Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Two Sisters in Homer, Alaska

Even taking it easy, we arrived in Homer too early to check in to our hotel, so we headed down the street to a perfect rainy-day hangout, Two Sisters Bakery. We had looked for Two Sisters our last time in Homer and failed to find it for breakfast, so we went right in for a little coffee, tea and sweets.

TripAdvisor usually ranks Two Sisters one or two of all restaurants in Homer. The place was, consequently, jammed. There are goodies on display everywhere, eclairs, croissants, pies, cakes, breakfast rolls . . . I choose a Turtle Bar and a coffee, AdventureMan has soup and tea.

Two Sisters is a very popular place, and a lot of fun.

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Even the floor is quirky – I love that it has little waves painted on the floor.

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It was the perfect place to pass a delicious half hour waiting for our hotel room.

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June 30, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Rainy Day on the Sterling Highway to Homer

AdventureMan gets it. If it is not pouring rain, it is a good day. Part of this day was a good day, but we also got a lot of rain.

The drive from Seward to Homer, AK, both on the Kenai Peninsula, is not a hard drive, only maybe 2.5 to 3 hours. Almost as soon as you join the Sterling Highway, you are on the Kenai river, and on the Kenai river, things are hopping. Specifically, salmon are hopping.

At a couple sites, there are a lot of people, and when you look down in the river, there are people in hip boots all lined up for hundreds of yards, casting lines. I rather like fishing, but oh, no! Not like that! I’m a salmon fisher who likes to be on a boat, casting my line over the side, and waiting for a fish to bite. Stand in cold, rushing water with mosquitoes biting? (Shudder!) The thought of some amateur’s hook taking out an eye or a piece of cheek? Horrors!

Along the route, we saw many many signs like this:

00ThankYouFireFighters

Firefighters from all over had flown in to fight the Funny River Fire. Alaska doesn’t usually have such a dry spring; a fire this strong and this early is improbable. The fire was also remote, and hard to fight. The fire-fighters are given hero status in this area.

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Just before we get to Soldatna, AdventureMan spots a moose and her calf alongside the road. There are a lot of moose signs, and some of them tell how many moose have been hit by cars along this stretch of the road. Sadly, it is in the 200’s. Hitting a moose is like hitting a camel. It totals out a car and it is horrible for the moose.

About halfway to Homer, just outside Soldatna, we took a stretch break at Tom’s Horn and Antler, where we saw lots and lots of moose, deer and elk horns, and lot of stones, many from no-where around Alaska. We found some geode stones from the Atlas mountains in Morocco. At The Two Rusty Ravens, however, I found the one souvenir I bought, a very large copper salmon mold that just fits over the door between my kitchen and dining room. While it is not a Copper River Salmon, it IS a copper salmon, and it makes me smile. AdventureMan gave me a bad time; it is large, but it just fit in my suitcase. 🙂

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We had stopped at the Safeway in Seward, where they have a nice Deli with sandwiches and cookies, and we had our lunch with us. You just never know where you will be and if a restaurant is still open, or not yet open for the season. Here is where we had our lunch stop – an oversight with a view of volcanos – when you can see more than 50 feet in front of you.

00LunchStop

And here was a sign at the pull off. Most of the signs we saw in Alaska had shotgun holes in them, LOL.

00LunchStopSign

The drive is an easy drive, whether you are coming from Anchorage or from Seward. It barely takes half a day. There are not a lot of passing areas, and there are a lot of big slow RVs, so just take a deep breath and enjoy the experience.

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Environment, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Threats and Attempts to Intimidate Intlxpatr from Majed M. Group

You’ll have to read this from the bottom up. I don’t even know if this is a for real or someone screwing with me, and in blog-world, it is more likely the latter. I was always careful in both Kuwait and Qatar to put the spotlight on issues by quoting real journalist sources: newspapers, Cable, National Public Radio, etc. I know sometimes journalists get the news wrong, but in this case, there has been a LOT in the news about labor abuses in Qatar related to the World Cup 2022. I believe he is just trying to bully me into pulling my post.

Pull the post? Hmmm. No. I don’t think so. Can WordPress be sued to eliminate my blog altogether, as he threatens? I don’t believe so. If so, it’s been an interesting ride and new blogs pop up all the time . . . 😛

He has also spelled his name Majed M. Garoup, Majed M. Group, and Majed M. Garoub. His English is atrocious and unprofessional.

His reply:

Hello,

We know that you have copied it from Dailystar Lebanese. But you don’t have the rights to publish this kind of news. You site don’t have any authority to publish such news and you are not an authorized person. We mailed you to notify you regarding this issue. If you are not willing to delete the post, we will file the case to delete your whole blog from wordpress hosting.

Majed M Group
Senior Legal Executive.

Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 at 5:41 AM
From: intlxpatr@aol.com
To: civil.gov@lawyer.com
Subject: Re: Notice to remove the blog post

(my reply)
LOL, it’s a reprint of a Lebanese newspaper article

—–Original Message—–
From: Majed M Garoub
To: Intlxpatr
Sent: Thu, Jun 26, 2014 12:34 pm
Subject: Notice to remove the blog post

Dear Admin,

Myself Majed M Garoup, senior legal Executive. We need to bring a
serious concern infront of you regarding an article which you have
posted on your blog https://intlxpatr.wordpress.com/. The article which
you have posted contains defamatory content about our country. It has
some news which is not relevant and also having some wrong statements
about the country which is purely illegal. Publishing this kind of half
true matters through online is a punishable offense. Before posting any
article about a particular country you need to verify those things to
us. You need to ask the story from both the parties while publishing
such kind of articles. But we haven’t recieved any such calls or mails
from your side. Posting such news without proper confirmation from the
relevant party is a serious crime.And you are a blogger and don’t have
any rights to publish this kind of news on your blog. So this page
should get remove imediately from your blog otherwise legal action will
be taken against your wordpress blog for posting defamatory content and
half true matters on your blog which is spoiling the reputation of our
country.

Link to the article
: https://intlxpatr.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/imf-says-negative-publicity-w
ill-force-qatar-to-pay-laborers-more/

Majed M Group
Senior Legal Executive.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Doha, Just Bad English, Living Conditions, Qatar, Work Related Issues | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Salmon Bake Restaurant in Seward

“You’ll find the Salmon Bake restaurant just past the turn to Exit Glacier”, the guide said, and we laughed at the Exit Glacier Exit. The Salmon Bake restaurant was near our hotel, and handy after an all-day excursion out to the Seward fjiords.

00SalmonBakeRestaurant

When AdventureMan asked me what the best meal of the trip was, I had to think – there were several very good meals. But head and shoulders above the rest – and I apologize now that there are no photos – was this meal. Was it because we had spent the day in the great outdoors and were so hungry? Maybe a little. But when the waitress showed up with the big bowl of steaming clams loaded with garlic, I was ecstatic. So simple, so perfectly cooked, and so delicious! Accompany that wine and parsley broth with a boule of sourdough bread and I surrender. Those clams were the best dish I had the entire trip.

The salmon that followed was extraordinary. Mostly, I like salmon served grilled; I don’t like it baked in sauces and I sure don’t like it with cheese. This salmon had a mildly teriyaki glaze, a great grilled flavor and was cooked perfectly, still soft and moist on the inside. It was superb.

We split a blueberry cobbler because the food was so good, and it came out hot with a ball of vanilla ice cream on top – it was perfect.

The interior is all Alaskan rustic. If I had to criticize, I would say that it was annoying having my water served in a Mason jar; I’m not into country and I’ve never liked that jar thing. The food was so exceptional, however, that the criticism is petty and tiny compared to how good the food was.

The Salmon Bake restaurant fills up fast. As we left, there were several groups waiting. Get there early or have reservations; the Salmon Bake Restaurant is only open Mid-May through September.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Ramadan Kareem and Ramadan for Non-Muslims

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I wrote this post in 2007, when I was living in Kuwait. It has become an annual tradition to repeat it.

Ramadan will start soon; it means that the very thinnest of crescent moons was sighted by official astronomers, and the lunar month of Ramadan might begin. You might think it odd that people wait, with eager anticipation, for a month of daytime fasting, but the Muslims do – they wait for it eagerly.

A friend explained to me that it is a time of purification, when your prayers and supplications are doubly powerful, and when God takes extra consideration of the good that you do and the intentions of your heart. It is also a time when the devil cannot be present, so if you are tempted, it is coming from your own heart, and you battle against the temptations of your own heart. Forgiveness flows in this month, and blessings, too.

We have similar beliefs – think about it. Our holy people fast when asking a particular boon of God. We try to keep ourselves particularly holy at certain times of the year.

In Muslim countries, the state supports Ramadan, so things are a little different. Schools start later. Offices are open fewer hours. The two most dangerous times of the day are the times when schools dismiss and parents are picking up kids, and just before sunset, as everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. In olden days, there was a cannon that everyone in the town could hear, that signalled the end of the fast. There may still be a cannon today – in Doha there was, and we could hear it, but if there is a cannon in Kuwait, we are too far away, and can’t hear it.

When the fast is broken, traditionally after the evening prayer, you take two or three dates, and water or special milk drink, a meal which helps restore normal blood sugar levels and takes the edge off the fast. Shortly, you will eat a larger meal, full of special dishes eaten only during Ramadan. Families visit one another, and you will see maids carrying covered dishes to sisters houses and friends houses – everyone makes a lot of food, and shares it with one another. When we lived in Tunisia, we would get a food delivery maybe once a week – it is a holy thing to share, especially with the poor and we always wondered if we were being shared with as neighbors, or shared with as poor people! I always tried to watch what they particularly liked when they would visit me, so I could sent plates to their houses during Ramadan.

Just before the sun comes up, there is another meal, Suhoor, and for that meal, people usually eat something that will stick to your ribs, and drink extra water, because you will not eat again until the sun goes down. People who can, usually go back to bed after the Suhoor meal and morning prayers. People who can, sleep a lot during the day, during Ramadan. Especially as Ramadan moves into the hotter months, the fasting, especially from water, becomes a heavier responsibility.

And because it is a Muslim state, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, touching someone of the opposite sex in public, even your own husband (not having sex in the daytime is also a part of fasting), smoking is forbidden, and if you are in a car accident and you might be at fault, the person might say “I am fasting, I am fasting” which means they cannot argue with you because they are trying to maintain a purity of soul. Even chewing gum is an offense. And these offenses are punishable by a heavy fine – nearly $400 – or a stay in the local jail.

Because I am not Muslim, there may be other things of which I am not aware, and my local readers are welcome to help fill in here. As for me, I find it not such a burden; I like that there is a whole month with a focus on God. You get used to NOT drinking or eating in public during the day, it’s not that difficult. The traffic just before (sunset) Ftoor can be deadly, but during Ftoor, traffic lightens dramatically (as all the Muslims are breaking their fast) and you can get places very quickly! Stores have special foods, restaurants have special offerings, and the feeling in the air is a lot like Christmas. People are joyful!

There were many comments on the original post, and, as usual in the history of Here There and Everywhere, the commenters taught us all more about Ramadan than the original post. If you want to read the original post and comments, you can click HERE.

This year, Ramadan in the Northern Hemisphere will be one of the hottest, least comfortable ever. Imagine, having to refrain from all food and drink, from swimming, from smoking, from dawn to dusk for an entire month. People still have to work, although at some work sites, hours are reduced. Driving will be horrible, especially toward dusk when people are starving and eager to break the fast.

May God grant his mercy to all those fasting in 2014, may your fast be blessed. may the All Merciful and All Generous listen to your prayers; may the hours of fasting pass quickly and pleasantly, and may you enjoy the blessings of family closeness and religious insights.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Ramadan, Spiritual | 3 Comments

LOL at Notice to Sue

Today I got this notice:

Dear Admin,

Myself Majed M Garoup, senior legal Executive. We need to bring a serious concern infront of you regarding an article which you have posted on your blog https://intlxpatr.wordpress.com/. The article which you have posted contains defamatory content about our country. It has some news which is not relevant and also having some wrong statements about the country which is purely illegal. Publishing this kind of half true matters through online is a punishable offense. Before posting any article about a particular country you need to verify those things to us. You need to ask the story from both the parties while publishing such kind of articles. But we haven’t recieved any such calls or mails from your side. Posting such news without proper confirmation from the relevant party is a serious crime.And you are a blogger and don’t have any rights to publish this kind of news on your blog. So this page should get remove imediately from your blog otherwise legal action will be taken against your wordpress blog for posting defamatory content and half true matters on your blog which is spoiling the reputation of our country.

Link to the article : https://intlxpatr.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/imf-says-negative-publicity-will-force-qatar-to-pay-laborers-more/

Majed M Group
Senior Legal Executive.

Majed M Garoub civil.gov@lawyer.com

The post is a reprint of an article on labor abuse in Qatar from a Lebanese paper. I guess he’s feeling a little touchy; Qatar is getting a lot of unwelcome publicity lately for labor abuses. How is that for a country whose labor laws give everyone except household help a day off?

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Blogging, Political Issues, Qatar, Social Issues, Women's Issues, WordPress, Work Related Issues | 4 Comments

The Windsong Lodge in Seward, Alaska

The Windsong Lodge home page shows happy happy people having lunch on a sunny outdoor terrace overlooking a sparkling river. I looked at a lot of different Seward Hotels, but oh, the thought of a balcony overlooking the river just drew me in.

This is what the description of the Lodge says:

Just outside the city of Seward, travel down the winding road to Exit Glacier and you’ll find your paradise away from home, Seward Windsong Lodge. The towering mountains, fragrant spruce trees and the rush of the Resurrection River awaken your senses on arrival.

I could hardly wait to see those towering mountains and fragrant spruce trees from my balcony.

There was nothing wrong with our room. It was spacious, and had furniture made from logs, all rustic and sparkling clean. There was a microwave, a refrigerator, a hair dryer, all the amenities.

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This was the view from my balcony.

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I did love the cut outs in the balcony railing.

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The Lodge offers a coffee bar and pastries, but when we were checking out we saw huge lines waiting for coffee and pastries, and although they had about ten computers, there were lines waiting to use their computers, too. Most of these people were off the cruise ships. We thanked God to have a car, and to know where we could get good coffee and breakfast goodies. We don’t mind paying. We don’t much like standing in a long line for breakfast.

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Nice lodge, every seat taken.

00MorningAtSewardWindsongLodge

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Communication, Cultural, Hotels, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Blue Angels Schedule for the Rest of 2014

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June 27, 2014 Posted by | Events, Pensacola | , | Leave a comment

Seward, Alaska and Alaska Saltwater Tours

We made it to Seward, a cute little town that almost disappears when the tourist season ends. As you will see, there is a cruise ship here, and most of the cruise ship tourists book with either Major Marine or Kenai Fjords. If you like boats with a lot of people, you will enjoy either of those. If you prefer smaller boats, with fewer people, there is Alaska Saltwater Tours.

“Are you going halibut fishing?” the girl at the Windsong Lodge Desk asked when we said we were going with Alaska Saltwater Tours, little frowny lines forming between her eyebrows. No, no, we replied, wildlife and whale watching, in a small group. I guess the hotel books tours, but mostly for the bigger tour boats. We made our reservations months ago, we were so sure we wanted this boat, the Alaska Saltwater Tour.

Cruise ships berth in Seward:

00SewardCruiseShip

We had a totally forgettable dinner, the worst clam chowder I have ever eaten, so no photos. The next day, we met up at The Bakery, from where we headed to our boat.

00SewardDogSledding

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00InteriorTheBakery

I don’t usually have pastry, but I could not resist that cinnamon roll. It was so huge, I could only eat a little, but they wrapped it in foil and AdventureMan and I were able to nibble on it mid-afternoon, as we watched more and more whale.

00SewardCoffeeAndRoll

Our boat, the Stellar Sunrise, carried 15 people. AdvenuteMan and I believe it is one of the best day cruises we have ever taken. We never dreamed we would see so much wildlife in one day.

00StellarSunrise

Alaska, how I love you. Alaska has a mandatory life vest program for all children. Not only are life vests mandatory, they are also provided FREE. When I think of true love, it is manifestations like this I think of, protecting children, making it impossible for anyone to have an excuse to have a child on board not in a life jacket.

00KidsDontFloat

Scenery leaving Seward:
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Little otter saying goodbye – later, we saw a RAFT of otter, two by two, about 18 of them floating in a group. They are so CUTE.

00SewardOtter

Barely out of port, he find humpback whales, puffing and diving:

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Its a very low minus tide, and our Captain Tanya finds a grouping of purple and red sea stars – doesn’t it look like modern art?

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Mountain goat:

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A family of mountain sheep, Dad, Mom and three little kids:

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Orca whale!

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Penguin like birds, not penguins, but I can’t remember their name:

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Throughout the day we had porpoise playfully racing alongside the boat:

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Puffins are so hard to photograph, and so adorable!

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A slug of sea lions, LOL – don’t they look a little like slugs?

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The big bull sea lion roars and chases off a challenger. You would be amazed how loud he can roar:

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Another eerily beautiful glacier, with it’s roaring and cracking, deep, loud sounds like the earth groaning. We had a lunch break at the glacier:

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Although it is out of sequence, I saved this for the last. Do you know how many times I have tried to get a shot of a whale’s tail? Timing has to be perfect, even if you shoot in bursts. I will admit it, this time I just got lucky, and this might be the best I ever get:

00WhalesTail

So, all in all, a “whale of a day!”

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Beauty, Environment, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ on the Road to Seward

We’d forgotten to think about lunch. We had eaten all our Japanese crackers, the kind you can’t eat on the plane or the smell will make all the other passengers sick, and we still have a couple hours drive ahead of us to Seward where we are going out again to see glaciers and wildlife.

And then, we go past the Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ. We pull up at Turnagain House, a finer restaurant, but it is not open and we drive about half a mile back to the BBQ. As we open our car doors, we are so glad to be there. It smells like home, it smells like Pensacola, BBQ.

Turnagain Arm is the area we are driving through, so Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ is a clever play on words. This is what it looks like from the road:

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This is what it looks like when you walk in:

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This is the Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ Menu – it’s a little pricey, but hey, it’s Alaska, and you don’t fine real pit BBQ everywhere. Everything is imported . . . and there are not a lot of restaurants along the highway to Seward. . .

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AdventureMan ordered his favorite, pulled pork. It was delicious, but a little fatty. The sauce was great:

00TurnagainPulledPork

I ordered the mixed plate, I ordered it because of the chicken, which I saved to eat later and then, oh aaarrgh, I forgot it. . .

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The scenery along this highway is fantastic. I didn’t take a lot of photos because we really wanted to get to Seward:

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June 26, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | 4 Comments