We try to limit what we attempt, when we travel. If we try to do too much, we sometimes fail, or we get so busy trying to accomplish that we don’t really get to enjoy what we are doing. Or worse, we get cross with each other, crabby! On our vacation! So we make choices, AdventureMan wanted the Victoria Butterfly Gardens; I wanted GOOD Chinese food.
Our son knows us. When we decided to settle in Pensacola, to be near him and the coming grandchild/ grandchildren, he sat us down and told us things we needed to know about Pensacola. The first thing he told us was that there was no really GOOD Chinese food. Honestly, for me . . . well, I don’t want to say I thought twice, but no good Chinese food? Chinese food is my comfort food!
We asked the concierge at the Grand Pacific for a recommendation for GOOD Chinese food, and she, with great delight, directed us to the Fan Tan Cafe in China Town, just a short walk down Government Street. It was an easy walk, past the grand historic Empress Hotel (we didn’t stay there because the views, in my opinion, are not as good), and down one of the most fun shopping streets in the world to China Town.
We know we are getting close 🙂
The entrance to China Town on Fisgard Street
Fan Tan Cafe – it’s small, and crowded. You are bottom to bottom with the chair behind you and you are almost sitting next to the next table. It’s fun. You get to see what everyone else is eating. We were hungry, we were early and that was a good thing because we got a table. There are maybe 16 – 18 tables at the Fan Tan Cafe, and some of those are for two people. They do take reservations.
This was the absolute best. AdventureMan chose the Spicy Shrimp appetizer, and it was delicious, top to bottom. Even the bedding vegetables were delicious. This was the highlight of the meal.
We didn’t intend to order deep-fried pork. It was good, very General Tso kind of taste.
The scallops and shrimp in black bean sauce was too delicate for us. We decided everything about it was beautiful, and the problem is probably more our palate, which likes more intensity.
All in all, it was a very tasty meal. If we were to go back, which we will the next time we are in Victoria, I would try the Cantonese Chow Mein, or one of the noodle dishes for which they are famous. We saw them all around us, glistening and gorgeous, and they looked divine. Cannot wait to go back 🙂
I still miss the Taiwan Tourismo, in Jordan, where we had authentic, amazingly tasty Chinese food and never even knew how extraordinary it was. I miss the China Queen, later the Great Wall of China, in Mahboula, Kuwait, a little hole in the wall where the Chinese workers ate and I could point and say “I want that, please!” Real Chinese is different from North American Restaurant Chinese.
We are up before sunrise (having our bodies still on Central Time has its advantages) and head for Red Rock Upper Drive, where we wait for the first rays of the sun in utter privacy, except for a family of hikers, with their hiking sticks, who shout ‘good morning!’ as they hike past our viewpoint and head on up the hill.
And here it is! Our first Sedona sunrise! (We didn’t get up for any of the others, LOL)
The early light hits the red stone opposite:
And every morning, there were balloons over Sedona while it was still cool in the mornings.
It is still chilly in the early morning, but Spring has begun. By noon, it will be in the 70’s (F).
This was one of my favorite formations, in Boynton Canyon, near the hiking trails. It reminds me of Petra, and our camel treks into the lands of Lawrence of Arabia.
Lots of hiking trails here:
This totally cracked us up. We know primitive roads. We went over a road in Tunisia that Montgomery used when he flanked Rommel’s forces. THAT was primitive. I was outside the car, guiding AdventureMan over ruts as deep as our Volkswagon Bus. These roads are not paved, but they are passable. Primitive is in the eye of the beholder.
This is the only purple cactus I ever saw. Clearly it is related to the prickly pear, if it is not a prickly pear. I wonder if it is like hydrangeas; that you can change the color of the prickly pear by adding iron or something else to the soil? This was at an entrance to a new housing development that is just beginning; the houses will have pretty spectacular views.
Sedona is beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see. Of all the beautiful places, Crystal Creek park was my favorite. It had all the elements – red rock formations, a rippling creek, and a hungry heron. It also reaches a powerful vortex, at the base of Cathedral Rock, and we hiked the trail, took photos, enjoyed a lot of positive energy, but I don’t think we were sensitive to the vortex.
Red Rock State Park is another of those wonderful parks created and maintained with public funding, and manned by happy volunteers. We met several here, this wonderful guide, who gave us a first rate explanation of all the geological formations, and volunteers who ran the gift shop and museum/gallery.
Sedona has stolen our hearts 🙂
We still get restless. AdventureMan still gets calls asking him to come check something out, even goes back to Doha now and then, and I visit family. But we get so restless. We need the stimulation and challenge of other ways of seeing things, other ways of thinking, new sights, new smells, new adventures. There are so many places I have never seen!
Some people are just wired that way. I can remember, even as a young girl, being at the Juneau Airport, smelling that aviation fuel smell, and wishing I were going somewhere. It’s just the way I’m wired. I still love the smell of aviation fuel.
I am so lucky to be married to a man who indulges me. AdventureMan isn’t wired precisely the same; he is better at growing roots than I am, but he still likes to shake things up a little when it’s all same same same, day after day.
We’ve both had to adjust. I grew up in a family where when we were going, say from Germany to Italy for a vacation, we got up early and went, as AdventureMan so colorfully puts it, “balls to the walls” driving 12, 13 hours until we dropped from exhaustion. We were just intent on getting there. AdventureMan’s family traveled in shorter segments. It’s taken us about 40 years to find a happy medium. He has adjusted to sharing the driving with me. I’m a good driver, and I love driving. He goes to sleep, and I can drive for hours, it’s sort of a zen thing.
So off we went. We put over 6,500 on my two year old car, more than doubling the total mileage. It was a wondrous and joyful journey, full of surprises, full of delights, and with a couple days of truly awful driving.
We packed too much. When you are going someplace every couple days, you really don’t need a lot of clothing. I worked out of a large duffel; I would put what I needed for the next day or couple of days in a smaller bag to carry into the hotels.
At our church, we collect toiletries for the homeless population in Pensacola and the recovery population. I came back with a lot of toiletries 🙂
Our first day was to Beaumont, TX. No particular reason to stop in Beaumont, it was just a good place to stop en route to where we were going, which was The National Butterfly Center and the National Birding Center, both of which happen to be in Mission, TX. Mission is right on the border, on the Rio Grande, and I have never seen the Rio Grande before and wanted to see it.
When lunchtime came, we were just passing Baton Rouge, where one of our very favorite restaurants, Al Basha, serves mouthwatering Arabic food. It’s just off I-10, we can see it from the road and what a great way to start our journey. But as we enter, every table is filled!
No worries, the waiter hurries over and leads us to a table way in the back, against the wall, which happens to be my favorite place. They have stuffed vegetables on the menu, which AdventureMan orders in a heartbeat, and of course, too much food comes.
We first became acquainted with stuffed vegetables long ago, living in Amman, Jordan, where it was a very common dish, served to family and to guests alike. Later, living in Kuwait, my friends knew how much AdventureMan loved stuffed vegetables and would make extra for him when they were preparing food for family or gatherings. What great memories this lunch brought back!
Louisiana is a quirky state, a state we like a lot. At a gas station near Lafayette, we saw three restaurants and an antique shop, including one with Lebanese food.
By the time we got to Beaumont, it was nearly dinner time. Beaumont is an oil refining town, and the hotel was full of men working in the refineries or about to be hired to work in the refineries. It was a very male populated environment. I went to the pool, but there was a large group of men sitting out on the patio by the pool, and I didn’t stay long, I wasn’t comfortable. It reminded me of the Middle East. I don’t like being oogled.
We were still so full from our Al Basha lunch that we found a local supermarket and got salads for dinner. It was a great first day on the road.
One of the reasons we loved moving to Pensacola way back was the Mediterranean restaurant at the corner of Cervantes and Perry – long gone, and now the new addition to AK Suter Elementary School – and the we were delighted when we found it again over at the corner of 9th and Creighton, as Mediterranean Plus. The food was so good, so authentic, and every time our old Middle East hands would come into town, it’s where we would go for a nostalgic evening. We were desolate when Mediterranean Plus disappeared.
In December, as we drove down 9th from Cordova Mall toward Pensacola, we saw a sign saying “Hummus” and we checked it out. They were still renovating and getting ready for a grand opening. A week ago, our son called and said he had been there, it was open, and it was almost the same menu as Mediterranean Plus.
We went there as soon as we could. In a small strip mall with a gas station, under a red awning, Hummus is open. When you walk in, it is clean and bright, there are Middle East products on several tall white shelves, and a display case full of fabulous desserts – at reasonable prices. Three kinds of baklava! Kanafi! While they have a loyal support base among the local Muslims, the head waiter was quick to tell us that the specialities are truly Mediterranean, and that a local Jewish rabbi is one of their favorite patrons, too.
The dining room is serene in a Celadon green with framed botanical prints of palm trees, very quiet, very restrained, very welcoming.
Before we ordered our meals, we ordered mint tea, and when it arrived, it came with honey, a full pot of very hot water, which was generously refilled:
We started with falafel, perfectly delicious, home-made falafel.
I ordered the Chicken Curry Soup; AdventureMan ordered the Red Lentil Soup. He has always loved that soup, and greeted it with the delight you would greet an old friend.
I ordered my old favorite, the vegetable mezze for my main course, and AdventureMan ordered Chicken Shwarma. Total YUMMMM.
There was so much food. We packed up about half to take home, but could not resist finishing our mint tea with two of the pistachio baklava. It was the perfect ending for a wonderful celebration, the opening of a restaurant we can bring our friends to for long nostalgic Middle Eastern dinners in Pensacola.
Look for the signs along the road:
Hummus Restaurant (FaceBook)
3012 N 9th Ave
“What do you wear when it gets this hot?” they asked me, “like around the home?”
I laughed. I learned a thing or two in Tunis, in Amman, in Tabuk and Riyadh, in Kuwait and in Doha. At home, I dress like local women, in long loose dresses.
Or worse. I dress like their maids. In the souks you could find wonderful, 100% cotton dresss that were loose and flowing, and that is good in hot weather so the air can circulate. Some of the dresses were nicer, but the dresses I liked a lot for just being around the house doing what people do, like making sure the dishes are done and a meal prepped, doing a little quilting or reading . . . you could buy these great little dresses for about $3.00 in the souks. Not only were they practical – especially when you live in a house with a cat, and always put on “real” clothes just as you are about to run out the door so you don’t have any cat hair on you – but they came in great colors and prints, designs that made me happy to put them on.
Now, one of my all time favorite dresses, in purple and black, has bit the dust. I liked it because it had some geometrics, and the geometrics changed, and – it was purple. I have worn it for about six years now, and I have worn it out. I mended it several times when the underarm seams ripped:
I like this dress so much I am saving it and cutting it up so it will have another new life as a quilt 🙂
And I am thinking it is time to plan a trip back to Doha and Kuwait to replenish my hot weather dresses 🙂
We had no idea when we left home this morning that when we got to the school, all the parking spaces would be full and it would be almost impossible to find a seat in the auditorium. It was only 8:45 in the morning, and it was only the Pre-K 3’s who would be performing.
We had forgotten – Pensacola is like the Middle East. Family first, and time off for a Christmas Pageant – well, of course!
Pensacola is not like Seattle, or any of the larger cities. While spread out, it is only around 50,000 people, and the worst traffic is never that bad, not if you’ve driven in Amman, or Seattle, or Qatar, or Kuwait. You may not have to stop while the shepherd and his sheep cross the road, but you can get to downtown Pensacola from almost any part of the city in under 15 minutes.
The parking spaces were GONE. The auditorium was PACKED. Friends were greeting friends, all dressed in the reds and greens of Christmas time.
And then the children marched in, and it was barely controlled bedlam as these young stars spotted parents and grandparents and yelled “Grandpa! Here I am!” and angels and sheep and shepherds and wise men all were carefully lined up to sing their songs and tell us the Christmas Story as only 3-years-old can. Oh, it was not to be missed!
We love it that Pensacola is not a city with a lot of rushing about; people have time to go see their children in the school Christmas pageant, that the teachers take the time to herd these cats so that they can sing the songs, do the motions, and probably, if asked, give a rough outline of what happened on that first Christmas.
It’s all a matter of priorities. Pensacola, like our homes in the Middle East, places a high value on family activities, family time, and a balance of work and family where family time has a cherished place.
Once a year I get to troll the internet looking for cakes. It is so much fun. I had no idea there is so much creativity out there, so much daring. I found a wedding cake that is tilted! Something in me loved it, loved the spirit of a woman who would marry knowing life is often off-kilter and messy.
I love white roses, so this year I have sent some to myself:
Come on by, have some virtual cake with me to celebrate seven years of blogging:
And here, an elegant combination of cake and white roses:
Seven years ago in Kuwait, I started blogging. There was a wild blogging scene in Kuwait, a lively community. Blogs were candid, and many were substantial, dealing (carefully) with political and economic issues in Kuwait. I remember reading and learning, and finally gathering up my courage to write my very first entry, and it has been a recurring theme, cross-cultural communication. I learned so much from my life in the Middle East, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. I made the most amazing friends. It changed my life and my perceptions utterly.
Of the three Kuwait female bloggers who inspired me to start blogging, Jewaira has gone private, 1001 Nights is a good friend, a mother, and an author 🙂 and Desert Girl is still going strong. Mark, at 2:48 a.m. is also still going strong, so strong that he has been able to leave his full time employment and operate on a consultant basis.
Of course, as any blogger will, I sometimes think of quitting. There are days I find myself with nothing to say, nothing in my life so interesting that I think it is worth sharing, not even a news story worth noting. So I’ve had to ask myself why I continue.
I do it for myself. When I started, I had a reason and that reason still stands. I forget things. This isn’t age-related, it’s busy-life busy-world related; we forget the details.
My Mother saved all my letters from Tunisia. I remember reading them and laughing because at three, my son’s best friend in his day school was a boy he called Cutlet. I know his real name is Khalid, but Cutlet was as close as this little American boy in a French-Tunisian school could get. I had totally forgotten, until I read the letter. So my primary reason for continuing to blog is documentary – just plain record keeping, like an old fashioned diary. Noting things in my daily life or the life around me.
Even now, sometimes I see a post written long ago, usually one of our Africa trips, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia – will start getting a rush of stats. It thrills my heart. It makes it all worthwhile, knowing something I have put out there is helping others, even years later. Perhaps one day, I will quit blogging, but leave the blog up, with these informational articles.
My stats make no sense at all, one of my biggest stat gainers this year was a news article I tossed off about the prank on the South Korean pilot names after the plane crash landed in San Francisco. It just made me giggle, and I couldn’t resist printing it. It ended up with a life of its own, as many entries do – and you just never know. Someone pins an image and you get a million (ok hyperbole here) hits you never expected.
In the end, I believe that those who keep blogging do it because as Martin Luther once said, “I cannot other.” We do it because something within needs to be expressed, even if it is just some kind of daily record. I know it’s why I blog.
This morning, as I was praying for Panama – there is always a diocese listed in the daily lectionary to be prayed for somewhere in the world – I was thinking how I know where Panama is. When we are praying for Nigeria, there are names I haven’t heard of. I now Lagos, and Port Harcourt, but where is Abuja? Owerri? I go to GoogleEarth and look them up.
I struggle with how little the average American knows about geographical location. It’s just embarrassing. Through all the years I lived abroad, most of the time, unless it was Germany, people couldn’t quite place where I was living. Many had heard of Tunisia; we had troops there in World War II, and Saudi Arabia, because they had seen it often enough on the news, but the rest of the Arab Gulf, Jordan, Syria, North Africa – beyond them.
Then, on the first night of one of my grad classes, the professor handed us this map and gave us ten minutes to put in the appropriate country names. He did not, thanks be to God, ask us to put in capitals. Not a single one of us got them all, and this was a class full of nation-oriented people.
It was also on the final exam, three months later, and most of us got them all right – thanks to some fervent cramming and study groups.
Here are a couple more maps, in case you are feeling cocky. See if you can accurately fill in the name of each country:
I found this on WeatherUnderground News this morning. What scares me is that there may be more victims, many more, shepherds who work with goats, laborers, people thought to have very bad colds, maybe even pneumonia, who don’t have the kind of money to fly to London to be diagnosed. If one man spread it to two family members, imagine how many people he had contact with on that airplane flying to London.
LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) – The emergence of a deadly virus previously unseen in humans that has already killed half those known to be infected requires speedy scientific detective work to figure out its potential.
Experts in virology and infectious diseases say that while they already have unprecedented detail about the genetics and capabilities of the novel coronavirus, or NCoV, what worries them more is what they don’t know.
The virus, which belongs to the same family as viruses that cause the common cold and the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), emerged in the Middle East last year and has so far killed seven of the 13 people it is known to have infected worldwide.
Of those, six have been in Saudi Arabia, two in Jordan, and others in Britain and Germany linked to travel in the Middle East or to family clusters.
“What we know really concerns me, but what we don’t know really scares me,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the U.S.-based Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a professor at the University of Minnesota.
Less than a week after identifying NCoV in September last year in a Qatari patient at a London hospital, scientists at Britain’s Health Protection Agency had sequenced part of its genome and mapped out a so-called “phylogenetic tree” – a kind of family tree – of its links.
Swiftly conducted scientific studies by teams in Switzerland, Germany and elsewhere have found that NCoV is well adapted to infecting humans and may be treatable medicines similar to the ones used for SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and killed a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected.
“Partly because of the way the field has developed post-SARS, we’ve been able to get onto this virus very early,” said Mike Skinner, an expert on coronaviruses from Imperial College London. “We know what it looks like, we know what family it’s from and we have its complete gene sequence.”
Yet there are many unanswered questions.
Spotlight on Saudi Arabia, Jordan
“At the moment we just don’t know whether the virus might actually be quite widespread and it’s just a tiny proportion of people who get really sick, or whether it’s a brand new virus carrying a much greater virulence potential,” said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist, also at Imperial College London.
To have any success in answering those questions, scientists and health officials in affected countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan need to conduct swift and robust epidemiological studies to find out whether the virus is circulating more widely in people but causing milder symptoms.
This would help establish whether the 13 cases seen so far are the most severe and represent “the tip the iceberg”, said Volker Thiel of the Institute of Immunobiology at Kantonal Hospital in Switzerland, who published research this month showing NCoV grows efficiently in human cells.
Scientists and health officials in the Middle East and Arab Peninsular also need to collaborate with colleagues in Europe, where some NCoV cases have been treated and where samples have gone to specialist labs, to try to pin down the virus’ source.
“One Big Virological Blender”
Initial scientific analysis by laboratory scientists at Britain’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) – which helped identify the virus in a Qatari patient in September last year – found that NCoV’s closest relatives are most probably bat viruses.
It is not unusual for viruses to jump from animals to humans and mutate in the process – high profile examples include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS and the H1N1 swine flu which caused a pandemic in 2009 and 2010.
Yet further work by a research team at the Robert Koch Institute at Germany’s University of Bonn now suggests it may have come through an intermediary – possibly goats.
In a detailed case study of a patient from Qatar who was infected with NCoV and treated in Germany, researchers said the man reported owning a camel and a goat farm on which several goats had been ill with fevers before he himself got sick.
Osterholm noted this, saying he would “feel more comfortable if we could trace back all the cases to an animal source”.
If so, it would mean the infections are just occasional cross-overs from animals, he said – a little like the sporadic cases of bird flu that continue to pop up – and would suggest the virus has not yet established a reservoir in humans.
Yet recent evidence from a cluster of cases in a family in Britain strongly suggests NCoV can be passed from one person to another and may not always come from an animal source.
An infection in a British man who had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, reported on Feb. 11, was swiftly followed by two more British cases in the same family in people who had no recent travel history in the Middle East.
The World Health Orgnisation says the new cases show the virus is “persistent” and HPA scientists said the cluster provided “strong evidence” that NCoV, which like other coronaviruses probably spreads in airborne droplets, can pass from one human to another “in at least some circumstances”.
Despite this, Ian Jones, a professor of virology at Britain’s University of Reading, said he believes “the most likely outcome for the current infections is a dead end” – with the virus petering out and becoming extinct.
Others say they fear that is unlikely.
“There’s nothing in the virology that tells us this thing is going to stop being transmitted,” said Osterholm. “Today the world is one big virological blender. And if it’s sustaining itself (in humans) in the Middle East then it will show up around the rest of the world. It’s just a matter of time.”