Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Never a Dull Moment: Hurricane Nate

 

We breathed a sigh of relief when the crew came and took down our hurricane protection on the upper story. Our house has been very dim on the upper level with the ballistic covering over the windows. That was ummm . . . . Monday? Tuesday?

Wednesday, we started hearing little rumblings about a fast-developing storm called Nate. By Friday, many activities for this weekend have been cancelled, even some church services on Sunday. Our guidance was “even if you are signed up to read or to sing in the choir, if it is a hurricane, DON’T COME.” You have to spell things like this out for Episcopalians, or they will kill themselves trying to keep a promise, to fulfill a duty.

Everyone has been sort of sure that the storm will head toward New Orleans, as it usually does. We don’t wish New Orleans any harm, we all love New Orleans and it is a favorite overnight or weekend getaway. They, in turn, love Pensacola Beach, and many spend a week or a month here ever summer. So they are our neighbors and we wish them well. But would we voluntarily take a hurricane for them . . . ? I’m not so sure.

I was up this morning at six, checking the most recent weather channel forecasts, and it doesn’t look good. Even if we get peripheral winds, they could be up to 100 mph. Just to be doing something to calm myself, I hit good old Home Depot for a tarp or two. I was home before eight, and AdventueMan was up sorting through the hurricane protection bags, the ones we just put away. The ones we just put away THIS WEEK.

As we are trying to prioritize, our contractor and his crew that installed the hurricane protection called and said he was in the neighborhood, did we want their help getting the protection back up. What a relief.

If we had done it yesterday, when the humidity was low and the temperatures were lower, it might have been a piece of cake, but this morning, even with the garage door open, we were sweating buckets just sorting out the upstairs and downstairs covers.

The crew is here now. I had to scurry to take a shower; did not want to give someone putting up window protection a bad shock. I have the cat cages ready to go, and extra food. I have a couple loads of laundry ready to be washed and dried, and I have packed the emergency bag in case we need to leave in a hurry.  Extra money, important papers, a couple days worth of clothing. Shoes. Underwear. I’ll pack my computer with me, and I hope I remember my charger. Having had to do things now and then in a big hurry, I know that sometimes your mind goes on hold and your forget the most essential thing. AdventureMan filled his gas tank, and will put up the garage supports when we get home from the movie this afternoon (the hurricane is not expected to hit until early tomorrow morning).

And, honestly, when you live with hurricanes, their terrifying power (as the Psalm says “terrify them with your hurricane”) you learn that the most important things of all are not things, but the people you hold most dear. Everything else can be replaced.

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October 7, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Survival, Weather | | 3 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: The Saint Lawrence River and New Friends

AdventureMan went to bed as soon as we got back from the spa; he had been chilled and had warmed up in the hot pool and sauna, but he was tired – and sick.

The night before he had been fine. We had gone to dinner with a couple we met at breakfast in Oslo, the day we were all traveling to Bergen. Within three minutes we had a lot in common – as happens in Expat world. They have been to many wonderful places overseas in their academic careers, and especially loved their time in Beirut, Damascus and a wonderful wedding in Amman, Jordan.

How often do you come across people like that? How do you find out so quickly those shared points of enthusiasm?

At dinner, it was more of the same; there are some people that no matter how many topics come up, you know there are still so many to cover.

And they remind me very much of a couple we met last year on Empires of the Mediterranean, outside the Archaeology Museum in Zadar. None of us could believe that there was NO mention of this fabulous museum in the Port Talk or in the City Tours. One thing led to another, but you know me – all roads lead to books. We are still in touch with this couple; she and I are active in book clubs and avid in our e-mails about our latest finds. They are coming to visit us next month!

It’s the same with our new friends from Las Cruces, they are widely read and have a wide range of interests. We laugh a lot. We can’t stop talking.

But the next morning, as we went into L’Anse Aux Meadows, Adventureman said he was tired, and he was coughing a lot, and he had a headache. He slept and slept, only getting up for a little soup at dinner, then going right back to bed.

Today is a day at sea, and started out a little bleak.

I went upstairs to the Explorer Lounge, my favorite quiet place, and had my oatmeal with blueberries and raspberries. Around nine, I went down to the spa pool, and, for a while, had it all to myself. I came back to the room to spend some time with AdventureMan, but when he is sick all my suggestions (“do you think you might want to see the doctor? Can I make you some mint tea?”) just annoy him, so I am quiet until we go to lunch. After lunch, I go back upstairs to read and to leave him in peace, coming back to the room for a couple hours, then heading out for a lecture on the Bayeux Tapestry. The weather has greatly improved, and way way off in the distance, we can even see land.

 

On our way to Saguenay on the Saint Lawrence River:

Look at this beautiful weather! It hit 70 degrees F. today, first time we have seen a temperature like that since leaving Pensacola. I am taking it as an omen that AdventureMan is about to make a rapid and full recovery so he can enjoy the end of the trip with me.

At the lecture about the Bayeux Tapestry, our Las Cruces friend asked if I had written about them in my blog, and said he was trying to find it. Aargh. You know, I don’t talk about the blog, in Pensacola maybe one person other that AdventureMan and our son even know about it. I have my faithful friends from Doha and Kuwait who keep up with me here, but honestly, who else really cares? There are so many blogs about exciting things like politics and sex and fashion and they get millions of visitors. I am just trying to remember places I have been and events and experiences, sometimes I am just thinking out loud, or venting therapeutically, and some of you are kind enough to come along for the ride. I am humbled, and thankful, that you are still there.

I miss AdventureMan.

Tomorrow, Saguenay.

 

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Pensacola, Privacy, Relationships, Travel | , | 3 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Reykjavik and Thingvellir in Iceland

We can’t believe our good luck, after the clouds and rain in Oslo, Bergen and being shut out of Lerwick, here we are in Iceland, and the weather is PERFECT. Perfect, that is, if you are an Alaska girl who loves to chill 😉 as AdventureMan debates whether or not he needs to wear his long underwear to keep warm.

The cruise director, Aaron Syfert, has told all of us, his cruise-children, to dress “like onions,” in layers, so that we can dress down if possible, and be warm enough when it is really cold. As we enter the bus, we have three or four layers; within minutes, there is a loud outcry from those aboard “Please turn down the heat!” In our full-up onion garb, it is really hot. The driver laughs and said he had wanted us to be warm enough, and turns down the heat until everyone is happy.

We drive through part of Reykjavik en route to our first stop, and the place I have wanted to see the most, Thingviller.

I have a thing about sacred spots, that it seems to me that there are some places in the world where the interface between this world and . . . the next? . . . the former? . . . .the alternate? . . . the interface is thin and perhaps not open, but permeable. Thingviller is a very very old place, a place where all those spread out in rural Iceland would gather to made decisions for the community. It was one of the most ancient forms of democracy, or democracy of a sort, of course it was mostly chieftains making the decisions, advised by their counsel, and while those decision makers were probably mostly men, they made decisions by consensus, and vote, for the greater good of the community.

Some of the decisions they reached would chill you. You will see a waterfall, below, by which there is a pond where violates of the law were drowned. Our guide tells us that most of them were women who had children out of wedlock. “What happened to the men?” one guest asked. “They were beheaded, if they could be found, if they could be identified,” she replied. She added that most of the time, the women went to their death without identifying the man who had impregnated her.

Geologically, Thingviller is fascinating. Thingviller is a huge rift between two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Euro/Asian Plate. I had known of “The Thing” the Viking Thing, about the decision making places, but it wasn’t until Digg, or one of the other news sourcing articles I get told me in some spectacular photos from around the world, that I knew about the rift. There were photos underwater, photos of daring young divers with one hand and foot on the North American Plate and the other on the EuroAsian Plate, truly spectacular. I wanted to visit the decision making place, and I wanted to visit the rift.

Last – and not least – Thingviller is one of the locations where Game of Thrones is shot, many of the scenes north of The Wall and of The Wall are shot here. It gives us a thrill, first Spain and the Alcazar and Alhambra, then Dubrovnik, and now Iceland, we are on a roll.

We had a great day, a truly great day, and the weather held. For me, Thingviller was worth the trip to Iceland.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 4 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour – Vigeland Park

In the last post, I told you AdventureMan and I are not very good about staying on track with a tour. Sometimes there is too much information, and too much time at a location about which I care little. VIgeland Park was just the opposite, for both AdventureMan and I. Vigeland Park was so extraordinary it made us want to come back to Oslo and to walk the streets and visit all the public art we can, and spend a lot more time with these lovely, terrifying, amazing sculptures.

This gutsy sculptor told the city of Oslo that he would do a series of sculptures for free if the city would pay for materials, provide a location, and provide help for the project. After lengthy debate, astonishingly, the city agreed. Vigeland created the statues, the park was completed and Oslo had a cultural treasure.

Vigeland’s sculptures deal with mankind, in all glory and in all despair, in all conditions. I will show you one of my favorites, because I am one of three sisters, and what I read into this statue is sisterhood:

 

Can you see why I like this statue? You can read so much into his statuary. If I were teaching high school art, I would put out a series of photos of his sculptures and ask each student to choose one and to write about what he or she sees in the sculpture.

There are mothers and fathers with their children:

 

What do you see? Some saw a man, overwhelmed, careless as he handled his children. I saw a metaphorical balancing act, and don’t children alway find their fathers the most fun because of the risks they take?

 

Some saw joy in this mother racing with her child.  What do you see?

 

 

 

This column centers the exhibit. It is full of people and children, surrounded by people, men and women, all nude, all naked spiritually and open for our observation and interpretation:

 

 

This park is incredibly popular. I would love to go back when there aren’t a lot of people. This is a park where you can spend a lot of time speculating.

This is a separate pavilion with depictions of the stages of a life, and the transitions back and forth from the “other world” to this world.

I struggle with this series below – I’ve only shown two. It is a woman with a dragon – or is it a demon? Is she fighting with it, or dancing with it? And in the last picture, is he embracing her? Is he devouring her?

 

These sculptures are like a good book, you can think about them for a long time, and at different times in your life you may come to understand them in different ways.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Interconnected, Mating Behavior, Parenting, Public Art, Random Musings, Relationships, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nina George: Little French Bistro (aka Little Breton Bistro)

 

I haven’t been reviewing books so much recently. I run a local book club, we meet once a month, and this year, we chose some really HARD books. This book, The Little French Bistro, is not one of the books my book club read. It is not a hard book.

It is a great, quick airplane read, or a beach read. It is a book you can read and pass along to the person sitting next to you, because you won’t need to go back and re-read any of it.

I am pre-disposed to like any book that has France, French, or Paris in the title, or bistro, or book shop. I read another book by this author called The Little French Bookshop, in which the main character ends up taking his bookshop – on a barge – down a series of rivers, through locks and small French towns, to the south of France. I really enjoyed that book, and have thought of it often.

This book I just found annoying. I wanted to tell the main character, Marianna, to “man up,”, grow-a-pair, take responsibility for your own life! She lived in misery for forty something years with a man who treated her like an accessory, like a domestic, like a convenience, without respect, without . . . . respect.

Marianne gets sadder and sadder, goes to Paris on a trip with her churlish husband, and decides to commit suicide, but fails in her attempt.

She escapes the hospital in which she is about to be evaluated for mental stability, and heads to Brittany.

I’m not liking her very much so far, but I am hesitant to blame a victim. And I am annoyed; how did this sad sack get the gumption to go, and how did she happen to have cash on her, when her purse went into the river with her when she jumped off the Pont Neuf?

Her motivation? She wants to die in Brittany, and things the sea will do the job. She ends up in the sea several times.

Long story short, she finds work she enjoys and is good at. She learns a little French, she makes friends. She gets a make-over and buys some new clothes. She finds a lover, a French artist, who loves and adores her, and she blooms under his loving attention.

Sigh.

It’s a very romantic idea, and it makes me tired. I’ve met so many divorced people, men and women, who are still looking for that partner who will love and adore them. Some of them wish they had stayed with their marriage; some were smart to leave. Relationships are hard work. It may be all magical, as George implies, at the beginning, but as the relationship grows and enriches, deepens, you have to learn to accept another, warts and all. You can’t do that unless you can accept yourself . . . warts and all.

I object to the premise that you find a wonderful new lover and a new life begins. My experience tells me that you really need to be happy with yourself, first, and that wonderful love will follow . . . or not. If you are happy with yourself, and you are creating a life you love living, that may be as good as life can be. If you don’t find a way to be happy with yourself, if you don’t know who you are, every relationship ends the same way. God willing, we grow, we change, we learn more about ourselves, who we are, our relationship to the universe, and our purpose, and how to fulfill it.

There are some interesting characters, interesting situations and a lovely community life in The Little French Bistro. My frustration with the book is that it had more potential than it demonstrated.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Books, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Bottoms Up!

This is from this morning’s news on AOL. It calls drinking the biggest drug problem in America.

Americans are drinking a lot – and it’s scaring researchers

 

If you’re an American and you drink alcohol, you’re not alone. In fact, there are more people like you now than in the past. But with increased drinking comes increased health consequences – so much so that researchers are calling it a public health crisis.

Specifically, the portion of Americans consuming alcohol during a year has increased 11.2 percent from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013 (65.4 percent to 72.7 percent, respectively). High-risk drinking ticked up from 20.2 million Americans to 29.6 million Americans during this period, and those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder rose from 17.6 million to 29.9 million Americans.

High-risk drinking was defined as four or more regular drinks on any day for women, five or more for men, and exceeding those limits at least weekly during the year. A person was considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year.

The study took into account about 80,000 people’s individual interviews between several surveys, and was published earlier this week in JAMA Psychiatry.

Women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities and people of lower income and education levels saw the largest increases, save for a few exceptions.

 

“These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period. … Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder], destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” according to the study.

And it’s not just the study authors who are concerned.

“This should be a big wake-up call,” David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Bloomberg. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.” He was not a part of the research.

It’s estimated that 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes, reports the Washington Examiner – and people can’t seem to agree on how to get a handle on them.

Why is this happening in the first place? There isn’t one root cause, Bloomberg reports. Researchers suggest economic stress post-Great Recession could play a role, in addition to the improved accessibility of alcohol at retailers and restaurants and weakened alcohol tax impact. Today, alcohol is cheaper than it’s ever been since at least 1950 in relation to average income.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cold Drinks, Community, Cultural, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Opiod Death Map in America

This came in my Bit-of-News daily e-mail; the map is from an article on CNN:

Saddest map I’ve ever seen . . .

June 28, 2017 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Health Issues, News | , , | 1 Comment

The Patter of Little Feet

AdventureMan said “I’m ready.”

 

He caught me by surprise.

 

We lost Zakat in July; one Saturday night at bedtime, he noticed Zakat had a dime-sized hole in his side. In the time it took us to get dressed and head for the animal emergency care hospital, it had grown to the size of a quarter. As we waited – the hospital was full, that night, of heartbreaking cases – it continued to grow. We had to leave him there to be sewn up, but they called us and told us that his skin wouldn’t hold stitches, and other lesions had opened. “A cat can’t live without skin” she said. We had to let him go.

 

When we adopted him, we hoped we would have more time with him. Zakat was the sweetest cat we have ever had, just full of love and trust. He was also FiV positive, feline AIDS, and he was susceptible to everything. He lost teeth. He had frequent pink eye. He would have fevers. He had skin problems. Through it all, he was sweet. When we lost him, we were desolate. AdventureMan said “No more cats.”

 

I think Trump changed his mind. I think he had to do something to fight our increasing dismay and outrage, we had to have some source of laughter in our lives. We know these immigrants he wants to keep out; we have lived among them and know them, for the most part, to be peaceful, hospitable people, very much like the people we live among in Pensacola. We have trans friends, and gay friends, and to limit their freedom threatens our own, for where do you start restraining those who hate? We prefer to drink untainted water, and to breathe unpolluted air, and we trust the EPA to measure, and to confront, and to enforce. And we want to trust in the “truthiness” of our elected officials, which we demonstrably cannot.

 

We have become activists. Who would have though it?

 

And, to nourish our souls, we have adopted Ragnar, a Russian Blue mix, and Uhtred, a creamy gold total mutt, both street cats, both sweet and funny and playful and delightful. Our house is once again a jumble of scattered and wrinkled carpets, dining room chairs knocked out of place, training not to go on countertops, and clear duct tape on the furniture to train them not to scratch there, but on the scratching posts.  They give us joy, and a delightful reason to get up in the morning.

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So, thank you, Donald Trump, for being so obnoxious and so depressing that we welcomed the diversion of these two delightful little angels into our household. One small step to help a hurting world.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“If Not Now, When?”

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(This is not the actual slide; the YMCA slide is indoors, and has two loops)

Our brand new YMCA has opened in Pensacola, and it has TWO pools – and a water slide.

Yesterday, there was one swimmer and one wallower as I entered the swim area for water aerobics with two of my friends. This was the perfect time. I asked the life guard if he could open the water slide long enough for us to go down.

My friends looked at me like I had grown a second head.

“If not now, when?” I asked them. “We’re not getting any younger. Who knows, tomorrow we might not be able!”

They were game. They followed me up the stairs, then others began to follow. It occurred to me that there was no going back, and that I had put myself in this position, where I couldn’t back out.

The lifeguard turned on the gush of water that lubricates and speeds your ride through the tube. I didn’t wait to let fear claim me, I jumped into the entry and went.

It was dark. It was fast. It was terrifying. You come out twisted and disoriented, not sure which way is up. It’s a lot like being born – there is NO light in the tube, and when light appears, there is a big gush of water as you are thrown out into the pool. I cam up sputtering.

Everyone did. We all looked proudly at one another and agreed that we are glad we did it – once. And never again.

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Exercise, Experiment, Fitness / FitBit, Humor, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , | 2 Comments

“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