Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Headless Horseman at Pensacola Ballet

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Today is a day to make the heart joyful. Yesterday, we had thunder and lightning, so much that my water aerobics class was cancelled and I made that drive for nothing. Even when the sun came out, hours later, there was so much water soaked into the ground, the evaporation made it feel hotter than it really was.

The best part of the whole day was knowing we were headed to the opening of the Ballet Pensacola Season last night.

Who knew when we came to Pensacola that there would be so many fun things to do? And that we would have the time to try them all? Pensacola has an Opera, a Symphony, many many parades, some kind of fest, normally featuring seafood and/or art, and sometimes also the sugar white sands, wine and/or rock bands almost every month, AND the Ballet Pensacola.

Nothing about the Ballet Pensacola is ordinary. Ballet Pensacola has a husband wife team, artistic director Richard Steinart and his wife Christine Duhon, the ballet mistress, who also does the costumes. Her costumes are often spectacular. Lance Brannon does the sets which are are often minimalist and always wonderfully creative. You know public arts are almost totally public and community supported, you know they must have a tricky budget to work with but the sets and costumes are wondrous to behold.

We were debating whether The Headless Horseman would be a good ballet for our four year old grandson. AdventureMan thought it might be scary. There is a witch, a wonderfully convincing witch. There is a guy with no head. There is a skeleton horse. I countered that he sees worse on his cartoons with Spiderman and BatMan and whoever those heroes are that “Assemble!” The Headless Horseman is a lot of fun; it even looks like the dancers are having a lot of fun with it, and of course, there is this incredible skeleton. We leave our evenings at Pensacola Ballet delighted.

One of the things we love about the ballets this team creates is that it isn’t easy to get most men to love ballet, but many of the ballets they do have appeal to men – The Matrix, Dracula – they are not dainty ballets, but strong, dramatic ballets. In addition, they are, as I said, a lot of fun. When we offer up tickets we can’t use to our son and his wife, they jump at the chance. I want to make Nutcracker an annual event, but I recognize that if I want grandchildren who will love the dance, I will be likely to take them to some of this stronger stuff. We already have an extra ticket for Ali Baba, coming up in the Spring, so our grandson can come with us.

It was still warm when we left the theatre, but this morning it is like we are living in a different place.

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The air conditioner is OFF! The windows are open! Fresh clean air is flowing through the house, the sun is shining without wilting anything, and, thanks to yesterday’s rain, the entire world looks fresh and clean and welcoming! The fun times begin in Pensacola, the cooler weather has arrived!

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | , | 4 Comments

Moonglow in Pensacola

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AdventureMan and I believe in creating our own small adventures, so off we went, Saturday morning, to the Angel’s Garden Arts Fest on 12th Avenue in Pensacola. So many talented people, with so many things to see.

Yes, I bought something. Not something to hang on the wall, LOL, we have become more choosy as our collection has grown. No, I bought something to make my grandchildren GLOW IN THE DARK! LLLLOOOOLLLLL! I laugh when I think of their parents faces seeing their shining, glowing little faces!

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I love it that this man has discovered a niche product that he can sell. No, we don’t need it, but oh, what fun!

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Entertainment, Events, Family Issues, Generational, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Bringing Great Good from the Evil of 9/11

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A reading from today’s Forward Day by Day helps us to cope with the resonating horrors of that monstrous day. We are living in a world where we are more and more inextricably interconnected. Where I am living, I often hear people talk about how “Moslems are killing Christians all over the world!” and my heart breaks, thinking of the wonderful friends I have lived among is so many Moslem countries, their kindness, their hospitality, our long pleasant conversations. I learned so much.

I am glad we believe in a God who knows our hearts. I am thankful for grace, and forgiveness. When we talk about killing, we also need to take account for all the civilians we have killed, trying to bring about peace, trying to eradicate Al Qaeda, Al Shebaab, those who would harm us.

God asks us to love one another. He doesn’t say “Christians, you love just the Christians.” He shows us how to love the Samaritans, the lame, the blind, the mentally ill, the “other”. He tells us, clearly, to love our enemies. The Gospel that speaks the loudest is the gospel of our lives lived to honor him.

THURSDAY, September 11

Acts 15:8-9 [Peter said], “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them…and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.”

Thirteen years ago, this day became one of those days that divide time into what life was like before, and after; one of those days when you will remember, always, where you were, what you were doing—this time when you heard the news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center and thousands of people had died.
Job asks, “Does not calamity befall the unrighteous?” (31:3), but we learned, vividly, on September 11, 2001, that the righteous and the innocent suffer too.

Psalm 59:6 exhorts God to “show no mercy to those who are faithless and evil.” The terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 forced us to confront the power of evil and challenged us to find a way to respond with forgiveness. Perhaps we can learn something about that in Peter’s response to the heated discussions about Jews and Gentiles, about who could be saved, and how: “God, who knows the human heart…has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:8-9).

Then, as now, there were good people and evildoers on all sides, religions, and races. Now, as then, judgment and salvation comes only through the mercy and grace of God.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual | | Leave a comment

The First Pensacola Dragon Boat Races

Dragon Boat races! What fun! Oh wait – what exactly is a dragon boat? What is a dragon boat race? This is the first time we have seen this done, benefiting the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, but what is it? Organized by the Northeast SERTOMA (Service to Mankind), there are so many people involved, racers, helpers, supporters, cheering squads, food providers, live music, DJ’s, dogs, children, now this is a Pensacola kind of day. 🙂

AdventureMan invited our grandson to spend the night, and after breakfast we headed over to Bayview Park, where the dragon boats were loading up with 20 rowers and one drummer/leader in each boat for the first heat of the race:

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There was a drone flying over the races. I am guessing it was a local news drone, but I find drones creepy and intrusive. I think I would like crime-prevention drones, flying around neighborhoods looking for suspicious activity, but in general, drones creep me out.00DragonDrone

I liked this team; they were called the Justice Dragons and were sponsored by a local law firm. Every team had distinctive T-shirts, but this team also had these colorful hats, which as the day goes on, they will seriously be thankful to have.00JusticeDragonTeam

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It is a GREAT day for a race. And for such a good cause!00GreatMorningDragonRace

Coming in for a finish – I don’t know who is having a better time, the rowers or the audience. Hoots and hollers and bells and whistles and yelling . . . . there is a huge crowd at Bayview, and it is barely 8 in the morning.00DragonBoatsNeckandNeck

Three teams are really close as they near the finish line . . . 00NeckAndNeck

 

and then THIS team, below, picks up the pace in a serious way and totally WHOOPS the other two teams, catching them by surprise.00BluePullsAhead

 

 

By ten, it is getting steamy and we head home. There so many great teams and they are having such a great team. This is a really fun event, and they are having a lot of fun. How cool is that, having so much fun, meeting a lot of people and it’s all going towards a great cause?

 

Below is the big win 🙂00StuderTeamWinsBig

September 6, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Events, Exercise, Family Issues, Fund Raising, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Parenting | , , | Leave a comment

Blue Angels Schedule for the Rest of 2014

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June 27, 2014 Posted by | Events, Pensacola | , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014: Friday Afternoon Dancing

For the first time ever, the announcer tells us, the groups are all ready on time and the dancers ready to go – they are astonishingly ahead of schedule.

We return as a group of mixed dancers, from many Alaskan tribes, and some dancers with roots in classic “lower 48” tribes, so they all respect one another’s traditions, share, and do a little bit of everything. I kind of like this kind of flexibility. Some of the female costumes are a little ummm . . . skimpy . . . for the cold Alaskan climate, LOL, and some of the tattoos a little un-Alaskan and it doesn’t matter, they make it work.

The Celebration Hall is full and brimming over, dancers and their families in the waiting rooms, behind stage, in the halls, in the gift stores, children wailing for their Moms or Dads, it is totally a family affair. Grandma’s step in and help, and the dance goes on.00Afternoon

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June 25, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Events, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014 Parade Continues

I hope you will forgive me; I am not able to do the same work on the iPad I can do on my computer, so these photos are uncropped, unenhanced, they are what they are. It isn’t about the photos, it is about the people they are celebrating. These are more photos from the opening parade, which was rich with colors and sounds:

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June 19, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Heritage, Local Lore, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014 Begins

This is the reason we are here – Celebration 2014. I had never heard of it, it is not well publicized. It only began some time in the 1980’s and I came across it by accident, researching a Native Alaskan hunting mask my Mother gave me. I found a blog written by a young girl from Nome, showing early Celebrations, and explaining it was a gathering of the Alaskan clans.

Wow. This was so totally new to me. Growing up, there was little or no acknowledgement of the First Nation tribes. We were told not to play with the native children; they had knives, they were dangerous. LOL, tell a kid another kid has a knife and guess who they want to play with?

All us kids went to school together. Even as a young child, you recognize discrimination when you see it. Kids have a strong sense of “Fair”. We knew, at a gut level, that not playing with our Native classmates was not right, not fair, and . . . we went right ahead and did what kids do.

I do kind of cringe, thinking of playing cowboys and indians with real Indians, LOL . . . . but anyone could be whoever they wanted to be, so often as not, cowboys were Indian. It’s funny now that I think about it; kids see things differently.

I am not Native American, but this is my connection, my early classmates. You know how sometimes the pieces just come together? Now I know why I worked so hard to attend those nomadic festivals in Douz, in the Sahara south of Tunis, the falcon festivals, why I urge locals to gather the stories and dances and clothing traditions and to preserve them – it’s because I learned to treasure the arts and crafts of the earliest Alaskans.

So I came back not as participant, but as witness. I wanted to see the First Nation people Celebrate who they are, and their own cultures and traditions. I had no idea how very moving I would find it, but once the drums started beating and the chants started, I was weeping.

The best part was the multi-generational participation. The groups were led by elders, but at their feet were the grand children and great grandchildren, all dressed, all chanting, learning the steps, learning the songs, learning the traditions, learning more about who they are. Their faces were full of joy, and pride, and I get a little choked up just writing about it.

The opening parade was not until evening, so we were on our way to the hotel for a quick snooze and we saw the dugout canoes headed toward Juneau, full of chanting rowers.

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AdventureMan quickly turned the car around so we could watch them approach and land. It was haunting, beautiful, the drums, the chant, and a woman next to me, around my own age, turned to me, weeping and said “I never thought I would see this again in my own time.” It was a moment of pure joy.

(This was the end of a one week canoe trip by several canoes: read about it here)

The opening parade was a small problem; we looked and looked for where the parade was due to start and finish. Many in town knew there was supposed to be a parade sometime, but were hazy on the details. Finally, we found the right places, the right street and were scouting parking when a parking police person told us that all the government workers go home at five and the parking enforcement people go off duty at 5:30 so show up after 5:30 and you can park where you want. Wooo HOOOO! Thank you, City of Juneau!

The parade started promptly at 6, led by elders carrying the American flag. Tsimshia’an, Tlingket or Haida – all American. One of the lead dancers was a Marine who took leave to come back and dance with his tribe, leading the younger men in the movements to the hunting dances.

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More images to come 🙂

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Events, Generational, Local Lore | , | 2 Comments

Where is Rwanda and How Do They Celebrate a Genocide Anniversary?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Byumba, in Rwanda. There is Rwanda, below, right in the heart of Africa, nestled between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.

 

 

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 8.09.26 AMRwanda was in the news this last week for something very special. Most of our western news stations gave it zero coverage, but you could catch a glimpse online. This, from the Christian Science Monitor: on an amazing event just twenty years after one of the worst genocides in my memory. To me, it is wonderful and inspiring that they forgive one another and love one another to live in peace with one another. It gives me hope for our world.

The Monitor’s View

What to celebrate in Rwanda’s genocide anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide should focus as much on how the African nation worked toward reconciliation through forgiveness as on the mass slaughter itself.

 

This month, Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of an event that its name is most associated with – the 1994 mass slaughter of the Tutsi minority and many in the majority Hutu. Over 100 days starting April 7, more than 800,000 people were killed, many by neighbors incited to ethnic hatred by a political elite. It is a genocide often cited since then to justify military intervention in similar ongoing atrocities.

This type of reparative justice in an intimate setting could prove useful in countries that will need post-conflict healing, such as Syria, Colombia, andMyanmar (Burma). It might also help prevent a cycle of revenge and retribution in those countries, as it has in Rwanda.

Most of Rwanda’s main perpetrators in the genocide have been tried in regular courts, either in Rwanda, Europe,, or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up by the United Nations. But for hundreds of thousands of others who were charged with killing, the Rwandan criminal-justice system was too weak and its jails too full. Legal trials would have taken decades. The country had to fall back on a form of community-based traditional justice known asgacaca.

Other post-conflict countries in transition, notably South Africa, have relied on a similar process with their truth-and-reconciliation commissions. But the bodies have usually been more formal and national in scope. Rwanda’s gacaca are far more personal, designed to achieve the end result of allowing people who knew each other to resume living in the same community. They also bring together an entire village to witness a confession, attest to its sincerity, encourage forgiveness by the victim, and agree on some reparation, such as helping till a victim’s fields for a time.

It hasn’t worked in every case. Many Tutsis who killed Hutus have not been tried. Many victims could not bear the trauma of hearing how their loved ones had died. And many Hutus disappeared or were able to hide from the truth.

The government under President Paul Kagame, despite its drift toward authoritarian rule, has encouraged the process by outlawing formal use of ethnic identities. “The divisionism of before is gone. All of us now have equal access to opportunities,” a young Rwandan told The Christian Science Monitor.

The gacaca rely on the guilty to listen to the stories of their victims with empathy, admit their acts with repentance, and rethink their self-identity within the community. For the victims who forgive, the process can lift feelings of rage and bitterness. Much of the justice lies in the restoration of relationships as much as in material reparations.

Rwanda is not yet a “post-ethnic” African nation. But the possibility of a future political class inciting Hutus and Tutsis to take up violence now seems slim. More Rwandans have a higher sense of identity.

As the world helps Rwanda mark the 1994 genocide, it should also spread the lessons of this post-genocide reconciliation. Dispute resolution is a common technique in every society, whether in families or courts. But when almost every village in an entire nation goes through it, the lesson is worth repeating elsewhere.

 

April 11, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, Events, Faith, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment

Happy National Day Kuwait

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Happy Liberation Day and Happy National Day to all my friends in Kuwait. Party hearty 🙂

Almost twenty-five years since the Invasion of Kuwait. Imagine. There are young Kuwaitis graduating from college who weren’t even alive when Iraq invaded.

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Entertainment, Events, ExPat Life, Kuwait | , | 4 Comments