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Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

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October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cash or Credit or Debit: Generational

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AdventureMan and I are not even typical of our generation. Living overseas, living in so many countries, we just got used to paying in cash. In our early years, even countries like France had more places that didn’t take credit cards than places that did. When it comes to buying gas in France, you’d better have a bucketful of cash ;-)

 

But even those in our generation tend to pull out their credit cards for meals out, so this week AdventureMan asked wait staff percentages of who paid cash and who paid with cards. The most common answer was around 85% paid with a card.

 

I can understand. The restaurants/stores don’t have to keep as much money on hand for change, so it is easier on them, and those who pay with a card can track their expenses. Part of me laughs and says I think we don’t want to track our eating-out expenses, and another part thinks that because we pay cash, we probably don’t indulge in extras so often, which, for us, is a good thing. If we have dessert, we normally split it.

 

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I do remember how wonderful it was to be able to pay all the tolls on the toll roads in France with a credit card, how wonderfully easy it was to use my credit card and the ATM’s in Kuwait and Qatar and Saudi Arabia – for some reason, it was like they were years ahead of the USA in banking technology, and banking by phone. But even there, in the smaller shops, you needed cash.

So I read with interest this column from The Motley Fool, on AOL News:

 

Pssst, Millennials! When You Pay, Choose Credit, Not Debit

Friends with woman holding out credit card at coffee shop
Wavebreakmedia Ltd PH29L/Alamy

Hey, millennial! Yes, you there, standing in line at the Starbucks (SBUX) counter, tapping away on your smartphone, with the button-like doodads growing into your earlobes — put away that debit card.

No, don’t worry. No one’s going to nag you about buying a cup of overpriced coffee. We all have our vices. And you’re still basking in the fresh glow of youth. At least your vices won’t hurt you as much as they’d hurt us old codgers.

But the way you’re buying your coffee — you’re doing it wrong. And you’re not alone.

Paper or Plastic?

According to a recent survey by CreditCards.com, only about 1 in 3 American consumers currently uses a plastic card — credit or debit — when buying something that costs $5 or less. Most folks still pay with cash for such small purchases, with folks ages 65 and up having the greatest fondness for paying with greenbacks (82 percent).

But when it comes to the Millennials, 51 percent use plastic to pay for such purchases.

On one hand, that’s not terribly surprising. The younger you are, the more comfortable you are paying with plastic, which didn’t gain widespread acceptance in America until the 1960s. Conversely, the older you are, the more likely you’ve been told, at some point in your life, that shopping with cash is a good way to limit your spending and encourage saving.

There’s only so much cash that will fit in your wallet, and if you limit yourself to paying in cash — you eventually run out. Old folks like me, whose memories aren’t what they used to be (and maybe never were), like this “automatic” check on spending. And as a result, CreditCards.com reports that the older a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to pay for small purchases in cash than to pull out a plastic card.

Not All Plastic Is Created Equal

Among plastic cards, nationally, consumers are about twice as likely (22 percent) to use a debit card to pay for a small purchase as to put the purchase on credit (11 percent). When the data is broken down by age group, it turns out that millennials are even more fond of debit cards than the average shopper. Consumers ages 18 to 29 use debit cards more often than any other age group when making small purchases.

But here’s the thing: Debit and credit cards may be nearly equal in their convenience of use when shopping for small items (eliminating the need to carry weighty pockets, jingling with unwanted coins). But they’re not at all equal in the financial benefits they convey to a consumer.

To cite the most obvious example, credit cards often offer you “rewards” for using them. With card companies charging retailers fat interchange fees for every transaction they process, they can afford to pay you generously when you “choose plastic.” Airline miles; “points” redeemable for cash back, account credits, merchandise, and gift cards; and just plain cash-back offers, as high as 5 percent, all make the choice between credit and debit a bit of a no-brainer. (Granted, some debit cards offer rewards of their own — but they’re rare, hard to find and usually much less generous.)

But rewards are only the most obvious monetary benefit of choosing credit over debit. Consider: When you pay for a purchase — large or small — with a debit card, that money is almost immediately deducted from your account.

What Warren Buffett Thinks

In contrast, a charge placed on a credit card is a debt that doesn’t come due — and needn’t be paid — until your credit card bill is sent to you. Depending on the date of purchase and the due date on your credit card bill, you may not have to pay that bill for as long as a month — which means you may be able to hang on to your money, and collect interest on it at your bank, for that time. (Super-investor Warren Buffett calls this concept of using someone else’s money, and collecting interest on it for your own benefit, “free float,” and deadpans that his business partner “Charlie and I find this enjoyable.”)

Granted, with the ultra-low interest rates that banks are paying on checking accounts these days, free float isn’t as profitable as it used to be — probably only pennies per credit card billing cycle. But still, free money is free money. Are you going to turn it down because you’re not being offered enough free money?

Of course, you do need to remember to pay your credit card bill on time, so as not to get hit by late fees. But as long as you can manage that, a credit card isn’t really a card you use for taking out long-term credit at all. It’s a pay-once-a-month debit card — that pays you free money every month.

The High Cost of Not Buying on Credit

Another advantage: CreditCards.com quotes Martin Lynch, director of education of the Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp. of Massachusetts, noting that “debit cards … can’t be reported to the credit bureaus and, thus, they don’t build [up] credit [ratings].” Building up a strong credit rating is crucial to a young person looking to buy his or her first car or to secure a mortgage on a starter home.

Getting charges and on-time payments, onto your credit report — to establish a track record as a reliable borrower — is therefore a good thing. It’s something you want to do as often as possible, and using a credit card to pay for small purchases is a great way to build up your credit report quickly.

Melinda Opperman, senior vice president of community outreach at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management Inc., another expert interviewed by CreditCards.com, echoes the sentiment: “We like the idea of using credit cards frequently for small, manageable expenses. This gives users the benefit of an active credit history, but leaves them with monthly bills that are small enough to pay off in full, so they don’t have to pay any interest.”

Suffice it to say, any idea that’s supported by professional credit counselors, and by the world’s third richest man, is one that millennials would be well advised to take to heart.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned, and hasn’t used a debit card in years. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Starbucks. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.

 

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, France, Generational, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Travel | Leave a comment

Moonglow in Pensacola

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

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

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

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

Pockets of Silence

Every now and then, after all these years, I can still crack my husband up by saying something unexpected.

Happy mature couple discussing their finances at home

Retirement carries some unexpected adjustments. There was a time, when he was managing a major contract in Germany, where over dinner, I once told AdventureMan I needed him to look at me and to listen. He looked at me in horror; he told me later he thought I was leaving him. No. No. I just looked at him and told him that I am very independent, but that at least once, every single day of our lives together, I need five minutes of his undivided attention.

“Five minutes isn’t much,” he said to me.

“Five minutes is more than I am getting now,” I responded. I knew he was busy, and under a lot of stress, but relationships require nurturing, and I knew I could get by on five minutes, as long as I could count on that five minutes to stay connected.

Now, years later, the shoe is on the other foot. AdventureMan LOVES retirement, and he comes into my office all the time to tell me about a new Tiger Swallowtail in his garden, or to update me on our financial worth, or to use me as a sounding board for a political item that has come up in his garden club.

There are times I need focus. All the years we were married, I had that time, and more, I had all this time to myself, and I learned how to fill and manage my time. I rarely had to coordinate anything with AdventureMan, he just trusted me to manage the house and finances and making sure everything was in its place.

Once he had time, I had to learn how to share my time. I also had to let go of a lot of control. The first time he organized and cleaned out the garage, I almost had a heart attack. He was so proud! And I was so horrified! I am very logical, and more than a little compulsive, and I knew where everything was, in its logical place, and now . . . things were, very literally, out of control. A part of me wanted to kill him, and another part of me said “hey, cool, now you don’t have to clean out the garage, he he he” but making that gain meant giving up control over where things were!

AdventureMan started cooking, and suddenly pots and pans and measuring spoons were not where they were “supposed” to be. AdventureMan took over the garden, and I danced for joy at not having to go out and water in the heat, but I lost control over what was planted out there.

It’s hard. We are both managers, and both very good at it. We’ve had to draw some lines. I’ve had to share territory I always thought of as mine, and he has had to consult with me, when he would much rather carry out his plans directly.

We’ve both had to draw some lines. We don’t touch stuff in one another’s offices. We consult. When I clean out the pantry, the first thing I do is show him the logic, even put little signs so he will know where to find things when he is cooking. I put up with things ending up in the wrong place, except for the spice drawers, where all the normal cooking herbs and in spices are in the left drawer and all the chilis and peppers and exotic herbs are in the right drawer, with all the teas. It can be irrational, but sometimes it is the smallest things that matter.

From time to time, I need a pocket of silence.

I welcome my sweet husband into my office; he is always welcome. From time to time, however, if I am working on paying bills or a blog post or designing a quilt, or trying to get my readings done for my bible study, I tell him I can listen for five minutes, and then I need a pocket of silence.

The first time I said it, he looked at me in horrified disbelief, what I was saying was so astonishing to him that he couldn’t even take it in. Once he comprehended, he started laughing, and now he tells his friends he has a wife who needs her “pockets of silence” – and I do. As he has become more relaxed and stress free, he has become chattier. As I live a life of commitments and connections in retirement, I need some times with no talking.

I need silence in my life the way some people need to be around other people hanging out. Silence refreshes me. Silence helps me focus, helps me think things through and develop a strategy. I am never bored with silence; for me silence is a resource I use with great respect and gratitude. I love my family and my friends, and then – I need a pocket of silence.

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | 5 Comments

For All Young Parents: I Salute You

Every time I see this commercial, it gives me a big grin. These little babies and children need so much attention, and we applaud the loving care their parents put into cherishing them, sustaining them, nurturing them, civilizing them, educating them, exercising them, and sharing with them until they can care for themselves.

Young parents, you are doing the toughest job in the world. We see you. We see your sacrifices, and the effects of sleep deprivation, we see you giving, giving, giving to those who cannot give back, and we are in awe of your loving patience to your children.

I also love it that men are also featured prominently as caregivers :-)

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, iPhone, Living Conditions, Parenting, Survival | | Leave a comment

The Qatari Cat Gets a New Knee

******* WARNING ********* WARNING **********

If you are squeamish at all, do not read this blog post or look at the last photo, which is graphic.

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Qatari Cat Before

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The Qatari Cat is home now, quiet and relaxed, stretched out in his favorite area. The Vet told us, as he scratched his head, that they would really like to keep him for another day, but he wasn’t acting normally. He’s all groaning and moaning and biting anything around him. They were at their wit’s end, and hated to see him so unhappy. Did we want to leave him or did we think he might be better at home?

We didn’t hesitate.

“We’ll take him home,” we said, knowing home is a quiet, safe place where the Qatari Cat can calm down and focus on healing.

Who knew? Who knew cats could bust their anterior crucial ligament? Who knew that it doesn’t repair itself, and that it would put stress on the other leg and that one would eventually tear, too?

We are learning all the time. In the old days, cats didn’t live long enough to get diabetes, to need a knee replacement. Cats went outdoors and had fatal run ins with cars, or racoons, or bad dogs, or mean people, or poisons. We’ve had five other cats in our lives together, and the Qatari Cat is the one we expected would not live so long, a tiny little street-cat with an infection when adopted.

We’ve kept him indoors (except for the rare instances, in Qatar, when he escaped, but not for long). Once, when he escaped, he climbed a tree. It was a very skinny tree, and as the wind blew and he got frightened, he kept climbing higher, until he was swaying back and forth, back and forth, and yowling at the top of his voice in pure panic.

Good thing he had that set of lungs, so I could find him. It took me another hour to talk him down out of that tree. “Qatari Cat” I said, over and over, “You are OK. You can come down,” and I would pat the tree. Over and over – you have to keep it simple for a scared cat. At long last, we locked eyes, he turned around and slowly edged his way down the tree, head first. I think that was a very scary thing for him, but he trusted me, and he came down. When he would hesitate, I would pat the tree and say “Qatari Cat, come.” He still comes when I call him and pat.

While we were still living in Qatar, he jumped from somewhere and developed a limp. From time to time, especially when the weather is cold, the limp, always the same leg, would become more pronounced. Recently, as he was trying to make a sharp turn, he screeeeeeched in pain, and after that, he had a serious limp.

The vet showed us his x-rays; his knee was totally torn. We waited until we were back from Alaska, so we could be here exactly for his reason – the Qatari Cat does best at home. He also does well at We Tuck ‘Em Inn, but he does not do well when he can smell fear and when he is fearful. When he is fearful, he is a fearful and awesome creature, spitting, hissing, biting and twisting. He instills fear in the most stalwart heart.

When we first saw him, at the vet’s office, (they were SO glad to get rid of him) he was growling and snarling, and he settled down in the car, a little, growling only now and then.

As soon as we got him home, we opened the carrier door and left him alone. Then the moaning began in earnest. He wanted to come out, but when he would turn to get in leaving position, his leg hurt, his wound hurt – a LOT, and he would let out a long, low, pitiful GROOOO-AAAAAAAA-AAAANNNNNNNNN. We had to leave him be. We had to let him do it himself.

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AdventureMan had a special treat for him, canned catfood with SALMON. It helped him move himself out of the carrier:

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And this is what his leg looks like. The instructions say it should heal in 10 to 14 days. We’re hoping he feels a lot better before then.

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July 8, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pets, Qatteri Cat, Quality of Life Issues | 1 Comment

Celebration 2014: Friday Afternoon Dancing

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

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

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

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

The Children’s Costume Contest at Celebration 2014

One of the sweetest events at Celebration 2014 is scheduled early early in the morning, so early, we missed a part of it. The families of the clans take great pride in creating their ceremonial robes with clan markings, and get the children started in the tradition early.

These children were SO adorable, and their costumes finely and lovingly wrought. They had an enthusiastic – if fairly sparse – audience at the early hour, but it was necessary with all the many different groups dancing throughout the day.

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I THINK this might have been the winner, but I am not sure. Not everything was in English, and sometimes I couldn’t understand what was said. Winner or not – adorable :-)

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June 24, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Travel | , | Leave a comment

From Juneau to Tracy Arms Fjord on AdventureBound

Taking a break from The Celebration, we get up early, drive to our Juneau friend’s house and park our car and she drives us over and drops us off to catch the AdventureBound trip out to Tracy Arms. For two weeks the weather forecasts have told us that this day will be sunny, bright and warm, and ha ha ha on us, it is cloudy and cold, but not much rain. In Juneau, not much rain is a pretty good day :-).

We meet some really fun people as we wait to board – one couple married four days, one couple of young adventurers who, like us, travel on their own as opposed to group travel or cruise ship travel. Our lively conversation made us late to board, only to discover that everyone else had booked for this “sunny” day and every seat in the cabin would be occupied. Once you sit down, that is YOUR spot, oh ugh, this is the worst kind of tour for us, but we discover we can go in and out at will and this works. We spend a lot of time outside, taking photos, watching for whale and porpoise and bear and eagles – all kinds of wildlife. It’s not so bad.

Before we leave, I shoot this photo. It’s not original; I had a similar poster once from the 1920’s or 1930’s advertising trans-Atlantic boat travel on some French line. I just love the lines:

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Juneau is landlocked, so everything that comes in or goes out goes by boat or plane. Container barges bring in larger items, and I was amazed how high they can stack a barge. I was also amazed that on top of the containers are vehicles strapped on tight; school buses, campers, snow plows – no wonder everything costs so much more in Alaska!

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These bear made me so sad. Look how skinny they are, down at the bottom of tall, steep cliffs, eating barnacles. Bear eating barnacles – they must be starving. Some of them look all molty and have fur coming off.

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I never saw these glaciers when I was little. The Mendenhall glacier is relatively large compared to the Sawyer glaciers (1) and (2) but the Sawyer glaciers are calving. The sound is unforgettable, the cracking, the thunder, and entire sections of the glacier falling into the bay. Other burgs crack off underwater, and they come up huge, whole and a sparkling, unforgettable icy deep blue:

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There is equipment going all the time at Tracy Arms to record the calving, the sights and sounds:

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Mama and baby seals catching a few rays at high noon near the glacier:

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Here is a piece breaking and falling into the water:

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You can see the tour boat is surrounded by ice and icebergs:

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The glaciers are currently neither advancing nor receding, but you can read the trail of the glacier’s recession over thousands of years in the steep, ice-scraped mountains on both sides:

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On our way home, we spot whale. You can shoot a lot of shots of a piece of whale, or where the whale was a split-second ago, LOL.

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As we reach the dock, I call our friend to tell her we are arriving and she laughs and tells me she is already on her way; she was watching the boat arrive from her place across the channel. Within minutes, she is picking us up for home made fish cakes and chop chop salad. Best of all, great conversation, lots of laughter and wonderful stories of past times in Alaska. Her family was a pioneer family in Nome before she married and came to Juneau, so she has some great tales to share. Our families have had a lot of joint adventures, in Alaska, in Germany and in Edmonds.

She also asks great questions like “how did you buy groceries in Kuwait?” and “what did you do about laundry?”, practical questions, and exactly the kinds of things that made our lives more challenging – and interesting – to us. It was a great evening.

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June 23, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Interconnected, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014 Parade Continues

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

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

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