Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Trump Impeached Second Time

January 13, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

I Can’t Look

Today is election day in the United States of America, following four of the nastiest years in our history.

I try to be objective.

We served our country, AdventureMan and I, for many years, most of them outside the United States, sometimes in dangerous circumstances, not always agreeing with the official policies of our country but always, always, supporting them, as we were sworn to do. That is the nature of the “dark” bureaucracy. We serve our country, and we obey the laws.

To see the bureaucracy derided, dismissed and destroyed breaks my heart. To see all the painstaking hard work taken over years and years of persistent policy making tossed aside, along with our faithful allies, enrages me.

Oops. Enraged?

One of the things we learn along the road is not to take things personally. We learn to suffer disappointment and watch for opportunities to get back on track. Anger doesn’t help. Name-calling doesn’t help. Confrontation may be useful, but you have to choose your timing, and your battles.

I was raised to be competitive. I have had to dial it back. I learned that focusing on the win all the time drove bad decisions, and an unhealthy attitude – in me, I am not judging anyone else here, I just learned that to be effective in my own life, I had to lay competitiveness aside.

Tonight we will learn the design of our next four years. I can’t help it; I am emotionally involved. I spent the day NOT watching the news, not watching for signs and portents. I took care of business, I quilted, I went to the dentist, all great diversions. I prayed, frequently, throughout the day as I have been praying for four years. I try not to give God advice, I try to remember always to keep in mind “Thy will be done” and yet . . . I have my private opinion of how things would work out best.

Tonight, once the polls close, I will watch.

Whatever happens in the next few hours, or days, or even weeks – or months – I will try to stay level, stay focused, stay the course. No matter how bad it has been, there have been minor celebrations along the way, and I can persevere, I know I can. It would be nice, however (God? are you there? are you listening?) to have a break, to have some normality restored, and to begin to have a longer news cycle, and rest between crises, and even, God willing, some peace on earth, good will toward mankind.

November 3, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Seven Years In A French Village

 

Sometimes I tease my husband about going on and on about a series he watches. He watches a lot of programs and movies via the internet. I tend to read books. I mentor a class requiring a lot of reading, and I run a book club. OK. I’m “bookish.” I always have been. I own it.

 

He went on and on about A French Village, until he had to skip Season 3 because he couldn’t access it, and went on to Season 4 and had problems understanding what was going on because significant events had happened in Season 3.

 

As I was trying to find a way to work around it, or find the most economical way to watch it – for him – I started watching the first episode. AdventureMan joined me. The beginning is full of events, it moves fast and – did I mention it is entirely in French with English subtitles?

 

I speak French. Well, I used to be fluent, now I am slow, and have forgotten a lot of little grammatical details. I can still speak, I can still understand, when people will speak more slowly. A French Village was so French it took my ear a long time to regain all that I have lost; I had an idea what they were saying but was not really tracking with accuracy. I needed the subtitles.

 

The first year, the first episode starts off with a normal day in the village; the population knows the Germans are miles away, approaching Villenueve, a fictional village in the Jura, close to the Swiss border. No one seems very concerned until all of a sudden, the Germans are there, in the village, and all hell breaks lose. We meet our main characters, Dr. Larcher (who becomes, by default, the village mayor) and his wife, Hortense, Lucienne, a school teacher, Raymond Swartz, his wife, Jeannine, and his lover, Marie, and several more characters.

 

People are herded into the church, where Dr. Larcher tends to the wounded under chaotic conditions, and during which he also agrees, without enthusiasm, to become mayor and to try to create some way to protect the people of the village from the demands of the Germans.

 

It is confusing – a lot like it would be in real life. At the beginning, it is a struggle to figure out who all the people are, but . . . you have seasons and seasons and episodes and episodes to figure it all out.

We started watching on Amazon Prime, for seasons 1 – 4, then subscribe to Mhz ($7.99/mo) for season 5 and six, but for season 7, we had to pay Amazon Prime $14.99 for these final episodes. Mhz was a good find for us; it has several foreign mystery and dramatic series – and movies – and is right up our alley. The Amazon payment was annoying, but we figured was the cost of lunch for one person, not such a large sum for seven episodes.

 

There are SEVEN seasons of A French Village. The first five years have 12 one hour episodes each. Seasons 6 and 7 are shorter, and deal with tying up loose ends.

 

What we love about this series (as well as the sheer French-ness of it all) is that the characters are allowed to be textured and layered. No one is all good, or all bad. They make mistakes. They have human failings and weaknesses. They have some moments of heroic goodness. They are very real people. Well, maybe very real French people; there are a lot of complicated love interests throughout the series, some of which are inexplicable and to me improbable, but I just shrug my shoulders and say “It’s a French production,” and guess that their ways are not our ways.

 

It’s a quick education to the experience of WWII, The German blitz of France, of Belgium, of the Netherlands, Poland, and the dread among German officers of serving on the eastern front. It’s horrifying to watch the passive response among the French to the round-up and eviction of the Jews (read a little of our own history before you go getting all judge-y), the petty competition for foods in the black market, the role of “renunciation” and anonymous letters accusing friends and neighbors of dark deeds, and the endless bickering which went into the cooperative operations for the French resistance.

 

 

Who collaborates? Almost everyone at one point or another; the consequences of standing on your principles are often fatal.

 

It is a little uncomfortable seeing Americans through the eyes of the French. They are not so impressed with our efforts in North Africa, they are not so happy to have Americans in their town. One episode of rape in Villeneuve involves American soldiers and a French girl.

 

We cannot wait for evening, when we can watch two or three or four episodes. We are slowing down a little in Season Seven, not wanting to series to end. It has been a wonderful excursion into a whole new and different world. At the end of which, I am understanding the French-spoken-at-normal-speed much more easily, and even spotting a small flaw or two in the translations.

 

There are two episodes I love. One involves a parade on November 11th. The other involves the execution of two Villeneuve inhabitants, one an unscrupulous and despicable mayor and the other a heroic leader of the Resistance. I know, I know, you’ll have to watch it yourselves to see what I mean.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, France, Interconnected, Social Issues, Survival | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thought from A Word A Day

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:

If ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

Samuel Adams, revolutionary (27 Sep 1722-1803)

 

I love A Word a Day, and it was one of the first websites I would recommend for my students aspiring to speak English well. I also recommend it for English speaking students who will be taking college entrance exams – vocabulary is a BIG part of succeeding on those tests.

 

He also includes a pertinent thought, which I often find provokes reflection, as does today’s.

September 27, 2019 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Leadership, Lies, Political Issues, Values, Words | Leave a comment

“How Do We Cope With the Ignorance of the American Citizen?”

 

 

I had a group in town this last week, a group I loved, and the head of the GCCDC did a fabulous itinerary for them, matching their needs for information with the best resources available in Pensacola. I am proud to say that Pensacola did herself proud taking care of these visitors, giving them meetings with people who understand their particular needs and facing similar challenges. The focus of this group was governance and fiscal responsibility; I always love these subjects and learn a lot with every visit I facilitate.

The group was friendly, and made friends everywhere they went. They were superb ambassadors for their country.

I thought the group coffee was going particularly well; important topics were being discussed openly. Then one of our local participants asked one of my favorite questions:

“What about your visit to our country has surprised you the most?”

There were several answers about the kindness of the people, the beauty of the area, and then one very experienced and thoughtful delegate said “Please, tell me, how do we cope with the ignorance of the American citizen?”

By this, he was referring to the fact that although his country and our country have long been close allies, most Americans have no clue where the country is on the map, much less the serious issues and challenges which have faced this country for decades. A few might know the name of their leader.

It’s not as if we don’t have resources. We can Google anything. We can find enormous amounts of information of world geography and events. We don’t. Our schools teach a very limited amount of world geography, world history, world civilization, with little emphasis on any importance of understanding how our nation intersects with others.

His question echoes in my mind.

I once thought as more Americans lived overseas, as they travelled, as a nation our policies would broaden, become more sophisticated, more global, more oriented to the greater good.

While there are many people still working toward the goal of the greater good, I am feeling like moving forward has mostly halted; that the concept of “the greater good” has lost its compelling motivation to the reversion to a narrow focus on national interest.

I fear for the lack of international studies and understanding of global geography being taught our children, that the ignorance of today might be compounded in the citizens of tomorrow.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Jordan, Pensacola, Political Issues, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

AdventureMan Resists

different races of people clipart
clipartxtras.com

 

AdventureMan is hollering from his office to mine “Can I read you something?”

We all find ways to express our indignation. He writes directly to our president, our representative (he calls him Trump’s butt-boy, to me, not to him), to Pruitt. He tells them, in acceptable language, exactly what he thinks.

“I’d say ( . . . . ), but as a retired army officer, I think I am still subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice),” he says, and censors himself so that he is within civil boundaries.

How did we come to this, when our own national leader lies, again and again, even in the same day, and we have come to accept this as “normal?” How can we accept his calling people who are brown, and seeking a safer, better way of life “vermin” and their countries as “s-tholes?” The unthinkable has become our daily reality. It is not only the children, separated from their parents, who are becoming traumatized, it is also normal every-day Americans who believe that the American Dream is for everyone.

I think the American president is afraid of a world in which our nation is more brown than white, which it is well on it’s way to becoming. I think the thought of losing power terrifies him. I can’t imagine any other rational reason for his behavior towards the “other,” the stranger, those he labels as enemies.

So while I am startled when AdventureMan tells me he self-censors, I also understand. The unimaginable had manifested itself daily since this man was elected, and he will stop at no ends to complete his agenda. His cronies and fellow thugs will thrive, while we drink polluted water, and watch oil seep on to our shores from the off-shore drilling. We will watch our public schools fail, and our jails overflow. My heart breaks on a daily basis, watching what we, as a nation, are becoming.

I used to think the ACLU were a bunch of wackos. When the first travel ban went into effect, and we watched the stunned travelers arrive only to be told they must go back, the ACLU had tables in the airports offering free legal services. I sent my first check that night. I DO protest, via RESISTBOT (text Resist to 50409) wondering if my voice even matters. Sending checks to those who are resisting successfully gives me greater satisfaction. Reaching out my hands to “the other” gives me greater satisfaction. Building bridges and connections feeds my feelings of resistance, that together we can make a difference.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Ft. Bragg . . . where??? (California)

Most people, when they think of Fort Bragg, think of a military post in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg we discovered several years ago in California has little in common with the North Carolina Fort Bragg.

Our first time in Fort Bragg, as we left Cucina Verona, an Italian restaurant where we had eaten dinner, we were startled by the loud sound of hoofbeats, and the sudden appearance of two riders, galloping hell-bent down the middle of the road in Ft. Bragg. It was one of those adrenaline moments, when you wonder if you really saw what you just thing you saw, followed by all the things that could go wrong when you mix horses, highways, automobiles and high speed.

This time, one of the first things we saw was this sign:

 

But . . . it doesn’t say anything about riding horses, skateboards, or bicycles down the center of the street!

Ft. Bragg has a very laid back vibe. The town is full of couples who look a lot like us, maybe even a little older, maybe a little more hip and less retired military than we look, but relaxed, comfortable in their own skins. We love the vibe. My very favorite activity in Ft. Bragg is at the north end of the town, where they have a place called Glass Beach. Glass beach is where the old town dump used to be, a long time ago, and all the bottles dumped there broke and were washed by the waves, tumbled by the gravel and sand, and became beach glass. Most of what you find is pretty small these days; Glass Beach has been discovered, but if you venture out the the furthest inlets and rocks, you can find some larger pieces, sometimes even a green piece. I found one tiny little blue piece, the grand prize of all beach glass.

We love the North Cliff Hotel, where every room has the same view, looking out over the water at the inlet to the little bay.

We love the hot tub with a view.

 

We love the view. On the morning we were leaving, we looked out and someone had written a huge message on the sand, “Annie will you marry me?” How cool is that?!

Time is flexible in Ft. Bragg. We get up when we want to, we don’t have to drive to any destination, we can be lazy or we can just meander around, which is what we choose to do.

Love this tunnel of eucalyptus trees entering Ft. Bragg from the north:

This yard had no flower but yellow flowers, and a LOT of yellow flowers!

 

 

Just a short drive south is Mendocino, one of the most beautiful little California towns you could hope to find. We were looking for special gifts for two special people, and found them, polished carved natural bay laurel bowls, at this shop.

 

I read a recent article on how California leads the way for the American soul; it gives me hope for the future of our country. California pioneered gay rights, California champions the rights of immigrant children to education and health benefits, and Californians “welcome the stranger,” as all people of the book are supposed to do.

This was in the window of the main grocery/hardware/sundries store in Mendocino. When a woman saw me taking a photo, she asked me why, and I told her, it made me feel welcome and filled my heart with joy to know that it specifically would also make my Arab / Muslim friends feel welcome. She smiled, sternly, and said that they welcome ALL people, that is what California is all about. I was happily chastened. 🙂

 

I want the United States of America to be a safe place for all people. No wonder I love California!

Well, there is another reason to love Ft. Bragg – they have one of the world’s best ice creameries right on the major through street in Ft. Bragg. 

Cowlicks Ice Cream is never not busy. On our first trip (we went twice in one day!) I had a scoop of ginger ice cream. It was a huge WOW. On the next trip, I had a chocolate which was really chocolaty, but I wished I had another scoop of ginger.

As we sat, eating our ice cream, I overheard a stylish but somewhat-frail looking 80’ish woman tell her daughter that she didn’t want to be bothered being married again, she was just looking to have a little fun without the complications of a relationship. Such is life in Ft. Bragg. 🙂

 

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Values | , , , , | 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 Rules of Magic: Alice Hoffman

No, I haven’t gone silent. I’ve been busy, contacting my worthless representatives in the House and Senate, telling them to stop the thug-in-chief, to stop the carpetbaggers stripping our country of it’s resources and decency.

In response, they supported a tax cut that favors the very rich, and strips the neediest of health care that they might be able to afford. The also broke my heart by inserting a little amendment that allows for oil drilling in the Arctic, in my birth state of Alaska.

I used to write about corruption in Kuwait and in Qatar. I never dreamed I would be faced with such horrifying, outrageous behaviors in my own country. Very humbling. Very miserable.

So, when my heart is broken, I turn to books, and oh, have I found a delightful book. Alice Hoffman’s book The Rules of Magic. I’ve just gotten into it, but I wanted to tell you about a paragraph that hooks me and makes me want to stay up all night to read the whole book 🙂  This is my great escape.

 

Everyone had to leave home eventually, didn’t they? They had to set out on their own and find out who they were and what their futures might bring. But for now all Vincent wanted was a bus ticket, and when he looked at his sisters he could tell they agreed. No going back, no retreat, no settling for the ordinary lives they had been made to live every day.

Hoffman, Alice. The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series Book 1) (p. 19). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Update: I finished this book, and loved it. It was pure escape, and thoroughly engaging and relatable, although that may sound contradictory. 😉

December 2, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Counter-terrorism, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment