Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pouring Rain and a Herd of Sheep

Our first day in Seville, and we are so excited. We are READY. This trip is rated as having a lot of walking, so in addition to my prettier shoes, I packed my Alaska shoes, a pair of black leather New Balance shoes, and a bunch of brand new socks. I am wearing a dress and tennis shoes, and feeling a little ridiculous, but I don’t care. We are given these “whisper” things, receivers you wear around your neck and earbuds you keep in your ears. Your guide can talk to you without causing a commotion, and you are supposed to always stay within hearing of your guide.

As we head outdoors, the heavens open and the rain pours down. No problem, in my purse I have a brand new sort of mini umbrella I found, so I open it up, and something is not quite right. It doesn’t stay open, as I am walking along it will pop close all by itself now and then, and besides, everyone else is popping out umbrellas and it is congested, and umbrellas are dripping on me. I am miserable.

For a few minutes, I actually contemplate skipping this tour altogether, but when else will I get a chance to tour the Alcazar? The Seville Cathedral? With someone who knows and can tell us what we are seeing? I decide to have a good time, and, for the most part, I do.

Who could not love the Alcazar, the Royal Palace, even in the gloom and the rain? The Alcazar is full of groups, but far fewer than if it were not pouring down rain, sheets of rain.

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The amount thought and precision that went into the process of creating the Alcazar boggles my mind. What does a little rain matter when contemplating such beauty? So many media; tiles, wood, plaster, stone, and all used with precision and an eye for the overall effect. It is stunning.

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Alcazar; Ceiling Embassy hall

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And in the middle of all this artistry, one woman works to capture – herself.

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I’ve given up totally on the worthless umbrella and decided to just avoid rain if I can, and if I can’t, oh well. Visiting the gardens, it’s worth getting wet. These gardens, even in the rain, are gorgeous, lush, and I can imagine summer concerts and strolling.

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We spend a good long time in the Alcazar, and it is time to head to the Cathedral, but not quite our group’s scheduled time, so we head to a cafe for churros and chocolate, a local specialty. The cafe is so cozy we almost rebel when it comes time to leave. The guide tells us that leading seniors is as bad as leading teen-agers; we argue and think we know what we want to do. We are a small group, twenty people, but similar in goals and values.

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It is warm and dry in the cathedral, but my dress is soaked. My shoes, however, are great, my feet aren’t tired, my socks are dry and I have already walked 10,000 steps! The hard floors of the cathedral tire me, though, so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I meant to. It was beautiful. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella . . .. something. Beautiful altarpiece by . . . someone. A big gold thing called a montrance which is close enough to French for me to think it was for showing something, probably sacred relics, bones or pieces of the cross? I am ready to be warm and dry and my attention is definately wandering.

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As we leave the Cathedral to head back to our hotel, just a short walk, the sun breaks through. The rain is gone. It’s a whole different day. We walk back in good cheer, change our clothes, and head out for lunch.

Today is the first day we have heard two dates: 711, when the Moslem Tariq invaded near Gibraltar (Jebal Tariq) and burned his ships, telling his men they had to fight because there was no way back. The second date is 1492, which every American associates with “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two” but we learned is the date when the Moslems were forced out of Al-Andalus. We saw paintings of people weeping as they left, and who wouldn’t weep, leaving such beauty and luxury? The same year, the Jews were also forced out, forced into North Africa, Italy, Eastern Europe, forced to seek safety elsewhere. Some converted and were allowed to stay, and are there to this day.

“But where is the herd of sheep?” you ask. This is an experiment for us, to see how well we can handle group travel. We are finding we like our fellow Smithsonian travelers very well, but because we are like cats (more than sheep) we do not herd well. We like to take our time where we wish to stay longer, and to hurry past that which doesn’t much interest us. We were trained, long ago, not to be in large groups of Americans, and here we are, a herd of sheep. It becomes a continuing theme; there are so many things we like, but walking in a group we don’t like.

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November 17, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Faith, Local Lore, Public Art, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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

Contemporary Art Bike Racks – Another Reason to Love Pensacola

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These are so cool, on every corner south of Garden on Palafox. They are not only handy for our urban riders, they LOOK great, very svelte, minimal. Very cool. Woooo HOOOO on you, Pensacola!

July 25, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Exercise, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Parenting, Public Art, Road Trips | Leave a comment

Dancers, Costumes, Transmitting Culture at Celebration 2014

I am getting questions about the clans and tribes. I can’t answer your questions. I know there are the Ravens, and the Eagles, and I know they are not hostile but two halves of a whole. I know the raven legend; raven steals the sun – knowledge – and shares it with everyone. He is often shown with a long beak and/or curled around a ball. Eagles have short curved sharp beaks. But, with dispensation, an Eagle may marry a Raven. There are also subgroups, so you can be at once a Raven and a Bear, or a Killer Whale, or maybe a Wolf.

I try to understand, but it is a lot to absorb, and sort of complicated and flexible. As I look at my photos, I can see I was most interested in focusing on the costumes / textiles and less interested in the story. I wish I could tell you more, but you will have to read it for yourselves!

Here is a mural in downtown Juneau that demonstrates some of the artistic traditions of some of the various clans:

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It’s important to remember – this is about them. It’s about holding on to traditional values and core beliefs, and transmitting knowledge of the culture to children and grandchildren. It’s not about us. As I said, we are there to witness and observe and celebrate, but they are there to celebrate who they are. Meanwhile, you can share the experience with these photos:

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The front and center rows were reserved for the elders, and once the dancers started, every seat was filled. There were wet eyes, and open weeping. There were joyful moments, too, when the dancers would invite ‘all the Eagles’ or (something I didn’t understand) to rise and join them in their dance. My own heart swelled to witness their joy.

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June 24, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Juneau and Tracey’s Crab Shack

Getting close to Juneau, we spot these very strange cloud formations:

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As we dock, we call the hotel shuttle from Country Lane and they are there within minutes. They drop us off at the hotel so we can unload our bags, then take us over to the airport so we can pick up our car.

You know me and public art. I love these sculptures in the Juneau airport, and especially that they have the traditional Haida forms as part of their form:

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It is a gorgeous day in Juneau, 70ยฐ, hey, the sun is shining, it is very warm, this is a great day. We head immediately in to town for lunch at Tracy’s Crab Shack.

This is for my Mom; she likes to see the prices ๐Ÿ™‚

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Tracy’s Crab Shack is one smart operation. First – location location location. They are right on the cruise ship docks. First thing you step off one of those giant ships, you see Traceys. Second, they don’t rely on location. They have a first quality product. They don’t compromise. They cook the crab legs right out in the open, fresh, while you wait. They have crowds standing in line to get these crab legs, and you eat outside at butcher paper covered tables; the crab meals are served in paper containers and you SHARE tables. It works.

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We share a table with two rough young men and have a fascinating conversation. They drove up, have had fabulous adventures and we shared information. I said that the thing that surprised me was that I expected Alaska to be more wired than it is; one of them said that his big surprise was to find Alaska as wired as it is, and that wifi is available at a large number of cafes and restaurants. That was fascinating to me, to opposite perspectives. Part of it, I think, was being on the ferry system – all the ferries in Seattle are wired, so it was a shock to me that the Alaska ferries were not.

One of our tablemates had now visited all 50 states, and the other had visited
49 states.

We saw people from all over the world lined up and eating King Crab at Tracy’s. AdventureMan had the crab bisque over rice and I had the crab cakes. Eating King Crab legs is messy, and I didn’t want to smell like crab for the rest of the day.

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Tracey’s is the number one rated restaurant in Juneau on TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon. I think it must be the combination of the crowd they attract and the product. Juneau people eat there, too.

September 12, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Public Art, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | 2 Comments

Reconnaissance Trip in Homer

Did I tell you how this trip came about? How last year I saw a notice about The Celebration in Juneau, but we were already en route to Zambia on those exact dates?

As we started planning this Alaska trip in 2014, we discovered we had more ideas than we have time. The Qatari Cat is ten years old now; we don’t like to leave him at the Wee Tuck ‘Em Inn longer than a couple weeks at most. The more we decided what to include in the two weeks, the more we came to the realization that we needed to do a reconnaissance trip :-). I found the Alaska Marine Highway System, and we realized we could cover a lot of ground and see a variety of terrain by taking this cross Gulf ferry, the M/V Kennicott.

Homer is almost the end of the line. The ferry continues to Seldovia, which is picturesque and beautiful, but we wanted to explore Homer, and to figure out where we will go next year after the Celebration.

Homer is so much fun. It’s been voted one of the hippest cities in America, for it’s 70’s counter culture and community values. It is a very fun place to be, and full of breathtaking scenery.

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Even a Homer quilt shop!

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September 8, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Public Art, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Kodiak and the Trip to Homer on the M/V Kennicott

Landed in Kodiak early, so early I don’t know how early. We rise, dress and WOW, it is not raining, you can even see some sun, so we decide to walk into Kodiak. As we debark, we ask which way and the Terminal Manager Steve catches up with us and offers us a ride. It warmed my heart, this is exactly what I wanted AdventureMan to see, this is what I grew up with, the Spirit of Alaska ๐Ÿ™‚ taking care of one another. Alaska is like one big community.

On the way, he gives us an overview of Kodiak and we talk about the big problem with the lack of ferry transportation this year with the Tustemena out of service. Tustemena is the M/V ferry that runs down the Aleutian Islands all the way to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, another trip we want to make. It’s been a big loss for all tour related businesses on the peninsula and for Kodiak. The Kennicott will make a run down in late September to help get people, goods and vehicles out who are waiting for transportation.

We told him we wanted some breakfast, and he dropped us off at the Shelikof Lodge, full of locals. I actually asked where he eats breakfast, and he said “at home” and we learned why – this is a very busy man. He runs back and forth between all the terminals, solving problems, making sure everything is going smoothly. In Kodiak, people work hard.

At the Shelikov, AdventureMan has biscuits and gravy, and I have reindeer sausage for the first time, with a hot, spicy aftertaste I love. Even though it is very lean meat, I only eat half.

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Shelikov Lodge Breakfast Specialties:
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AdventureMan’s Biscuits and Gravy
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Reindeer Sausage
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We hike to the Russian Orthodox Church, passing a tidal wave marker on the way. It is scary – it seems rather high on the island. That tidal wave came a long way up.

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We walk through Kodiak, past all the processing plants, to ship. It’s not a very big place, but you can see a lot of pride in what they do.

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LOL, loading the cars and trucks and containers and R/Vs takes hours and there is a long long line of walk ons, first the Kodiak football team, all in their jerseys, and then the Kodiak high school cross country team in bright lemon yellow wind breakers. Maybe 150 students, good kids, full of energy, whooping it up.

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We leave Kodiak late, but these late departures seem to be built into the ferry schedule – they never know where they will need more time.

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These meadows look so Swiss to me.
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Just like Life of Pi! Fish jumping out of the water in tens and hundreds, flying!
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Whales to feed on those crops of fish
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Approaching the Barrens, as the sea passage gets a little rougher. This is one of the windiest, roughest areas to traverse
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There is a whole new dynamic on board with the high-schoolers. They are hilarious! All that teenage energy! We hit rough water just after going through the Barrens, and the kids are standing on the forward deck waiting for huge waves to break over the bow. When the huge waves break, it is like in a movies, a sheet of water, and the kids hang on and come up laughing.

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We go through rough waters about an hour, then things calm down and . . . the sun comes out! Gorgeous scenery, all the way to Homer.

Approaching Homer Spit on M/V Kennicott:
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Docked almost exactly at 9, as scheduled. We waited for the kids to all get off, then walked to the terminal, where there are NO taxis waiting. When I made reservations, I had asked the hotel if they send a shuttle to the ferry terminal and they said no, they didn’t have a shuttle, but there are always taxis waiting. No. No, that is just not true. There are not always taxis waiting.

We see a couple we had met onboard, they ask where we are going and we tell them the Driftwood Inn and he says “that’s where we’re going!” and offers to split the cab they have already called with us. Perfect! Except when we get to the hotel he discovers that he is NOT staying at the Driftwood Inn, and he has to call the taxi driver back again to take him to the Heritage Inn.

It’s sad, I think this is a generational thing, he kept calling himself a dummy. We are raised in a different generation, to call someone a dummy is just so negative and so degrading that we would never do it, not to anyone else, not to ourselves. We might say “How could I be such an idiot!?” but we were horrified – and a little heartbroken – to hear this really nice man berate himself like that.

What was cool is that we ran into them again – twice – before twenty-four hours had passed, once at the car rental agency, and once again at the Homer Farmer’s Market. They had settled in quickly, only a couple blocks from where we were staying and were having a wonderful time, heading out that afternoon in route to Prudhoe Bay. (I’m impressed.)

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Our room is lovely, spacious and welcoming, with gorgeous shared spaces and a view to die for, maybe 230 degrees of glaciers, mountains, Kachemak Bay and driftwoody beach. The sun is setting, the air smells clean; sea, salt and pine, the skies are clear, and oh, life is sweet.

Sunset from Driftwood Inn, Homer, Alaska:
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September 6, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Public Art, Restaurant, Sunsets, Travel, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

The North Douglas Road

AdventureMan spotted this along the North Douglas Road as we explored all the routes that do not lead out of Juneau. Juneau can only be accessed by air or sea; there are no roads in or out of Juneau that connect to anywhere else. There is talk of “A ROAD” and people will ask you whether you are for it or against it. What do you think?

It is possible that Juneau has maintained much of its character and values by being somewhat isolated. On the other hand, perhaps this isolation has restrained Juneau from achieving its full potential.

Once the tourist season is over, there are to big things. Skiing and the Crimson Bear basketball games. Who would think that high school basketball would be so engrossing, but in a small town, the Crimson Bears are king.

We loved this gateway, made of old skis:

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August 24, 2013 Posted by | Alaska, Public Art, Travel, Values | 2 Comments

The SeaTac Food Court

“Terminal T? Is that new? I don’t remember arriving at Terminal T before!”

Not even two weeks have passed, and we are going through SeaTac again, this time en route to Alaska. As we enter “Terminal T” we discover terminal T is like saying “Shrimp scampi” you are saying the same thing. T is the Terminal, it used to be the only terminal. It’s what used to be the original airport before all the South Terminals and North Terminals and others I don’t even know. Oh yeh, A, B, and C.

But the Main Terminal is a delight. Seattle loves public art, as do I, and arriving in Seattle at the main terminal, you find schools of little brass fish swirling under your footsteps, if you think to look. These little touches delight me.

We are flying out of Seattle to Alaska, and Alaska Airlines flies out of terminals C or N, and as it turns out, our flight flies out of N, or the North Concourse. On our way there, we are wondering if we will find something healthy to pick up for our dinner, when we come to the Food Court.

We’ve eaten here before, breakfast. They have an Anthony’s-in-the-Airport, and my best friend recommended their breakfast egg dishes. I hate oatmeal, but discovered that the oatmeal at Anthony’s is delicious! It must not be good for me; how can oatmeal that is good for me taste so good?

And, as it turns out, Anthony’s has a take-out section! Woo Hooo!

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Well, hmmmm, not quite. They don’t have the Ceasar Salad with a piece of grilled salmon or halibut on the top, but isn’t salmon and chips almost as healthy? Although in intend to wait to eat on the plane, the odor of delicious deep fried salmon calls to me, along with a cup of freshly brewed mocha, and I go ahead and eat my dinner in the Seattle airport.

I love it that there are so many options. Anthony’s has a great restaurant, right in the old main terminal, with floor to ceiling glass, it is a glorious situation. There are other eating establishments where you can order and then sit in the same area at tables and chairs – Ivars, some Mexican, some others which are good, it’s just I love the take out from Anthony’s. Normally airport food can be a total drag, unless you go through Memphis and have some BBQ – or Seattle. Seattle does airport food right.

August 18, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Public Art, Seattle, Travel | , | 2 Comments

Qatar returns statues to Greece amid nudity dispute

Hilarious! Thank you, John Mueller and the Guardian for this giggle.

Qatar returns statues to Greece amid nudity dispute

Culture clash erupts after Greek minister visits Doha show and spots ancient treasures covered in strategically placed cloth.

Qatar and Greece row โ€“ Kouros sanctuary of Ptoan Apollo Archaic 520 BC Greek Greece Museum

Naked ambition: cash-strapped Greece has long been wooing Qatar. The display was meant to ‘open a bridge of friendship’ between the countries. Photograph: Alamy

 

It was a spat that nobody wanted โ€“ neither the Greeks, the Qataris nor, say officials, the two nude statues that sparked the furore.

But in a classic clash of cultures,ย Greeceย has found itself at odds with the oil-rich state โ€“ a nation it is keen to woo financially โ€“ over the presentation of masterworks depicting athletes in an exhibition dedicated to the Olympic games.

“The statues are now back at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens,” said a culture ministry official.

The dispute, though authorities are not calling it that, broke when Greece’s culture minister, Costas Tzavaras, arrived in Doha last month to discover the “anatomically challenging” treasures cloaked in cloth for fear of offending female spectators.

“In a society where there are certain laws and traditions authorities felt women would be scandalised by seeing such things, even on statues,” added the official who was present at the time.

“The minister, of course, said while he totally respected local customs he couldn’t accept the antiquities not being exhibited in their natural state,” she told the Guardian. “They were great works of art and aesthetically it was wrong.”

The statues, an archaic-era Greek youth and a Roman-era copy of a classical athlete, were to be the centrepiece of an exhibition entitled Olympic Games: Past and Present. Bankrupt Greece was delighted to facilitate when organisers in Doha got in touch. Mired in its worst economic crisis in modern times, the debt-stricken country is eager for investment from the Gulf state, which this year promised to pour โ‚ฌ1bn into a joint investment fund.

In another hopeful sign, the emir ofย Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, recently bought six isles in the Ionian sea with a view to building palaces on them for his three wives and 24 children.

Visiting the Qatari capital for the opening of the show, Tzavaras seized the opportunity to describe the exhibition as “opening a bridge of friendship” between the countries. The discovery of the covered-up antiquities was a setback few had envisaged.

“We don’t want to portray it as a row, and we certainly didn’t want it to overshadow the exhibition,” explained the official. “It was all very friendly. When they turned down our request (to remove the cloth) the statues were boxed up again and sent back to Athens.”

Mystery, nonetheless, shrouds the affair. The show, which had previously been hosted in Berlin, features more than 700 artworks from around Greece, including numerous nude statues. It remains unclear why Qatari authorities had taken such umbrage over the antiquities in question, although officials in Athens described the young athletes โ€“ both from Eleusis โ€“ as being especially beautiful.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Humor, Living Conditions, Public Art, Qatar, Values | | Leave a comment