Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Great Adventure: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks Trip Map

This is an overview of the Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks great adventure 🙂

 

Before we even checked in to our hotel in Bozeman, we hit the Walmart. I had broken a part of my sunglasses, and the Walmart had an optical shop, where a very kind optician wouldn’t even charge me for fixing them. At the same time my glasses were being fixed (just a little screw) we picked up “car food.” Everyone has their own ideas of what that might mean, but for us it meant peanut butter and crackers, apples, little oranges, wasabi peas, roasted peanuts, chocolate, ice cube gum, Ghost Pepper Rice Chex mis, and some bottled water which we refilled from the faucets in our room. Wyoming and Montana water was really cold and delicious. We also picked up a few paper plates for microwaving. We had brought plastic utensils with us.

I learned several things about myself this trip; I can’t begin to assign levels of importance. I learned that while I am fit, and can still hike and travel well, I am comparatively more fit in Florida than I am in Wyoming and Glacier National Parks. There, I am about average. There are a lot of women my age still hiking and moving comfortably.

I learned I can hike in my sandals, and I much prefer it. I know we are supposed to wear closed toe shoes while hiking, but they make my feet . . . tired. Unfree. I have great sandals, and I hike in them. My feet didn’t get cold, even hiking in freezing temperatures. If I really needed to, I could wear socks with my sandals. My feet don’t like being confined 🙂

I learned that the lighting in my house is low, and that I have more wrinkles than I thought I had. I’m not sure how much I care. When I am out hiking, I don’t care at all, it is only when I am walking into a social situation that I even think about it.

I learned that AdventureMan is still my favorite travel partner; he is almost always game for anything I suggest, he doesn’t mind stopping and watching animals for a long time, he likes to eat really good food, and he is mostly patient with me when I make a navigational mistake. When we get to someplace, he almost always appreciates the research that went into making this a really cool stop. Occasionally, when the hotel or experience is not what I would have hoped, he is philosophical about it, and so it matters little. He comes up with some good suggestions, like the Rocky Mountain Museum, and going back to a very expensive restaurant we loved. I like everything optimal. It doesn’t always happen, and I am a pragmatist, I know everything can’t always be optimal.

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June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Road Trips, Travel, Values | | Leave a comment

When Nothing Means Something

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I lived through the 70’s and the ’80’s and as I have watched the young of our generation grow to maturity, I have had hope for a different kind of world. I believed I saw it coming, a new way of thinking, where women had equality, where all people had respect regardless of skin shade. I suspected it would be slow, but the dinosaurs my age and older would die off, leaving the more enlightened young people in charge.

When Obama was elected, I danced for joy. I saw it as a sign – a man of color elected President of the United States! To me, he embodied what our nation was established to attain. Freedom. Liberty. Justice for ALL. Equal opportunity.

This morning,  AdventureMan and I were talking; as I was leaving his office I tweaked his photos by mere centimeters. They had shifted and were just a little crooked.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said (and I had already done it.)

(Barely perceptible pause, but a pause none the less) “Oh no, my dear.”

We both broke out laughing. Sometimes people who have been married for a long time lie to each other in such a way, to be polite, not to rock the boat, but at the same time letting the other person know exactly how you feel about something.

That barely imperceptible pause had meaning. Nothing was something.

When you are a teen-age girl, there are a lot of things you tell yourself when trying to figure out what to do.

“Really, nothing happened  . . . .”

“I wasn’t supposed to be at that party”

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that bathing-suit. Maybe it was my fault”

“I know Mom and Dad would back me, but they would also be really pissed.”

“Do I want to be known as ‘that girl?'”

Maybe you talk to your friends. Most girls won’t talk to their parents, unless it is really severe and you can’t hide it.

I now – I worked with rape victims for two years at a Rape Crisis line. We listened. We offered information. We listened. We offered to go with them if they wanted to tell someone, like the police. We educated – police, hospital workers, first responders, parents. We listened. We went to court with the victims who chose to file charges. We listened.

The bravest woman I ever met was in Doha. I had agreed to meet with her when her mother told me she had been assaulted. She had been offered a ride home, the guy was the big brother of a school friend, driving her and her sister home. Instead, he and his friend drove deep into the desert, forced the girl out of the car and told her to co-operate and they would leave her little sister alone.

She negotiated. She wouldn’t do all that they tried to force her to do. Then they took her home.

