Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“If Not Now, When?”

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(This is not the actual slide; the YMCA slide is indoors, and has two loops)

Our brand new YMCA has opened in Pensacola, and it has TWO pools – and a water slide.

Yesterday, there was one swimmer and one wallower as I entered the swim area for water aerobics with two of my friends. This was the perfect time. I asked the life guard if he could open the water slide long enough for us to go down.

My friends looked at me like I had grown a second head.

“If not now, when?” I asked them. “We’re not getting any younger. Who knows, tomorrow we might not be able!”

They were game. They followed me up the stairs, then others began to follow. It occurred to me that there was no going back, and that I had put myself in this position, where I couldn’t back out.

The lifeguard turned on the gush of water that lubricates and speeds your ride through the tube. I didn’t wait to let fear claim me, I jumped into the entry and went.

It was dark. It was fast. It was terrifying. You come out twisted and disoriented, not sure which way is up. It’s a lot like being born – there is NO light in the tube, and when light appears, there is a big gush of water as you are thrown out into the pool. I cam up sputtering.

Everyone did. We all looked proudly at one another and agreed that we are glad we did it – once. And never again.

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Exercise, Experiment, Fitness / FitBit, Humor, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , | 2 Comments

Dubrovnik: The Best Day of our Trip as We Walk the Walls

You know how you build expectations? From the time I started reading about Dubrovnik, I was excited. For one thing, some scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed there, and we are great fans.  Even more, there is a great hike; Dubrovnik has restored and created a wall all around the old city which you can hike. It isn’t for the faint-hearted; it starts with about 60 stair straight up. Once up, there are more stairs, FitBit told me we did 30 sets of stairs on the wall. There were ascents and descents, some a little challenging.  A friend who had done it before told me to be sure I had shoes with a good grip because the stones could be really slick. Even on a beautiful sunny day, there were a couple slick places, so I cannot imagine what it would be like to hike it in damp or rainy conditions.

But we had perfect weather, sunny and warm, but not hot, even a little chilly in the shade. We were also the only ship in town, a rare occurrence in Dubrovnik.

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LOL, no, that is not our ship, but I loved this old looking ship. It isn’t really old, and I imagine it is an events location, a party ship, but I loved it.

 

We took the panoramic tour, but dropped off once we got to the Pile gate at the entrance to old Dubrovnik. The first entry to the walls is just inside the gate, to the left, with good signage.

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About halfway up the double sets of stairs taking people up to the wall, I stepped aside, yes, to catch my breath because there are a LOT of people struggling up these steep stairs, but also to take a documentary photo:

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When you get to the top, the views are spectacular.

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I had read that the best strategy was to head uphill, first, get the worst over with, but as we started left, we saw this sign:

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So aarrgh! We had to turn the easy way first. Never mind. Each step introduced a new and spectacular sight.

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We sighted the Dubrovnik harbor from the walls, and decided when we finished our walk that we would have lunch there, if we could find a good place.

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Once we finished our hike, we explored the back streets in Dubrovnik, zig-sagging our way to the port:

 

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November 1st is coming soon; the flower markets are doing gang-busters business as Dubrovnik citizens buy flowers to remember their dead on All Saint’s Day.

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As we enter the port, we spot a restaurant where crowds of people are sitting in the sun, the Konoba Locanda Peskarija, eating cauldrons of mussels, big huge pots of mussels steamed in a simple wine broth, just the way we love them. We find a seat; we already know what we will order. As we wait, a wedding party arrives to have their photos taken in the port.

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A beautiful Dubrovnik salad to share:

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And a heaping cauldron of mussels, so many mussels we couldn’t eat the all! It was served with a basket of wonderful crusty bread to sop up the wine broth.

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We couldn’t be happier.

As we leave, we run into our friends from the ship at the restaurant next door; they have made an art purchase they are celebrating. We always have great chats with this couple.

We wander around a little longer, avoiding, as much as possible, the beautiful wide street down the center of old Dubrovnik until the very end:

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We head to the old gate once more, and just outside the gate is a shuttle, waiting to take us back to the Viking Sea. It doesn’t get any easier.

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Tonight we have dinner in the World Cafe. We have discovered that the food is the same as in the restaurant, but here we can deal directly with the chef and servers, and have exactly what we want in the small quantities we prefer. We have found a very quiet table, no one seated in our laps, and we can have our own quiet and private conversations, dine at our own pace; this isn’t what we thought we would prefer when planning our trip, but it seems to suit us well.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Take Your Chocolate!

This article is from Forbes Magazine, and talks about the relationship between styles /content of eating and longevity. This is just a tiny excerpt from a long article because I loved the last line :-).

Results of two recently released studies, published in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), show that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens age-related stiffening of arteries and burdens on the heart in healthy adults. The studies were part of an EU-based project called FLAVIOLA.

Marc Merx, M.D., professor of Cardiology at the Klinikum Region Hanover and FLAVIOLA’s project coordinator, reports that the studies’ main finding was cocoa flavanols’ effect on vascular aging and blood pressure. “Blood pressure and increases in blood pressure are important factors associated with age-related morbidity and with mortality from cardiovascular disease,” he says. In fact, he was personally surprised that the findings showed flavanols to be capable of lowering blood pressure as effectively as exercise.

You can read the entire article for yourself, New Studies Confirm Role of Diet in Healthy Aging, here.

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Diet / Weight Loss, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit | Leave a comment

Cross Culture at the Y: “Don’t Ever Say That to an African American”

I had just finished chatting with Leilani and was getting ready for class to start when my class friend who in in front of me came up to me and put her arm around me. We are always joking around, so I was laughing, and she said “I have something to tell you.”

I pulled back a little because I could see she was serious, and I wanted to see her face.

She said “Last week in the pool you said you were gonna kick my butt. Don’t ever say that to an African-American.”

She is black.

She could see I was confused. I did say it. We joke around, and sometimes there isn’t a lot of space. Her behind was right in front of me, a tempting target. I did say it.

“We never say that in the black community,” she continued. “Our Mama’s never allow that kind of statement. Remember, we were slaves. We’d be on the ground, and people would put their feet on us. People would kick us. To say that to a black person is one of the worst things you could say.”

“I am so sorry. I didn’t know.”

“I know you didn’t. That’s why I’m telling you.” She still had her arm around me. “We hear you people saying that to each other like it’s nothing. It’s something to us.”

I was so thankful she told me, and so embarrassed.

“I was oblivious,” I said. “I had no idea. I am so sorry.”

Later, as we usually do, we talked during class.

“Do you really just say that to each other?” she asked me.

“We do! It’s the kind of thing we say to friends; I would say that to my sister, it’s sort of mock-rivalry sort of talk,” I responded, thinking to myself ‘but I will never never never ever say that again to anyone!’

Later, I thanked her for telling me, and she said she knew I had no idea how offensive it was; it was a cultural thing. I am grateful she trusted that enough to clue me in.

As uncomfortable as that conversation was, I admire her for initiating it, and correcting me in a loving way, for telling me how it feels, and why. I am grateful that she trusts who I am, a person who would never choose to offend, but a person who had, nonetheless, offended, and who would want to know. I feel like it was a genuinely friendly thing to do, and she did it with good will in her  heart.

So even in my own country, there are cultural crevasses I can fall into in oblivious unawareness.

And all of that in one morning at the YMCA.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | 2 Comments

Cross Culture at the Y

It’s a day I like in Pensacola; it may be summer and still hot and humid, but a little cooler today, with a cloud cover. I woke up refreshed, relaxed, having slept well, and actually, I sort of hoped for thunder so I could skip going to the YMCA for Water Aerobics, and stay home and finish up some quilting.

No such luck – no thunder. The skies were threatening, and leaky, but without the drama of thunder and lightning. No matter. The truth is, I don’t just go because I want to stay fit and strong, I also go because I feel better and more energetic after I’m done.

In retrospect, I would have missed a lot if I had missed today. In the fifteen or twenty minutes before the class, I heard some powerful messages, and I knew I was meant to be there. So my next three posts are about my cross-generational, cross-cultural experiences at my water aerobics class this morning.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | 1 Comment

Hiking He Tin Kis, on the Pacific Rim Trail

I think He Tin Kis is Native American for short hike, uphill both ways. We did it early in the morning, before all the people and their dogs, before the early morning walkers, before those obnoxious people who can RUN the trail, well,  not enough before, they were there at the end. I thought I was staying in pretty good shape, but these young runners who can maintain a steady pace running up the hills make me feel very humbly unathletic.

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It is a beautiful hike, and while yes, much of it is uphill to the lighthouse, you can do it. It isn’t that hard. There are beautiful stops all along the way to appreciate how gorgeous this place is.

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You can see how well made this trail is, wide, smooth, beautifully maintained.

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View from the lighthouse.
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May 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | 4 Comments

The French Market Restaurant, New Orleans

Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? That injera is so delicious, but hours later, it has swollen in your tummy, and even after a long long walk, and several hours, even though it is dinner time, you are still not very hungry.

We didn’t want to go to a restaurant with courses and sauces. We weren’t that hungry. We had passed the French Market Restaurant as we strolled through the old French Market, and we liked that they had a good selection of boiled, steamed and healthy foods on their menu. It was just a few blocks from our hotel, an easy walk, so we decided to go there for dinner – or anyplace else that struck our fancy, but this was our destination if we didn’t find any place else.

We passed a lot of restaurants with lines, but not the foods we wanted.

When we got to the French Market Restaurant, we were so glad we had waited. The greeting was warm, the wait staff looked happy and like they knew what they were all about, and we had a nice table. The place was about half full when we got there, and within the next fifteen minutes, was packed. The tables are close together, so you get to see what everyone is eating, and hear about everyone’s lives, but it’s just that kind of place; cozy, comfortable, and the food is divine.

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I stuck with my plan – I ordered the shrimp and crab salad. It was perfect. AdventureMan ordered the oyster poor boy, of which he could only eat about half, and just the oysters. Oysters are rich! Battered oysters are richer! We started with the onion rings, which were fabulous, real onions dipped in a peppery batter, big pieces of pepper. This was unusual, the batter was light and tasty, and the dipping sauce piquant.

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We split a dessert. Hey, it’s New Orleans. I’m not a big sweet eater, but we ordered a piece of the Bourbon Pecan Pie which arrived cut in half with about a cup of whipped cream. It was SOO good. They were kind, my piece was the smaller “half” but still, if it weren’t so good, I wouldn’t have eaten my whole half. It’s all their fault, making such a delicious pie. AdventureMan is intrigued, and thinks he will try incorporating bourbon into his famous pecan pies now, too. (Wooooo Hooooooooo!)

 

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January 3, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk in the Vieux Carre’, French Quarter, New Orleans

It’s been raining for so long we feel like frogs, with webbed feet. We have a gorgeous day, not hot, not cold, and a hotel in a perfect location for walking, so we go out to master our 10,000 steps. In the French Quarter, it is easy! There is so much to see; it is so much fun just to walk.

 

These kids are GOOD! They have attracted a large crowd, in front of the Cathedral. What a great way to get practice playing in front of an audience and to earn a little extra spending money, providing a little New Orleans culture. Loved our time listening; they really were good

 

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This policeman with his blue light special, blocked a whole lane of traffic so he could pick up his fresh hot beignet at the French Market.

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The Hop On, Hop Off Bus, New Orleans style:

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“Follow the sign, please!” for the New Orleans city tour. No, we weren’t on that one, just walking around on our own.

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A statue of Bienville, a founder of New Orleans:

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This is kind of creepy, to me, a woman who tells people their fortunes in front of the cathedral.

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The Maiden of Oreans:

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We loved this terrace garden, on Chartres:

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This man earned every penny. He made up verses to songs about people watching, all very kind, and people gave generously 🙂

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January 2, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Gardens, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | | 2 Comments

Fez and On to Tangiers

We walked a thousand miles today, or so it seems, through the narrow streets of Fez. There was no going off on our own; Fez is complicated. The last time we were here, we hired a private guide who could take us through the souks and to other sites in Fez. This time, we were 40 people following a sign held up saying “Turquoise.”

I was behind an otherwise perfectly nice man who was using an i-Pad to take photos. As we went through the narrow streets with bread bakers, cookie sellers, date sellers, etc. from time to time he would stop, totally blocking traffic, and take his photo, and then start again. There were places he could step out of line and take a photo, but he evidently didn’t want to give up his place in the long narrow line. For the first fifteen or twenty times he did it, I just wanted to clobber him, then I found a way to get ahead of him and it was no longer my problem.

The leather dying souks that were so colorful and stinky were closed for remodeling! Whoda thunk it?

 

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My first shopping on the trip; a silk weaving factory, and the colors are irresistible!

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Another group dining experience, a lovely space, sort-of Moroccan food, Palais Mnebih feeds hundreds in a short time.GroupDiningFez

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And on to Tangiers, where our ship is waiting for us at the dock!

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December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

On Our Own in the Souks of Marrakesh and the Jemaa el-Fna

Free at last!

We are as giddy as children let out of school as the groups head left and we head right, going deeper into our favorite territory, the souks (small shops) in the great city of Marrakesh.

Before we ever went to Marrakesh, many years ago, we read a book by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, author of Guests of the Sheikh, called A Street in Marrakesh, talking about how her family lived in the center of Marrakesh, among Moroccans, and the adjustments they made as they grew to learn more about their environment. You know how you can read a book and feel like you had lived it? We felt we had lived in Marrakesh.

When we visited with our son, we had a car and were driving all through Morocco. We had left Ouazazarte and driven over the Atlas Mountains, stopping here and there to buy fossils and “thunderballs” which are also called geodes. It was late, and dark when we got to Marrakesh, and we had to stop and ask directions at a gas station how to find our hotel. We knew we were near, and we didn’t know how to close the distance. This was before smart phones and Google Maps.

Our son and I watched AdventureMan from the car, and as we watched him ask the two men working there, one pointed left and one pointed right. We were dying laughing. And, actually, both were right, there was an obstacle between us and the hotel and you could go right – or you could go left. At that moment, a motorcycle drove up, listened to the question and offered to guide us to our hotel. This is the essence of Morocco to us; the kindness and the hospitality of the Moroccans.

I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but our room was huge, and full of tile work. Our son had his own area, on a separate level in the same room, and his own TV. It was a far cry from a sterile, modern hotel; this was full of color and detail, tile and wood work.

The next day, we hired a private guide for a tour of Marrakesh, and had a wonderful time exploring all kinds of wonderful places.

So now, off we go, and the smells and the feel of the souks almost make us giddy; we are back in our element.

As we wander, we can hear roosters crowing, and, in the middle of the souks, we find a souk devoted to roosters. It is the middle of the afternoon, a quiet time of day, perfect for wandering.

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Me and my attraction to light fixtures 🙂

 

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A mural of the Koutoubia mosque; one of the reasons we felt so secure in this souk is that if you get lost, you just look for the highest tower around, and that is the Koutoubia mosque, which takes you to Jemaa el-Fna.

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We walked to our content, and then settled in at late afternoon to a cafe with a terrace high over the Jemaa el-Fna, where we had our choice of tables and could watch the market come to life. As we sipped our mint tea, the other tables filled; Moroccan families, tourist couples, assorted characters. The day is gorgeous, we have a shaded location, life is sweet. We’ve soaked in the sights and the smells. We’ve done more than our 10,000 steps. We enjoyed this afternoon immensely.

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December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Cultural, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Hot drinks, Morocco, NonFiction, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment