Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Cross Culture at the Y: “It’s OK to Feel Sad”

My first encounter this morning was in the locker room, with the young water aerobics instructor I really like. I was glad to have a moment with her. I needed to thank her for helping me out the week before, when I started swimming classes with my little “I’m two, almost three” adorable granddaughter.

young-child-jumping-in-pool

(This is a photo from the Prescott YMCA, this is not me and my granddaughter )

These are those classes where the parent/grandparent/foster parent is in the pool with the little one, helping them to be slithery fishes, or to safely enter and exit the pool, and we were having a great time until, in her two year old way, she suddenly looked at me and wished I were her mother.

Her face got all screwed up, and I was afraid she was going to cry, so I tried distracting her and it just made things worse.

“I want Mommy!” she cried, little tears streaming down her face. “I want Mommy!”

So I’m trying to explain that Mommy has to work, and that Mommy is not at home, I’m being all rational and my friend, who is also instructing that class, comes up and looks her in the eye and says “It’s OK to be sad! It’s OK to want your Mommy.”

It is?

I am so embarrassed to tell you this, but this was news to me. I grew up with a Dad who said “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It wasn’t just my Dad, it was a generational thing. Crying was unacceptable. I think maybe being sad was unacceptable.

Little grand-daughter stopped crying. Her face showed such yearning. My friend, the instructor told her it’s OK to miss her Mommy and that for today, maybe she could have fun with her Grandmama, me, and little grand-daughter agreed.

From then on, everything was fine.

So I said “thank you for helping me out. We had a great class together Thursday. I’ve been thinking about how you handled her crisis, and how we never said things like that to our kids, but what a difference it made!”

My friend, the instructor also has a two year old, and just grinned. She explained to me about the effects of validation, and that we all need to express our feelings, and to have our feelings acknowledged, and then we can move on. It’s not something I know how to do very well, but I have seen it how effectively it works and I think I am going to learn how to do it myself.

Really, this was more a cross-generational difference, but generational differences are also a sort of cultural difference, are they not?

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | , , | 7 Comments

Still Standing: 9 Year Blog-a-versary Extravaganza

It’s time to celebrate, and, my friends, we have to do it fast because September 11th is nipping at our heels, and September 11th is a day that makes me very sad, very sad, indeed. So for now, forget September 11th! For today, we will celebrate nine years, yes, nine years of blogging.

Parisian-Theme-Wedding-Cake-via-fortheloveofcake.ca_

So many times I have thought “why bother?”

I do it for me. I do it because writing is what I was born to do. I do it because from the beginning, you have given me such wonderful support and feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 4.40.09 PM

I’m in a Paris frame of mind 🙂 I’ve gathered some wonderful cookies and cakes for you; you can nibble, peruse, re-acquaint yourself with old friends in the comment sections – I know I did, and it re-inspired me.

macycakes.blogspot

Back in the beginning, back in 2006, the blogging scene in Kuwait was such fun, so wide open. Bloggers had really interesting things to say, and said them. I learned so much from the Kuwait bloggers, and made some great friends. 1001 Nights and I became life long friends, even though we are far apart. Other bloggers, one in particular from Saudi Arabia who is now deceased, and another from the Netherlands, Aafke, with whom I have stayed in touch and maintained a friendship were full of ideas, started great conversations, it was like being in a salon in France when ideas were steaming and popping and revolutionizing everything.

65372632060639815uXB69u7sc

While the newness of blogging has long worn off, the need to write has not. Mostly, I keep blogging because every now and then I have something to say, and this I where I say it. Yes, there are other, newer platforms, but sometimes you need a place where people with a longer attention span can come and work through an issue alongside me.

Eiffel-Tower-Cake-via-maxieb.com_1

Of course, I also continue because we still love to travel, and I love to share my adventures and my resources with you of similar interests 🙂

7ac2762e88403769a298a1b9a88e2ace-466x500

Life has greatly changed, once again. This year, our oldest grandchild started kindergarten, real school, and comes to our house where his parents pick him up from work. He is so much fun! We are loving seeing life through his eyes, hearing about his day, learning his new song and his joy in learning. We also get to see either our son or our daughter-in-law every day; it may be just a few minutes, but it keeps us up to date. Life is sweet.

blog.wedding-travel

This coming week we also have Grandparent’s Lunch Day with our granddaughter at her school. She is now fully two, and as my favorite nephew Earthling says about his daughter of about the same age “she is very opinionated.” She is also very sure of her right to be right, and to have her way, and she is full of spirit and energy, so she, too, leads us on a merry race. It is a joy to watch her struggle to express herself – and increasingly, to succeed. She is learning new words every day, and you can see the excitement on her face as we understand what she wants so desperately to tell us.

eiffel-tower-cookies

We never have plans for just one trip; we always have one coming up and one in the plans 🙂 so here’s a hint:

blue-gold-moroccan-round-wedding-cake
 

 

cake

 

14-Bollywood-Birthday-Cake-Designs-12

Thank you, thank you, all who have remained with me so loyally, those who comment and those who lurk, those who check in now and then and those who write to me in the background to bring me up to date on your lives. You, and your feedback, are what makes this all worthwhile.

Have a cookie, or three or four and some cake and some of this wonderful Moroccan mint tea we’ve brewed, and celebrate nine years and still standing.

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, France, Generational, Hot drinks, Interconnected, Kuwait, Morocco, Relationships, Values | 4 Comments

“Someone Puts it in a Box and Sends it To You!”

I relished having a day off from my volunteer job. A sudden cold front moved in; the daily temperatures are still in the nineties, but the early morning temperature was in the low seventies, and will be going lower. I started the day, once again, with a big smile.

There are obligations I have each morning; the expects to be fed and he has an inner timepiece that is amazingly accurate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t understand “days off” so I have to get up at my normal time to feed him, give him his medications, grab a cup of coffee and head for my scripture readings.

My computer has become increasingly buggy, but today, it won’t charge. Sure enough, there is a tiny puncture – a bite – along its slender length. Just one, but one is enough to keep my machine from charging.

It’s not the only thing. Just yesterday, I found my settings changed; the time was set for somewhere in China, the date was goofy, it was just weird.

I was headed for the nearby base, so I called my friend who has taken a spill and can’t get around and asked if she needed anything from the commissary. She didn’t sound like herself. I asked what was up, and she told me she had to have her faithful kitty of 17 years put to sleep; it was time. We both wept. I stopped by later, after grocery shopping and buying a new, tiny, svelte MacBook Air, and we wept some more. The vet had thanked her for making the decision, and said her bloodworm had shown she was in misery in so many ways. She was a great kitty. My friend said she wishes it were so easy for human beings, that we could just humanely end it, and we wept some more.

When I met up with AdventureMan, he could see I was shaken and we talked over a good Bento Box lunch at Ichiban. He, too, said he would prefer to end his life to lingering on in suffering. His plan (I laugh and tell him he doesn’t ALWAYS get his way, which comes as a huge shock to him) is that he will go first, but that if he doesn’t, he thinks he will not last long without me.

It’s probably true. We have become greatly intertwined these forty three years.

And we talked of Zakat, who has now been well, totally well, for four whole weeks. His fur is full and gorgeous, his eyes are clear, he hasn’t lost any teeth, and he plays like a kitten. We know it is the antibiotics, and that it can’t last forever, but we will celebrate as long as it does last, that there are medications and God’s mercy to allow him a sweet life off the streets – while it lasts.

And then the tedium of transferring all my data from one computer to the other.

We are caring for our grandson, now a full kindergartener, who attends a school nearby. We pick him up, we bring him home. AdventureMan takes him to parks and museums, I take him shopping and on errands. He is so much fun, and we love hearing his stories.

He came in Friday with a necklace with red hearts. “I got it from the treasure box!” he told me.

“What did you do?” I asked. “What was it that you did that you got to take something from the treasure box?”

He looked at me with his big blue eyes and his expressive face and said “I have NO idea!”

We were laughing so hard we could barely stand. The day before, he had told us that no, his mommy and daddy had not bought his backpack. He explained that they let him choose a backpack online, and click on it. “Then someone puts it in a box and sends it to you!” It was a huge surprise to him that Mommy and Daddy had indeed paid for it.

License plate seen in Pensacola:

00PcolaLicensePlate

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping, Zakat | 2 Comments

“Mama Cranks it up to 4!”

AdventureMan laughed as he told me how our five year old grandson teaches him new things every day. In the heat and humidity of a Pensacola summer, grandson told him to “turn it up to 4!”

AdventureMan never turns it up to 4. On a rare occasion, to accommodate my sensitivity (as he sees it) to the heat, he will turn the car air conditioning up – for a very short time – to three, and then, quickly, turn it back down to 2, or even 1, claiming he is feeling chilly.

“Mama always cranks it up to 4 when we start the car!” grandson states emphatically, and grandson is used to getting what he wants.

Me too. Now when I get in his car, I tell him “Crank it up to 4, Mama” and he does it – and he laughs.

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | 2 Comments

Female ISIL Recruits Surprised and Disappointed

They sign up for Hunger Games and get domestic drudgery and uber-control:

From Associated Press via Huffpost

PARIS (AP) — When three British schoolgirls trundled across the Syrian border; when a pregnant 14-year-old ran away from her Alpine home for the second time; when a sheltered girl from the south of France booked her first trip abroad — they were going to a place of no return.

Only two of the approximately 600 Western girls and young women who have joined extremists in Syria are known to have made it out of the war zone. By comparison, as many as 30 percent of the male foreign fighters have left or are on their way out, according to figures from European governments that monitor the returns.

In interviews, court documents and public records, The Associated Press has compiled a detailed picture of European girls and young women who join extremists such as the Islamic State group — a decision that is far more final than most may realize.

The girls are married off almost immediately, either in Turkey or just after crossing into Syria. With an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters — among them 5,000 Europeans — in Syria, there is no shortage of men looking for wives. That number is expected to double by the end of the year. Once among the jihadis, the women are not permitted to travel without a male chaperone or a group of other women and must remain fully covered outside, according to material published by Islamic State and researchers who follow the group. Otherwise, they risk a lashing or worse.

European women who blog about their lives under Islamic State tend to be chipper about the experience, but reading between the lines of an e-book of travel advice shows a life that will be radically circumscribed, with limited electricity, lack of even the most basic medicine, and practically no autonomy. Women do not fight, researchers say, despite the Hunger Games-like promises of recruiters.

“The lives of those teenage girls are very much controlled,” said Sara Khan, a British Muslim whose group Inspire campaigns against the dangers of extremist recruiters. “I don’t think that discussion ever comes up. It’s so romanticized, the idea of this utopia. I don’t even think those young girls have necessarily considered that there’s no way back now.”

The two exceptions to the rule of no return are perhaps most revealing in the very paucity of details about their journey — driving home how murky life is behind the Islamic State curtain.

Sterlina Petalo is a Dutch teenager who converted to Islam, and came to be known by the name Aicha. She traveled to Syria in 2014 to marry a Dutch jihadi fighter there and managed to return months later — apparently making her way to the border with Turkey, where her mother reportedly picked her up and brought her back to the Netherlands. Back home, she was immediately arrested on suspicion of joining a terror organization.

Her family, lawyers and prosecutors refuse to discuss the case. She was released from custody last November and has not been formally charged.

The second woman known to have made it out of the grip of Islamic State reconsidered after just a few weeks. The 25-year-old Briton, whom police have not named, had taken her toddler son all the way to Raqqa, the group’s stronghold, when she decided she had made a mistake and called home. She made her way back into Turkey and her father met her there. How she was able to travel the 250 kilometers (150 miles) from Raqqa to the Turkish border city of Gaziantep is not clear. Back in Britain, she was detained and is now free on bail pending formal charges.

Without knowing how the two escaped, it is difficult to say whether other girls and women could follow their path out of Syria, said Joana Cook, a researcher at King’s College London who studies the links between women and jihad.

“There are clearly many human smugglers working within Syria right now, helping Syrian civilians escape the violence, and I wonder if there is a similar, perhaps even growing market, for those trying to escape after joining ISIL,” Cook told The Associated Press in an email, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group. “There is great disillusionment for many who have traveled to Syria to join ISIL and you’ll find many stories of those who went abroad noting ‘this isn’t what we signed up for.'”

The question is whether the girls understood from the beginning how limited their choices would be once they crossed the frontier.

The case of a 15-year-old Avignon girl exemplifies such doubts. The girl hid her second Facebook account and Islamic veil from her moderate Muslim family, thereby managing to join a jihadi network, according to the family’s lawyer. Once within a unit of the al-Qaida offshoot Nusra Front, she was not permitted to leave, according to her brother, who went into Syria to fetch her and was turned away by the extremists. A French boy who joined the group around the same time was allowed to go home.

“I think they understand the premise of that, but not that they understand it in reality,” said Melanie Smith, another researcher at King’s College ICSR.

The networks that bring the women into Syria are increasingly organized around the extremists’ dream of building a nation of multinational jihadis, meaning European girls are particularly prized. Each new Facebook post, each new cheerleading Twitter account — and they pop up by the hour — helps them subvert government efforts to prevent young people from radicalizing and leaving.

The doggedness of jihadi methods for recruiting girls can be seen in the case of Amelia, a 14-year-old girl from France’s Alpine Isere region.

Amelia was first contacted on Facebook by a French fighter on Jan. 14, 2014 and within a month agreed to go to Syria and marry the man, who identified himself as “Tony Toxiko.” After she was turned back by airport border police in Lyon on her first attempt, “Tony Toxiko” persuaded another French adolescent girl to join him in Syria.

Amelia, meanwhile, ran away from home to Belgium, where an imam performed a religious ceremony that wed her to a different man, an Algerian jihadi. She returned to France homesick and pregnant, just long enough to speak to investigators building a case against a middleman who helped her run away. This winter, Amelia managed to deceive her family and left again — making it to Syria with the Algerian fighter, who is more than twice her age.

“It’s particularly difficult for these families. For them, radicalization is happening on the Internet and outside the family sphere,” said Sebastien Pietrasanta, a French lawmaker working on a program to de-radicalize young people. “For a girl of 14, I believe we can clearly save her from herself and save her from these barbarians.”

A French journalist got dangerously close to jihadi recruitment methods by creating a fake Facebook account that attracted a marriage proposal from a fighter in Syria.

Under the pseudonym Melodie, the journalist shared a video on the account, almost immediately getting a message from a man identified as Bilel, who asked how she’d liked the montage of him showing off in a 4X4 and with his weapons.

“I passed myself off as a 20-something, not stupid but a little lost, who suddenly found a huge response from a man in Syria,” said the journalist, who wrote a book “In the Skin of a Jihadist” under a pseudonym.

Bilel’s doubts about her began to grow as her reluctance to join him became clear. She ended up getting threats that she said would likely frighten a bewildered young woman into submission. As it was, the journalist, who never met Bilal in person, remains under constant police protection a year later.

“We’ll find you, we have the best operators here, you don’t know what you’re getting into, you’re messing with a terrorist group, you and your family will pay,” the woman said, recounting the litany of threats she received after returning to France. “If they were speaking to a 20-year-old, it would be very hard for her.”

___

Associated Press writer Mike Corder in Amsterdam contributed.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Middle East, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

“Oh! I Like His Face!”

It’s taken us a long time to get over the loss of our sweet Qatari Cat, sweet Pete. He was so special to us. For one thing, he was pretty. For another, he had some very winning ways. So many reasons to love that sweet cat and to regret his loss.

On our trip, we agreed that we are still not over Pete, and at the same time, it is time to bring another cat into our lives.

I had one in mind.

I have a friend. She has a ministry; she rescues abandoned animals, particularly cats. She tends to their wounds, she has them neutered, she gets them shots. She gives them boundless love, and teaches them to love and trust again.

She had put a photo of a cat on FaceBook. It was before our trip, and I couldn’t see adopting a cat and then putting him into a cat hotel, so I didn’t do anything. But my friend called while I was traveling, and I asked her during our conversation if that orange cat had found a home, and she said no.

So when we got back, we unpacked, we did laundry, we started to get back to our normal lives.

And we adopted Zakat.

Our friend brought him over. He was small, he was scrawny, he had a clipped ear, which I learned means he’s been taken from the streets and neutered, and . . . he had a huge circular scar around his face. He loved my friend, but AdventureMan and I totally freaked him out, and he ran into the cat room and hid (we have a lot of great hiding places.)

A couple days later, our grandson was staying overnight, with his Explorer’s tool (it has a flashlight, compass, magnifying glass, mirror, thermometer and whistle) and asked if he could see the cat. He’s a good boy, and he has three cats at home, so we took him to Zakat’s cupboard, and opened. Zakat didn’t run, and our grandson shone his flashlight and exclaimed softly in delight “Oh, I like his face! He has a sweet face!”

He didn’t even see the scars. All he could see was the sweetness of this cat. And I thought what a blessing grandchildren are, to help us see with the eyes of Jesus, to see sweetness where other see only scars.

00Zakat1

00Zakat2

00ZakatCarpet

Zakat has now discovered he is safe with us, and follows us around like a little shadow. He loves to sit in AdventureMan’s office with him, he loves to curl up with me while I am reading. He is fresh, and funny, and a sweet hearted little cat.

Zakat means tithe or alms in Arabic, but the truth is, we just love the double entendre, and love saying “Where’s Zakat?” We must be five years old, it takes so little to make us laugh.

May 7, 2015 Posted by | Biography, Charity, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Home Improvements, Interconnected, Pets, Qatteri Cat, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Zakat | 10 Comments

Exciting Drive to Denver

I thought this drive would be routine, and I felt really stupid when I discovered it would not be. How could I have failed to notice there were mountains between Glenwood Springs, CO, and Denver?

It was a glorious day leaving Glenwood Springs, and I assumed a very easy drive.

I didn’t expect snow, snowy roads and 19 degree temperatures. Remember, I’ve been living in Florida. It’s Spring! We’ve had little but sunshine every day of our trip, with the one exceptional day between San Antonio and El Paso.

It just kept getting colder and colder. The trucks are all bunched up in the slowest lane, as we drive on slick roads with lots of warning signs. We don’t have chains. We don’t even have snow tires, although before leaving AdventureMan actually checked with our dealership and was told our tires would be adequate for all but a raging snowstorm. We felt a little tense.

00SnowEnRoutetoDenver

00WestVail

Lots of great spring skiing:

00SpringSkiing

00MoreSpringSkiing

00SpringSkiing3

00SpringSkiing4

00FreshSnowOnMountains

00MountainPass

00MountainPassSlowDown

00Temperature19

00SnowGettingDeeper

00MoreSkiing

00MoreSkiingNearDenver

00SnowCoveredMeadows

00MountinPeak

This was a constant annoyance. In Germany, there was a law that you had to sweep the snow off your car, so as you were driving it would not fly off and hit the driver behind you. We assumed this was probably true in the USA, too, but we must have assumed wrongly. We were assailed by flying snow frequently.

00SnowCoveredCars

Here is the payoff. Denver is beautiful, and no snow is flying. We get to meet these wonderful babies, Little Diamond’s twins, born around a year ago today. They are sweet, playful babies, full of laughs. Of course we brought presents, and one of the happiest moments of all is when they discovered how much fun tissue paper is – how it makes a wonderful noise when you shake it! We all shook tissue paper and laughed that it’s always the wrapping and the boxes that is the biggest hit with babies 🙂

Little Diamond has become a wonderful adult, with a life full of babies and students and the wackiness of the unexpected every day with both. It is a great joy to see all our young in the next generation are loving and kind parents, compassionate to their children, and succeeding in their daily lives. Thanks be to God.

00LittleDiamondsGems

00LittleMaleDiamond

May 3, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Interlude in Los Gatos

I have a favorite nephew, an amazing young man who is, like AdventureMan and myself, a total nerd about maps and all things geographical. From the time he was young, he showed wisdom, and understanding, and a quirky way of thinking outside the box. His license plate said “Earthling.” He cracked me up.

We watched together in horror as the planes hit the World Trade towers.

Now, these years later, he has a delightful wife, who is both intellectual equal and a playful heart who makes him happy and helps him not to take himself too seriously, nor to underestimate his talents. He has a job he loves, at GoogleEarth. They have two children, children around the same age as my own grand children, and I have never met them, so we ask if we can get together and they are eager to see us.

This was one of the best days of our journey.

One of the best moments, and you have to know four year old boys to know how serious and wonderful this is, is when my nephew’s son invited me to come up to his room so he could show me some things. When we got there, he pulled out his pajamas and underpants, and I totally got it, being a person who buys Avenger underwear for my own grandson 🙂 I was so honored, so delighted to be shown his treasures 🙂 It was one of life’s special moments.

AdventureMan had his own conquest; we had brought games and puzzles and things for children, and the two-and-a-half year old took a real shine to AdventureMan. Together, they stacked up pieces to the puzzle, and knocked them over. She had a Viewmaster that she considered her camera, and she snapped “photos” of me. We had a glorious time.

They took us to a wonderful restaurant in Los Gatos, Oak and Rye, where I followed my nephew’s wife’s lead and had a fabulous tomato soup and a shaved brussle sprout salad. This was one of the tastiest and most satisfying meals of the trip.

00LosGatosShavedBrusselSprouts

00LosGatosTomatoSoupFlorentine

We were a large and noisy group, two children and five adults who had a lot of catching up to do (we had asked that our nephew’s wife’s mother also join us) and the restaurant found a large table for us outside (it was a gorgeous day) with a shade over us to keep us cool. The kids could move around and we could talk and we weren’t disturbing anyone. Friends of the family saw us dining there, and came over to chat, so it got even noisier – just more to catch up with 🙂 It was a grand reunion.

All too soon, we were saying goodbye, wishing we could stay longer but the road is calling, and we are on our way to another stop on the California coast. We hit San Francisco in the late afternoon, and get to go across the Golden Gate Bridge in perfect weather, accompanied by hundreds of people taking advantage of the perfect day to march across the bridge on foot.

00CrossingGoldenGate

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and the Tonto National Forest

There is nothing so lovely as the American Southwest in the Spring. This is a glorious day, and we are on our way to an amazing park, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, with is a huge indoor and outdoor park and museum. It is one of the best stops on our trip.

TucsonSedona

There is a huge parking lot, and we got there around the time it opens. We were still in the third row away, but the rows go on and on forever, and we wondered why so much parking? As we left, we understood. We had been there about three or four hours, and the parking lot was filling up fast, buses, travelers from every state and many nations, coming to this beautifully thought-through museum.

ArizonaSonoraDesertMuseum

One of the things we are picking up on is that everywhere we go, there are people our age, physically fit, volunteering. We saw this at the Benson – Rio Grande Valley Park in Texas, where I thought they were the happiest volunteers I had ever seen, and then again, at Tombstone, AZ, participating as characters in the daily dramas. People our age are living their dreams, and we met a lot of really happy people, working for various parks and volunteer agencies.

I volunteer in several areas, and one of my favorite is with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council. The Department of State sends delegates here to meet with counterparts in specialized areas – environment, juvenile justice, fair election processes, women entrepreneurs – it can be anything. You never know what comes next, which I love. Another part of it that I love is introducing our foreign delegates to the volunteer experience, whether it be dishing out hot meals for the homeless or packaging food for the food bank. For most, it is a new experience, and the idea of giving your time voluntarily to work to help others is a revelation. They are so often surprised at how good it feels.

This is what we are coming across again and again. At this museum, there is a volunteer passing out maps, and others selling entrance tickets. There are volunteer rangers, volunteer guides, and volunteers answering questions. They are happy, they are fit and tanned (LOL, yes, this is Arizona!) and they work for free. They are doing what they want to be doing. It is a joyful experience to find all these happy volunteers, and to benefit from their expertise. It is a joy to us; I feel so proud and humble to be a part of this kind of community.

This museum is so first rate. These are the bronze sculptures at the entry:

00ExteriorBronzeSculptures

00LizardSculptures

Museum entrance:

00EntranceMuseum

There are all kinds of walking trails, and every exhibit is also reachable by wheelchair.

Grounds-map 2014-5

The museum cactus display is gorgeous along the wonderful walking paths:

00MuseumCactusDisplay

They have a wildlife display with all kinds of snakes and frogs. This is a poisonous frog:

00WildlifeDisplayPoisonousFrog

AdventureMan and I separate; he has a mission, he wants to see the Butterfly garden and what is planted there. I take a few trails, and then head for the gift shop. I also have an agenda 🙂

In the wonderful gift shop, where I found unique and really fun gifts for grandchildren, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, I also saw two of Mary Doria Russel’s books about this area, about the legendary Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. There were also books and puzzles about bugs and desert creatures, and wonderful edibles, hot sauces, salsas, BBQ rubs. Great gifts.

00MaryDoriaRusselBooks

It is a wonderful visit, but even this early in the season, by noon, it is getting very warm. We decide to head on for Sedona, and because we are not so fond of big city traffic, we skirt Phoenix and stop for lunch at one of our favorite places, Whole Foods. What a treat!

00LunchatWholeFoodsOutsidePhoenix

We wanted to take the scenic route to Sedona, so we went through the Tonto National Forest. At the beginning, I started laughing and said to AdventureMan, “It’s a Saguaro Forest!” Later, the Saguaros stopped, and small scrubby pines began, and then taller pines, and taller, thicker pines until we were in a truly dark forest with a lot of trees. Driving was a lot of twisting and turning on this road, and we were glad when we headed out towards Sedons.

00TontoNationalForest

We knew we were getting close when we saw the beginning of the famous red rocks. This is the view from our hotel balcony:

00BeginningSedonaRedRockformations

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Generational, Geography / Maps, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tombstone, Arizona and The OK Corral

Tombstone, Arizona is hilarious. This is an entrance to the church; they have a great sense of humor about themselves and have turned a American cowboy legend into a cash cow:

00ChurchDoorInTombstone

There are all kinds of characters, pretending to be old-timey people, and stagecoaches. If you’ve any knowledge of Cowboy lore, you will know that stagecoaches carried mail and payrolls, as well as passengers, and were natural targets for robberies.

00TombstoneStagecoach

As we walk into town, we come to a group of cowboys telling people the big gun fight re-enactments will start shortly, and to buy our tickets at Wyatt’s coffee shop and go next door to the ‘saloon.’ At this point, we hear a volley of gunshots, loud bangs that go on for about 22 seconds (LOL) and so we ask “What was that?”

“Oh, that was some other gunfight. It’s over now. This one is the real one.”

We bought tickets for this ‘real’ one, and as soon as it starts, we almost groan. Really, it’s just three guys and a room, and while they act out several saloon gunfights – gun fights that really happened – they are total hams. And Tombstone is famous for the gunfight at the OK Corral, which must have been what ‘that other gunfight’ must have been.

One one hand, I applaud their creativity, creating an attraction out of next to nothing, making some money and providing some entertainment. On the other hand, by the third gunfight, it all seemed very repetitive, especially since the same actors were doing all the parts. We were rolling our eyes, but most of the audience seemed to enjoy it.

00GunfightReEnactment

00Gunfight2

00Gunfight3

This is where you buy your tickets.

00WyattsCoffeeHouseGunfight

This is where the Gunfight at the OK Corral took place:

00OKCorralGunfightSite

On our way out, we stopped again in Benson to have soft ice cream, and I had pomegranate ice cream.

00BensonIceCreamStop

I can’t imagine we will ever go back to Tombstone; it is fun, but once is enough. Unless, of course, our grandchildren want to go. There are a lot of people who are living there in trailer villages, maybe for the climate and because they can do part time odd jobs in this tourist attraction town. If it weren’t for the tourists, this town wouldn’t exist.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Generational, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment