I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple: Stranger in a Strange Land.
Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.
Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.
I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.
The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.
“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”
I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.
“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”
She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.
This morning, as I checked Weather Underground, I could see that the summer weather pattern is setting in. Today it isn’t so bad. As long as we have northerly winds, it isn’t so humid.
Life isn’t fair. Ferry lines are just one of those things. First there are not necessarily first boarded or first unloaded, or first through the lengthy customs lines coming back into the United States. We have a saying “Every monkey gets his turn in the barrel.” This ferry ride was our turn. It wasn’t bad, it’s just after all the thrills of this vacation, this was an unwelcome hit of reality. We had a special vacation, but that doesn’t mean we are special, LOL.
The weather has changed. It is heavy overcast. We don’t see any whales, not a single sea otter. It is a great morning for catching up on our reading.
We arrive in Anacortes and the customs line crawls.
We need to stop at the Marina motel and pick up the skirt and shirt and scarf I left hanging in the closet which they have bagged and tagged “customer will pick up”. I had packed lightly, and it didn’t take me long to figure out where I left my clothes; we had been in a hurry to be on time for the ferry to Sidney. But this is a great stop, next door is Bob’s Chowder House and Salmon BBQ and we are starving.
Bob’s Salmon Chowder is out of this world. SO good.
Bob’s BBQ Salmon burger is also fabulous. AdventureMan ate every bite and said the salmon was perfect. It had a lemon sauce that was a surprise and a delight.
My halibut tacos were the special dish of the day. My bad; I like lettuce in my tacos, not cabbage. I only ate the halibut, but I had also had the chowder, so I was OK. Oh, yes, they also have great big home baked chocolate chip cookies, maybe that is also why I was filled up 🙂 but I split it with AdventureMan.
AdventureMan spotted this sign, and took this photo. Whoda thunk that we would find a sign to Pensacola in the parking lot?
This is the rest of the vacation. Really the “vacation” part is over, and this is all business. Driving through Seattle on I-5, thank God it’s Sunday, no big trucks but heavy traffic. It’s always heavy, unless maybe it’s 0430. Checking in to our hotel where there are a huge bunch of people about to debark on a cruise. Dropping our bags and heading to the Car Rental place to return our car. Taking the shuttle to the airport, calling the hotel shuttle to come pick us up. Back at the hotel, packing our bags in a hurry so we will be able to watch Game of Thrones. Actually, to our surprise, a good night’s sleep. Up way too early to catch the shuttle to the airport, a surprisingly easy time through security, and the long flight to Atlanta and the shorter flight to Pensacola. The taxi home. Sigh. The unpacking. The laundry. Every day demands. . . .
But God is good. My first night back a good friend greeted me and said “are you depressed?” I was so taken by surprise that I said “Yes!” and she said she always is too, coming home after a great vacation. It just felt good, my guilt at feeling depressed was taken away.
Our grandson has a cold and has been with us the last two days, to our total delight. His mother and sister came by last night to visit and to celebrate another stoke of good fortune which has struck our family. God is good. Thanks be to God.
We try to limit what we attempt, when we travel. If we try to do too much, we sometimes fail, or we get so busy trying to accomplish that we don’t really get to enjoy what we are doing. Or worse, we get cross with each other, crabby! On our vacation! So we make choices, AdventureMan wanted the Victoria Butterfly Gardens; I wanted GOOD Chinese food.
Our son knows us. When we decided to settle in Pensacola, to be near him and the coming grandchild/ grandchildren, he sat us down and told us things we needed to know about Pensacola. The first thing he told us was that there was no really GOOD Chinese food. Honestly, for me . . . well, I don’t want to say I thought twice, but no good Chinese food? Chinese food is my comfort food!
We asked the concierge at the Grand Pacific for a recommendation for GOOD Chinese food, and she, with great delight, directed us to the Fan Tan Cafe in China Town, just a short walk down Government Street. It was an easy walk, past the grand historic Empress Hotel (we didn’t stay there because the views, in my opinion, are not as good), and down one of the most fun shopping streets in the world to China Town.
We know we are getting close 🙂
The entrance to China Town on Fisgard Street
Fan Tan Cafe – it’s small, and crowded. You are bottom to bottom with the chair behind you and you are almost sitting next to the next table. It’s fun. You get to see what everyone else is eating. We were hungry, we were early and that was a good thing because we got a table. There are maybe 16 – 18 tables at the Fan Tan Cafe, and some of those are for two people. They do take reservations.
This was the absolute best. AdventureMan chose the Spicy Shrimp appetizer, and it was delicious, top to bottom. Even the bedding vegetables were delicious. This was the highlight of the meal.
We didn’t intend to order deep-fried pork. It was good, very General Tso kind of taste.
The scallops and shrimp in black bean sauce was too delicate for us. We decided everything about it was beautiful, and the problem is probably more our palate, which likes more intensity.
All in all, it was a very tasty meal. If we were to go back, which we will the next time we are in Victoria, I would try the Cantonese Chow Mein, or one of the noodle dishes for which they are famous. We saw them all around us, glistening and gorgeous, and they looked divine. Cannot wait to go back 🙂
I still miss the Taiwan Tourismo, in Jordan, where we had authentic, amazingly tasty Chinese food and never even knew how extraordinary it was. I miss the China Queen, later the Great Wall of China, in Mahboula, Kuwait, a little hole in the wall where the Chinese workers ate and I could point and say “I want that, please!” Real Chinese is different from North American Restaurant Chinese.
It was lunch time in Qualicum Beach. We knew we wanted a view of the water, and we wanted some choices.
The Shady Rest appeared to have the view situation all locked up, but what about choice? We took a look at the menu posted outside, and we knew we were going to be fine. There was a wide variety.
We had a lovely table outside, with a view from north to south of the beach, the sea and the mountains. The weather was warm, barely a cloud in the sky.
AdventureMan ordered the Salmon Chowder and a Spinach Salad, I ordered a pretzel crusted cod because I have never heard of such a thing before. One bite, and I was glad I did. It was a WOW. In fact, I was enjoying my bites so much I almost forgot to take a photo.
A group of Chinese tourists came in. We always have a lot of sympathy for people who are traveling in lands where they are not fluent in the language. This group had done some really smart things. They had photos on their smart phones of food they have tried and liked. They already had some idea of things they did not like, like they did not like salmon. Even with the language problem, they ended up with food they liked, because they had gone to some trouble to be able to know how to tell the waitress what they wanted. (Fish (Halibut) and chips, Clam Chowder, salad, oyster po’boy and I couldn’t see what else.)
After lunch, we stopped to pick up some stuff for dinner. We are staying in a cabin tonight, with a kitchen, right on the beach, and we don’t want to be bothered having to go out looking for dinner. AdventureMan spotted Qualicum Foods, and it is just like Whole Foods. We found everything we needed – and more. It’s nicer than any supermarket in Pensacola.
We are working on a Little Free Library for our church, so I have become very aware of the Little Free Libraries wherever I go. As I was photographing this (utterly gorgeous) Little Free Library, an Edmonds resident passing by said “You know we have hundreds of the Little Free Libraries in Edmonds, but this is the most beautiful.”
Hundreds. Edmonds is a civil place, and a bookish place. Edmonds people share. Every year there is a huge tour of gardens, and it includes many many many gardens. People work hard on their gardens, to give joy to passers-by. It thrills my heart to think of so many Little Free Libraries.
But this is the most beautiful:
Bricks. A stained glass window. A copper roof. A window box – so much loving attention to detail, for something to give away to the public. I love this town.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of Little Free Libraries popping up in Kuwait? Qatar? Saudi Arabia? Tunisia?
Several months ago, we noticed a wren flying close to our house, flying out, flying back, flying out, flying back, and she was always carrying something.
“I think she might be building a nest in our watering can,” I told AdventureMan. He checked the can, and sure enough, it was full of little straw and twigs and pieces of string. Her mate showed up, also bringing strings and twigs and grass clippings.
Weeks went by, and we enjoyed their company. We gave the plenty of space.
We had houseguests, and as we were about to leave one day, AdventureMan spotted four tiny little wrens, trying their wings for the first time. He quickly snapped a shot with his iPhone of the two not yet flying. It is a good thing; by the next day, they were gone. We were just so thankful we got to see them, and our house guests got to see them, too!
What fun! We hope they will come back and nest with us again next year!
So on our way home from lunch today, at the Siam Thai, AdventureMan and I are talking about his fortune cookie. (Mine said “learn Chinese” on one side and I can’t even remember what on the other side, something so non-interesting.) AdventureMan’s fortune said “Good people learn wisdom by making mistakes,” or something like that.
Off we went. So if you are not good, can you learn from making mistakes? Do you just keep making the same mistakes? Does making the same mistakes mean that you are not a good person? Can you make a mistake and not learn wisdom? Are all wise people good? Can you be evil and be wise? Like is the devil wise? He is said to be sly, and crafty, so how do those vary from being wise? Is Satan wise? Can you be evil and wise?
Segue’ to Mother Jessica’s sermon at Christ Church Pensacola yesterday, and It’s Not About the Chocolate as she explained that giving up chocolate or coffee or meat was not what Lent was really all about as we walk the path to become better worshippers of God and followers of Jesus. At the end of the service, as we exited, they passed out little chocolates. AdventureMan still had his chocolate (which he ate in front of me) and told me he had never negotiated with God. “Never??” I asked, in a tone which really meant “I call bulls#!t” and he said, no, never; never said “Please please, if you will only do this, I will do that.”
“OK,” I continued, as I can be relentless, “what about in Vietnam, was there never a time you said ‘Please, Please, Please’ about anything?”
“Yes, but I was never bargaining,” he explained, ‘I was begging. I had nothing to bargain with.”
So is begging, with no leverage, is that still negotiating? I think it is, Mother Jessica said bargaining, and isn’t begging bargaining with no leverage? We couldn’t agree. He says that is not bargaining, and we had to agree to disagree.
And the real point is, none of us have anything to bargain with. God laughs at our pathetic attempts to bargain. He likes the honest ones, like AdventureMan, who just cower in his magnificence and power and trust in his ability, and so beg, “please! Please!” We have to trust in his mercy and his compassion.
The worst and most memorable Lent I ever observed was in Kuwait. I became aware that I had started swearing in the car as another car would nearly side-swipe me, or some arrogant idiot would park in four spaces (yes, yes, I promise you, one car CAN occupy four spaces) and I was giving people rides and really, really needed to not curse, not just to protect their ears, but also for my own soul. Calling people names is worse for me than it is for them. I devised a strategy of elaborate politeness. When someone was going to bump me out of the way, I would gesture “Tfadl!” (“YOU are to be preferred! or “after you”) with a grand gesture and a big smile like it was My idea. After a while, elaborate politeness became my mode, and I got a lot of pleasure out of it, and mostly, I stopped cursing at the idiot drivers. Actually, I got so good at it that I didn’t even say “Idiot!”, but I could not control it popping into my mind from time to time . . .
And, sadly, we have some of those same . . . umm . . . idiots . . . here in Pensacola, so perhaps I need to redo my Lenten sacrifice and work on my attitude toward inattentive and /or aggressive drivers, especially those in great big trucks with bad eyesight.
Did you know the word for ‘honey’ in Arabic is ‘asel?’ 😉
We’d been up late. This was the first text I received, early this morning, as we entered our day a little more slowly than usual.
“Shoot-out in Pensacola! Are you OK?”
Yes, we are OK, and we were in the thick of things last night. We’d both had long days, and we were headed to bed a little earlier than usual. I had just finished my prayers when I heard a very loud screech of wheels going around a nearby corner. Usually when the screech is that loud, it is followed by a crash or a thud, but this time the car seemed to be OK. Very soon after that, however, I noticed flashing lights on the ceiling, flashing and dancing in red and blue.
I know those lights. When we lived in Kuwait, we lived on a busy corner, a corner where the Kuwait police frequently set up check-points to check people’s residence cards. AdventureMan could sleep right through them, but sometimes I was wakeful, and would watch. There was a lot of drama as the cars had no where they could go, there was no where they could turn off, they were trapped. Many people who lived in Kuwait illegally, or whose visas had expired were caught and taken in to be processed and, if they couldn’t prove someone was sponsoring them, deported.
It was ugly, and heartbreaking, and sometimes . . . comical. Ancient Arab men would talk to the police, it was begging of a different sort, and kiss the policeman. Kissing a policeman is just something that would never occur to me, so to me, it looks absurd, but in the context of Kuwaiti culture, it is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the old Arab man would get a pass, just as a pretty girl in the US will sometimes get a pass.
So I “arose from my bed to see what was the matter.” There were big SUVs with flashing lights blocking traffic to the south, seven or eight cars in an array to the north, cars blocking entrances to several streets to the east. The only traffic were Sheriff’s department cars, trucks and SUV’s, some with flashing lights, some unmarked. They were all working together.
I called the Police Department.
“I live at blah blah,” I said, “and there appears to be a lot of activity, flashing lights and stuff, is there something I should know?”
“We’re looking for some suspects,” the officer answered tersely.
“OK, thanks!” I chirped, not knowing any more than I knew before.
There have been gangs of kids who come through the neighborhoods from time to time, looking for unlocked cars to steal cash, guns, or even the cars if the owner leaves the keys in them. Recently three young teens in Pensacola stole a school bus and drove it for about three hours before being stopped. This response seemed a little extreme for neighborhood looters, even more grown burgers. There were a lot of resources involved, people, cars, canines, a lot of man-hours and teams of people going door to door, searching the backyards with flashlights and the dogs.
They searched our yard twice.
We have a high fence and keep our gates locked. When I saw the team methodically making their way towards our house, I called out to AdventureMan to go down and unlock the gates. As the team was trying to get in, I opened the window, and flashlights zipped up to illuminate my face.
“My husband is on his way now to unlock the gates to let you in,” I said.
One of the guardians of the law looked at me, astounded, and said “You lock your gates?”
It seemed very funny to me at the time, considering the activity, but I didn’t dare laugh, clearly this was serious business, and around then AdventureMan opened the gate for them.
It was a cold cold night in Pensacola, near freezing, and I felt sorry for the pure, hard work of searching house-to-house in the very cold temperatures.
A part of me also felt sorry for whoever was being chased, hunkered down somewhere, being chased by dogs, and, once the adrenalin wears off, being really cold.
Cars raced here and there, the teams continued their searches and we kept watch. We heard a helicopter, briefly, and we don’t know if it was a police helicopter or a news helicopter. Then, around 12:30, all the cars raced off. Somewhere. It was very quiet, and we gratefully went back to bed.
This morning I didn’t feel quite so sorry for the couple, who had invaded a house in our neighborhood, held a couple hostage, and then stole their car to escape. Those were the last few minutes of a man’s life, and he spent them terrorizing and stealing that which was not his. After another – their third – dangerous fast car chase, they were trapped, and a gunfight ensued, killing the man. During this final gunfight, Blake Fitzgerald used his girlfriend, Brittany Harper, as a shield.
I was never afraid. If you had seen the number of police / sheriff’s deputies out last night, you would understand. They were focused and professional. They were given an opportunity to practice their skills. They performed as a team, and you could feel that they were excited to be doing the job, on a grand scale, that they are trained to do. They stopped a couple on an interstate spree of kidnapping, abducting, robbing, invading houses, burglarizing and terrorizing. They can feel good today, about what they accomplished last night.
And I was just telling you in my last entry what a quiet life we lead . . . 🙂
When I got home from my volunteer job yesterday, I chatted with AdventureMan while I puttered in the kitchen, and asked where we were going for lunch – it was his turn to choose. It was hard to hear him, for some reason he was hanging out in the entry hall around the corner. He asked where I was and I told him I was in the kitchen.
“Let’s get going,” I said, as our grandson needs to be picked up when he gets out of school.
“Ahhhhhk! I can’t stand it! I can’t wait!” he said. “Please come here!”
He was still in the hallway, looking out the window, so I looked out the window and he told me I was cold, and getting colder.
I turned around, confused, and then I saw them – perfect, long stemmed white roses, surrounded only with white baby’s breath, oh, it’s a combination that always makes my heart flutter.
” . . . . ” (That’s me, not knowing what to say, stunned.
“But it’s not my birthday!”
He had a doctors appointment in the morning, and is doing well. So well, he had one of those epiphanies, when you are happy and you know it (LOL, clap your hands!) (It’s a children’s song “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap) . . . )
He’s happy. I’m happy. We had a sweet lunch together at one of our favorite eateries. Life is sweet.