Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

In this morning’s lectionary readings from Deuteronomy, I find words of hope this morning:

 

Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 18

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

I often tell my friends that I encountered very good Christians as I lived among the Moslems; they believe in Christ, and as we differ among ourselves as Christians, they also differ from us. Some of the differences are significant, and at the same time, I am aware that Christians did not agree – and still do not agree – on Christ’s divinity. So I look at the fruits of the spirit, I look at actions, and I look at being faithful to God’s intentions for us as his creation. I welcome the stranger as the stranger so often welcomed us.

Right now, it shames me that our very Christian country is no longer hospitable to the stranger. We were the shining light of hope in the world. Now we are led by a me-first bully, who will rob the poor even of their access to affordable health care to fill his pickets and those of his cronies. He forgets we are all strangers in a strange land, and will have to answer for our misdeeds.

I take courage in the spiritual renewal of resistance; there are those who continue to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, who are fighting against injustice in the criminal and legal system, who are fighting for a woman’s equal place in this country, who are protecting the widows and orphans, the very things we are called to do. For the first time in my life, I am a member of the ACLU. I continue to receive training as a spirit warrior.  We use our increased investments to fund Planned Parenthood. We strive to feed the hungry and clothe those without clothing.

We laugh, as we discuss issues in our classes, at our activities, over lunch, that at this later stage in life, we could be so reactivated 🙂

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

The Patter of Little Feet

AdventureMan said “I’m ready.”

 

He caught me by surprise.

 

We lost Zakat in July; one Saturday night at bedtime, he noticed Zakat had a dime-sized hole in his side. In the time it took us to get dressed and head for the animal emergency care hospital, it had grown to the size of a quarter. As we waited – the hospital was full, that night, of heartbreaking cases – it continued to grow. We had to leave him there to be sewn up, but they called us and told us that his skin wouldn’t hold stitches, and other lesions had opened. “A cat can’t live without skin” she said. We had to let him go.

 

When we adopted him, we hoped we would have more time with him. Zakat was the sweetest cat we have ever had, just full of love and trust. He was also FiV positive, feline AIDS, and he was susceptible to everything. He lost teeth. He had frequent pink eye. He would have fevers. He had skin problems. Through it all, he was sweet. When we lost him, we were desolate. AdventureMan said “No more cats.”

 

I think Trump changed his mind. I think he had to do something to fight our increasing dismay and outrage, we had to have some source of laughter in our lives. We know these immigrants he wants to keep out; we have lived among them and know them, for the most part, to be peaceful, hospitable people, very much like the people we live among in Pensacola. We have trans friends, and gay friends, and to limit their freedom threatens our own, for where do you start restraining those who hate? We prefer to drink untainted water, and to breathe unpolluted air, and we trust the EPA to measure, and to confront, and to enforce. And we want to trust in the “truthiness” of our elected officials, which we demonstrably cannot.

 

We have become activists. Who would have though it?

 

And, to nourish our souls, we have adopted Ragnar, a Russian Blue mix, and Uhtred, a creamy gold total mutt, both street cats, both sweet and funny and playful and delightful. Our house is once again a jumble of scattered and wrinkled carpets, dining room chairs knocked out of place, training not to go on countertops, and clear duct tape on the furniture to train them not to scratch there, but on the scratching posts.  They give us joy, and a delightful reason to get up in the morning.

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So, thank you, Donald Trump, for being so obnoxious and so depressing that we welcomed the diversion of these two delightful little angels into our household. One small step to help a hurting world.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cafe Degas in New Orleans

We love our trips to New Orleans, and are able to go often, even just on the spur of the moment. Such was our trip last weekend, we needed to pick up some things from our friends at Zito’s, and decided to make it an overnight.

We have never visited the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we looked for restaurants nearby and found Cafe Degas, a French restaurant.

We miss France. Going to France was one of the best parts of living in Germany, not far from the French border. We were in France all the time, and oh, how we miss France.

We found Cafe Degas with no trouble, and were able to find a parking spot within a short walk.

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Each table filled almost as soon as it emptied. There were families, people coming in after church, friends meeting up to share their weeks. It had a great vibe.

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The bread was wonderful, crispy on the outside, light as a cloud on the inside

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We LOVE mussels. These were perfect, and the broth was exquisite.

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The mussels come with fries. Normally I will avoid fries, but oh, these were so good. I ate about half, more than I had intended! I had thought “oh one bite won’t hurt!” and twenty fries later, I still had trouble stopping.

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3127 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 945-5635

Hours of operation
Lunch: Wednesday through Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm.

We are open for drinks, salads and appetizers between lunch and dinner service Wed – Sat.
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm.
Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:30am – 3:00pm

HAPPY HOUR Wednesday and Thursday 3:00pm – 6:00pm

All Major Credit Cards Accepted

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, France, Mardi Gras, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese New Year Shoes

I admit it, I am frugal. I am frugal in small ways, in daily life. I don’t like waste. I don’t need luxury. Or maybe I should say I have my own idea of luxury. We lead a comfortable life and have more than enough to delight in.

Now and then, I see something that tickles my imagination. When I do, I don’t hesitate. When I saw these shoes, I bought them to celebrate Chinese New Years, coming January 27 – 29.

 

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I found these on Amazon! They were under $20, and they have dragons on them holding the ball of the earth. What an amazing world we live in, what luxury is available at affordable prices.

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Shopping | | Leave a comment

Grieving for Damascus

“This is a place I would love to retire,” I once told AdventureMan, as we wandered the streets. “It has all the things I love. Beautiful architecture and a rich history. It’s on a river. It gets cold in the winter. You can walk to local stores.”

Today, with great sadness, I read that Damascus is now rated the #1 Most Unlivable City in the World, beating out Douala, Cameroon; Harare, Zimbabwe; Karachi, Pakistan; Algiers, Algeria; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; and Tripoli, Libya. This is what the report summarized about Damascus:

Damascus has forgotten more than your city will likely ever know-and it has been a battleground for almost its entire existence. The City of Jasmine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the least livable city in the world-for good reason. More than 13 million Syrians require humanitarian aid, 6.5 million have been displaced, and almost half a million have been killed on all sides of the conflict there-government soldiers, opposition soldiers, and civilians. It’s scores are predictably abysmal, with a 15 (out of 100) for stability at the bottom end and a mere 43.3 for culture and environment at the top end.

This is a city which has been at the crossroads of civilization about as long as civilization has been around. This is a city which was refined, and tolerant, a city which was once full of caravans carrying spices, silks and riches to the West.

We were last there in 2007, and we are so glad we went when we did. Damascus was revitalizing, building up a tourism business with grand hotels, and lovely, intimate boutique hotels.

We stayed at the Talisman. We grieve for the fine people we met there, and for all the losses they have suffered.

AdventureMan said “why don’t you do a photo-share, like you did with Doha?” At first, I didn’t want to, but then, I looked at the photos – and once again, I was smitten. I pray for a miracle for Syria, for new, enlightened, tolerant leadership and opportunities for the good Syrian people. For renewed vigor in churches and mosques and synagogues there. (The Talisman is in the old Jewish quarter, where the Greek Orthodox also have their headquarters.)

This is the majlis – sitting area – at the Talisman.

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A restaurant nearby the Talisman:

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Breakfast at the Talisman:

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The historical nearby Bab, or gate:

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A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:

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Streetside bakery:

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A courtyard restaurant, with lovely dishes. And note the Christmas tree; Christmas decorations and greenery everywhere!

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A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:

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Interior at Umayyad Mosque, all are welcome and abayas provided. You leave your shoes at the door. This is the rear of the Tomb of John the Baptist:

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Naranj, our favorite restaurant. I understand branches of Naranj have opened in Gulf Countries, Qatar, Kuwait, as wealthier Syrians take their money out of Syria and wait for more peaceful times. I am betting they will return to Syria as soon as they can.

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Inside Naranj

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A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya

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A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:

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I’ve never met a Syrian who wasn’t educated and working hard to make a good life for his/her family. We wonder if we will ever be able to visit Syria again in our lifetime?

For more photos of Damascus, you can visit my 2007 posts, Walking Old Damascus, by clicking here.

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Photos, Political Issues, Restaurant, Travel | , | 4 Comments

Female Only Row on Airline to Prevent Groping

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(Cartoon from the New Yorker)

I’m surprised Air India is the first to officially offer this; I would have thought it would be Qatar Air, or Emirates. It’s a great customer service.

From AOL News:

Major airline offers ‘female-only’ row to its flights

When it comes to seating on airplanes, there’s generally a first class, business class and economy section. But one major airline is adding a new row just for women!

Air India will reserve six seats in the third row of its economy class cabin for female passengers flying solo.

A senior official with the company says the new seating option will give female passengers more choice and comfort and insists it’s not in response to alleged groping incidents on their planes.

According to the official, this will make Air India the only airline in India, and possibly the world, to take this step.

Whatever the reason, the female-only row was announced after two in-flight incidents happened less than two weeks apart.

In December, a woman flying from Mumbai to New York claimed she woke up after being groped by a man who moved to an empty seat next to her.

Shortly after, a female flight attendant alleged she was molested and subjected to vulgar language by a male passenger.

Both men were reported to police once the planes landed, according to Reuters.

The seats will be offered at no extra cost and can be requested up to an hour before check-in closes.

Currently the female-only seating is exclusively offered on domestic flights, but the airline may add them to international flights after seeing how effective they are.

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Civility, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

More Doha, Qatar in Transition

I’ve had such great feedback from all my friends for whom these photos bring back a lot of memories. So, a few more.

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January 6, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Photos, Qatar | | 2 Comments

Doha, Qatar, in Transition; Photos from Qatar in the Early 2000’s

As I was trying to clear out some files, I came across a file of photos I had saved from Doha, Qatar. Many of my earliest photos there were shot on film; I am guessing most of these are 2005 or later. When we arrived in Doha, it was still a sleepy little Arabian Gulf country on the edge of momentous growth and change. It was a charming country, the people were courteous and sweet.

One trip to Al Shamel and around to Fort Zubara, a man followed us along the forsaken and challenging road, just to make sure we made it safely. Qatar was like that, full of gracious people.

Here are some glimpses of Doha in transition:

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When the heir to the throne was getting married, all the families / tribes gathered on their lands to dance in his honor, to celebrate. I loved the gold robes, do not know which family this was.

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A truck load of sheep on the way to market. Trucks were often overloaded, and often tipped over at the roundabouts.

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Who even remembers Parachute Circle? The day it was being knocked down, I made a special trip to capture this dusty demolition:

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Dinner at the Majlis, one of our favorite hide-aways:

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Old Kharaba Mosque:

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The Beehive Souk where the Honey Man had his shop:

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A shop in the Gold souk

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Khanjar in the old Doha Weapons Museum

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Building the new souks at Al Waif

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Doha Corniche building with mosque in a niche on facade

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Destroying old buildings on Al Rayyan to make way for the new

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Doha from the Sheraton; the boat used to go to Palm Island. I’m not sure there is an island anymore.

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Doha coffee maker

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January 5, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | , | 3 Comments

Wrapping up the Year in New Orleans

I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.

AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.

Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.

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New Orleans – and Pensacola – had an unseasonably warm Christmas, and when we arrived in New Orleans, it was 75° F. and the zoo was packed. Fortunately, one family was leaving and we found a good parking spot. Parenthetically, the three year old was a total trooper, doing her 10,000 steps with no complaints. We had lunch with the flamingos at one of the zoo food stops.
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We think the zoo has one of the most beautiful carousels we have ever seen. Tickets cost $1 and are worth every penny. This is a treat for children and their parents 🙂
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Two days, two trips to the zoo. It was fun, and plenty to occupy the kids for more than a couple days.
There are all kinds of enrichment centers and activities.
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We stayed at the Westin, which we discovered atop a high end shopping mall and offices when we had to rush to New Orleans to replace a missing passport at the last minute before one of our trips overseas. It is not where we stay when it is just the two of us, but it is a perfect place to stay with children who are going to the aquarium (next door) and the insectarium. It is also a very short drive to the zoo. Parking is $30 per day, and relatively secure. We looked over the city and the river, and had a very spacious room for two adults and two children.
We were also able to find some great places which welcomed children and provided fairly healthy food.
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A short walk from the hotel was Felipe’s, a taqueria, which we liked so well that we ate there two nights. Everything was freshly made, the kids loved the food (they had quesadillas and black beans), I had a taco salad made with pork al pastor, AdventureMan had tamales, tostada and a tortilla soup. We all split two flans. It was casual, the food was tasty and fresh and we were comfortable being their with kids.
Across the street from  Zito’s, where we take our Middle Eastern treasures to be shined up and sealed, is the Wakin’ Bakin’, where we had plates full of eggs and toast and fabulous biscuits, bowls of fresh fruit and good coffee.  They make their own croissants, and other wonderful goodies, and it’s all good.
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We introduced the grands to Ethiopian food at the Cafe Abyssinia, 3511 Magazine Street, close to the zoo and on the way back to the French Quarter. They loved the Ethiopian tea, and the injera, which they thought were pancakes. Not so fond yet of the Doro Wat or the veg entrees, but we have time . . . .  🙂
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Last but not least, as the weather turned chilly overnight, we snuggled into the Jackson Brewery, on Decatur, close to the Westin and close to the Aquarium and the river park walk. We started with beignets, which were a big hit, and orange juice. The brewery actually had good fresh options and the children loved the space and ambience.
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Entrance to Jackson Brewery from Decatur Street:
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We had such a good time, we think it might have to become a Christmas vacation tradition. In the meanwhile, we also enjoyed turning them back over to their parents and enjoying hours of silence. 🙂 Happy New Year!

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Holiday, Hotels, Living Conditions, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | 2 Comments

“Yes Ma’am, That Was For a Bus Ticket to Mexico”

“We see it all the time.”

As long as we lived overseas, AdventureMan and I never had a problem with our credit cards. I used ATM’s all over Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to make cash withdrawals when I needed what my Mom calls “jingle money,” you know, walking-around money for lunch out, for fabrics in the souks, for whatever we needed cash for. It was easy, and it must have been safe. We never once had a problem.

 

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Now, we’ve had to change our numbers several times.

This one was particularly odd, though. I got a second notice on a card I call my “hurricane” card. When you live in Florida, massive calamity can happen literally overnight. You may have to suddenly evacuate to a strange city and need funds for emergency housing, and housing the pets. No running to the bank for a withdrawal when an area has been destroyed by a tornado; it can take months for infrastructure to be back up and running normally.

The charge was made just after we returned from traveling, so my first instinct was to check my wallet, and the card was not there. Oddly, while it was my account, it was AdventureMan’s card, which has a different number. He assures me he never made the change. I believe him; I find both cards safely tucked away, unused, in a safe place.

I call the bank. I explain that we had been traveling, but neither of us think we made this charge, the only charge on this card, the card we not only never use, but don’t even keep in our wallets. The bank lady takes a look and laughs and says “Oh yes. That was a bus ticket to Mexico. We’ve seen that before.”

Long story short, this kind of fraud has become so routine that they have routine practices that go immediately into effect to protect us, to protect their other customers and to restore our hurricane card.

But when she said it was for a bus ticket to Mexico, I burst out laughing, and all my anxiety disappeared in a heartbeat. No. I did not charge a bus ticket to Mexico, and neither did AdventureMan.

It’s just so odd, to me. These are cards that have never even been in our wallets. They never leave their safe place. How was someone able to use them?

December 8, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Crime, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, fraud, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Scams, Survival, Travel | , , | Leave a comment