Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Zambia Black and White

I suspect this is true of most people, and I suspect this due to the fact it is true of me and was true of the three people with whom I traveled – even if you buy a new camera months before a major trip, you spend a lot of time on the trip exploring what your camera can do. You’d think that we would spend some major time educating ourselves before we go, but life intrudes, with demands and time consuming errands, and the focus just isn’t on learning your camera and its capabilities.

For me, the truth is even worse. AdventureMan gave me the new Lumix for Christmas, and I took a few photos with it, and really used the earlier Lumix with which I am now very familiar. I could always count on it to get great shots.

There are two things I love about this camera. I used to carry a big huge Nikon everywhere – Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Nabimia – backpack full of lenses and cleaning supplies, having to change lenses, and often not having enough light. . . the Lumix fits in my purse, and is easily cleaned. You don’t switch lenses; it has a lot of versatility, and it takes photos in very low light. In fact, I often have two in my purse; I bought a smaller one for everyday-in-a-hurry photos. I use it when you might use your phone camera.

This time, early on, I discovered the Scenic mode: sunset. It allowed me to shoot exactly what I was seeing, those stunning colors of the African sunset (LOL, during burning season, the atmosphere is full of particulate, and that gives it those amazing colors.)

At Nsefu Camp, the oldest Robin Pope Camp, they have decorated with old black and whites, and there is a romance to some of those very old photos that intrigued me. I have a wall in my office, a wall no one else can see, and I think it would be fun to have a romantic Africa series, black and white, so I decided to use my Color Mode: Dynamic Black and White. It gave me exactly what I was looking for, and I also learned that to get that old time look, I needed NOT to use the zoom, but to take the photos in context.

The bright sun, reflecting off the tusks, the backs of the hippos, the water, palm leaves, contrasting with the deeper darks of the green bushes, trees and foliage, is what makes them pop. I took a lot of mediocre shots; I won’t bore you with them, it’s a lot like the leopard, bad things can happen, or there just isn’t enough contrast to make it a good photo.

These are the ones I am enjoying. I’ll probably choose 4 – 6 of them to have printed 🙂

This is where we had coffee/tea in Chongwe; doesn’t it look early 1900’s to you?

I love this one; I think it is a matter of perspective:

It sounds funny, but it helps to be a quilter. When you are doing a quilt, you have to have a focus, and you need contrast to make the quilt effective.

July 1, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Experiment, Photos, Sunsets, Technical Issue, Travel | 3 Comments

Lusaka, Zambia to Nkwali, South Luangwa Valley, Zambia

Lusaka to Nkwali

“The shuttle will leave promptly at one” the concierge scolded, as if we had been late for any shuttle before. 

“We’ll be there!” we responded, and we were. We had our bags packed and ready, and were in the lobby by 12:45. The shuttle, this time a big bus, was just for us, and in spite of Friday afternoon traffic, made good time to the airport.

For all our efforts to be on time, we learned that our flight would be delayed another hour and a half. On one hand, we are always glad when airlines make needed repairs . . . we’d rather have a safe flight. On the other hand, the sun sets early, it is winter in Zambia, and it would be nearly dark when we arrived. It isn’t like the US, or Kuwait, or Qatar, or even Lusaka, where there are strong lights so you can land after dark. If it is dark in Mfuwe, your plane can’t land. We really, really don’t want to stay in Lusaka another night when we really want to be in the bush.

It was very nearly dark when we arrived, but we did arrive in time to land. We missed the sunset, but we got to see the villagers all en route to the nearest markets for Friday evening shopping, and got to camp just in time to set down our bags and have dinner. Earlier campers have left, and for the first night, the four of us have the entire camp to ourselves.

Here is a view that thrills me – the full moon, as seen from our shower:

Nkwali is a Robin Pope Camp, and we have been coming back regularly since our first trip about 12 years ago. We were last there four years ago with out son and his wife.

“What would you like to see?” our hostess Tina and camp manager Chris asked us.

“I’ve always loved giraffe,” one of our group replied, “Can you arrange for a giraffe?”

“Yes, we can arrange that,” he smiled.

Meanwhile, camp wildlife joined us for dinner:

Still jet lagging, we went to bed and AdventureMan was sound asleep quickly, just after hearing the “hahahahahahahaha” of the hippos. Just as I was falling asleep, I heard what I thought were the guards footsteps around our cabin, but they went on and on, and it sounded like he was sitting on our front porch. After about five minutes, I got up and peeked out the curtains. A hippo! A hippo, not ten feet away, munching on greenery just off our patio. It’s amazing how quietly a hippo walks – soundlessly, on those big round feet – but how noisily he munches. It was the munching I had mistaken for footsteps.

There are also monkeys, which are adorable, like tiny kittens, playful and scampering, but they like to come in the cabin. We are told that they don’t bother with anything except food, so not to keep food open in our cabins, but our neighbor had her medications knocked about, and a glass full of soda sent crashing to the floor by monkeys – while she was right there showering!

Morning came too quickly, the drums drumming at 0530 to wake us for a 0545 breakfast and 0600 departure for the bush.

It’s a beautiful day, we eat some hot porridge and load up for a morning in the bush.

Just leaving the camp, we saw hyena ahead of us on the road, and a warthog family, and then giraffe! One, off in the distance! Later in the day we would see more of these Thornicroft giraffe, endemic to this part of Zambia. 

We drove up to the river cross barge, a private barge funded by the local camps to help get their guests across to the national park on the other side. The barge trip is an event in itself, hand pulled across the wide, but shallow Luangwa river. Shallow, but full of hippo, and full of crocodiles, too.

The best part of the morning was reaching a huge lagoon, full of exotic birds, and with a constant stream of animals coming to drink, parades of zebra, elephant, a fishing eagle, ibis, Egyptian duck and many others. We are a patient bunch, and we loved just finding a good position and watching the game pass through, getting a good shot when we could. By the time we headed back to the lodge for lunch, we were exhausted.

This isn’t the most crisp photo, but I love the length of that loooonnng trunk reaching out into the lagoon for water. Sometimes you only get one shot:

This is a fish eagle. The next shot, he has a fish in his claws, but it isn’t a very clear shot:

Nkwali Cape Buffalo

Then, just for our companion, we came across giraffe – lots of giraffe, but it’s not easy to get a good clear shot, because you are mostly shooting them against trees, head in the leaves, and you have to shoot fast or all you get are giraffe butts, walking away:

We leave the Land Cruiser on the National Park side of the river, and men from the camp poll us back. The river is so shallow that we almost get stuck on the sand bar.

You’d think we could just walk across, but there are territorial hippo and hungry crocodile, and we don’t want to tangle with either of them.

One of the funniest continuing jokes on the trip are the questions from people who have never traveled in Africa who with great concern ask “But what will you eat?” We took photos often, because we ate often, and well. This is our lunch the first day when we got back:


 

I always have a list of things I need to do. Like at these camps, women need to wash out their own underwear, it’s a cultural thing, men are doing the laundry but they won’t touch womens underclothes, so I always have some clothespins to hang things to dry. I also wanted to wash my hair, which gets dusty quickly out driving on the game drives. I have to do it in the afternoon, so it will dry (no hair dryers in the bush), and then I need to lay down, because I’m really sleepy, still jet lagging. When I wake up to the “tea-time” drums two hours later. I felt so good! I felt like it was the best sleep I had gotten since leaving Pensacola, and it made me feel good, and full of energy once again.

Here is what our cabin, and Nkwali Camp, look like:

This is our writing desk; there is one in each cabin:

This is where you can unpack while you stay here, and where I lay out my clothes the night before so I don’t have to think when we get up early the next morning. When you are getting up really early, and only have about 15 minutes to get ready, you need to be able to get dressed without thinking too much about it. (It’s kind of like going to kid’s camp, only this is grown-up camp, LOL)

I almost hate to show you too much, it’s all such a wonderful surprise, finding these lovely cabins in the wild, but some people are so afraid to give it a try, I wanted to reassure you that it is quite civilized:

This doesn’t look like a lot, but the screen is enough to keep the wild animals out of your room when the sun goes down:

We love this bathroom:

We really really love this, this huge shower, with dual heads, big enough for both of us to shower at the same time, in the hot afternoon.

This is the Nkwali dining area:

This is the pool area and lagoon adjoining the dining area:

This is the gathering area/bar, and also where the campfire is, and where we eat breakfast around the campfire:

It seems to me that Nkwali is pretty much the intake area, where they help us all understand how things work, then they send us off to the other camps, Nsefu and Tena Tena, or to the fly camps (outdoor camping), or the mobile tented safaris. Before you go, you have to know the protocols, so Nkwali sort of educates you.

Your day goes like this – drums, get up, get dressed, go eat, load up into the car, go look for game. Back to camp for lunch, take care of washing underwear or hair, take a nap, drums, wake up, drink tea and eat cake, go for a game drive, stop for sun-downers, see lions (if you are lucky), back to camp, meet up in the gathering area/bar for drinks, drums for dinner, eat dinner, lay out your clothes, fall into bed (repeat)

After tea, we took a boat, polling back across to the national park, where we left the car. We drive, admiring giraffe (many!) and elephant and hippo. We run into one elephant who seriously, seriously does not like us. He does several mock charges, but he doesn’t walk away, he keeps charging.

We had a beautiful sunset on the river, and then went seriously looking for lion.

At the same time the sun is setting in the west, the full moon is rising in the east, fabulous:

The most exciting part was coming across a group of three young lions, one with a battered and bleeding ear, who tolerated our photo-taking until they didn’t. Then, one got up with a roar, and started walking and roaring.

Have you ever heard a lion roar? It is very very impressive; very loud, very resonant, it shakes your bones with its power. Shortly, one of his brothers joined him. They walked away down the wadi (what we call dry river beds when we live in the Middle East) and we thought we had a great night. Little did we know we were also going to have a leopard walk right next to our vehicle, and each of us was working frantically to figure out night time settings, so totally unexpected that not one of us got a photo. It didn’t matter. The very closeness of the passage and his utter disregard for our presence, his focus, was amazing and memorable.

All this fresh air and fabulous meals – Now I am back on schedule and sleeping through the night. I can hear the hippo outside munching as I am drifting off – but I just smile to myself and go happily straight to sleep.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Civility, Community, Cooking, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Sunsets, Zambia | , , | Leave a comment

Where is Zambia?

Zambia is in the central part of southern Africa:

It is a beautiful and varied country, with many peoples speaking many different dialects. It is an amazing country in that they have all managed to learn to get along with one another. They learn each other’s languages in the schools, they have instilled a culture of respect for the differences as well as a focus on the similarities they share. Our Zambian friends work hard, and they are very proud of Zambia. When you visit, you can’t help but respect and admire their pride.

I found a photo of Zambia’s flag on Wikipedia, and an explanation for the graphics and colors:

The colors used in the flag of Zambia are rich in symbolism. Green stands for the nation’s lush flora, red for the nation’s struggle for freedom, black for the Zambian people, and orange for the land’s natural resources and mineral wealth. Additionally, the eagle flying above the colored stripes is intended to represent the people’s ability to rise above the nation’s problems.

We traveled often to Zambia from our homes on the Arabian Gulf, but this will be a very different trip, crossing 8 time zones and flying a very very long time to get there. It will take us longer to get to Zambia, via South Africa, than it used to take us to get to Qatar or Kuwait. We’ll have two nights, one in Johannesburg and one in Lusaka, before we start out on our safaris.

It’s a different world. You know it as soon as you get there. It smells different. You smell wood-burning fires and dust. Out in the South Luangwa, where we are going, you hear the hippos saying ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaaaah in the nearby rivers and ponds, and sometimes you will hear elephants fighting, and it is very loud with lots of crashes. You hear soft birds, and when you hear English, it is spoken with a different lilt, so you have to listen more carefully, pay better attention, so you will understand what is being said.

It’s a different world, too, in that sometimes your bags don’t catch up with you. Sometimes bags are just never seen again! We are carrying our nightclothes and a change of clothes with us to help us deal with unforeseen challenges.

Did I mention we are very excited?

I am thinking we need an eagle flying above our stripes to symbolize American belief that we can rise above our nation’s problems . . . 🙂

May 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Zambia | 2 Comments

Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

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October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reconnaissance Trip in Homer

Did I tell you how this trip came about? How last year I saw a notice about The Celebration in Juneau, but we were already en route to Zambia on those exact dates?

As we started planning this Alaska trip in 2014, we discovered we had more ideas than we have time. The Qatari Cat is ten years old now; we don’t like to leave him at the Wee Tuck ‘Em Inn longer than a couple weeks at most. The more we decided what to include in the two weeks, the more we came to the realization that we needed to do a reconnaissance trip :-). I found the Alaska Marine Highway System, and we realized we could cover a lot of ground and see a variety of terrain by taking this cross Gulf ferry, the M/V Kennicott.

Homer is almost the end of the line. The ferry continues to Seldovia, which is picturesque and beautiful, but we wanted to explore Homer, and to figure out where we will go next year after the Celebration.

Homer is so much fun. It’s been voted one of the hippest cities in America, for it’s 70’s counter culture and community values. It is a very fun place to be, and full of breathtaking scenery.

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Even a Homer quilt shop!

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September 8, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy 7th Blog-iversary to Me!

Once a year I get to troll the internet looking for cakes. It is so much fun. I had no idea there is so much creativity out there, so much daring. I found a wedding cake that is tilted! Something in me loved it, loved the spirit of a woman who would marry knowing life is often off-kilter and messy.

I love white roses, so this year I have sent some to myself:

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Come on by, have some virtual cake with me to celebrate seven years of blogging:

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And here, an elegant combination of cake and white roses:

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Seven years ago in Kuwait, I started blogging. There was a wild blogging scene in Kuwait, a lively community. Blogs were candid, and many were substantial, dealing (carefully) with political and economic issues in Kuwait. I remember reading and learning, and finally gathering up my courage to write my very first entry, and it has been a recurring theme, cross-cultural communication. I learned so much from my life in the Middle East, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. I made the most amazing friends. It changed my life and my perceptions utterly.

Of the three Kuwait female bloggers who inspired me to start blogging, Jewaira has gone private, 1001 Nights is a good friend, a mother, and an author 🙂 and Desert Girl is still going strong. Mark, at 2:48 a.m. is also still going strong, so strong that he has been able to leave his full time employment and operate on a consultant basis.

Of course, as any blogger will, I sometimes think of quitting. There are days I find myself with nothing to say, nothing in my life so interesting that I think it is worth sharing, not even a news story worth noting. So I’ve had to ask myself why I continue.

I do it for myself. When I started, I had a reason and that reason still stands. I forget things. This isn’t age-related, it’s busy-life busy-world related; we forget the details.

My Mother saved all my letters from Tunisia. I remember reading them and laughing because at three, my son’s best friend in his day school was a boy he called Cutlet. I know his real name is Khalid, but Cutlet was as close as this little American boy in a French-Tunisian school could get. I had totally forgotten, until I read the letter. So my primary reason for continuing to blog is documentary – just plain record keeping, like an old fashioned diary. Noting things in my daily life or the life around me.

Even now, sometimes I see a post written long ago, usually one of our Africa trips, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia – will start getting a rush of stats. It thrills my heart. It makes it all worthwhile, knowing something I have put out there is helping others, even years later. Perhaps one day, I will quit blogging, but leave the blog up, with these informational articles.

My stats make no sense at all, one of my biggest stat gainers this year was a news article I tossed off about the prank on the South Korean pilot names after the plane crash landed in San Francisco. It just made me giggle, and I couldn’t resist printing it. It ended up with a life of its own, as many entries do – and you just never know. Someone pins an image and you get a million (ok hyperbole here) hits you never expected.

In the end, I believe that those who keep blogging do it because as Martin Luther once said, “I cannot other.” We do it because something within needs to be expressed, even if it is just some kind of daily record. I know it’s why I blog.

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Blogging, Botswana, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Jordan, Kuwait, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Travel, Tunisia, Zambia, Zanzibar | | 8 Comments

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

Tomatoes and Peppers!

Suddenly, a cold front is pushing into Florida, and in Pensacola the day dawned . . . well, not crisp, but almost fresh! Tonight it is supposed to get below 70°F, which is significant because when night temperatures go below 70°F, tomato blossoms set fruit.

We were in Zambia when we might normally have started our tomatoes, so AdventureMan started them in later June, from seed. He has a glorious crop of different kinds of tomatoes growing, and it appears, so far, knock on wood, to be our best crop of tomatoes ever, ripening now that the temperatures are under 90°F in the daytime. We also have a beautiful crop of peppers, one so hot that when I started cutting it to include in a soup, I started having trouble breathing and decided that one was probably not a good one for me. I like peppers, but I think I am allergic to one of them.

I am starting to feel alive again! Cooler temperatures give me so much more energy.

We had a wonderful, rainy summer, and now it is time for the fun gardening time.

September 9, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

Reading Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel

When I told my niece I had become thoroughly engrossed in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, she asked me if I had read her book Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. I hadn’t.

Meanwhile, I had started re-reading George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, so I’ll be ready when HBO does Season Three, and while there is no redeeming value, I sure enjoy the escape, and like my sister Sparkle, sometimes I forget it isn’t the real world, it’s not history, it’s FICTION. I enjoy every minute.

But now I am reading Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, and from the opening pages – where the main character is living in Zambia – I have been totally engrossed.

Frances and her husband Andy move to Saudi Arabia. It’s 1985, Andy is going to build a Saudi ministry headquarters, but it might well been the late nineties, when we lived there. Her flight into Saudi Arabia whipped me back to those days, and to all the loud-mouthed drinkers who kept the rest of us awake.

Frances goes in with preconceptions, but also with a spirit of adventure, and is quickly stifled by the claustrophobic apartment, the limited social opportunities and the lack of free movement as a woman. The heat is oppressive, the clothing rules arbitrary and annoying, and Frances finds all the cockroaches good company during her long lonely days while her husband works.

Her situation was not mine. I lived on a compound, with bus routes that took women shopping every day, twice many days. We had a pool, and a small store, and a video rental kiosk. I had more options, and I probably had more fun. AdventureMan was good about taking me down to the souks at night; it was exotic and interesting. It was also, as Frances describes it, stultifying. It was oppressive. Sometimes the phone worked just fine. Sometimes your dial-up access to the internet functioned. Even on a compound, where some women did drive, walking on your own invited ogling and comments from non-Western men. Living in a country where your sponsor holds on to your passport, and where you need to ask permission to leave the country, and where laws are enforced sometimes, and sometimes not, and where women cannot drive but 12 year old boys have their own cars – it’s La La Land, it’s crazy-making.

Even though I had options and friends, Hilary Mantel captures the time alone. You spend a lot of time alone. In my case, I got used to it . . . we also had a lot of time on our own in Qatar and in Kuwait, where you are more free, where women can drive, but where you can only go to the malls and souks so many times; even when the heat isn’t enough to knock you over, there really just isn’t that much to do. You learn to amuse yourself, you develop a talent for creating, you learn to like your own company.

Then you get back to the USA and the availability of so many options makes you feel semi-autistic, bombarded by so much stimulation you quail and retreat.

I haven’t even gotten to the meat of the plot; I’m about a third of the way in, and I’m feeling hot and sticky and restless and she has totally taken me back to expat life in Saudi Arabia.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Saudi Arabia | 2 Comments

Hot Rain For Pensacola Blue Angels

It’s the biggest week for Pensacola and Pensacola Beach, it’s Blue Angels week, and people come from all over the USA to watch our home team do arial acrobatics. It’s always a thrill, driving to an appointment, when suddenly the Blue Angels appear in the sky, flying in close formation. Their practices are a weekly delight to Pensacolians.

It’s a funny week, though, a week when we have had rain almost every day. It makes summer in Pensacola different from summer in Kuwait and Qatar. In Pensacola, rain is a good thing, sometimes we don’t get enough. This year, we have been deluged; one area of our city flooded while we were in Zambia, and even our house suffered from the hurricane-force wind-driven rain.

It’s not a cold rain, it’s a hot rain, the rain falls and the temperatures are in the 90’s, falling to the high 80’s. We are planning to go out to the beach to watch the big practice on Friday (we do not plan to go for the full show on Saturday! Maybe someday when we can book a hotel room for that time) hoping the beach breezes keep the mosquitos at bay. Thundershowers are forecast for the entire week, through Saturday, but, when they come, they don’t last too long, an hour at most, and then the air is clear and clean. Not crisp, but clear and clean and HUMID!

The mosquitos are thriving. It was forecasted when we had such a mild winter that the insect population would rocket, and already, barely midsummer, or at least mid-heat of summer, and dengue fever has hit in New York, Miami, and other mosquito-borne illnesses are showing up throughout Florida. Dengue fever, the article referenced above states, used to be seen only in people returning from overseas country where it was present, but now, mosquitos in the USA are carrying it. Good time to wear repellant. 🙂

July 12, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Florida, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment