Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel (3)

It’s such a common expression in our family that when I thought to title this post with this title, I checked, and sure enough, I have used this same title twice before. I didn’t know I was allowed to do that. It’s all about days when you’ve tried to do everything right, you’ve tried to maximize your chances for success, but everything seems to go wrong. We’ve learned, as the monkeys concerned, that it’s all about loss of control, and a smart monkey will just roll with it.

There is a part of me saying “Oh woe is me.” It’s a part of me I hate, the catastrophic thinking, which is not thinking at all, but we feel what we feel.

It will always strike at the worst moment, this monkey getting a turn in the barrel phenomenon. Last time, it was Viking notifying us that a major trip was canceled, a day before we were leaving on another major trip, and big decisions and a lot of telephoning needed to be done. This time, disaster struck an hour before the book club meeting that I was to lead. While my husband worked his end, I walked away. I said I’ll deal with it after book club.

We’re not people who like drama. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family in Panama City. We had a condo on the beach, big enough for the six of us in the nuclear family, with sunsets and wave action and a great gathering with lots of hugs.

Thanksgiving night, we got news that one of those we had hugged tested positive for COVID. All of us are vaccinated, so we weren’t too worried. Then the next night, one of the six of us tested positive, and the next morning, another. Adventure and I tested negative, and immediately went in for our booster shots. This is not a great time to be facing an illness, even a mild one.

We bought a new-old house back early in the COVID epidemic, a smaller house, but a house we have loved for years. It’s in good condition, but we wanted to modernize critical elements, put on a new roof, fix the chimney, install tankless heating, upgrade the electricity, make it safer for aging people and more energy efficient.

The people who built the house decided, at some point, to cover their beautiful parquet floors with wall-to-wall carpeting. When my son and his wife bought the house from us, they lifted the old carpets and loved the parquet. Unfortunately, the floor was spotted with white paint, but little by little, they were working on those spots when they sold the house back to us.

We hired a company to come in and refinish, refurbish and restore the floors in four bedrooms, and scheduled it for the first week in December so we could be all moved back in and settled by Christmas. This is what my house looks like now – we have packed out almost everything from our bedrooms:

Chaos

We have a VRBO scheduled starting Saturday when the movers come to move all the furniture out of the bedrooms.

Yesterday, as careful planners often do, my husband called the flooring company to make sure everything was on track. It wasn’t. They were planning to call us to tell us that the work can’t start until Wednesday, and “likely will finish on Saturday,” which sounds way too iffy for us. AdventureMan got busy calling the movers who cannot shift the first date.

When I got home from a really good book club meeting, a meeting so good I totally stopped spinning around my hamster wheel of anxiety and forgot, for that hour, that we were facing calamity, I was ready to do my part. I got an extension on our VRBO. It’s costly, but it is convenient and will provide us with a calm, serene location while our home is in upheaval. Sigh. It’s an investment in our mental health.

I’m sad about Christmas. I’ve been working on cookies, and I put up outside lights, but inside, Christmas is lacking.

Lights

Rosettes: Swedish Christmas Cookies my mother taught me how to make

I am a woman of faith. I know that somewhere in all this are multiple blessings. When the good God shakes me out of my comfort zone, I am forced to confront my own darkness, my own failings, and sometimes my misplaced priorities.

I know all this will pass, and in the end, we will have floors we love and it will make us happy in small ways for years to come. I know that this Christmas will be very different, and less structured than before – and a part of me believes that this might be a good thing, too. Shaking things up now and then allows for change, and fresh air in stale traditions. Spending ten days in another location will be a sort of enforced retreat. It won’t be without daily obligations, but my routines are seriously disrupted, and I might learn something new.

Rolling around in that barrel from time to time might just be a good thing.

(P.S. The EPIC book club book was Code Girls by Liza Mundy, and was about World War II and its transformational effect on American women’s lives. Once consigned to babies and kitchens, they were sought after and recruited to do the tedious work of code-breaking. Their work with the Army, Navy and intelligence services was exciting, instrumental in the Allied victory over both Japan and Germany. It is an inspirational book.)

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Character, Christmas, EPIC Book Club, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel

Sometimes there is no one to blame, not even a way to blame yourself and things just go off track. We had such an experience coming to Baton Rouge, a sweet drive on a beautiful day.

We had called the day before to tell them we would not be arriving that day, but we had already paid for the room and we asked them to hold it, that we would arrive the next day. After five hours on the road, we were eager for a chance to settle in and relax before AdventureMan headed off to his afternoon sessions.

The room wasn’t ready. The room we had paid for, and expected to be held, was not held. We were on the “wait list”, the snippy, disrespectful girl at the executive desk told AdventureMan as I circled the crowded parking lot, desperately seeking a spot. I curse you, big ass trucks who park over the line! I curse you, arrogant drivers who take two spaces when you park!

AdventureMan calls me; you do not want a call from AdventureMan when things haven’t gone his way and he cannot make his will dominate the situation. We decide the best strategy is to go to lunch.

(see entry for Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant)

After lunch, we try again, softly talking with the desk clerk, Scott, who is helpful. He takes pity on us, and finds us a room which is ready, and accommodates us. He soothes us. AdventureMan heads off for his garden talk and I head off on a reconnaissance mission – I have seen there is a huge mall nearby with a Macy’s. I find it, and some other wonderful places for the next day’s adventures, and then, on my way home, I get another call from AdventureMan.

He is fuming. I hadn’t answered his call because I was driving, no matter, he kept calling and texting “call me!” until I could find a red light and call him.

He heard loud chords of a band starting up. Very loud. He went to the band and casually asked them how long they would be playing, and was told from six to ten. He went to the desk and asked for a room change, and was told the hotel was full. (He also mentioned that he was SO glad to have been helped earlier, as there was a huge line waiting for rooms at 4.)

“We need to change hotels!” he started and told me the whole story.

“I’m almost there!” I responded, but it took me another ten minutes to find a parking place.

By the time I got to the room, he had calmed down – a little – and had found a wonderful place to go for dinner. We heard a few chords – actually not bad – and headed out for a wonderful dinner at Al Basha’s, and it was a total mood changer 🙂

When we got back, the band was blasting, and we are one of the nearest rooms to the band, and the hotel is full of people around our age, but the truth is, the band was pretty good, and we had some shows we like on cable, and they really did quit at ten, well before we turned out the lights.

When things go not-quite-right – and that happens to everyone – I just sigh and say “every monkey gets his turn in the barrel;” I guess it’s sort of karmic, but bad things happen, they happen to everyone. This was not earth-shaking bad, just annoying, not going smoothly bad. We will never stay in this hotel again, even if the conference is held here again; there are lovely hotels nearby in Baton Rouge.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, Gardens, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 6 Comments

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in The Barrel

AdventureMan and I have this phrase, and I cannot imagine where it came from (from where it came, for you grammar sticklers!) “Every Monkey gets his turn in the barrel.” It’s particularly true in the workplace, or at least almost every workplace where I have worked – it’s like the stock market, sometimes your stock is high, sometimes your stock can fall, and often, it is not so much your performance as the PERCEPTION of your performance.

Often, in the work place, stocks rise and fall based on little or nothing at all. In fact, if you are really really good at what you do, you are sometimes more at risk, because those who are less accomplished always need to focus the attention anywhere but on their own work, and if you are doing well, they will often find something to criticize to keep their own lackluster accomplishments from coming into focus.

But every monkey getting his/her turn in the barrel applies in almost all factors of life. Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you, it’s just the way things are.

So my trip home was sort of my turn in the barrel. I was a little late getting to the airport, which was not crowded, but there was a long back-up going through passport control to get to the departure gates. They had plenty of staff, but for some reason, they were SO SLOW. When I got to the front, the woman ‘taking care’ of me was busy texting! I asked if the computers were slow today – honestly, she had already stamped my passport, she was just killing time – and she said “No, why?” as if she were unaware of all the people standing in line, waiting to get through.

When I got to Dubai, I had to do this 2 km run from the gate where Emirates comes in to the Delta check-in counter. I always think of it as good exercise, but the humidity in Dubai is particularly high, or else the air conditioning is going out, and at the end of the trek, I am almost soaked with sweat and thinking ‘OMG I need a shower.’ I went to the lounge, but there was a sign “opening at 2100 hours’ and it was 15 minutes after nine. I could see someone in there, but later she stuck her head out and said she couldn’t let anyone in until the ‘attendants’ came, which they did, about 15 minutes later – they had been shopping!

And then I discovered that I had to go to the Air France lounge, not nice at all, near the smoking station so even inside the Air France lounge it smells stale and smokey. I am spoiled. I love the Emirates lounge in Dubai, where they even have tiny small containers of Haggan Daaz ice cream for their clients. 😉 This lounge was filled with American contractors. Yes, we are also American contractors, but this was the other kind – great big fat loud-voiced men, bragging about their salaries and demeaning their wives. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, which I did quickly after checking my e-mails.

The flight from Dubai to Atlanta is just long – more than 15 hours – and started inauspiciously. As we took off, as the plane’s nose lifted, some cupboard fell open and we could hear china and cutlery falling and breaking, a lot of it. I felt so sorry for the flight attendants; they have a lot to do during those flights, and now it was complicated by a disaster at the beginning of the flight. I got through it, mostly by escaping into sleep.

As we arrived in Atlanta, everything had changed. I just did this trip six weeks ago, but there is a new traffic pattern, a longer trek, sterner instructions about how and where to get into line. My bags, marked “priority’, were, as often is the case, nearly the last off the plane, and I trundled them through customs, and then had to run (honestly, this is like a herd of cattle) to get into another long, snaking line to go through security again – this time in Atlanta, where you have to take off your shoes, take out computers, can only use a 1 quart zippering plastic bag, etc.

I had thought I had plenty of time, but a large troop flight came in from Afghanistan, and we all had to move aside to give them priority. That is the one inconvenience I did not mind at all – I am so proud everyone moved over with no grumbling and let our servicepeople through, to get them on their way for R&R.

Security found me very interesting, and this is my own fault. I have a little Waterford crystal sugar jar that I took with me. I’ve had it since the early years of our marriage, and I often hand carry it to the next post. It’s too bad that lead crystal goes opaque in the scanners, and that the shape was a little like that of a hand grenade. I also had my wireless router with me, and this led to a long, long, very long inspection of everything I was carrying.

As I griped later to my son, he said “And I am sure it never occurred to you that you were arriving from the Middle East on a one-way ticket.”

LLLLLOOOOLLLL @ me. Nope. It had never occurred to me. I guess I was thinking about other things – farewells, clearing out the house, packing, mortgage papers, insurance papers, TAXES (Oh aaaAAARRRGGHHH, yes we have an extension, but we still have to get them done!)

So this trip, I was the monkey. I rolled around in that barrel. Actually, because I had no real agenda, other than be in P’cola by Monday to close on a house, I could roll with it and figure that I have had so many breaks, so many times, that if I needed to take this roll in the barrel, so be it, God is good and needed to give the breaks to that old guy in the wheel chair and that family with two kids in strollers, and all those fine young people who serve our country in strange and alien lands . . .

And, at the end of my journey is my son, his wife, and our grandson, and a sweet, relaxed day with them, doing not much but catching up. 🙂 The real chaos starts this coming week, early on Monday morning. Think I’d better get to church, get some fortification for the demands of this coming week.

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Doha, ExPat Life, Florida, Moving, Pensacola, Random Musings, Spiritual, Travel | 7 Comments

Leaving Sidney on the Anacortes Ferry, Return to Pensacola

Life isn’t fair. Ferry lines are just one of those things. First there are not necessarily first boarded or first unloaded, or first through the lengthy customs lines coming back into the United States. We have a saying “Every monkey gets his turn in the barrel.” This ferry ride was our turn. It wasn’t bad, it’s just after all the thrills of this vacation, this was an unwelcome hit of reality. We had a special vacation, but that doesn’t mean we are special, LOL.

Leaving Sidney:

LeavingSidney

 

FromFerry

 

The weather has changed. It is heavy overcast. We don’t see any whales, not a single sea otter. It is a great morning for catching up on our reading.

We arrive in Anacortes and the customs line crawls.

We need to stop at the Marina motel and pick up the skirt and shirt and scarf I left hanging in the closet which they have bagged and tagged “customer will pick up”. I had packed lightly, and it didn’t take me long to figure out where I left my clothes; we had been in a hurry to be on time for the ferry to Sidney. But this is a great stop, next door is Bob’s Chowder House and Salmon BBQ and we are starving.

 

BobsAnacortes

 

BobsInterior

Bob’s Salmon Chowder is out of this world. SO good.

BobsSalmonChowder

 

Bob’s BBQ Salmon burger is also fabulous. AdventureMan ate every bite and said the salmon was perfect. It had a lemon sauce that was a surprise and a delight.

BobsSalmonBurger

My halibut tacos were the special dish of the day. My bad; I like lettuce in my tacos, not cabbage. I only ate the halibut, but I had also had the chowder, so I was OK. Oh, yes, they also have great big home baked chocolate chip cookies, maybe that is also why I was filled up 🙂 but I split it with AdventureMan.

BobsHalibutTacos

AdventureMan spotted this sign, and took this photo. Whoda thunk that we would find a sign to Pensacola in the parking lot?

BobsMilesPensacola

This is the rest of the vacation. Really the “vacation” part is over, and this is all business. Driving through Seattle on I-5, thank God it’s Sunday, no big trucks but heavy traffic. It’s always heavy, unless maybe it’s 0430. Checking in to our hotel where there are a huge bunch of people about to debark on a cruise. Dropping our bags and heading to the Car Rental place to return our car. Taking the shuttle to the airport, calling the hotel shuttle to come pick us up. Back at the hotel, packing our bags in a hurry so we will be able to watch Game of Thrones. Actually, to our surprise, a good night’s sleep. Up way too early to catch the shuttle to the airport, a surprisingly easy time through security, and the long flight to Atlanta and the shorter flight to Pensacola. The taxi home. Sigh. The unpacking. The laundry. Every day demands. . . .

But God is good. My first night back a good friend greeted me and said “are you depressed?” I was so taken by surprise that I said “Yes!” and she said she always is too, coming home after a great vacation. It just felt good, my guilt at feeling depressed was taken away.

Our grandson has a cold and has been with us the last two days, to our total delight. His mother and sister came by last night to visit and to celebrate another stoke of good fortune which has struck our family. God is good. Thanks be to God.

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Seattle, Survival, Travel | Leave a comment

Ninfa-mania in Baton Rouge

Ninfa’s is separate from the Crown Plaza in Baton Rouge, but plopped smack dab in the parking lot, and, as you read in the previous entry, right under our window, well, sort of.

P1080546

When we had no room waiting, we knew we would feel better if we ate lunch. Mexican is always good with us, and the smells emanating from Ninfa’s were mouth-watering.

It’s about noon, and we walk in the door. There’s a gal at the bar, filling small containers of salsas, but no one at reception, and the gal filling salsas doesn’t even look up. No welcome, no explanation . . . . and it goes on and on. There is no one seating customers, who are lining up behind us and asking us what’s going on and WE DON’T KNOW! Finally, one rushed waiter told us that they were all busy cleaning tables and someone would seat us in a minute.

P1080544

This was just another chapter on a day every monkey gets his roll in the barrel, and today, we is that monkey.

Soon after, a table was ready and we were seated. From there on, we have no complaints. Our waiter was supurb. He told us we was a former Spanish teacher – I wonder if you make better money waiting tables? I had a couple tacos, and the meat was wonderfully flavored, but . . . very gristly and chewy.

There were two very cool things. One is that when they brought the thin, crispy, fresh cooked chips, they brought three different salsas, a cucumber-y avocado green one, a mild red salsa and a jalapeno one – all good. The second very cool thing was that the tortillas were hand made by the lady you will see pictured below, who was delighted to have her photo taken and grinned from ear to ear.

P1080545

So an unhappy as we were to learn that there was going to be a rock concert right underneath our window, we rolled with it. When you’re the monkey in the barrel, just roll.

The music was actually pretty good, although holy smokes, it was loud. And it ended right at ten, so we really didn’t lose any sleep.

Ninfa’s appears very popular. I thought the lunch specials were priced a little high, but hey, this is the big city, compared to Pensacola, and it was packed, so they evidently know what the public is willing to pay. The rice is still in the shape of the scoop that scoops it, and the beans were glue-y. I wish they’d pay a little more for their steak, but their marinade is a wow.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, Restaurant, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Juneau to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 3.42.50 PM

I have such mixed feelings towards Alaska Airlines. I am about to vent, so if venting bores you, just skip down to the pictures.

I love that Alaska Airlines is truly Alaskan, formed of a conglomeration of smaller companies that used to fly Alaska, and that they truly serve Alaskans well. Alaskans get all kinds of perks on Alaskan airline. So when they board, it’s like “these special people, and then these special people, and these special people, and all the rest of you” and like there are six of us not-so-special people still standing there waiting to get on. After my first flight with Alaska, I learned not to carry any carry on baggage; just a large handbag I can tuck under the seat in front of me; all the overhead compartments are full.

Yes. I know. It sounds like sour grapes, and it is a little bit. I’ve been special too, on other airlines, and you get so you kind of like being treated special. I just take a deep breath and tell myself that old saw “every monkey gets his turn in the barrel” which is sort of a karma thing, everybody gets lucky some time and other times everyone has to take a turn in the barrel.

Here’s where the grapes really got sour. I am a cherry picker when it comes to trip planning. I don’t always get it right, but I put a lot of planning into finding the right small tours, the right schedule, the right seats, the right accommodations. I love the special details, and I take pride in juggling all the factors and getting a strategic plan together.

I found the perfect reservations, reservations that got us from Pensacola to Juneau in one day, and then from Anchorage back to Pensacola in one day. For three months, I gloried in the perfection of those reservations, until Chelsea called me and said they had changed everything.

It was horrible. I had to make decisions I wasn’t prepared to make. Chelsea did her best, but I was no longer in control (OH NO!) and I just did the best I could. She really did work with me. I was mad about the circumstances, but she did her best to find a solution. Just about every change cost me money, including the worst of all, because I am not special on Alaskan Airlines or American Airlines, we had to pay $25 every time we checked a bag, and every time we had a (mandatory) overnight, we had to pick up our bags and PAY AGAIN THE NEXT DAY! It irked me because I had us starting off with Delta originally, where our bags go free. Hey, these $50 (for two people) charges add up fast!

Of course, any seasoned traveller will laugh at “perfect” travel plans. It is a set-up. There is no perfect; God-with-a-sense-of-humor will always humble our human arrogance when we think we have achieved perfection.

So you know our trip started badly with the continuing weather delays in Dallas Fort Worth, and that was not American Airlines fault, but even so, neither was it a fun way to start our vacation.

Now, leaving Juneau for Anchorage, it’s a piece of cake. The hotel is five minutes from the airport and car rental drop-off is just out the back door. Juneau airport is small, and friendly feeling. The Alaska Airlines baggage check-in was compassionate. She looked at our trip history so far and said “you guys don’t have to pay today” and that small gesture really made us feel good.

At our gate, I took a photo of the entire upstairs waiting room. This is the whole Juneau airport:

00JuneauAirport

At our gate is a pictorial history of Alaska aviation, but it doesn’t answer my question: What was the other airline that flew alongside Coastal Airlines out of the downtown amphibious airport?

00JuneauDisplayAlaskaAviation

The plane we are on is kind of old-timey, and it is stopping in Yakutat and Cordova, two fishing villages, en route to Anchorage. There is no first class on this flight, but there is freight, and evidently a whole lot of freight. I have never seen this before, but the front part of the airplane is all blocked off with this black curtain/built-in thing for freight:

00FreightBreak

Sitting next to me is a man exactly my age who grew up across the channel from me. We were the same year in school, and he is cousin to the girls I played with when I was a kid. We didn’t know each other. As a grown-up, he piloted ferries for the Alaskan Marine Highway System and now does special contracts, guiding the large cruise ships through the various ice fields. And, he tells me, the other airline flying out of Juneau when we were kids, the one with the green planes, is Ellis Airlines. Wooo HOOOO! He tells me before we take off so I quickly text my Mom’s old friend because she was stumped, too! I knew it started with an “S”, LOL. Isn’t life funny, how you can end up sitting next to the right person at the right time and place, and ask the right question?

Anchorage airport is much larger than Juneau, but as we pick up our rental car, the man behind the counter learns we are former military and gives us a great car, and map, and lots of good directions to get us headed towards Seward. Life is sweet, in spite of all my griping and sour grapes.

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Bureaucracy, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Humor, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore | 2 Comments

Karma Payback

When I started this blog, one of the first posts I wrote was about getting an upgrade. This trip, it was karma payback. I booked a ticket and paid online, and later when I tried to reserve my seat online, I kept getting an error message. When I got to the airport, (confirmation in my hand, thank God) the clerk said my reservation had been cancelled. I had paid extra to have an upgradeable ticket, and to be able to change dates if I need to – it took the fixer-guy over an hour and a half to figure out how to re-instate my reservation.

And I asked for an upgrade – I have thousands and thousands of frequent flyer miles; I don’t need a free ticket but it helps on the night flights to be in business class because you can lie down and sleep! Makes a difference when you have a long way to go. But they didn’t give any upgrades – and when I got on the place, the entire business section in front of where we were sitting was . . . EMPTY. Go figure!

In Europe, I asked for an upgrade for the next leg – not free, I am willing to cash in miles, but the snotty desk clerk told me my ticket was the non-upgradable kind. It doesn’t do any good to lose it in those circumstances, but I was steamed. What did I pay extra for??? When the guy who fixed my reservation fixed it, I guess he didn’t put in the right code. I’m screwed.

After the next flight, which was very long (had a good seatmate, though, quiet, like me, but when we talked it was about books and families and comfortable stuff) I went through immigration and because this was my fifth trip back home this year, when I filled out the immigration form, I listed that I wasn’t bringing back anything. And I wasn’t. I barely have the right clothes. But that got the attention of customs, and I got the full inspection, which after you’ve been travelling for more than 28 hours is annoying. They were cordial enough, but they went through everything, suitcases, carry-ons and purse, very thoroughly. And found nothing.

Last, but not least, I went to pick up my rental car, only to discover I don’t have my stateside driver’s license with me. After half an hour of desperate searching (I am an organized person; things are where they are supposed to be! but it wasn’t!) I offered her my Kuwait license, which she couldn’t read and said she couldn’t accept, and then, miracle of miracles, I came across my old Germany driver’s license. A German license is good for life. And, thanks be to God, she accepted it. And on top of that, for some amazing reason, using a German license made the rate even better than renting in my own state with a state license. Again – go figure.

And I just figure all of that is karma payback for all the good luck I have had in previous trips. We have a saying: Every monkey gets his turn in the barrel. I guess it was just my turn.

October 9, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Middle East, Travel | Leave a comment

Here, There and Out of My Mind

I’ll start with the ending, it’s all come to a crashing halt. I feel like a child who has been taken to a day in the park, all the rides, all the sugary foods and now they say I have to come home?

Yes. I will tell you about the trip, with lots of photos, so you won’t think I am just being a bore, you can look at the photos and imagine yourself there with us. At the end of the trip, it all goes downhill, the lovely African adventure has ended.

Leaving our last camp, we fly in a very small airplane back from the lower Zambezi to Lusaka. We drive to the airstrip, the pilot checks our names against his list, we climb aboard and take off. That’s the airstrip. The last time we were there, we don’t think it was paved.

It is the best flight we have all day – two charming pilots, five passengers, it is a great flight. Lusaka isn’t so bad; we have a competent ticket agent who manages to book our bags all the way to Pensacola, so we don’t have to scurry around picking up bags, then coming back in to check them in, because we booked our travel to Johannesburg separately from out travel from JoBurg to Lusaka, it’s complicated but it all has to do with alliances. Not my alliances, airline alliances.

BTW, Lusaka International airport is sweet. Quiet. One tiny little restaurant in the departure area where we found good grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Some shops, not greatly stocked.

Lusaka airport – you walk to the plane, walk up the stairs, the old fashioned way:

Johannesburg transit is horrible. It always is. We have flown in from Frankfurt several times, from Dubai several times, and from Windhoek and Gaborone and Lusaka – transiting Johannesburg is, for some reason, irrationally annoying. No matter how crowded the transit area is, or how isolated, the computers are always slow, or . . . the operators. No matter what airline we deal with, that transit area, the one downstairs where you have to check in for your next flight, it is horrible. It takes so much longer than it needs to.

Upstairs, we hit the shops, junky Out of Africa with it’s schlock, some of the others. I made a big mistake; I was buying little fun things for our son and his wife, little coffee things and such at Taste of Africa, and I bought them some biltong; what we call jerky. They had ostrich and eland and several exotic kinds, so I bought several.

Loading up for the 17 hour (yes, you read that right, it is Delta’s longest non-stop flight) flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta was an unusual experience. Think Amsterdam on steroids. We are all sitting, and are rousted out of the waiting room and told to line up in two lines, with men in one line and women in the other. They look at our bags and ask us questions. This is the third time today my bags have been checked; I don’t mind, but it is a little unusual. Then we line up again once we are back in the waiting room; it is nearly time to board.

There is one of those wild-eyed women going down the line asking loudly “Is this the line for PRIORITY boarding? Are you all PRIORITY passengers?” and clearly she thinks she has a pretty high priority. But when the airline boards the Diamonds and the Platinums, she is still waiting back with the golds and silvers, so I guess she didn’t have as much priority as she thought she had.

It’s one of those big, huge flights with every seat taken. It’s sort of like being in a high school cafeteria, tempers flare as overhead baggage bins fill up, parents with children beg people to change places so they can fly together, while the privileged politely decline; they paid extra for those aisle seats. It’s all pretty horrible, but we have books and somehow we even catch a couple hours sleep. The flight attendants are like harried waitresses, hauling those drink carts and meal carts up and down the aisles, trying to get people to stay in their seats (who can stay in their seat for SEVENTEEN hours??) I discovered that if you are reading books, iPad batteries keep their charge longer than if you are playing Sudoku. I’m reading a great book, Wolf Hall, and it holds my interest.

Arriving in Atlanta, it’s all my fault, AdventureMan and I are shuttled into the agricultural inspection area, where it is pretty much us and all the Africans bringing back turnips and sugar cane and rice and meats and special foods. I didn’t know that the dried meat was a problem, but evidently ostrich meat is some of the very most threatening, and other countries have serious diseases that we have so far managed to escape. They are actually very kind to me, although they do confiscate all my jerkies. The inspector tells us they get all kinds of stuff (there was a huge barrel of confiscated agricultural products) including rats, and monkey brains.

Sadly, many of the people in there with us don’t really understand, and I know many of them went to a lot of trouble to bring a home specialty for some family member, only to have it confiscated. Many didn’t understand enough English and the inspectors didn’t know their languages.

We got off easy enough; all they cared about was confiscating the illegal meat.

Found a place with decent coffee and croissants, found a place to wash our faces and brush our teeth, so we boarded the Pensacola flight fresher than we got off the flight from JoBurg.

Our son met us at the airport and got us all home; we grabbed a quick lunch at the nearby Marina Oyster Barn (our comfort-food restaurant of choice) and then showered and tumbled into bed. We woke up again as our son and his wife and the darling little happy toddler came by for dinner. After dinner, we said good night and good bye to our guests, knowing we were all going to bed but that we would be awake in the middle of the night and they would probably leave to go to their home. As it turned out, we were all awake around 3:30 in the oh-dark-hundred, so we were able to hear them off.

We’ve been up since, trying to take care of business and to stay awake. I started with trying to get through (get rid of) over a thousand e-mail – two weeks is a LONG time. AdventureMan fell asleep in my office around 7:30 so I woke him up and made him go to aqua-aerobics with me, we hit the grocery store, and poor AdventureMan, his computer has bit the dust so he had to buy a new computer today. He picked up the mail in the afternoon, I paid the outstanding bills. Anything, anything to stay awake, to try to get us back on schedule, Pensacola time.

We caught the last episode of Game of Thrones, Season two, which helped us make it an extra hour last night, and AdventureMan has some things we missed lined up for tonight – HBO’s Girls, VEEP, and the first episode from the new season of True Blood, also he thinks Southland is starting up again, and we really like that.

I think I’m going out of my mind. Jet lag makes me a little crazy. Normally, I am all unpacked by now, but I couldn’t even stand to look at my suitcase today. I bought salmon for tonight’s dinner, but I don’t think I can cook it. I haven’t felt energetic since . . . 3:30 this morning, LOL. When I get tired, I can get weepy, or irrational, or a little unbalanced. What I yearn for is to take a nap, a nice, long, snoozy nap . . .

Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . ………..

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Pensacola, Random Musings, Shopping, Travel, Zambia | , | 5 Comments

The Bride: To Dance or Not to Dance?

From National Public Radio, where you can listen to the entire story

July 22, 2010

One Sudan Marriage Ritual: An Alluring Nude Dance
by GWEN THOMPKINS

A mating ritual in Northern Sudan is hotter than the Sahara but not for everyone to see.

It has no official name, only a few simple rules apply, and, like all matters of the heart and the loins, the custom is open to interpretation.

In English, people here call it the Bride Dance.

Young brides have been performing the dance on, or near, their wedding nights for thousands of years. Like Sudan, it is both Arab and African. And, like Sudan, it is neither Arab nor African.

It is deeply erotic. The women wear revealing clothes. Not so long ago, in some fleeting instances, they wore no clothes at all. Sometimes, a gathering of sisters, aunts, mothers and friends teaches the steps. Or wealthier brides engage professional instructors. Because rich or poor, urban or rural, every bride knows that doing the dance well takes practice.


(skirt traditionally worn)

The Bride Whisperer

Iman Ali, aka Shengota, is a kind of bride whisperer. She teaches young women how to be one part Salome, one part Beyonce and one part the girl next-door.

But that ain’t easy.

Creating the right effect takes several songs, smart choreography, a custom-built stage and a whole wardrobe of costume changes.

Young brides-to-be practice their steps every day, sometimes for months in advance. The upside, Shengota says, is that the women usually lose several pounds before the wedding. And that makes just about everybody happy.

When the music starts, the bride and groom mount a circular stage. And while the groom stands there snapping his fingers, the bride does her best to make him look like the luckiest man in the room. Never mind that he’s usually the only man in the room. The dance is, more often than not, performed in front of an entirely female audience of cheering family members and friends.

But not everyone here is a fan.

Contradicting The Rules?

The dance predates Islam in Sudan. And it may be one of the few customs on which feminists and Islamic fundamentalists agree.

Nowadays, plenty of Sudanese women say they don’t want to dance, “like monkeys,” half-naked for the crowd. And Sudan’s Islamic fundamentalist government has strict rules on how women should comport themselves in public: conservative attire, head and legs covered, no shimmying.

Fatima Sir El Khatim Hallulah danced when she was a bride at age 14. Now, at age 60, she says she doesn’t want her daughters to dance.

Hallulah says she was an uneducated country girl at 14, marrying a man she had never seen before at the bidding of her parents. But her daughters are university graduates who chose their own husbands. Hallulah says her girls should not be made to debase themselves. Others say they’d hate to see videos of their performances end up on YouTube.

‘Nice To Show Off A Little’

But after a recent dip in general interest in dancing, choreographer Shengota says her phone is now ringing more often. Educated women of Sudan’s economic elite are seeking her services.

Zaeneb El Khamis, a dentist in her late 20s, says the dance gives brides a chance to shake things up a little before settling down to marriage. The lights and the music and the costume changes — including different perfumes and nail polishes for different dances — can be great fun.

She, like many brides, enjoys watching the video of her performance with her family and friends. “It’s nice to show off a little,” El Khamis says. “I was good.”

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Africa, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Going Bananas

A friend sent this to me this morning, via old-fashioned e-mail, and I thought I’d share it with you before we race to the market to buy out all the bananas!
bananas1.jpg

A professor at CCNY for a physiological psych class told his class about bananas. He said the expression “going bananas” is from the effects of bananas on the brain. Read on:

Never, put your banana in the refrigerator!!!
After reading this, you’ll never look at a banana in the same way again.

Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy.

Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world’s leading athletes.

But energy isn’t the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

PMS: Forget the pills – eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Anemia : High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.

Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school ( England ) were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey.. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.

Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and chips. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a “cooling” fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand , for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer tryptophan.

Smoking &Tobacco Use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body’s water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.

Strokes: According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around So maybe its time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, “A banana a day keeps the doctor away!”

PS: Bananas must be the reason monkeys are so happy all the time! I will add one here; want a quick shine on our shoes?? Take the INSIDE of the banana skin, and rub directly on the shoe…polish with dry cloth. Amazing fruit !!!

March 31, 2008 Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Health Issues, Shopping | 8 Comments