Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ramadan Kareem and Pope Francis

“God bless the work of your hands!” was one of the Moslem sayings I most loved as I lived my daily life in various countries in the Middle East. So, Pope Francis, God bless the work of your hands yesterday in your encyclical saying we are all responsible for the price we pay for progress. You are a brave man, and you don’t hesitate to name corruption when you see it, and to do your best to correct us, and straighten the path of the Lord.

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“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.

It is not entirely a happy message for me. One of the items he castigates is air conditioning, and as Pensacola hits the nineties every day, I hate to think of how I would live without air conditioning. I think I would turn into a slug, swinging in my hammock for hours every day reading a book. My house would be full of dirty dishes and dust. And I remember living in Tunis, and in Jordan, without air conditioning. We managed, by the grace of God.

Meanwhile, during the hottest months of the year, yesterday, our Moslem brothers and sisters began Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and personal purification. Imagine, going all day without water and without food, breaking the fast only as the sun goes down. I wonder if the Pope made his world-changing address on the eve of Ramadan on purpose, as he clearly made it to all mankind, not only to his Catholic followers.

Ramadan Kareem, my Moslem brothers and sisters, whom I cherish, and who taught me so much. May your fasting bring you great insights and purity of spirit.

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Environment, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Ramadan, Social Issues | 4 Comments

“Come Back Soon; I Have So Many Questions!”

We wanted our house guests to experience a truly Southern experience, so we took them to Sonny’s BBQ. It doesn’t get much more down-home than Sonny’s. We saw one of my friends from water aerobics, we saw another friend from church and our son’s boss, all sitting nearby.

We all ordered barbecued smoked chicken, and the 10 year old ordered french fries and french fries for his two “sides.” He got frustrated with the knife and fork – it does slow down eating chicken – so he pretty much stuck to the french fries. As my friend from water aerobics left, she came over and hugged AdventureMan, and kept her hand on his shoulder as she met our guests.

To make it all even more bizarre (I am trying to imagine this from the Saudi point of view), we have the car seats for our grandchildren in AdventureMan’s car, so we used my car to drive to the restaurant. I drove.

It was a lot for them to absorb.

As we were leaving, our favorite waitress caught my arm and said “Come back soon! I have so many questions!”

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Interconnected, Local Lore, Restaurant, Saudi Arabia, Travel | 2 Comments

When Cultures Collide

My house guest and I are sitting at my computer, looking at airfares.

“So what do I do?” he asked me.

“This is your decision to make,” I answered. “Only you know what is most important to you.”

“I am looking for a recommendation,” he tells me.

“If it were me, I would take that early flight. It is cheaper, and by leaving at six a.m. you know it is likely to leave on time and arrive on time. Also, I would have booked it about four months ago. It’s summer. The flights are flying full. There are no cheaper tickets left.”

“Month-es?” he asked incredulously. “Month-es?” he repeated.

We decided to wait and book later, after he had given it some thought. He didn’t like my recommendation; he didn’t like the earliness of the flight I recommended, and I had known he wouldn’t.

I think the idea of booking a flight four months in advance was a double-whammy.

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Travel | Leave a comment

Houseguests and Rabies and Wedding Anniversaries

We’ve had a lot of wedding anniversaries, AdventureMan and I. Some anniversaries we have sacrificed to national security, as AdventureMan would be called to go to the field, or head out on some exercise. There are a few which have been truly memorable. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you will know that the ones we remember are probably not those that include roses, or wine and a fine meal and a beautiful gift, although we have had those.

One, we remember because we ate at a very fine restaurant, very snooty, and the waiter made a big deal out of presenting us with chilled forks for our salad course. We could barely keep a straight face, it is so far from anything we would consider a priority.

Another, and we howl with laughter – now – was the wedding anniversary when we had just arrived in Germany from Saudi Arabia, and found a lovely apartment on the top floor of an old mansion in a village I loved. When we got back to the car, AdventureMan said “Did you notice it is not furnished?” and I said we can find what we need at the re-utilization office, which is alway selling off used furniture.

Indeed, two days later there was a huge sale at the re-utilization center and we bought a dining room set, living room chairs, three big cupboards for holding clothes and some lamps, etc – all for $53. We’ve always had great luck that way. I had a lot of fun re-upholstering the chairs, and the landlord threw in a bed for us.

But as we sat in the car, on our anniversary, I said “Now, you probably need to take me to the hospital so we can get my bite looked at.” A few hours before leaving Saudi Arabia, the cat I had been feeding bit me, hard, on the arm. It ws one of those bites where the incisors went deep. I’d have liked to ignore the bite, but rabies is an ugly way to die, and I sure didn’t want to stay in Saudi Arabia to be treated.

So we headed to the hospital, and the next few hours were excruciating. Then we went to a favorite old Mexican restaurant we had known from years before, and that was our anniversary, truly memorable. We still laugh; we remember finding that lovely old apartment, and then having to go to the emergency room.

As an aside, the landlord didn’t tell us he was trying to sell the mansion, and nine months later, we were looking again for an apartment. We became very good friends with the new owners, and are friends with them to this very day.

This wedding anniversary was a non-event, we had houseguests, and their customs and daily lives are so very different that celebrating a wedding anniversary would have been far outside their comfort zone. We had a friend from Saudi Arabia and his 10 year old son.

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We received an e-mail from them saying (I will paraphrase a little here) ‘we have reservations to come to Pensacola for 26 days and we want to stay with you.’ There was more, but that was the essence. AdventureMan looked at me and said “I think we need to do this” and I was glad, because I had been thinking the same thing.

I think I have told you about our friends who welcome the stranger, so I think God had been preparing us for this visit, and for us to do it.

How did it go? It was challenging. There were times we just wanted it to be over, and there were times our friends must have found us to be very disappointing. There were continual clashes in expectations, and there was a very large well of good will out of which we continually drew. There were uncomfortable moments regarding meals, and meal times, and getting up times, and where we would go. There were also some fabulous meals and some truly wonderful conversations.

I know they were sorry to go. I know they want to come back again for another visit. We have no regrets; we are glad we did this, and we are also glad to have our very normal American lives back. We like this man very much, and we know this visit was a challenge for him, too.

But as we are hollering back and forth, we are laughing, this is one of those anniversaries we will never forget, the year we had our Saudi house guests.

We are aging, AdventureMan and I. We are no longer truly nomadic, living out of our suitcases. We have everything we own in this one house, except our other house. We no longer have other furniture in storage, and we have trimmed down a lot on the load of things we have collected. Maybe the one thing we truly fear is becoming too settled, and this visit was a wonderful way to shake things up a little bit, to force us out of our comfortable routines, and to force us to see our lives through the eyes of others.

It has given us a lot to think about.

Happy Anniversary, AdventureMan :-)

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cooking, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia | 6 Comments

A Harsh Ruler

Today’s Gospel reading from The Lectionary brings up so many questions! Jesus gives a parable, a story to help explain what he is saying, but what, exactly, is the parable saying?

Luke 19:11-27

11 As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 13 He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds,* and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” 14 But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” 15 When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 16 The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” 17 He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” 18 Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” 19 He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” 20 Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” 22 He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” 24 He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” 25 (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) 26 “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” ’

We know, by his own words, this was a harsh man and we know many of his citizens – not slaves – did not want him to rule over them. Why did Jesus use this man to illustrate his point? What about the other seven slaves who were given the money; how did they invest or protect the money? When I look at this parable, I am not so sure I would want to be one who was given more to administer over; the master is harsh. Perhaps those who protected the talent and kept their heads down fared better in the long run under this harsh man’s rule? What if one had taken the money and used it to make the lives of the people better – provided medical care or built a safe-haven for abused women? I shudder to think what the harsh ruler might have done with a slave who used the funds for the good of the people.

June 10, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Experiment, Financial Issues, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Money Management, Poetry/Literature, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Catastrophic Fortune

“Oh no!” I cried at the end of our meal as I read my fortune cooky fortune.

It said:

You will soon be involved in many gatherings and parties.

AdventureMan just laughed. He knows me. I used to dread all the military socializing, and once he accused me of getting so sick I was hospitalized just to miss a yearly ball. No. No. Meetings, gatherings, parties – not my thing. This is a catastrophic fortune.

One year, our son got a fortune that said something like “all good things will come your way” and after that, he would never open another fortune cooky, he made a choice to just let that one really good one ride.

I don’t know that it works that way, in fact, I don’t know that Chinese fortune cookies are even Chinese. I don’t know that they have any predictive value at all. And yet . . . (she shudders) I think I will destroy this fortune now that I have told you about it. :-)

June 7, 2015 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out | , , | Leave a comment

FitBit Sleep

One of the reasons I wanted to try the FitBit when I started, over a year ago, was to be able to keep a record of my sleep. What is startling to me is that I sleep a lot better than I think I do – most nights. I thought I slept great last night, woke up feeling rested, only to discover that FitBit tells me that I was restless and awake several times last night. I don’t remember that at all:

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There is a part of me that tells myself FitBit is only a machine and can be wrong, and another part of myself that tells me we don’t always perceive ourselves and our actions impartially.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues | 2 Comments

“A Bribe Blinds the Eyes of the Wise”

i will confess Deuteronomy, with all it’s rules and admonitions, is not my favorite book in the bible, and yet I love the words about bribery found in today’s Old Testament reading from the Lectionary:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20,17:14-20

18 You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. 19 You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

14 When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me’, 15 you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. One of your own community you may set as king over you; you are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community. 16 Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You must never return that way again.’ 17 And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself.

18 When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. 19 It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Faith, Lectionary Readings | , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Sunset 3Jun15

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June 3, 2015 Posted by | Pensacola, Sunsets, Weather | Leave a comment

Jon Snow Sings “Wildling”

This just totally cracks me up. It’s hard for me to see Game of Thrones actors out of character, but they are having such a good time hamming it up that it makes me laugh.

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Entertainment, Humor | , , | 1 Comment

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