She talked to a couple friends, who told her she needed to tell her parents because it had happened before, and could happen again. The young girls were like prey to these guys.

She went to the police, she named names. They were arrested, and when she saw them in the line-up, she told the police she needed for them to take off their clothes so she could tell for sure that it was them. She knew it was them. She also knew that they were from a good family and that nothing serious was going to happen to them no matter what the charges, but she wanted a moment where she could humiliate them in some small way for the way she had been abused and mistreated.

It was one of those unequal power moments, but she used what little power she had.

“I wanted to get this on the record,” she told me, “I wanted to make sure that when they go to get married, that their names will be on the record, and if not, people in Doha have long memories. Who will want to marry their daughters to these men?”

She was 16.

Her family suffered. Her father was heart-broken that he had brought his family to Doha and that he had, as he saw it, failed to protect his daughter. The family left Doha soon thereafter.

I still honor that girl, her courage, her wisdom, her dry-eyed willingness to speak out.

And I believe Dr. Ford. I believe she kept it to herself, maybe sharing a little with close friends. She was terrified and she was 15. She carried it for a long time. For most rape victims, like my 16 year old friend, the sexual violation pales in comparison to the violation of personal boundaries and the fear that you may not survive. You are in shock. You often blame yourself. You want to move on, and you don’t want to be known as “that girl that got raped.” She was younger than Kavanaugh, less powerful, a teen-ager.

President Trump, you are just an ignorant oaf. You think you are something, but you are nothing. It’s not like women are assaulted and men aren’t. A thousand Catholic boys can tell you differently, and they feel the same shame as female victims feel. I hope everyone in America reads your ignorant, hateful, smarmy tweet and see the horror in having you as a President.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Mating Behavior, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Relationships, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

A Thousand Kisses

Schools started Monday in our county in Florida, so now we have two grandchildren with us after school. AdventureMan is the real hero; he is not only a good teacher, he is also a lot of fun, good at playing with and entertaining the kids. I am good for explaining things and talking about things – and for 1,000 kisses.

“What is 1,000 kisses?” you might ask?

It’s a game I made up when my own son was two and a half or so, a silly game, a mommy game, where I give his tummy a whole bunch of kisses really fast with loud smacking noises. It causes hilarious gales of laughter, helpless laughter, because it tickles, because I am very noisy (and only a little scary) and well just because it’s fun.

It also teaches about consent. From the very beginning, I tell them that whenever they say “STOP” I have to stop, and without fail, when one of the grandchildren says “stop”, I stop. I want them to know about “safe” words, and I want them to know that no one has the right to do anything to their bodies without their consent.

Our eight year old grandson came in today, pulling up his shirt, and said “How about 1,000 kisses?” and I said “Aren’t you too old?” He said no, no he wasn’t.

I can still keep him pinned enough that he goes limp from laughter, but he is getting stronger and stronger and the day will come when I have to stop. For him now, the fun is in the struggle. He thinks he can beat me, but he can’t – yet. Actually, with him, almost as tall as I am, I am already ready to stop, but he is not quite there yet. At some point, very soon, I am going to have to just tell him that he is too big, too strong, and I can’t play 1,000 kisses with him anymore.

There is still his little sister, just turning five, who also showed up with her T-shirt pulled up demanding 1,000 kisses, so I think I probably have a few good years left with her. She doesn’t even bother to put up any resistance, just bursts forth with gale after gale of lilting laughter that brightens my soul and my lights up my day. Soon enough, she yells “STOP!” and we are both ready to stop, catch our breaths, and have a good chat.

 

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Values | | 2 Comments

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

The Least of These

 

Today in the Lectionary readings, we come to the Gospel and one of my all time favorite verses and personal life guide. If you claim to follow Jesus, there are some basics. You have to follow the old Jewish traditions of loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. You have to take care of the poor, the widowed (the single mother), the mentally ill, the children. You have to welcome the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt.

Our national policies today are taking away medical benefits from our poorest citizens, are rolling back protections against pollution and contamination of air and water and even the foods we eat. The callousness of it all appalls me. Spiritually, we pay a price. As a country, I believe we will survive, but it will take a while to undo the damage that is being done, day by day.

As a cold warrior, I am horrified, but that is not a spiritual thing 🙂

Matthew 25:31-46

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, fraud, Free Speech, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | Leave a comment

Politics (ACLU) and Religion

The Psalm from today’s Lectionary readings:

140 Eripe me, Domine

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; *
protect me from the violent,

2 Who devise evil in their hearts *
and stir up strife all day long.

3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; *
adder’s poison is under their lips.

4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; *
protect me from the violent,
who are determined to trip me up.

5 The proud have hidden a snare for me
and stretched out a net of cords; *
they have set traps for me along the path.

6 I have said to the Lord, “You are my God; *
listen, O Lord, to my supplication.

7 O Lord God, the strength of my salvation, *
you have covered my head in the day of battle.

8 Do not grant the desires of the wicked, O Lord, *
nor let their evil plans prosper.

9 Let not those who surround me lift up their heads; *
let the evil of their lips overwhelm them.

10 Let hot burning coals fall upon them; *
let them be cast into the mire, never to rise up again.”

11 A slanderer shall not be established on the earth, *
and evil shall hunt down the lawless.

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the poor *
and render justice to the needy.

13 Surely, the righteous will give thanks to your Name, *
and the upright shall continue in your sight.

Yesterday, several news sources discussed the rapid growth of the American Civil Liberties Union; this one is from Politicus USA:

New Report: ACLU Membership More Than Quadrupled Since Trump’s Election

Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has more than quadrupled its membership, according to an article in The New York Times.

Before Trump’s election the group had just 400,000 members and most of its actions were out of the public eye.  But now, after 15 months of the Trump presidency, the membership is over 1.8 million and it has become one of the most active and visible opponents of Trump’s agenda.

Donations to the nonprofit group have also increased exponentially. The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said that the organization has raised over $120 million since the 2016 presidential election. Before that watershed election, he said, donations had been in the range of just $3 million to $5 million annually.

Romero said that concerns over Trump’s attack on constitutional rights and civil liberties have brought a whole new generation of political activists into their group. “Until Trump most of our support came from people who have been with us since we challenged Nixon,” Romero told the Times. “Now we’re kind of cool. Cool’s not a word generally associated with us.”

The surge in membership, coupled with the massive increase in contributions, has for the first time given the ACLU all the resources it needs to fight Trump and other administration officials in court and elsewhere. They have been involved in more than 100 legal actions against Trump administration policies, including the White House’sseries of travel bans on the citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, which happened shortly after he took office.

More recently, the group has been challenging the Justice Department’s family separation policies, Trump’s voter fraud commission and the president’s reversal of an Obama-era contraception mandate.

According to Romero, his group has over 170 times taken what he calls “Trump-related legal actions” since he became president. This number includes the filing of 83 lawsuits, Romero said.

As the Trump administration steps up its attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, the ACLU has been filing class action lawsuits and also seeking injunctions to attempt to make the government stop separating families and incarcerating children. In some cases they have already been successful, and they are continuing to fight for the legal rights of people who may have been illegally detained and deprived of due process.

The large increase in ACLU membership is a good sign for American democracy. It shows that many Americans not only disapprove of Donald Trump’s policies and actions but are willing to support the fight against them. Ultimately this may be what saves our country from becoming a dictatorship and what preserves and protects the Constitution of the United States of America.

I’m one of those people. I used to think the ACLU was extreme, that was until I saw them first to man the tables offering free legal advice to incoming passengers the night Trump implemented his first travel ban. I sent my first check. I was asked why I had joined, and I told them because they are now our front line against thugs with no moral values, oppressors of the poor, led by a heartless, selfish, man who must be reined in. They sent me a sweet little ACLU pin, which I don’t dare wear in Pensacola.

July 6, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Free Speech, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lies, Political Issues, Values | , | 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 to Calistoga Springs; A Short Day and a Mud Bath

 

OK, here it is. There is no point in being “old enough to know better” and not taking any chances. Life is short. It might as well be sweet, and sometimes, you just have to take some risks.

You might say, and we might agree, that life is full of unknown risks, like ending up on California highway 1 through the hilly, unguarded woods in late afternoon. On the other hand, a little adrenaline is the spice of life for AdventureMan and me.

One year, long ago, AdventureMan and I were living in Tunisia and we found ourselves at the beginning of the road General Montgomery took to break the Mareth Line in WWII.

(from Wikipedia:

Battle of the Mareth Line

Montgomery launched Operation Pugilist against the Mareth Line on the night of 19/20 March 1943. Elements of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division penetrated the line and established a bridgehead west of Zarat on 20/21 March. A determined counter-attack by 15th Panzer Division destroyed the pocket, re-establishing the line by 22 March. On 26 March, X Corps (Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks) drove around the Matmata Hills, capturing the Tebaga Gap and the town of El Hamma at the northern extreme of the line in Operation Supercharge II, making the Mareth Line untenable. The following day anti-tank guns from German and Italian units checked the advance of X Corps, to gain time for a withdrawal. In the next 48 hours the Axis defenders pulled out of the Mareth Line, establishing a new defensive position 60 kilometres (37 mi) to the north-west at Wadi Akarit near Gabès.)

The road was challenging at first, a rocky dirt road, very narrow. “How on earth did they get tanks through here?” I wondered to myself as my 3 year old son went sound asleep in the back seat. The road became dicey, but there was no place to turn around, so AdventureMan gamely drove on. Several times, he had to find a place in the road wide enough for me to get out without falling over the cliff, to guide him around ruts in the road that went 2 – 3 feet deep. It got later and later in the afternoon, there was no other traffic on this pass, and I was beginning to  . . . . have a little anxiety, but we never say anything, like to say it might make it true. There comes a point where the adrenaline doesn’t even surge any more, you just want it to be over, you want to be safe. And, as you can see, we lived to tell the tale 🙂

All that to introduce that today is a day of challenges.

First, as we drove down Highway 101, we looked for a winery I really wanted to find, Graziano winery. We had a bottle of Zinfandel from there, a red, complicated zinfandel, which changed my idea about zinfandel wines. We never found the winery, but we did see a sign for it, pointed back the way we had come. Arrrgh.

On to Calistoga Springs, where we check in to the Golden Haven Spa, a quirky motel/hotel with it’s own hot springs and spa, where we are going to have a first – a mud bath.

 

This is our very spacious room, with lovely high ceilings.

This is in the quiet room, at the entrance to the spa itself.

It’s always fun when you really don’t know what you are getting into. I couldn’t tell from the photos if this place was “nice” or “clean. You can read reviews, and you can’t always believe either the really good or the really bad. I looked at all the places in Calistoga, and this one looked quirky and fun, and I just had to hope it was clean (it was.)

The other thing is that with these mud baths, you can be totally nude, you can wear a bathing suit or underwear, whatever makes you comfortable. There will be an attendant in the room with you to help you, so how does that work? We brought our bathing suits, but once we saw the mud bath (black black mud mixed with peat moss) we figured we might as well just go nude. There were two of us, and we’ve seen each other nude before. It made us a little braver.

The attendant was sweet and modest, explained how things worked and then left us, saying she would be back. Well, the whole process is actually funny; you don’t climb into these big concrete tubs that look a lot like sarcophagi, you are supposed to ROLL into them, which got us giggling right away. And they are very hot, and you are not supposed to put your feet on the bottom, or you could get burned feet, and the mud is so thick you really do float. While you are waiting for the attendant to return, you use your hands to put mud over all the parts you  . . . ummm. . .. you know, like want to keep hidden, and that made us giggle more, but you can’t giggle too much or you bend and might start sinking and the mud/peat moss is really HOT.

Then the attendant knocks, and comes back in and puts a special mud on your face and then leaves again for about half an hour while you soak. We were ready when she came back, and we ROLLED out, but actually, I couldn’t figure out how to do it by myself so AdventureMan came over to give me a hand, but he looked so funny I was laughing too hard and couldn’t roll out the right way for a couple minutes.

Then you take this two-person shower, which sounds a lot sexier than it really is, because you have mud everywhere, and it really needs two people to spray each other in places you can’t see for yourself, like your upper back and your hairline, and other places where you can’t see yourself, the other person needs to spray you.

After you’ve sprayed as much as you can, you get into the hot tub, which is also very hot and I forget to mention, sulpher-y. Sulpher doesn’t bother me in hot springs; I got used to it as a kid, Baden-Baden, Wiesbaden, there were fountains where you could “take the waters” and it was always sulfur-y. It’s kind of stinky, but you get used to it. After the hot tub, we were like limp noodles, perfect for having massages, which was our mid-trip treat, along with the adventure of having a mud bath. We slept well that night.  🙂

So was it worth it? Oh yes, it was. It’s not often we are so out of our comfort zone, nor that we laugh so much. It’s a good thing to try something new and different. Would I do it again? I might, but I wouldn’t seek it out. It was fun, and there are other fun things in the world we haven’t tried yet.

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , , , | Leave a comment