Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Luxurious Blessing

I was making a salad to go with today’s lunch and remembered AdventureMan warning me we were just about out of roasted pecans, and needed more. It is a cool – almost cold – rainy rainy day in Pensacola, a perfect day for cranking up the oven to roast some pecans. We still have a wealth of pecans from a generous donation made by my dear daughter-in-law’s Texas aunt, who has a heart as big as Texas.

As I roast the pecans (425°F for about 10 minutes) the house becomes fragrant with that luxurious smell. I am transported back to Kuwait, where I remember paying a fortune for a small packet of pecans I needed to bake a pecan pie. Normally, we didn’t even bother looking at the prices, but the price on those pecans was so high I really had to think about buying them, it’s like paying an extortionist. But I needed pecans. I paid.

Now, we have this luxurious blessing of pecans, and not just pecans, but these fresh, fragrant, tasty Texas pecans, and as they roast, they are blessing my entire house with a rich roasty fragrance. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. This wonderful aunt gave us this wealth of pecans, and the gift just keeps on giving and giving, through the Christmas season, well into January – and we still have pecans left. I’ve paid a lot more and gotten a lot less joy from a purchase. I think of this wonderful woman and her gift every time we use them.


Yes, I roasted a lot of pecans, because we sprinkle them on all kinds of things, and that roasted flavor just enriches everything they touch. Yes, they keep in an air-tight container, for as long as it takes for us to eat them, which can be two or three weeks.

And here is the salad, post-pecans but pre-salad dressing:


It’s another luxurious blessing. About twelve years ago, when we had a posting in Germany, we packed everything into storage and just bought what we needed to live with. As days go by, however, you – or I, anyway – just need a few little things to make life nice. You pick up a few gorgeous dessert plates here, a few Christmas ornaments there . . . some cookie sheets, just a little extra, and before you know it, life is no longer so simple. To help keep it simple, I mostly bought things I could just leave behind when we left the country to head to the next country, or I transported things home in those big bags we used to be able to take on the transoceanic flights. I ended up having to rent a storage locker in Seattle for all the treasures I accumulated in our second round of overseas living, LOL.

The first year we were living once again in Germany, as we were buying some wardrobe units, I spotted two salad / serving bowls at IKEA. They aren’t costly porcelain, they are just ceramic bowls, but I love the shape, and inside each one are two beautiful purply-blue irises. I looked at them and loved their conception, their design. I pointed them out to AdventureMan, and then promptly forgot them. Because he is a very smart man, I found them under the Christmas tree a few months later, and was thrilled to recognize them. We have both treasured them ever since.

With each subsequent move, I carefully wrapped those bowls and used them again and again at each posting. We pull them out all the time, these bowls are a perfect size for a salad-to-share or a side dish, and to this day, they look like new. It makes me laugh; I’ve had much more expensive dishes which were not so long for this world; these are go-to serving bowls, and still look brand new.

So today I am feeling extraordinarily thankful for the great luxury of pecans, the wonderful aroma of their roasting, and the great blessing of serving them in a bowl which gives us joy every time we use them.

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Germany, Home Improvements, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Moving, Random Musings, Recipes, Thanksgiving, Travel | 4 Comments

The Problem with Interpretation of Holy Scriptures

Who foresakes the fear of the Lord?

Job 6:14

‘Those who withhold* kindness from a friend
forsake the fear of the Almighty.*

I like that thought. We are all interconnected. One of our major purposes for our creation is to connect with one another, to show kindness to one another. But others translate this verse differently:

New International Version (©1984)
“A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
New Living Translation (©2007)
“One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.

English Standard Version (©2001)
“He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.

GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
“A friend should treat a troubled person kindly, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty.

King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
To him that is afflicted pity should be shown from his friend; even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

American King James Version
To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend; but he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

American Standard Version
To him that is ready to faint kindness’should be showed from his friend; Even to him that forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.

Douay-Rheims Bible
He that taketh away mercy from his friend, forsaketh the fear of the Lord.

Darby Bible Translation
For him that is fainting kindness is meet from his friend; or he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.

English Revised Version
To him that is ready to faint kindness should be shewed from his friend; even to him that forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.

Webster’s Bible Translation
To him that is afflicted pity should be shown from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.

World English Bible
“To him who is ready to faint, kindness should be shown from his friend; even to him who forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

Young’s Literal Translation
To a despiser of his friends is shame, And the fear of the Mighty he forsaketh.

(These translations are compiled on the website Biblos)

To me, this is why we need the Holy Spirit, to help us discern what the words are intended to mean. The bad part is that we often choose the meaning which supports what we want to believe, we re-inforce our own distortions and misunderstandings with scriptures.

August 28, 2012 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Random Musings, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Dead Fox in the MIddle of the Road

This morning as I made my early rounds, I saw a dead cat on the road outside our house.

“How sad,” I thought, “someone’s sweet kitty didn’t make it across the road.” It is odd, though, you don’t see a lot of cats here outside. Most people keep their cats inside, or within a limited area outdoors.

When AdventureMan got up, he said the same thing. We hoped someone hadn’t just dumped a cat out there; we know there are cases where people just can’t care for their animals anymore, but there are places that will take domestic pets in and try to re-home them. Just to dump them is so unfair to an animal who is used to being fed and (hopefully) loved.

AdventureMan got a couple heavy duty garbage bags and we double bagged them. He put on some non-latex rubber gloves and we headed to the road. When he picked up the dead cat, we got a real surprise. It wasn’t a cat at all, but a skinny little fox! Also very dead, and not very healthy looking.

We both scrubbed down, and hope that we didn’t get any kind of rabies virus or anything else on us, but meanwhile, I am wondering – where on earth would a fox make a burrow in our suburban neighborhood? I am sure he was heading down to the bayou for a drink; it hasn’t rained for a couple days now and he must have known there was water in the bayou (although not great water to drink with all the contaminants flowing into it from lawns and gardens and car washing, etc. ) but where does a fox family live??

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Florida, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Random Musings | 4 Comments

The Trials of Job

Today’s Lectionary readings feature the first chapter of Job, which is to me a very odd story, worth pondering. It is also interesting to me that this is a story that all three ‘people of the book’ share, and while I have met Moslems named Ayoub (Job) I have never met a Christian named Job.

I went to the Middle East with so many misconceptions. I believed the Moslems to be anti-Christian, and was astonished when I discovered that it was OK with my Moslem friends that I was a Christian. Like all the rest of us, they would prefer I share their beliefs, but they were happy that I was a believer, and that I practiced my religion. No, it didn’t stop them from trying to discuss religious matters with me – all in the goal of bringing me over from the dark side (LOL, i.e. clearing up my errors in thinking and believing), but in these discussions, I had a lot of surprises.

I have more Moslem friends with children named Jesus than I have Christian friends. One friend has a Jesus, a Mary and a Joseph. (She also has two Mohammeds :-) ) Noah is in the Quran, and Job, and of course Gabriel, who brought the good news to Mary, is also the angel who recited to Quran to the prophet Mohammed. How did I not know this? The longer I live, the more careful I become about what I take on as beliefs. I give thanks to God who sent me into the wilderness that I might have a better understanding of how things work in the world.

Today’s reading has some puzzles. The Lectionary defines the ‘heavenly beings’ who gathered as ‘sons of God.’ Satan is The Accuser, is in attendance, challenging God on Job’s faith – so is this before or after he has fallen from Grace? Does Satan still appear before God? I thought he was banished . . .

And what awful awful calamities befell Job because of this cosmic wager – imagine, not so much the loss of wealth, although his wealth was vast, but imagine the loss of all your sons and daughters, the loss of everything you cared the most about. And Job, righteous as he is, says the Lord gave it to him and he can take it away. Wow.

Job 1:1-22

1There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

5And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ This is what Job always did.

6 One day the heavenly beings* came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan* also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan* answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ 8The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’

9Then Satan* answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ 12The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’ So Satan* went out from the presence of the Lord.

13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’

16While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.’

17While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’

18While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.’

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. 21He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Middle East, Random Musings, Relationships, Values | 1 Comment

Shar’a Kaharabaa Today

One of our favorite places in Doha was Shar’a Kaharabaa, Electricity Street. Bombay Silk was there. the old Beirut restaurant was there and several very good and reasonable tailors worked there. All good quilters knew the Mumtaz Tailor, who had every notion in the world, and good prices, and knew where everything could be found in the chaos of his shop. You could always find parking.

I dared to take a look at Sharia Kharabaa this morning, and I shouldn’t have. It’s that bare spot middle left. Al Rayyan, at the top of the photo, leads to the Souk al Waqif. One day, the old picturesque Sharia Kharabaa is supposed to be a grand walk way to the Souq.

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar, Random Musings | 2 Comments

“Are you Happy?”

(Thank you, AdventureMan, for this wonderful photo)

“Are you happy?” our little happy boy asked his Daddy, and burst into tears when his Daddy told him no, he was sad that his little boy was hitting his Mama.

It’s a funny age, two-and-a-half, discovering all the things you are able to do, no longer a baby. The happy little boy is learning to swim, and he loves running. He is in the midst of potty training. He gets to spend the night with his grandparents, and in August he will go to Cousin’s Camp! He is also not happy with limits – but then, who is? It’s a tough time to be a parent, or a grandparent, when this delightful little boy digs his heels in about an issue.

“The secret is to negotiate,” our son told AdventureMan over lunch. “You have to find a way that he can back down without losing. Distraction works, or a compromise that isn’t even a compromise.”

LOL; that’s exactly what I did with him! My Mother used to say “You’re the mother! Just tell him he has to do it because you say so! Make him mind you!”

In our nomadic life, I needed a child who would cooperate. When you cooperate, two – or more – people have to cooperate, that means the parent, too. Our son grew up as a part of a team that had to operate together for the good of all. We still operate that way.

My generation did things differently; we explained, we negotiated, we compromised, we listened. I look at our son, and his cousins, and I feel enormously proud; we raised a generation of outstanding adults who are wonderful loving and compassionate parents to their children.

I am happy. AdventureMan is taking the Happy Little Boy to swim lessons this morning, then to the Naval Aviation Museum, which the Happy Little Boy LOVES! And the Happy Grandmother gets to quilt!

July 13, 2012 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Parenting, Random Musings | Leave a comment

Last Full Day at Chongwe; A Day of Wonderful Surprises

I’ve really dragged this out as long as I can; as long as I am telling you about the trip, I get to relive it. In truth, I don’t want to let it go. We’ve been to Africa so many times, but this was one of the best trips ever.

It’s a little colder in the lower Zambezi than in the South Luangwa, so we dress in multiple layers, and we wrap up our heads, too. Victor and CJ join us for light breakfast and we head off on our last game drive. We have had so much fun with Victor; he works so hard to find us what we want to see, even trying to track down a leopard on a limb, with one of our party is eager to see. This morning, first thing, he takes us to a giant Baobob tree, which looks like it has Christmas decorations on it:

When you get a little closer, you can see it is full of Baboons, huddling together, trying to warm up after the chilly night.

He takes us to a sector of the Zambezi with severe erosion that reminds me of Cappadocia and there we spot a group of Zambian anti-poaching rangers, heading off on their day’s duty. These guys are real heroes. They leave their families and live outdoors, spending their nights out among the wild animals. There are real dangers, not so much from the animals, but from the poachers, who will kill an elephant just to cut out the tusk.

Victor spots a very cold little jackal, all curled up, trying to grab a couple winks:

We find a group of Cape Buffalo, still moving a little slowly so we can photograph them, but kicking up a lot of dust!

Yesterday, Victor found a leopard was on the limb but jumped down just as we arrived. Today, we see a beautiful large male leopard, being chased by an elephant. We get between them, not the smartest thing to do because the elephant is just behind us! I’ll show you photos of the elephant later – right now I want to talk about taking photos on safari.

You might guess I took a lot of photos. You might suspect you just get to see the best ones, and sometimes even the best ones aren’t all that good. Here is the problem. You don’t have a lot of control. You sometimes only get a quick glimpse. You can have an amazing experience, and then look at your photos and they are all too far away, or there is a small but important problem. I am going to be very very humble and show you the things that can prevent a good leopard shot:

Big male leopard, but you can barely see him in the shade and he’s heading off:

Now he’s walking into the bush:

You’re not going for perfect; you just keep shooting hoping for something good, but now he’s in the bush, behind the bush:

Now he is coming from behind a tree:

Then you get what might be the best photo you can get:

And then he walks away – leopard butt!

Are you getting the idea? You just really have to hang in there! Now, frustration, he has settled behind a bush:

Almost a great shot, if it weren’t for all that tall grass!

And here, he looks tawny and powerful, look at those muscles, but you can hardly distinguish him from the background:

The perfect shot! Oh wait . . . he’s blurry:

And this might be good . . . if he weren’t walking away, and most shots of leopards are them walking away:

I’m not kidding you, that is the exact sequence of this day’s leopard shots. But! He who persists, prevails!

Now! The Payoff shots:


Can you imagine our exhilaration? Of the four of us, I have the smallest camera, with the least capability. I can only imagine how beautiful my friends’ photos are. This was a special moment, the moment the leopard stood still, out in the clear. You cannot make those moments happen, you just have to cherish them when they do.

LOL, this is what comes next – more humility:

It’s time for coffee, and Victor knows just the place – a palm grove:

It looks warm, but we still have one long sleeved layer on.

We head on searching for lion, which we do not find today. We find other things:

It is getting later, and we reach the camp boat waiting for us in Lower Zambezi National Park to head back for camp. .  . About fifteen minutes into the drive, after spotting five huge crocodile sleeping on the riverbanks (each rolling off as we approached before the boat could stop rocking long enough for us to shoot until
the last one)

We approached a bank, not our camp, where a picnic was set up on an island – for us! We had no idea! Our Albida House butler, Steve, was there to greet us, as he is when we return to camp, and a crew including a chef, who is cooking a late breakfast with lamb steak, sausages, several salads, and fried eggs. We are set up out under a shady tree in camp chairs, at a table with tablecloth and napkins, and it is so elegant and so glorious, and it is a little paradise.

After our picnic, it is a five minute ride back to camp, where Victor drops us off

I have to wash my hair! I intended to yesterday, but there was a very cold breeze blowing and our bathroom is open to the elements, so I skipped a very chilly shower. Today, I must shower and wash my hair! It is a brighter, warmer day, so I do, and it is delightful, showering in the huge open bath area, nice hot water, a tiny chilly breeze, but big thick towels and a warm robe to wrap up in. 

It feels so good to be clean! We get so dusty on our drives!

AdventureMan follows, showers and shaves. We are leaving tomorrow morning, and he knows it will be chilly in the morning and wants to get it done while it is warm, so while my hair dries in the soft breeze, we chat about how much we love this place. 

For me, the greatest luxury is privacy. I do enjoy the people I am meeting, and at the same time, I need some quiet and some time alone. The great gift of being upgraded to this family suite has given us some wonderful dinner conversations, the ability to dine informally and earlier in the evening, and the joy of space and time. We have been less regulated here, more able to be ourselves. It is a great luxury.

After our quiet time, we had tea . . . well, really, I had mocha, decaf and cocoa. And cake. For all our protestations of wanting to eat healthy foods, they keep bringing us the most delicious cakes and desserts, along with a big bowl of fruit. We never choose the fruit. We are able to hold ourself to half portions. Well, some of the time we are.

Today I stayed back while the other three of us went canoeing in the afternoon, imagine, canoeing on the Zambezi, what a thrill. I packed, thoughtfully, and watched the hippos transfer from their sunning spot to their sand spit. I always loved what I thought of as hippo-laughter, but I am told it is simply an announcement of “I am here.” Like a space – I am in it. I wouldn’t want to get between a hippo and where they were going, but I do find them charming, and I still love hippo sounds.  For me, another day in paradise is having the luxury of some time to myself, not to do anything important, think through my packing, read a little of the book I am reading, watch the hippos, just enjoy my own company for a few minutes.

They have brought in a large barrel and put it by the fire; it looks like a kind of a grill . . . hmmmm. They are so full of good surprises here. I wonder what this one is all about.

It IS barbecue, and when the three canoe-ers come back, all full of a really fun adventure, we sit by the fire with our wine and watch dinner being cooked. It is dark, but the cook has a headlamp so he can see what he is doing:

Our last dinner – awesome!

We fly tomorrow, first from “Royal,” which is really just a strip, to Lusaka, then from Lusaka to Johannesburg, then from Johannesburg to Atlanta and then Pensacola. We have only confirmed two flights . . . there is no internet connection in the bush, not for guests. It makes things more complicated. I am just hoping they make allowances for such, especially on the Delta flight out of JoBerg, but as our travel friend says “who cares if we get home on time? It was only getting here that mattered!” and she is right!

As we get into bed, we have hot hot water bottles, in cheetah-patterned flannel covers. :-) ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . .

June 30, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Hotels, Photos, Random Musings, Travel, Weather, Zambia | , , | 4 Comments

Seventy Times Seven

I come from a great mixture of nationalities, but two of them, the Irish and the German, specialize in carrying grudges for a long time. I once lived in a small German village, where a woman told me that her family did not speak to this other family, nor that family to them. Their grandmothers had some great falling out – nearly 100 years ago – and while no one can remember what it was about, the families still don’t speak.

Seventy times seven – it goes against the grain, doesn’t it? Jesus said so many earth-changing things, like “Love your neighbor as yourself” and to take care of the poor and the prisoners and the widows and children – people who are considered, even in today’s society, to have less value. To let go of your angry feelings, to forgive – that is hard work.

And yet, he spells out how very damaging our grudges are – to US! If we can get over our selves, and our own selfish instincts, our lives are so much happier and so much more productive . . .

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church* sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven* times.

23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents* was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;* and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.”

29Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt.

31When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister* from your heart.’

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Character, Charity, Community, Cross Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Random Musings, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Customer Service; the Good and the Ugly

We are not rich people. You might look at the places we go and the places we stay and think that we are more comfortable than we are. We learned a secret a long time ago, and that secret is to live UNDER your income. We live under what we can afford, we pay our bills in full, and we pay attention to small leaks that can add up to big financial leakages over time.

First, the ugly. Today I checked my KLM Flying Blue mileage, and they only gave me 25% of the miles I earned flying from Pensacola to Johannesburg and back. That should have been a huge number, but 25% of that number is very very low. I did some exploration on KLM and learned it has to do with a lot of factors, including type of ticket you buy.

To me, that’s just sleazy customer service. A person who buys a ticket should get the full mileage. If you want to give bonuses for higher levels, then do so, but give me the miles I earn, don’t swindle me with a fraction of the miles I flew. It leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. Honestly, I don’t think Delta is all that much better, but I may switch my frequent flyer program to them because now I am flying Delta more often. I had thought because they were all “Sky Team Partners” that the miles were all the same, but I was wrong. And try booking an award ticket on one of the partners – they have wires and mirrors and a series of hoops to jump through, and you get to the end and the answer is not only “No” but then they have the gall to ask “Can I help you with anything else?”

I promise you, I am very polite, but when they ask that, I tell them “You didn’t even help me with what I asked help for!”

Here is the good. I paid as many bills as I could before I left, including some significant travel costs associated with the Grand Canyon / Mesa Verde Trip , but when I got home, I found a letter from the credit card service company, with the check my bank sent, saying that there wasn’t enough account information on the check to credit it. I could see the last five numbers of my account on the check, which I believe many banks are doing to help protect client privacy and exposure to identity theft, so I sent the check back with the account number and today I called and complained, and especially that they had charged me an interest charge, when I had paid the bill in full, they just hadn’t credited it to my account.

They credited the interest charge immediately, no argument. They were pleasant and helpful, and I felt like they were on my side. In a time when banks are not our friends, I had a positive feeling toward our card provider.

I smile when I hear AdventureMan in his office, talking with medical claims people – when we had a recent vaccination, a very expensive one, I was re-imbursed and he was not. He is taking on the bureaucracy, slowly and patiently, to make sure he gets that money back. He is also seeing what can be done about getting re-imbursed for our yellow fever immunizations. It takes a lot of patience and persistence, and it pays off. We laugh that we are becoming those old farts who have enough time to make those phone calls.

Little drops of water . . . and paying attention. Battling bureaucracy, trying to make the most of opportunities . . . that’s how we manage our lush lifestyle.

June 19, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, KLM, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Travel | 2 Comments

Here, There and Out of My Mind

I’ll start with the ending, it’s all come to a crashing halt. I feel like a child who has been taken to a day in the park, all the rides, all the sugary foods and now they say I have to come home?

Yes. I will tell you about the trip, with lots of photos, so you won’t think I am just being a bore, you can look at the photos and imagine yourself there with us. At the end of the trip, it all goes downhill, the lovely African adventure has ended.

Leaving our last camp, we fly in a very small airplane back from the lower Zambezi to Lusaka. We drive to the airstrip, the pilot checks our names against his list, we climb aboard and take off. That’s the airstrip. The last time we were there, we don’t think it was paved.

It is the best flight we have all day – two charming pilots, five passengers, it is a great flight. Lusaka isn’t so bad; we have a competent ticket agent who manages to book our bags all the way to Pensacola, so we don’t have to scurry around picking up bags, then coming back in to check them in, because we booked our travel to Johannesburg separately from out travel from JoBurg to Lusaka, it’s complicated but it all has to do with alliances. Not my alliances, airline alliances.

BTW, Lusaka International airport is sweet. Quiet. One tiny little restaurant in the departure area where we found good grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Some shops, not greatly stocked.

Lusaka airport – you walk to the plane, walk up the stairs, the old fashioned way:

Johannesburg transit is horrible. It always is. We have flown in from Frankfurt several times, from Dubai several times, and from Windhoek and Gaborone and Lusaka – transiting Johannesburg is, for some reason, irrationally annoying. No matter how crowded the transit area is, or how isolated, the computers are always slow, or . . . the operators. No matter what airline we deal with, that transit area, the one downstairs where you have to check in for your next flight, it is horrible. It takes so much longer than it needs to.

Upstairs, we hit the shops, junky Out of Africa with it’s schlock, some of the others. I made a big mistake; I was buying little fun things for our son and his wife, little coffee things and such at Taste of Africa, and I bought them some biltong; what we call jerky. They had ostrich and eland and several exotic kinds, so I bought several.

Loading up for the 17 hour (yes, you read that right, it is Delta’s longest non-stop flight) flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta was an unusual experience. Think Amsterdam on steroids. We are all sitting, and are rousted out of the waiting room and told to line up in two lines, with men in one line and women in the other. They look at our bags and ask us questions. This is the third time today my bags have been checked; I don’t mind, but it is a little unusual. Then we line up again once we are back in the waiting room; it is nearly time to board.

There is one of those wild-eyed women going down the line asking loudly “Is this the line for PRIORITY boarding? Are you all PRIORITY passengers?” and clearly she thinks she has a pretty high priority. But when the airline boards the Diamonds and the Platinums, she is still waiting back with the golds and silvers, so I guess she didn’t have as much priority as she thought she had.

It’s one of those big, huge flights with every seat taken. It’s sort of like being in a high school cafeteria, tempers flare as overhead baggage bins fill up, parents with children beg people to change places so they can fly together, while the privileged politely decline; they paid extra for those aisle seats. It’s all pretty horrible, but we have books and somehow we even catch a couple hours sleep. The flight attendants are like harried waitresses, hauling those drink carts and meal carts up and down the aisles, trying to get people to stay in their seats (who can stay in their seat for SEVENTEEN hours??) I discovered that if you are reading books, iPad batteries keep their charge longer than if you are playing Sudoku. I’m reading a great book, Wolf Hall, and it holds my interest.

Arriving in Atlanta, it’s all my fault, AdventureMan and I are shuttled into the agricultural inspection area, where it is pretty much us and all the Africans bringing back turnips and sugar cane and rice and meats and special foods. I didn’t know that the dried meat was a problem, but evidently ostrich meat is some of the very most threatening, and other countries have serious diseases that we have so far managed to escape. They are actually very kind to me, although they do confiscate all my jerkies. The inspector tells us they get all kinds of stuff (there was a huge barrel of confiscated agricultural products) including rats, and monkey brains.

Sadly, many of the people in there with us don’t really understand, and I know many of them went to a lot of trouble to bring a home specialty for some family member, only to have it confiscated. Many didn’t understand enough English and the inspectors didn’t know their languages.

We got off easy enough; all they cared about was confiscating the illegal meat.

Found a place with decent coffee and croissants, found a place to wash our faces and brush our teeth, so we boarded the Pensacola flight fresher than we got off the flight from JoBurg.

Our son met us at the airport and got us all home; we grabbed a quick lunch at the nearby Marina Oyster Barn (our comfort-food restaurant of choice) and then showered and tumbled into bed. We woke up again as our son and his wife and the darling little happy toddler came by for dinner. After dinner, we said good night and good bye to our guests, knowing we were all going to bed but that we would be awake in the middle of the night and they would probably leave to go to their home. As it turned out, we were all awake around 3:30 in the oh-dark-hundred, so we were able to hear them off.

We’ve been up since, trying to take care of business and to stay awake. I started with trying to get through (get rid of) over a thousand e-mail – two weeks is a LONG time. AdventureMan fell asleep in my office around 7:30 so I woke him up and made him go to aqua-aerobics with me, we hit the grocery store, and poor AdventureMan, his computer has bit the dust so he had to buy a new computer today. He picked up the mail in the afternoon, I paid the outstanding bills. Anything, anything to stay awake, to try to get us back on schedule, Pensacola time.

We caught the last episode of Game of Thrones, Season two, which helped us make it an extra hour last night, and AdventureMan has some things we missed lined up for tonight – HBO’s Girls, VEEP, and the first episode from the new season of True Blood, also he thinks Southland is starting up again, and we really like that.

I think I’m going out of my mind. Jet lag makes me a little crazy. Normally, I am all unpacked by now, but I couldn’t even stand to look at my suitcase today. I bought salmon for tonight’s dinner, but I don’t think I can cook it. I haven’t felt energetic since . . . 3:30 this morning, LOL. When I get tired, I can get weepy, or irrational, or a little unbalanced. What I yearn for is to take a nap, a nice, long, snoozy nap . . .

Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . ………..

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Pensacola, Random Musings, Shopping, Travel, Zambia | , | 5 Comments


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