Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

First World Problem

My problems are probably not your problems, but we all have to carry our own loads.

So yesterday, I was on the way to the YMCA for my water aerobics class; it helps me fight creeping depression. Why would I be depressed? Existentially, the tone of the current regime offends me, offends my values, and I have to fight not only depression, but also angry frustration. So I pray, asking for input which will alter my sour outlook.

At the pool, the first person I run into is one of my long-time pool buddies, and she has her little daughter with her. I ask how she is doing, and she says “I am not happy.” I know this woman, she is a good woman, and a conscientious mother. She goes on to say that she is at an age where other parents are waving their children off into independence, into college and jobs and marriages and children, and that will never happen for her. Her little daughter is 31, with Downs syndrome. She is a sweet, easy woman, but will always be a little girl.

My friend wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me how she saw her life at that moment in time, she was sharing her reality. I hugged her. It wouldn’t change anything, but she knew I was listening.

I left with an entirely changed point of view, going home to help AdventureMan take care of our two little “petites-enfants.” Tropical Storm Gordon is rolling in, their parents have to work and school has closed down in concerns for the safety of the children and their transportation. My problems are so First World. I got the input I needed.

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September 5, 2018 Posted by | Community, Exercise, Faith, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

USA: Democracy in Decline

On Sunday, the organist played “America the Beautiful” in a minor key. It reflected what many of us are experiencing. We love our country. We hate what we are seeing.

An excerpt from an article from the Washington Post about declining democracies in the world, this part focused on the USA, land that I love:

 

Democracy declined precipitously in the United States

The United States fell 24 places in the country ranking on liberal democracy over the past two years, from seventh in 2015 to 31st in 2017. When we compare the United States’ score in 2017 with its average score over the past 10 years, the drop is precipitous and unprecedented.


Liberal democracy in the United States: changes from the 10-year average.

Experts lowered their estimates of democracy in the United States because they began to be skeptical that the U.S. Congress will rein in executive overreach. Similarly, experts lost faith that the opposition party can contribute to overseeing, investigating or otherwise checking the majority party. The U.S. executive branch was assessed as showing less respect for the Constitution and compliance with the judiciary, two indicators that the judicial branch can restrain the executive.

For all four indicators, the score for the United States declined. The downward trend in the United States is much worse than in other countries. In terms of government compliance with decisions of the Supreme Court, the United States used to rank among the top countries of the world — but has now declined to No. 48.

I remember living in Kuwait, self-censoring my blog entries so I wouldn’t be expelled from the country, even blogging under a pseudonym. I think of the ICE officer who resigned, and was visited by law enforcement as he gave an interview to national news explaining why he (and others) were quitting ICE, disgusted and disheartened by the un-American practices they were being forced to engage in to export “illegals.” Yes, we still have freedom of speech, but we also look over our shoulders, now, never sure what new low will strike next.

July 5, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | | Leave a comment

AdventureMan Resists

different races of people clipart
clipartxtras.com

 

AdventureMan is hollering from his office to mine “Can I read you something?”

We all find ways to express our indignation. He writes directly to our president, our representative (he calls him Trump’s butt-boy, to me, not to him), to Pruitt. He tells them, in acceptable language, exactly what he thinks.

“I’d say ( . . . . ), but as a retired army officer, I think I am still subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice),” he says, and censors himself so that he is within civil boundaries.

How did we come to this, when our own national leader lies, again and again, even in the same day, and we have come to accept this as “normal?” How can we accept his calling people who are brown, and seeking a safer, better way of life “vermin” and their countries as “s-tholes?” The unthinkable has become our daily reality. It is not only the children, separated from their parents, who are becoming traumatized, it is also normal every-day Americans who believe that the American Dream is for everyone.

I think the American president is afraid of a world in which our nation is more brown than white, which it is well on it’s way to becoming. I think the thought of losing power terrifies him. I can’t imagine any other rational reason for his behavior towards the “other,” the stranger, those he labels as enemies.

So while I am startled when AdventureMan tells me he self-censors, I also understand. The unimaginable had manifested itself daily since this man was elected, and he will stop at no ends to complete his agenda. His cronies and fellow thugs will thrive, while we drink polluted water, and watch oil seep on to our shores from the off-shore drilling. We will watch our public schools fail, and our jails overflow. My heart breaks on a daily basis, watching what we, as a nation, are becoming.

I used to think the ACLU were a bunch of wackos. When the first travel ban went into effect, and we watched the stunned travelers arrive only to be told they must go back, the ACLU had tables in the airports offering free legal services. I sent my first check that night. I DO protest, via RESISTBOT (text Resist to 50409) wondering if my voice even matters. Sending checks to those who are resisting successfully gives me greater satisfaction. Reaching out my hands to “the other” gives me greater satisfaction. Building bridges and connections feeds my feelings of resistance, that together we can make a difference.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

“She shows us the same things,” you might complain, and again I say “I write this blog for myself and for the love of writing about the things I love. You are welcome, all are welcome, and if you are not happy, you are welcome to go elsewhere!”

I’ve lived an odd life, a life I would’t trade with anyone. I grew up in Alaska, on an island with a lot of native Americans as my fellow students in my little elementary school. I grew up with Alaskan art, Indian artifacts, masks, baskets, and the hand made costumes, red and black images, sparked with trimming of white shirt buttons. I went to high school in Germany, traveling far and wide with my family or with friends through that continent, visiting more than a few churches and museums, even making special trips to see an exhibit or two.

Then a big change, life in the Middle East and Africa, where I learned to see things through a very different set of eyes and experiences, but something strange started happening, as I noted the differences, I could also see amazing similarities.

I love women’s handwork. I love the nomadic textiles, often made on very narrow looms that could be mostly a couple sticks and yarn from sheep or goats you’ve raised and slaughtered, died with whatever you could get your hands on. And, oddly, the weavings and patterns from Native American baskets and weavings have a lot in common with weavings from the Middle East, West Asia (the ‘Stans) and Africa. There is a love of working with black, white and red, for example, and a similarity to the structure of the animals, even when the animals themselves differ.

If you are interested in the work women do with their hands, you never lack for conversation wherever you go. There are always groups where women are teaching one another new techniques. I’ve met wonderful, creative women in Germany and in Kuwait and in Tunisia, all finding new and innovative ways to create, and also exploring preservation of early and ancient techniques.

So this Museum, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum was richly rewarding for both AdventureMan and myself; it was rich in history, in interviews and movies showing early salmon runs, for example, and interviews with early Native Oregonians. It was also rich in exploring the techniques of early basket making and cooking techniques, preservation of salmon by drying and salting, etc. We spent hours in this museum, and we heartily recommend that you do, too 🙂 It is also a very gorgeous museum, rich in sensory impact, unforgettable.

I will show you pictures, and every now and then I will put in a little explanation.

Below is a dugout canoe, created from one very large cedar tree trunk, carved out by hand

There were really Direwolfs? GOT didn’t make them up?

Look at the motifs on these baskets! African? Azerbaijani? Kazakh? Kuwaiti?

For grinding chestnuts into paste, then the paste is cooked into a kind of meal like oatmeal. The morter and pestle is the same in so many places.

The round cooking stones, heated in fires, dropped into the meal, fished out once they start losing their heat, washed, reheated and put in again until the meal reaches a boil, all in this tightly woven basket.


Activity in the Children’s exploration area

We love the creativity and persistence of humans who preserve our heritage and traditions for future generations. It is particularly delightful when the preservation is in a museum conceived and manifested with beautiful elements and natural materials.

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Ft. Bragg . . . where??? (California)

Most people, when they think of Fort Bragg, think of a military post in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg we discovered several years ago in California has little in common with the North Carolina Fort Bragg.

Our first time in Fort Bragg, as we left Cucina Verona, an Italian restaurant where we had eaten dinner, we were startled by the loud sound of hoofbeats, and the sudden appearance of two riders, galloping hell-bent down the middle of the road in Ft. Bragg. It was one of those adrenaline moments, when you wonder if you really saw what you just thing you saw, followed by all the things that could go wrong when you mix horses, highways, automobiles and high speed.

This time, one of the first things we saw was this sign:

 

But . . . it doesn’t say anything about riding horses, skateboards, or bicycles down the center of the street!

Ft. Bragg has a very laid back vibe. The town is full of couples who look a lot like us, maybe even a little older, maybe a little more hip and less retired military than we look, but relaxed, comfortable in their own skins. We love the vibe. My very favorite activity in Ft. Bragg is at the north end of the town, where they have a place called Glass Beach. Glass beach is where the old town dump used to be, a long time ago, and all the bottles dumped there broke and were washed by the waves, tumbled by the gravel and sand, and became beach glass. Most of what you find is pretty small these days; Glass Beach has been discovered, but if you venture out the the furthest inlets and rocks, you can find some larger pieces, sometimes even a green piece. I found one tiny little blue piece, the grand prize of all beach glass.

We love the North Cliff Hotel, where every room has the same view, looking out over the water at the inlet to the little bay.

We love the hot tub with a view.

 

We love the view. On the morning we were leaving, we looked out and someone had written a huge message on the sand, “Annie will you marry me?” How cool is that?!

Time is flexible in Ft. Bragg. We get up when we want to, we don’t have to drive to any destination, we can be lazy or we can just meander around, which is what we choose to do.

Love this tunnel of eucalyptus trees entering Ft. Bragg from the north:

This yard had no flower but yellow flowers, and a LOT of yellow flowers!

 

 

Just a short drive south is Mendocino, one of the most beautiful little California towns you could hope to find. We were looking for special gifts for two special people, and found them, polished carved natural bay laurel bowls, at this shop.

 

I read a recent article on how California leads the way for the American soul; it gives me hope for the future of our country. California pioneered gay rights, California champions the rights of immigrant children to education and health benefits, and Californians “welcome the stranger,” as all people of the book are supposed to do.

This was in the window of the main grocery/hardware/sundries store in Mendocino. When a woman saw me taking a photo, she asked me why, and I told her, it made me feel welcome and filled my heart with joy to know that it specifically would also make my Arab / Muslim friends feel welcome. She smiled, sternly, and said that they welcome ALL people, that is what California is all about. I was happily chastened. 🙂

 

I want the United States of America to be a safe place for all people. No wonder I love California!

Well, there is another reason to love Ft. Bragg – they have one of the world’s best ice creameries right on the major through street in Ft. Bragg. 

Cowlicks Ice Cream is never not busy. On our first trip (we went twice in one day!) I had a scoop of ginger ice cream. It was a huge WOW. On the next trip, I had a chocolate which was really chocolaty, but I wished I had another scoop of ginger.

As we sat, eating our ice cream, I overheard a stylish but somewhat-frail looking 80’ish woman tell her daughter that she didn’t want to be bothered being married again, she was just looking to have a little fun without the complications of a relationship. Such is life in Ft. Bragg. 🙂

 

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

En Route to Ft. Bragg, California

“Ft. Bragg . . . California?”

We get that a lot; most of our friends have heard of the Fort Bragg in North Carolina but most are not familiar with the Ft. Bragg just north of Mendocino on the northern California coast. We discovered it two or three years ago on one of our hiking and exploring trips, and fell in love. Some places just send out vibes, affinity vibes.

AdventureMan was talking this morning about Ft. Bragg, saying that if we lived there, we’d get tired of eating, even at the places we love, over and over again. It’s a drive to get just about anywhere from Ft. Bragg, maybe two or three hours north of San Francisco. But it’s lovely.

The drive from Bandon to Ft. Bragg is the most challenging drive of the trip.

The scenery is spectacular, the day is beautiful, sunny and windy. The drive as far as Crescent City is a piece of cake on Highway 101, alongside gorgeous scenery part of the way.

 

 

In Crescent City, we stopped for lunch at Fisherman’s Restaurant, which looked like a lot of fun. It was:

 

 

I had to have the Cali melt 🙂

 

They had a display case full of so many different kinds of pie!


But on we went. I had taken over driving, and later, we just laughed. As soon as I got on the road, highway 101 changed to a narrow forest lane, with twists and turns, and impatient large lumber trucks coming up quickly behind me and riding my bumper. I think I mentioned before that the rental Nissan Altima drives like a beached whale. It was awful.

I drove for three hours, and most of the time it continued awful, in different ways. Going through some small town, we kept getting behind a piece-of-junk car that had a bumper sticker that said something like “you know I have a sense of humor because I drive this car.” He was a horrible driver. No matter how I tried to avoid him, he kept ending up in front of me.

Finally, things evened out for a short while and I asked AdventureMan if he would drive. Just as he started driving, we got to California 1, an even narrower forested road with steep twists and turns. It didn’t look that bad on the map, it looked like a short stretch, but that was deceptive, it went on forever. By the time we came out again along the coast, AdventureMan needed to stop and stretch and take a breath – it was a stressful road.

 

 

Entering Ft. Bragg area

 

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to Bandon, Oregon

We forget just how big this great United States is. We look at a map, and we think, “Oregon, piece of cake.”

Not so much.

 

This day we are bound for Bandon, Oregon. It’s been years since we have passed through, I don’t even know for sure how many years. The last time I can clearly remember is forty one years ago, our son was a baby, we travelled in a Volkswagon van turned into a camper. We had a little travel crib for our son, we slept in the way back with the seat folded down, and we had our famous cat, Big Nick.

When we got to Bandon, lo those many years ago, we bought a Dungeness Crab, had it cleaned, a loaf of French bread and a bottle of white wine. We found a motel, settled in, got our baby to bed and feasted on that crab. It is one of our most fun memories.

The route to Bandon is along the coast, but we are not always in sight of the ocean. There are some times we are, and those times are spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my favorite of all, pouring rain and streaming sunshine and roaring waves all at once 🙂

We arrive in Bandon; I’ve reserved at a place we haven’t stayed and it is hard to tell from the online photos how this works. Our reception is less than warm. We walk in and the sole receptionist takes three phone calls before she acknowledges us and registers us. It’s annoying.

Our annoyance totally disappears when we get to our cabin. We discover it is easily accessible (not all are) and we can even take our bags in with some ease. Once in the door – oh Wow.

The cabin is old-timey, but squeaky clean, and with a view to die for. There is a part of me that could stay in this cabin forever.

 

 

This is the view from the balcony when we arrived.

AdventureMan walked the beach, came back, we stretched, walked around, napped a little, and then went to Tony’s Crab Shack for dinner. It doesn’t look familiar, but this may be where we bought our crab forty one years ago.

Tony’s Crab Shack is not a large place, like some counter seating, a booth and a couple small tables. The menu is surprisingly varied, and all up on the wall, with lots of beverages.

 

 

 

We ate something, I can’t even remember what, I probably had crab 🙂 and then we walked around Brandon downtown, which was almost entirely closed up except for a couple bars.

But I wanted to be back in our room for sunset.

The beach at Bandon is beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

Bandon is one of my happy places.

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Kalaloch Lodge and Creekside Restaurant

OK, I am going to risk boring you. I have a think about lodges and historic hotels. I love the old architecture, the high ceilings, the spacious rooms. I love the restorations and renovations that include gracious private bathrooms (!) and I love the vision that created these lodges in the first place. So I am going to show you lots of photos, because I can’t help myself. Honestly, I have shown restraint, but you may not think so.

 

This is the exterior of Kalaloch Lodge

 

These are some of the cabins. Many of them have cabins with kitchens, and people bring their own food for the week.

This is the wedding pagoda; the signs posted say that the pagoda is reserved from like 1 – 4 for a private event 🙂

The registration area and gift shop

 

Upstairs area

 

Our room looking out over the beach

 

Our view – oh WOW. I just wish you could hear the waves.

Sunset at Kalaloch

 

We ate dinner that night in the Creekside restaurant at the lodge, thanks to being urged to make reservations when we arrived. There is no place anywhere near Kalaloch you can eat without 30 minute drive. Fortunately, the Creekside Restaurant had delicious food, and some great choices for wine and beer.

 

Restaurant is on lower floor; above it is one of the suites.

We don’t often end up ordering exactly the same thing, but this night we did. A great arugula salad and a big bowl full of clams, and some really good sourdough French bread. AdventureMan had a local beer, and I had a dry red wine. Life can’t get much sweeter 🙂 I am very proud that for once, I remembered to take a photo before we started eating.

 

He restoreth my soul.

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Lodges, Sea and Mountains

You may remember, I am an Alaska girl. It goes deep. When we moved to Pensacola, my husband and I looked for a house on the water, which we found, and did not buy for a lot of really good reasons. One is that it showed signs of having been underwater at some time(s) and another was that the water here doesn’t do much. In Alaska, on the West coast, there are waves, and sometimes they are lovely huge crashing waves.

So one of the things I need to do to feed my soul is to get back to where I can be near mountains, and sea, and nights without a lot of ambient light, and scenes of sheer grandeur. We are all wired differently; I NEED this connection to restore my perspective on what matters, and what does not.

We started our journey out of Edmonds on the Edmonds ferry to Kingston, a ferry I have taken a lot in my life. Here is a map of our first day:

We stopped by the Edmonds bakery to get my Mom a maple bar. If you ever go to Edmonds, WA, the Edmonds Bakery is on Main Street, close to the roundabout, and has been making the best pies and pastries around for many years.

We said our goodbyes, and by the grace of God, made it to the ferry line just as it was boarding, no wait. It’s raining lightly but in Edmonds, teams are out playing soccer, couples are hiking around the hills of Edmonds, and the rain doesn’t stop normal activity, it is a part of normal.

The Edmonds Ferry

A rainy foggy day in Edmonds

I hate it when we are parking on a slant! They put blocks behind the wheels, but I have visions of the car just rolling right off.

That’s the Edmonds Ferry going from Kingston to Edmonds seen through the ferry car-carry area.

Someones fanciful house in Kingston

The dock in Kingston approaches

The Ferry system in Washington state is a part of the highway system. It’s how people living and working on the islands get gas and groceries and household goods. The ferries can hold a full sized moving van, and daily there are construction vans, electrical maintenance and highway maintenance vehicles traveling via ferry to remote destinations. It’s a part of life. Many people commute to the “mainland” from the islands for work, keeping a car on each side to reduce ferry costs (it’s a lot cheaper to walk on than to take a car on board).

When we planned this trip, I told AdventureMan “I don’t have any control over the weather. It might be rainy and cold the entire time.”

And AdventureMan grinned at me and said “I’ll bring books.”

He’s game.

I tried to take him to a wonderful restaurant on the Dungeness spit called The Three Crabs. We found Three Crabs Boulevard, but . . . no Three Crabs. It no longer exists.

We ended up at a small restaurant just outside of Port Angeles. We would have eaten in Port Angeles, but every restaurant we saw was a chain restaurant, and we were on a detour and had concerns about staying close enough to the road we needed to be on. As we left Port Angeles, we found the Fairmount, the kind of place we love to try, a local place, full of people still eating breakfast, or drinking coffee, or eating pie, but mostly checking on the latest local news.

 

 

 

AdventureMan wanted a hamburger. He said it was pretty good.

I had thought “Port Angeles! Fish!” and ordered halibut. This is frozen halibut; I could get this is Pensacola.

By this time, though, the skies have lifted and we are seeing some blue sky, which is really amazing, because we are in the Olympic Rain Forest. During the next couple of hours, on our way to Kalaloch Lodge, it must have alternated sun and rain, sometimes even heavy rain, fifteen or twenty times. We were just thankful it was not a steady dreary rain.

Along the way, we marveled at the trees. There were some very ferny kind of trees, and also some trees with lots and lots of moss on them.

 

 

We took a stretch break at Storm King Ranger Station, on Lake Crescent, where one of the funniest incidents on our trip happened. We were walking out on the dock and a group with two dogs were out there, and the dogs jumped in (they didn’t mind the cold water) and swam and swam, the happiest dogs you ever did see. As one was exiting the water, he stopped and pooped. His owner, a young woman, yelled “Oh no! Oh no!” She is waving her plastic poop bag (people are SO conscientious in the PNW) and goes on to wail “How am I going to scoop that poop out of the WATER??”

Well, I think sometimes you just have to leave well enough alone. Her earnest concern, her utter shame at not being able to recover that poop just totally cracked me up, even as I felt sympathy for her. “You can’t do anything about an act of God,” I laughed, “that’s just what dogs do.”

 

 

Mostly, I really wanted you to see the color of the Lake Crescent water. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Geography / Maps, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Our Spring Adventure Begins: We Land in Portland

AdventureMan always know when I need to roam . . . I get edgy. I get bored. I get this trapped, wild feeling and I have to go roaming. I have to hit the road. For forty five years, God bless him, he has hit the road with me. He loves Adventures 🙂 and he is my best travel partner.

So we are up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the early flight to Atlanta and the ongoing flight to Portland, and the longer flight, Atlanta to Portland, isn’t full! We each have aisle seats, and we each have an empty seat between us and the closest other passenger! In this era of cattle-car air transport, we revel in space and celebrate these rare occasions.

When we arrive in Portland, the car rental pick up is right in the airport, just a short trek from the baggage pick-up. We are with Enterprise this time, and it was an easy check in and then a concierge car service as he told us to pick a car from those available. They were large trucks, and vans, and very big and not what we wanted, and then a Nissan came in and we said that one would be just fine. Within minutes we were on the road, and mere minutes later, at our hotel.

Great start to a great adventure.

 

 

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment