Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.

 

CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Domme: One of the Best Days in the Dordogne

That title is misleading. We had so many best days, but later in this post you will learn why this one sticks out in my memories. Some days of the trip are cloudy, like “which day did we do this?” Other memories come out crystal clear.

(I just spent an hour of my life learning about Google’s Activity record – holy smokes! – and how, if I had had my location tracker turned on, I might have been able to provide you with the hilariously indirect routes we ended up on getting from place to place in the Dordogne. I am tempted. I don’t live a life with anything I need to hide. And yet, the thought of being TRACKED and a record being kept makes me uneasy.)

 

So arriving in Dome is kind of Wizard-of-Oz-y.  It’s a very old city, built on a high hill, and streets are old and narrow. It’s sort of like those labyrinth puzzles you used to do as a kid when you needed to get from here to there. In this case, we totally depended on the Google lady, who said “turn right here” or “go 100 feet, turn left and then immediately right at the next street.” Getting from the entry gate, at the bottom of the hill, to L’Esplanade, at the top of the hill, was an exercise in indirection and circularity.

We got to the top.  We could see our hotel.  We  had read about the parking, that there was no parking at the hotel and if you were very lucky, there might be parking on the street. There was not a single parking spot on the street. Even this late in the season, there were many tourists, and tourist buses, and some had drivers parked in no-parking places, with the engine on, ready to go and circle the city if the police came.

We decided to park in the pay lot, which had a lot of spaces. The night before, we had prepared our carry-bags with enough clothes for dinner and the next day, so we didn’t have to carry in our bags. It took us about 15 minutes to figure out the instructions. We put in the maximum in coins – I think 5 Euro, and that would take us to seven PM, when if we saw a parking space, we would move the car, and if we didn’t, we would put more money into the machine.

When we walked in, we received a very cordial and friendly greeting; the receptionist was Dutch and spoke English wonderfully. She told us that at seven, the parking machines are no longer monitored, and we are safe until ten the next morning, so that was a relief. She showed us to our room. You can see our room in the photo of L’Esplanade from the path, above; it is the corner room, one story up, and has a balcony.

The room was gorgeous. Maybe not quite so spacious as our room(s) at Domaine de la Vitrolle, but very spacious for France, and beautiful. And just wait until you see the view. My heart sang. I wanted to stay on that balcony and just soak in that view.

 

 

 

 

We can see all the way to La Roque-Gageac!

Beautiful Perigord farmlands . . .

Day is fleeting, and AdventureMan wants to explore, and rightly so. We are only in Domme for this one night. It was hard for me to leave that balcony; the view just sang to my heart.

Domme is walkable, and beautiful. There is something else about Domme – there are cats, lots of cats, and there are dishes out, hidden under benches, or visible on a step up to a house, or at the side of a doorway into a church. I imagine the cats keep the rats away, but it is lovely to see them repaid so generously and lovingly. The cats all looked very well fed.

Here is another church built in the same style as that of the church we saw in Audrix. I’m going to have to find out about this architecture. Domme is an old Templar town; I am wondering if this style is an indication of a Templar population?

 

 

Look at this barrel roof! Is that not beautiful?

 

A view of the church from the market square. We attended the market the next morning, but it was very small, and there is only so much hand-made soap I can buy!

The above photo was taken from in front of a very cool bookstore, which even had a large English section. They had thousands of books in all genres, all languages, and new and used books all together. It was a little bit of heaven, right there on the main square.

 

 

 

Actually, I lost my husband. He went into the bookstore, I took photos. I went into the bookstore, he wasn’t there! I tried to call him, and it did not go through. I knew if I went back to the hotel, we would eventually fine one another, but I kept looking, and we were both on the main square, just in different places. I too this photo in front of the wonderful book store.

 

 

Beautiful city coat-of-arms, no?

This was a wonderful place for us. We found this building, with these arched windows (which I love) and my husband found a plaque telling us it was the former mint, the man who struck the coinage for the area. As we went around the corner, looking in the window, AdventureMan said (very brave man!) “I think we need to go in there.” I had not been paying a lot of attention, I was looking in a window where the you could see the jeweler’s studio, with works in progress, which was fascinating. My husband was right, there were some beautiful pieces. I tend to buy jewelry in places just like this, where you can find original pieces, and, well, jewelry and silk scarves transport well. 😉

Inside, we met the jeweler’s son. As I picked out some pieces, my husband and him started a conversation, and as it got more interesting, I joined in. He talked about his family coming to Domme to seek new opportunities and new markets, and how wonderfully it had worked out for them.

I found the lovely chain-mail inspired neck;ace below in the tip of my stocking on Christmas morning 🙂

We talked about all kinds of social issues in France, and economic issues. We were all very cordial. At one point, Julien paused and then asked us, very haltingly, “You seem to be such nice people. How could you have elected a President like Trump?” We grimaced; it is a question Europeans ask us a lot. How could a country with the values we claim to share elect a man with no moral compass? He was horrified at what is happening in our country, and sad at our descent into corruption.

It was a hard conversation, and we all hung in there. At the end, we all hugged, and hoped for a better, more peaceful, less greedy world in the months and years to come. Sometimes the hardest conversations are those most worth having.

 

Meanwhile, back at L’Esplanade, we were eager to see what dinner would have to offer. L’Esplanade is well known for excellent cuisine, and we had reserved for dinner back when we made our hotel reservation. The dining room is lovely.

 

We think the settings are beautiful. There is a room where you can go have cocktails if the dining room is crowded and you have to wait, but tonight we only share the dining room with four other parties.

We order from the fixed menus. Our first course comes, a celery veloute’. It is a cream of celery soup, you can see it in the center of that great big black plate with a little recess in the center for the soup.

 

This was my main course, a little trout steak, decorated with a . . .potato chip. The little cubes of sweet potato were delicious.

AdventureMan had duck, again, decorated with a potato chip. He said the taste of the duck was exquisite.

His dessert was “Fig Three Ways” or maybe five, we couldn’t figure it out.

I loved my dessert, the raspberry sorbet part. It was decorated with passion fruit.

At the end of the meal, we were served this perfect little cookies.

This was another very quiet, very dark night of great sleep.

The next morning, we had breakfast in what I would call the garden room, and the owner’s family were all there, too, eating breakfast on their way to school, work, etc. It was really fun just being able to see them all eat, converse, be a normal family eating their breakfast together in the hotel. I loved it.

January 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, France, Geography / Maps, History, Interconnected, Political Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , | Leave a comment

Breakfast at Domaine de la Vitrolle

It would have been a false economy to skip breakfast at the Domaine de la Vitrolle. Yes, you can grab a cup of coffee at a local supermarket, and a croissant, and go your way for very little, but you miss the whole joy of a really good petit dejeuner.

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I like people, I get along with people, but oh, I am such an introvert. I crave quiet time, and I love privacy. I treasure privacy.

For me, this hotel stay was restorative. All that socializing on the Viking Forseti! All that chatting and cordiality! Yes, I can do it. It takes its toll.

We have the dining room all to ourselves, and the table is beautiful and the food is beautiful. Look at this beautiful bread.  It tastes good, too!

 

See the apple juice at our plates? Pressed from apples grown on the domaine, where you can smell apples from the minute you drive in. They also have fields of grapes, and their own vintner, I understand. You can buy their juice and cider at the little store at the Domaine de la Vitrolle.

See the little plate of meats, and the separate little plate of cheeses? Lovely! Little pots of jam. Little pats of unsalted butter. Fruits. Over on a side table you can choose from cereals, and make some toast.

 

Croissants and pain au chocolat arrive in their own basket, still warm.

For me, this is what I love the most. Coffee and warm milk, served in separate pitchers. I love it that I can pour in a lot of milk and it doesn’t damage the heat of the coffee. I hate tepid coffee; but who serves warm milk anymore? Domaine de la Vitrolle won my heart with their coffee service.

We also got a bit of solid gold information before we headed out for the day. The manager tells us “there are three supermarkets in LeBugue, just turn right when you get to the bridge and they will be on your right.”

We are on the road for several days, and we like to have snacks with us, and to be able to eat local treats from the area. The supermarket format is also easy for us – mostly, a supermarket is a supermarket wherever you go, and you find what you want, go to a counter and pay for it.  This Intermarche turned out to be one of our favorite places. We went first thing in the morning, and then we went back late in the afternoon and picked up food for dinner, so we wouldn’t have to go out.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You go all the way to France and you don’t want to go out for dinner? This is why I love traveling with my husband; we share some of the same oddities. We love travel, we love seeing what is available for people to buy, we love eating lunch out, but by the end of the day – we’re ready to settle in. We don’t want to wait until seven for restaurants to open, and then spend almost two hours eating a meal that is heavier than we want to eat.

We can pick up salads, pate, sandwiches, pastries, pieces of pie, macaroons with chocolate, tangerines . . . little napkins, forks, knives – it’s all so easy. We get to pick our own meals and amounts, and then, we have time to make notes at night, or read, or look at the map for the next day’s adventures, or even take a lovely hot relaxed bath in a huge bathtub. The making notes is critical; there is so much detail we forget, and when I can write some of it down, it makes for fun later on, reliving moments we had forgotten.

At the Intermarche, we also found something really fun – a Lego advent calendar for our grandchildren. It took a little doing, as there was no price on it and we had to track it down, but we are so delighted to have found it. My husband found some amazing macaroons with dark chocolate bottoms; we had one a day and they lasted the entire trip, oh how we enjoyed them! I found Prunes from Agen, famous prunes, fat and juicy, and I brought them back and used them in my Christmas fruit cakes. People were so kind and so helpful. It would not surprise me if we go back for another visit.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Advent, Blogging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Years In A French Village

 

Sometimes I tease my husband about going on and on about a series he watches. He watches a lot of programs and movies via the internet. I tend to read books. I mentor a class requiring a lot of reading, and I run a book club. OK. I’m “bookish.” I always have been. I own it.

 

He went on and on about A French Village, until he had to skip Season 3 because he couldn’t access it, and went on to Season 4 and had problems understanding what was going on because significant events had happened in Season 3.

 

As I was trying to find a way to work around it, or find the most economical way to watch it – for him – I started watching the first episode. AdventureMan joined me. The beginning is full of events, it moves fast and – did I mention it is entirely in French with English subtitles?

 

I speak French. Well, I used to be fluent, now I am slow, and have forgotten a lot of little grammatical details. I can still speak, I can still understand, when people will speak more slowly. A French Village was so French it took my ear a long time to regain all that I have lost; I had an idea what they were saying but was not really tracking with accuracy. I needed the subtitles.

 

The first year, the first episode starts off with a normal day in the village; the population knows the Germans are miles away, approaching Villenueve, a fictional village in the Jura, close to the Swiss border. No one seems very concerned until all of a sudden, the Germans are there, in the village, and all hell breaks lose. We meet our main characters, Dr. Larcher (who becomes, by default, the village mayor) and his wife, Hortense, Lucienne, a school teacher, Raymond Swartz, his wife, Jeannine, and his lover, Marie, and several more characters.

 

People are herded into the church, where Dr. Larcher tends to the wounded under chaotic conditions, and during which he also agrees, without enthusiasm, to become mayor and to try to create some way to protect the people of the village from the demands of the Germans.

 

It is confusing – a lot like it would be in real life. At the beginning, it is a struggle to figure out who all the people are, but . . . you have seasons and seasons and episodes and episodes to figure it all out.

We started watching on Amazon Prime, for seasons 1 – 4, then subscribe to Mhz ($7.99/mo) for season 5 and six, but for season 7, we had to pay Amazon Prime $14.99 for these final episodes. Mhz was a good find for us; it has several foreign mystery and dramatic series – and movies – and is right up our alley. The Amazon payment was annoying, but we figured was the cost of lunch for one person, not such a large sum for seven episodes.

 

There are SEVEN seasons of A French Village. The first five years have 12 one hour episodes each. Seasons 6 and 7 are shorter, and deal with tying up loose ends.

 

What we love about this series (as well as the sheer French-ness of it all) is that the characters are allowed to be textured and layered. No one is all good, or all bad. They make mistakes. They have human failings and weaknesses. They have some moments of heroic goodness. They are very real people. Well, maybe very real French people; there are a lot of complicated love interests throughout the series, some of which are inexplicable and to me improbable, but I just shrug my shoulders and say “It’s a French production,” and guess that their ways are not our ways.

 

It’s a quick education to the experience of WWII, The German blitz of France, of Belgium, of the Netherlands, Poland, and the dread among German officers of serving on the eastern front. It’s horrifying to watch the passive response among the French to the round-up and eviction of the Jews (read a little of our own history before you go getting all judge-y), the petty competition for foods in the black market, the role of “renunciation” and anonymous letters accusing friends and neighbors of dark deeds, and the endless bickering which went into the cooperative operations for the French resistance.

 

 

Who collaborates? Almost everyone at one point or another; the consequences of standing on your principles are often fatal.

 

It is a little uncomfortable seeing Americans through the eyes of the French. They are not so impressed with our efforts in North Africa, they are not so happy to have Americans in their town. The sole episode of rape in the entire series involves American soldiers and a French girl, not Germans.

 

We cannot wait for evening, when we can watch two or three or four episodes. We are slowing down a little in Season Seven, not wanting to series to end. It has been a wonderful excursion into a whole new and different world. At the end of which, I am understanding the French-spoken-at-normal-speed much more easily, and even spotting a small flaw or two in the translations.

 

There are two episodes I love. One involves a parade on November 11th. The other involves the execution of two Villeneuve inhabitants, one an unscrupulous and despicable mayor and the other a heroic leader of the Resistance. I know, I know, you’ll have to watch it yourselves to see what I mean.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, France, Interconnected, Social Issues, Survival | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Texas Solution to Mass Shootings – More Guns

Forgive me for going political, but occasionally I have to let off steam.

 

5d4e00a117e5d74adc02fe13-750-586.jpg

I was raised with guns. My husband fought in Vietnam; we have great respect for weapons of all kinds, and when they are needed, and the damage they can inflict. We believe in protecting ourselves.

We don’t need an assault rifle.

When the governor of Texas pulled a sad face and talked about the need to protect Texans, without getting specific, the hair on the back of my neck started going up. Another politician hiding what he is really saying, I thought. When pushed, he referred to the eight new laws going into effect that very day, the same day another angry white American-born male had shot and killed seven people and wounded many more.

He carried an assault rifle. First killed was a policeman making a traffic stop.

The gun laws that the governor referred to as going into effect, each and every law, protect gun ownership and allow guns legally to be carried in more places.

Churches, synagogues and mosques.

Schools.

God forbid.

More guns, in my experience, do NOT make us more safe.

While we were with the military, guns which were not being used for training purposes (or war) were locked up. Every base, every unit has it’s own weapons storage center, kept under lock and key, and those are the rules for professionals with a huge familiarity with guns, and their proper handling, and their capabilities.

Any person can become temporarily insane. I myself have had moments when I knew I was capable of killing, especially to protect my child, or another innocent. None of us know what we are capable of under extreme stress or circumstances.

I can imagine NO circumstance under which it would be appropriate for me to carry an assault weapon.

Here, courtesy of CNN, are the eight new gun laws the governor cited in his lily-livered bow to the NRA:

(CNN)

A series of new firearm laws go into effect in Texas on Sunday, just hours after a shooting left seven people dead in the western part of the state.

The laws will further loosen gun restrictions in a state that’s had four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, including the El Paso shooting last month, when a gunman stormed a Walmart and killed 22 people.
The new measures were all passed during the 2019 legislative session, which ended in June.
Here are the sweeping firearm laws going into effect:

Weapons on school grounds

House Bill 1143 says a school district cannot prohibit licensed gun owners, including school employees, from storing a firearm or ammunition in a locked vehicle on a school parking lot — provided they are not in plain view.
Kris Brown, president of gun violence prevention advocacy group Brady, criticized the bill going into effect September 1.
“Many states took the opportunity in the last two years to learn lessons from the tragedies in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, and the every day gun violence that plagues our citizens, and enacted new laws to protect public safety through expanded background checks and extreme risk laws,” Brown said.
“Texas lawmakers, instead … doubled down on an NRA led agenda to encourage guns everywhere, no matter the risks and costs to safety.”

Marshals at schools

House Bill 1387 loosens restrictions on how many armed school marshals a school district can appoint.

Guns in foster homes

House Bill 2363 allows some foster homes to store firearms and ammunition in a safe and secure place for personal protection. Proper storage must be followed, the bill says, including putting firearms and ammunition together in the same locked locations.

Weapons in apartments

House Bill 302 bans homeowners or landlords of rental property from prohibiting residents from lawfully possessing, carrying, transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in the property.

Handguns during a disaster

House Bill1177 prohibits residents from being charged with a crime for carrying a handgun while evacuating from a state or local disaster area.

Firearms in places of worship

Senate Bill 535 clarifies the possession of firearms at churches, synagogues or other places of worship. It allows licensed handgun owners to legally carry their weapons in places of worship — and comes nearly two years after a gunman killed 26 people at Sutherland Springs church.
“We have learned many times over that there is no such thing as a gun free zone. Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what,” state Sen. Donna Campbell, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm.”
The bill will make things clearer, she said.
“The existing statute is confusing and clunky when it comes to clearly stating the rights of licensed Texans to carry on the premises of a church. This bill provides clarity of the Legislature’s intent to treat churches in the same manner as other privately owned establishments in Texas.”
A landlord cannot forbid tenants to carry or store guns on the rental premises. People can carry guns, by law, into houses of worship, even those where mass shootings have occurred. And guns are allowed in foster homes?? Good grief.
On a brighter note, Walmart announced to day restrictions on selling certain kinds of ammunition; restricting gun sales may be around the corner.
This is NOT a mental health issue. This is an issue where normal but angry people have access to weapons which kill many people, quickly.  The first step is to re-instate the assault weapon ban. Now.

September 3, 2019 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Safety, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Survival, Values | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Send Money to the Sudan”

I totally get it. My bank is trying to protect me. I am “elderly” and I am sitting in the bank officer’s office asking to wire money to my friend in South Sudan.

“I need to talk with somebody,” she says and comes back with a man. I manage, barely, to keep from rolling my eyes.

“You know,” he tells me sternly, “We are forbidden to send money to the Sudan. It’s on the prohibited list.”

“Yes,” I say brightly, “The Sudan is on the prohibited list. The South Sudan, and entirely different country, is not.”

They want to make sure I know what I am doing. They tell me true stories of people here in Pensacola sending money to scam artists. Thousands of dollars. How do I know this person?

I explain he was a State Department International Visitor on their IVLP program, that he has attended church with me, is a renowned journalist, that he has dined in my home. They are looking at me with pity.

“This isn’t thousands of dollars,” I tell them. “This is school tuition, he only asks for help this one time to keep his daughters in school. The South Sudan is going through tumultuous times.”

“I know this person,” I re-assure them. “I believe I am sending money to my friend,” I tell them. “I can afford this risk; I can afford to lose this money,” I tell them.

I have to also tell this to the international wire-banking account manager who they get on the line. We go over it all again. I sign all the papers.

A couple hours later, I get a call asking if I am really sure. What are the names of the daughters? I look up our correspondence and provide the names. The bank information is in Juba, where my friend lives, not Nigeria, not anywhere other than where my friend lives.

In only two days, my friend notifies me that the funds have arrived, and he is profoundly grateful.

A week later, my bank calls me again, concerned as to whether the funds made it to my friend, and how I felt about the experience. They are still concerned. I assure them the funds have reached my friend, he has contacted me, thanked me. I do not tell them my friend continues to raise his voice at a time when the government is transitioning, and he is trying to be a voice of reason and civility.

There is a part of me that totally understands the banks need to protect their customers, and how gullible I might appear to them. And there is a part of me that despairs at our fear of the stranger, at our fear of being taken, and at our ignorance, not even knowing that there is a Sudan, and that there is a new country called the South Sudan.

Four times in my life I have been asked to help with school expenses, in tough times, to people we know in four different countries. Four times my husband and I have wired money to people who only want to give their children a chance at a better life. We have always been thanked, We have never been asked again.

I met a woman whose theory was that none of the money that came her way was hers, that it was God’s money and she was merely the steward; it passed through her hands on the way to where God wants it to go. It helps me with requests like this, from people I know. It helps me with the homeless on the streets of Pensacola, knowing I am to freely, freely give, and God will see that it gets where it needs to go.

July 25, 2019 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Cultural, Customer Service, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Money Management, Social Issues, South Sudan | Leave a comment

“Do You Have a Heartbeat?”

This morning in Pensacola the temperature was a cool 71 degrees F. and the humidity was low. It makes all the difference in the world.

“How’s your day?” I asked my friend in the pool at the YMCA, and she grimaced. “I’m off to a bad start,” she said, “I hung my suit and towel and shoes on the line outside, and after the rain last night, everything was soaked this morning.

(We really needed the rain, and we got a soaker of a storm. Today, everything is blossoming in our yard and happy, moonflowers, African Irises, Ginger, plumbago, roses – they respond to a good soaking by blooming in delight.)

I grinned at her. “Did you wake up this morning? Do you have a heartbeat? Are you breathing? Are you here at the YMCA?” I was heartless, and persistent. She laughed.

I talked about the countries I’ve lived in; how in my first African country, Tunisia, back in the day, people competed for our garbage. My cleaning lady asked permission to take glass jars with lids, to take tuna cans. She asked that I give her any clothes I didn’t want. In the Middle East, there were restaurants where people waited near parked cars to beg for the leftovers we carried. Anything. Anything would do.

Some people didn’t have a towel, much less a swim suit, or shoes to hang on a line.

We live in the midst of plenty. Even Tunisia, when we went back twenty five years later, didn’t have the poverty we saw when we lived there. We didn’t see clubbed feet, we didn’t see hunched backs, we didn’t see crossed eyes. The little villa we had lived in had a second floor. There were signs everywhere of prosperity. We didn’t see any beggars, not one.

When I get all wrapped around the axel about the state of civility in my country, about our abuses at the border, about our increasing bureaucratic hardness-of-heart toward the least of these, I need to stop and take a deep breath and spend time acknowledging how very blessed we are. It gives me strength to go on fighting.

July 24, 2019 Posted by | Africa, Aging, Beauty, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cultural, Exercise, Gardens, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Tunisia | Leave a comment

“How Do We Cope With the Ignorance of the American Citizen?”

 

 

I had a group in town this last week, a group I loved, and the head of the GCCDC did a fabulous itinerary for them, matching their needs for information with the best resources available in Pensacola. I am proud to say that Pensacola did herself proud taking care of these visitors, giving them meetings with people who understand their particular needs and facing similar challenges. The focus of this group was governance and fiscal responsibility; I always love these subjects and learn a lot with every visit I facilitate.

The group was friendly, and made friends everywhere they went. They were superb ambassadors for their country.

I thought the group coffee was going particularly well; important topics were being discussed openly. Then one of our local participants asked one of my favorite questions:

“What about your visit to our country has surprised you the most?”

There were several answers about the kindness of the people, the beauty of the area, and then one very experienced and thoughtful delegate said “Please, tell me, how do we cope with the ignorance of the American citizen?”

By this, he was referring to the fact that although his country and our country have long been close allies, most Americans have no clue where the country is on the map, much less the serious issues and challenges which have faced this country for decades. A few might know the name of their leader.

It’s not as if we don’t have resources. We can Google anything. We can find enormous amounts of information of world geography and events. We don’t. Our schools teach a very limited amount of world geography, world history, world civilization, with little emphasis on any importance of understanding how our nation intersects with others.

His question echoes in my mind.

I once thought as more Americans lived overseas, as they travelled, as a nation our policies would broaden, become more sophisticated, more global, more oriented to the greater good.

While there are many people still working toward the goal of the greater good, I am feeling like moving forward has mostly halted; that the concept of “the greater good” has lost its compelling motivation to the reversion to a narrow focus on national interest.

I fear for the lack of international studies and understanding of global geography being taught our children, that the ignorance of today might be compounded in the citizens of tomorrow.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Jordan, Pensacola, Political Issues, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

When Nothing Means Something

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 10.54.27 AM.png

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