Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Say Yes Scam

Today the phone rang and caller ID told me it was from “Grazzaville.” We’ve had lots of calls from “Grazzaville” which shows up on the monitor as Graceville, FL, but our caller ID has her own ideas about how things should be pronounced and sometimes it’s just funny.

 

 

This morning, I decided to answer, the way I answer most calls I suspect are solicitations. I pick it up, but I say nothing. If it is a recording, I just hang up immediately.

 

This one, however, was live. “Hi! I’m Natalie, your trip advisor on a recorded line. Can you hear me?”

 

I know this scam. The question is aimed to get you to say “yes” with which, once they have a recording, they can charge your credit card number – or whatever – and say they have a recording of you giving permission.

 

I told “Natalie” that to take our number off her list, that we do not want to receive calls from them. I’m probably just wasting my breath, but at least we now know what all the calls from “Grazzaville” are about, and we can safely not answer.

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October 4, 2019 Posted by | Crime, Financial Issues, Lies, Rants, Scams | Leave a comment

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

Happy Thirteen Years of Blogging to Me! Have Some Cake!

I found some incredibly elaborate cakes to serve you this year to celebrate becoming a teen-age blogger (which is to say, I’ve been doing this for thirteen years.)

 

For several years, I considered closing down this blog. I’m so glad I never acted on it. I still get so much joy on my trips taking photos of our hotels, sights, adventures and sharing maps and travel ideas with you.

 

There are actually trips I’ve forgotten I’ve taken. When my husband reads my travel tales, he says “Oh! You have so much fun, you and that guy you travel with. I wish it were me!”

 

It IS him. He just forgets. He loves reading about our trips as much as I do.

 

 

I’m not very good at being settled down. Part of growing up – I guess – is learning to accept the inevitable. I still yearn for unexpected challenges of living in foreign locations, other ways of thinking, and the smells and sights and sounds of places I have never been before.

 

 

We have a great trip coming up. We’ve been reading Martin Walker’s Bruno: Chief of Police series. We are going to Bordeaux for a week of exploring some of our favorite wines, and then drive to the Dordogne and Auvergne for some great Autumn eats. My husband wants to explore some defenses for castles along the Dordogne and Vezere, I want to explore the land of Eleanor of Aquitaine (an amazing woman) and we both want to visit and honor the sites where some of the bravest men and women of the Resistance in WWII took great personal risks to expel the Germans and secure France for the French many died for France in their efforts.

 

 

Thus the elaborate cakes, to celebrate thirteen years, and to celebrate life and all we have yet to experience.

 

 

If you’ll hold out your glass, we will pour you something special 🙂

 

 

Thank you for hanging in there all these years.

 

More to follow 🙂

September 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Cooking, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , | 2 Comments

Politics (ACLU) and Religion

The Psalm from today’s Lectionary readings:

140 Eripe me, Domine

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; *
protect me from the violent,

2 Who devise evil in their hearts *
and stir up strife all day long.

3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; *
adder’s poison is under their lips.

4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; *
protect me from the violent,
who are determined to trip me up.

5 The proud have hidden a snare for me
and stretched out a net of cords; *
they have set traps for me along the path.

6 I have said to the Lord, “You are my God; *
listen, O Lord, to my supplication.

7 O Lord God, the strength of my salvation, *
you have covered my head in the day of battle.

8 Do not grant the desires of the wicked, O Lord, *
nor let their evil plans prosper.

9 Let not those who surround me lift up their heads; *
let the evil of their lips overwhelm them.

10 Let hot burning coals fall upon them; *
let them be cast into the mire, never to rise up again.”

11 A slanderer shall not be established on the earth, *
and evil shall hunt down the lawless.

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the poor *
and render justice to the needy.

13 Surely, the righteous will give thanks to your Name, *
and the upright shall continue in your sight.

Yesterday, several news sources discussed the rapid growth of the American Civil Liberties Union; this one is from Politicus USA:

New Report: ACLU Membership More Than Quadrupled Since Trump’s Election

Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has more than quadrupled its membership, according to an article in The New York Times.

Before Trump’s election the group had just 400,000 members and most of its actions were out of the public eye.  But now, after 15 months of the Trump presidency, the membership is over 1.8 million and it has become one of the most active and visible opponents of Trump’s agenda.

Donations to the nonprofit group have also increased exponentially. The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said that the organization has raised over $120 million since the 2016 presidential election. Before that watershed election, he said, donations had been in the range of just $3 million to $5 million annually.

Romero said that concerns over Trump’s attack on constitutional rights and civil liberties have brought a whole new generation of political activists into their group. “Until Trump most of our support came from people who have been with us since we challenged Nixon,” Romero told the Times. “Now we’re kind of cool. Cool’s not a word generally associated with us.”

The surge in membership, coupled with the massive increase in contributions, has for the first time given the ACLU all the resources it needs to fight Trump and other administration officials in court and elsewhere. They have been involved in more than 100 legal actions against Trump administration policies, including the White House’sseries of travel bans on the citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, which happened shortly after he took office.

More recently, the group has been challenging the Justice Department’s family separation policies, Trump’s voter fraud commission and the president’s reversal of an Obama-era contraception mandate.

According to Romero, his group has over 170 times taken what he calls “Trump-related legal actions” since he became president. This number includes the filing of 83 lawsuits, Romero said.

As the Trump administration steps up its attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, the ACLU has been filing class action lawsuits and also seeking injunctions to attempt to make the government stop separating families and incarcerating children. In some cases they have already been successful, and they are continuing to fight for the legal rights of people who may have been illegally detained and deprived of due process.

The large increase in ACLU membership is a good sign for American democracy. It shows that many Americans not only disapprove of Donald Trump’s policies and actions but are willing to support the fight against them. Ultimately this may be what saves our country from becoming a dictatorship and what preserves and protects the Constitution of the United States of America.

I’m one of those people. I used to think the ACLU was extreme, that was until I saw them first to man the tables offering free legal advice to incoming passengers the night Trump implemented his first travel ban. I sent my first check. I was asked why I had joined, and I told them because they are now our front line against thugs with no moral values, oppressors of the poor, led by a heartless, selfish, man who must be reined in. They sent me a sweet little ACLU pin, which I don’t dare wear in Pensacola.

July 6, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Free Speech, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lies, Political Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment

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: 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

Please Call 646-781-7061

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

“Yes Ma’am, That Was For a Bus Ticket to Mexico”

“We see it all the time.”

As long as we lived overseas, AdventureMan and I never had a problem with our credit cards. I used ATM’s all over Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to make cash withdrawals when I needed what my Mom calls “jingle money,” you know, walking-around money for lunch out, for fabrics in the souks, for whatever we needed cash for. It was easy, and it must have been safe. We never once had a problem.

 

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Now, we’ve had to change our numbers several times.

This one was particularly odd, though. I got a second notice on a card I call my “hurricane” card. When you live in Florida, massive calamity can happen literally overnight. You may have to suddenly evacuate to a strange city and need funds for emergency housing, and housing the pets. No running to the bank for a withdrawal when an area has been destroyed by a tornado; it can take months for infrastructure to be back up and running normally.

The charge was made just after we returned from traveling, so my first instinct was to check my wallet, and the card was not there. Oddly, while it was my account, it was AdventureMan’s card, which has a different number. He assures me he never made the change. I believe him; I find both cards safely tucked away, unused, in a safe place.

I call the bank. I explain that we had been traveling, but neither of us think we made this charge, the only charge on this card, the card we not only never use, but don’t even keep in our wallets. The bank lady takes a look and laughs and says “Oh yes. That was a bus ticket to Mexico. We’ve seen that before.”

Long story short, this kind of fraud has become so routine that they have routine practices that go immediately into effect to protect us, to protect their other customers and to restore our hurricane card.

But when she said it was for a bus ticket to Mexico, I burst out laughing, and all my anxiety disappeared in a heartbeat. No. I did not charge a bus ticket to Mexico, and neither did AdventureMan.

It’s just so odd, to me. These are cards that have never even been in our wallets. They never leave their safe place. How was someone able to use them?

December 8, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Crime, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, fraud, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Scams, Survival, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

“Guido Brunetti Sent Us” (Rosa Rossa Restaurant)

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

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

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

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

Rosa Rossa on a tiny but busy street:

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AdventureMan’s favorite salad; he loves Caprese:

 

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I had a garden salad:

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

 

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

 

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

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

The Best of Humanity Came Fighting Back . . .

I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.

 

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These are my work shoes from Saturday night. They are brand new, not even a week old. I came to work this morning and saw these in the corner my call room, next to the pile of dirty scrubs. 
I had forgotten about them until now. On these shoes, soaked between its fibers, is the blood of 54 innocent human beings. I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.
This blood, which poured out of those patients and soaked through my scrubs and shoes, will stain me forever. In these Rorschach patterns of red I will forever see their faces and the faces of those that gave everything they had in those dark hours.
There is still an enormous amount of work to be done. Some of that work will never end. And while I work I will continue to wear these shoes. And when the last patient leaves our hospital, I will take them off, and I will keep them in my office. I want to see them in front of me every time I go to work. For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back. I never want to forget that night.

Dr. Joshua Corsa M.D, EMT-P
Orlando Regional Medical Center
Senior Resident, Department of Surgery

Orlando Health Pulse Orlando

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Values | , , | 2 Comments