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This morning we got another phone call from the “IRS” saying it was our final notice that they were filing a suit against us.  We are actually in pretty good contact with the IRS ourselves, and this scam phone call doesn’t even give our hearts a tiny flutter.

 

But it does make me angry, thinking of the vulnerable people who may panic, who may fall for this and call them back, who may even, in all good faith, believe that this is the way the IRS operates and end up sending them money.

 

Those of you who have time on your hands might want to call the number and tell them what you think. If you are an IRS official, even better. People who prey on other people for their livelihood need to find another way to earn a living.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Lies, Money Management, Rants, Scams | | 1 Comment

Cross Culture at the Y: “Don’t Ever Say That to an African American”

I had just finished chatting with Leilani and was getting ready for class to start when my class friend who in in front of me came up to me and put her arm around me. We are always joking around, so I was laughing, and she said “I have something to tell you.”

I pulled back a little because I could see she was serious, and I wanted to see her face.

She said “Last week in the pool you said you were gonna kick my butt. Don’t ever say that to an African-American.”

She is black.

She could see I was confused. I did say it. We joke around, and sometimes there isn’t a lot of space. Her behind was right in front of me, a tempting target. I did say it.

“We never say that in the black community,” she continued. “Our Mama’s never allow that kind of statement. Remember, we were slaves. We’d be on the ground, and people would put their feet on us. People would kick us. To say that to a black person is one of the worst things you could say.”

“I am so sorry. I didn’t know.”

“I know you didn’t. That’s why I’m telling you.” She still had her arm around me. “We hear you people saying that to each other like it’s nothing. It’s something to us.”

I was so thankful she told me, and so embarrassed.

“I was oblivious,” I said. “I had no idea. I am so sorry.”

Later, as we usually do, we talked during class.

“Do you really just say that to each other?” she asked me.

“We do! It’s the kind of thing we say to friends; I would say that to my sister, it’s sort of mock-rivalry sort of talk,” I responded, thinking to myself ‘but I will never never never ever say that again to anyone!’

Later, I thanked her for telling me, and she said she knew I had no idea how offensive it was; it was a cultural thing. I am grateful she trusted that enough to clue me in.

As uncomfortable as that conversation was, I admire her for initiating it, and correcting me in a loving way, for telling me how it feels, and why. I am grateful that she trusts who I am, a person who would never choose to offend, but a person who had, nonetheless, offended, and who would want to know. I feel like it was a genuinely friendly thing to do, and she did it with good will in her  heart.

So even in my own country, there are cultural crevasses I can fall into in oblivious unawareness.

And all of that in one morning at the YMCA.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | 2 Comments

Cross Culture at the Y: “It’s OK to Feel Sad”

My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.

young-child-jumping-in-pool

(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )

These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.

Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.

“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”

So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”

It is?

I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.

Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.

From then on, everything was fine.

So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”

My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.

Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | , , | 7 Comments

Just a Little Drama To Spice Up Our Trip to Tofino

I think I may have mentioned that occasionally I am a little OCD. In our family, I am the trip planner. I get an idea, I run things by AdventureMan, he gets a veto even if I make a strong recommendation. He also does research, and asks to have things added in. That’s how we ended up doing two separate trips to Alaska; we realized with all our good idea, we couldn’t do them all in one trip.

 

This time, our trip was centered on two things, Mother’s Day in Seattle and three days at Ucluelet, during which we would whale watch and bear watch. We booked our reservations, months in advance. The night we left Qualicum Beach, we got a nice e-mail from our guide, with devastating news – he had a severe injury and would not be able to take us on either tour.

 

AdventureMan and I looked at each other in horror. “What are you going to do??” AdventureMan asked, and we are in a bad position because our phones don’t work reliably. “He recommended another agency,” I said, “I will e-mail them now and see if we can get on with them.” It’s still early in the season. There is hope. I e-mail them telling them what we wanted, and that we are flexible as to which one we do first, and as to morning or afternoon.

Before we left to drive across the mountains, I checked my e-mail. No response. The drive was quicker that I thought, and we arrived too early to check in, so we decided to drive to Tofino, about 30 minutes away, and see if anything is possible.

 

I took some mountain photos for you on our drive from Qualicum Beach to Tofino.

 

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The day had started cloudy, but by the time we reach Tofino, blue skies are breaking through.Tofino

 

We go straight to Meare’s Landing, where Remote Passages organizes and sends out expeditions to see whale, to see bear, to kayak, to see remote hot springs.

 

MearesLanding

 

We are in luck! They have already tentatively booked us on our desired trips, we just need to pay and be read in on the safety instructions. We ask them their favorite places to eat, and they say “Sea Shanty in Tofino.” Then we ask if they have been to Ucluelet, and their eyes go all big and shiny and they say “Go to Zoe’s! We love Zoe’s!”

 

So we walked to the Sea Shanty, where an amazing waitress, Brianna, took care of us. You may think that I exaggerate when I say she is amazing, but Brianna was really good at making customers happy AND she boats to work from the island where she lives. We were so impressed, because while we have had wonderful weather, we know wonderful is not how weather always is, and in a boat you are exposed to weather, and to weather related sea changes. She didn’t seem in the least bit proud, she just took her bravery as something normal. Wow.

This is the view of the Sea Shanty from the sea.

 

SeaShantyExt

 

This is an interior wall at the Sea Shanty.

SeaShantyInterior

 

This is the fabulous Pacific Northwest Bouillabaisse Brianna brought us, divided into two bowls. It had Alaska crab, local clams and mussels, local salmon and fish. It was lacedd with saffron threads, the way a truly good Bouillabaisse should be. It was purely awesome, and accompanied by a Shanty salad, also huge, also divided for two. Even divided, we waddled out of the Sea Shanty, convinced it is one of the best meals we have had on our trip.

Bouillabaisse

We did save a little room, though, for Zoe’s, a bakery in Ucluelet. We had INTENDED to buy croissants for breakfast the next morning, but there were none. We ended up buying cookies and pie. The next day we ended up buying more cookies and more pie. The third day, we went in early for breakfast before a hike. Zoe’s has magic. The crusts are really light and flaky. The berry pie was full of berries; I don’t know what they were held together with, but the pie was almost entirely berries. The gingerbread cookie was chewy, and gingery. AdventureMan’s chocolate-caramel-something else bar (twice) was so rich that you had to nibble at it through the evening, it was too rich to eat all at once. Oh my. Go to Zoe’s.

ZoesBakery

 

Zoespie

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Quay West

“What brought you here?” our waitress, Robin, asked as we sat in one of the most glorious restaurants in Campbell River.

“My wife,” said AdventureMan.

“I don’t know why,” I started, “I just felt drawn here. I needed to see it. I like hunting and fishing, and I knew this was hunting and fishing country, and the gateway to the north of Vancouver Island.”

It’s true. I like remote places, and I like hunting cultures. I grew up among people who fished for a living and hunted for food to eat through the winter. You respect food more when you have to grow it or hunt it.

Campbell River is beautiful. You could live anywhere, and wake up every morning to water and mountains and 180 degrees – or more – of sky.

Our room is in a brand new hotel, it is clean and beautiful as only a new hotel can be. We have a balcony overlooking the BC Ferry as it shuttles cars and trucks back and forth across to the islands.

ViewBCFerryFmComvort

 

We are trying to decide where to go for dinner, and I am reading to AdventureMan from Trip Advisor. The first review at Quay West features a couple who split a Ceasar Salad and a Pork Schnitzle with a Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce. I didn’t even get to finish reading; AdventureMan said “That’s where we are going!” and five minutes later we were out the door.

 

QuayWest

Quay West has more than great food going for it. It also has location, location, location. Here are the views:

QuayWestView

 

QuayWestView2

 

QWView3

 

Our waitress was fantastic, and fun to talk with. She brought us a Ceasar Salad to split, then a huge plate of Pork Schnitzle (remember, we have lived almost 20 years in Germany, not continuously, but in segments) with the mushroom peppercorn sauce. It was everything the reviewer had said it was, and we relished the meal, every bite, even the beautifully cooked vegetables, surrounded by natural beauty. AdventureMan had a Steam Whistle IPA which had the crisp pilsner taste, and I had a Pinot Blanc, dry, flinty, just the way I like it.

QWOnionRings

 

PorkSchnitzlePeppercornMushroomSauce

 

HalfPorkSchnitzle

 

We passed on dessert, but Robin brought us two huge strawberries, coated in chocolate, and we did not resist.

Back at the hotel, I discover that I can pick up texts and messages as long as I am connected via the hotel Wifi. Woo HOOOOO! We are not totally out of communication!

A perfect ending to a great day.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Technical Issue | , , | Leave a comment

As Others See Us . . .

“Oh that the wee wee giftie gi’e us, to see ourselves as others see us,” goes an old Scottish proverb which has haunted me my many years of living overseas.

This recent visit by our Saudi friends was one of those times, and yesterday as I was doing laundry, I thought of all the particular ways we do things, and why, and thought about how very difficult it is to be a house guest in a strange culture because on top of the profound cultural differences, there are also family cultures.

I remember visiting my parents, as an adult, and my mother carefully explaining how they do things, and why, and we would try very carefully to do what they were doing, but I often felt I was failing in some unknown way, to meet the standards.

Like us, when we do laundry, I have three drying racks, and I use my dryer only a few minutes with some of AdventureMan’s shirts, tumble drying them to remove wrinkles, then we pull them out and let them finish drying on hangers. I also dry AdventureMan’s towels; he thinks that the ones that are dried on the racks are hard and stiff and he doesn’t like the feel of them on his skin. Just about everything else dries on the racks or on hangers. It’s a result of years of living in Germany, and other places where we had utility bills, and the dryer is a huge electricity hog.

When we lived in a small village in Germany, I remember my landlady bringing my utility bill; her face was white. She said (in essence) “how can this be? You are a wasteful American and I am a frugal German and your electricity bill is half of mine!” (no, she didn’t say wasteful, but that was sort of the gist) but she had a clothes dryer that was going all the time, and I did not. I also had a very small little refrigerator, and she had a larger one. Old habits die hard; I still hang most of my clothes to dry.

We are careful with water use, as water becomes more dear, we try to conserve, so we don’t let water run, we turn it off. We must look very peculiar and very particular to our house guests.

I really only told them the basics – here are these things, here are those, this is the way this operates – more than that would have been overwhelming. Probably they were overwhelmed with the little I did share! Being a houseguest is overwhelming, too!

And I think of my youngest sister, who took me in for weeks at a time through many of the years we spent overseas, clearing out a bedroom and bathroom for my exclusive use, letting me come and go as my schedule dictated, but still, an intruder and an interruption on her own family life, God bless her. I remember one time being in the kitchen with her son, asking him if he knew where his mother kept the emergency emery board, and he looked totally dumbstruck, and said he didn’t know.

“It’s probably here,” I said, opening a drawer and pulling out the emery board. Our mother always kept an emery board in that drawer; I keep a spare emery board in that drawer, and it just seemed likely my sister would, too. I still love the look on his face as I pulled it out. “How did you know??” he asked, and I just laughed.

I wonder what tales our house guests will tell of us, and our strange ways?

egg-in-a-nest

On their last day with us, I showed the 10 year old how to make Bird in a Basket, which he loved. It’s so simple, bread with a circle cut out, butter, an egg and a skillet – even a ten year old could do it. What was even better was that he loved it and was going to go home and show his Mama how to do it. One tiny piece of American culture may grow and thrive in Saudi Arabia.

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia | 2 Comments

Houseguests and Rabies and Wedding Anniversaries

We’ve had a lot of wedding anniversaries, AdventureMan and I. Some anniversaries we have sacrificed to national security, as AdventureMan would be called to go to the field, or head out on some exercise. There are a few which have been truly memorable. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you will know that the ones we remember are probably not those that include roses, or wine and a fine meal and a beautiful gift, although we have had those.

One, we remember because we ate at a very fine restaurant, very snooty, and the waiter made a big deal out of presenting us with chilled forks for our salad course. We could barely keep a straight face, it is so far from anything we would consider a priority.

Another, and we howl with laughter – now – was the wedding anniversary when we had just arrived in Germany from Saudi Arabia, and found a lovely apartment on the top floor of an old mansion in a village I loved. When we got back to the car, AdventureMan said “Did you notice it is not furnished?” and I said we can find what we need at the re-utilization office, which is alway selling off used furniture.

Indeed, two days later there was a huge sale at the re-utilization center and we bought a dining room set, living room chairs, three big cupboards for holding clothes and some lamps, etc – all for $53. We’ve always had great luck that way. I had a lot of fun re-upholstering the chairs, and the landlord threw in a bed for us.

But as we sat in the car, on our anniversary, I said “Now, you probably need to take me to the hospital so we can get my bite looked at.” A few hours before leaving Saudi Arabia, the cat I had been feeding bit me, hard, on the arm. It ws one of those bites where the incisors went deep. I’d have liked to ignore the bite, but rabies is an ugly way to die, and I sure didn’t want to stay in Saudi Arabia to be treated.

So we headed to the hospital, and the next few hours were excruciating. Then we went to a favorite old Mexican restaurant we had known from years before, and that was our anniversary, truly memorable. We still laugh; we remember finding that lovely old apartment, and then having to go to the emergency room.

As an aside, the landlord didn’t tell us he was trying to sell the mansion, and nine months later, we were looking again for an apartment. We became very good friends with the new owners, and are friends with them to this very day.

This wedding anniversary was a non-event, we had houseguests, and their customs and daily lives are so very different that celebrating a wedding anniversary would have been far outside their comfort zone. We had a friend from Saudi Arabia and his 10 year old son.

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We received an e-mail from them saying (I will paraphrase a little here) ‘we have reservations to come to Pensacola for 26 days and we want to stay with you.’ There was more, but that was the essence. AdventureMan looked at me and said “I think we need to do this” and I was glad, because I had been thinking the same thing.

I think I have told you about our friends who welcome the stranger, so I think God had been preparing us for this visit, and for us to do it.

How did it go? It was challenging. There were times we just wanted it to be over, and there were times our friends must have found us to be very disappointing. There were continual clashes in expectations, and there was a very large well of good will out of which we continually drew. There were uncomfortable moments regarding meals, and meal times, and getting up times, and where we would go. There were also some fabulous meals and some truly wonderful conversations.

I know they were sorry to go. I know they want to come back again for another visit. We have no regrets; we are glad we did this, and we are also glad to have our very normal American lives back. We like this man very much, and we know this visit was a challenge for him, too.

But as we are hollering back and forth, we are laughing, this is one of those anniversaries we will never forget, the year we had our Saudi house guests.

We are aging, AdventureMan and I. We are no longer truly nomadic, living out of our suitcases. We have everything we own in this one house, except our other house. We no longer have other furniture in storage, and we have trimmed down a lot on the load of things we have collected. Maybe the one thing we truly fear is becoming too settled, and this visit was a wonderful way to shake things up a little bit, to force us out of our comfortable routines, and to force us to see our lives through the eyes of others.

It has given us a lot to think about.

Happy Anniversary, AdventureMan 🙂

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cooking, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia | 6 Comments

Learn to Linger

One of the most painful criticisms I would hear of Americans as I lived overseas was that we were all happy, friendly people, but we didn’t really care about people. We didn’t maintain relationships. While painful, it was also, as I looked deeper, true. Our lives are fast-paced, and we move from place to place, person to person, job to job and rarely develop the deep relationships that come from building a long, deep friendship. Today’s lesson from Rick Warren talks about how we can do better in our relationships:

“All of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” (1 Peter 3:8 NIV)

You’re never going to live in harmony with your wife, your husband, your friends, or anybody else without empathy. You can’t have a team without being aware of what’s happening in each other’s lives. That’s why when people work together in an office, they may do work together, but they’re not a team unless they know what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Empathy is so important because it meets two of our deepest needs: the fundamental need to be understood and a deep need to have our feelings validated.

If you’re going to build a team of friends or at work or in your small group, you have to build empathy into the structure. So how do you become an empathetic person?

Slow down. Because our culture teaches us to move fast, we end up relationally skimming. That means you’re hitting the high points and missing all kinds of details in the lives of people you care about most. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT, second edition).

Ask questions. Proverbs 20:5 says, “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out” (GNT). Most people hold their emotions pretty close, and they don’t automatically share how they’re doing. “I’m fine” is the standard answer, but that doesn’t really tell you how they feel. If you ask, “””How are you doing?” and the other person says, “I’m fine,” here’s how you draw out a more telling response: Learn to ask the question twice. That’s how you develop empathy. Pause and say, “No. How are you really doing?” The other thing you do is learn to linger. That means don’t be afraid of silence. Just be in the moment, ask the question, and don’t be afraid to sit there and wait. Don’t immediately go into your agenda. Just listen and learn.

Show emotions. The Bible says in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (NASB). Empathy is more than saying, “I’m sorry you hurt.” It’s saying, “I hurt with you.” You’re willing to cry with them, and you’re willing to rejoice with them. There’s only one way you’re going to be that empathetic — stay filled up with God. If your tank gets low on God, you’re not going to be empathetic at all. You’ve got to stay filled up with God.

“All of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude” (1 Peter 3:8 NIV).

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Any Ship Can Be a Submarine

Pensacola license plate and stickers:

00PensacolaLicense

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Humor, Pensacola | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Talk to Me Like that, Stupid Bitch”

Woman-yelling-down-the-phone

. . . she said, and hung up on me.

I really hate telemarketers, and I hate them most of all when they call around six, when I start making dinner. They intrude. Most of the time, I just ignore the calls, let the machine screen them. This one had a location where one of our banks is, and I answered.

“I would like to speak with (Intlxpatr)” the caller said.

“To whom am I speaking?” I responded.

“Jennifer.” She told me, and went on to tell me that my warrantee on my car was running out and I could renew it now, through her.

“Jennifer, we sold that car two years ago!” I said, at which point she said “You can’t talk to me like that, you stupid bitch!” and hung up on me.

I laughed, which I often do when caught by surprise.

My houseguest, who had heard the whole thing because I was busy with meal prep and had it on speaker-phone, was aghast.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

I had the number. I know who she is with. I knew I could report her.

I didn’t.

Who aspires to be a telemarketer? Who, as a small child, says “I want to grow up to make phone calls to people who don’t want to talk to me and who will treat me rudely?”

I figure Jennifer has talked to a rude person or two or ten. I imagine Jennifer doesn’t have a lot of options, and telemarketing is what she has to do to earn a living. My guess is that Jennifer has some difficulties with judgement and self-discipline. I don’t think I need to add any more to her plate; she sounds like she has had enough.

April 24, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Customer Service, Friends & Friendship, Language, Pensacola, Random Musings | 5 Comments