Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Campbell River and Elk Falls Park

Campbell River has a park going South out of Campbell River on 19A, done by the Rotary Club. It is a small park, a sweet park, full of wooden statues with a totem-like feel. It is easily walked, and even easily walked pushing a wheelchair.

The statues – an owl, an angel, a fierce looking eagle – those are just the ones I can think of easily – and the path is lovingly maintained and open to the public.It is utterly free. People can walk, take their children.

In downtown Campbell River, there are totems everywhere, reflecting the First Nation traditions, and a population of Haida.

CampbellRiverPark2

 

CampbellRiverPark

 

Near Campbell River is a huge public-private-bureaucratic project for a new hydroelectric generation complex. The old one is being replaced by one less vulnerable to seismic variations, and the government is working with private industry to set it up quickly. A Rotary club built another wheelchair accesible trail to Elk Falls, crossing over the old wooden water pipes being replaced. The trail was beautiful, and efficient. They really did a lot of work to clear the path thoroughly, no roots straggling across, no slick spots.

ElkFalls ElkFallsWheelchair

 

You really could wheel a wheelchair to the overview of Elk Falls. From that viewpoint onward, there are 11 flights of stairs and a chain link drawbridge that make further progress in a wheelchair unlikely. Actually, getting to the viewpoint would not be that hard. Getting back – pushing a wheelchair bound person weighing more than 50 lbs. or so – would require a team of four to six strong eighteen to twenty year old men trading off often. It is uphill all the way.

ElkFalls2

ElkFallsAbove

ElkFallsStairway

The falls are spectacular. The stairs are really well built, very sturdy. The chain link bridge was daunting for someone like me, not with fears of heights, but someone who finds being in high places brings on a fear of falling. I made my way across to the other viewpoint, and then back again, mostly by not looking down and not thinking about it, just walking, one step after another. The sturdiness of the stairs, that attention to detail, gave me the confidence I needed to trust that the bridge would not fail with me on it.

 

ChainBridgeEF

 

ChainBridge2

I always enjoy a hike a lot better after I’ve finished it 🙂

 

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Community, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Quay West

“What brought you here?” our waitress, Robin, asked as we sat in one of the most glorious restaurants in Campbell River.

“My wife,” said AdventureMan.

“I don’t know why,” I started, “I just felt drawn here. I needed to see it. I like hunting and fishing, and I knew this was hunting and fishing country, and the gateway to the north of Vancouver Island.”

It’s true. I like remote places, and I like hunting cultures. I grew up among people who fished for a living and hunted for food to eat through the winter. You respect food more when you have to grow it or hunt it.

Campbell River is beautiful. You could live anywhere, and wake up every morning to water and mountains and 180 degrees – or more – of sky.

Our room is in a brand new hotel, it is clean and beautiful as only a new hotel can be. We have a balcony overlooking the BC Ferry as it shuttles cars and trucks back and forth across to the islands.

ViewBCFerryFmComvort

 

We are trying to decide where to go for dinner, and I am reading to AdventureMan from Trip Advisor. The first review at Quay West features a couple who split a Ceasar Salad and a Pork Schnitzle with a Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce. I didn’t even get to finish reading; AdventureMan said “That’s where we are going!” and five minutes later we were out the door.

 

QuayWest

Quay West has more than great food going for it. It also has location, location, location. Here are the views:

QuayWestView

 

QuayWestView2

 

QWView3

 

Our waitress was fantastic, and fun to talk with. She brought us a Ceasar Salad to split, then a huge plate of Pork Schnitzle (remember, we have lived almost 20 years in Germany, not continuously, but in segments) with the mushroom peppercorn sauce. It was everything the reviewer had said it was, and we relished the meal, every bite, even the beautifully cooked vegetables, surrounded by natural beauty. AdventureMan had a Steam Whistle IPA which had the crisp pilsner taste, and I had a Pinot Blanc, dry, flinty, just the way I like it.

QWOnionRings

 

PorkSchnitzlePeppercornMushroomSauce

 

HalfPorkSchnitzle

 

We passed on dessert, but Robin brought us two huge strawberries, coated in chocolate, and we did not resist.

Back at the hotel, I discover that I can pick up texts and messages as long as I am connected via the hotel Wifi. Woo HOOOOO! We are not totally out of communication!

A perfect ending to a great day.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Technical Issue | , , | Leave a comment

Bureaucracy With a Heart

Did I tell you we’ve been stationed with two embassies, and at the second, I worked as a Foreign Service Officer? I know how busy and how harried the diplomats are, and I know how beleaguered the consular offices are with requests for visas and tourists who have lost their passports. They see it every day.

I lost my passport. My bad. Totally on me. I can’t expect anyone to feel obligated to help me out, but fortunately, there are mechanisms in place to expedite. You have to pay extra, but it’s worth it when you have a trip booked.

I told you about our run to New Orleans to submit paperwork and my delight to learn I would have a new passport soon.

I told you about the phone call telling me they needed a RECENT photo, not the same one that was on my last (never used, bright shiny new never used) passport.

I’ve been on edge all day. I’m away this weekend on a religious retreat, and I wasn’t feeling very religious. I was feeling nervous. I wonder if my passport reached New Orleans, or did it fall somewhere between the cracks? I wonder if Fridays are even work days at the passport center? What if it doesn’t get there and I don’t even know?

A short time ago, I got a phone call, from the same bureaucrat who called me about the photo. She was just calling to tell me that the passport is ready and will go out expedited this afternoon. She knew I would be concerned, and just wanted me not to worry.

I almost cried in gratitude. Who thinks of compassion when dealing with a bureaucracy? It was pure grace.

In the lifetime of our nation, we have elected some real doozies in high public office. Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors – some real characters. I don’t worry too much when lunatics run for high office, I thank God we have a solid bureaucracy, rarely corrupted; a bureaucracy that keeps plugging along when things get crazy. And thank God for this one particular officer who had a heart to reassure me that my passport is on the way. God bless her mightily.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Faith, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue | , | 2 Comments

My Passport and Donald Rumsfeld

It’s seven in the morning, I’ve fed the cat, made the coffee, fixed some cereal and taken care of first-thing-in-the-morning things so I can sit with my morning Lectionary readings, and as I start, the phone rings. It’s seven. In the morning. I figured it was an emergency grand-child babysit call, but the call is coming from New Orleans, an oh no. I know I need to answer it.

It’s the really nice lady who took care of me on Tuesday, and she says “We were putting together your new passport and we noticed you used the same photo you used on your last passport.”

“Why yes!” I said proudly, “when I had them taken, they gave me two, so I just used the second one.”

Big mistake. They needed a RECENT passport. My never-been-used-shiny-new passport was MONTHS ago and I need to get RECENT photos and send them immediately so they can compete the passport with the right photo.

I think about good old Donald Rumsfeld, with the things you know you know, the things you know you don’t know, the things you don’t know you know (love that one) and then – horrors – the things you don’t know you don’t know.

And then I head down first thing to UPS where the nice people took my photo and sent it off so that they will have it as soon as possible.

And . . . I am wondering what else is out there that I don’t know I don’t know.

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Counter-terrorism, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Paris, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Rains in Africa

There are times – it doesn’t matter where I am, but it’s usually a grocery store. Kuwait. Qatar. Pensacola – they all have this elevator music, music you barely notice, until you find yourself unconsciously belting out “I miss the rains in Africa . . . .”

I love that song. We’ve visited many African countries, and occasionally just before or after the rainy season. When the drops of rain hit the dry earth, there is a scent like no other, an earthy, clean perfume smell.

MIT scientists have worked out the source of that intoxicating scent – tiny bubbles.

 

Earthy, Post-Rain Smell Explained by MIT Scientists

By Jim Algar, Tech Times | January 18, 11:22 PM

Raindrop aerosols

Researcher create slow-motion video of “champagne bubble” effect to show the origin of the familiar after-rain smell. Raindrops can release aerosols from the ground into the air as they hit, researchers find.
(Photo : MIT)

 

Researchers say they’ve used high-speed photography to show the origin of the familiar earthy, sweet smell that lingers in the air following a rainstorm.

Scientists call that aroma petrichor, and have long ascribed it to chemicals and oils in soil released as aerosols when raindrops hit the ground.

Now researchers at MIT say they’ve created super-slow-motion footage to demonstrate how that “rain smell” moves from the ground into the air.

“It’s a very common phenomenon, and it was intriguing to us that no one had observed this mechanism before,” says professor of mechanical engineering Cullen R. Buie.

“Rain happens every day — it’s raining now, somewhere in the world,” he says.

When a raindrop impacts a porous surface, the researchers found, it traps tiny bubbles of air that then shoot upwards like the bubbles in a glass of champagne, ultimately bursting out of the raindrop in a fizz of aerosols.

Those aerosols contain aromatic elements that can be released by light rainfall and spread by winds, they say.

More aerosols are produced by light or moderate rainfall than during heavy rainfall, which is why the familiar petrichor odor is more commonly apparent after a light shower, they add.

“Heavy rain [has a high] impact speed, which means there’s not enough time to make bubbles inside the droplet,” says postdoctoral researcher Youngsoo Joung.

The scientists filmed raindrops falling on a variety of surfaces, including 16 kinds of soil and 12 engineered materials.

Identifying a mechanism for raindrop-induced generation of aerosols may help to explain how some kinds of soil-based diseases are spread, Joung says.

“Until now, people didn’t know that aerosols could be generated from raindrops on soil,” he says. “This finding should be a good reference for future work, illuminating microbes and chemicals existing inside soil and other natural materials, and how they can be delivered in the environment, and possibly to humans.”

The MIT scientists are conducting further experiments with surfaces containing soil bacteria and pathogens, including E. coli, to see if rainfall and its aerosol-generating mechanism can spread them.

“Aerosols in the air certainly could be resulting from this phenomenon,” Buie says. “Maybe it’s not rain, but just a sprinkler system that could lead to dispersal of contaminants in the soil, for perhaps a wider area than you’d normally expect.”

The results of the MIT study have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

 

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Experiment, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue, Travel, Weather | , | 2 Comments

All Time Stats Keep Me Humble

Screen shot 2014-12-11 at 8.04.23 AM

Wouldn’t I love to think that the most profound posts I write would garner the most attention and the most comments? But the truth is so humbling; the posts I write for fun, or in a hurry have long legs, or so WordPress tells me, and gather up statistics year after year.

I never know, when I write an article, what its future will be. It’s not unlike giving birth – you can input, but you have no control over who that child will be or where he/she will go.

God has the most wonderful sense of humor.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Blogging, Humor, Statistics, Technical Issue, WordPress | Leave a comment

Baton Rouge Strangeness

Baton Rouge was a city we really wanted to like, and there are so many things about Baton Rouge we DO like. While we were there, however, every single day, we experienced a little bit of bad JuJu, a little bit of strangeness. By the grace of God, it was ameliorated by the goodness and kindness of others, but it was just strange.

First, I have to tell you I am not a huge fan of shopping, but every now and then when I find the right thing, I know it and I buy it. When I found Trader Joe’s, I knew just what to buy, quality products we love. Then, I headed out to Macy’s, a store we do not have in Pensacola.

The Mall is huge, but it was early in the morning, I got a great parking spot, and although I had ended up far from Macy’s, I enjoyed the stroll. This is the first thing I saw, and it delighted my heart.

MallAnimals

00MallAnimals2

What is not to love about this menagerie of zoo animals for little children to ride through the mall? Children HATE mall shopping, but this is a game changer 🙂

I actually didn’t find anything I loved at Macy’s, but I did find two very classic T-shirts I knew I could use, nicely made, so I went to buy them and the cashier asked if I wanted to use my Macy’s card. I said “sure” but it turns out because I hadn’t used it in a while, I had to re-instate it, and when you do that, you get 20% off all day and the next day, plus a WOW card that gives you more discounts, plus another 20% off when they bill you. Holy mole, sign me up! But even though I looked, I really didn’t see anything else I wanted.

Back at the hotel, I told AdventureMan about this hot deal and talked him into going back to Macy’s with me. He looked, but he also didn’t find anything he liked, and then I found the children’s section, ummmm, errrrr . . . .. grandchildren’s section, and there were all kinds of things I liked a lot, and Christmas is coming, so lets get a little dollar-cost-averaging going. (AdvntureMan is rolling his eyes.)

When I went to pay, the patient salesgirl rang everything up, and then had to call some number because my total was high, and then asked me to show my driver’s license. I knew I had it, because I had it earlier when I re-instated my card. So I dug. It wasn’t there. I dug some more, I looked and looked, but no card. I was so embarrassed. The patient clerk held all the grandchildren clothes while I went downstairs where I had shown my card earlier, and sure enough, there it was. Thank God! What if we hadn’t gone back to the Mall? Months go by where I never show that card, and months from now I wouldn’t have known where to find it. I felt like my guardian angel was sitting on my shoulder. And it still felt like strangeness.

When I went back upstairs to the cashier, I showed the drivers license, and she called the security number again, and he asked me all kinds of questions, places I lived years ago, what cars are associated with my accounts, it was totally strange, and AdventureMan is looking bullish, steam coming out of his nostrils, stamping and huffing and puffing (he is hungry). Finally, he tells the cashier I am OK, and she rings me up, very apologetic. I told her it is just the times we live in, and honestly, I want security to be tough on people who might pretend to be me, so it was just a minor inconvenience. But just another little piece of Baton Rouge strangeness, little things that could eat away at happiness and well being if you let them . . . .

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Customer Service, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Scams, Shopping, Technical Issue, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Big Ooops, Pardon Me

So I discovered that no, I cannot blog well with just an iPad on vacation; I can use safari to access WordPress or the “special” (i.e. limited) WordPress for iPad but I cannot seem to get it to allow me to modify the size of photos when I insert them, so I had these gigantuan data-eating photos dominating the entire blog entries. So sorry. I have fixed the earlier entries, and now will finish up the trip.

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Blogging, Technical Issue | Leave a comment

698-722 Text

Today I received a text from my bank telling me that a document from them had been returned as undeliverable and telling me to click on the blue hypertext with my banks name dot com.

It didn’t smell right, so I called my bank, and no, they had not sent that text.

Did you know when you get a phone call or text that seems odd to you that not only do you not have to answer, but you can go online and check that number? Just google the exact number and you will find records that show if it is a scam or telemarketer. It is a wonderful resource.

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Financial Issues, iPhone, Scams, Technical Issue | , | 3 Comments