Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Boys, It’s a Great Day for the Confederacy”

This is an interlude post, not a trip post. This is a social issues post, and a very personal post. Just skip over this; like I’ve said, it’s personal.

This is what we say we believe. This is what believers believe:

Matthew 25:35-40New International Version (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This is what we believe. We are told that belief/faith is nothing without actions.

We are horrified. We are stunned, of course, by another election where a candidate wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college. We are stunned by the divisions in our country. We are stunned at all the hatefulness coming out of hiding, people proudly exposing racist and sexist beliefs in superiority and joy. Good Christian people so full of hate for the Other.

What shocks me is not only that the most vicious and vulgar candidate won, but also that the winners are so jubilant and so nasty.

AdventureMan had just listened to a National Public Radio article about Francis Ford Coppola and his famous movie “The Godfather;” he was in the mood for Italian food. We headed to our favorite place, and were seated before we realized we were sitting next to a table of true Southern Good Old Boys, and they didn’t care who heard what they had to say. We hadn’t been there long, when another entered and came to their table to be welcomed with “Boy, this is a great day for the Confederacy!” They found the safety pin movement hilarious. They had a lot to say about liberal thinking, about race, and about women. They talked about the spread of red on the map, the pockets of blue and the heavy blue of the cities and coastlines, implying it was racial.

What we should have done is ask to have our table changed. As it was, we listened to opinions that made us feel tarnished and dirty. We had the rest of our lunch packed up and got out as soon as we could.

I had my own moment of joy yesterday as I learned that Planned Parenthood is getting record-setting donations, and that many people are donating in the name of Mike Pence, notorious for his anti-women positions on reproductive rights. For each donation, he gets a thank-you note. That just tickles my heart.

Those of us who stand with The Other, we have our work cut out for us. Who will protect the food we eat? Who will insure we don’t have another housing meltdown, thanks to unregulated banks and loan associations? Who will protect the health of the poor? Who will measure pollution in our rivers and seas, and regulate emissions from factories and sewage plants? Who will protect us from chemicals in the air, and make sure our railways are safe?

Who will work to bring female salaries into full parity with men? Who will enforce laws in a way that every United States citizen is equal before the law, and that they are not differentiated by skin color or religion? Who will protect us from greedy pharmaceutical companies marketing their drugs to people who don’t need them, or using harmful components?

Who will give the poor and middle class the opportunities they need to climb the economic ladder?

Those of us who can, are identifying the NGO’s that are holding the line against corruption and the exploitation of the weakest members of our society, and budgeting so we can continue to fight the good fight. When you have a government of thugs, that is no easy task.

The saddest prayer of all “Lord, who is my neighbor?”

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November 16, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

All Aboard the Viking Sea

Up at dawn after a wonderful night’s sleep – we have to have our bags in the hallway by 5 a.m. for pick up and taking to the ship.

Venice at dawn:

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We decide to go to the big buffet today, and, while the buffet is lavish, the dining hall is crowded and noisy, and service is slow and confused. We are nostalgic for our breakfast the day before, quiet, serene, plentiful if not lavish, enough. We could make our own cafe mochas. We go back to our room and debate whether we have time for another vaporetto ride before the shuttle to the ship, and decide we probably don’t, but we do have time for one last wonderful walk. This hotel is in a great location for uncrowded walking.

By 10:30, there is a large crowd waiting, and we are lined up to go aboard the shuttle to the ship. It is a short trip, then we are offloaded and we walk about a quarter of a mile to the processing terminal. I mention this because we don’t really enjoy being a part of a herd, and because people considering travel on the Viking sea cruises need to know about the walking involved, especially if they have mobility issues.

There is a demographic who is on these cruises. No children. These are “destination” cruises, and while they have entertainment on board, entertainment is not a big draw, nor do they bother with casinos. They are destination rich, and enrichment lecture rich. They have a gorgeous spa, and nice fitness room, plus a jogging track on deck 2 and a fitness deck on deck 8. But many people in my demographic begin to have mobility issues, some use canes, some are in wheel chairs, and they struggle with these aspects of the trip, the herding, the walking, even though it is a short distance.

Another snaking line and then we are photographed and given ship cards as we process. Our bags go through screening, and then we enter the ship, to wait in one of the lovely ship spaces to be able to go to our cabin. It isn’t a long wait, but I am stewing a little. We are wasting time! We are in Venice! We don’t have to stand in line; we could come later and process in! We have a quick lunch and head to our cabin.

Our cabin is lovely. We took a “penthouse” because to us, the cabin matters. Philosophies differ, many people choose small cabins, or cabins closer to the fine restaurants because they don’t intend to spend much time in their cabins. We are less social. We like the destinations, we like the spa, and we take our meals in the restaurants, and we spend time in our cabin. We love having our own “veranda” and we like having enough room to lounge around and not bump into one another. This pretty much fits our needs.

 

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One thing we loved is that it is sparkling clean. We also love that there is fresh water waiting for us, and it is refilled every night. Viking excels in these small, but important touches. Notice that there is room for two people to pass each other between the bed and the storage units.

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Lots of places where you can charge up your phones, iPads, computers, camera batteries, etc., and the outlets accept a variety of plugs, and the outlets are plentiful.

 

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A double closet, in the hall way so it doesn’t inconvenience a person sleeping in a bed or the other person who might need to get into the closet while the other person is sleeping. Small matter? It matters! There is also a safe behind one of the drawer units, and up top, an in room individual coffee maker. I never used it because coffee was available everywhere on board, and you could drink it in lovely areas.

One person on Cruise Critic criticized that the coffee was bland and never felt caffeinated. I didn’t find the coffee bland, but I also wondered about the caffeination. But a little less caffein is probably not such a bad thing for me 🙂

 

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Storage under the flat screen TV with two sets of three drawers each, and two great shelves for shoes., under which is a longer drawer.

 

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Another of those small things that matter. We had bedside lamps, and we also had these more focused individual bed lights so that one could read while the other slept. Lovely touch. When I didn’t have enough hangers, Fernando, one of our cabin stewards, quickly brought me more; he and Dina made us feel like treasured guests, and every wish was fulfilled with a smile.

 

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More drawers on the right, and a pull out drawer / refrigerator on the left. Contains champagne, which we didn’t drink, and whatever beverages we wanted – we are so boring, we had a little beer, a little wine and mostly coke and ginger ale. Never touched the hard stuff.

I neglected to take a photo of the bathroom, which was beautiful, all beautiful surfaces and glass, with drawers and shelves to hold all the things you keep handy in bathrooms, and lovely toiletries so we didn’t need to bring any hair shampoo, conditioner, soap, shower caps, or even a hair dryer. While some mornings were chilly, the floors in the bathroom were heated, oh what sweet luxury. The towels were oversized and thick, and the bathrobes ample and warm. Some people wore their bathrobes to the spa, one man even showed up at the fire drill in his bathrobe!

 

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Our veranda. We loved being able to sit or stand outside as we entered or departed a port, but it is hardly private. There are people just like us with verandas on either side, so you can’t help but overhear one another’s conversations. We are sort of private people, so we rarely talked while on the veranda, or even if the door to the veranda was open.

 

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Storage, TV, water . . . we loved that there was a bridge camera, and that the TV also showed the time. It was a huge relief NOT to watch TV, with the utterly vicious election going on.

We had booked ahead, having heard about the super restaurants on board. We ate dinner the first night in Manfredi’s, an Italian food restaurant. The food was really, really good. In the bread basket the table was this very unusual bread, just a thin thin sheet, sort of like peanut brittle, only savory, with slices of garlic baked into it. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was delicious.

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The food was delicious. And we never went there again. We cancelled our second reservation. The food was wonderful, but too much. We had no control over how much would come. The tables were very close together, and some the people spoke very loudly. The staff was attentive and helpful, but there was also a lot of loud inter-staff co-ordination, a lot of clatter as they picked up dishes, and clanking as flatware and tableware were picked up together. It was noisy, and not private, not elegant dining. The staff sent in orders by cell phone, and to do that effectively, you have to be paying attention. It wasn’t working for us. The food is delicious, but I can’t even remember what we ate.

We explored the ship, and unpacked and fell into bed. At some point, I felt a slight bump, and could sense movement, so I went to the veranda – and we were leaving Venice. I opened the door, which squeaked, and wakened AdventureMan, who joined me, and we sat whispering to one another, watching the lovely sight of slumbering Venice at night drift by. We know that we had extraordinary luck; Venice in late October can be really rainy. We would take that chance. We would go back again in a heartbeat.

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Leaving Venice

 

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Italy, Safety, Travel, Venice | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Guido Brunetti Sent Us” (Rosa Rossa Restaurant)

AdventureMan and I read a series of detective novels set in Venice by author Donna Leon, who lives there. Commissario Guido Brunetti is a patient, thoughtful and smart detective, working under a lazy, corrupt and greedy boss in a country rife with corruption. Each book has a social issue in Venice as its topic, and not lightweight topics – the arrogance of dumping trash, boatloads of trash, off the coast of Somalia (had you ever heard of that before? Neither had I. But it is true, and it has ruined traditional Somali fishing), big pharma and tainted drugs, sex tourism and human trafficking, governmental bribery – Donna Leon fearlessly tackles them all.

Guido Brunetti loves Venice, and he loves his family. His solace in life is his wife, a professor of literature at the university, and his two children. His wife cooks meals that make the reader’s mouth water as they read, or Guido and one of his lieutenants will stop at a restaurant for lunch.

In one of the books, “Blood From a Stone,” American tourists give evidence to a stabbing they witness on their way to dinner. To thank them for their help, he directs them to a GOOD Venetian restaurant, and tells them to say Guido Brunetti sent them.

We don’t say that. No matter how real Guido Brunetti has become to us, we know he is not real, and we don’t say he sent us. But we do take the tiny winding back lanes to find Rosa Rossa, and while we order familiar salads, we also order Venetian specialities for our main courses.

Rosa Rossa on a tiny but busy street:

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AdventureMan’s favorite salad; he loves Caprese:

 

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I had a garden salad:

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I love black spaghetti, or Pasta Nero. It is made with squid, and squid ink, and I first had it at a lovely dinner a long time ago in Damascus, Syria, served by a beautiful Italian who swore t me that this dish is Southern Italian. If so, I ordered it anyway, in honor of Beatrice, and it was delicious.

 

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AdventureMan ordered Pasta with Squid and pepperoncini, and he said it was very piquant, and that he has never eaten so much squid in his life at one time.

 

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We passed on dessert, knowing we still had miles to walk, and possibly a gelato toward the end. We had such a short time to enjoy Venice, searching for and finding Rosa Rossa was a lot of fun, and a great adventure. They took good care of us, and the food was delicious.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Italy, Local Lore, Restaurant, Venice | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’ve Got a Bit of Swagger Now”

I am sitting and drinking coffee with my friend who comes in and helps me keep my house clean, and we are sipping silently, still stunned by the unexpected win of Donald Trump.

 

“We have more police rolling through my neighborhood now,” she begins, and then takes it in a direction I never anticipated, “They have their windows half down, so we can see them, see their faces, and they look at us and they don’t smile.”

I take that in.

 

“Sort of like ‘I’ve got my eye on you?’ ” I ask.

 

“Sort of like ‘We OWN you now’ ‘, she responded. “They’ve got a bit of swagger now.”

 

She owns her own house. She works several jobs to keep her youngest son in a good Christian private school. Her children, some grown, are solid members of their communities, good sons, good daughters. It’s up to her to put food on the table, pay the property taxes, and keep up with all of life’s normal expenses. She works really hard.

 

“What do you worry about the most?” I ask her.

 

“I’m trying to figure our what I am going to do about health care,” she responds. “You know that’s the first thing that is going to go away.”

 

Health care. One of the most basic needs for all people. Blood pressure medication. Emergency care. I remember. I saw it all when I worked with the homeless and working poor; medical care was often sacrificed in the interest of more immediate needs, like keeping the car running so you could get to your job.

 

I wanted to ask if she worried about her son, 6 feet tall and 12 years old – and African American. I didn’t ask. She really told me that when she started talking about the police rolling through her neighborhood, staring. Yes, she worries. He’s a good boy, and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t matter.

 

We are comfortable in our silences, but she breaks the silence, as if she read my mind, and says “You know who I worry about? I worry about all the gays and trans-gender people, now. Will they roll back the gay marriage laws? Will the transgender people not be protected?”

 

I think of the celebration, just over a year ago, when gay rights were guaranteed. I think of Roe v Wade, when our reproductive rights became our own private concern. I think of the movement towards enhanced training for police forces, so that the innocent won’t be killed in a moment of fear perceived confrontation. I think of all we have to lose. There are no answers; we are going to have a tough time ahead.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Peaceful Transfer of Power: It’s What We Do

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President Obama acted with his customary graciousness, quick to invite the new President-Elect to the White House to discuss the transition. Once the election is over, we do the right thing. It doesn’t matter what your feelings are, or the words spoken in the heat of the election, the vote has been taken, and the winner becomes President. We pride ourselves in an orderly transition.

It is not, however, a mandate, no matter how many times the Republicans say it. In most states where Trump won, it was by one tenth of one percent – or less. He lost the popular vote; Hillary Clinton won that by about 200,000 votes. So while more people voted for Hillary overall (this has happened before, with the George Bush v Al Gore election), Trump won the electoral college. No one expected this, not even Trump supporters. A mandate requires a substantial victory. This was a squeaky victory.

But a victory. On. On. Those of us who did not support Trump have a lot of work to do in the following months, shoring up agencies who support immigrants, reproductive rights, gender issues, regulations of air quality, water quality, food quality and restraint of corrupt financial practices by banks and lending organizations. We will need to truly be Stronger Together to combat the onslaught against the common citizen.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Abortion Online

First, I need to tell you that I believe abortion is wrong. I believe the death penalty is wrong. Because I am a believer, I believe our lives are in God’s hands.

And.

And I also believe that every woman who faces an unwanted pregnancy has to make that decision for herself. It is not for me to decide how YOU live your life. There are circumstances when even a believer has to make a difficult decision, like a soldier facing killing on the battlefield, or a president with his finger on the nuclear trigger. People have to make unhappy decisions.

Here is an organization that gives women those options:

Abortion Without Borders


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When RA1 found out she was pregnant, she had two options: Have a baby she did not want or risk her life and face prison. 

RA, who was born and raised in Dubai, lives with her husband and two children in Egypt, where abortion is illegal, except to save a woman’s life. Women who voluntarily induce abortions face criminal charges and up to three years in prison.

“I already had a girl and a boy, so the best of both worlds,” says RA. “It’s not easy raising kids in Egypt — financially, culturally and psychologically — and I didn’t want another baby.”

RA found doctors who could help, but they either advised against abortion, insisted on surgery or were illegal “under the staircase” doctors — notorious for abusing their power over women

Instead, she scoured the internet for alternatives and found articles discussing the use of methotrexate, normally used to abort pregnancies that occur outside of the womb, a complication known as an ectopic pregnancy.

RA’s pregnancy was healthy, but out of desperation, she took the methotrexate.

“It was a huge risk, but I felt so helpless, like I couldn’t even control my own body,” she says. “I cried for days. I hated the situation I was in.” 

The methotrexate failed. RA went back to the internet in search of help. Eventually, she came across Women on Web, an online-only abortion service that conducts free web-based medical consultations and mails eligible women pills for medical abortions. It saved her life.

Since it was founded by Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts in 2005, more than 200,000 women from 140 countries have completed Women on Web’s online consultation, and approximately 50,000 women have performed medical abortions at home. Women on Web’s helpdesk answers 10,000 emails daily in 17 languages, and the website attracts almost one million unique monthly visitors.

But before Women on Web became a safe harbor, it was a rogue vessel on the open ocean.

(This is a long informative article. You can read the whole article HERE.)

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pakistan, Political Issues, Privacy, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , | 4 Comments

“We Must Have Been Oblivious . . .”

My Mother and I are talking and she asks “How did you girls do it, coming home from university? Did we send you tickets, or money? I can’t remember, I just know it happened. You were so young! How did you manage?”

I laughed. “Mom, you sent us tickets to Philadelphia, and from there we took buses or shuttles to McGuire. (McGuire Air Force Base, the old home of the Military Air Transport command) At McGuire they would put a couple on this flight, a couple on that flight, until it reached some kind of critical mass and they had a hundred or so students waiting at McGuire, and then they would send us all out on one plane.”

When you’re young, it’s all an adventure. Even though we had terrorists then, too, the Red Brigade and the Baader Meinhof gang setting off bombs, taking hostages, etc. there wasn’t the same kind of anxiety about safety that exists now.

My parents sent tickets. When our last final was over, we packed our suitcases and headed to the airport, usually late at night to fly out space-A on one of the red-eyes to Philadelphia. We didn’t need a lot of sleep.

Airplanes were different then, too. My first year, I flew overnight sitting in a lounge, where people had seat belts, but not really seats. It was a curved sitting area with a table. Drinks were served all night, and people were smoking. All that mattered to us was to be headed in the right direction.

The plane would land and we would go to the USO or something – someone would point us to a bus or shuttle going to the air base, we would pile in, and upon arrival at the MAC terminal, we would sign in to the Space-Available list. We were like category zero – we had the very lowest travel priority.

And then – the fun began! You’d think it would be boring sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and you don’t even know that there will be a flight – but it wasn’t. This was a major gathering of Third Culture Kids, military kids, state department kids all headed to wherever home is this month, this year. It was like the biggest, most fun party anywhere. You’d see friends you hadn’t seen since their family moved, and you’d meet friends of friends headed to your own family post. There was always music, always talk about overseas adventures, and always an endless hearts game in one area and the serious bridge players in another.

You shared food. You shared rooms. You shared books. You shared transistor radios. You shared playing cards, and chess sets. You shared memories and made plans. You often napped on a pile of baggage (we were all post-finals, and exhausted.)

These friends would pop in and out of our lives the whole summer, it was all “when you come to Heidelberg/Stuttgart/Nuremberg/ Munich/Tripoli / Asmara (!), you can stay with us”. Our friends would usually arrive in town and call around dinner time and my parents always found a way to be sure there was enough for everyone, and an air mattress and clean sleeping bag for our vagabond friends.

Oh Mom. We had such fun.

“But where did you sleep? I know some times you were there for days, waiting for a flight.”

Oh yes. Sometimes, if we thought there was a plane leaving late at night, we just stayed in the terminal. Because my parents sent us some money, my sister and I would often go over early to the Transient Hotel and book a room, then head back to the terminal. If they closed the terminal, we’d take a bunch of people back with us, take the mattress off the beds and we could get eight young college women in one room.

 

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One time they told us around two that there would be no more flights for the day, so we left for the hotel room, got in our swim suits and hit the pool. I stayed a couple hours and then strolled back to the room; when I got there everyone was packing in a panic; a flight was going out and we had to be there in 30 minutes to get on it. I ran back to the pool to alert my sister and the others, ran back to the room carrying towels and shirts, packed in chaos, and we were in the airport and on that flight. I think my sister had her wet bathing suit on under her clothes, she packed so fast. They put us all on a troop carrier. A troop carrier is really fun, no isolated rows of seats going down the length of the plane, but four long webbed seat thingys, two facing two, the length of the plane. Let the party begin 🙂

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One time, there were over a hundred of us waiting, and they scheduled an extra flight, but it would only hold a certain number, so we had a lottery – and I lost. I was one of only two who didn’t make it on that plane. Somehow, though, after that first flight left, they put the remaining two of us on a plane to a military base in Spain, and from there we hopped another military plane to Germany, beating  (I don’t know how) the arrival of the first plane by half an hour.

You couldn’t do these things now. The world has changed; security takes priority. Parents hover to protect their children from very real threats. Our parents had the luxury of letting us fend for ourselves and figure out how to make it work. We made it work. We had fun. There is a whole group of those same people who gather on FaceBook, and meet up in Heidelberg, or Colorado, or Washington DC  for a reunion, or even a dinner or a holiday. We stay in touch.

You weren’t oblivious, Mom. It was a different time. But what great adventures we had and what memories your questions bring me!

August 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Heritage, Living Conditions, Parenting, Random Musings, Safety, Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments

Anacortes, WA for the Ferry to Sidney

Did I mention the traffic on I-5 in Seattle? Seattle has beautiful highways, a gorgeous freeway build back decades ago when Seattle traffic was a lot lighter, and mostly law abiding. The nature of the Seattle people is noticeably civil, but the traffic has doubled, and doubled again, and the roads are no longer adequate.

They have plans, great plans for better public transportation, more bike friendly routes, more adequate secondary routes, and in the meanwhile – traffic can be gridlocked.

We haven’t experienced any of it. We’ve been so lucky, arriving at a relatively low traffic time, arriving in great weather so there are fewer weather-related slow-downs and accidents. We never had a problem our whole time in Seattle, including this morning, as we arose a little early on a Sunday morning to make the trek from Edmonds to Anacortes. We are on the 0830 ferry going to Sidney, on Vancouver Island. We made our reservation months ago, as advised. We have received texts reminding us of our reservation and the need to be there 90 minutes before departure, so we booked an overnight in Anacortes to be sure to be there.

Early Sunday morning, there was light traffic, and we zoomed up the interstate, arriving with plenty of time to explore before lunch.

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There is so much to love in Anacortes, but one of the things in the old part of Anacortes is something called the Anacortes Mural Project 1993.

ANACORTES MURAL PROJECT

(from the City of Anacortes, WA website)

The intent of the Anacortes Renaissance and Revival Confederation, which Bill Mitchell helped organize, is where the idea of murals first surfaced.  Intrigued, he brought several images to the group’s second meeting, got a thumbs-up, and by the third meeting, took charge.  “I had the time and the background, education, and experience to be able to head up a mural project and I had a work space.” Equally important was “enough talented friends that I felt I could put together a crew.”

            The Anacortes Women’s Club sponsored the first mural – Fred White and his 1891 safety bike – for a scant $50.  Mounted May 3, 1984, the mural was christened with a bottle of Miller Hi-Life.  In a shower of beer and broken glass, the Anacortes Mural Project was launched. 

Bill Mitchell and murals

Murals are sponsored by families, friends, businesses, the City, Chamber, and local service clubs.  Mitchell owns the murals, to insure they can’t be moved to someone’s private residence. “This keeps the project together but it also makes me responsible for the maintenance.”

            One of the original goals of the project was to inspire the town’s merchants to spruce up their buildings.  It gratifies him that a decade into the AMP, the downtown had a new spirit. “People had been painting their buildings and there was a new feeling of optimism downtown that I would like to think we helped to create.”

            Mitchell meant to end the mural project years ago but can’t seem to let go.  There are still too many characters and scenes he’d like to capture.  And if along the way he can inspire other towns to give it a go and recover their mojo, that would be just fine with him.

This is a joyful project, as you can see, each mural sponsored by the building on which it is posted. It gave us joy, too, discovering as many as we could. They are everywhere!

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“Setrocana” mystified us, until we learned it is the name of a made-up mermaid, and is the spelling of Anacortes, backwards 🙂

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Anacortes is on a peninsula/island surrounded by Puget Sound water traffic lanes. If you lived here, you could have a view that changes with the minute, weather, water traffic, aquatic life.

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May 9, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Tel: 302-766-2673 IRS Lawsuit

“We had a phone call from the IRS,” I told AdventureMan as he headed upstairs for reading time with the Grandson.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you, I got one too, this morning,” he replied. “Is this about the lawsuit?”

“Yep.” I said calmly, continuing with my Honey Cake.

We’ve had a long relationship with the Internal Revenue Service. As with any long relationships, sometimes there are misunderstandings, miscommunications, even face-to-face meetings with questions, answers and resolutions. Our taxes are complicated by investments and a variety of retirement vehicles, and years and years of overseas living and earnings. It’s complicated. It’s a very normal long-term relationship.

I am posting this because this phone call is a SCAM. The phone call sounds very threatening:

THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING. THE IRS WILL FILE A LAWSUIT AGAINST YOU IMMEDIATELY! YOU NEED TO CALL 302-766-2673 IMMEDIATELY!

This is not the way the IRS communicates with taxpayers.

Please warn those vulnerable to deception about this scam.

 

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Lies, Scams | | Leave a comment

The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu

I saw this today on the NPR Books section, and as one great admirer of librarians, I wanted to share it with you. These librarians are my kind of badass! They are providing a service to humanity.

Timbuktu’s ‘Badass Librarians’: Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida’s Nose

 
Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Handout picture dated 1997 and released in 2012 by the UN shows ancient manuscripts displayed at the library in the city of Timbuktu. Al-Qaeda has destroyed ancient texts it considers idolatrous.

Evan Schneider/AFP/Getty Images

For hundreds of years, Timbuktu has had a place in the world’s imagination. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, the city flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship in the 13th through 16th centuries. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988, recognized for the University of Sankore, which had as many as 25,000 students who studied the Quran, as well as the historic Djingareyber and Sidi Yahia mosques.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

by Joshua Hammer

Timbuktu was a center of the manuscript trade, with traders bringing Islamic texts from all over the Muslim world. Despite occupations and invasions of all kinds since then, scholars managed to preserve and even restore hundreds of thousands of manuscripts dating from the 13th century.

But that changed when militant Islamists backed by al-Qaida arrived in 2012. The hardline Islamists didn’t see these texts as part of their Islamic heritage, but as idolatry, contradicting their interpretation of Islam. They set about destroying important cultural icons, including 15th-century mausoleums of Sufi Muslim saints. Librarians feared the city’s prized medieval collections of manuscripts would be next.

Librarian Abdel Kader Haidara organized and oversaw a secret plot to smuggle 350,000 medieval manuscripts out of Timbuktu. Joshua Hammer chronicled Haidara’s story in the book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Hammer spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about how a librarian became an “operator.”

 


Interview Highlights

Why these manuscripts were so important

These volumes — and we’re talking hundreds of thousands of them — at the point at which al-Qaida invaded Timbuktu, there were something like 370,000 manuscripts amassed in libraries in Timbuktu. And they portrayed Islam as practiced in this corner of the world as a blend of the secular and the religious — or they showed that the two could coexist beautifully. And they did in this city.

So it was tremendously important for Haidara and those who supported him to protect and preserve these manuscripts as evidence of both Mali’s former greatness and the tolerance that that form of Islam encouraged.

On Abdel Kader Haidara’s background

Abdel Kader Haidara was a son of a scholar and he grew up in an intellectual environment in Timbuktu. He was not a wealthy person. After his father’s death in the early 1980s he inherited the family’s centuries-old manuscript collection.

So in 1984 the head of the Ahmed Baba Institute, the government-owned library in Timbuktu, called on Haidara and said, “Hey, we’re having trouble getting off the ground, we need to find manuscripts. We know they’re out there, they’re hidden away in the desert, in river towns. Can you undertake this job of traveling around northern Mali, tracking down these manuscripts that have been lost — buried, disappeared — over generations? Gather them up, we’ll give you money. And we want this library to be splendid. We want this to be something that people from all around the world will come to visit. So go out, do your best, find books for us.”

He was reluctant at first, but the call of duty and the curator’s constant pressure prevailed. And in 1984 he began this what turned into a 12-year really amazing quest to ferret out these manuscripts all across Mali.

How Libya changed Mali

In 2011, the Arab Spring breaks out. Gadhafi’s downfall, the arsenals of Libya — in the chaos of Gadhafi’s murder and the disintegration of the Libyan state — are opened for the taking. Then you’ve got these various rebel groups in Mali. You’ve got Islamic radicals all descending on Libya — on these arsenals. Walking in, loading up their pickup trucks with heavy weaponry, driving through the dust across the desert back to Mali. And so these heavily armed rebels sweep across the desert and in three months have captured two-thirds of the country.

Why he decided to do what he did

The first thing that Abdel Kader was worried about, frankly, was looting. In the first few days after the rebels took over Timbuktu and the army and the police had fled, there was total disorder. That’s when he kind of began to scheme — “Hey, the great treasures of Timbuktu are being held in these very ostentatious libraries.” He said, “These are going to be targets.”

The looting subsided pretty quickly. But as it subsided, you had this growing radicalism, you had Islamic police roaring through the streets, stopping people, throwing them in jail, grabbing cigarettes out of their mouths, whipping them in public. He just foresaw that this was going to get worse, and that the manuscripts, which as we already said expressed values that were anathema to fundamentalist Islam — to Wahhabi Islam — were in danger. That sooner or later, these manuscripts are going to be held hostage. They’re going to become political tools, they could be destroyed in an act of vengeance, caught up in military action. We’ve got to protect them.

So that’s when Abdel Kader and a small group of his supporters, friends, relatives got together and began what ended up being a three-stage effort to protect, and essentially smuggle to safety, all of these manuscripts.

Becoming a ‘badass’

Let’s remember that Abdel Kader was more than a librarian, this guy had spent 12 years as a badass explorer, as an adventurer. He was traveling on camels across the Sahara, on riverboats, going to small villages, finding these manuscripts. So he was an operator. So when the time came, he just knew what to do.

He said, “The first thing we’re going to do is get them out of these big libraries. We’re going to take trunks, we’re going to pack them into trunks at night when the rebels are asleep. And then we’re going to move them in the dead of night by mule cart to these various houses — safe houses, scattered around the city. We’re going to stick them in there and hopefully they’ll be safe for the duration of this occupation.” Which of course, nobody knew when that was going to end.

Why it’s important

One of the things that I think is important to draw from it is to realize that there is this whole strain of Islam that is moderate, that celebrates intellectuality, that celebrates culture, that celebrates diversity, secular ideas, poetry, love, human beauty. I think that is lost in this debate that’s going on. We tend to really kind of turn against Islam because of the actions of this particularly violent group.

But I think in fact that the Islam represented by those in Timbuktu and the badass librarians is in fact more representative of what Islam is. And these people [who] were the real victims of extremism in this part of the world are fellow Muslims. They were the ones who really suffered. They were the ones who had their hands and feet chopped off, who had to live through the horror of daily occupation.

For the most part, we see this from afar, but these people are on the front lines and they are living through the horror of radicalism every day and every minute.

Where the manuscripts are now

He hopes that he’ll be able to return them to Timbuktu. They are in about a dozen climate-controlled storage rooms in Bamako, the capital of Mali. And as far as moving them back, he’s waiting. I mean, these are very hard people to root out. But Timbuktu is a ghost town — tourists aren’t going there, flights aren’t going there. It’s very sad. And I don’t know and he doesn’t know if those glory days can ever be recaptured, given the strength of the Islamists — the terrorists in that area, in that part of the world.

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment