Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sweet Sixteen: Intlxpatr Celebrates Blogging

Welcome friends, to a virtual celebration of 16 years of blogging as Intlxpatr. Where we are living now, in the deep South, the pineapple is a symbol of welcome. You are welcome here.

Old friends have asked if we miss “the life.” Yes. We do. And we have a new life, a life we never dreamed would be so happy. We live just blocks away from our son and his wife, and our two grandchildren. My son and his wife are in the prime of life, working, busy, and trying to keep up with a jarring pace of life.

We are called in frequently. In the summers, we help drive to and from daily camps, and we often have the grandkids in the afternoons. School started in August; on Sundays, we coordinate with Mom and Dad on which days they will need us for which drop-offs or pick-ups, or appointments, or – well, we stay flexible. And we stay busy. And being so closely connected gives us purpose and joy.

A tribute to my Alaskan heritage

I also have joy in this new life having rediscovered my love of the water. I am swimming 2 miles three days a week. Well, most weeks. I have buddies at the pool, and sometimes I spend too much time catching up, and then I have to scramble to get my laps in. I tell myself it isn’t about the numbers, it’s about living a good life. A good life needs good friends. Thank YOU for being with me on this journey.

A tribute to our love of the West, and our trips to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Utah

We are about to take our first trip overseas since our Bordeaux trip in 2019. We will be going back for brief visits, mostly to places we have been before. Yes. We will be taking you along. As with so many of our trips, there are often times where, even in this day and age, we are without access to reliable internet, but we manage ☺️.

A tribute to September, and the faint hope that Winter really is coming

COVID has been a long slog. As you may know, I lost my Mother, early in the epidemic. She lived in Seattle and was one of the earliest victims. The grief I experienced hit me hard; I became touchy and angry, I didn’t love the things I loved, and it took me a long time to get through the uncomfortable process of grieving. Every year, in October, I make my Mom’s famous chocolate fruit cakes. In September (yesterday) I made her wonderful Autumn Plum Cake (pflaumekuchen).

Autumn Plum Torte

And because, as we age, we are increasingly aware of fitness, and the need to eat the right foods, I will include something fabulous and healthy:

Yes, another first on Intlxpatr, LOL.

And because I firmly believe it is wise to drink less, I prefer to drink less of a really good wine.

A votre sante’

A toast! To living well, my friends, whatever that might look like in your life. Bonne fete!

September 4, 2022 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Food, France, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Relationships, YMCA | 2 Comments

Mary Peltola, First Alaskan Native Elected to U.S. Congress

I am dancing for joy this morning as Yup’ic Mary Peltola is headed for Congress. This woman truly represents Alaskans; she is hard-working, and gritty, and her goal is to unite Alaskans. She was elected to fill a temporary position left by Don Young’s death, but will also be on the ballot in November running for the same position. The following article is from Associated Press:

Election 2022 Alaska

Democrat Mary Peltola smiles at supporters after delivering remarks at a fundraiser on Aug. 12, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. Peltola is in two races on the Aug. 16, 2022, ballot in Alaska. One is the U.S. House special election, a ranked choice election in which she is competing against Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich. The winner of that race will serve the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term, which ends early next year. The other race she is in is the U.S. House primary. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Democrat Mary Peltola won the special election for Alaska’s only U.S. House seat on Wednesday, besting a field that included Republican Sarah Palin, who was seeking a political comeback in the state where she was once governor.

Peltola, who is Yup’ik and turned 49 on Wednesday, will become the first Alaska Native to serve in the House and the first woman to hold the seat. She will serve the remaining months of the late Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young’s term. Young held the seat for 49 years before his death in March.

“I’m honored and humbled by the support I have received from across Alaska,” Peltola said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing Don Young’s legacy of bipartisanship, serving all Alaskans and building support for Alaska’s interests in DC.”

Peltola’s victory, coming in Alaska’s first statewide ranked choice voting election, is a boon for Democrats, particularly coming off better-than-expected performances in special elections around the country this year following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. She will be the first Democrat to hold the seat since the late U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, who was seeking reelection in 1972 when his plane disappeared. Begich was later declared dead and Young in 1973 was elected to the seat.

Peltola ran as a coalition builder while her two Republican opponents — Palin and Begich’s grandson, also named Nick Begich — at times went after each other. Palin also railed against the ranked voting system, which was instituted by Alaska voters.

All three are candidates in the November general election, seeking a two-year House term, which would start in January.

The results came 15 days after the Aug. 16 election, in line with the deadline for state elections officials to receive absentee ballots mailed from outside the U.S. Ranked choice tabulations took place Wednesday after no candidate won more than 50% of the first choice votes. Peltola was in the lead heading into the tabulations.

Wednesday’s results were a disappointment for Palin, who was looking to make a political comeback 14 years after she was vaulted onto the national stage when John McCain selected her to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. In her run for the House seat, she had widespread name recognition and won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

After Peltola’s victory was announced, Palin slammed the ranked voting process as “crazy, convoluted, confusing.”

“Though we’re disappointed in this outcome, Alaskans know I’m the last one who’ll ever retreat,” Palin said in a statement.

During the campaign, critics questioned Palin’s commitment to Alaska, citing her decision to resign as governor in July 2009, partway through her term. Palin went on to become a conservative commentator on TV and appeared in reality television programs, among other pursuits.

Palin has insisted her commitment to Alaska never wavered and said ahead of the special election that she had “signed up for the long haul.”

Peltola, a former state lawmaker who most recently worked for a commission whose goal is to rebuild salmon resources on the Kuskokwim River, cast herself as a “regular” Alaskan. “I’m not a millionaire. I’m not an international celebrity,” she said.

Peltola has said she was hopeful that the new system would allow more moderate candidates to be elected.

During the campaign, she emphasized her support of abortion rights and said she wanted to elevate issues of ocean productivity and food security. Peltola said she got a boost after the June special primary when she won endorsements from Democrats and independents who had been in the race. She said she believed her positive messaging also resonated with voters.

“It’s been very attractive to a lot of people to have a message of working together and positivity and holding each other up and unity and as Americans none of us are each other’s enemy,” she said. “That is just a message that people really need to hear right now.”

Alaska voters in 2020 approved an elections process that replaced party primaries with open primaries. Under the new system, ranked voting is used in general elections.

Under ranked voting, ballots are counted in rounds. A candidate can win outright with more than 50% of the vote in the first round. If no one hits that threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Voters who chose that candidate as their top pick have their votes count for their next choice. Rounds continue until two candidates remain, and whoever has the most votes wins.

In Alaska, voters last backed a Democrat for president in 1964. But the state also has a history of rewarding candidates with an independent streak. The state has more registered unaffiliated voters than registered Republicans or Democrats combined.

September 1, 2022 Posted by | Alaska, Community, Cultural, Political Issues | 1 Comment

Adieu, Émile

As we stood outside in the back of the house, looking at the little courtyard and the terraces, my daughter-in-law said “We call this the cat crossing. We don’t know where they all come from, but there are always cats crossing.”

Soon we had one who came regularly, a cat like we have never had before. He was young and scrawny (we’ve had young, scrawny cats before) and his left eye was opaque. He showed up faithfully around the time we fed our indoor cats, looking for a meal, thus Émile. We bought separate bowls, and kept him – and his comrades – fed. Even when we travel, our housekeeper/ cat sitter would make sure he never went hungry.

The only way we knew he might like us was that when he heard our voices, he would come hang out. We were never able to get closer than 3 feet away from him, and even 3 feet made him goosey. We would thrill when he would spend a day or two up in his niche, a safe little place surrounded on all sides. Late in the day, he would wander away until meal time the next morning.

Emile with a fresh white squirrel

He was, like most cats, a ferocious hunter, and was proud to show off his latest squirrel or bird; what cat doesn’t love a fresh hot meal?

But one day, about two months ago, he started looking a little peaky. The last time I saw him, he was having trouble with a back leg. He disappeared.

Cats do that – outdoor cats. When they are unwell, they go somewhere. Sometimes they get better. We’ve had cats come back before, but I don’t think Emile will be back. The other cats have disappeared, too. There may be some kind of a cat virus going around, or, God forbid, someone may be poisoning them.

We would have liked to provide for Emile, to take him to a vet, get him immunized, get him checked out. We would have liked to give him affection. We would have liked for him to trust us.

And a part of me, thinking like a feral cat, imagines that none of that was of any interest to Emile. He seemed happy with the life he had, free, with a free-range menu supplemented by these strange two-legged beings who put out offerings for him on a regular basis. We sort of knew that this would be the way it ended, that he would ghost us in the end.

Being pragmatic, knowing the probability of this particular kind of ending, doesn’t make it any better. We’re still sad he is gone, and thankful for the time we had him in our lives.

July 24, 2022 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Living off My Fat: Adaptation

It probably all started growing up in Alaska, where my mother would measure us in July to order our snowsuits as soon as the new catalogs came out. We lived where ships didn’t come in the winter, so supplies for the winter needed to be ordered – and received – before the ships could no longer navigate the channel.

Then came our life in Germany, where we lived by what my sister called “Commissary rules.” Her one word of advice as a newlywed leaving Germany, while I was staying, was “When you see something in the Commissary or PX you think you MIGHT need, buy it.” Definitely a no-regrets philosophy.

When we were sent to live in Tunisia, in the late 1970’s, we were instructed to take everything we might need for the next two years. Some things – chocolate chips – we learned to live without. We adapted to new foods, new ways of doing things. One of the great treats was the fresh, gorgeous, silky olive oil; I would take my jar to the little olive oil vendor at the nearby souk and he would weigh my jar, fill it, subtract the weight of the jar and charge me for the oil, which made everything taste French.

I did have a two-year supply of shoes for a growing toddler, also clothing for him in graduated sizes, and two years of age-appropriate books I could pull out of the closet. We were able to mail-order through the embassy pouch, and my mother was able to mail me little extras. One year, when I was running the Christmas bazaar, she was able to find red and green Christmas fabrics in July, at a discount, and mail them to us for our crafting. It was such a luxury!

In Qatar, I was always bringing back duffels with quilting rulers and rotary cutters for my quilting friends. In Kuwait, it was books for my book club and American sugar for a friend who liked to bake. Kuwait had sugar, but more coarse, and American sugar melts more quickly for a finer result. Who knew?

There are items from the past I still have in abundance – dental floss, women’s underwear, shoes – and staples I buy but no longer use in the quantities I once did because we no longer live a life where we entertain a lot nor prepare for unexpected people on temporary duty who need a meal and an exchange of currency. I am trying to bring down my supplies of artichoke hearts and pimentos, beans and rice, canned tomatoes, chutney, Tupperware and hand soap.

My Little Free Library, one of the best birthday gifts ever, helps me keep my books from overflowing.

We are happy, these days, to be living with less. We are still caught by surprise by rolls of baking parchment we are still using from Kuwait, dental floss leftover from our years in Tunis and an excess of Christmas decorations we still need to pare down. We try to go easy on ourselves. “Ah,” we sigh, “it’s a process.” God grant that we live long enough to use up all those supplies we bought “just in case.”

July 5, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Christmas, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Germany, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Tunisia | Leave a comment

Ignoring the Law

I still get ads and info from Qatar sources. Living in Doha was such a vivid experience; experiencing the life of a country going from a sleepy little village to a mecca of skyscrapers was an astounding experience.

Qatar was full of contradictions, and the treatment of domestic workers, all imported from mostly Asian countries, was abysmal. While some few families treated their servants well, most did not. Contracts were not honored. Few had any time-off, most were on call 24 hours a day.

So this new law from the Ministry of Labor is . . . interesting. I find myself cynically wondering if this legislation will have any impact on how Qataris treat their servants, or if it is just national window dressing?

Not to be hitting unfairly on Qatar, it brings to mind the Florida Sunshine Laws. Florida passed some truly progressive laws suggesting that citizens of Florida had a right to know what their elected officials were doing, and how they made their decisions. I know – amazing stuff, even in a democracy. Florida took a lot of pride in those laws, and for many years, those laws were, to a great extent, observed and enforced.

Fast forward to Florida in the times of COVID and there is not a mention of the Florida Sunshine Laws. Some of the Sunshine Laws have been amended, to protect Law Enforcement and court officials. Most of the Sunshine Laws are now just ignored.

How does this manifest? How about the governor telling the Health Department not to publish health statistics, and telling them not to count people from out-of-state who come here and catch COVID. How about not allowing them to collect all the statistics, just every other week? How about not publishing the transmission rate on a daily or even weekly basis?

How about concealing how Universities recruit and select college presidents?

Publishing laws that look good on paper is one thing. Writing the laws so that they have teeth, and can be enforced, is another. Having a police force on the city and county level which will enforce laws as written is another. Having courts that will support the enforcement of the laws as written is another.

Having an independent legislature is another critical factor, we have to ask if the intention is for them to represent our will as citizens or if they exist to rubber-stamp gubernatorial stage-craft?

One of my friends at church mentioned yesterday that the state of Florida now has a holiday, Juneteenth, the explanation for which is not legally allowed to be taught in Florida schools, where any acknowledgment of the history and damages of enslavement might make young white school children uncomfortable.

When people behave badly towards one another, whether in Qatar or in the USA, maybe feeling uncomfortable is appropriate.

June 20, 2022 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, fraud, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Back in Kuwait

No, No don’t get excited. It’s a metaphor.

When I lived in Kuwait, I would tell my friends it was a lot like living in Alaska, and I loved the look on their faces. Then I would explain – in Alaska, people wait eagerly for good weather, and when it comes, they can’t get enough of it. We are outdoor people.

For much of the year, Alaskans are trapped inside, and have to be good at finding things to do to keep themselves from going crazy.

In Pensacola, as it was in Kuwait, the temperatures are very hot. Kuwait was mostly very dry, and had sandstorms, unlike Pensacola, but shared having a long coastline, and heat with humidity in the summers.

So now, as in Kuwait, I am up early, to get to the pool and swim my laps, so lovely and cool. If I need to grocery shop, I try to shop on the way home, so as not to have to venture out again as the day heats up. I get home, and tend to the Little Free Library while it is still in the shade. Most of the rest of the day I spend inside, except for picking up grandchildren at their camps.

It is a great time to do some quilting. I am just about to start when Ragnar, my helper, comes in to join me. (Also, AdventureMan is outside weed-eating and edging, which is of endless amusement and torment to Ragnar, who forgets he was once a feral, outdoor cat, and was lucky to survive.)

I do a couple more things to set up, hoping Ragnar will take the hint and move off to find something more interesting. He doesn’t. In the end, I have to lift him (lovingly) and place him in another room on a blanket we call Blue Mama, because Ragnar particularly loves sleeping on this blanket.

He doesn’t come back, and I spend the morning “back in Kuwait,” enjoying my confinement by working with fabrics and colors I love, patterns I would never wear but enjoy the challenge of working them into quilts.

June 16, 2022 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Breckenridge, 2 Perspectives

We love The Lodge at Breckenridge, and we love the beautiful room overlooking the valley where Spring is clearly coming.

We decide to dine at the Lodge restaurant. We have a wedding anniversary coming up in June and we might as well start celebrating now 🙂

We share a charcuterie board to start.

I have the Caesar salad for my main course – and I am delighted when it arrives with a real anchovy on top. I haven’t seen an anchovy on a Caesar salad since Doha.

AdventureMan has the Elk Tenderloin, and generously shares a slice or two with me – it is delicious.

I’m pretty sure we shared a dessert, too, but I can’t remember. I had a local port, AdventureMan had a Bordeaux and we floated to our room.

The next morning, we slept in a little – and awoke to five inches of snow. We could hear other doors onto balconies opening and people saying “Snow!”

We got through the mountain pass, and safely into Colorado Springs where we had a wonderful visit with my youngest sister and her husband in their mountain eyrie. We watched episodes of Joe Pickett (we didn’t even know the series, however short-lived, existed) and then they introduced us to Longmire. Her husband played some blues and boogie for us, and we all belted out “The Train They Call the City of New Orleans.” It was a great visit.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Our Last Day in Moab

Today is a day purely for leisure and having fun; we head into Moab for the Moab Arts Fest. It is very family-oriented, with games and entertainment and food, and booths with hand crafted items. I find a fiber artist and a great gift for my sister, a spidery light bright red wrap with silk fibres pressed into it. It is stunning. I can easily imagine it on my stylish sister.

We decide to have lunch at Singha Thai because we so thoroughly enjoyed their food our first night in Moab. This food was equally impressive.

So much food, the veggies crisp-cooked and delicious! AdventureMan had the basil chicken with lots of broccoli, and I had the ginger chicken, more sweet red peppers and spring onions. We couldn’t begin to eat it all, so we packed it up and had it on our Trail’s End veranda for our own sunset dinner.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: The Sunset Grill

It has been a lighter day, for us, and we spend the afternoon reading and napping (AdventureMan), packing (both) and writing up the adventures and organizing photos (me). We also know we have dinner planned, dinner at a Moab classic, the Sunset Grill.

The Sunset Hill has pride of place in it’s position, high over Moab. They have parking, and overflow parking, and a large van that picks up tourists around Moab who want to eat at the Sunset Grill. They don’t take reservations. People are lined up at 4:30, before most of the wait-staff have even arrived. There is a garden where they can sit and look over the city while they wait to be seated.

Once you are invited inside, there is plenty of seating, all with fabulous views.

The wait staff is polite, helpful, and efficient. All the music is Frank Sinatra, and the decor is pure 1950s. The menu is pure 1950s, with choices of steaks, salmon, chicken, shrimp, and pastas. It’s a real experience. Not my favorite era so once was enough.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Needles Canyonland Overlook

I don’t know what I would do without Google Maps; I use them to plan trips, I use them to calculate time and distance, I use them to find exactly where to make my turn, etc. And now and then Google Maps gets eccentric on me.

On our last trip in France, driving from Domme to Salers, Google maps had us on treacherous mountain tracks that were single lane, and timber trucks were coming at us. At one point, Adventureman said “stick to the paper map and major roads, no matter what Google Maps says” and he was right.

This time, taking the road to Needles Overlook, the Google lady kept telling us we had arrived and to turn around, the road had ended, when we could see it, paved and smooth, right in front of us. Weird.

We were so glad we persisted. The Needles Overlook is one of the most spectacular viewpoints we have ever seen. All told, you can probably see nearly 300°; not from one point but by following the paths to the different viewpoints. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does.

OK, this is indelicate, but travelers know, take advantage of every opportunity because you never know when the next opportunity will appear. I told AdventureMan I was going to check the convenience, and he said “I hope they have toilet paper” and when I got inside, I just laughed. I’ve never seen so much toilet paper in one loo.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment