Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Happy 7th Blog-iversary to Me!

Once a year I get to troll the internet looking for cakes. It is so much fun. I had no idea there is so much creativity out there, so much daring. I found a wedding cake that is tilted! Something in me loved it, loved the spirit of a woman who would marry knowing life is often off-kilter and messy.

I love white roses, so this year I have sent some to myself:

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Come on by, have some virtual cake with me to celebrate seven years of blogging:

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And here, an elegant combination of cake and white roses:

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Seven years ago in Kuwait, I started blogging. There was a wild blogging scene in Kuwait, a lively community. Blogs were candid, and many were substantial, dealing (carefully) with political and economic issues in Kuwait. I remember reading and learning, and finally gathering up my courage to write my very first entry, and it has been a recurring theme, cross-cultural communication. I learned so much from my life in the Middle East, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. I made the most amazing friends. It changed my life and my perceptions utterly.

Of the three Kuwait female bloggers who inspired me to start blogging, Jewaira has gone private, 1001 Nights is a good friend, a mother, and an author 🙂 and Desert Girl is still going strong. Mark, at 2:48 a.m. is also still going strong, so strong that he has been able to leave his full time employment and operate on a consultant basis.

Of course, as any blogger will, I sometimes think of quitting. There are days I find myself with nothing to say, nothing in my life so interesting that I think it is worth sharing, not even a news story worth noting. So I’ve had to ask myself why I continue.

I do it for myself. When I started, I had a reason and that reason still stands. I forget things. This isn’t age-related, it’s busy-life busy-world related; we forget the details.

My Mother saved all my letters from Tunisia. I remember reading them and laughing because at three, my son’s best friend in his day school was a boy he called Cutlet. I know his real name is Khalid, but Cutlet was as close as this little American boy in a French-Tunisian school could get. I had totally forgotten, until I read the letter. So my primary reason for continuing to blog is documentary – just plain record keeping, like an old fashioned diary. Noting things in my daily life or the life around me.

Even now, sometimes I see a post written long ago, usually one of our Africa trips, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Zambia – will start getting a rush of stats. It thrills my heart. It makes it all worthwhile, knowing something I have put out there is helping others, even years later. Perhaps one day, I will quit blogging, but leave the blog up, with these informational articles.

My stats make no sense at all, one of my biggest stat gainers this year was a news article I tossed off about the prank on the South Korean pilot names after the plane crash landed in San Francisco. It just made me giggle, and I couldn’t resist printing it. It ended up with a life of its own, as many entries do – and you just never know. Someone pins an image and you get a million (ok hyperbole here) hits you never expected.

In the end, I believe that those who keep blogging do it because as Martin Luther once said, “I cannot other.” We do it because something within needs to be expressed, even if it is just some kind of daily record. I know it’s why I blog.

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Blogging, Botswana, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Jordan, Kuwait, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Travel, Tunisia, Zambia, Zanzibar | | 8 Comments

Perfect Pensacola Evening

After weeks of early and sultry heat, Pensacola has had a spell of cooler weather, nights down into the 50’s and even high 40’s, and days in the mid 70’s – and not humid. Great weather for working in the garden or going to a park, weather that just makes you want to be outside.

Last night we went to a meeting of the Gulf Coast Diplomatic Council at a beautiful home out in Gulf Breeze, with a view of the water that goes forever. As you walk in, you can smell wood – or at least I can. I grew up with houses that used a lot of wood, and I love the smell. The heart of the house was a kitchen – dining room – sitting area with that forever view.

It was a lively group. The group only gets together a couple times a year, but what a fun group – all people who are willing to host foreign visitors when they come to Pensacola. I am guessing one of the reasons that Pensacola gets so many groups (besides those glorious sugar-white sand beaches, and the multicolors of the Gulf, and all the seafood and palms and balmy weather) is that the GCDC has developed a sterling reputation with visitors, and the Department of State is happy to send them to a place where they will get such a warm reception.

Attending also were some delegates from other countries. We spent some time with a Namibian farmer, who wants to find market outlets for poor rural women in Namibia. We spent two weeks in Namibia – it seems a lifetime ago – and loved our time there. We made a circuit of the country, from the farms in the east to the great Etosha game park, to the Demaraland, and down the Skeleton coast to Sossossvlei, where we climbed the mountainous sand dunes. It was a great adventure for us, and we have such happy memories of Namibia, and our delegate was so happy to meet people who had spent time in her country, We had a great visit with her and a great time altogether.

There were mountains of food available, but you know how awkward it is to be talking with people and they ask you a question just as you have taken a bite of something that needs to be chewed and swallowed before you can answer? We passed on the food so we could focus on the conversations. In the back of our minds, too, we knew we were close to one of our favorite places, Flounders, so we popped over there for a bowl of chowder, grilled grouper po’ boy (AdventureMan) and grilled shrimp Ceasar (me). The evening was perfect – no humidity, temperature perfect, slight breeze but not too hot or too cold – perfect.

This weekend we are taking care of Happy Baby while our son and his wife head off to a family wedding. Happy Baby is fifteen months old, and a live wire. So much energy and no inhibitions! You have to watch him every minute. He loves climbing, but he has no sense of danger. It takes both of us to keep up with him! He is so much fun to be around, that although it will be exhausting, it will also be a lot of fun.

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Florida, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola | | Leave a comment

Unexpected Blessings

Yesterday I received an unexpected thrill – a letter from a publishing house in Zambia asking to use a photo of a quilt I made in a textbook they are publishing for Namibian children. We have traveled often to Zambia, and once to Namibia. Namibia is a thrilling country, as hot and dry and dusty as Qatar and Kuwait, and as rich, due to diamond deposits.

This is the quilt they will be using. I made it for my husband when I first started quilting, and more experienced quilters said I was crazy. It is a huge quilt, ample for a California king sized bed, but I knew I needed 3″ squares (I had some giraffe fabric I wanted to use) and as the quilt assumed a life of its own, it ended up much larger than I had planned.

It has many African fabrics, one a piece I bought in Tunisia about 30 years ago. I put a piece of it in all my map quilts.

Here are a couple of my more recent quilts. The first is the one I made for my new grandson 🙂

This one is one I started many years ago, but didn’t know how to make it work the way I wanted it to. Twelve years later, I pulled it out and knew exactly what to do and had it pieced together in one morning. 🙂

All these years of living abroad, with AdventureMan working long hours and often traveling, quilting has kept me sane. It provides me with friends who speak the same language – patterns, textures and colors – no matter where I go in the world. It is so absorbing that sometimes I look up and an entire day has passed while I work on a quilt, and it’s time to fix dinner . . . Dinner? No! No! I am going to sew for another hour and order out!

One of the things quilting groups do is to help you stretch and to try new things. Literally, the groups hold CHALLENGES. This was a challenge where it was to show you and a facet of your personality – so this is how I see me with the green Gulf in the background. I made this while living in Kuwait and participating in the quilting guild which is part of the Kuwait Textile Arts Association there. 🙂

There is a wonderful guild in Qatar, the Qatar Quilters. They meet once a month and have nearly 100 members – imagine! Women who quilt come from all Qatar to attend. At the meetings, they show what they have been working on, and teach one another new ways to create quilts. They share information on where to find quilting tools and which shop has recently received a new shipment of fabrics.

You can learn more about the Qatar Quilters by visiting their blog: Qatar Quilters The lady you see in the first photo is one of the Qatar Quilter founders.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Qatar | , | 18 Comments

Namibia, A Bleak Kind of Beauty

This is an excerpt from the New York Times Travel Section on Namibia, a country AdventureMan and I visited a few years ago.

We landed in Windhoek, and our first night, we ate dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse, a little disorienting, as we had flown in from Germany, and found ourselves in a very German restaurant. The Germans colonized Namibia for a very few years over 100 years ago, but their influence lingers on in names, on streets, statues and cuisine.

Our trip through Namibia was unforgettable. It was unlike any other African country we have ever visited. It has a very long coastline with cold Atlantic currents called The Skeleton Coast. It has the world’s highest sand dunes, unbelievably beautiful. When I think of Namibia, I think of dryness – it is the thirstiest country I have ever seen, outside Kuwait.

Much of our time in Namibia, in Etosha and in Demaraland, we were camping, with CCAfrica (Conservation Corps Africa), but at the end, we stayed in one of the most spectacular private lodges in the world: Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. It was a total WOW. We rode ATV’s to the top of the dunes for sunset. They had an astronomical observatory, because at night there is NO ambient light and you can see the sky so clearly. The food was fabulous and creative.

Namibia, a country of stark beauty and riveting contradictions, should be at the top of any serious traveler’s want-to-visit list.

The landscape is otherworldly, from the ocean of blood red crests along Dune Alley at Sossusvlei (pronounced SOSS-oo-vlay) to the gravity-defying rock formations and petrified forest of Damaraland, in the country’s center. Even beside the main highway, there are enough elephants, giraffes and springbok to satisfy those who can’t imagine a southern African trip without big game.

And the mind-boggling juxtaposition of women draped in skins that covered animals a week earlier against shopping malls offering a full selection of Ray-Bans, or of face powder ground in a mortar and pestle cheek by jowl with shiny Hummers, leads you into the heart of a modern Africa tangled by time, defined by the collision of centuries and traditions.

Namibia isn’t easy, especially for travelers whose notion of a vacation is dashing from one sight to another, or for urbanites who need regular fixes of bright lights and noisy streets. Except for those with pockets deep enough to arrange chartered flights between the dunes and the Damara homesteads, it demands patience with corrugated gravel roads and mile after mile of what poets are fond of calling terrible beauty.

You can read the entire article HERE.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Travel | | 3 Comments

The Hemingway Safari: Chobe Part 4

At six the next morning, we hear the sound of zipping and then “good morning!” as our hot water is delivered into the bath and dressing room. We hurry our cleaning up, as it is COLD! We gather around the campfire for coffee, and have either hot or cold cereal and fruit before heading out on our morning game drive.

First, we watch the lions for about 45 minutes – they are a hoot. They are about 200 yards away, and rolling around, feeling well fed and guarding their carcass from the hyenas and jackals. Other trucks full of viewers start arriving. At sunrise, we are down by the river, watching hippos and crocodiles, and Namibean fishermen from across the river. Godfrey tells us there is a huge problem with poaching, as Botswana has made a decision to protect the game and encourage eco-tourism, but Namibia hasn’t. As the game has been hunted out in Namibia, hunters cross the river to hunt in the game reserves.

At 9:30 we stop for coffee/tea, all packed beautifully in a wicker picnic basket, with small sandwiches. AH and I start laughing – we had no idea we would be fed five times a day on this trip. At 11, we arrive back in camp. The deck chairs are in front of our tents, and lunch is ready. Dorcas meets us – every time – with the hot washcloths. And yes, there is HOT water in the shower!

Lunch is macaroni and cheese, cold cuts and cheeses and fresh baked bread, cucumber and green pepper salad with joghurt dressing, and oh, it is delicious. And now, thanks be to God, we have siesta time, time to snooze a little, time to look at the guide books in the library and check out what we have seen, time to review maps of where we have been. Ah, we need siesta time.

AH has just drifted off to sleep when I spot a HUGE baboon walking by our tent, right into the center of the camp. I shake AH awake and point. The baboon turns around, looks, then continues on his way. What a thrill. Tea is served at three, and Simaseku has baked an apple cake. My friends, this is a problem for me. I am on a weight loss program, and I don’t want to hurt Simaseku’s feelings, but I just can’t eat all this food!

On our afternoon game viewing we spend a lot of time watching the elephants wallowing along the river. It is so much fun, they are rolling, splashing, blowing water over their backs, having a great time. Some of the adolescent males are flghting a little, but not seriously. Later, we spend another 45 minutes watching the lions, and then . . . one of the most magical moments of the trip happens.

As we leave the lions feasting on what is by now a very smelly carcass, it is almost dark. Too dark to take any photos. And my guess is that the stink of the carrion was carried with us, as we had sat watching for a lenghty period of time. We run into a huge herd of impala. Impala are like the skinniest, most graceful little deer you have ever seen. They have large liquid eyes and thin little legs. And for whatever reason, as we drove into the midst of them, they went crazy. When impalas are anxious, they pronk.

If you were a ballet dancer, and you did a leap, and at the top of the leap you gave it a little extra kick, you would be pronking. And to confuse the predator, the impala pronk in all different directions. I am guessing we smelled like a predator, because for a good five minutes, the impala did what I can only describe as an incredible ballet around our vehicle. Groups would dash from one side to another, in front of us, behind us, beside us, leaping and extending that leap, like crazy ballerinas. It was the craziest, most graceful, wildest ballet I have ever experienced. I wish you were sitting next to me as it happened, I wish you could see them, barely visible in the diminishing light, as they did their manic leaps and bounds. We couldn’t photograph, we could just sit and experience it. It is a sight I will never forget.

Tomorrow morning we will depart for Savute Elephant camp, and stop to see Godfrey’s parents and village en route. I am getting used to the noises in the night, I even LIKE them! I love sleeping in our tent, and although I am in the midst of wild animals, I feel strangely safe.

September 12, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Botswana, Circle of Life and Death, Cooking, Cultural, Travel | , | 2 Comments