I was ready for her suggestion, which involved switching to an airline I never fly, a route I avoid, etc. but I was ready. The timing achieved the goal I wanted, which was to fly from Pensacola to Juneau in one day.

Then, as it turned out, there was also a problem with the return, same deal, something about being or not being a code share flight, or being or not being an Alaska Airways flight. Here is what I am experiencing with all my flights – these airlines might SAY they are a team, but when I call Air France to use my frequent flyer miles, they always want me to fly Air France, and they have these routes that will take me from say Atlanta to Paris to Kenya to Johannesburg, rather than putting me on the partner flight that goes directly from Atlanta to Johannesburg. And here is the line I hate: They haven’t released any seats on that flight for us to use.

Here is the truth as I see it: anything is possible. I have seen it happen. There are phrases bureaucrats use to put up barriers, but if they want to help you, those barriers can fall.

OK, OK, back to the subject. I am grateful to Alaska Airlines for calling me and sorting out the problem with ME. At the same time I just happened to check on some other reservations I have only to discover, online, that the reservations had changed from something I loved to something I hated, and when was Delta going to tell me? There is a disclaimer at the top saying I can try to change the changed portion or I can cancel my trip. If I hadn’t checked, how would I know??

I admire Alaska Airlines for stepping up to the plate. It can’t be easy for their people to face the wrath of people like me who don’t want their plans changed, who liked their plans just the way they are.

When these things happen, once I have a chance to cool down, I think about some changes and disappointments as being a protection. I don’t always understand why something didn’t work out, but I believe it was for the good. There was a house I did not buy on a slippery, landslide prone area in Seattle, a house with a magnificent view. I still think about that house now and then, and now, with the tragedy in Oso, I am thankful I did not buy it. I had put an offer on the house, then changed my mind, knowing I would worry all the time I was overseas about it slipping down the hill. It was enough to deter me, knowing I would worry too much about it, and always be looking for signs of instability, that I would become anxious when it would rain – and if you know Seattle, you know that rain is a given.

The screwed part is really that no matter how carefully we plan our trips, if we are flying we are at the mercy of large bureaucratic airlines who really don’t care about our comfort or convenience. They don’t care about the hundreds of thousands of miles on my frequent flyer card; I am just a logistic to them. Within the US, most ‘business class’ isn’t that much better than economy, and ‘economy comfort’ is still squished three abreast in seats that are too narrow and so you are touching shoulders with your neighbors. That is just wrong. A shift in reservations should trigger at least an e-mail, so people to whom it matters can make necessary changes. It’s not just me, we are all screwed.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Bureaucracy, Civility, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Survival, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Ladysmith Black Mombazo Live in Niceville

My co-Mother-in-Law leaned over and said “I don’t think they could have done this twenty-five years ago.”

I think she’s right. Northwest Florida is still one of the most conservative societies in America, and yet, in spite of all probabilities, we are in the Mattie Kelly Cultural Center, in Niceville, Florida, surrounded by a HUGE and enthusiastic audience, all of whom have shelled out big bucks to hear this talented group out of South Africa.

00LadysmithBlackMombaza

As soon as we saw the initial ads, AdventureMan marked his calendar, so we could call the very first day tickets were available. I don’t really believe in bucket lists, but I do believe in grabbing an opportunity when it presents itself; we have loved the sounds of Ladysmith Black Mombazo forever.

Last night was a thrill. I was astonished at how wildly enthusiastic the audience was; it was a mix of all walks of the population, academics, retired folk, groups of school children, and . . . fans. Wildly enthusiastic fans. A group knows when it is treasured, and it feeds on the positive response. Ladysmith Black Mombazo thrilled our hearts.

Here is one of my favorites, expecially the introduction:

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Music | , | Leave a comment

“Double French Fries, Please”

I was taking a group of International Visitor Leadership Program delegates around town, to their meetings, and they wanted to eat at a very nice local restaurant where they could have Southern Food, Soul Food, with some atmosphere. I discussed several options (Woooo HOOOO Pensacola, with an outsized selection of truly good restaurants for a town of 50,000) and they decided on Five Sisters.

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 9.26.45 AM

We were so lucky. It was Friday, and just after noon. I walked in, there was a line. Looking past the line, however, I could see some empty tables, so I took a chance, asked for a table to be put together and it was just a few minutes before we were seated. I’ve waited a lot longer for a table at Five Sisters, so I felt God was smiling at me.

The women knew what they wanted, but when it came to sides, they were unfamiliar with the offerings, and several were automatically excluded, and they don’t like cole slaw, it’s just cultural. Finally, the perfect solution. The first one says “Double French Fries, please” and several others follow suit.

It’s actually not a bad choice from a taste point of view. Five Sisters french fries are tasty. I just had to keep my face straight, because everyone is so health conscious these days, and I have never heard anyone order “double french fries” before.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment

FitBit Gone Wild

Today this showed up on my dashboard:

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 8.48.30 PM

No, that is not 54 stairs, that is 54 flights of stairs. I got a badge for it.

I don’t know what is going on with FitBit, but I did not climb 54 flights of stairs. I cannot imagine what FitBit is thinking. I did get on and off a bus a few times, but no, there were no where near 50 flights of steps in my life today.

What I am enjoying with the FitBit (the healthy activity nanny thing just doesn’t work for me) is that it tells me I sleep better than I thought I did, and even just thinking I am sleeping better than I thought helps me to sleep better.

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Doha

Wooo HOOO, Doha!

March 20, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Doha, Entertainment, Qatar | Leave a comment