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Expat wanderer

Three Trips Out

I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.

And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.

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I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There is some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.

 

I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.

We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while. We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.

We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together 🙂

 

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Whaling and Bear Watching Out of Tofino

We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.

I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so 🙂

In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.

The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.

And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots 🙂

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Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.

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Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)

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He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.

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Seeing an eagle; good luck!

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May 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

The Carolina Wrens

Several months ago, we noticed a wren flying close to our house, flying out, flying back, flying out, flying back, and she was always carrying something.

 

“I think she might be building a nest in our watering can,” I told AdventureMan. He checked the can, and sure enough, it was full of little straw and twigs and pieces of string. Her mate showed up, also bringing strings and twigs and grass clippings.

 

Weeks went by, and we enjoyed their company. We gave the plenty of space.

 

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We had houseguests, and as we were about to leave one day,  AdventureMan spotted four tiny little wrens, trying their wings for the first time. He quickly snapped a shot with his iPhone of the two not yet flying. It is a good thing; by the next day, they were gone. We were just so thankful we got to see them, and our house guests got to see them, too!

 

What fun! We hope they will come back and nest with us again next year!

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Birds, Circle of Life and Death, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Gardens, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Perseid Meteor Showers Peak This Week

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By MARC TORRENCE (Patch National Staff)

The brightest meteor shower of the year is coming up, and it should be very easy to see.

The 2015 Perseid meteor shower began July 13 and runs to August 26, with activity peaking around August 12 and 13.

The Perseids are typically the brightest of the year. And Earthsky.org says that this year should be an especially good year for Perseids since the moon will not come out until after sunrise, avoiding the pesky bright light it gives off.

Earthsky says the best time for viewing is after midnight, when the meteors will pick up steam until the “wee hours before dawn.”

It will appear to originate from the constellation Perseus, which will be in the northeastern sky on the nights of the August 12 and 13.

Meteor showers happen when the earth passes through the orbit of a comet. Bits of the comet that have broken off pass through earth’s atmosphere, and when they burn up, they create a gorgeous streaking pattern across the night sky.

NASA estimates that at its peak, Perseids will produce up to 100 meteors per hour streaking at 37 miles per second.

Here are some other tips to get the most out of your meteor shower-watching experience:

Find an open location away from bright city lights and other light pollution.

Bring something comfortable to sit or lie down on and try to fill your entire peripheral vision with the night sky.

If you’re in a colder climate, dress warmly.

Give your eyes time to adjust to the darkness. This can take up to 20 minutes and can be disrupted by looking at a bright phone or tablet screen. If you need to shine a light on something, use a flashlight with a red filter, the easiest color on your eyes.

Be patient. Give yourself anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, and the streaking meteors should be easily spotted against the still night sky once your eyes are fully adjusted.

Don’t worry about using telescopes or binoculars. Those devices may actually make it harder for you to see meteors, since they only cover a small portion of the sky. You should be able to easily see the show, and more of it, with just your own two eyes.
(Photo credit: NASA)

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment | , | 3 Comments

As Others See Us . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jurassic World Explosive Experience

We’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to see Jurassic World, and yesterday was it. We wanted to see it in 3D, although in retrospect, I am not so sure it makes that big a difference. It was LOUD. We are not hard of hearing, and at the beginning I had to cover my ears, it was so loud.

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And, for all the movies I have seen, this one had some twists I didn’t see coming. It was full of exciting moments, and, within its own context, believable. You have to believe that humans let greed overcome their good judgement. You have to believe genetic manipulation is possible. You have to believe that the minute someone says “this is totally safe” you’d better be looking for a life jacket and a way out. All this, I believe.

AdventureMan had some struggles with unexplained things, but I think they were good at covering their bases, if you paid attention when the scientists were talking. I had a really hard time believing velociraptors could be tamed in any way. Trained – maybe if they are bored enough, and the training follows their normal instinctive practices. Tamed? Ummm, I don’t think so.

I loved the homage paid to Jurassic Park. I always love it when the bad guys get their just desserts. I always wonder, if we get curious and clone/create a prehistoric animal, will we be able to foresee all the possible outcomes?

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Birds, Character, Entertainment, Environment, Experiment, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Movie, Safety | | 1 Comment

Ramadan Kareem and Pope Francis

“God bless the work of your hands!” was one of the Moslem sayings I most loved as I lived my daily life in various countries in the Middle East. So, Pope Francis, God bless the work of your hands yesterday in your encyclical saying we are all responsible for the price we pay for progress. You are a brave man, and you don’t hesitate to name corruption when you see it, and to do your best to correct us, and straighten the path of the Lord.

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“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.

It is not entirely a happy message for me. One of the items he castigates is air conditioning, and as Pensacola hits the nineties every day, I hate to think of how I would live without air conditioning. I think I would turn into a slug, swinging in my hammock for hours every day reading a book. My house would be full of dirty dishes and dust. And I remember living in Tunis, and in Jordan, without air conditioning. We managed, by the grace of God.

Meanwhile, during the hottest months of the year, yesterday, our Moslem brothers and sisters began Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and personal purification. Imagine, going all day without water and without food, breaking the fast only as the sun goes down. I wonder if the Pope made his world-changing address on the eve of Ramadan on purpose, as he clearly made it to all mankind, not only to his Catholic followers.

Ramadan Kareem, my Moslem brothers and sisters, whom I cherish, and who taught me so much. May your fasting bring you great insights and purity of spirit.

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Ramadan, Social Issues | 4 Comments

Navarro Point Park

At Navarro Point, I make my ten thousand steps without even trying. It is so beautiful, you can hike and it doesn’t even feel like you are hiking, there is so much to look at, so much to enjoy. There is a brisk Pacific wind blowing, great for hiking, so you don’t even get too hot.

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You can see this stone in front of the bench overlooking the crashing waves:

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I am careful not to go too close to the edge; I love crashing waves but I don’t want to be smashed against the rocks by crashing waves after tumbling down a rocky bluff!

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For me, this was the best hike of the trip. I love the smell of salt sea air, I love the feel of the wind on my face and the sound of crashing waves.

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

“From the Redwood Forests . . .”

When I was little, this is the song that everyone was belting out. So many people sang it, Woody Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary – and I believe it was based on an old American folk song:

As we hit the North California Coast, I could hear this song.

“From California . . . to the New York Island . . . this land is made for you and me.”

We live in a beautiful country. No matter where we turn, we have found beauty. Even parts of the country others find desertified and grim are beautiful in the spring, unbelievably green, but California has to be one of the most beautiful states of all, so much variety, so much beauty.

We love coastal areas, but driving through the redwood forests is also a thrill. The redwoods are just so beautiful, especially on a spring day with sunlight filtering through. It’s cool-warm. Too warm for a sweatshirt, too cool without it. Fortunately, we have time on our schedule to just stop and enjoy whatever we wish, because we are making a lot of stops along these forested roads.

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Even a California Poppy! Today is a blessed day!

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Of all the vineyards we saw, I liked this one the best. It’s that Art Nouveau thing they have going on 🙂

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April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Driving by Faith from Yosemite to Monterey

I only discovered by accident that my GoogleMaps app talks. Leaving San Antonio, we discovered she would tell us which lane to be in, when to exit, etc. I liked it because most of the time, we had plenty of warning and when we missed something, there was no judgement in her tone, just new instructions, helpful instructions, with none of that annoying righteousness navigators can assume. (I can say that, being the navigator.)

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I like it that AdventureMan and I listen together, and so I am not sounding like a nag. She repeats. Occasionally, AdventureMan told her to please shut up, that he had this, but she just wanted to be sure.

Leaving Yosemite was easy driving. I drove the leg to Merced so AdventureMan could look, and as we approached Merced, there were signs for stops with fruits and nuts and garlics and oils – all the bounty of the California Valley.

One thing I saw a lot of on this trip was a move towards multi-use restrooms; they were marked for male or female, and to me, this just makes sense. It especially makes sense if you are female, there are always huge lines in female restrooms and never lines in male restrooms. Now, we just all share. Of course, there is always the question of cleanliness, but I found, generally speaking, most of these unisex toilets were maintained with high degrees of cleanliness.

Behind this Merced shop, they are setting up for a large lunch crowd, and they have a petting zoo, as well as parrots

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They had such marvelous food-stuffs, I found wonderful dates, and an avocado oil, and all kinds of almonds and walnuts, pickled garlics, and AdventureMan found peanut brittle.

Leaving Merced, however, the GoogleMap voice told us to take a route that did not seem right. AdventureMan did not want to do it, but as it turned out, it helped us avoid traffic in Merced, took us on these very fast country roads to an intersection where we quickly found ourselves en route to Monterey.

Later, stopped in inexplicable traffic, she kept telling us she could save us six minutes, but it meant getting off the route, going through town and getting on again at the next light. We saw others doing it, but it kind of seemed like cheating to do that, and for what, you’re still stopped in traffic, just a little farther down the road? Most of the time, however, we learned to listen to her voice 🙂

The saddest thing we found, in this paradise where fruits and vegetables grow happily, were all the signs saying “Pray for Water.” California is one of the great food-baskets of the world, and the food supply is reliant on water. In the midst of a drought, with signs it may go on for many more years, they ask for our prayers.

Pray for Water.

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Environment, Food, Gardens, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment