Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pensacola Parking Hall of Shame

I won’t even disguise the license plate on this one. In a very busy parking lot, this hog took up FOUR spaces.

 

00ParkingHallOfShame

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September 4, 2014 Posted by | Living Conditions, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Rants | Leave a comment

The Cable Bill: A Tiresome Battle

Every year around this time, we get a whopper of a cable bill, far above our normal bill.

And we gird for war.

I used to handle it and AdventureMan would sometimes laugh from his office. (Once an insurance agent said to me “You READ the policy??” when I told her I was discontinuing it because the things it covered were things that didn’t apply, and the things that I needed weren’t covered.) When AdventureMan volunteered to handle the annual cable bill call, I danced for joy.

man-angry-phone

If you want to win, you have to have a strategy. But not any old strategy is going to win the cable bill battle, you have to have the strength and fortitude for THE LONG PHONE CALL.

As we do this, I can hear my Dad’s voice as he would do battle over the phone, with the post office over an extra charge on a package, or a financial institution about just when that interest should be paid and how it should be calculated.

You can’t do this unless you have the time and energy.

AdventureMan ultimately prevails, and saved us over $600 over the course of the cable year, but it is a tedious battle, at one point, the equivalent of a siege, a battle of attrition, as he goes through what we are buying line by line.

The cable representative, however, has his own weapons – wire and smoke and mirrors, disguised as bundles and discounts and specials. They can “stack” some, but not others, and the packages may not be as described. It’s dirty warfare, down in the trenches, but the ultimate weapon is that AdventureMan has the time, and they have their time limits.

One day we are hoping to walk away from cable altogether, but until we can figure out how to get Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, and other programs we like on a reliable basis, we stick with the devil we know.

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

“You Can Be Right, Or You Can Be Happy”

As AdventureMan and I were trying a new place for lunch yesterday, the booth next to us filled with a group of roofers (roofers have a lot of good business in a place like Pensacola which gets both heavy winds and heavy rains). While they were not talking overly loud, one had a voice that carried and he shared with his friends – and us – a rule of life his Grandfather had told him.

“You can be right, or you can be happy.”

We laughed. When AdventureMan wants to annoy me, he tells other people that the reason we’ve been married so long is that whenever we disagree, he apologizes.

Hilarious.

August 20, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Humor, Pet Peeves | Leave a comment

Only in Kuwait: The Original

Sigh. These are, sadly, true. I have seen them myself. I used to make people mad; I always carried a camera, and when I would see able bodied young men park in the handicapped spots, I would take their photos. They would get really mad. I knew I might be risking my life, so I tried to be careful, but I was also hoping they would feel shame, and stop doing it.

Screen shot 2014-03-16 at 3.03.28 PM

Talal Al-Ghannam is a very brave Kuwaiti for printing these “Only in Kuwait . . . ” columns.

Only In Kuwait

These are the things you won’t find in other modern countries or even ones that are poorer, but only in Kuwait.

1. Only in Kuwait people APPEAL to the government to apply the law.

2. Only in Kuwait handicapped parking places are seized by ordinary people.

3. Only in Kuwait many people like to park on the pavement and on green landscapes.

4. Only in Kuwait you could get killed for a parking space.

5. Only in Kuwait you could get beaten if you did not let a maniac driving behind you to pass.

6. Only in Kuwait policemen are beaten by mobs.

7. Only in Kuwait many policemen play with their smart phones rather than monitor the roads.

8 .Only in Kuwait many police stations have only one policeman.

9. Only in Kuwait you need a fancy car on the road to be respected.

10. Only in Kuwait you need three months to get an appointment in a hospital unless you are really sick.

11. Only in Kuwait the majority of Kuwaitis travel out of town when there is a two-day holiday.

12. Only in Kuwait the majority of employees get sick suddenly when there is a holiday coming up.

13. Only in Kuwait we see people spitting or urinating in the streets.

14. Only in Kuwait we see maniacs driving on the shoulder of the road, throwing up gravel to break your car’s windshield.

15. Only in Kuwait some Kuwaitis say ‘kaifi ana Kuwaiti’, meaning I am a Kuwait, I can do whatever I want.

16. Only in Kuwait you see many Kuwaitis able to deport expatriates. I will rest my pen for now until the next article.

By Talal Al-Ghannam
local@kuwaittimes.net

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pet Peeves, Values | 2 Comments

“I Make Three Times What She Makes and She Wants To Talk About Chore Charts?!”

The man in the next booth was pushing all my buttons. The truth is, we don’t want to hear about his personal life. I don’t want to hear about anyone’s personal lives unless it is me and one of my oldest bestest friends, and we keep our voices down. Private lives are PRIVATE!

He is talking with someone, maybe his co-worker, and his entire monologue is about his failing relationship with his wife. I really don’t want to hear this.

And then he says “I make three times what she makes, and she wants to talk about chore charts???” and please, I need a pat on the back, I didn’t say anything, I didn’t get up and clock him, I didn’t even blink. AdventureMan laughed, he knew I was choking mad on the inside.

It doesn’t matter what you make, big man. If you are both working, you share the household chores. You both live there. You clean up your own mess, you pick up your own dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket. You rinse your own dishes. You change the baby, you drive your son to his soccer game. It’s called teamwork.

Sure, I totally get division of labor. What I don’t get is this attitude of entitlement; like the fifties are long gone and we all work and we all share the duties of home and children and making it all work out at the end of the day. It’s never giving 50% – 50% – It’s always giving at least 75% – 75%.

We call it the Well of Good Will. If we were perfect people we wouldn’t need it, but we are people who screw up. We need mercy. We need forgiveness. So you give a little extra every day and hope that on a day when you fall short, there is enough on deposit in the well of good will that you can get a pass on your shortcomings for today.

If you are having a problem with your primary relationship, have a straight talk with that person. It doesn’t do any good to bad-mouth your spouse to a co-worker, and it certainly is not amusing to those of us forced to overhear. Ugh.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Family Issues, Marriage, Pet Peeves, Privacy, Rants, Relationships, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

PF Chang in SanDestin: A Much Needed Stop

After you’ve been married so many years, your mate knows exactly what buttons to push, and not just in bad ways.

 

“Hey! Look at the time! It looks like we’ll be near PF Changs for lunch!” said AdventureMan, pretending to be excited. Chinese food is comfort food to me, and he likes it OK, but he is relatively – relative to me – indifferent. And while PF Changs is pretty good, it is also good relative, relative to Pensacola, Navarre, Crestview, Niceville, Destin, Panama City – pretty good. It is a chain, and it is not San Francisco, or Seattle, or other cities where good Chinese food is sought after and valued.

 

So he feigns excitement, knowing I will happily eat at PF Changs, because relatively speaking, I am yearning for some good Chinese food.

 

We get there just as the Thanksgiving lunch crowd is beginning to head into the restaurants to take a break from shopping. We are happy; we can see many empty tables still. There are times this restaurant has been so packed that we have chosen to go elsewhere.

 

“It will be about ten to fifteen minutes before I can get you to a table,” the hostess says, bustling by and barely giving us a glance.

 

Oh oh. I can see AdventureMan’s testosterone level rising. But he has learned a lot in his years, so he tackles the problem nicely: “But I can see empty tables,” he says, and gestures to the large assortment of empty tables.

She seems annoyed to be interrupted in whatever her busy-ness was, and annoyed at being questioned.

“I have the tables,” she said shortly, “but I’ve had to call in extra staff to wait on them. They should start arriving shortly.”

 

00PFChangInterior

The wait is actually short, and that welcome was the worst part of our meal, and not even that was so bad. Actually, AdventureMan and her had a nice chat while I wandered off to find the ladies room. When I came back, he had been seated, and we quickly ordered a big pot of tea and lunch. It arrived quickly, was hot and beautifully presented, and was delicious, seasoned by our hunger.

Our server was attentive and efficient without being intrusive. He made excellent suggestions and made sure our orders were customized – AdventureMan wanted his extra spicy, and he got lots of fabulous peppers. AdventureMan had Kung Pao Scallops and I had Spicy Chicken. We both had the Hot and Sour Soup, which we thought was pretty good.

 
I think his was better . . .
00PFChangKungPauScallops

00PFChangSpicyChicken

I am thankful for a lunch at PF Changs AND I am yearning for Seattle, and the countless places to get authentic and tasty Chinese food.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Restaurant, Road Trips, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Name that Country: A Most Difficult Challenge

This morning, as I was praying for Panama – there is always a diocese listed in the daily lectionary to be prayed for somewhere in the world – I was thinking how I know where Panama is. When we are praying for Nigeria, there are names I haven’t heard of. I now Lagos, and Port Harcourt, but where is Abuja? Owerri? I go to GoogleEarth and look them up.

 

I struggle with how little the average American knows about geographical location. It’s just embarrassing. Through all the years I lived abroad, most of the time, unless it was Germany, people couldn’t quite place where I was living. Many had heard of Tunisia; we had troops there in World War II, and Saudi Arabia, because they had seen it often enough on the news, but the rest of the Arab Gulf, Jordan, Syria, North Africa – beyond them.

 

Then, on the first night of one of my grad classes, the professor handed us this map and gave us ten minutes to put in the appropriate country names. He did not, thanks be to God, ask us to put in capitals. Not a single one of us got them all, and this was a class full of nation-oriented people.

samerica

 

 

It was also on the final exam, three months later, and most of us got them all right – thanks to some fervent cramming and study groups.

 

Here are a couple more maps, in case you are feeling cocky. See if you can accurately fill in the name of each country:

african_color

 

 

 

Unknown

Bonne chance!

 

 

 

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, Interconnected, Jordan, Lectionary Readings, Middle East, Pet Peeves, Random Musings, Travel, Tunisia | | Leave a comment

Qatar MOI States Employers Will Be forced to Abide by the Rules

It doesn’t matter how enlightened the legislation – if the law is not enforced, the rules on the book are laughable. It gives the illusion of a lawful society, but if citizens know that they will not be penalized for breaking the law, they will scoff at the law and do as they please. People who came to the country expecting to make a fair wage and be treated decently and with dignity find themselves without proper paperwork due to the corruption of their employer or recruiter.

If the MOI in Qatar enforces this law, a terrible situation will be slightly better. This, from The Qatar Gulf Times:

 

By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter

 

With the Ministry of Interior (MoI) taking a firm stand on ID cards, residents believe that this will safeguard the interests of workers as their employers will now be forced to abide by the rules.

A report in the Tuesday edition of Gulf Times had quoted a senior official as saying that residents should always carry their residence permit ID cards and produce the same whenever asked by the authorities concerned. Those failing to do so would be fined up to QR10,000, the report had said, adding that the MoI could also transfer the sponsorship of expatriates if they proved that they were abused by sponsors under Law No 4/2009.

Welcoming the MoI’s decision, legal expert and rights activist Nizar Kochery said this would make employers more accountable as any long delay or failure on their part to stamp the visas of their staff would invite a hefty fine.

“There have been cases of companies refusing to stamp visas for long periods and workers being picked up by the law-enforcing agencies for failing to produce valid residence proof,” said Kochery, adding that the ministerial reaffirmation would force employers to stamp visas promptly.

Reacting to the report, an Asian diplomat said his country’s mission frequently received complaints from people alleging that their employers had not stamped their visas even months after their arrival in Qatar.

“The embassy receives such complaints from expatriates every week though there has been a drastic fall in their numbers in recent times due to strict enforcement of the rules by the local authorities,” he added.

Kochery said there should also be stringent implementation of the rules pertaining to expatriates’ passports. “Though the ministry issued guidelines more than three years ago on the issue of custody of passports, complaints of violation of this norm continue,” the legal expert said.

The ministry had instructed employers to hand over the passports of employees after the completion of formalities. However, there have been cases of some employers retaining the passports in violation of the local rules.

“A similar fine (like the one for not carrying IDs) should be imposed on erring employers for illegally keeping their workers’ passports,” he said.

A few years ago, this newspaper had reported about a theft in a manpower company’s office in Musheireb. More than 150 passports of workers, which the firm had kept in its custody in violation of rules, went missing in the incident. Meanwhile,  residents have also said similar penalties were required to curb violations regarding exit permits as well. A social activist in the Indian community said there have been complaints of employers failing to arrange exit permits for their workers on time even during emergencies.

There have also been reports of residents, mainly drivers, lodging complaints with embassies, alleging that their sponsors take away their licences when they go on vacation.

“The MoI should consider imposing hefty fines on such employers as well. Like a passport, a driving licence is not only the property of an individual, but is also a proof of identification under the local rules,” said Kochery.

July 11, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Pet Peeves, Qatar, Relationships, Scams, Social Issues, Transparency, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Not-So-Friendly Downtown Pensacola

When I first moved to Pensacola – a mere three years ago – one of the things I loved was how inviting downtown was. When we go downtown for lunch, or to the market, or to the symphony, it’s not like all the big cities where they gouge you for parking and then moan that no-one wants to come downtown. No, parking was free, and ample. It was a joy to go downtown.

Today, I was down picking up a friend to go to lunch. I got a shock:

00PayHereKiosks

00PayHereCloseUp

This breaks my heart. I parked illegally, in a loading zone, while I waited for my friend.

If this is a downtown improvement, it is not one I fine user-friendly. Pensacola is trying to encourage people to come downtown, and has been successful. Why shoot the golden goose, getting greedy, putting in pay kiosks?? Why not give the customers a break? BOOOOOOOO and HISSSSSS to the Downtown Improvement Board.

January 10, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Customer Service, Financial Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Pet Peeves, Shopping, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Travel – No Longer Such a Great Adventure

I remember when I was a little girl, flying out of Alaska, PanAm, it was all so glamorous. We all dressed up, the stewardesses gave us wings to wear and we dreamed of growing up to live their adventurous life. The bathrooms were lounges, with a sitting area. Some of the seats faced others, like in a train. There was actually a lounge area, maybe where people would drink (I was too young to remember.)

That was long ago.

First, security took a lot of fun out of flying. Just having to take off your shoes is so degrading, so undignified, and when you are also taking out your computer and your little bag of liquids or make up or whatever, pulling off belts or jackets – it is just a big degrading drag. I totally get it. I don’t want to be sitting next to the underwear bomber, or the disgruntled hijacker, and at the same time, it is an annoyance.

Delta sent me a survey, how did I like my flight? What’s to like? I don’t pay the extra to fly business or first class when I am not flying from Qatar or Kuwait to Seattle – it’s a lot of money and for what? You don’t get more privacy, the food is still airplane food, and it’s just not a good value for the money.

I know about booking my seat when I book my flight, so I usually get a good selection, but now it is further back, now with the new “economy plus.” Economy plus doesn’t give you much, just maybe a few more inches between you and the seat in front of you. It doesn’t give you a wider seat, or more privacy, or more space in the overhead bin. It’s still cattle class, just at the front of the cattle car.

Since the airlines started charging for bags, more and more people are trundling their barely-meets-the-standard bags onto the plane, some people take TWO bags on the plane, I guess they are claiming one bag is their purse. I’ve been there; when I lived overseas and was checking two big bags through and still needed a carry-on (and once, when someone bumped me just outside the Starbucks and knocked my coffee all over my entire outfit, I was glad to be able to go into the restroom, clean off and change.)

But most of the time, all these bags just make getting through the airport more competitive and obstructive. People worry about getting space in the overhead bins; it makes them less nice. We are all competing for a scarce resource, and people can get nasty.

The restaurants in the airports are a minefield as you head for your table, dodging giant carry-ons and the glares of their owners. I can guess they are tired of schlepping those monstrosities; but get them out of the aisles! Entire families stride down the gateways, rolling their bags here and there, dropping their jackets and sweaters, holding up traffic as they stop to pick up or to console the whining child who can’t keep up, or is tired of wheeling their own oversized carry-on. It isn’t pretty.

And now, too, all the rental cars in Seattle have been consolidated to an offsite location with complimentary bus transportation. I am lucky, going to Seattle I can manage fine with one bag (checked) but going to an offsite location adds about half an hour to the time it takes to get out of the airport and on the way to my destination. I have no control over when the buses will come or go, and I imagine myself coming in from Kuwait or Qatar or Germany with my two big bags and a purse and how on earth does one manage? You have to take an escalator up or down when you pick up or drop off your car! How do you manage if you need to use the rest room? It used to be so easy – get one of those carts, truck your bags over to your rental car, deposit, run to the ladies room, depart. Not so, anymore.

So I told Delta the truth. There is no glamour. There is no adventure. It is grim. There is no graciousness; the flight attendants are harried, overworked, dealing with stressed and unhappy customers crowded, too crowded, onto flights which are flying totally full; we are packed together like sardines. We are not happy.

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Pet Peeves, Seattle, Travel | Leave a comment