Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

When Does Ramadan Start in 2018?

Ramadan for Non-Muslims, through the years on Here There and Everywhere

Checking my stats, I can see a sudden upswing on Friday, the day off in almost all Moslem countries. I haven’t posted in the last couple days, but it seems to me, it is just about time to be thinking about Ramadan starting.

When I was still living in the Middle East, I would write an annual entry explaining Ramadan to my non-Muslim readers. Even better, my Moslem friends and readers would add comments, correcting anything I had gotten wrong and adding more.

Bottom line – while for non-Muslims, it is easy to perceive the month-long fast as impossible deprivation, to the Moslems, it is a month of loving celebration, visiting with family, fabulous meals at the end of a long day of fasting, and an opportunity to devote one’s thought to God/Allah/Yahweh and to serve him in the holy tradition of fasting. Many times, overseas, I had Moslems serve me food during Ramadan; I would beg them not to, but they would tell me there was joy in serving food to others and not partaking themselves; they did it as an act of worship, a sacrifice. I could see their joy in their eyes and their visible pleasure in serving.

The traditional words of greeting to a Moslem during Ramadan are “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem.” The first is a wish that Ramadan be a blessing to the worshipper, the second a wish that Ramadan be generous, supply all the needs, spiritual and otherwise.

Ramadan Mubarak, my friends, and Ramadan Kareem.

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May 5, 2018 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Ramadan | Leave a comment

Some Things You Can’t Make Up

In Pensacola, as in other places I have lived, I have met some very fine people. It isn’t unlike my other adventures, I have had to learn to observe and to adapt. Sometimes I may disagree, but most of the folk I deal with are civil people, reasonable people, and if they don’t agree with me, most of them have the generosity of spirit to just shake their head and chalk it up to my eccentricity.

And some people, you just don’t even bother to disagree. You don’t comment. You look the other way. I was lucky this time, to have my camera with me because if I didn’t have the picture, I’m not sure I would believe me telling the story. Here is what I see:

 

 

I see this and I am a stranger in a strange land.

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

The NRA Solution to Gun Violence: More Guns

I am livid. I am almost breathless with the shocking audacity of it. “Harden our schools.” And what does that mean, exactly?

“Harden our schools” means putting more armed people inside and outside. Arming our teachers, if Trump and the other NRA supported politicians have their way. More guns. More opportunity for fatal human error.

Our grandson goes to one of the sweetest elementary schools on earth. The thought of his teachers packing heat makes me ill. The thought of armed guards on his school outrages me.

What message does this send our children? Schools should be SAFE, fun places to learn and explore who they are and all the wonderful ideas in the world, places to learn to tools of learning. Guards? Guns? That describes a prison, not a safe, fun place to learn.

Yes, I am all for better mental health. Since the Republicans put the mentally ill out on the streets, back in the good old days of Ronald Reagan, we’ve had increased problems with crime, homelessness, and heartless policies of incarcerating the mentally ill because we no longer give them asylum. The prisons are full of the mentally ill.

Many mass killers have no prior criminal record. The Las Vegas killer was a very “normal,” if strange, man who had a lot of weapons, assault weapons.

I’m not opposed to guns. I am opposed to people owning guns that are neither for hunting nor for sport, weapons designed for killing, weapons that make a mass killer efficient.

“Guns don’t kill people,” say the NRA, “people kill people,” but killing people without an automatic or repeating weapon is a much less efficient kind of killing. While you are in the slower process, you can be attacked and overcome. Banning assault rifles just makes sense. Tightening who can own weapons just makes sense. Oregon just passed a landmark bill taking weapons away from domestic abusers, some of the smartest, most progressive legislation in the nation, passed by lawmakers with backbones and brains. You tell the parents of Sandy Hook students, tell the parents of Parkland students that “guns don’t kill people.” They will have a very different point of view to your own.

I challenge you to Google this: Mass School Shootings in the United States.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive, if incomplete record of many, not all, of the school related shootings. Some take place in school parking lots. Some target school buses. Many shooters have no criminal records, no mental health records, but – they DO have guns.

2nd Amendment rights were created to protect our country; the rights were for militia, not people with a grudge against a woman who is divorcing you, a teacher whose assessment prevented you from attaining your graduate degree, the woman who scorned you, revenge against those who bullied you, showing what a big “man” you are (not a single mass shooter has been a woman.) Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

Those who know me, know I grew up with guns. The first thing we did, in the Alaska where I grew up, was to go to rifle club to learn respect for our weapons. We learned how to clean and care for them, we learned how to shoot them safely, and we learned how to lock them up. We used our rifles for hunting (we ate the meat) and for occasional target practice. We didn’t even carry them when we went berry picking or hikes in the woods; we learned to avoid bear and other dangers, to walk away. I am in favor of responsible gun ownership.

I am opposed to hardening schools as a solution to mass school shootings. It isn’t effective, and it sends a terrible message to our children.

February 28, 2018 Posted by | Alaska, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Parenting, Political Issues, Rants, Safety, Values | 1 Comment

The Post: A Great Movie, and it Really Happened

When you are watching The Post, the story is so interesting that you can forget that this really happened, that newspapers were told they could not publish the Pentagon Papers, and that the Washington Post ultimately defied the “cease and desist” and printed, believing the First Amendment protected their rights.

Meryl Streep is perfect as Katharine Graham, who inherits the Washington Post on the death of her husband, and Tom Hanks makes a great Ben Bradlee. The sets are wonders of 1970’s decor, and oh, Meryl Streep in the frowzy seventies clothes, hilarious.

What isn’t so hilarious, what is actually painful, is watching Meryl, as Katharine, dither and constantly ask the men around her what to do. She was the first woman publisher of a major American newspaper. It was her family newspaper; her father has asked her (now deceased) husband to take it over, and she was delighted. He was the man, and women weren’t expected to take on roles of such importance. As the movie opens, she is getting ready to take The Post public. It is painful watching the bankers and lawyers talk down to this intelligent woman, painful watching rooms full of men making all the decisions, and, as the movie points out, some very bad decisions in the management of the Vietnam War.

It is also a great reminder of who we are as Americans, and the power of a free press. It is a great reminder that the free press is here to put a spotlight on that which is hidden, to help us have transparency in our government, that decisions are not to be made in private huddles, but are to be in the “sunshine” of public awareness, so that we have the ability to question, and to debate, what we want our country to look like.

We found The Post exhilarating. We found it full of hope, even in these dark times.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Entertainment, Free Speech, Leadership, Political Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

You Gotta Love the Mormons

I am not Mormon. Yes, I say good things about the Mormons, and that is because the Mormon people I know are smart, savvy, and hard working. They make time in their life in a structured way, to take care of those around them. They feed the poor, they welcome the stranger, they clothe the naked, they visit the prisoner, they take care of the widow and the orphans – all the things we are told are important to do in order to show the world our love for God and our love for one another. The Mormons have made a science of it, including teaching and learning foreign languages, and sending their young out into the world to spread the word, but also giving them an opportunity to develop a broader perspective, another point of view, living in a foreign country.

AdventureMan and I have a food-truck-turned-settled restaurant we have recently found and love, Taqueria El Asador, on North Davis in a Shell station. You’ll know it by the cars parked all around it as people get to know just how good the food is. My favorite is a burrito Campechano, and AdventureMan loves the Pollo Platter.

It’s outdoors. Mostly we take out. While I was waiting for our order, I saw this among all the ads looking for people to frame, do masonry, or to clean:

We are surrounded by immigrants. Many of the workers are in paint stained clothing, many are in overalls, many in scrubs from the nearby hospital and clinics. The prices are reasonable, and it’s lunchtime. This “ad” is in Spanish, offering free English lessons to those who want to learn English, and how else are you going to get ahead, to fit into your new home, get a better job? The Mormon church is giving exactly the kind of hand-up that will help them find the better life for themselves and their families, and it is offering this tool for free.

Someone more cynical might think they are just trying to convert more Mormons, but anyone who is in the helping business knows that helping doesn’t mean you will get an anticipated response. I would be willing to bet, however, that the kindness doesn’t end there, that the Mormon church has structures in place to help the English learners with clothing, maybe with better jobs, maybe with people who can explain customs, take them to interviews, explain benefits, etc. I would be willing to bet that it isn’t the services offered, but the pure kindness behind those offers that can change hearts. I may not be Mormon, but I can admire the way they do God’s work.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Food, Interconnected, Language, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | , | 2 Comments

Tough Times in 2017

It’s been a strange year. I fought depression a lot of the year, faced with a political administration that is rolling back everything I believe to be good about my country. I watched our culture degrade, environmental protections roll back, air pollution standards roll back, financial institutions restrictions roll back, oversight disappear, the State Department erode, and truth become astonishingly irrelevant,  civility hard to find. I also found friends, who, like me, welcome immigrants, fight against those who would restrict voting rights only to people a whole lot like them, and who support equal rights and the belief that we are called to be better people, and to do what we can to lift people, rather than to stomp on them.

One great wonderful event happened this year, my grandchildren were baptized. It was a private event, with friends and well-wishers, and it was joyful, and very funny. If I want a big smile, I think back on that precious day.

At that same time, two people we know were diagnosed with cancer, diagnosed in the very prime of their lives. One was the father of our dear daughter-in-law. He and his wife welcomed our son, and then us, into his sweet family, a family full of women as wild and wacky as I am. We laugh, my daughter-in-law and I, about how our relationship is “unnatural.” We are supposed to be hostiles, but in truth, we genuinely love one another and we enjoy one another’s company. I admire her, as a wife, a mother and an environmentalist. We enjoy her parents, and we spent two weeks in Zambia traveling with her father and his wife. We had a great time with them.

Her father was a poster boy for chemotherapy. He smiled and laughed his way through it, cheering up those around him who were trying to cheer him on. If he ever had moments of self-pity, we never saw it. He chose to spend his time loving others, and continuing to make this world a better place.

In November, he caught a cold, and then pneumonia. The family gathered, and he rallied for a while, and then sank slowly, unable to get enough oxygen into his lungs. Before Thanksgiving, he was gone.

Yes, I am faithful, and I also have a hard time accepting that it was this man’s time to go. I am guessing that part of it is being unable to accept my own powerless to stop this horrible thing from happening, this good man, cut down in his prime. He was just making plans to retire, to travel. He and his wife were excited. I couldn’t help it, his death made me angry, it was such a waste. Yes, you can be faithful and be really mad at God.

This man loved his grandchildren.

 

He loved fishing, and spent time teaching his grandchildren, nieces and nephews to love fishing, too. Here he is on the Zambezi, seeing what he might catch.

Every life he touched, he left better for it. He was a fine man, and I grieve for my sweet daughter-in-law, for this terrible, painful loss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is hoping for a better year to come.

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Aging, Civility, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | Leave a comment

The Shakey-Head Response

 

“Where are the empty sacks upstairs from yesterday’s commissary run?” AdventureMan hollers from upstairs.

I am folding dried sheets that need ironing before our next house guests come. He comes down the stairs, asking again when I don’t answer.

“They are upstairs in the linen closet, on the ground level toward the right middle,” I respond, proud of myself for not saying “where they ALWAYS are.”

He shakes his head, no.

I just look at him. Coldly. After forty four years of marriage, I no longer drop everything to run go get him something he needs, especially when I am busy trying to finish things up before our house cleaner gets here, just as he is. He gets the message.

In thirty seconds, he hollers down “I found them!” and I holler back “Thank you for giving me that feed-back.”

I can hear the laughter in his voice when he responds “I knew you needed that feedback after my shake-head response.”

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Humor, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Relationships | Leave a comment

Bad Moon Rising – Bend the Knee

 

 

Actually, it isn’t a Bad Moon Rising, it’s my blood pressure.

We’ve not paid any attention to the news for almost three weeks. We would catch a glimpse here and there, but we had other things to hold our attention.

I usually watch news while waiting for our grandson to arrive after school. It’s like an addiction. I can feel myself getting angry and tense, I don’t really think my blood pressure is really going up, but I no longer feel relaxed and content.

I can’t speak for AdventureMan, but together we spent years in Germany and in the Middle East, at military posts and in Embassies, fighting totalitarian regimes who cannot tolerate and who suppress all dissension.

I saw a news story yesterday, about an 88 year old WWII veteran who posted a photo of himself, a white man, bending the knee in support of those who are using the bent knee as a non-violent, respectful way of drawing attention to recent increased racial inequality and injustice in our great nation. His courage brought tears to my eyes. He says “I am a warrior, and I stand for all the good things that our nation stands for. We stand together for justice and equality.” He expressed solidarity with those bending their knees.

I don’t see bending the knee as disrespectful. It’s not turning one’s back. It’s not disrespectful to our country in any real way. It’s an expression that all is not well with the current direction of our leadership. It’s a First Amendment right, peaceful dissension.

I wonder if I bend the knee in support, will someone help me get back up?  🙂

 

September 25, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: A Wonderful Welcome in Saguenay, Quebec

 

We awaken to a beautiful morning on the Saguenay river. As I am fixing my hair, there are dolphins – or porpoises (is there a difference?) playing just outside the open window, and whale spouts and tails from time to time. It is a glorious morning, and AdventureMan is feeling better, but not better enough to take the Zodiac ride in the park which we had scheduled.

It doesn’t matter. It is a glorious day, we have some fog as we pass along the river, but the day is beautiful. Blue skies and whales! AdventureMan snoozes after breakfast, building up energy, and I leave him alone so he can recuperate.

 

 

 

We have to go very slowly; Canadian Maritime law is humane, and protects the migrating whales.

 

 

Around noon, we dock in Saguenay:

This boat is not us, it is one of the French Soleal line. Only one boat can dock, so this time they have to use the tenders.

 

 

AdventureMan and I exit the boat to walk through Saguenay and find a bite of non-ship food to eat. Viking Ocean cruises has a lot of nice food, and most of it is lightly seasoned so as not to offend anyone. They do a great job of taking care of a lot of people, but sometimes there are slips. We ate mussels one night, and they were delicious – but served tepid! Almost cool!

We are blown away by the Saguenay welcome. We have been told these are all volunteers, they dress in old time costumes and greet the arriving passengers with welcomes, photos, flags, free little blueberry juices, free blueberry pie, a small musical group playing local music – oh, it is a total party on the dock! Many of them don’t speak English, but they understand my French and I feel terrific. They understand my French! I’ve lost so much because I so rarely get an opportunity to use it, but the fluency comes back and I feel exhilarated.

Here is the man handing out Saguenay flags to all arrivals. AdventureMan tells me that the green signifies forestry and wildlife, the yellow is for agriculture which is a mainstay of their economy and he can’t remember what the silver stands for; you would think it is white, but it is really silver and as it is the cross, he believes it has to do with faith.

These people are so much fun, and are having such a great time. So are we!

 

They get one of the passengers to try the saw – it’s harder than it looks!

This man was flipping his son all around, and they were both really having fun with this local greeting party.

Yes! Yes! a “bluet” is a blueberry! I have a new word in my French vocabulary!

They are making natural maple sugar candy here, on a bed of ice, and giving it out. I get to show our grandson this; we were reading that American children’s classic, “Little House on the Prairie” and the author, Laura Ingalls Wilder described perfectly how this is done.

You know what I love about this? This is pure generosity of spirit. There really isn’t that much going on in Saguenay that would make it a draw, but these good people with their slices of blueberry pie, their costumes, their music, and their warm welcome, have created something worth traveling to see. They have their heritage. They are proud of it, and they are happy to share it with visitors. It’s just all win-win.

I love the juxtaposition here, the First Nation representatives against the background of the Viking invaders 😉

 

We asked one of the guides if they could recommend a good restaurant and they recommended one I had seen on TripAdvisor, just a short walk down the bicycle path. And Big Bravo for AdventureMan, the person I asked didn’t speak English, and we were trying to find the bicycle path and AdventureMan remembered “piste” from when we lived in Tunisia, and as soon as he said it, the person’s face lit up and he pointed us in the right direction.

 

It’s a perfect day. I am in short sleeves; temperatures are in the 70’s F. and the local young folk are in short shorts, halter tops and summer dresses. It is probably a wonderful late summer day to them. We dine outside at La Grange aux Hiboux.


 

 

It reminds us of places we used to eat lunch when we would get up early early on cold mornings to go to the big flea market in Metz.

We took the long way back to the ship, and passed this church.

I have to tell you something funny. Or at least it strikes me funny; I guess there are times when I am still silly and seven years old in my heart. The bay that Saguenay is situated along is called the Bay of Ha! Ha! There is a hop-on hop-off bus for cruise passengers, called, the Ho Ho. The HoHo is right next to the Bay of Ha! Ha!

Well, I think it is funny.

What I love, too, about Viking is their willingness to accommodate religious observances. (Did I already say this?) Tonight they are having a special dinner for those celebrating Rosh Hoshhana. How cool is that?

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Heritage, Humor, Marketing, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wake of the Vikings: Vikings in the Faroe Islands

We can’t say enough good things about the Viking business model, and we are critical travelers. We headed out on a tour this morning, we who are not good at touring in groups, and had to give our admiration to the facility with which Viking gets large numbers of people on the ground and going out and learning something. When you book a cruise, there are always “included” tours, included means you don’t pay extra. The included tours are usually overviews, often panoramic, i.e. you get in a bus and drive and stop now and then for a photo. Everyone who wants a tour gets a tour.

Having lived overseas most of our married life, we know that it is so much easier to stay comfortable than to go out and see something and learn something. About 10% of people will make it happen for themselves, another 80% will go if it is made easy enough, and 10% will never go. In the Embassies, that 10% will hang out at the American Club or the Marine Bar, and if military, shop almost exclusively at the PX (BX, Navy Exchange) and commissary.

Viking makes it easy. The night before we reach a port, there is a Port Talk, where the local currency is explained, a few good phrases (usually like “good morning” and “thank you”) taught, and photos and videos (all very full of sunshine) are shown to give you an idea what to expect. The daily newsletter always tells you how to say “Please take me back to my ship” in the appropriate language. Buses show up on time. There are enough guides for all the passengers. The guides have the patience of Job.

Our guide for Vistas, Vikings, and Village Woodturner was very very good. I don’t really know that I learned a lot about Vikings. Really, Vikings raided a little, intermarried a little, and are just a part of the history of the Faroes, the way Angles and Picts and the Norse are a part of the English. We had a very good guide, a funny man who often broke into song, and who has probably attended to more tourists than is good for him.

 

There were sheep everywhere, including sleeping alongside the road. Drivers are all very careful, because if you hurt a sheep, you pay the owner like $500. for his loss. The sheep were every color from white to brown, and black, and spotted white and brown and black. If I lived in the Faeroe Islands I would learn to sheer and card sheep wool, and spend evenings spinning the raw wool into threads for weaving into cloth and yarns. I’ve always wanted to learn to spin. LOL, too late to be a spinster 😉


What do I think is a good guide? This man told us a lot about life on the Faroes, about choices people make. Do they want to be a part of Denmark or not? It would require an election, and people can figure about half want one thing and half want another, and no matter who won, it would be narrow and cause turmoil, so why spend all that money on an election, just leave things as they are.

 

We head to the village of Kvivik to see the Viking longboat remains, or where they once were, and then to Leynar to visit the Village Woodman.

Below are stone built salmon jumps, old technology, but with devices which keep count of each salmon who climbed the steps, new technology. Can you see how green and lovely everything is, evan as fall approaches?


Drama Drama Drama! Who could be bored when the weather changes every minute with such verve and gusto?

We are always interested in how people choose to live. Our guide explains that houses often contain three generations, the grandmother, the mother, and the daughter. Isn’t that an interesting way to describe it? We tend to think in male-ownership terms, but these houses are communal based on matrilineal lines.

I wonder where daughters-in-law fit in?

 

Look closely here, a man is up on his turf roof, trimming things down for the winter.

Viking longboat site

They teach their children three important rules. 1. Be kind. 2. Be kind. 3. When one and two fail, be kind.

He told us how houses are built, and how people help one another get their houses built. They are taught “better that many are not poor than that a few are rich.” We did not see a single dump any where in our journey took us; everything was clean and well-kept. People are fined heavily for dropping trash. There are only two policemen in the Faroes, and there is no prison, there is so little crime. “Where would you run? Where would you hide?” he asks. “Everyone would know you, so you don’t do it.”

He told us that many of the families of the Faroes were started by Norsemen who found local girls and were afraid to go home and face their wives, who were waiting for them with big sticks. He made us laugh, and laughter always helps us understand.

He took us into a beautiful little church, beautiful finished wood on the inside (see below) and he sang to us a familiar hymn, in Faraoese, Nearer My God to Thee. It was so sweet, and so beautiful, my eyes teared. He told us he waited 30 years to get married, and was the first one to wed once the Danish stopped insisting on state churches. (The church is now Lutheran.)

The Faero Islands reminds me of where I grew up, in Alaska, where neighbors held that same kind of concern for one another and for the communal life. We lived on an island full of Scandinavian immigrant families, along with the native Haida, Aleut, Tlingket, and occasional Inuit. It never mattered that we differed, when someone needed help, we helped. A neighbor didn’t go hungry, their children didn’t go unclothed. I remember the delight when our neighbor passed along her daughter’s lightly used clothing they had outgrown, and we could wear it. I remember one skirt in particular, a grey and yellow plaid Pendleton skirt which I wore for years, and maybe fifteen years later my old neighbor saw me wear it and said “I used to have a skirt just like that!” and I laughed and said “This is your skirt!” When you have a Pendleton skirt, you can wear it for the rest of your life; they wear so well. We were frugal people, and we never wanted for anything. We shared what we had.

 

I got the impression that actually the guide doesn’t much like Americans. It didn’t matter, he was kind, he was professional, and I believe he gave a great value for the money. He shared the truth of his culture as he lives it and was fair to us. That’s good enough.

I can’t give you a lot of information about the photos, only that I took what I thought would give you an idea of what life on the Faroe Islands might look like. For me, this was a great day, very little rain, even some sunshine, and I learned about a culture I really like. I like that they teach their children: Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values | , , , | Leave a comment