Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

An Unexpected Day

When I printed out my boarding pass, I got a bad surprise. I had only forty-one minutes from my landing time to the departure of my next flight, and no idea how close the gates would be. I had already committed to trying this trip with one carry on bag – not an easy decision for a person who plans for all contingencies, and packs to meet them.

AdventureMan got me to the airport early, and as no one was waiting at the baggage counter, I asked if there were any seats on the flight leaving earlier. “Check at the gate” she told me.

I got on the flight. Problem solved. Plenty of bin space, my other perennial concern. Even got an aisle seat. All is well.

In Atlanta, I am so glad I made this decision, both the carry-on and the earlier flight. I have to change areas, from A to T, and it would not have been possible. As I walked to the T gate, my mind was fully blown.

The Atlanta airport often has wonderful art exhibits in the underground walkways between different wings of the airport. This time – oh WOW, it is a Zimbabwean exhibit of stone sculptors.

If you have the capability, go in close to these sculptures and look at the fine texture incised in the stone. This twenty minutes made my day.

 

 

 

This one above is called The Conversation 🙂

Look at her hair! It is frothy, and there are holes you can see through. Stone made liquid and light!

 

 

 

Who Will Care for the Child? A comment on the AIDS epidemic and the loss of family and care-taking.

 

Take a minute to look at the textures!

 

 

 

 

These masks and motifs may be African, but they also remind me very much of the Alaskan First Nation art and costumes.

 

LOL, I couldn’t help but laugh. The artist truly captured the eccentric quality of the Secretary Bird.

Air travel can be so dehumanizing, herded from arrivals to departures, herded on the plane, cramped into tinier and tinier seats, using tinier restrooms. And then, all of a sudden, a gift of beauty to make you stop and catch your breath and divert your thoughts from the negative to the positive. Woo HOOO on you, Atlanta Airport.

August 1, 2019 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Customer Service, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips | , , , | 2 Comments

“You Can’t Send Money to the Sudan”

I totally get it. My bank is trying to protect me. I am “elderly” and I am sitting in the bank officer’s office asking to wire money to my friend in South Sudan.

“I need to talk with somebody,” she says and comes back with a man. I manage, barely, to keep from rolling my eyes.

“You know,” he tells me sternly, “We are forbidden to send money to the Sudan. It’s on the prohibited list.”

“Yes,” I say brightly, “The Sudan is on the prohibited list. The South Sudan, and entirely different country, is not.”

They want to make sure I know what I am doing. They tell me true stories of people here in Pensacola sending money to scam artists. Thousands of dollars. How do I know this person?

I explain he was a State Department International Visitor on their IVLP program, that he has attended church with me, is a renowned journalist, that he has dined in my home. They are looking at me with pity.

“This isn’t thousands of dollars,” I tell them. “This is school tuition, he only asks for help this one time to keep his daughters in school. The South Sudan is going through tumultuous times.”

“I know this person,” I re-assure them. “I believe I am sending money to my friend,” I tell them. “I can afford this risk; I can afford to lose this money,” I tell them.

I have to also tell this to the international wire-banking account manager who they get on the line. We go over it all again. I sign all the papers.

A couple hours later, I get a call asking if I am really sure. What are the names of the daughters? I look up our correspondence and provide the names. The bank information is in Juba, where my friend lives, not Nigeria, not anywhere other than where my friend lives.

In only two days, my friend notifies me that the funds have arrived, and he is profoundly grateful.

A week later, my bank calls me again, concerned as to whether the funds made it to my friend, and how I felt about the experience. They are still concerned. I assure them the funds have reached my friend, he has contacted me, thanked me. I do not tell them my friend continues to raise his voice at a time when the government is transitioning, and he is trying to be a voice of reason and civility.

There is a part of me that totally understands the banks need to protect their customers, and how gullible I might appear to them. And there is a part of me that despairs at our fear of the stranger, at our fear of being taken, and at our ignorance, not even knowing that there is a Sudan, and that there is a new country called the South Sudan.

Four times in my life I have been asked to help with school expenses, in tough times, to people we know in four different countries. Four times my husband and I have wired money to people who only want to give their children a chance at a better life. We have always been thanked, We have never been asked again.

I met a woman whose theory was that none of the money that came her way was hers, that it was God’s money and she was merely the steward; it passed through her hands on the way to where God wants it to go. It helps me with requests like this, from people I know. It helps me with the homeless on the streets of Pensacola, knowing I am to freely, freely give, and God will see that it gets where it needs to go.

July 25, 2019 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Cultural, Customer Service, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Money Management, Social Issues, South Sudan | Leave a comment

Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald Lodge and Going-to-the-Sun-Road

We settle our bags in our hotel, and as soon as we can, we head into Glacier National Park, west entrance and hurry to Going-to-the-Sun-Road. We know it is early in the season and the road may not be open, but when we got to Avalanche Creek we learn that there was an avalanche just days ago and two bicyclists were trapped several hours while rescuers tried to get them out. You can walk or bike farther beyond the gate closing the road, but you can’t drive.

Meanwhile, there is much to see, but it is very very hazy. We keep thinking it will burn off, and it doesn’t. Later we learn that there is a huge grass fire in Alberta, across the Canadian border, and the smoke has all blown south. It is a little hard to breathe.

Nonetheless, this place is gorgeous. This river is the color of old glass bottles, and it is swollen with snow run-off. I would not want to raft on this river at this time of year, it is too unpredictable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Avalanche Creek, AdventureMan took a short walk in the woods, while I walked on the road.  Guess which one of us spotted wildlife? I was taking photos of Avalanche Creek when a deer walked right in front of me and settled down in a little grove of trees.

 

 

 

 

 

In Glacier National Park, even more than in Yellowstone, there are warnings about bear everywhere, and there are all kinds of kiosks selling bear repellent.

I grew up in Alaska. AdventureMan has heard my stories about blueberry picking so many times that he can tell the story himself, starting with “when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska, . . . ”  It never fails to crack me up. So, when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska and the blueberries would get ripe, my Mom would send us out to pick blueberries. We had big coffee cans hanging from string around our neck, and a stick. If we saw bear, we were supposed to beat the can with the stick and back away slowly from the bear. We were never never never to touch a cub, or to get between a cub and its mother. Those were the rules I grew up with.

There was a boy I knew who lost an eye to a bear, and had a big claw mark across his face. He was the lucky one. His friend didn’t survive.

So I keep my distance. I have a healthy respect for bear, for all wildlife. This is not Disney-does-wildlife, these are bear, in springtime, and they are hungry and focused on filling their bellies. You do not want to get in their way.

I spit on bear repellent. I think it gives people false courage. It might stop a bear. It might enrage a bear. I think the best strategy is not to be alone in bear country if you can help it, especially in a remote area, and to move away slowly if you find yourself in one of those “holy shit” moments that no one could predict. And I know it’s easy to say, and very very hard to know how anyone will respond to that kind of lethal threat.

 

Lake McDonald Lodge is lovely. It has all the features I love; huge old timbers, a three story high lobby, a huge stone fireplace, homey furnishings. I love this place:

 

 

 

We walk out the front door (the Lodge was built before the road was built, so the front door faces the Lake, and today you enter the Lodge through the back door) to discover there is a Lake boat cruise leaving right now, so AdventureMan buys two tickets and we scamper aboard just in time for a sundown cruise.

Can you see how hazy it is? That isn’t fog, that is SMOKE!

It makes for an atmospheric photo, but . . . no visible mountains.

 

It is dinnertime when we return to the Lodge, and we know where we want to eat. Fortunately, it is early in the season, and we are able to snag a table without a reservation. This is the creek next to the dining room, as it empties into Lake McDonald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what the Dining Room looks like. This was the best Lodge Dining we experienced. The food was exquisite and the service was experienced and sophisticated.The wait staff was really good at helping us choose wine that went with our meals.

I had a Farmer’s Market salad, with smoked trout on top. It was just right for me.

 

My husband had a salad, and a charcuterie platter. On the platter, the meats and cheeses were all from Montana. There was smoked duck, an elk sausage, and a bison pastrami, I think. I may have gotten something mixed up.

This was one of the nicest meals we had on our trip. We thought that the lodge prices were very reasonable, too.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Wonderland and Last Trip to Lamar Valley

When we finish hiking the terraces, it is still early. We decide we do not want to eat breakfast in the Dining Room, so we go into Gardiner, back to The Wonderland Cafe and Lodge. The Cafe is already full, a few tables with couples and one very large table with a local woman’s group. They are having such a good time, it made me feel like home. I saw one bring in a bag of books for another, and I thought “I could be happy living here.”

We order and are delighted with our choices. My husband tried Avocado Toast for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed the combination of flavors. I had the breakfast burrito.

 

 

It’s a hearty breakfast, and we know we won’t need to eat for a long while, so we head back out to Lamar valley, still looking for those wolves around Slough Creek. On the way back into the park, we stopped to take a photo at the 45th latitude. We thought that was pretty cool. You’ll note we are still in heavier clothes at this point.

On the way we hike up to Wraith Falls; it’s an easy hike, only half a mile there and back. You can’t really get too close with all the wood fall, but it is a lovely cascading kind of falls.

 

 

 

 

My husband had some interest in the petrified forest, but we figured maybe the next trip. What I like about this photo of the deer is that it looks like one would prefer to go one way and the other in a different direction. It kind of cracked me up.

Back in Slough Creek again, looking around for those wolves. Did not see any wolves, nor the babies we had heard about, but I took a photo of this wonderful rock. In Alaska, and in the Seattle area, people pay big money to have a great huge rock in their yard, like a landscape focus. I think it has to do with Scandinavian blood, and glaciation, the fact that these great huge rocks are brought from mountains, many miles, and then are dumped where the ice melts. You will see valleys full of great huge rocks, with no source in sight. Many have come for miles. This one looks to me like a very alien rock; he has a curved round head and on either side of his cracked (helmut?) you can see his alien eyes.

 

Also in the valley at Slough Creek, we find anglers; at one time three of them angling. We never saw them catch anything.

 

Out on the edge of a large plain between the mountains, a huge valley where the Bison were slowly brought back from near extinction, is this formation, called Soda Butte. It has a hot spring that kept springing up, depositing minerals, until it built this anomalous structure. We hiked around it to get a view of the other side.

 

 

 

 

We see bison grazing peacefully across the river, except for one, who is looking at us and moving quickly and purposefully toward us. Hmmm, those big guys can move pretty fast. We calmly and quickly walk to our car and get in. The bison comes all the way to where we were standing and fortunately, stops. After the adventure with the elk, we aren’t taking any chances. Most of the bison we have encountered have been placid and uninterested in humans, but wildlife is wild. They don’t think like we think, and we don’t take anything for granted.

No, I didn’t stop to take this photo, I was taking this photo when I noticed he was running towards us.

 

We see a clump of cars, and as we approach, we see a woman walking in our direction. “What have they spotted?” we ask her, and she says “Oh, there is a bear, high on the hill, they are watching him. He is the size of a little tiny dot.” We’ve seen a lot of bear. The rangers are already here, encouraging people to move their cars, park legally, but there a lot of sharp drops here, and not a lot of parking spaces.

I don’t know a lot about the Ranger program at Yellowstone, but it appears to me that there are a lot of trained people out observing animals, good at spotting them, and generous about pointing them out to others I would think they are photographers, but they are not. They have these super telescopes, like uniscopes, which are very powerful. If they are Rangers, out spotting game for the visitors, I think that is a lovely service.

We dawdle our way back toward Roosevelt Station, where the road heads out to Lamar Road. As we cross the Yellowstone River and head towards the junction, we see a large group of men and women walking in the direction from which we are coming. “What are you doing?” we asked, and they said “Ranger training.” How cool is that?

The Roosevelt Lodge isn’t open yet, but will open soon. How do we know that? We see stagecoaches, and what I take to be a chuckwagon, on rubber wheels, practicing in the large field where two days ago we saw coyote. They are having a lot of fun practicing. And note, a placid bison.

 

 

 

 

Back in Mammoth Hot Springs, we stop to take a photo of the old Fort Yellowstone church. This was our goal the elk attacked AdventureMan, and we never made it to the church. We have  a beautiful day for a photo.

We stop by the General Store, pick up some sandwiches for dinner on the porch, and some huckleberry ice cream cones to give us energy to pack up for tomorrow’s departure. The sandwiches in the General Store are huge, so huge we can never eat the whole sandwich. They are on big bread, and the bread is also thick. The filling is generous, thick. We hate to waste food, but we can’t eat the whole sandwich.

We’ve had a great visit to Mammoth Hot Springs. We can’t wait to bring our family here.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Civility, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park; Bear En Route to Mammoth Hot Springs

I’m posting this Yellowstone National Park map again to help you orient yourself on today’s adventures. We go from Canyon Village to Artist Paintpots (at last!), stop a lengthy time to watch a sedate mother grizzly and her cubs, view an awesome mountain, arrive in Mammoth Springs, have lunch in Gardiner, Montana, outside the North gate to the park, visit the upper Terrace at Mammoth, and spend the late afternoon once again in Lamar Valley, our happy place. This evening, my husband gets attacked by an irate Mama elk.

Yellowstone is so do-able. We did all the above, and never felt rushed.

 

This is an easy day, and our plan is to get up when we feel like it, but we are both awake by seven, and in fifteen minutes we are ready to go. We shake the dust from our feet!

From Canyon, we take the road directly going West. When we get to the junction, we turn South, just to get us to Artist Paintpots. We’ve tried twice before, and the parking lot was jammed and overflowing. This time, we are the first car in the lot. It’s only about 7:30 a.m. and the long weekend is long passed. There are fewer visitors, and even fewer who are out and about this early. (We are still early in the park season, once the summer rush starts, even early may not be early enough.)

 

 

Yep, you guessed it, Artistic Paintpots is so named because of the wondrous colors created by the variety of minerals leached into the boiling hot water, and the bacteria that thrives in the steaming springs.

 

I cannot even imagine a caldera this big, but as we drove, we tried to identify the ridges. The floor of this caldera thinly covers molten lava and the geysers and springs are caused by the heating of water in the ground which expands and comes out with varying degrees of force. This is how I understand it; someone with a more technical background can give you a more thorough explanation. So Yellowstone is a super volcano, and last erupted 700,000 years ago. It could erupt again. We were constantly aware of how very thin the crust of the earth is here, and now we obliviously walk over the possibility of instant, painful death.

But oh, the combination of heat, and minerals creates some magnificent colors and an eerily beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beautiful hike, one of the best on our trip. It is worth finding a serene time to visit the Artist Paintpots.

Back in the car, we see a big jam of cars on the road, and people running. Anywhere else, you would think someone had a car accident, but in Yellowstone, a jam like that with people parking anywhere – sometimes just leaving their car in the middle of the road (!) means that some kind of game has been spotted. This time, it was a Mama Grizzly and her two cubs.

So many people! Many of them had powerful, huge lenses, and tripods. They were all set up to take photos when the bear would be in clear view. I just use a little Lumix with a big telephoto, and it takes surprisingly sharp photos, considering it has a very light and easily tucked-in-a-purse kind of body.

There was an empty place where no one wanted to be. We really just wanted to watch. (Yes, we had backed up to a real viewing point and parked legally. The rule is – or is supposed to be – that you are supposed to be outside the white line delineating the outer boundary of the road.

We watched the very placid sow dig up some roots, keeping an eye on the playful cubs.

 

 

 

 

I just got lucky. The bear and her cubs moved to directly in front of me. It’s . . .well, it’s like a God thing, if the photo is put right in front of you, you are meant to take it, right?

More and more people came. They were quiet and respectful of the bear, and of one another, but their parking was not respectful of the trucks and RVs that needed to get through. Soon, the park rangers arrived. We were told they can ticket anyone not parked outside the white lines, and that the fine is HUGE, but this is a tourist attraction, and the rangers we saw used good humor and persistence, and cajoled people into moving along and parking legally. We never saw anyone ticketed, and we also never saw anyone argue with a ranger.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, Law and Order, Lumix, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Canyon Village

We first drove the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, getting out and taking photos, then hiking down to the brink of the falls on the North Rim side. We had to wait and go back later to hike the North Rim side because the parking lots were full, and cars were blocking the road, parking wherever they could create a space. It was chaotic, and it was unsafe.

These are the vistas that attracted and astonished the Park’s earliest visitors.

Honestly, too many people, I took the shots and got out so the next person could step up.

 

 

 

 

I think it is only fair to tell you that Canyon Village is the part of Yellowstone I like the very least. It is high on the tour bus schedule, because they have lots of services there to deal with high volumes of people. They have lots of space.

Some of those high volumes of people kind of don’t know park etiquette, like if you are on a narrow trail with a steep drop off, you don’t go barreling down on people, passing, and putting them at risk.

Some of the people on the trails were older than I am, making a valiant effort to get down and back up. There were children. There were a lot of people. The worst offenders seemed to be large groups of men traveling together, and oblivious to the needs and vulnerabilities of others, running over the weak and less capable.

Then again, world round, you put too many people in a small space and things happen. People run over other people, and people get hurt. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way, and keep my eyes open, watching out for the heedless. AdventureMan and I are strategists – we find ways to avoid the crowds, as much as possible. Fortunately, our body time is an hour earlier than this time zone, and getting up early isn’t hard, and so totally worth it to avoid the frantic short-on-time visitors.

Our room was beautiful. Canyon Village is central to many different places. Canyon Village has stores, food places, a gas station, a post office, an outfitter, camping grounds, cabins. There are good and valid reasons to stay there, but we will never stay there again.

This was our Lodge; do you see all the snow? Parking was great, and although there was a large hiking group here, they were quiet and well mannered, no problem.

 

I loved having shutters on the windows instead of curtains. We had a patio, which I stepped out on from time to time, but it was too cold to sit outside.

 

We both liked that the bathroom had a sink area in addition to this vanity area having its own sink. The hairdryer was tiny, but strong.

 

All the lodges had little Teddy Bear soaps, which I loved. The Lodge was nice enough. No fridge, no microwave. Here’s the thing. The same people that run the lodges run the food places, so they want you to eat in their food places. I wouldn’t mind, if the food were good. It’s not.

Remember I told you we picked up foods for the road in Bozeman, at the Walmart, at the beginning of the trip? It was a God-send.

We had just hiked down 11 switchbacks to the brink of the lower falls and then  – 11 switchbacks coming back up, and we were hungry, so we decided to go to the food area for dinner. It was still early, maybe 5:30, so we had time to figure out what we wanted, and get in line. The line wasn’t that long.

The not-that-long line took us 45 minutes. One  woman ordered several meals, each on a separate tray; it took forever. Many foreign men ordered two or three meals, one to eat and two to take with, probably for the next day (?) I can only speculate, because I don’t really know. The line inched forward. A lot of people didn’t understand how the ordering system worked. Others didn’t speak English, and had problems making themselves understood. When we got to the front of the line, several things were already out, and many of the condiments that go with the meals were not yet in stock. It was a nightmare, worse than a college dormitory. Here is my order:

Intlx:  I’d like the noodles, please, with peanut sauce

Counter person: These noodles are cold! More are coming

(wait) (wait) (wait) (More noodles show up)

Counter person: No more peanut sauce! All gone!

Intlx:  I’ll have Teriyaki

Counter person squirts large amount on, then looks up in horror and says “Oh no! I just put hoisin sauce on!”

Intlx: (thinks “get me out of here”) Hoisin is fine. Green onions and chopped peanuts on top, please.

Counter person: Oh! We’ve run out of the chopped peanuts!

At least in a dormitory, once you have your food you can go sit down, but here, you have to go to the centralized cashier stand and – yep – stand in line. Once again, there are problems with currency, problems with communication, people letting others in line, it is a disaster, it is chaos.

After you pay, you try to find a table that has been cleaned off and that no one else is waiting for.

We were really lucky – we had gotten there early. Things only got worse as more and more people came in trying to get fed. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

For the rest of our stay, we never ate in Canyon Village again. We spent our days out and away, mostly in Lamar Valley. We discovered good food in Cooke City, just outside the northwest gate. We discovered that the Grab-and-Go sandwiches in the General Store were not bad: tuna, chicken and cranberry, turkey and apple, all kinds of meats for those who like ham and roast beef. We had our own favorite snacks already, apples, oranges, chocolate, and would refill our water bottles from our faucets in our room. The water was cold and delicious. From time to time, we would buy pie. We did fine. We just hate to see food service done so ineptly, with so little care for delighting the customer.

Our other thought was “and this is just the beginning of the season. What is it going to be like when the real crowds hit?”

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Great Adventure: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Begins with Bad Omens

 

“If you want to stay at Old Faithful Inn, you need to reserve NOW,” my friend from Wyoming told me in the locker room of the YMCA.

It was only September, I wasn’t planning to go until late May.

“No really, you have to reserve far in advance if you want to stay in the Inn; my daughter warned me,” she counseled me.

So I checked online. Holy Smokes. The kind of room I wanted was not available. Several kinds of rooms were already sold out. My friend was right. We started researching, and making reservations. September was almost too late.

And then, as we got closer to departure, what to pack? How much to pack? My friend was not around to ask, but we were watching the weather reports. We each took larger suitcases than we normally do, because we knew we needed heavy clothing. I took a light jacket, a heavier wool coat and a rain slicker. Coats take up a lot of room. It’s hard to imagine needing a coat when you live in Pensacola and the temperatures are hitting in the 90’s this May.

The day of departure comes, and we have it all together. We are ready.

The taxi doesn’t show. We always give ourselves plenty of time, but this has never happened. AdventureMan gets on the phone, he is barely civil. I’m afraid the taxi isn’t going to come at all. The wait seemed like it took forever, but it was really only 45 minutes, during which I had to strictly discipline myself not to think that this might be a bad omen for the trip to come.

We were quickly through check-in and to our gate. Our flight goes smoothly. We have to stay overnight in Dallas/Fort Worth to catch the one flight a day out to Bozeman.

We land in Dallas/Fort Worth and the second half of travel hell begins. I have read the instructions, I have to call the hotel and they will send a shuttle. I call the hotel – five times. There is a screeching and static that makes it almost impossible to hear, but eventually I hear the receptionist confirm that she will send the shuttle.

We wait an hour. Then we see the shuttle! But he is in the wrong lane, he is in the fast lane, far away from the pick up lane. We jump up and wave, and jump and wave. He drives by, very fast, not even a glance in our direction.

I call the hotel again, and tell the receptionist what happened. She said the driver said we weren’t there. I’m not going to argue. We were there. I ask her to send the shuttle, that it’s already been over an hour we’ve been waiting. AdventureMan is getting hungry and cross. I am feeling responsible – I do the trip planning. I do everything I can to insure success, but sadly, I am not in control of everything.

Another half hour goes by, it is getting dark, and the shuttle shows up, already having seven people. We take our seats, and the driver picks up two more people, who have to stuff themselves in between people who are tired and hungry and hot and not as gracious as they might be. The driver radios in, “Yes, now every seat is filled,” and maintains constant radio contact with the dispatcher, driving erratically, at one point scraping the side of the van as we go through the toll gate. I am buckled up. If there is a terrible accident, I want to survive.

The passengers are from several hotels; the hotels have gone together to have a joint shuttle. We are first off. Check in goes smoothly, but we opt for a very early shuttle, not knowing if it will really arrive as it is scheduled, not wanting to face another wait like today.

We ask about nearby restaurants. There is a Whataburger in a nearby gas station. Or we can order delivery. Only one restaurant is in the folder upstairs, and when we call to place the order, we get the same screeching and static; they must have the same low-budget phone system as the hotel. We give up. We go downstairs, find frozen entrees we can microwave and eat in our room. We are eager to get our clothes off, get bathed, and get to bed. We have an early start the next morning.

Our room, by the way, is beautiful. It has a sitting area, and good beds with nice linens. It is quiet, and serene and comfortable. I’m not even going to tell you the name, because I have told the manager my concerns about the shared shuttle and the phone system, and told him that his hotel is lovely but he has those two systemic problems. A wise manager will deal with those issues.

The next morning we are up and out in minutes, and the shuttle, with an older, quieter driver is waiting for us, even though we are early. The trip to the airport is efficient and uneventful. We catch a breakfast at a Friday’s near our gate, and our flight to Bozeman goes smoothly. All is well.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Customer Service, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | | Leave a comment

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

O’Yeah, Tasty; First Meal in Seattle

A month ago I was in Seattle when my 94 year old mother suddenly came down with influenza and was hospitalized for 13 days, drifting into pneumonia twice, and suffering several small strokes. It was a difficult time, and as I was running errands for her one day, I passed a new Chinese restaurant near the hospital, O’Yeah Tasty, Szechuan cooking.

Szechuan. Near Edmonds Community College. Hope springs eternal, maybe I can get some really good Chinese food in the midst of all this emotional chaos!

(When we were moving to Pensacola several years ago, our son sat us down, looked at us very seriously and told us he had something to tell us we weren’t going to like. With a long face he stated “You need to know that there is not a GOOD Chinese restaurant in Pensacola.” We searched. We tried them all. Most were sort of Americanized Chinese, none had the good strong flavors we had become used to overseas. Longing for GOOD Chinese food is something we have grown used to experiencing.)

I had something called Mongolian Delights, recommended from the Chef’s specials by the cashier/order taker. It was fabulous, and the Hot and Sour soup I had with it was really HOT. When I told my sister on the phone where I was, she said Mom wanted some Hot and Sour soup, so I took some to her, and she ate it, claiming it was delicious. It was just about the only thing she ate that day.  A day or two later, I ordered an old favorite, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken, and I almost cried when it arrived, it was so totally TASTY, so close to what I remembered from the Taiwan Tourismo in Amman, Jordan back in the day.

So when AdventureMan and I arrived in Seattle, at lunch time (our delicious breakfast from The Courtyard had finally worn off) we headed straight for O’Yeah Tasty.

We ordered fried egg rolls, and AdventureMan ordered the Seafood Three Delights, and I ordered my all time favorite Chong Qing Spicy Chicken.

 

 

And the dish that makes me cry, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken:

 

As we ate, the restaurant filled with Chinese students from the nearby college. We got to see what they were eating, even as we enjoyed our own food. There was so much food, we packed it up and took it with us to put in our hotel room refrigerator and have later for dinner.

This is how much I love this food: when we were talking with my mother who, by the grace of God is greatly improved, and improving more every day, she said she was able to go out for dinner this very night. A part of me ALMOST said “how about tomorrow night?” because I love that Chong Qing Spicy Chicken so much, but fortunately I love my mother more and the thought was just for an instant; we quickly made plans to take my mother to an Italian restaurant she loves this night and to have our treasured left-overs for dinner tomorrow.

If you are ever in Edmonds looking for spirited and authentic Szechuan cooking, hurry to O’Yeah, Tasty.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Dinner and Breakfast in The Courtyard

Sometimes you just take the easy way. We had a great lunch at Gojo, and we had a long day. We knew there were so many great places in Portland, and we were tired. We decided to grab something quick at The Courtyard.

When we walked the short walk down the hall from our room to the restaurant, we discovered it was packed!

We were happily surprised to be quickly seated, and were doubly happy when we saw the menu and some non-pubby kinds of food. We ordered the Curry Butternut Soup and the entree Heirloom Tomato Salad. The soup was a little sweet to our taste, but some like sweet more than others. The Heirloom Salad was fabulous, full of a lovely variety of tomatoes, really good and tasty greens, prosciutto, and a very tasty variety of olives.

We were very pleased. It was tasty, it was healthy and it was original in creation and presentation. We were so delighted that we decided to have breakfast in The Courtyard again the next morning. As we got there, one of the servers was loading the wood burning stove.

 

The menu had more surprises for breakfast, we found. AdventureMan ordered Biscuits and Gravy, but not your Southern biscuits and gravy. The biscuits are home-made and baked fresh, and the gravy was a gorgeous mushroom and rosemary combination that satisfied without coating his blood vessels. I had the smoked salmon benedict, which was served on rye bread and had lots of avocado and herbed cream cheese in addition to the salmon and poached eggs.

The day was cloudy and rainy but the warmth of the meal and service kept us cozy and happy and content all the way on the rainy drive from Portland to Seattle.

Thank goodness for Google Maps, which gets us in and out of cities in the most efficient, least trafficked way, and which has a voice that will tell AdventureMan in advance what is coming, and which lane he needs to be in and which way he will need to turn. We occasionally get into trouble, but rarely, and can quickly orient ourselves to where we need to be.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment