(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.
Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.
We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.
We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.
As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.
We depart as the sun rises:
Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:
You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.
There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.
I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.
There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.
This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.
This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.
Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.
I keep telling you I am quitting, and I am not. Today, September 6th, ten years ago, I was sitting in my aerie in Kuwait, overlooking the Arabian Gulf, when I gathered all my nerve and went public.
I’d always wanted to write.
What better time? While every move was a great adventure, there was a downside. The downside is that it takes a while to gather your “band of brothers” (mine tend to be mostly sisters), your buddies, your protection against the inevitable rudeness of life. I was still reeling from leaving the strong band we had formed in Qatar (and still we are in touch, celebrating and protecting one another), and I was not yet sure where my Kuwait friends would come from.
I was in for a big surprise. I met wonderful friends through blogging. To the best of my knowledge, I am the last one standing of my blogging friends at that time; they were crucial to my investment in Kuwait, and the returns on that investment. I learned from them, I changed a lot of my thinking due to new ideas they introduced, and I profited greatly from our relationships. The friendships I formed in Kuwait rocked my world.
I was so scared, at the beginning, putting myself and my ideas out there. I loved the feedback I got, and get. I wanted a place to tell my stories so I wouldn’t forget them, and to ponder things I still don’t understand well. Your feedback and input are a great gift to me.
I still love sharing our trips with you, and, from time to time, puzzlements from my own culture. I’m still that little girl from Juneau, Alaska, a stranger in a strange land.
Thank you for a wonderful ten years. No, I am not planning to stop. I’ve had to be more patient with myself. Expat lives have spaces in them, time is different outside the United States, less full-all-the-time. I can’t blog the way I used to. I can’t quilt the way I used to. My time is full with AdventureMan, and grandchildren, and family, and church, and volunteer experiences.
We have a wonderful life, and we still get restless. We take two large trips a year now, to satisfy that wanderlust, and smaller trips to Mobile for Syrian food, to New Orleans for the escape and for Ethiopian food, to Atlanta to see friends, to Seattle to see family – and for Chinese food, to Panama City and Apalachicola for family and oysters. LOL, yes, there is a pattern. And meanwhile, we are surrounded by some of the best Gulf seafoods, and some of the best BBQ in the world, but man cannot live on BBQ alone.
Thank you for hanging in there for all these years, and for all the fun we’ve had together. Thank you for helping me learn about and understand the nuances, the deep underbellies of the cultures I otherwise would have skimmed over, never knowing the depth and richness I was missing out on. Thank you for your friendships, and for all the stories you have shared with me in the background that helped me see things differently. It’s you who have rocked my world, with your honesty and your bravery.
And while you are here, have some mint tea – yes, the mint is from our garden – and cake. Those Venetian ones are soaked in liqueurs, but there are some chocolate ones, and a gingered fruit or two . . . You are always welcome.
Real time shot of thunderstorm right now over Pensacola. Does anyone else see a head and face “eating” Pensacola?
Summer is hard for me in Pensacola. We keep busy; I do my water aerobics and two days a week now, I am taking little grand daughter to her swim lessons. Occasionally, we get a day with lower humidity, or a day with deep dark clouds and thunder, and dramatic lightning, and the temperatures will cool some, for a while.
It is hot. Thank God for air conditioning, but it is hot when we wake up and last night it didn’t even get into the seventies (F). It is just the summer weather pattern.
But this morning, as I was putting up my greetings to all my Moslem friends in Jordan, in Qatar, in Kuwait and around the world, I remembered just how hot the summers were in Kuwait:
Not even a chance of clouds or rain to break the heat!
And then I think of my growing up in Alaska, where 70 degrees (F) was a heat wave:
I’m feeling cooler just looking at those temperatures 🙂
I grew up stockpiling.
“Winter is coming” is nothing new when you grow up in Alaska. As soon as the catalogs came in, we ordered snowsuits so they would arrive before winter. Being a child, I don’t understand exactly why everything had to be in place before winter struck, but I think it had something to do with shipping channels being unpassable.
It was good preparation for my years of life overseas. Even living in Germany in the 1960’s, there were things we brought with us – shoes, madras, chocolate chips – things we could only get in the USA. As the years went by, and we hauled huge suitcases back and forth from Germany to university and back (the airlines were so much more generous in their luggage policies then), and then, as a young wife, back and forth to our postings in Germany and the Middle East.
I remember one Ramadan in Tunisia, where suddenly, there was no heavy cream. There were no eggs! I learned to buy ahead, to stockpile; it’s been a lifetime habit.
Where is this going, you are asking?
Maybe I’ve been in one place too long. Maybe I am starting to lose my fine edge, my compulsion to be prepared.
I had a group in last week, a group I entertain two or three times a year. It’s not a big deal, I write out my plans, make sure I have what I need, I execute the plan.
Part of the plan, this time, was a large tray full of lunch meats and cheeses, and little buns to make sandwiches. As I was putting out all the food, I found the perfect small crystal bowl for the mayonnaise.
But there was no mayonnaise. Not in my refrigerator. Not in my (well-stocked) pantry. No matter how much I looked, there was no mayonnaise.
I didn’t even have time to be horrified; I had people arriving. I put out mustards, and pickle relish, and butter, and a bowl of sour cream and no one asked about mayonnaise.
Later, I was telling AdventureMan how I’d been caught short. I have a pantry full of sixteen different little jars of mustard, many jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna and tomato sauce. If there’s a remote chance I will need something, it is in my pantry. There are times I find myself shopping and thinking “Oh! I always need coffee! (or tea, or chili powder, or chutney or . . . ) and when I get it home, I discover I already have a goodly supply. I don’t NEED more.
But how could I run short of mayonnaise?
AdventureMan just grinned. “It’s a first world problem,” he said.