Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Grieving for Damascus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A restaurant nearby the Talisman:

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Breakfast at the Talisman:

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The historical nearby Bab, or gate:

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A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:

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Streetside bakery:

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

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A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:

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

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

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Inside Naranj

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A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya

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A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:

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

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

 

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

What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently

The outcome of the recent election has not been a positive thing for everyone. Fuzzy headed liberal thinkers like me have some hard work to do in the next four years, feeding the hungry, making sure the homeless have a warm place on a cold night, protecting our drinking water, our drugs, protecting the air we breathe (what? you didn’t think all that regulation was for you?) and protecting against the removal of financial protections against those shenanigans by banks and financial institutions which  brought us the great recession that peaked during the last year of the second Bush administration.

We will be the guard-dogs against gerrymandering, and against the stripping of human rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, protection against child abuse, spousal abuse and animal abuse. We will insist that the laws are enforced, equally, and do our best to protect against bad legislation.

Meanwhile, this wonderful article appeared in the HuffPost, well worth a read. Successful people have some really healthy habits and attitudes.

What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently

(Dr. Travis Bradberry 

Author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and president of TalentSmart, world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence

Achievement rarely produces the sense of lasting happiness that you think it will. Once you finally accomplish the goal you’ve been chasing, two new goals tend to pop up unexpectedly.

We long for new achievements because we quickly habituate to what we’ve already accomplished. This habituation to success is as inevitable as it is frustrating, and it’s more powerful than you realize.

The key to beating habituation is to pursue, what researchers call, enduring accomplishments. Unlike run-of-the-mill accomplishments that produce fleeting happiness, the pleasure from enduring accomplishments lasts long after that initial buzz. Enduring accomplishments are so critical that they separate those who are successful and happy from those who are always left wanting more.

Researchers from the Harvard Business School studied this phenomenon by interviewing and assessing professionals who had attained great success. The aim was to break down what these exceptional professionals did differently to achieve both long-lasting and fulfilling success.

The researchers found that people who were both successful and happy over the long term intentionally structured their activities around four major needs:

Happiness: They pursued activities that produced pleasure and satisfaction.

Achievement: They pursued activities that got tangible results.

Significance:
 They pursued activities that made a positive impact on the people who matter most.

Legacy: They pursued activities through which they could pass their values and knowledge on to others.

Lasting fulfillment comes when you pursue activities that address all four of these needs. When any one of them is missing, you get a nagging sense that you should be doing more (or something different).

The behaviors that follow are the hallmarks of people who are successful and happy because they address these four needs. Try them out and see what they do for you.

1. They are passionate.
 Jane Goodall left her home in England and moved to Tanzania at age 26 to begin studying chimpanzees. It became her life’s work, and Goodall has devoted herself fully to her cause while inspiring many others to do the same. Successful, happy people don’t just have interests; they have passions, and they devote themselves completely to them.

2. They swim against the current. There’s a reason that successful and happy people tend to be a little, well, different. To be truly successful and happy, you have to follow your passions and values no matter the costs. Just think what the world would have missed out on if Bill Gates or Richard Branson had played it safe and stayed in school or if Stephen King hadn’t spent every free second he had as teacher writing novels. To swim against the current, you have to be willing to take risks.


“To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.”
– Carl Jung

3. They finish what they start. Coming up with a great idea means absolutely nothing if you don’t execute that idea. The most successful and happy people bring their ideas to fruition, deriving just as much satisfaction from working through the complications and daily grind as they do from coming up with the initial idea. They know that a vision remains a meaningless thought until it is acted upon. Only then does it begin to grow.

4. They are resilient. To be successful and happy in the long term, you have to learn to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again, all without flinching. In a recent study at the College of William and Mary, researchers interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs and found that the most successful among them tended to have two critical things in common: they were terrible at imagining failure, and they tended not to care what other people thought of them. In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs put no time or energy into stressing about their failures as they see failure as a small and necessary step in the process of reaching their goals.

5. They make their health a priority. There are an absurd number of links between your health, happiness, and success. I’ve beaten them to death over the years, but the absolute essential health habits that successful and happy people practice consistently are good sleep hygiene (fights stress, improves focus, and is great for your mood), eating healthy food (helps you to focus), and exercise (great for energy levels and confidence).

6. They don’t dwell on problems. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. By fixating on your problems, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinder performance. However, by focusing on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you can create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Successful, happy people don’t dwell on problems because they know that they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

7. They celebrate other people’s successes.
 Insecure people constantly doubt their relevance, and because of this, they try to steal the spotlight and criticize others in order to prove their worth. Confident people, on the other hand, aren’t worried about their relevance because they draw their self-worth from within. Instead of insecurely focusing inward, confident people focus outward, which allows them to see all the wonderful things that other people bring to the table. Praising people for their contributions is a natural result of this.

8. They live outside the box.
 Successful and happy people haven’t arrived at where they are by thinking in the same way as everyone else. While others stay in their comfort-zone prisons and invest all their energy in reinforcing their existing beliefs, successful people are out challenging the status quo and exposing themselves to new ideas.

9. They keep an open mind. Exposing yourself to a variety of people is useless if you spend that time disagreeing with them and comforting yourself with your own opinions. Successful, happy people recognize that every perspective provides an opportunity for growth. You need to practice empathy by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes so that you can understand how their perspective makes sense (at least, to them). A great way to keep an open mind is to try to glean at least one interesting or useful thing from every conversation you have.

10. They don’t let anyone limit their joy.
 When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When successful, happy people feel good about something that they’ve done, they don’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Bringing It All Together

People who are successful and happy focus on activities that address a variety of needs, not just immediate achievements.

What other habits can make you happy and successful in the long term? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

January 17, 2017 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Here are some glimpses of Doha in transition:

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

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

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

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

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Old Kharaba Mosque:

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The Beehive Souk where the Honey Man had his shop:

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A shop in the Gold souk

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Khanjar in the old Doha Weapons Museum

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Building the new souks at Al Waif

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Doha Corniche building with mosque in a niche on facade

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

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

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Doha coffee maker

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

Wrapping up the Year in New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

“If Not Now, When?”

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(This is not the actual slide; the YMCA slide is indoors, and has two loops)

Our brand new YMCA has opened in Pensacola, and it has TWO pools – and a water slide.

Yesterday, there was one swimmer and one wallower as I entered the swim area for water aerobics with two of my friends. This was the perfect time. I asked the life guard if he could open the water slide long enough for us to go down.

My friends looked at me like I had grown a second head.

“If not now, when?” I asked them. “We’re not getting any younger. Who knows, tomorrow we might not be able!”

They were game. They followed me up the stairs, then others began to follow. It occurred to me that there was no going back, and that I had put myself in this position, where I couldn’t back out.

The lifeguard turned on the gush of water that lubricates and speeds your ride through the tube. I didn’t wait to let fear claim me, I jumped into the entry and went.

It was dark. It was fast. It was terrifying. You come out twisted and disoriented, not sure which way is up. It’s a lot like being born – there is NO light in the tube, and when light appears, there is a big gush of water as you are thrown out into the pool. I cam up sputtering.

Everyone did. We all looked proudly at one another and agreed that we are glad we did it – once. And never again.

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Exercise, Experiment, Fitness / FitBit, Humor, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , | 2 Comments

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

“We see it all the time.”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Boys, It’s a Great Day for the Confederacy”

This is an interlude post, not a trip post. This is a social issues post, and a very personal post. Just skip over this; like I’ve said, it’s personal.

This is what we say we believe. This is what believers believe:

Matthew 25:35-40New International Version (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

This is what we believe. We are told that belief/faith is nothing without actions.

We are horrified. We are stunned, of course, by another election where a candidate wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college. We are stunned by the divisions in our country. We are stunned at all the hatefulness coming out of hiding, people proudly exposing racist and sexist beliefs in superiority and joy. Good Christian people so full of hate for the Other.

What shocks me is not only that the most vicious and vulgar candidate won, but also that the winners are so jubilant and so nasty.

AdventureMan had just listened to a National Public Radio article about Francis Ford Coppola and his famous movie “The Godfather;” he was in the mood for Italian food. We headed to our favorite place, and were seated before we realized we were sitting next to a table of true Southern Good Old Boys, and they didn’t care who heard what they had to say. We hadn’t been there long, when another entered and came to their table to be welcomed with “Boy, this is a great day for the Confederacy!” They found the safety pin movement hilarious. They had a lot to say about liberal thinking, about race, and about women. They talked about the spread of red on the map, the pockets of blue and the heavy blue of the cities and coastlines, implying it was racial.

What we should have done is ask to have our table changed. As it was, we listened to opinions that made us feel tarnished and dirty. We had the rest of our lunch packed up and got out as soon as we could.

I had my own moment of joy yesterday as I learned that Planned Parenthood is getting record-setting donations, and that many people are donating in the name of Mike Pence, notorious for his anti-women positions on reproductive rights. For each donation, he gets a thank-you note. That just tickles my heart.

Those of us who stand with The Other, we have our work cut out for us. Who will protect the food we eat? Who will insure we don’t have another housing meltdown, thanks to unregulated banks and loan associations? Who will protect the health of the poor? Who will measure pollution in our rivers and seas, and regulate emissions from factories and sewage plants? Who will protect us from chemicals in the air, and make sure our railways are safe?

Who will work to bring female salaries into full parity with men? Who will enforce laws in a way that every United States citizen is equal before the law, and that they are not differentiated by skin color or religion? Who will protect us from greedy pharmaceutical companies marketing their drugs to people who don’t need them, or using harmful components?

Who will give the poor and middle class the opportunities they need to climb the economic ladder?

Those of us who can, are identifying the NGO’s that are holding the line against corruption and the exploitation of the weakest members of our society, and budgeting so we can continue to fight the good fight. When you have a government of thugs, that is no easy task.

The saddest prayer of all “Lord, who is my neighbor?”

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Dinner at La Palanca, Giudecca

There is a freedom to being retired, a lovely freedom, you begin to care a lot less about “should.” Like, “OMG, we’ll only be in Venice for three days we SHOULD ________” and there are a million things to fill in the blank. We’ve actually been in Venice before, and that takes off a lot of pressure. When we feel, in late afternoon, like a nap before dinner, we don’t feel guilty, we take that nap.

After napping, we know where we want to go, we’ve read about it on Trip Advisor and passed it several times, La Palanca, right by one of the vaporetto stops. La Palanca does not serve dinner, but they do serve little snacks, and after our wonderful lunch at Rosa Rossa and our Tiramisu at the cafe, we aren’t interested in eating a big dinner, a snack is fine with us.

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This is the only photo I could take; this is the bar where people are gathered. There is a party of ten or so back where we are sitting, all old friends and neighbors, drinking, eating snacks. Just after I took this photo, more and more people come in, almost all standing around this counter where wine, beer and little open faced sandwiches are served continuously. We were there a couple hours, we never felt out of place, although everyone else knew each other. One man had his little dog with him, and the dog was a big hit.

If we were going to live in Venice, I think we would like living in Guidecca, where there are not so many tourists, and life seems to be more normal. We like the neighborhood feel, and we don’t mind the vaporetto rides.

We shared a grilled caprese (tomatoes, basil and mozzarella di bufolo) sandwich, then, later, saw a tray of shrimp with onion coming out, and AdventureMan got a couple of those. The onions and the shrimp were pickled; it was a small treat, but memorable.

La Palanca does a great lunch time business, and had we not gone to Rosa Rossa, we would have tried to eat a lunch here. They get great reviews.

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After leaving, we took a last vaporetto ride by night, and by the time we returned, the neighborhood party at La Palanca had spilled out onto the large sidewalk along the canal. It was a Thursday night, maybe they are all celebrating that the weekend is near.

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Italy, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Travel, Venice | , | Leave a comment

“You Will Eat Every Bite, and You Will Smile”

We wander the streets, following Guido Brunetti’s path, and then wander back towards San Marco and our shuttle back to the hotel. We’ve spent the day wandering, on foot and on vaporetto, and we are beginning to feel a need for a nap before dinner. Wandering in Venice is sheer delight:

 

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When we get to where the shuttle is supposed to be, there are, literally, hundreds of touristy looking people, and fortunately, several Viking people. We ask about the shuttle back, and they say it will come in half an hour. We head for the nearest cafe and check to make sure it has a ladies room, which it does, but oh-my-goodness, no seat, no lid, and a pull thing to flush, just like the old days when we lived in Germany when I was a kid.  These people know the value of location – take a look at the prices.

 

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The waiter was shocked! Shocked! when we asked for ice cream. No! No! Never in October! (LOL, we didn’t know!) I ordered a coffee and AdventureMan ordered a Tiramisu.

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The Tiramisu was fabulous, everything we have dreamed of so long. It had liqueur in it! It had that unforgettable taste!

 

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We tell a story in my family of our first trip to Italy, when I was 15 and my sisters were younger. It was my Mother’s birthday, and at the hotel where we were staying, they presented her with a surprise birthday cake. It was all so lovely and so gracious. My Mother cut the cake and the waiters brought pieces of it to us, and then, as my mother bit into her piece, she grimaced – the cake was soaked with liqueur. She told my father in a low voice, and he looked at us girls, with a fixed smile that told us he meant business and said “You will eat every bite, and you will smile.”

We were raised to be gracious, and to have grateful hearts. I don’t remember being so all-full-of-gratitude at the time, but I grew to like the Italian style. and didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I tasted this REAL tiramisu.

I remember that also, very graciously, after we had each eaten our piece, even my little 6 year old sister, choking down that liqueur soaked cake, my mother asked the management to please share the joy of her birthday by sharing the rich cake with all the employees and guests (it was a large cake).

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Chocolate, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Italy, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Travel, Venice, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

“They’ve Got a Bit of Swagger Now”

I am sitting and drinking coffee with my friend who comes in and helps me keep my house clean, and we are sipping silently, still stunned by the unexpected win of Donald Trump.

 

“We have more police rolling through my neighborhood now,” she begins, and then takes it in a direction I never anticipated, “They have their windows half down, so we can see them, see their faces, and they look at us and they don’t smile.”

I take that in.

 

“Sort of like ‘I’ve got my eye on you?’ ” I ask.

 

“Sort of like ‘We OWN you now’ ‘, she responded. “They’ve got a bit of swagger now.”

 

She owns her own house. She works several jobs to keep her youngest son in a good Christian private school. Her children, some grown, are solid members of their communities, good sons, good daughters. It’s up to her to put food on the table, pay the property taxes, and keep up with all of life’s normal expenses. She works really hard.

 

“What do you worry about the most?” I ask her.

 

“I’m trying to figure our what I am going to do about health care,” she responds. “You know that’s the first thing that is going to go away.”

 

Health care. One of the most basic needs for all people. Blood pressure medication. Emergency care. I remember. I saw it all when I worked with the homeless and working poor; medical care was often sacrificed in the interest of more immediate needs, like keeping the car running so you could get to your job.

 

I wanted to ask if she worried about her son, 6 feet tall and 12 years old – and African American. I didn’t ask. She really told me that when she started talking about the police rolling through her neighborhood, staring. Yes, she worries. He’s a good boy, and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it doesn’t matter.

 

We are comfortable in our silences, but she breaks the silence, as if she read my mind, and says “You know who I worry about? I worry about all the gays and trans-gender people, now. Will they roll back the gay marriage laws? Will the transgender people not be protected?”

 

I think of the celebration, just over a year ago, when gay rights were guaranteed. I think of Roe v Wade, when our reproductive rights became our own private concern. I think of the movement towards enhanced training for police forces, so that the innocent won’t be killed in a moment of fear perceived confrontation. I think of all we have to lose. There are no answers; we are going to have a tough time ahead.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment