Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Cross Culture at the Y

It’s a day I like in Pensacola; it may be summer and still hot and humid, but a little cooler today, with a cloud cover. I woke up refreshed, relaxed, having slept well, and actually, I sort of hoped for thunder so I could skip going to the YMCA for Water Aerobics, and stay home and finish up some quilting.

No such luck – no thunder. The skies were threatening, and leaky, but without the drama of thunder and lightning. No matter. The truth is, I don’t just go because I want to stay fit and strong, I also go because I feel better and more energetic after I’m done.

In retrospect, I would have missed a lot if I had missed today. In the fifteen or twenty minutes before the class, I heard some powerful messages, and I knew I was meant to be there. So my next three posts are about my cross-generational, cross-cultural experiences at my water aerobics class this morning.

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | 1 Comment

It’s a First World Problem . . .

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.

 

Built-in_pantry

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.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping | 4 Comments

“You Go Into Southern Belle Mode”

scarlett3

 

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.

 

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Local Lore, Pensacola, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | 2 Comments

Pensacola Summer Setting In

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 7.32.40 AM

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Leaving Sidney on the Anacortes Ferry, Return to Pensacola

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.

Leaving Sidney:

LeavingSidney

 

FromFerry

 

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.

 

BobsAnacortes

 

BobsInterior

Bob’s Salmon Chowder is out of this world. SO good.

BobsSalmonChowder

 

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.

BobsSalmonBurger

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.

BobsHalibutTacos

AdventureMan spotted this sign, and took this photo. Whoda thunk that we would find a sign to Pensacola in the parking lot?

BobsMilesPensacola

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.

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Seattle, Survival, Travel | Leave a comment

China Town, Fan Tan Alley and I Get Some GOOD Chinese Food

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 🙂

Chinese Dragon

 

The entrance to China Town on Fisgard Street

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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.

Fan Tan Cafe

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.

Spicy Shrimp Appetizer

 

We didn’t intend to order deep-fried pork. It was good, very General Tso kind of taste.

Hot Sweet Pork

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.

Scallop and Shrimp in Black Bean

 

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.

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Jordan, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shady Rest Restaurant in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

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.

ShadyRestQualicumBeach

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.

QualicumBeach

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.

CodPretzleCrust

SalmonChowderSpinachSalad

 

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.)

ShadyRestView

 

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.

QualicumFoods

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, iPhone, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Edmonds Little Free Library

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:

EdmondsLittleLibrary2

 

EdmondsLittleLibrary

 

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?

May 7, 2016 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Education, EPIC Book Club, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Carolina Wrens

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.

 

CarolinaWrenBabies

 

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!

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Birds, Circle of Life and Death, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Gardens, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Philosophy in a Fortune Cooky

fortune-cookie-fundraiser

 

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.

 

Kuwait-crash-Desert-Sun

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 . . .

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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?’ 😉

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lent, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | 7 Comments