Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Do You Have a Heartbeat?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His question echoes in my mind.

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

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

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

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

Umbrella Installation in Pensacola

This happened last year, maybe even close to a year ago. The photo makes me smile every time I see it. I admire so much those with creativity and vision, who can make an every day object into something so beautiful.

 

March 17, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Intlxpatr Turns 12 Years Old

Welcome! Grab a flute, come on in and mingle.

 

Who knew, when I held my breath and posted my first post in September of 2006, that I would still be blogging – with the same blog (!) – twelve years later.

I miss my life. It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t. When I started blogging in Kuwait, I was once again going up against the steep learning curve of starting over in a new place, discovering where to buy groceries (milk and dairy at the local Co-op, fresh vegetables at a huge vegetable market to the south of Fintas, western staples – a luxury – at the Sultan Center. I bought what I needed, most of the time, but occasionally, a price would be so shockingly out of line that I couldn’t bring myself to do it – like a package of chocolate chip cookies that you just cut and bake for something like $15 when I could make them from scratch by myself. But I digress.

Blogging was new and fresh, and I loved reading the thoughts of other bloggers. I learned so much, and I learned to think differently. Their thoughts were not my thoughts, and I got a very clear view of my own cultural blinders.

I also met some wonderful Kuwaitis. It was a world I loved, a world of ideas and discussions. It was fun. I quickly felt at home in Kuwait; I felt I was gaining perspective from many minds, and it helped me form a more complex picture. I laugh to think it will never be a complete picture; you know how even people you’ve known for a long time can surprise you?

AventureMan told me today I had surprised him. He was talking about how good we are at doing our homework for trips, and how we “roll with the punches.” In my very direct way, I said “No we don’t! We gripe with the punches.”

First I got a stunned silence, then the guffaw of laughter, and then we were both laughing. I love it that I can still catch him by surprise.

So welcome to the celebration of 12 years sharing lives, sharing ideas, sharing our common humanity. This year, in addition to the beautiful cakes I have so much fun enjoying in virtual world, I have added cupcakes, in honor of a five year old granddaughter who has a great eye.

 

 

 

Please stay as long as you’d like . . .

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Pensacola, Shopping | 10 Comments

From Ecclesiastes 9

From a reading in the Old Testament in today’s Lectionary readings:

 

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.

 

In a bright red spot in our country, I have found a sea of purple, we meet together and console one another in the current culture of madness and malevolence. Black and white and brown, rich and poor, we gather and laugh, so that we don’t cry, and we encourage one another to keep the faith. We share our small ways of resisting and our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Exercise, Faith, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Lodges, Sea and Mountains

You may remember, I am an Alaska girl. It goes deep. When we moved to Pensacola, my husband and I looked for a house on the water, which we found, and did not buy for a lot of really good reasons. One is that it showed signs of having been underwater at some time(s) and another was that the water here doesn’t do much. In Alaska, on the West coast, there are waves, and sometimes they are lovely huge crashing waves.

So one of the things I need to do to feed my soul is to get back to where I can be near mountains, and sea, and nights without a lot of ambient light, and scenes of sheer grandeur. We are all wired differently; I NEED this connection to restore my perspective on what matters, and what does not.

We started our journey out of Edmonds on the Edmonds ferry to Kingston, a ferry I have taken a lot in my life. Here is a map of our first day:

We stopped by the Edmonds bakery to get my Mom a maple bar. If you ever go to Edmonds, WA, the Edmonds Bakery is on Main Street, close to the roundabout, and has been making the best pies and pastries around for many years.

We said our goodbyes, and by the grace of God, made it to the ferry line just as it was boarding, no wait. It’s raining lightly but in Edmonds, teams are out playing soccer, couples are hiking around the hills of Edmonds, and the rain doesn’t stop normal activity, it is a part of normal.

The Edmonds Ferry

A rainy foggy day in Edmonds

I hate it when we are parking on a slant! They put blocks behind the wheels, but I have visions of the car just rolling right off.

That’s the Edmonds Ferry going from Kingston to Edmonds seen through the ferry car-carry area.

Someones fanciful house in Kingston

The dock in Kingston approaches

The Ferry system in Washington state is a part of the highway system. It’s how people living and working on the islands get gas and groceries and household goods. The ferries can hold a full sized moving van, and daily there are construction vans, electrical maintenance and highway maintenance vehicles traveling via ferry to remote destinations. It’s a part of life. Many people commute to the “mainland” from the islands for work, keeping a car on each side to reduce ferry costs (it’s a lot cheaper to walk on than to take a car on board).

When we planned this trip, I told AdventureMan “I don’t have any control over the weather. It might be rainy and cold the entire time.”

And AdventureMan grinned at me and said “I’ll bring books.”

He’s game.

I tried to take him to a wonderful restaurant on the Dungeness spit called The Three Crabs. We found Three Crabs Boulevard, but . . . no Three Crabs. It no longer exists.

We ended up at a small restaurant just outside of Port Angeles. We would have eaten in Port Angeles, but every restaurant we saw was a chain restaurant, and we were on a detour and had concerns about staying close enough to the road we needed to be on. As we left Port Angeles, we found the Fairmount, the kind of place we love to try, a local place, full of people still eating breakfast, or drinking coffee, or eating pie, but mostly checking on the latest local news.

 

 

 

AdventureMan wanted a hamburger. He said it was pretty good.

I had thought “Port Angeles! Fish!” and ordered halibut. This is frozen halibut; I could get this is Pensacola.

By this time, though, the skies have lifted and we are seeing some blue sky, which is really amazing, because we are in the Olympic Rain Forest. During the next couple of hours, on our way to Kalaloch Lodge, it must have alternated sun and rain, sometimes even heavy rain, fifteen or twenty times. We were just thankful it was not a steady dreary rain.

Along the way, we marveled at the trees. There were some very ferny kind of trees, and also some trees with lots and lots of moss on them.

 

 

We took a stretch break at Storm King Ranger Station, on Lake Crescent, where one of the funniest incidents on our trip happened. We were walking out on the dock and a group with two dogs were out there, and the dogs jumped in (they didn’t mind the cold water) and swam and swam, the happiest dogs you ever did see. As one was exiting the water, he stopped and pooped. His owner, a young woman, yelled “Oh no! Oh no!” She is waving her plastic poop bag (people are SO conscientious in the PNW) and goes on to wail “How am I going to scoop that poop out of the WATER??”

Well, I think sometimes you just have to leave well enough alone. Her earnest concern, her utter shame at not being able to recover that poop just totally cracked me up, even as I felt sympathy for her. “You can’t do anything about an act of God,” I laughed, “that’s just what dogs do.”

 

 

Mostly, I really wanted you to see the color of the Lake Crescent water. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Geography / Maps, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, 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

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

End of 2017 Wrap Up Photos

Thanksgiving Sunset at Panama City Beach:

The weather was mild and beautiful. It was a sad and happy Thanksgiving; sad for those not with us any longer, happy to be with those who love the departed.

Pelicans at PCB:

Finally, a year when both grandchildren could make it through the entire Nutcracker Ballet in Pensacola, and were utterly rapt. We want them to have this joyous experience!

For the first time, they were checking bags, and almost didn’t let me take my camera in. One person said “no photos” but the other said “you can take photos but no video and no flash” which is fine by me; my little Lumix does great in low light.

 

 

Maybe I’m not a kid anymore, but I have always loved the arrival of the pirate ship!

My favorite dance:

Hmmm  .  . . . well, maybe Nutcracker isn’t just for the grandchildren 🙂

We had the most wonderful Christmas day, family in the morning and afternoon, friends in the evening. We also decided not to go to New Orleans during the week between Christmas and New Years as we often do, and to go in February, after Lent starts on February 14 (what a dismal day for Lent to start! Valentine’s Day for Ash Wednesday!)  I have some more items for our friends at Zito’s to clean and polish for me. The work they do gives us so much pleasure.

Christmas was also a little odd, because I was energetic and got the first step up – lights and greenery going up the staircase, and a thousand or so little silver stars – only to discover that our two new rescue cats, well, new since February, thought this was all for their delight. Ragnar, especially, loved untying the strings that tied up the greenery, and then – horrors! – chewed through the wires on the lights, in several places! I completely re-did the lights, twice, and just as quickly, he chewed through the strings and the lights. I finally figured out that green ribbon worked to keep the greenery up, but we had to forego the lights. We didn’t want a fire hazard, and we didn’t want the cats to be electrocuted. Uhtred pulled a star or two off every day, but they were easily replaced.

We have been hitting our favorite restaurants, and one new one we weren’t crazy about. At our absolute favorite restaurant, a Cajun/beach style restaurant, when we went to pay the bill, they told us as “frequent and highly valued customers,” our meal was on them. Wow. What is so funny is that we had just been talking about our Christmas experiences in Germany, where those restaurants you frequented would give you some small gift, like an Italian restaurant had gift Pannetones, and a German restaurant might gift you with a small schnapps. The Chinese restaurants would give you a small Plum wine. We were missing that, and then, we were stunned when they told us thank you for being such good customers and that it was their treat this time. It totally made my day, another small kindness, but even the smallest kindness packs a punch.

This morning, the last day of 2017, we hit the early service at Christ Church, visited with our friends and neighbors, then had breakfast at C.J.’s, as I needed to make a trip to the commissary and CJ’s is on the way. I like the one-egg breakfast, but today I also ordered a side of one beignet, and the waitress said that the order of 3 was a better deal; you pay $2 for one, and you get 3 for $3. Makes sense to me; I ordered the 3 and AdventureMan helped me out by eating one and we have one to warm up and split tomorrow on New Year’s morning. These beignets were so fresh and so good! We’ve had a little bit of New Orleans without going to New Orleans.

Mardi Gras starts here on January 5 with an all-Krewe party and parade downtown, big party. When all the partying is over, we’ll head back to New Orleans.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Lent, Local Lore, Lumix, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Pensacola | 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