Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Avian Thrills

I wish I had photos to show you, but there are moments where if you run for the camera, you miss the moment. I’ve had three moments in the last week that thrilled my heart.

A week ago, after a big storm, as I pushed open the curtains I saw hundreds of pelicans, swooping and circling just in front of the house across the street on the Bayou. Normally, pelicans fly all sort of relaxed and then, suddenly, plunge into the water for a fish, but this time, they seemed agitated, and there were a lot of them. I watched, and after a while I saw there was a big flock of ducks on the water, and the pelicans (I am speculating here) did not want the ducks there. So they were swooping the ducks and swooping and swooping, and eventually, the ducks got rattled and flew away.

Four days ago, as I stepped out the door, a huge bird flew over my head to a nearby tree, carrying a fish. I signaled to AdventureMan to come out and see; he thought it was an eagle, and after watching him tear at the fish (never dropping it, skillfully done) I agreed. He didn’t seem to mind us observing. That was very cool.

This morning, as I stepped out to feed our outdoor cat, Emile, I heard a very loud “Who-who-who-who-WHOOOOOOOH!” It was so loud I jumped a little when it started, and then realizing it was a big owl in our little backyard forest, I just stopped and enjoyed the rest of it. I love the sound of owls, and I grinned, thinking of a little owl we used to hear in Botswana, I can’t remember the name (Pell’s Fishing Owl? Pearl Spotted Owl?) but we secretly called it the orgasm owl because it’s call was very long, starting with like who-who-who-who-whow-Whow WHow WHOw WHOW WHOW! WHOW!! WHOW!!!!! And after that huge crescendo, it would go quiet for a while . . . and then start up again. It never failed to make me grin.

February 22, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Birds, Botswana, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Thousands of Ducks in Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge

It’s an easy drive from Apalachicola, and we also have an agenda; we remember a particularly good barbecue restaurant not far from Saint Marks.

The drive is beautiful. It is still early, but getting toward mid-morning, so it is warming up. We are dressed for the cold; it is also windy so the chill just goes right through your clothes. You have to have a lot of clothes, in layers, or you are too cold to walk.

We stop on the way so I can take a photo.

As I step out of the car, and start walking on the grassy roadside toward the bulkhead, I suddenly step into a deep hole. The grass is just a cover, and the ground underneath is eroding. I managed to stay upright, but it was awkward.

That’s where I stepped.

Saint Marks had a couple heron, an egret here and there, a couple pelican, the St. Mark’s lighthouse, and a million ducks. If you have never read Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Book Series, this is the area and lighthouse I picture when we first enter the alternate world in Annihilation.

We walked a couple miles around the various ponds, and it is hard to envision just how many ducks there are in this protected area.

We found gardens of these empty oyster shells; they were beautiful.

We are happy with our walk, but we are cold, and we are getting hungry! On the way into the park, we passed the BBQ restaurant and it is open. Off we go.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel | | 3 Comments

Early Morning Walk in Apalachicola

We’ve been married almost 48 years, so AdventureMan and I know how to travel together with minimal friction. We are not alike, but we are flexible (unless, of course, we are tired, or hungry, or need a nap, and then all bets are off.)

We are on holiday. AdventureMan likes to sleep in. I am an early morning creature; I don’t even need an alarm, I just wake up. I can see the fragile pink of the early morning sky and I can’t wait to get outside and take a walk.

Have I told you lately how much I like pelikans? These ancient birds remind me of pterodactyls, beaky, angular, survivalists.

Colonial mansion, we toured it once.

A beautiful sunrise, and bringing a cold but clear and sunny day, great for heading to Saint Mark’s Wildlife Refuge near Wakulla Springs.

Sometimes my camera captures something spectacular and I am humbly in awe; I didn’t make this happen, it just happened.

Time for my coffee 🙂

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Birds, Civility, Cultural, Marriage, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series | | Leave a comment

“Do You Want to Reserve for Friday night?”

I was so excited. We are headed out, our first trip since February when we took our grandchildren back to New Orleans, as we so often did until March and the advent of COVID. We’ve sold our big house, are comfortably settled in our smaller house, and I am SO ready to resume a more normal life.

I had just finished telling AdventureMan about a restaurant in a hotel we have visited several times, but we’ve never stayed in nor eaten in. The menu looks fabulous! (The Franklin in the Gibson Inn, Apalachicola). He looked at me over his reader glasses, lovingly – and sadly.

“”So do you think everyone will be masked and socially distanced?” he asked me.

“Oh,” I responded. Deflated. Sometimes, for a short while, I can totally forget the new reality of masks and social distancing, and not eating in restaurants.

We decided that as we will be staying in a lovely place with condo conveniences, we can order out. It won’t be the same, but the food will be good, we can store our leftovers in a refrigerator, and we can be safe.

Sigh.

I’m still excited. Apalachicola is beautiful, and the hotel where we stay (The Water Street Hotel) is right on the estuary. There are screened balconies where, even in this chilly weather, we can sit out and watch the heron, and fishing birds, and watch the boats stream by. We can head out to St. Marks, famous for the large flights of migratory birds at this time of the year.

It will be cold. It will also be beautiful, and it will be relatively deserted, safe from those globs of corona virus floating around where human beings breathe. We can walk to our hearts content. I can take pictures.

We like birds. We are enthralled with their beauty. It gives me a happy jolt every time I see, from my little house, a pelican, or a stork, or an eagle, or a red shouldered hawk. No, we are not birders. We like birders, but cannot begin to generate their endless enthusiasm and capability for detailed observation. We just sit back and enjoy the moment.

Apalachicola is a very old Florida town, once famous for it’s timber, and once famous for it’s oysters. The recent hurricane activity has wiped out the tasty Apalachicola oysters, at least for the next few years, and has greatly wiped out the economy of Apalachicola. We look forward to lifting that economy, as best we can, with our visit, and we encourage you to do the same.

January 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Community, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | | Leave a comment

After the Storm: Christmas 2020

It rained and the wind blew, knocking over the Christmas trees on my front porch a couple times until AdventureMan grabbed a few stray bricks from our back yard and anchored them firmly. Then, around one in the afternoon, the rain stopped, the wind lessened, and the skies lightened, just in time for us to meet up with our son and his family for a masked and socially distanced service at 2:00.

It was a very odd Christmas – we had to sign up in advance, and each service was limited to 70 people. They allowed family groups to sit together, but each group was separated by at least one pew from any other people. No singing. If someone showed up who had not signed up, they were turned away, unless there was space.

In our church, the policy has always been that there is always space, and you are welcome. We could see that it was tearing the rector apart to have to enforce the policy strictly, but adhering to masking and social distancing has kept us all well and allowed us to continue with attending services in person, as well as on FaceBook and YouTube.

It was wonderful just to be there. It felt awful not to be able to welcome the stranger, nor to greet one another with Christmas hugs and kisses. It’s been that kind of year.

We had a family dinner at our house, our first year using the French china and silver with the kids, but they are ready for it. We all had so much fun.

Christmas morning dawned with clear, cold skies and lots of sunshine. The family came over, we opened gifts and spent the day together, laughing, telling stories, eating French strawberry roll-ups with whipped cream, and just hanging out. Two of us took a long walk with the dog, while the rest engaged in warfare over some game with elaborate rules.

When everyone left, we cleaned up, put the furniture back where it belonged, and AdventureMan got out the bin of old sheets to cover some of our more vulnerable plants against the plunging temperatures to come tonight.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make sure our outdoor cat, Emile, will be warm and protected, which is harder than you might think when we have never been able to get closer than three feet from him. He will occasionally shelter in the covered litter box we have set up for him, with reflective blankets, and he quite loves the heated pad on the bench. We know the cold temperatures are hard on him. We’d love to get immunizations for him, get him fixed, bring him inside, but for now, none of that is possible, and he is so feral we are not sure it will ever be possible.

The sun is going down on one of the loveliest Christmas Days we have ever spent in Pensacola. We are so thankful we made the decision to downsize, and move to this house.

I couldn’t stop; I wanted to get everything in place before I collapsed. AdventureMan, busy with his new toy, a slide viewer, calls out “is there anything I can do to help you?”

I surprised him. I drink little. I called back “In about an hour, when the sun is setting, how about fixing me a Santa’s Helper?” (Champagne and Chambord) and he laughed and said that once the champagne is opened, you have to drink the whole bottle because you can’t really re-cork champagne, and I said I didn’t care, I just wanted one glass.

It has been a most excellent day. My daughter in law and I, on our long walk, discussed how while in many ways 2020 has been cataclysmic, for us, it has also carried many blessings. She said she thinks 2021 will be just another year, full of challenges and full of blessings. She has deep insights, deep wisdom and it is always worth listening to what she has to say.

I hope you have had a satisfying Christmas. I hope it ends a year full of challenges – and blessings. I wish you the same in the coming year, eyes to see, ears to hear, the wisdom to know when to act; when you can make things better and when you can only make things worse by acting. I wish upon us all the wisdom to know the difference.

December 25, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Birds, Christmas, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Sunsets | | 1 Comment

Hurricane Coming

This morning, as I was doing my morning readings, I checked the weather and saw this:

Very calm, very direct. Don’t get crazy, but there is a hurricane blowing in and you might want to take precautions. I really do appreciate the warning.

I zipped over to the YMCA to get my laps in. I have achieved my lifetime goal; I did 51 laps last Monday, and today I was only able to do 42. More swimmers in the pool, more turbulence, slower laps. I really try not to force myself to meet any goals; that I am there, that I am exercising, that needs to be enough. If I keep pushing myself, it takes the joy out of the fact that I actually swim these laps three days a week, and I am already achieving more that I ever dreamed I would achieve at this point in my life.

On my way home, I could see palm trees along the Bayou, already two or three feet under water. In front of the storm, the water is already rising dramatically.

I called to AdventureMan as I entered the house, “Come take a walk with me down the Bayou; I want to take some photos.” (He loves walking with me.) We were halfway down the drive when I said “Oh! I need to go back! I have to get my FitBit!”

He just laughed his head off. “So no point in doing a walk if you don’t get credit for it?” he teases me.

“No! You’re exactly right!” I respond. It isn’t an insult if it is true, right?

 

 

I had thought we would walk further, but at this point, it started raining really hard and I was using my real camera, not my iPhone, so I needed to quit to protect the camera. You can see the water over the dock at this house, and a little lagoon where no lagoon was before.

I did a poll at the Y. No one seemed very concerned. “Will you be covering your windows?” I would ask and they would all say “No, we’re just going to get a lot of rain.” Me, I worry, because it seems to me a hurricane  can wobble, but I have only lived here ten years, and there is a lot I don’t know. The rise in the Bayou concerns me. AdventureMan is not concerned, but did mention that we need to have a practice with our shutters so we know what to do when a real need arises.

Poor Louisiana! Poor California! Poor United States of America! What a year of troubles this is.

September 14, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Birds, Cultural, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Lumix, Pensacola, Safety, Survival, Weather, YMCA | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Day at Sea Between Qaqortoq and L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada

 

AdventureMan pokes me awake, he’s hungry. “I felt like I was falling out of the bed a couple times last night!” he told me.

I am sympathetic. I don’t have motion sickness, but the other day, after a massage, in the spa at the bottom of the boat, I felt queasy. I’m pretty sure it was the moisturizing lotion; there was something about the smell of it, but once I had showered it off, I was OK again. I can imagine what it must be like to have that feeling every time the boat rocks and rolls.

 

 

The sun is coming up; it may be a little rocky but it is a beautiful day. We even see some gulls.

After breakfast, we grab our reading material and head up to the Explorer’s Lounge, where we  have a 180 degree view facing forward. There is a rainbow, ending almost on our ship, and a shadow rainbow with it. Surely, that is the best of luck!

 

Midmorning, we still have beautiful skies, even some blue, lots of sunshine. A little rocky but people are getting used to it.

I love the way the wind blows the spray off the top of the waves and leaves a ghostly mist.

 

 

 

We had a wonderful dinner in the Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, last night. I had a cold tomato soup, very tasty, even some peppery heat, and the seafood platter, AdventureMan had Caprese Insalata and the Seafood Platter. It was a lovely evening altogether, great food, attentive service and very interesting dining companions from the Carolinas.

 

Every day the Captain comes on at noon to give us a location and conditions update. “Ladies and Yentlemen” he begins and then brings us up to speed on what we can expect, ending with “From the bridge, all is well.” We love that ending. All is well.

September 18, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

The Mockingjay

 

I saw a set of movies a couple years ago, about a post apocalyptic America, where there is a capitol full of fabulously rich, fabulously well-dressed, ornately made-up rulers who entertained themselves with a yearly survival ordeal, the Hunger Games, fueled by “tributes” who were chosen from each of 12 districts to compete to the death, to the last one standing. One woman and one man were chosen from each district to compete.

Upon the inauguration of our current regime, I had to find ways to fight my despair and outrage; I had to find ways to join with others of similar feelings and counter moves which I consider to be against the best interest of my country, and who I have always believed us to be – people who believe in liberty, equality and brotherhood, people who have all arrived here from elsewhere (Immigrated), and people who believe in giving others a fair chance at the American Dream.

My best friend forever (we met in college) and I challenged one another; she added Planned Parenthood to her charitable donations, and I added the ACLU.

I had always thought the ACLU a little nutty, but when the first immigration ban went into effect, and the ACLU had the skill, imagination and resources to mobilize and to man tables offering legal help – FREE – at the airports to stunned arrivals being turned back,  I was proud I had supported their efforts.

I live in a conservative area, and because I don’t want my car damaged, or any sort of ugly confrontations in parking lots, I don’t put bumper stickers on my car. There is one I have seen that I love:

I would never dare put this on my car, living where I live.

I did, however, buy a mockingjay  pin which I found on Amazon, amazing Amazon. I can safely wear it, knowing it signifies rebellion, and no one here has a clue.

Wear it in Seattle, I learned, and everything changes. My best friend forever and I went to dinner, and I was wearing that pin. The waitress peered, and peered again, and asked “Is that what I think it is?”

I said it was a mockinjay, and a metaphor. She took our order, left, and within seconds another waitress appeared, and then a waiter. Each treated me like royalty, giving salutes, blessing me with “may the odds be ever in your favor.” They asked me questions I couldn’t answer; I kept explaining that it was my metaphor for finding ways to counter a corrupt regime, and I particularly loved it because it connects us all, young and old.

I had seen the movies, but now I am deep into reading the Hunger Games trilogy, so that I can wear the pin again, with deeper knowledge when I run into the people who really know all the lore.

May the odds be ever in your favor 🙂

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Birds, Blogging, Books, Civility, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Generational, Humor, Interconnected, Leadership, Pensacola, Political Issues, Seattle | , | Leave a comment

Wrapping up the Year in New Orleans

I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.

AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.

Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.

flamingo

New Orleans – and Pensacola – had an unseasonably warm Christmas, and when we arrived in New Orleans, it was 75° F. and the zoo was packed. Fortunately, one family was leaving and we found a good parking spot. Parenthetically, the three year old was a total trooper, doing her 10,000 steps with no complaints. We had lunch with the flamingos at one of the zoo food stops.
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We think the zoo has one of the most beautiful carousels we have ever seen. Tickets cost $1 and are worth every penny. This is a treat for children and their parents 🙂
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Two days, two trips to the zoo. It was fun, and plenty to occupy the kids for more than a couple days.
There are all kinds of enrichment centers and activities.
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We stayed at the Westin, which we discovered atop a high end shopping mall and offices when we had to rush to New Orleans to replace a missing passport at the last minute before one of our trips overseas. It is not where we stay when it is just the two of us, but it is a perfect place to stay with children who are going to the aquarium (next door) and the insectarium. It is also a very short drive to the zoo. Parking is $30 per day, and relatively secure. We looked over the city and the river, and had a very spacious room for two adults and two children.
We were also able to find some great places which welcomed children and provided fairly healthy food.
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A short walk from the hotel was Felipe’s, a taqueria, which we liked so well that we ate there two nights. Everything was freshly made, the kids loved the food (they had quesadillas and black beans), I had a taco salad made with pork al pastor, AdventureMan had tamales, tostada and a tortilla soup. We all split two flans. It was casual, the food was tasty and fresh and we were comfortable being their with kids.
Across the street from  Zito’s, where we take our Middle Eastern treasures to be shined up and sealed, is the Wakin’ Bakin’, where we had plates full of eggs and toast and fabulous biscuits, bowls of fresh fruit and good coffee.  They make their own croissants, and other wonderful goodies, and it’s all good.
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We introduced the grands to Ethiopian food at the Cafe Abyssinia, 3511 Magazine Street, close to the zoo and on the way back to the French Quarter. They loved the Ethiopian tea, and the injera, which they thought were pancakes. Not so fond yet of the Doro Wat or the veg entrees, but we have time . . . .  🙂
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Last but not least, as the weather turned chilly overnight, we snuggled into the Jackson Brewery, on Decatur, close to the Westin and close to the Aquarium and the river park walk. We started with beignets, which were a big hit, and orange juice. The brewery actually had good fresh options and the children loved the space and ambience.
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Entrance to Jackson Brewery from Decatur Street:
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We had such a good time, we think it might have to become a Christmas vacation tradition. In the meanwhile, we also enjoyed turning them back over to their parents and enjoying hours of silence. 🙂 Happy New Year!

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Holiday, Hotels, Living Conditions, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | 2 Comments

Afternoon in Washington Park, Anacortes, WA

“Is this park accessible by wheelchair” asks Trip Advisor, and I have to stop and think. Well, the Loop Road is paved, so a wheelchair bound person could be pushed along the entire route, and, of course, they could view from the car, as they drove the loop.

There are picnic areas where a wheelchair bound person could sit and visit with family and friends.

Off the paved roads, though, I would think a wheel chair might bog down in soft dirt and could get tangled in roots and vines and ferns.

So how do you answer the question?

I would say – if the required answer were not “yes” or “no” or “not sure” – take a chance. This park is so beautiful, and so much thought and care has been put into making it a joy for visitors – take a chance. There are spectacular hikes. There are spectacular vistas, land and sea, and roiling currents, and snow tipped mountains. There are eagles, perched and ready to strike the unsuspecting fish. There are kayakers, battling the currents. There is so much to see, and so much to appreciate.

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Take a chance! You’ll be glad you did!

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 1 Comment