Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Martyrs of Sudan

Today the church remembers the martyrs of Sudan.

I have met one, personally, a wonderful journalist in the Sudan, who told us his story one December, just before Christmas. I have never forgotten him; we are still friends on FaceBook. He spent mot of his youth running from those attacking his village. As a child, sometimes he would be separated from his family for months. Although a treaty has been signed, the persecution continues in South Sudan, as even heavily pregnant women have to run for the swamps, or the nearest border, when the lawless janjaweed attack. South Sudan has oil.

 

The Christian bishops, chiefs, commanders, clergy and people of Sudan declared, on May 16, 1983, that they would not abandon God as God had revealed himself to them under threat of Shariah Law imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum. Until a peace treaty was signed on January 9, 2005, the Episcopal Church of the Province of the Sudan suffered from persecution and devastation through twenty-two years of civil war. Two and a half million people were killed, half of whom were members of this church. Many clergy and lay leaders were singled out because of their religious leadership in their communities. No buildings, including churches and schools, are left standing in an area the size of Alaska.

Four million people are internally displaced, and a million are scattered around Africa and beyond in the Sudanese Diaspora. Twenty-two of the twenty-four dioceses exist in exile in Uganda or Kenya, and the majority of the clergy are unpaid. Only 5% of the population of Southern Sudan was Christian in 1983. Today over 85% of that region of six million is now mostly Episcopalian or Roman Catholic. A faith rooted deeply in the mercy of God has renewed their spirits through out the years of strife and sorrow.

(From the Lectionary, Martyrs of Sudan, for May 16, 2018)

This is the prayer for the Martyrs of Sudan:

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

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May 16, 2018 Posted by | Africa, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, South Sudan, Sudan | Leave a comment

O’Yeah, Tasty; First Meal in Seattle

A month ago I was in Seattle when my 94 year old mother suddenly came down with influenza and was hospitalized for 13 days, drifting into pneumonia twice, and suffering several small strokes. It was a difficult time, and as I was running errands for her one day, I passed a new Chinese restaurant near the hospital, O’Yeah Tasty, Szechuan cooking.

Szechuan. Near Edmonds Community College. Hope springs eternal, maybe I can get some really good Chinese food in the midst of all this emotional chaos!

(When we were moving to Pensacola several years ago, our son sat us down, looked at us very seriously and told us he had something to tell us we weren’t going to like. With a long face he stated “You need to know that there is not a GOOD Chinese restaurant in Pensacola.” We searched. We tried them all. Most were sort of Americanized Chinese, none had the good strong flavors we had become used to overseas. Longing for GOOD Chinese food is something we have grown used to experiencing.)

I had something called Mongolian Delights, recommended from the Chef’s specials by the cashier/order taker. It was fabulous, and the Hot and Sour soup I had with it was really HOT. When I told my sister on the phone where I was, she said Mom wanted some Hot and Sour soup, so I took some to her, and she ate it, claiming it was delicious. It was just about the only thing she ate that day.  A day or two later, I ordered an old favorite, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken, and I almost cried when it arrived, it was so totally TASTY, so close to what I remembered from the Taiwan Tourismo in Amman, Jordan back in the day.

So when AdventureMan and I arrived in Seattle, at lunch time (our delicious breakfast from The Courtyard had finally worn off) we headed straight for O’Yeah Tasty.

We ordered fried egg rolls, and AdventureMan ordered the Seafood Three Delights, and I ordered my all time favorite Chong Qing Spicy Chicken.

 

 

And the dish that makes me cry, Chong Qing Spicy Chicken:

 

As we ate, the restaurant filled with Chinese students from the nearby college. We got to see what they were eating, even as we enjoyed our own food. There was so much food, we packed it up and took it with us to put in our hotel room refrigerator and have later for dinner.

This is how much I love this food: when we were talking with my mother who, by the grace of God is greatly improved, and improving more every day, she said she was able to go out for dinner this very night. A part of me ALMOST said “how about tomorrow night?” because I love that Chong Qing Spicy Chicken so much, but fortunately I love my mother more and the thought was just for an instant; we quickly made plans to take my mother to an Italian restaurant she loves this night and to have our treasured left-overs for dinner tomorrow.

If you are ever in Edmonds looking for spirited and authentic Szechuan cooking, hurry to O’Yeah, Tasty.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Some Things You Can’t Make Up

In Pensacola, as in other places I have lived, I have met some very fine people. It isn’t unlike my other adventures, I have had to learn to observe and to adapt. Sometimes I may disagree, but most of the folk I deal with are civil people, reasonable people, and if they don’t agree with me, most of them have the generosity of spirit to just shake their head and chalk it up to my eccentricity.

And some people, you just don’t even bother to disagree. You don’t comment. You look the other way. I was lucky this time, to have my camera with me because if I didn’t have the picture, I’m not sure I would believe me telling the story. Here is what I see:

 

 

I see this and I am a stranger in a strange land.

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

The NRA Solution to Gun Violence: More Guns

I am livid. I am almost breathless with the shocking audacity of it. “Harden our schools.” And what does that mean, exactly?

“Harden our schools” means putting more armed people inside and outside. Arming our teachers, if Trump and the other NRA supported politicians have their way. More guns. More opportunity for fatal human error.

Our grandson goes to one of the sweetest elementary schools on earth. The thought of his teachers packing heat makes me ill. The thought of armed guards on his school outrages me.

What message does this send our children? Schools should be SAFE, fun places to learn and explore who they are and all the wonderful ideas in the world, places to learn to tools of learning. Guards? Guns? That describes a prison, not a safe, fun place to learn.

Yes, I am all for better mental health. Since the Republicans put the mentally ill out on the streets, back in the good old days of Ronald Reagan, we’ve had increased problems with crime, homelessness, and heartless policies of incarcerating the mentally ill because we no longer give them asylum. The prisons are full of the mentally ill.

Many mass killers have no prior criminal record. The Las Vegas killer was a very “normal,” if strange, man who had a lot of weapons, assault weapons.

I’m not opposed to guns. I am opposed to people owning guns that are neither for hunting nor for sport, weapons designed for killing, weapons that make a mass killer efficient.

“Guns don’t kill people,” say the NRA, “people kill people,” but killing people without an automatic or repeating weapon is a much less efficient kind of killing. While you are in the slower process, you can be attacked and overcome. Banning assault rifles just makes sense. Tightening who can own weapons just makes sense. Oregon just passed a landmark bill taking weapons away from domestic abusers, some of the smartest, most progressive legislation in the nation, passed by lawmakers with backbones and brains. You tell the parents of Sandy Hook students, tell the parents of Parkland students that “guns don’t kill people.” They will have a very different point of view to your own.

I challenge you to Google this: Mass School Shootings in the United States.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive, if incomplete record of many, not all, of the school related shootings. Some take place in school parking lots. Some target school buses. Many shooters have no criminal records, no mental health records, but – they DO have guns.

2nd Amendment rights were created to protect our country; the rights were for militia, not people with a grudge against a woman who is divorcing you, a teacher whose assessment prevented you from attaining your graduate degree, the woman who scorned you, revenge against those who bullied you, showing what a big “man” you are (not a single mass shooter has been a woman.) Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

Those who know me, know I grew up with guns. The first thing we did, in the Alaska where I grew up, was to go to rifle club to learn respect for our weapons. We learned how to clean and care for them, we learned how to shoot them safely, and we learned how to lock them up. We used our rifles for hunting (we ate the meat) and for occasional target practice. We didn’t even carry them when we went berry picking or hikes in the woods; we learned to avoid bear and other dangers, to walk away. I am in favor of responsible gun ownership.

I am opposed to hardening schools as a solution to mass school shootings. It isn’t effective, and it sends a terrible message to our children.

February 28, 2018 Posted by | Alaska, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Parenting, Political Issues, Rants, Safety, Values | 1 Comment

“We Don’t Know What it is, but it is not Breast Cancer”

(This is just an example, not my real image)

I like to stay out of medical facilities. I think it’s better for our health. 🙂  People who go to doctors tend to be sick, and we still have a lot to learn about germs, viruses, flesh-eating diseases, and even intestinal distress, and how they all spread. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of things you can be exposed to in hospitals and doctors’ offices that you are less likely to be exposed to elsewhere.

On the other hand, I am all for preventive medicine, and by the grace of God and my husband’s military service, and the American tax-payer, I have decent medical coverage. I see my doctor twice a year, and he reminds me if there are other things I need to do. Some, like an annual skin scan, and eye exams are easy. Mammograms, not so much. For me, it is easy to skip a mammogram for a year, or two, or three.

(Segueing into an aside – if men had to put their testicles in between two sheets of cold plastic and then have the sheets tightened by turning a knob until it was really, really uncomfortable, I am willing to bet they would find a more efficacious way to do the job.)

So it has been three years, and I scheduled, and went in for a routine mammogram. The technician was cool and I was in and out quickly; next contact should be a letter saying a radiologist has examined the photos and all is well, that’s routine.

Umm. Next, I get a call saying we need to schedule right away as there were some . . . I can’t remember the word. Sort of like ambivalencies or ambiguities in the films, and we needed to redo those on one of the breasts. And she got me in like day after tomorrow.

So we re-do the shots, and then we do them again. This is taking a long time. Then she comes back and tells me that they have an ultrasound scheduled for me just down the hall to get a better look.

I’m pretty cool. But I’m starting to get a little nervous.

The ultrasound lady is very professional, very thorough. Very thorough, and finally I glance up at the screen to see flares of blues and reds and yellows as she moves the scope around and I don’t show it but I am seriously starting to freak out.

She tells me she needs to talk with the radiologist and leaves the room and it seems like a long long time and then she comes back in and tells me the radiologist needs to talk with me. If I were the kind of woman who cries, I would cry, but I’m not, not in front of other people, so I just look cool.

The radiologist comes in and says a lot which I hear as “blah blah blah;” when I am freaking out, I have trouble understanding words strung together. I can understand each separate word, but I can’t understand them in a sentence, like “what does that mean?”

And then he says “so we know it is NOT breast cancer, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not even something we could biopsy. I’m not calling you back in six months because it isn’t something that has form or substance but be sure to come back in a year this time so we can take another look.” (I might have paraphrased everything after “We know it is not breast cancer . . .” Everything is pretty hazy except that I do NOT have breast cancer.)

Walking out of that clinic (it took hours) was like getting my life back again.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Life is Complicated: Maintaining Balance

It’s been an odd new year. It started with loss and grief, and quiet introspection. Once the season ended, we were caught in the whirl of daily life, amplified by our son’s need for an ACL fix, which has totally immobilized him for a couple weeks and which requires we all pitch in to help keep life going smoothly.

And, I had a major birthday.

The last major birthday I had like this one was when I turned 35 and realized that I hadn’t accomplished my major dreams. I cried all day. People kept stopping by, bringing gifts and cards, and I just kept crying That year, I started graduate school, and never looked back. I was a military wife at an overseas post, with duties to my husband, my community, my church and my job, and I piled on evening classes and all the attendant work of research and studying on top, and I had never been happier. Going back to school was like flying. I loved my studies, and on the days I felt overwhelmed, I would realize that grad school was the only thing I could resign from and I would choose to go forward. My studies were my reward for good behavior in all the other areas of my life.

“What? You didn’t love being a mother?” I hear you asking. We had an oddly shaped room in our quarters, long and narrow. My desk was at the far end, and next to it was my son’s desk. We would do homework together. I adored my son. I would take him to karate lessons, iron his acolyte robes, be there when he got home from school; he enriched my life. But what made my spirit fly was my studies.

Yesterday, things were relatively quiet and I started a project I usually start in January, cleaning out. We haven’t moved in nearly eight years. I tend to be pretty good at cleaning out and passing along or throwing out, but when you are settled, you don’t do so as conscientiously as when you live with a weight allowance. My weight allowance always heavily favored our items collected from foreign postings, and everything else was expendable. Now, the expendable is taking up space, and I want to clear out that which only burdens me and ties me down, and make way for whatever is coming.

En route, I came across a large packet of printed out letters from my earlier lives, one entry in particular, 5 pages describing our arrival in Kuwait. Oh! There are so many things I have already forgotten, so I read it through, and then passed it along to AdventureMan, and listened to him laugh as he hit the funny parts. I owe my Mother a great gratitude for having saved all those letters, for which, having gone through several computers since I wrote them, I have no records. Those were pre-FaceBook times, when we still sent out group e-mails, which then got forward on. Now, we have less time – or we take less time – to write at length about what is going on in our lives.

I made room for my growing collection of religious-oriented books. I have a shelf for them. I have my spiritual disciplines, like doing the Daily Lectionary, but for additional readings, books were scattered here and there. If I am going to get serious about reading them, I have to have them where I know where they are, and I can retrieve them easily. They don’t call it “discipline” for no reason.

When I was a nomad, life’s busier moments were balanced by the enormous quiet of being in a new location. There were the logistical challenges of deliveries, moving out / moving in, looking for the good grocery stores, the cleaners who could do your nicer clothes without ruining them, getting new visas, driver’s licenses, memberships, etc. but in general, life could be very quiet for up to six months. I always found those quiet times, before new friendships, meetings, commitments, etc. very nourishing to my spirit.

I’ve never been so settled. There are times when my spirit rebels against the sameness of it all. There are times when I miss being around people who don’t always use deodorant and who smell sweaty; it takes me back to riding the strassenbahn (street car) in high school in Heidelberg, or to Africa and our adventures there. There are times I catch a whiff of Desert Rose, and feel an urgent upwelling of nostalgia for walking down a Gulf Arab avenue, or through a mall, and how it was the men who smelled so good. There are times I would kill for real flatbread, fresh out of the oven, or for a Tunisian “brik,” done in pure olive oil, or for the simplest French dish, moules frites, mussels in a simple wine sauce with fries.

I do love Pensacola. I have friends here. I’ve always been lucky that way; people take me in and take me behind the scenes. I hear the old stories of how Pensacola used to be, and I hear the new stories, that corruption is never hidden enough to go undiscovered. People in Pensacola, like people everywhere, know things, and I am honored that they share these insights with me. I have found religious community here. I have found meaningful work.

I have a son of whom I am enormously proud. I love and admire his wife. And I have two of the smartest, funniest grand-children on earth, with whom I love spending time.

(Did you know that the use of “whom” is generational?)

It is a sodden, rainy day in Pensacola. AdventureMan is on the couch, here in my office, snoozing as I write. We are on our way to church, then I have a meeting before coming home to do my studies for my class this week. As it says in our Episcopalian Forward Day-byDay: Oh God, Give me strength to live another day. Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties: let me not lose faith in other people   . . .

On on.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Books, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings | Leave a comment

You Gotta Love the Mormons

I am not Mormon. Yes, I say good things about the Mormons, and that is because the Mormon people I know are smart, savvy, and hard working. They make time in their life in a structured way, to take care of those around them. They feed the poor, they welcome the stranger, they clothe the naked, they visit the prisoner, they take care of the widow and the orphans – all the things we are told are important to do in order to show the world our love for God and our love for one another. The Mormons have made a science of it, including teaching and learning foreign languages, and sending their young out into the world to spread the word, but also giving them an opportunity to develop a broader perspective, another point of view, living in a foreign country.

AdventureMan and I have a food-truck-turned-settled restaurant we have recently found and love, Taqueria El Asador, on North Davis in a Shell station. You’ll know it by the cars parked all around it as people get to know just how good the food is. My favorite is a burrito Campechano, and AdventureMan loves the Pollo Platter.

It’s outdoors. Mostly we take out. While I was waiting for our order, I saw this among all the ads looking for people to frame, do masonry, or to clean:

We are surrounded by immigrants. Many of the workers are in paint stained clothing, many are in overalls, many in scrubs from the nearby hospital and clinics. The prices are reasonable, and it’s lunchtime. This “ad” is in Spanish, offering free English lessons to those who want to learn English, and how else are you going to get ahead, to fit into your new home, get a better job? The Mormon church is giving exactly the kind of hand-up that will help them find the better life for themselves and their families, and it is offering this tool for free.

Someone more cynical might think they are just trying to convert more Mormons, but anyone who is in the helping business knows that helping doesn’t mean you will get an anticipated response. I would be willing to bet, however, that the kindness doesn’t end there, that the Mormon church has structures in place to help the English learners with clothing, maybe with better jobs, maybe with people who can explain customs, take them to interviews, explain benefits, etc. I would be willing to bet that it isn’t the services offered, but the pure kindness behind those offers that can change hearts. I may not be Mormon, but I can admire the way they do God’s work.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Food, Interconnected, Language, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | , | 2 Comments

Tough Times in 2017

It’s been a strange year. I fought depression a lot of the year, faced with a political administration that is rolling back everything I believe to be good about my country. I watched our culture degrade, environmental protections roll back, air pollution standards roll back, financial institutions restrictions roll back, oversight disappear, the State Department erode, and truth become astonishingly irrelevant,  civility hard to find. I also found friends, who, like me, welcome immigrants, fight against those who would restrict voting rights only to people a whole lot like them, and who support equal rights and the belief that we are called to be better people, and to do what we can to lift people, rather than to stomp on them.

One great wonderful event happened this year, my grandchildren were baptized. It was a private event, with friends and well-wishers, and it was joyful, and very funny. If I want a big smile, I think back on that precious day.

At that same time, two people we know were diagnosed with cancer, diagnosed in the very prime of their lives. One was the father of our dear daughter-in-law. He and his wife welcomed our son, and then us, into his sweet family, a family full of women as wild and wacky as I am. We laugh, my daughter-in-law and I, about how our relationship is “unnatural.” We are supposed to be hostiles, but in truth, we genuinely love one another and we enjoy one another’s company. I admire her, as a wife, a mother and an environmentalist. We enjoy her parents, and we spent two weeks in Zambia traveling with her father and his wife. We had a great time with them.

Her father was a poster boy for chemotherapy. He smiled and laughed his way through it, cheering up those around him who were trying to cheer him on. If he ever had moments of self-pity, we never saw it. He chose to spend his time loving others, and continuing to make this world a better place.

In November, he caught a cold, and then pneumonia. The family gathered, and he rallied for a while, and then sank slowly, unable to get enough oxygen into his lungs. Before Thanksgiving, he was gone.

Yes, I am faithful, and I also have a hard time accepting that it was this man’s time to go. I am guessing that part of it is being unable to accept my own powerless to stop this horrible thing from happening, this good man, cut down in his prime. He was just making plans to retire, to travel. He and his wife were excited. I couldn’t help it, his death made me angry, it was such a waste. Yes, you can be faithful and be really mad at God.

This man loved his grandchildren.

 

He loved fishing, and spent time teaching his grandchildren, nieces and nephews to love fishing, too. Here he is on the Zambezi, seeing what he might catch.

Every life he touched, he left better for it. He was a fine man, and I grieve for my sweet daughter-in-law, for this terrible, painful loss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is hoping for a better year to come.

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Aging, Civility, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | Leave a comment

Never a Dull Moment: Hurricane Nate

 

We breathed a sigh of relief when the crew came and took down our hurricane protection on the upper story. Our house has been very dim on the upper level with the ballistic covering over the windows. That was ummm . . . . Monday? Tuesday?

Wednesday, we started hearing little rumblings about a fast-developing storm called Nate. By Friday, many activities for this weekend have been cancelled, even some church services on Sunday. Our guidance was “even if you are signed up to read or to sing in the choir, if it is a hurricane, DON’T COME.” You have to spell things like this out for Episcopalians, or they will kill themselves trying to keep a promise, to fulfill a duty.

Everyone has been sort of sure that the storm will head toward New Orleans, as it usually does. We don’t wish New Orleans any harm, we all love New Orleans and it is a favorite overnight or weekend getaway. They, in turn, love Pensacola Beach, and many spend a week or a month here ever summer. So they are our neighbors and we wish them well. But would we voluntarily take a hurricane for them . . . ? I’m not so sure.

I was up this morning at six, checking the most recent weather channel forecasts, and it doesn’t look good. Even if we get peripheral winds, they could be up to 100 mph. Just to be doing something to calm myself, I hit good old Home Depot for a tarp or two. I was home before eight, and AdventueMan was up sorting through the hurricane protection bags, the ones we just put away. The ones we just put away THIS WEEK.

As we are trying to prioritize, our contractor and his crew that installed the hurricane protection called and said he was in the neighborhood, did we want their help getting the protection back up. What a relief.

If we had done it yesterday, when the humidity was low and the temperatures were lower, it might have been a piece of cake, but this morning, even with the garage door open, we were sweating buckets just sorting out the upstairs and downstairs covers.

The crew is here now. I had to scurry to take a shower; did not want to give someone putting up window protection a bad shock. I have the cat cages ready to go, and extra food. I have a couple loads of laundry ready to be washed and dried, and I have packed the emergency bag in case we need to leave in a hurry.  Extra money, important papers, a couple days worth of clothing. Shoes. Underwear. I’ll pack my computer with me, and I hope I remember my charger. Having had to do things now and then in a big hurry, I know that sometimes your mind goes on hold and your forget the most essential thing. AdventureMan filled his gas tank, and will put up the garage supports when we get home from the movie this afternoon (the hurricane is not expected to hit until early tomorrow morning).

And, honestly, when you live with hurricanes, their terrifying power (as the Psalm says “terrify them with your hurricane”) you learn that the most important things of all are not things, but the people you hold most dear. Everything else can be replaced.

October 7, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Survival, Weather | | 3 Comments

The Shakey-Head Response

 

“Where are the empty sacks upstairs from yesterday’s commissary run?” AdventureMan hollers from upstairs.

I am folding dried sheets that need ironing before our next house guests come. He comes down the stairs, asking again when I don’t answer.

“They are upstairs in the linen closet, on the ground level toward the right middle,” I respond, proud of myself for not saying “where they ALWAYS are.”

He shakes his head, no.

I just look at him. Coldly. After forty four years of marriage, I no longer drop everything to run go get him something he needs, especially when I am busy trying to finish things up before our house cleaner gets here, just as he is. He gets the message.

In thirty seconds, he hollers down “I found them!” and I holler back “Thank you for giving me that feed-back.”

I can hear the laughter in his voice when he responds “I knew you needed that feedback after my shake-head response.”

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Humor, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Relationships | Leave a comment