Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Syria’s Stonehenge

Today from Fox News via AOL:

Older than the pyramids . . . desert find in Syria

A mystery city lies in Syria’s deserts, one older than the pyramids — but the war-torn area is preventing archaeologists from decoding its riddles.

Fragments of stone tools, stone circles and lines on the ground, and even evidence of tombs appear to lie in the desert near the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa, 50 miles north of Damascus, archaeologist Robert Mason of the Royal Ontario Museum said. He likened the formations to “Syria’s Stonehenge.”

“What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living,” Mason said Wednesday during a presentation at Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, according to the University publication the Harvard Gazette.
He made the find during a 2009 trip and is eager to return and further explore the site. But he says regional conflicts make such a return trip nearly impossible.

“It’s something that needs more work and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen.”

‘What it looked like was a landscape for the dead and not for the living.’
– Archaeologist Robert Mason

The monastery itself, also called the Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian, was built in the late 4th or early 5th century, he said, and contains several frescoes from the 11th and 12th century depicting Christian saints and Judgment Day. He told the audience at Harvard that he believes it was originally a Roman watchtower, partially destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt.

But the desert puzzle is much older.

Bits of tools Mason found nearby suggest the mystery he discovered in the desert is much older than the monastery. It may date to the Neolithic Period or early Bronze Age, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, the Gazette said.
Egypt’s oldest pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was built about 4,500 years ago.

Mason also saw corral-like stone formations called “desert kites,” which would have been used to trap gazelles and other animals. The desert around the monastery is hardly a verdant pasture — “very scenic, if you like rocks,” Mason reportedly said — but was probably greener a few millennia ago, the archaeologist explained.

Like Indiana Jones exploring Italy’s museums in “The Last Crusade,” Mason hopes to return to the monastery to excavate under the church’s main altar — he believes he’ll find an entrance to underground tombs there.
He also hopes to return to strange stone formations he found in the desert, which he dubbed “Syria’s Stonehenge.”

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June 25, 2012 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Heritage, Middle East, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

The Customer from Hell at Target

Me. Today I was the customer from hell at Target.

I like Target. I like it that you can find just about anything you need there. I usually look for a deal, or a good price on things, but when I just need something, I just go buy it at Target. I also like their ad campaign, it’s a little camp but very colorful and always has cool products featured.

So today I went in for hair color stuff. I found it, but then I also found a display containing packages of two together, and it costs a lot less. It says Buy Two for Less!

Yes! Yes! I am buying two! I always buy at least two so I don’t have to go shopping that often; holdover from my days of buying six months worth when I was living in Kuwait and Qatar. It doesn’t go bad, and you have it when you need it.

None of the cellophaned two-packs have the color I need, so I take the ones I need and the two pack to the cashier, and I explain I want the special “Buy Two and Save” price, and she says “Whoa! That’s beyond me!” and sends me to the customer service counter.

At the customer service counter they explain to me that this is a special deal to encourage customers to buy more than one; they buy two and get a special deal. I agree with them, and isn’t this great, I want to buy two! Well no, they explain, Target pays a different price for the package than for the singles, so they can’t sell the singles two for the same price as the two bundled together.

Wait. These are the exact same product. EXACT. Except that these two wrapped in cellophane are 2 for $11.99, and the two exact same product I want to buy are priced at $7.99 EACH. So I am supposed to pay $5 MORE to buy two single ones? Something is not right with this picture. I ask to see a supervisor.

I am quiet and mannerly. I have a secret weapon – it is called pleasant persistence. They keep explaining to me that I can’t buy what I want at the special price and I just smile at them and politely explain how it doesn’t make sense. They are telling me in their explanations to “PLEASE GO AWAY!” and I am smiling and politely telling them in my own way that I am not going anywhere, and I want my product at the two-for price.

Finally, the supervisor says to sell it to me at the two-for price. As she is ringing it up, the customer service rep says “this happens all the time, not with hair products but with all kinds of products when we have the bundle price and the single price.” I suggest she mentions it to management, and that it costs a lot in time and in customer frustration and customer service frustration, and she says “it wouldn’t help.”

I still like Target. I imagine there are a lot of customers who give up and walk away. Not me. It doesn’t make sense to me to pay $5 more for something that they WANT you to buy two of . . .

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Marketing, Pensacola, Shopping, Values, Work Related Issues | , | Leave a comment

Adonna’s Pensacola for Breakfast

We’re all about small adventures for keeping life exciting, so we like to hit the Saturday morning market on Palafox in downtown Pensacola, picking up a home made jam or two, a plant to try in our garden, some fresh fruit or vegetables.

AdventureMan has a yen for biscuits and gravy, and it has to be Adonna’s. There are biscuits and gravy and biscuits and gravy, but he believes Adonna’s does it the best. I have to take his word for it; biscuits and gravy have no appeal to me, and I don’t touch them.

On the way in, I saw a couple runners eating outside, and I asked one what she was eating.

“OMG, it’s the best cinnamon roll French toast ever!” she enthused. I don’t usually order French toast, I can make a really good French toast myself, but I was just in a mood to try something new, so I ordered the Cinnamon Bun French Toast and grits, which I also never order.

I can’t let myself do it often. The Cinnamon Bun French Toast is just too good. It’s addictive, and I am really sure it is not at all good for me. But oh, heaven. It is so good. The grits were just grits, but not bland; they had a little salt in them. Not good enough to eat – for me – so I just took a nibble and was proud of myself for not eating them all 🙂

Adonna’s, near the Post Office on Palafox, serves breakfast and lunch.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Eating Out, Food, Pensacola, Restaurant | | 1 Comment

Nsefu, Day One, Parting Ways

Friday, June 8
The sun rises on our first morning in Nsefu, we eat our porridge, and we head off on a game drive with our old friend Daudi.

Our friends are off to visit Kawazaa village, warning us NOT to find lion without them, and we take off – of course, we are looking for lion! We are always looking for lion! We don’t find lion, but we find lots of raptors, the biggest eagle, cranes and herons, we watch hippos, and once back in camp, we spend hours watching the elephant families crossing the Luangwa.

As you might guess, it feels like we are eating all the time, but when we get back, we haven’t gained an ounce. I think it is because we are doing a lot of active riding; the roads are bumpy and you have to steady yourself, you are climbing in and out of the game vehicles, and there are a lot of crossings where the guide says “Hold on!” Here is Daudi, taking us across one of those river crossings:

As you can see, not every game drive stars lion, or leopard, but there are thrilling moments with birds, elephant, hippo – or crossing the river.

This is a Lillian’s Lovebird, one of my favorite birds in the world. The camps are full of them, but they are fleeting and flitting, and very difficult to capture in photos.

Morning tea at a hippo pond – you know how I love hippo:

Back at camp, it seems to be elephant river crossing day. One group will gather, and cross, while another group waits across the river. They meet and greet, and then head on their way, while another group crosses.

This group has a baby. The baby can actually walk most of the way, but when it is too deep, there is always a barrier of larger elephants on the downstream side of the baby elephant, who is holding on to Mama’s tail, and is supported from behind by another elephant.

At one point, something spooks the elephants crossing close to the dozing hippo, they start running and splashing, maybe an elephant accidentally steps on a hippo, and a loud ruckus breaks out. Elephants trumpet, hippos scold loudly. Fortunately, it is all show and no go, no real fight and no bloodshed, the elephants continue on and the hippos go back to slumber.

Our friends came back just in time for tea, and begged off the afternoon drive, saying the mating lions they had seen on the way to the village would have to be enough. They’ve been to the Kawazaa school, and to the village for lunch, visiting the clinic and even helping kill the chicken for lunch. It’s been so much fun, but also very stimulating, and they want to take a break.

Mating lions?! You saw mating lions? Let’s go see the mating lions!

Jonah found the mating lions in no time, which was a thrill, except that they had mated with such great vigor that now they were lying in sated stupor. We took some photos, but how many photos can you take of exhausted sleeping lions?

Nsefu Sunset:

We started back, but on the river road, saw an unusual sight – lions on the river banks across the river, and a lion climbing up the bank we were on.

He wasn’t wet, but he was calling to the lion damsels across the river, and had clearly made them some promises he intended to keep.

We tracked him for a while at a distance as he gauged his chances for a safe crossing here and there, and finally, we left him with our best wishes for a safe passage to lion nirvana.

At dinner we finalized plans with Jonah for an early departure for another trip to the Chichele hot springs with hopes of finding that dark maned (older) lion Madolyn was able to photograph with her iPhone, with breakfast at the hot springs and back at Nsefu Camp noonish.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, iPhone, Photos, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Zambia | , , , , | 4 Comments