Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bureaucracy With a Heart

Did I tell you we’ve been stationed with two embassies, and at the second, I worked as a Foreign Service Officer? I know how busy and how harried the diplomats are, and I know how beleaguered the consular offices are with requests for visas and tourists who have lost their passports. They see it every day.

I lost my passport. My bad. Totally on me. I can’t expect anyone to feel obligated to help me out, but fortunately, there are mechanisms in place to expedite. You have to pay extra, but it’s worth it when you have a trip booked.

I told you about our run to New Orleans to submit paperwork and my delight to learn I would have a new passport soon.

I told you about the phone call telling me they needed a RECENT photo, not the same one that was on my last (never used, bright shiny new never used) passport.

I’ve been on edge all day. I’m away this weekend on a religious retreat, and I wasn’t feeling very religious. I was feeling nervous. I wonder if my passport reached New Orleans, or did it fall somewhere between the cracks? I wonder if Fridays are even work days at the passport center? What if it doesn’t get there and I don’t even know?

A short time ago, I got a phone call, from the same bureaucrat who called me about the photo. She was just calling to tell me that the passport is ready and will go out expedited this afternoon. She knew I would be concerned, and just wanted me not to worry.

I almost cried in gratitude. Who thinks of compassion when dealing with a bureaucracy? It was pure grace.

In the lifetime of our nation, we have elected some real doozies in high public office. Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors – some real characters. I don’t worry too much when lunatics run for high office, I thank God we have a solid bureaucracy, rarely corrupted; a bureaucracy that keeps plugging along when things get crazy. And thank God for this one particular officer who had a heart to reassure me that my passport is on the way. God bless her mightily.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Faith, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue | , | 2 Comments

Pensacola’s Pelican Tribute to Native Americans

We’re on our way to lunch at Portobello, the restaurant in the old jail, when AdventureMan says “Look at that Pelican!” and I had just spotted it at the same time. It is fabulous. It is on the corner at the Wentworth Museum and is a tribute to our First Nation inhabitants. It reminds me of Alaska, where the Haida art was mostly black and white, with just a tiny accent of red here and there, or occasionally a tiny bit of blue. I love this Pelican:-)

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Different businesses and organizations in Pensacola sponsor Pelicans, and each one is different. At the main intersection at Garden and Palafox, the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines have Pelicans stationed. Local artists make the pelicans vibrant and unique. Love the pelicans, but I love this one at the Wentworth most of all.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Fund Raising, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

Quick trip to The Big Easy

On the road by six to make our appointment, every now and then things go just right and you can’t forget to be thankful. The process worked, and I should have my new passport . . . tomorrow! It is such good news I can hardly believe that things could go so smoothly.

And we have time for a really fun stroll through the nearby French Quarter, a drive through the Garden District and lunch at the Abyssinian Cafe; New Orleans has the nearest Ethiopian food to Pensacola.

One Cable Place, where the Westin Hotel shares space with offices in the tower, including the Passport Agency:-)
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One of the Bevolo custom gaslight making workshops:
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I was tempted, but where would I wear it?
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The Cafe Abyssinia at 3511 Magazine, tucked back behind a shoe repair shop. It has a parking lot for outdoor parking, and outdoor seating for this most comfortable time of the year . . .

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We would drive to New Orleans just to eat this feast – Doro Wat, a Vegetarian assortment, Lamb Tibs and a basked of freshly made injera. Heaven on earth.
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And back in Pensacola in time to make my late afternoon meeting! Life is sweet!

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Local Lore, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Drunk Drivers on the Road

Looks pretty dark blue from Pensacola across to Austin, all the way on I-10. Hmmm, used to be one of my favorite roads . . .

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Drunk driving is always dangerous and a problem across the country and the world, but certain places have a knack for attracting drunk drivers. In the US, those places tend to be rural western states.

Avvo, a legal services company, crunched the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s road fatalities stats for an in-depth look at drunk driving across the country. The company sifted through the data and found that between 2004 and 2013 there were a total of 94,550 drunk driving deaths in the US. A deeper dive revealed which roads are the most dangerous for drivers.

The findings indicated that the most dangerous roads for drunk driving crashes tend to be in mountainous states out west. These roads cut through vast stretches of nearly empty territory to connect a few smaller towns and cities. There’s no one clear reason for the increase in drunk driving deaths in these states, but the study does offer some possibilities. The roads in question have high speed limits with few side streets, and in areas with little to no public transportation, increasing the likelihood of partiers driving home after a few too many. The study also says that the variable terrain and drivers unfamiliar with the winding roads and sudden weather shifts might contribute to the high rate of crashes.

Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and South Dakota all top the list. Interstate 90 in Montana is the most dangerous road in America, with 6.4 drunk driving deaths per 100,000 people. However, Wyoming appears three times in the top ten, making it the most dangerous state. New Mexico and South Dakota also appear twice in the top ten. The only area in the top ten that isn’t a rural Western state is Washington DC, which often finds its way on to any list of worst car accidents, congestion and road deaths. To see more information about the deadliest roads in America check out the full study here.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Crime, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Social Issues, Statistics | 2 Comments

Breakfast at the Ruby Slipper in Pensacola

When you are heading for the early service (AdventureMan calls it Episcopal Church Express) a lot can happen at the last minute. Write the check for stewardship. OOps, it’s raining, where is the umbrella? But it might not last long, where are my sunglasses?

We hurried, hoping to slide in under the wire, before the procession, when my friend stopped me at the door.

“There’s a new restaurant you will love! It opens early!”

“Where is it?” Restaurants that are open early on Sunday mornings are sparse. They exist, and they are full.

“It’s called Ruby Slipper, and it’s just down the street at Palafox and Main” she told me, and we scrambled to our pew before the procession started.

After church, we thought we’d give it a try. Was not hard to find – the streets are empty, and then there are all these cars parked, and there is Ruby Slipper.

I love the name. When I see sparkly shoes, I smile. Judy Garland searched for those shoes to take her back home to Kansas when she was eager to leave Oz. The name reflects how happy the restaurant was to re-open in New Orleans after the great flood and devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Ruby Slipper has four restaurants in New Orleans, and now this one in Pensacola. We are arriving on Day 2 of it’s opening.

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I’m surprised – and delighted – to see how big it is, how spacious. For all the cars, there are four separate seating areas, one outside, one just inside where the coffee bar is, one large seating area and then one more private area in the back. We are greeted at the door, and shown to a table. Service is cheerful, and enthusiastic, and everyone looks very happy to be working at the Ruby Slipper.

The menu is extensive. It’s just two sides of one sheet of paper, but so many choices that sound SO good. We know we will have to come back several times. It takes us a while to choose what we want today. I had thought to go with the ‘signature dish’ Eggs Cochon, but it seemed so rich.

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AdventureMan ordered the Costa Rican breakfast, which he loved. Eggs on beans and rice, and very tasty. Enough for two people. Easily.

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I ordered the Smoked Salmon Bennie, and it, too, was enough for two people. It also had very good smoked salmon, the hearty kind, like you can sometimes find canned in Alaska at the specialty stores. Oh YUMMM.

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We are greatly impressed. When we arrived here, Palafox was quiet. Not much was going on, and when night fell, nothing was going on. An amazingly generous couple ‘not from around here’ has made an enormous difference, investing in downtown Pensacola, buying derelict buildings and polishing them up, putting in cute little restaurants and boutiques and specialty stores. Someone put in an Al Fresco dining area. Someone else started up a monthly Gallery Night, which brings huge crowds to downtown one Friday night each month. All it took was a little vision, and soon Palafox, the main artery in downtown Pensacola, was voted one of the best main streets in the United States. Woooo HOOOO on generosity, and a little vision and investment.

Ruby Slipper has a great location and a varied menu. We wish them well, and welcome them to downtown Pensacola, where they brightened a rainy, dark and dreary Sunday morning.

July 5, 2015 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | 1 Comment

Ramadan Kareem and Pope Francis

“God bless the work of your hands!” was one of the Moslem sayings I most loved as I lived my daily life in various countries in the Middle East. So, Pope Francis, God bless the work of your hands yesterday in your encyclical saying we are all responsible for the price we pay for progress. You are a brave man, and you don’t hesitate to name corruption when you see it, and to do your best to correct us, and straighten the path of the Lord.

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“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.

It is not entirely a happy message for me. One of the items he castigates is air conditioning, and as Pensacola hits the nineties every day, I hate to think of how I would live without air conditioning. I think I would turn into a slug, swinging in my hammock for hours every day reading a book. My house would be full of dirty dishes and dust. And I remember living in Tunis, and in Jordan, without air conditioning. We managed, by the grace of God.

Meanwhile, during the hottest months of the year, yesterday, our Moslem brothers and sisters began Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and personal purification. Imagine, going all day without water and without food, breaking the fast only as the sun goes down. I wonder if the Pope made his world-changing address on the eve of Ramadan on purpose, as he clearly made it to all mankind, not only to his Catholic followers.

Ramadan Kareem, my Moslem brothers and sisters, whom I cherish, and who taught me so much. May your fasting bring you great insights and purity of spirit.

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Ramadan, Social Issues | 4 Comments

Pensacola Sunset 3Jun15

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June 3, 2015 Posted by | Pensacola, Sunsets, Weather | Leave a comment

“Mama Cranks it up to 4!”

AdventureMan laughed as he told me how our five year old grandson teaches him new things every day. In the heat and humidity of a Pensacola summer, grandson told him to “turn it up to 4!”

AdventureMan never turns it up to 4. On a rare occasion, to accommodate my sensitivity (as he sees it) to the heat, he will turn the car air conditioning up – for a very short time – to three, and then, quickly, turn it back down to 2, or even 1, claiming he is feeling chilly.

“Mama always cranks it up to 4 when we start the car!” grandson states emphatically, and grandson is used to getting what he wants.

Me too. Now when I get in his car, I tell him “Crank it up to 4, Mama” and he does it – and he laughs.

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | 2 Comments

Any Ship Can Be a Submarine

Pensacola license plate and stickers:

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May 29, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Humor, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Tiepolo Sky

Just back from a quick trip to Seattle for a wedding, driving home. and there is the most beautiful sky!

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A long time ago, working on my undergraduate degrees, I took a minor in Art History, and spent happy hours at the Seattle Art Museum on projects for my classes. Up on the ceiling of one of the rooms (this is in the old Seattle Arts Museum up on Volunteer Hill) there was this wonderful Tiepolo ceiling, with clouds and blue sky and . . . God? I can’t remember anything but the sky part, and tonight’s sky in Pensacola reminded me of that ceiling.

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Education, Pensacola, Sunsets | Leave a comment

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