Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Small Glimpses of North Seattle

“As Sallam wa alaikum!” I smiled at the Sudanese women coming in to their jobs in our hotel.

They stopped still in their tracks.

“You speak Arabic!” they said, astonishment clear on their faces.

“Only a little!” I smiled back.

I had a whole squad of new friends.

Now that financial times are easing, many hotels we have visited over the last few months are renovating and getting new mattresses. This was a real bonus for our Sudanese friends, and all of their friends.

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Have you ever tied a mattress on the top of your car and tried to drive? It is a wild and dangerous adventure; the wind lifts and pushes the mattress toward the back as you drive. Unless the mattress if firmly and thoroughly tied down, you are in for a wild ride.

And then again, if you are new in a country, and in need of a mattress, a wild ride is a small price to pay.

On our way back to the hotel, we see protestors in red shirts at every corner. This is not protestors Ferguson style, these are Seattle style protestors, making a big demonstration for fully funding public education, and all the signs are grammatical 🙂

00ProtestorsFundEducation

We are so full from lunch that we just want a small dinner. We find a good Ethiopian restaurant listed near our hotel, and head there, but when we arrive, there is plywood over two windows and a sign saying “Sorry, dear customers, but due to car accident our restaurant is closed until it is fixed.”

00IvarsFastFood

We end up at Ivar’s Seafood Bar, which is quick food, but not cheap food, and very very good food. We are greeted by an older man as we enter, he says “Welcome to Ivars! I hope you have a great meal.” We thought he might be an official greeter, but no, he was a customer like us. We ended up sitting in a booth next to his, so he stopped on his way out to see what we had ordered (halibut and chips, smoked salmon chowder, Dungeness crab cocktail) and just to chat. It’s an Edmonds kind of thing, neighborliness and civility.

May 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Seattle, Social Issues, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

Monterey, CA; A Sentimental and Nostalgic Journey

One of the (many) highlights of our trip was spending time, once again, in Monterey, California where we had attended the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute. We used to lie in our bed in La Mesa Village, and we could hear the seals barking. We discovered that with our mighty ID cards, we could get a wonderful suite at the old Del Monte Hotel, now Navy Lodging on the campus of the Naval Postgraduate School.

00DelMonteHotel

The Del Monte is one of those magnificent hotels built to welcome post guests to destinations served by the railroads. The Ahwahnee is another such, as are Yellowstone and Glacier Lodges. The Navy took it over during the war, and used it as a rest and rehabilitation center, then later turned the hotel campus into a school specific to Navy needs of navigation, engineering, strategy and decision-making.

We had a two room suite with a bathroom and a kitchen. It was spare, but very spacious. Having space, for me, is like breathing. Having high ceilings makes all the difference.

00DelMonteHotelSuite

This was the sunset from one of our windows:

00SunsetFromDelMonte

After settling in, we went out to revisit our old haunts. The biggest shock was La Mesa Village, where we once lived. When we got to Monterey, and saw our quarters, I cried. They were little three bedroom units in groups of four. We were lucky, we got an outside corner unit, so we had more windows and more light than many others, but we also had black linoleum. It was horrible. I cried.

AdventureMan found someone leaving who had carpeting cut exactly for our unit, and bought it to cover the linoleum floors. It was pretty hideous, a greeny-gold kind of shag carpet, but it covered the black linoleum. I thought he was a rock-star.

We couldn’t even find our old unit in La Mesa Village. Now, they are all duplexes, two story, I think they tore down all the old units and built new, modern ones. Each is painted differently, and they look very California suburban, no longer like military housing, except that one or two units have flags outside.

00EntranceLaMesaVillage

We head down to Asilomar, always one of our favorite drives, and feast our eyes on the coastal rocks and the crashing waves. It is a glorious spring day, people are all barefoot and enjoying the sun.

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We stroll along the Monterey waterfront, which has changed also. It was always touristy, but it used to be sort of grungy, and now it is clean – and kind of bland, full of shops full of tourist kitch made in China.

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When planning the trip, we spent a lot of time looking for fun places to eat, and this was the place we agreed on instantly, the Bistro Moulin. Good thing we made reservations, they were turning people away as fast as they showed up. It’s an adorable place, very welcoming, and the food was fabulous. It got too crowded to take photos with discretion; we started with a pate, then I had the Petrale Sole, which was fabulous, and AdventureMan had Mussels in Wine Sauce which were more fabulous than my Sole 🙂

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We were totally caught by surprise by the most nostalgic moment on this part of our trip. We were enjoying ourselves so thoroughly, being back in Monterey and Carmel, just relishing soaking in all the good times available, and then, as we got back to our room, we heard a trumpet. The long, haunting notes of Taps began to play, and it was as if we were still young students at the PG school, everything stopping to pay homage to the end of the day and its sacrifices.

We were equally surprised to be greeted by Reville the next morning!

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Renovations, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blessing of NNW

“I don’t think our downstairs A/C is working right,” I said tentatively to AdventureMan, “It’s like I hesitate to even say anything, that might make it true. It seems to me that the fan is blowing, but I never hear the air cycle on, and the fan never stops.”

A quick call and the A/c people are on the way to check it out.

“Do you know how old this A/C is?” he asked. Yep. It’s twenty years old. And now it has a leak in the coils. It could be fixed; we’ve been having it fixed from time to time already, and maybe it could limp along a little while longer, but this little Alaska girl can’t take that chance; it is getting HOT in Pensacola.

New air conditioners, I learned, are more efficient, even the cheapest will save on our electricity bill, which, in the three hottest months of the summer, can soar by three hundred dollars and change. They run more quietly. With more efficiency, they can save more. They are also chillingly expensive.

Since we have another unit running upstairs, he schedules our replacement for Tuesday, AFTER the three day weekend, and oh, did I mention, it has gotten hot? Wednesday and Thursday hit the 90’s (F) and the downstairs is more than a little stuffy, even with all the ceiling fans whirling madly.

But late last night I heard our upstair unit cycle off . . . and stay off for a good long while. This morning, there is an almost-cool breeze, a freshness in the air, and what a blessing, that in the middle of what might be a long hot weekend, to have some winds from the north blowing through, blowing away the humid heat that blows up from the Gulf.

I lay awake, thinking that for us, it is only a wait until Tuesday, because, by the grace of God, we have an emergency fund to cover events like this. I think of the trio of homeless men we passed on Palafox on our way to a meeting, cheerily greeting us, but sleeping out in the heat and humidity, with mosquitos biting. I am sure I am not the only one this morning thankful for the blessings of the NNW winds.

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Family Issues, Financial Issues, Home Improvements, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Renovations, Thanksgiving, Weather | Leave a comment

The New Tena Tena Camp in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia

When we were there last summer, we were staying in the old Tena Tena Camp, and we begged to be allowed to see the new camp, but it was still under construction. Today the Robin Pope Camps sent out this new video starring the new Tena Tena Camp, located close by the old camp, but all new and sparkling:

If you ever have an opportunity to visit Zambia, Tena Tena is a must-visit 🙂

Here are some earlier posts on our trips to Tena Tena.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Renovations, Travel, Wildlife, Zanzibar | 2 Comments

A Drive to Atlanta; Cars on their Last Legs

We decided to take a quick trip to to Atlanta, and unfortunately for me, we are not staying anywhere near the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant we tried the last time we came through.

We got a later start than usual; we had lunch at one of our favorite lunch stops in Pensacola, The Bangkok Garden, then got on the road. AdventureMan had a full and physically active morning, so after the first thirty minutes, I drove and he snoozed.

I love to drive while he is snoozing. It makes me feel so competent and protective, and like a full partner. He sleeps so deeply and happily, it makes me feel trusted. He sleeps like all is well with the world. He sleeps like that for two hours; fortunately I took a good look at the map and directions and managed the right turns onto the right roads.

Driving keeps me alert, and it also gives me time to think. As I am driving this time, I am thinking that I have never before seen so many cars abandoned along the highway. I know cars get a ticket, and then if they are not towed within a certain time the state confiscates them, and probably junks them. It’s not unusual to see an abandoned car now and then, but there are so many this time, so many that it catches my attention.

I worked for a while with the homeless, the less visible homeless, the ones who are not out begging on the streets or carrying their lives with them in a backpack. The homeless I worked with were those who had lost homes, and were staying with people or living out of their cars. Their situation was desperate, and their car, usually old and faltering, was critical to them working whatever small job they could find to keep going. What they earned was not enough to pay rent on any decent place, and they never earned enough to be able to save up for that first and last month’s rent required by most renters. They didn’t have a rental history or a credit history, which made them unlikely to get into housing that screened.

The cars I saw abandoned along the road looked a lot like the cars my homeless people drove. Cars on their last legs. I wondered about the people who were forced to abandon their cars, I wish them well, I hope they are able to claim and fix their car and to go on with their lives.

Or maybe, I think, maybe it is the heat. There has been a huge heat wave, following on a deluge of rain. The temperatures are in the 100’s, hotter than in Pensacola where when it gets hot – and humid – we usually have breezes coming in off the Gulf to help us cope. I remember Kuwait, where cars littered the sides of the major highways, and how heat just wore the cars out. In a country with a desperate need for air conditioning (welll, in my perception, remember I am an Alaska girl) the wiring in the cars was a constant fire hazard.

AdventureMan woke up a little outside Montgomery and we had some of our great road-trip conversations. He took over driving as we neared Atlanta; it was time for my trip-reward, I got to have a Wild Berry Smoothie from McDonalds. Yes, we have McDonalds in Pensacola. No, I do not allow myself to have a Wild Berry Smoothie often. Yes, I know they are made with “real fruit.” No, I have not checked the sugar content, I don’t want to know, but it is why I do not allow myself to have more than one every couple months. And only a small one. It keeps it special.

So I am using the iPhone and directions to navigate us through Atlanta and on to GA 400 going north, and if you know Atlanta, you will know what I am talking about. First, coming into Atlanta, we saw huge signs telling us downtown was congested – and it is drive time home, around dinner time, but fools rush in and we decided everyone else could take the ring road and our directions showed us going through central Atlanta would be the fastest.

We saw billowing flames, and smoke made it hard to see, and there was a huge, uncontained brush fire along the side of the road – the other side, thank God. Traffic on the other side was backed up and more than congested; it was at a stand still. Another mile, and now there is billowing black smoke, and I see a sight I haven’t seen since Kuwait, a big black SUV on the side of the road, totally consumed by fire, and three police cars trying to get through the backed up, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a fire truck and an ambulance, but they can’t get through – again, on the leaving town going south side of the road, not the going north side we were on.

Then we get to a place where one major road becomes two different roads. The iPhone isn’t helping, I can’t figure out the number of the road it is that we are supposed to take, and when I try to make it bigger, nothing happens, we are underneath an overpass and I think there is a problem with reception. As soon as I tell him we are supposed to go right, we go right and then our road goes under the other road and we are going left, and the little blue ball has left the road. Fortunately, we need gas, so we get to a station and I have reception again and show AdventureMan how we have to get back on 75, to a short distance, get in the lane for 85, make a loop and end up going North again.

Thank God he had a nap! Sometimes, if it is nearing dinnertime, and we hit rush hour traffic, and I make a navigational error, we can have hurtful words, and end up not speaking for a while. He was very forgiving. We got back on 85; it was actually very exciting trying to navigate into the right lanes in a strange city where we have little experience and it’s hot and all the cars are full of people who only want to get home. Then, I also miss the right exit to get us on to GA-400 once again, but there is an alternate route showing which may actually be faster than if I had gotten it right. It takes us to the ring road and then north where we can easily get on GA-400. From there, it is easy sailing; the exits are well market and my little iPhone is performing reliably.

We found the hotel easily. I’m not going to tell you the hotel, because when we got here, we found it under renovation and the temporary lobby was full of people in all states of dress – and undress, and while the receptionist was very professional and courteous, I was not wildly happy to be staying here.

And then again . . . there are no hippos outside my window. No immense river, no Fish Eagle. It is hot, and crowded, and I don’t have Steve-the-butler soothing my spirits with a Compari and Bitter Lemon, or Victor suggesting a nice river cruise. AdventureMan kids me a little about my high expectations. It’s true. It’s true. I am missing my African adventure; I am missing Zambia.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, iPhone, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Renovations, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

AdventureMan’s Bathroom

“Hey Dad, what happened, you draw the short straw?” our son asked AdventureMan when he saw the bathroom in the Pensacola house.

We really love having our own bathrooms. They may be small, but we don’t have to bump one another out of the way, we don’t have to try to groom while someone is showering and steaming, and while I can have the A/C blasting, AdventureMan can have the vents totally closed. It works for us.

But his bathroom had swinging doors, saloon style. And an old toilet that didn’t always flush completely. And an old bathtub with old tiles.

While he was away, we did a new bath – new walk-in shower with a rainfall showerhead, new toilet, and best of all, a pocketing door. He is going to be SO surprised. 🙂

It has been so hard keeping this secret. I can hardly wait to see his face.

August 15, 2010 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Renovations | 8 Comments

Pensacola, Sunday 0900

It’s one of those rare Sunday mornings when I am on my own, no AdventureMan, no son and daughter-in-law and grandson, just me. As a special treat, I get to go to the 8:00 service at Christ Church, and then, since I don’t have any church-girlfriends yet, I don’t have anyone to go to breakfast with, so I stop by Micky D’s and get in line for take-out.

It’s a long line. Whoda thunk, early on a Sunday morning in Pensacola, there would be a breakfast line at McDonalds?

A flashing light catches my eye, and a Pensacola police cruiser pulls up across the street, and leaves his lights flashing as he cautiously heads to the entrance of the convenience store. His hand is on his gun. No, I am not kidding!

He looks in the windows. Customers are coming out, and he keeps watching through the window as he walks towards the door. As he enters, he draws his gun. Just moments later, he and another policeman come out, with a man between them in handcuffs, white guy, looking sheepish. They put him in the back of the second squad car.

I really wanted a photo of them stuffing him in the back seat, but by this point, I was in traffic and I shot the photo I could get, not the photo I wanted. Me and my bacon, egg and cheese McMuffin headed home for coffee and the Sunday Pensacola Journal, all about school starting this week in Pensacola.

And AdventureMan comes home tonight. The house is sparkling. He has a surprise in store. 🙂 Our son and I will meet him at the airport to welcome him home, home being about 5 minutes from the airport IF there is traffic, LOL.

August 15, 2010 Posted by | Crime, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Renovations | 2 Comments

Rainbow to the Rescue in Pensacola

This post is about an amazing blessing. You won’t think it is a blessing at first, you will think it borders on disaster, but stop. Think about it.

Late this afternoon, our contractor friend was in putting bars in the guest suite that people can use to help navigate around, help lift themselves off the toilet, etc. We were busy looking for a stud for the shower bars when it started raining.

“That’s raining pretty hard.” he said.

“It rains like that all the time,” I said blithely.

But it really was coming down, and it wasn’t just for a few minutes, it poured, and it kept pouring. The lightning was really close and we heard a loud CRACK! and then BANG and the power transformer on the post near my house was hit, but my power must come from somewhere else because, by the Grace of God, we didn’t lose power.

“Oh no! This has never happened before!” I exclaimed as I saw water seeping in the guest suite where we were working. (This has been cleaned up a little bit for this family blog.)

I thought it was coming in under the French doors, but when I grabbed the old towels for soaking up purposes, I saw that there was more . . . coming from under the walls! Horrors! I was almost stopped still in my tracks – there aren’t enough towels in Pensacola to handle the amount of water seeping in!

“This is a task for Rainbow!” my contractor said, and ran for his truck, to exchange it for his Rainbow truck (he is both a contractor and a Rainbow franchise operator).

While Dave was gone, his assistant, Bobby, used their wet vac to get as much water up as he could, dumping the full tank several times out the window as we struggled. Finally, the rain slowed, and we could mop up the remaining wetness. He started a fan.

Dave came back with the big Rainbow truck and an intimidating amount of equipment. Now I will go into a parenthetical gripe about men and their toys. The biggest part of me is incredibly grateful to have this resourceful man who helps us with our construction and renovation needs, and then is there, like Superman, to the rescue, when disaster strikes. Another part of me wishes he didn’t have that excited gleam in his eye. My problem is his challenge – he loves the adrenalin.

Honestly, it’s only a small part, and mostly it’s because I wish I didn’t have any problem at all. Dave has a meter that shows where water is still sitting in the grout between the tiles, and how it has soaked the baseboards and begun to creep up the sheet rock. He explains how in Florida, where the humidity is so high, the sheet rock can’t always dry out fast enough to avoid mold formation, and that even though it eventually may dry on its own, the mold can survive until the next moisture hits. Oh aarrgh!

Hours later, we have huge fans running, and we have dry air in oscilations being wafted into our walls to insure they dry thoroughly, but not too much. We have machines taking readings. Our insurance company says we are doing all the right things and the adjuster will come by on Monday or Tuesday.

This was supposed to be a quiet Saturday night. If it had been a normal quiet Saturday night, we might have been upstairs, watching some TV, listening to the lightening and not worrying too much about it. We would have gotten up in the morning and gone to church. We might not have even known our guest suite was flooded for days!

So honestly, I feel blessed. I am blessed that if this disaster had to happen, I had people with me who knew exactly what to do, and did it.

As they left, the Gulf Power people were out fixing the exploding power transformer, and I thought how many heroes there are on this earth, people who do their job under the worst circumstances, people who leave their families to serve because there are jobs that must be done.

God bless you, all of you, health workers, police, firemen, electricians, plumbers, emergency services, soldiers and sailors and airmen – all who sacrifice and serve. May you sleep well at night, and may God bless you and your families who support you.

I had a disaster, but I was surrounded by every resource I needed to deal with it. Thanks be to God.

If you have a disaster, and you live in the greater Pensacola area, I can recommend:

Rainbow International Restoration Services
David Murphy
O: 850-994-4411
Cell: 850-281-0232

August 7, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Bureaucracy, Character, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Florida, Home Improvements, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Renovations, Work Related Issues | 6 Comments

Home Improvement: Spackle and Paint

When you paint those walls (or have them painted) save a small container of your paint in an airtight container. When you are putting things on the walls – yeh, you can measure all you want, but sometimes that wire on the back of the mirror or heavy painting is just a little longer than it should be. It happens to everyone, even the pros.

When I was an Army wife, our houses had to pass inspection before we moved on. I was GOOD. I learned how to mix a little spackle and paint, and use a toothpick to seal the holes.

Once the hold is sealed, use a paper towel or kleenex or toothbrush (in a pinch your clean finger) to make the surface a little rougher, otherwise the spackled area stands out because it is smoother than the surrounding area. Using a toothpick works best for filling in small holes, if you have a larger area, use a popsicle stick or small spatula. Having a little paint of the original wall color mixed in to the spackle makes the fill invisible. 🙂

(Whenever I use spackle, I think of my sister Sparkle, who calls oatmeal ‘spackle’, LOL!)

July 7, 2010 Posted by | ExPat Life, Experiment, Home Improvements, Humor, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Renovations | 4 Comments

Ketchup Entry

“It’s been five days since you blogged,” my friend wrote to me. “Isn’t that some kind of a record?”

Well, no.

Back when I went to Damascus for Christmas, it was also the Eid al Kebir, and I was gone for a week and everyone was so busy with their own celebrations that no one really noticed. 🙂 Well, maybe my Mother. 🙂

This time, it has to do with AdventureMan.

AdventureMan became semi-retired this last week. He and the Qatteri Cat flew to Pensacola, where we met up and now the three of us are staying in a hotel while our heroic contractors are battling to have us in the house by April 15th. Will we make it?

The Qatteri Cat was totally freaked out by his long long trip to the United States. First, for all my annoyances with KLM, we have to tell you that they are totally superb when you are shipping an animal with you. At every stage of the journey, they kept AdventureMan informed on QC’s progress, and he was in great shape when he arrived, except that he was really, really scared. He didn’t understand any of this, the long flight, all the noise, the vibration and then the hotel room full of strange smells of a 1,000 previous guests. (If you are a cat, you can smell things we can’t even dream).

He is OK now. He has a short memory.

Meanwhile, AdventureMan and I have been doing the business of getting ready to get settled, and at the same time, AM is jet lagging. I tell him I think he is catching up on months of sleep deprivation, and he says he thinks it is just jet lag. It makes me happy to see him sleep.

Today, we went by the house so I could pot a cherry tomato, a very special heirloom tomato that I found at the Emerald Coast Garden Show this last weekend. It is a black cherry tomato, and I have never seen one! I have sent for some other heirloom seeds; I love cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes, tiny little tomatoes with intense flavor. I love to mix them all together with some green onion tops and just a little lemon-y vinaigrette dressing, maybe on some lettuce. YUMMM!

Anyway, AdventureMan likes gardening, too. He comes by it honestly, both his grandfathers gardened. One of them had chickens, too, and grew peanuts, and corn as well as a garden full of vegetables. I garden on a much smaller scale. Mostly I plant things that will take care of themselves – lavender, rosemary. Here, in the mild climate of Pensacola, basil becomes a perennial (I saw that in Kuwait, too, at our Kuwait gardening friend’s house) and I have planted some bougainvillea, which I am hoping will be hardy enough to weather an occasional cold winter or two like the last one.

When we got to the house – and this is Sunday, in the heart of the Bible-belt deep South – the ceiling and drywall people were there, working on a ceiling. We were surprised to see them there, but we know they are all trying really hard to get us into the house as soon as they can.

I was thinking AdventureMan was going to kick back and take it easy, but it hasn’t turned out that way – we are up and at-’em every day, and we have accomplished amazing things. More about some of that in future posts.

Just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten about you – just haven’t had the opportunity to sit for very long to organize my thoughts.

April 11, 2010 Posted by | Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Moving, Pensacola, Pets, Qatteri Cat, Renovations, Spiritual | | 5 Comments