Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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.

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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

Sleepy Little Doha

My husband used to travel in and out of Doha for years before we actually moved there. He would tell me stories about “sleepy little Doha,” before-natural gas Doha, in a country that was not the richest country in the world. The international community then was so small that they would gather at the American Ambassador’s residence on Fridays for drinks and a cook-out, casually exchanging information and gossip on a lazy afternoon. This was also pre 9-11, when the need for mind-numbing security was not so imperative.

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I received the above photo in the mail today, and I laughed out loud and showed AdventureMan. We were there when the Sheraton Hotel was “way out there” in the middle of no-where. A new mall with a Carrefour had opened near the Sheraton and was visible from the dhow parking in mid-Doha.

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Look just above the dhows, to the left of the white building with green windows and you will see a flat building and Carrefour on it.

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The pyramid on the right is the Sheraton, once the hottest hotel in Doha. To the left, you can see the white building with the green windows, which almost disappears now. I want you to notice how relatively bare the skyline is, and this is 2005.

 

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These two buildings used to be the tallest on the Corniche.

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You can see them in the lower right of this photo, dwarfed by all the new sky-scrapers. At the far left, you can see one of my very favorites, a (formerly) tall building with a mosque built jutting out in the middle. You can barely see it now; it used to be one of the most prominent buildings on the Corniche.

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This is what the building looks like when not surrounded by giants.

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This is what it looks like now, almost indistinguishable from the buildings surrounding and overwhelming it.

I used to meet a friend every Tuesday morning and walk the Corniche. We watched the buildings going up, tributes to the huge amounts of cash pouring into the Doha economy and the huge egos that need to build huge towers to put their names on. As they were being built, there were constant fires, mostly electrical, which challenged the fire department and killed the low-paid laborers. American firms seeking office space brought in experts to inspect buildings before renting them, to be sure modern, safe construction practices had been used. Most of the new high rises had been built with severe deficits, unsafe concrete, unsafe wiring, failure to allow people to evacuate safely in case of an emergency and elevators that barely worked even when brand new.

We particularly laughed at the giant phallic silver building front and center.

The extreme heat and humidity of Doha is hard on even good construction, drying out sealants on the windows (allowing dust and water to penetrate), peeling facades, making buildings a mere twenty years old look dingy and severely weathered. One relatively new building had windows popping out in its first five years.

On a hot night AdventureMan and I would have dinner downtown, often at The Majlis, and then go out to the Corniche and board one of the dhows decorated with strings of Christmas lights for a cooling ride along the coastline, where the breezes would blow and Sleepy Little Doha would sparkle.

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September 23, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | 1 Comment

When Nothing Means Something

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I lived through the 70’s and the ’80’s and as I have watched the young of our generation grow to maturity, I have had hope for a different kind of world. I believed I saw it coming, a new way of thinking, where women had equality, where all people had respect regardless of skin shade. I suspected it would be slow, but the dinosaurs my age and older would die off, leaving the more enlightened young people in charge.

When Obama was elected, I danced for joy. I saw it as a sign – a man of color elected President of the United States! To me, he embodied what our nation was established to attain. Freedom. Liberty. Justice for ALL. Equal opportunity.

This morning,  AdventureMan and I were talking; as I was leaving his office I tweaked his photos by mere centimeters. They had shifted and were just a little crooked.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said (and I had already done it.)

(Barely perceptible pause, but a pause none the less) “Oh no, my dear.”

We both broke out laughing. Sometimes people who have been married for a long time lie to each other in such a way, to be polite, not to rock the boat, but at the same time letting the other person know exactly how you feel about something.

That barely imperceptible pause had meaning. Nothing was something.

When you are a teen-age girl, there are a lot of things you tell yourself when trying to figure out what to do.

“Really, nothing happened  . . . .”

“I wasn’t supposed to be at that party”

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that bathing-suit. Maybe it was my fault”

“I know Mom and Dad would back me, but they would also be really pissed.”

“Do I want to be known as ‘that girl?'”

Maybe you talk to your friends. Most girls won’t talk to their parents, unless it is really severe and you can’t hide it.

I now – I worked with rape victims for two years at a Rape Crisis line. We listened. We offered information. We listened. We offered to go with them if they wanted to tell someone, like the police. We educated – police, hospital workers, first responders, parents. We listened. We went to court with the victims who chose to file charges. We listened.

The bravest woman I ever met was in Doha. I had agreed to meet with her when her mother told me she had been assaulted. She had been offered a ride home, the guy was the big brother of a school friend, driving her and her sister home. Instead, he and his friend drove deep into the desert, forced the girl out of the car and told her to co-operate and they would leave her little sister alone.

She negotiated. She wouldn’t do all that they tried to force her to do. Then they took her home.

She talked to a couple friends, who told her she needed to tell her parents because it had happened before, and could happen again. The young girls were like prey to these guys.

She went to the police, she named names. They were arrested, and when she saw them in the line-up, she told the police she needed for them to take off their clothes so she could tell for sure that it was them. She knew it was them. She also knew that they were from a good family and that nothing serious was going to happen to them no matter what the charges, but she wanted a moment where she could humiliate them in some small way for the way she had been abused and mistreated.

It was one of those unequal power moments, but she used what little power she had.

“I wanted to get this on the record,” she told me, “I wanted to make sure that when they go to get married, that their names will be on the record, and if not, people in Doha have long memories. Who will want to marry their daughters to these men?”

She was 16.

Her family suffered. Her father was heart-broken that he had brought his family to Doha and that he had, as he saw it, failed to protect his daughter. The family left Doha soon thereafter.

I still honor that girl, her courage, her wisdom, her dry-eyed willingness to speak out.

And I believe Dr. Ford. I believe she kept it to herself, maybe sharing a little with close friends. She was terrified and she was 15. She carried it for a long time. For most rape victims, like my 16 year old friend, the sexual violation pales in comparison to the violation of personal boundaries and the fear that you may not survive. You are in shock. You often blame yourself. You want to move on, and you don’t want to be known as “that girl that got raped.” She was younger than Kavanaugh, less powerful, a teen-ager.

President Trump, you are just an ignorant oaf. You think you are something, but you are nothing. It’s not like women are assaulted and men aren’t. A thousand Catholic boys can tell you differently, and they feel the same shame as female victims feel. I hope everyone in America reads your ignorant, hateful, smarmy tweet and see the horror in having you as a President.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Mating Behavior, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Relationships, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Intlxpatr Turns 12 Years Old

Welcome! Grab a flute, come on in and mingle.

 

Who knew, when I held my breath and posted my first post in September of 2006, that I would still be blogging – with the same blog (!) – twelve years later.

I miss my life. It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t. When I started blogging in Kuwait, I was once again going up against the steep learning curve of starting over in a new place, discovering where to buy groceries (milk and dairy at the local Co-op, fresh vegetables at a huge vegetable market to the south of Fintas, western staples – a luxury – at the Sultan Center. I bought what I needed, most of the time, but occasionally, a price would be so shockingly out of line that I couldn’t bring myself to do it – like a package of chocolate chip cookies that you just cut and bake for something like $15 when I could make them from scratch by myself. But I digress.

Blogging was new and fresh, and I loved reading the thoughts of other bloggers. I learned so much, and I learned to think differently. Their thoughts were not my thoughts, and I got a very clear view of my own cultural blinders.

I also met some wonderful Kuwaitis. It was a world I loved, a world of ideas and discussions. It was fun. I quickly felt at home in Kuwait; I felt I was gaining perspective from many minds, and it helped me form a more complex picture. I laugh to think it will never be a complete picture; you know how even people you’ve known for a long time can surprise you?

AventureMan told me today I had surprised him. He was talking about how good we are at doing our homework for trips, and how we “roll with the punches.” In my very direct way, I said “No we don’t! We gripe with the punches.”

First I got a stunned silence, then the guffaw of laughter, and then we were both laughing. I love it that I can still catch him by surprise.

So welcome to the celebration of 12 years sharing lives, sharing ideas, sharing our common humanity. This year, in addition to the beautiful cakes I have so much fun enjoying in virtual world, I have added cupcakes, in honor of a five year old granddaughter who has a great eye.

 

 

 

Please stay as long as you’d like . . .

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Pensacola, Shopping | 10 Comments

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

Doha, Qatar, in Transition

I didn’t start shooting digital until 2005, so there are two years of Doha documentation I only have in prints; I was shooting film, taking it down to the shop on old Electricity Street, Karabah. I came across these tonight . . . just wish I had been able to find some shots of the old Bandar restaurants, taken down with the modernization of Doha.

What a breathtaking transition. Doha, when we arrived, was still sleepy. There were a few tall buildings in the little capitol, mostly public utilities. The airport parking was free, and the airport itself was tiny. Most people knew one another, and the expat community was small. We were in Doha from 2003 – 2006, and again from 2009 – 2010.

 

When camels still had real riders at the weekly races:

 

 

 

Souq al Waqaf

Parachute Roundabout Comes Down:

 

Making way for the new connector street from old Karaba to Souq al Waqaf:

 

Ramadan finery:

 

 

 

 

Dinner at The Majlis

 

Karabaa Mosque, now gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 6, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Photos, Qatar, Travel | Leave a comment

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

“She shows us the same things,” you might complain, and again I say “I write this blog for myself and for the love of writing about the things I love. You are welcome, all are welcome, and if you are not happy, you are welcome to go elsewhere!”

I’ve lived an odd life, a life I would’t trade with anyone. I grew up in Alaska, on an island with a lot of native Americans as my fellow students in my little elementary school. I grew up with Alaskan art, Indian artifacts, masks, baskets, and the hand made costumes, red and black images, sparked with trimming of white shirt buttons. I went to high school in Germany, traveling far and wide with my family or with friends through that continent, visiting more than a few churches and museums, even making special trips to see an exhibit or two.

Then a big change, life in the Middle East and Africa, where I learned to see things through a very different set of eyes and experiences, but something strange started happening, as I noted the differences, I could also see amazing similarities.

I love women’s handwork. I love the nomadic textiles, often made on very narrow looms that could be mostly a couple sticks and yarn from sheep or goats you’ve raised and slaughtered, died with whatever you could get your hands on. And, oddly, the weavings and patterns from Native American baskets and weavings have a lot in common with weavings from the Middle East, West Asia (the ‘Stans) and Africa. There is a love of working with black, white and red, for example, and a similarity to the structure of the animals, even when the animals themselves differ.

If you are interested in the work women do with their hands, you never lack for conversation wherever you go. There are always groups where women are teaching one another new techniques. I’ve met wonderful, creative women in Germany and in Kuwait and in Tunisia, all finding new and innovative ways to create, and also exploring preservation of early and ancient techniques.

So this Museum, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum was richly rewarding for both AdventureMan and myself; it was rich in history, in interviews and movies showing early salmon runs, for example, and interviews with early Native Oregonians. It was also rich in exploring the techniques of early basket making and cooking techniques, preservation of salmon by drying and salting, etc. We spent hours in this museum, and we heartily recommend that you do, too 🙂 It is also a very gorgeous museum, rich in sensory impact, unforgettable.

I will show you pictures, and every now and then I will put in a little explanation.

Below is a dugout canoe, created from one very large cedar tree trunk, carved out by hand

There were really Direwolfs? GOT didn’t make them up?

Look at the motifs on these baskets! African? Azerbaijani? Kazakh? Kuwaiti?

For grinding chestnuts into paste, then the paste is cooked into a kind of meal like oatmeal. The morter and pestle is the same in so many places.

The round cooking stones, heated in fires, dropped into the meal, fished out once they start losing their heat, washed, reheated and put in again until the meal reaches a boil, all in this tightly woven basket.


Activity in the Children’s exploration area

We love the creativity and persistence of humans who preserve our heritage and traditions for future generations. It is particularly delightful when the preservation is in a museum conceived and manifested with beautiful elements and natural materials.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Timberline Lodge, Government Camp, Oregon

Just as AdventureMan had a yearning to visit Crater Lake, I’ve had a longing, lo these many years, to stay at Timberline Lodge. I remember going there when I was little, maybe for lunch, maybe for a soda and for my Mom to meet up with friends, I don’t know, I was really little. All I remember is how much I loved this timbered lodge, and I told her I wanted to stay there. She said we were going back to Portland; we were just visiting the Lodge.

I’m not a believer in bucket lists. I’m a believer in doing it along the way, if you can. When AdventureMan and I married, we had a lot not-in-common, but we shared a common way of outlining and attaining our objectives in life.

  1.  Live within your income.
  2. Save for goals (retirement, education, property, etc).
  3. Have a great life along the way.

We’ve done well. When we first married, AdventureMan wanted to go to Africa and see the animals. We saved for a year and spent a month in Kenya and Tanzania before starting a family, then once we were living back overseas, we went back to various African countries on safari ten times. We worked hard, and we have a ball along the way.

But I had never had an opportunity to stay at Timberline Lodge. It’s TIME!

 

It was another case of not wanting to mention to AdventureMan that it might be a bit tricky getting up there, but although there is still a lot of snow, we didn’t have any problems on the roads. And, even though the parking lot, we are told, is full, AdventureMan, with his famous great luck, waited while I checked us in, and while he was waiting a beautiful parking spot opened up right in front of the Lodge. Woo HOOOOO!

This is our room, up on the third floor. All the beds have thick comforters and Pendleton blankets.

 

 

The view from our room is out over one of the ski trails 🙂

 

 

I am totally in heaven. A dream has come true, and we are having a lot of fun. AdventureMan asked if we should bring in our swim suits, and I looked at him like he was crazy. “It’s a SKI lodge,” I informed him, a little haughtily. Oh, Intlxpatr, woe! The registration clerk looked at me and said “We do! We have an outdoor pool down at the end of this hall” and pointed down the hall. I was humbled, and the pool was beautiful; a gorgeous contrast in hot and cold. Don’t you love the skiers skiing right by the pool?

 

We ate all our meals in the Lodge, the spaces were so beautiful. This is the downstairs lounge:

 

I am such a sucker for stone fireplaces, wood floors and leather furniture. I should live in Montana!

We ate in the Rams Head restaurant, looking out over the peak of Mount Hood:

 

I ordered the cassoulet, which, when it came, I said “I thought it had chicken in it!”

 

It did, it was hiding under the endive salad.

AdventureMan ordered the charcuterie platter, and loved every bite.

He couldn’t even finish his cheese platter, not could I finish my cassoulet, too much food and we can’t take it with us.

This is the Cascade Dining Room, where we had breakfast the next morning:

 

This trip has had so many highlights, and we both agree that staying at Timberline Lodge is a life-high experience. 🙂

When talking with my Mom, she said back in the day, she and a bunch of friends from university would head over to Timberline Lodge for the weekends, and that they stayed in large bunk-room dorms, because it was all about the skiing. 🙂

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Hotels, Money Management, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

The High Desert Museum in Bend, OR

Today is a piece of cake. It is a very short driving day, we get up late, only to discover that the normally generous breakfast at the Best Western has been set-upon by all the martial arts participants and the gun show enthusiasts, and the crew is working valiantly but is unable to keep up with the hoards of folk interested in breakfast. We find enough – some hard boiled eggs, some milk, enough. We are on the road by 9:30 only to stop just outside of Bend at one of the most beautiful museums we have ever visited, the High Desert Museum.

Look at that gorgeous elk statue, look at the definition. Look at his relaxed posture. Isn’t he gorgeous?

That is not a real salmon jumping up a river to spawn, but another gorgeous piece of art work at the entrance to this museum. I am loving this place already. They’ve put some big bucks into making this a high end product.


I suppose I should be embarrassed waxing so enthusiastic over the materials and craftsmanship that have gone into the structure, but I’m not. It’s my blog; I get to be as enthusiastic as I want. I loved this museum before I even got in the front door.

 

This is the entrance. Look at that natural light invited in! Look at the stone walls, the wooden ceiling and the textured panels on the walls! It seems most of the people we encounter working in the museum are volunteers, and they love their work and take great pride in serving their museum.

 

I know you’ve been wondering (as I did) exactly what the High Desert is:

 

The entire states of Idaho and Utah? Most of Nevada? Extensive parts of Washington, Oregon and Wyoming, as well as segments of California and Montana? I had no idea!

There is SO much to see. There is a lot of history along with the natural sciences, and it is all beautifully displayed, with a lot of human context.

 

I learned a lot about ritual root digging, which I had never heard of, but since seeing this exhibit, it has come up in two books I’ve read by Louise Erdrich, The Future Home of the Living God and LaRose, so I’ve been able to integrate what I learned with more information. If we ever have a monumental natural disaster, or zombie apocalypse, we will need these survival skills.

 

 

A tule mat tee pee. The women also wove baskets so fine and so tight you could cook in them. They used fire heated round stones to bring food temperatures up even to a boil.

 

This wild cat sculpture is next to the real wild cat, resident at the museum for many years due to an injury that made it impossible to return her to the wild.

 

 

Panoramas from the historical displays.

 

The museum also has a really nice gift shop, lots of original art work, good cards, great children’s gifts. They also had a very nice cafe, with an outdoor terrace where you can sit, drink some excellent coffee, and listen to the birds.

 

We spent two or three hours here, and it was worth every minute. The volunteer guides do tours of the outdoor animal displays, including some very cute and cuddly otter, and all kinds of other themed 30 minute or so walks. Well worth a visit.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Ft. Bragg to Calistoga Springs; A Short Day and a Mud Bath

 

OK, here it is. There is no point in being “old enough to know better” and not taking any chances. Life is short. It might as well be sweet, and sometimes, you just have to take some risks.

You might say, and we might agree, that life is full of unknown risks, like ending up on California highway 1 through the hilly, unguarded woods in late afternoon. On the other hand, a little adrenaline is the spice of life for AdventureMan and me.

One year, long ago, AdventureMan and I were living in Tunisia and we found ourselves at the beginning of the road General Montgomery took to break the Mareth Line in WWII.

(from Wikipedia:

Battle of the Mareth Line

Montgomery launched Operation Pugilist against the Mareth Line on the night of 19/20 March 1943. Elements of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division penetrated the line and established a bridgehead west of Zarat on 20/21 March. A determined counter-attack by 15th Panzer Division destroyed the pocket, re-establishing the line by 22 March. On 26 March, X Corps (Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks) drove around the Matmata Hills, capturing the Tebaga Gap and the town of El Hamma at the northern extreme of the line in Operation Supercharge II, making the Mareth Line untenable. The following day anti-tank guns from German and Italian units checked the advance of X Corps, to gain time for a withdrawal. In the next 48 hours the Axis defenders pulled out of the Mareth Line, establishing a new defensive position 60 kilometres (37 mi) to the north-west at Wadi Akarit near Gabès.)

The road was challenging at first, a rocky dirt road, very narrow. “How on earth did they get tanks through here?” I wondered to myself as my 3 year old son went sound asleep in the back seat. The road became dicey, but there was no place to turn around, so AdventureMan gamely drove on. Several times, he had to find a place in the road wide enough for me to get out without falling over the cliff, to guide him around ruts in the road that went 2 – 3 feet deep. It got later and later in the afternoon, there was no other traffic on this pass, and I was beginning to  . . . . have a little anxiety, but we never say anything, like to say it might make it true. There comes a point where the adrenaline doesn’t even surge any more, you just want it to be over, you want to be safe. And, as you can see, we lived to tell the tale 🙂

All that to introduce that today is a day of challenges.

First, as we drove down Highway 101, we looked for a winery I really wanted to find, Graziano winery. We had a bottle of Zinfandel from there, a red, complicated zinfandel, which changed my idea about zinfandel wines. We never found the winery, but we did see a sign for it, pointed back the way we had come. Arrrgh.

On to Calistoga Springs, where we check in to the Golden Haven Spa, a quirky motel/hotel with it’s own hot springs and spa, where we are going to have a first – a mud bath.

 

This is our very spacious room, with lovely high ceilings.

This is in the quiet room, at the entrance to the spa itself.

It’s always fun when you really don’t know what you are getting into. I couldn’t tell from the photos if this place was “nice” or “clean. You can read reviews, and you can’t always believe either the really good or the really bad. I looked at all the places in Calistoga, and this one looked quirky and fun, and I just had to hope it was clean (it was.)

The other thing is that with these mud baths, you can be totally nude, you can wear a bathing suit or underwear, whatever makes you comfortable. There will be an attendant in the room with you to help you, so how does that work? We brought our bathing suits, but once we saw the mud bath (black black mud mixed with peat moss) we figured we might as well just go nude. There were two of us, and we’ve seen each other nude before. It made us a little braver.

The attendant was sweet and modest, explained how things worked and then left us, saying she would be back. Well, the whole process is actually funny; you don’t climb into these big concrete tubs that look a lot like sarcophagi, you are supposed to ROLL into them, which got us giggling right away. And they are very hot, and you are not supposed to put your feet on the bottom, or you could get burned feet, and the mud is so thick you really do float. While you are waiting for the attendant to return, you use your hands to put mud over all the parts you  . . . ummm. . .. you know, like want to keep hidden, and that made us giggle more, but you can’t giggle too much or you bend and might start sinking and the mud/peat moss is really HOT.

Then the attendant knocks, and comes back in and puts a special mud on your face and then leaves again for about half an hour while you soak. We were ready when she came back, and we ROLLED out, but actually, I couldn’t figure out how to do it by myself so AdventureMan came over to give me a hand, but he looked so funny I was laughing too hard and couldn’t roll out the right way for a couple minutes.

Then you take this two-person shower, which sounds a lot sexier than it really is, because you have mud everywhere, and it really needs two people to spray each other in places you can’t see for yourself, like your upper back and your hairline, and other places where you can’t see yourself, the other person needs to spray you.

After you’ve sprayed as much as you can, you get into the hot tub, which is also very hot and I forget to mention, sulpher-y. Sulpher doesn’t bother me in hot springs; I got used to it as a kid, Baden-Baden, Wiesbaden, there were fountains where you could “take the waters” and it was always sulfur-y. It’s kind of stinky, but you get used to it. After the hot tub, we were like limp noodles, perfect for having massages, which was our mid-trip treat, along with the adventure of having a mud bath. We slept well that night.  🙂

So was it worth it? Oh yes, it was. It’s not often we are so out of our comfort zone, nor that we laugh so much. It’s a good thing to try something new and different. Would I do it again? I might, but I wouldn’t seek it out. It was fun, and there are other fun things in the world we haven’t tried yet.

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , , , | Leave a comment