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Expat wanderer

Sweet Land of Liberty: Religious Rights and Jury Duty

 

Every now and then, God, in his infinite mercy, sends an abundance of blessings, covers us with blessings. In a time in which I have found myself uncharacteristically  depressed and anxious about the path our country is taking, for one brief moment, the last few days, all depression has lifted and all anxieties have calmed.

One source of anxiety has been a personal matter, a family matter, and that has resolved itself graciously, happily, with a great feeling of relief and gratitude.

For Sunday, July 2nd, our priest had prepared us for a new set of studies, kicked off by an examination of Democracy and Religion. There were rules – 1) Be nice (that’s what they say in the South for ‘be civil’) and 2) Try to see the issue through the eyes of someone with whom you disagree.

The church hall was set up with twenty-four chairs. A half hour before he was due to start, people started pouring in, and we started pulling out more chairs, and more chairs and more chairs. He actually started off early with a reflection on our Old Testament reading, the story of Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. (My Moslem friends correct me; they tell me it was Isaac. Let’s just agree that it was Abraham and a son, and perhaps the details will come clear on the other side of the great divide.) More people arrived, more chairs put out until we were out of chairs. Toward the end of the discussion on Religious rights and Democracy, I did a quick count of chairs and people standing and figured we had over ninety people – and one of the best Sunday School classes ever.

Our priest took a Socratic approach, asking questions, bringing in current topics. In these times of divided opinions, there was, surprisingly, a lot of laughter. My favorite moment was when we were discussing limits on religious freedoms, and things that there are laws against – live animal sacrifices, bigamy, sale of alcohol on Sunday before 11 a.m. – then one of the lawyers added “How about serving liquor to minors without checking IDs every Sunday?” That got a big laugh. It’s what we do; we use real wine in the communion cup, it’s Anglican / Episcopalian tradition. And yep, even young children get to take a sip. Oops.

As divided as we are, as it turns out, we have a lot in common. It takes a lot of courage to open up such a topic to the congregation. We all behaved. I think we all came away thinking we need more of this.

The very next day, yesterday, I was at the County Courthouse for my first ever call to jury duty. Well, this was my first ever call where I actually was living in the United States and able to show up. While we lived overseas, I would have to get on my VOIP late at night when the Clerk’s office opened and tell them I was living in (Germany. Kuwait. Qatar. Saudi Arabia. Jordan. Tunis. Take your pick.)

Jury duty is an exercise in tedium. At one point when the large selection pool left a courtroom, one of the potential jurors was going “Baaaa baaaaa baaaaa; we are all like sheep.” You park in one place and get on a trolley to the courthouse, you line up to enter the courthouse, you gather in a room and you wait to be called. You get instructions, you watch instructive videos, you get pep talks on your civic duty.

I had my eyes opened in a lot of ways. First, that I would guess more than two hundred people showed up, and this was a Monday between the weekend and the Fourth of July holiday. Many had to take time off from work to show up. We were supposed to be in “business’ dress, but this is Florida, and I guess ‘business dress’ is a matter of interpretation.

Groups would be called to go before judges for jury selection. There were many cases, so almost all of us were a part of one group or another. From my group, juries were being chosen for three trials, so they asked a lot of questions up front that would pertain to all three trials, then the lawyers for the prosecution and the lawyers for the defense would ask questions.

The questions surprised me. They named the witnesses, and the defendants were there in the courtroom; they asked if anyone knew the defendant or any of the witnesses. They asked about our prejudices for or against law enforcement officials, and could we overcome our prejudice to listen to the evidence fairly. They asked about our own court experiences, and they asked about our convictions for drug use, and other things. Many of my pool had served many times on juries and knew how things went. Many were reluctant, yet, there they were. Serving. Doing their duty.

Here is what really surprised me – at least in Florida, the defendant, who is sitting there through all the questioning, gets a say in who will be on his jury. I had no idea! We don’t see a lot of jury selection on TV (although the lady sitting next to me said I need to watch a show called Bull, where jury selection is what the show is about.)

None of the defendants wanted me, and I can understand why. They want people on the juries to truly be as close to their peers as possible, people who can identify with being arrested, maybe even convicted of a crime. They want people who might give them the benefit of the reasonable doubt.

How often have you been arrested? My son, who has been a part of the system, once told me that there are Americans who never have a brush with The Law, other than maybe a traffic ticket or a DWI. Now and then, I ask my friends. None has ever been inside a jail, but these days, a friend or two has a child who has become involved with heavy drug use, and has spent some heart-breaking time in the system.

It was a long day, full of tedium. I thought about the judge, and the lawyers, who go through this day after day, asking the same questions, looking out at groups full of people who maybe don’t even want to be there, going through the process to insure that our system is as fair as possible, day after day, month after month. I had no idea that the wheel of justice ground so finely, so relentlessly, on and on. I had no idea what stoic determination it takes to be a part of that system, and trying to make sure that while the state makes the case, the defendants rights are protected.

I’ve lived, as you know, in countries where justice prevails – occasionally. I remember living in one country, which was peaceful, and thinking to myself that they were educating a lot of people for positions they will never be able to fill, because they are not in the elite.

We have all seen, in every country, that those with the money to buy the best legal protection can often escape the consequences of their crime, but there is hope, for me,  even in making them stand trial.

I had no idea how proud I would feel at the end of the day, being a part of this huge effort, seeing how many of my fellow citizens, at great sacrifice to themselves, showed up. I had no idea what an education it would be for me. I had no idea how often those who least want to serve are those chosen to serve – and they persist. They show up.

I was in a room with maybe two hundred people from all walks of life. We were really just numbers, there to fill a systemic need. Some may even be, like me, a little cynical about how much justice our system really delivers . . . and we show up.

One of the defense lawyers yesterday asked us “Do you know what we are here about today?” and while we were all thinking about the charges, she answered “we are here about this man’s liberty. We’ll be deciding where he will spend his time in the next weeks, and months and years. We’ll be deciding his liberty.”

I’m glad I showed up.

Happy Fourth of July 🙂

 

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July 4, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Shed, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

 

It’s nearly three in the afternoon when we reach exit 57 into Gautier, Mississippi, but the odor of fresh-cooked beignets is driving us crazy, and making us hungry, so we stop at The Shed. The website says The Shed is in Ocean Springs, but I always think of it as Gautier because it is just off I-10, that major drug running and human trafficking route running across our southernmost United States.

We’ve stopped before at The Shed, with the grandchildren, but it was always so crowded and backed up that we found someplace else. This time, we are in luck.

As we order, we see on the menu that Seniors can order kids meals. We are not big hungry, and we know we have a dinner party in just a few hours, so we order kids portions. Good thing.

The ceiling inside The Shed:

The interior, and where I believe live music often plays:

My “child’s portion” of ribs:

AdventureMan’s “child portion” pulled pork sandwich:

So delighted we could get these “smaller portions.” I hate to imagine what an adult portion would look like!

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company, New Orleans

What did we do before Google?

We have finished at the World War II Museum and are about to head back to Pensacola. We have a big party to attend tonight, and I promised I would bring beignets. I need a LOT of beignets. While AdventureMan is pursuing his bliss at the museum, I see if I can find a source of beignets nearby.

I love Google. I find the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Factory close by, and in a place I am really comfortable with, on Saint Charles, and very near to the Creole Creamery, with it’s truly divine ice cream. All I have to do is plug in the address and Google Maps takes us there, follow the little blue dot.

Sometimes, when we are entering a new city, and I am navigating, things can get a little tense. You know like “Oops, we were supposed to turn left there,” that sort of thing. I have discovered I can turn on the voice, and the voice can guide AdventureMan, and if she screws up, oh well, not MY fault. We both get a good laugh at that.

Having said that, the one we are going to at 4141 Saint Charles is not exactly on Saint Charles, but AdventureMan is wise to the ways of New Orleans, and when I look in despair at where the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company is supposed to be – and isn’t – he suggests it might be just around the corner, and I breathe with relief, there it is. Even better, there is a parking lot! Parking for a shop on Saint Charles street! There is a free parking space!

Inside, we know we are home free. I order beaucoup beignets, a lot, and it is going to take a while, so we order a small order for ourselves, with coffee, and as it drizzles outside, we are safe and warm inside, smelling wondrous smells, drinking coffee, eating beignets. You have to grab these small perfect moments and treasure them.

Moments like this, we wish we were living in New Orleans.

When the beignets are finished, they are huge, and pillow-y, about 4 inches by 6 inches, the biggest, softest beignets I have ever seen. They are boxed so perfectly that when we get to the party, they are still warm. We drive all the way from New Orleans to Pensacola with the smell of freshly cooked beignet in the car; the smell is mouth watering, even though we have just eaten fresh beignets. The New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company gave me two huge glasses full of powdered sugar to insure that everyone had a huge splash of sugar on each beignet. They were still warm! I can hardly believe it.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, New Orleans, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Denver, Damascus and Pensacola

We are leaving Santa Fe, but we have time for one more Santa Fe experience: Harry’s Roadhouse. It’s on the road out of Santa Fe, and hey, we have to have breakfast anyway. We are so glad we stopped here. This is a very cool place.

 

There are lots of rooms. This is the room we ate in, below. They have all kinds of wonderful breakfast foods, and the furnishings are all different colors. It is a colorful restaurant, sort of like it breaks the rules of taste and it doesn’t care. It’s kind of freeing 🙂

We are making really good time on the way to Denver when all of a sudden, on a not so busy freeway to this point, everything stops. “What on earth???” AdventureMan asks, and I have no clue. “Probably rockfall,” I say. It’s happened to me before on Colorado roads. Sometimes a huge boulder will just dislodge and fall on the highway. It can really hurt somebody if it hits them – of if they don’t expect a big boulder in the middle of the road and they hit it.

We are stuck for around 30 minutes. When we drive by the bottleneck, one lane, the rockfall has been mostly cleared. It takes massive equipment to get the rock off the road.

 

We pass Trinidad, a town we’ve stopped in before, but we aren’t hungry yet. An hour later, we need gas and we need to eat, but there is a whole lot of nothing near the road. As soon as we see anything, we head for it.

 

First gas. Then – another Barbecue. LOL, it’s not as if we don’t get BBQ in Pensacola, but as it turns out, this is pretty good barbecue.

 

We hit Denver just about prime traffic time, and worse, Denver has just been hit by a heavy rain and sleet storm. We recognize a street name we know, exit the interstate and in very short time find my sister and her husband and happily settle in. Tonight we are all having dinner together over at Little Diamonds, with the kids; AdventureMan and I still have the remains of our BBQ, and we split a salad. Dinner is great, the conversation is even better, and the children are delightful.

The next day is so much fun, my sister has tickets for the Viking exhibit AdventureMan has wanted to see at the beautiful Denver Museum of Natural Sciences. This is a great exhibit, full of treasures and wonders, beautifully exhibited. We have such a great time.

This is my very favorite part of the entire exhibit, and I am sorry my photos are blurry but we can only take photos with no flash, and the light is very low in the exhibit to protect the artifacts.

There are people associated with the exhibit who are character actors. This is Tova, an older, still beautiful, much married woman, who tells us about her three marriages, her husbands, her life, her wealth and property, all the while holding a spindle with which she spins thread while she talks to us. She interacts with her audience, asking questions, but never straying from her character. She was enchanting, and even better, she was convincing. We learned so much from her.

I wish you could see how beautifully made so many of these articles are, and read all the descriptions. This was well curated.

Another of my favorite exhibit, and almost impossible to photograph. These are nails, exactly in the positions they were found. An entire Viking ship had been found, buried in dirt and mud. The wood all rotted away, and disappeared, but the nails stayed exactly where they had been, and in the exhibit, thin, nearly invisible lines hold each nail in its place. Together, the nails form the shape of a ship, but you have to find the right perspective to see it. I tried, this was the best I could get.

A tombstone put up by a wife to honor her dead husband – and to determine, also, her property lines 🙂

 

Another character actor helping the students find the answers to their worksheets.

 

 

 

The exhibit was full of school groups, with booklets to find the answers to. These kids were having so much fun, and learning so much. This group donned Viking helmets for a photo, but were in constant motion (sigh) in the low light.

Probably the very best gift (from his perspective) our grandson got was one of these paper Viking helmets; our grandson wore it all the next day, after we got home, even to choir practice!

We had lunch at Sams #3, wow, so much selection and every dish was wonderful. Then, home to pack up and have a rest before we all meet up again for dinner. Dinner is a lot of fun, we’ve all been to Damascus, so we are eating at a restaurant near Denver University called . . . Damascus!

Things did not start well. “Mike” greeted us and told us he was not really the waiter, but the waitress had quit and he was the dishwasher, but tonight he would try to be the waiter while the owner trained a new cook. They couldn’t promise that everything on the menu would be available, but . . .

The good news was that as much as we all love Middle Eastern, particularly Damascus, cuisine, more than anything we wanted time together, sitting, talking, laughing, telling stories, so we just rolled with it. We ordered and it seemed nothing was not going to be served.

First out was hummus, and mohammara, and a big basket of hot hot hot fresh pita bread. Oh! I had forgotten how good it tastes, fresh out of the oven, and so plentiful. We were so happy, we stopped even thinking about the rest of dinner.

A while later, our dinners appeared, and they were each wonderful. AdventureMan had a felafel sandwich, which I failed to photograph. I had ordered this wonderful vegetarian platter, which I was happy to share with everyone.

My brother-in-law had chicken on the bone, with rice and salad. Perfect!

Little diamond had fattoush and grilled mushrooms.

My sister had a cucumber soup. We all had lots of mohammara and bread. As we ate, the restaurant filled. Mike explained to each table that things might not go well, but every table seemed to get a great dinner. It’s the old adage, Under Promise and Over Deliver. Makes customers happy every time. 🙂

 

 

This was the BEST way to leave Denver, full, happy, having time with family.

We leave early the next morning for Pensacola. Not everything goes smoothly, but we arrive in Pensacola little worse for wear. It’s been a great trip.

And we’re off on our next adventure! 🙂

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Entertainment, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Santa Fe, Here We Come

We spent one night in Santa Fe two years ago, and knew we had to come back. We put a three day stay at the end of our parks visit to give ourselves some play time, we really love Santa Fe.

This was not a bad day, but I will not tell you it was another best day of the trip. Some days, you just have to drive to get where you are going. This was mostly that kind of day.

We came south back to Kayenta, turned left, and stayed on the same highway until Farmington, where we had lunch at the crossroad where we turned south. On the way, we saw flashing lights ahead, and were afraid it was an accident but it was a marching group. We didn’t know why they were marching. Then about ten miles later, we saw a similar group marching towards us. We gave them a big thumbs up; YAY! Marching for a healthier lifestyle! They all looked about our age 🙂

We were about to turn south when we saw this sign: Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.  Who could resist that sign? Not us!

We each ordered a sandwich. When they came, we discovered that SERIOUS meant huge. We couldn’t begin to eat the whole sandwiches, we had to leave about half behind. The restaurant was full of big burly cowboy types who seemed to have no trouble packing away that kind of serious sandwich.

All the following photos seem to be about food, but we did other things, too!

Checking in at the Hotel Santa Fe and Hacienda, AdventureMan reminded me we had one of the best meals of our lives at their Amaya restaurant. We reserved for that night, and AdventureMan had their duck, and I had the salmon.

 

As we were eating, we overheard another table talking about the Farmer’s Market the next day. We love Farmer’s Markets! We asked the waitress if she knew where it might be, and she didn’t know, but very soon, another waiter came over and told us how to get there – it was right across the street. After dinner, we took a walk, found where the market would be, and came back to the hotel, had coffee and dessert while we listened to the hotel musician, who plays Spanish guitar and Indian flute, then headed upstairs for some much needed sleep.

Although we were near the elevators, the rooms are so quiet, we never heard another guest. I love that the hotel has coffee service for guests on each floor; early the next morning while AdventueMan slept, I could creep out and fill my cup without him even missing me.

He was awake soon, and we headed for the Farmer’s Market, only to learn that there was also a Crafts and Artists Market in a separate row. Oh, what heaven! I found some wonderful gifts and AdventureMan and I found wonderful quiche and croissants at the Farmer’s Market, which also has baked goods and crafted goods, plants, all kinds of things. We loved the Santa Fe market.

I asked one of the vendors I was buying from where he and his wife eat when they come to Santa Fe, and without hesitation he said “The Pantry” so we put it on our list of places to take a look at. Meanwhile, we headed out Canyon Road, which we loved, with all the art shops and cute restaurants, then went to explore San Miguel’s, billing itself as the oldest church in the United States, with an altar that dates from the days of the Spanish exploration.

 

 

AdventureMan had heard of Jambo, an African fusion restaurant he thought we should try. It was wonderful. We ordered too much. We ordered a hummus appetizer, salads and a peanut chicken stew to share. The hummus was huge, and beautiful, with hummus, and also lots of veggies and olives, and pita bread, and then the salads came, huge and delicious . . . when the stew came with the rice, it was also delicious, but we were so full! We ate a few bites, then packed it up to take it back to the hotel for dinner. We love that our room has a fridge and a microwave, and we have plates and utensils and napkins, so we will feast again tonight in the glory of our own little suite.

xxx

(Forgot to take a photo of the peanut chicken stew, which when we first had it many many years ago was called Ground Nut Stew. This was a little different, but equally delicious.)

 

We were lazy on Sunday and didn’t get up until seven thirty or so, to get to the Pantry while there still might be tables left on a lazy Sunday morning. Oops, my bad, Santa Fe must get up early, all the tables are taken and there is a line to get in. The waitress says it will only be ten minutes or so, we decide to wait. In almost no time, we are in, and have a great table.

This looks like a picture, but it is actually a quilt someone did of the Pantry.

AdventureMan ordered biscuits and gravy – and beans!

 

I ordered blue-corn pancakes. Sigh. They were good, but they tasted like . . . pancakes!

 

At a nearby table was a friendly man who told us we might want to try Maria’s for dinner, that it was another good place where people from Santa Fe eat. He also told us he was a musician and an Elvis impersonator. Almost everyone we met in Santa Fe was very welcoming and glad to give out information. It was a lot of fun, being in that kind of atmosphere.

We visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum, walk around a little, but AdventureMan’s banged up leg make it hard for him to walk easily. That’s OK, we are in Santa Fe to kick back and rest up, so we spend the afternoon reading and snoozing. Later in the day, we hit Maria’s. Most of the people coming in were heading to the bar, evidently Maria’s has like 99 different kinds of Margaritas. We just wanted dinner – and our server was efficient, and sort of brusque. The restaurant wasn’t that busy, but getting busier. Maybe he had though he would get a break between lunch and dinner, and was just tired. He did the job. He did not make us feel welcome.

 

As much as we like Santa Fe, we are ready to start heading home. First step: get to Denver, where we will be staying with my sister and her husband, mother and father to Little Diamond, grandparents to the little little diamonds. From Maria’s, we head back to the hotel and organize our suitcases, take out the big ones and just keep the small overnighters. Sorting through now helps us plan for our time in Denver and for the trip back to Pensacola.

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Faith, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

Viking Sea Disembarcation

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:

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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:

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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.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, Paris, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series, 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

“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

It’s My Party! Here There and Everywhere Hits Ten Years

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.

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I’d always wanted to write.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Blogging, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | 10 Comments