Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Intlxpatr Goes Back In Time

We were on our way to gymnastics class, which involves driving over a long bridge, through a congested beach town and down a state double-lane highway, and my grand-daughter, age 8, is utterly caught up in reading a book to me, a book called Crush. It is about junior high, and although she is in 3rd grade, she is always interested in what the older kids are doing.

This book has an advanced vocabulary, so I am loving hearing her reading it out loud. At one point, she comes to a word that the teacher has blocked out, and she asks me what that word might be. The word is “kickass” which does not offend me, especially as it is applied to a girl whom I would definitely describe as kickass. It’s a compliment.

(When I was little, my Mom would send me to the library alone, with a basket of books. Around 10 years old, I had devoured most of the children’s section and started in on the adult section – especially science fiction and psychology. The librarian called my Mom and asked if I was allowed in the big people’s books and God bless her, my Mom just laughed and said “if she wants to read it, let her read it. She can read anything she chooses.” God bless you, Mom, for the gift in having faith in me, and in the free flow of ideas, and in my judgment.)

So I am not concerned about an adult word. She often asks me about words she hears on the playground, and we talk about what she thinks it means and what I think it means. I am outraged at the policies being developed in Florida to impede discussions in the classroom, but in my experience there is nothing that makes a book – or an idea – more attractive than having it BANNED.

When my son started reading, I made it a point to read the books he was reading so I could have some idea where his mind was going. I bought the four-volume set of the books my granddaughter was reading, and read them through (they are comic style, so easily read, each in under an hour).

The books are Awkward, Brave, Crush and Diary by Svetlana Chmakova.

Junior High is a lot like childbirth – as you get past it, you forget the pain. These books are so REAL. As I read Awkward and Brave, I was right back in the middle of all that turmoil. We forget! At that age, they are learning the painful lessons of being different, being rejected, suffering bullying, learning accountability, learning how to make a friend and to be a friend, learning how to deal with authority, learning so many things! And many of the situations are very uncomfortable, even as a grown-up. We all know what it’s like to be on the outside, looking in.

The saving grace of these wonderful books is the message that an act of kindness makes all the difference. That you can find a group that shares your interests. That the kind of friend you want is the friend that saves you a place at the lunch table, and maybe even shares tastes of their lunch.

The second set of books I discovered was the Friends series, by Shannon Hale. Once again, we are treated to the real nature of friendships, that there are cliques and pecking orders and false friends. There are betrayals and secrets and ganging up. Learning to be a friend depends first on figuring out who WE are; it gives us the confidence to discern. These books are all about learning about who we are and discerning who our real friends are.

In my life, with all my moves, I’ve been so lucky, I’ve always found some really good friends, and some will be reading this right now, friends even from far back in my childhood, my high school days, university and various places we’ve been stationed. Some friendships are based on common interests. For me, the best friendships are based on ground-level communications, where we open our hearts and share our realities, and hold one another up when we feel we may be about to falter. Some friends are always going to be there for you when you hit bottom, and are essential in the recovery process.

Today I got an e-mail about how continuous learning builds neuroplasticity, and neuroplasticity seems to be a defense against Altzheimer’s, even if you have a plaque build-up in your brain. I’ll take whatever learning I can get, and these books that take me back to the immediacy of middle school. I’d forgotten how much we learned there. I think I built a new synapse or two re-experiencing the horrors of that age, and I am thankful to the enthusiastic reading of my little granddaughter for an unexpected educational journey.

May 6, 2022 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Civility, Community, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Values | Leave a comment

NATO and Balalaikas

I could hear AdventureMan laughing as he read his book, and he called out to me “You’ve got to hear this!”

He’s reading an old Philip Kerr novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts, and he has come across this quote that is only funny in a gallows humor sort of way, considering current events in the Ukraine.

“Listen!” he begins to read:

Garlopis put the car in gear and we moved off smoothly. After a while he pressed a switch to operate the car’s electric window.

“Electric windows. Isn’t it wonderful? You look at a car like this and you think of America, and the future. When Americans talk about the American dream it’s not a dream about the past. That’s the difference between the American dream and a British one, a French one, or a Greek one. Ours is a dream that’s always about the past; and theirs is a dream that’s always about the future. A better tomorrow. Not only that, but I sincerely believe they’re prepared to guarantee that future for us all, by force of arms. Without NATO, we’d all be playing balalaikas.”

The story starts in 1957. It came out in 2018. It could not be more timely.

I’m having a hard time with this invasion, this invasion of the Ukraine to “defend the Fatherland.” Ukrainians say they are NOT Russians, the same way Iranians say they are not Arabs. They voted to be an independent country around the same time the Soviet Union collapsed. I heard the Ukrainian President say that “the Russian bear was going to have a very hard time digesting the Ukrainian porcupine.” I am praying that the Russian bear backs off in dismay, and respects the porcupine’s boundaries from now on.

February 25, 2022 Posted by | Books, ExPat Life, Interconnected, News, Political Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Insh’allah

One of today’s readings in the Lectionary always brings a smile to my face. I can hear my teacher at the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam (where I was studying Arabic in Doha, Qatar) saying to me “don’t you know your own book? It tells you never to say you are going to do something without adding Insh’allah (God willing) because we never know even what the next minute will bring.”

James 4: 13-17

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

It’s a perfect reading for the last day of a troubled year, preparing for a year in which we have no idea what joys or troubles are in store for us.

Today, I look back with gratitude to that whole period in my life where I lived in the Middle East and was forced to confront my own ignorance. I was not only ignorant about my Muslim neighbors, I was equally ignorant about my own religion. My years among the Muslims motivated me to learn more about what I believed, and why.

This month, my religious mentor died. She had an enormous influence on my life, on bringing me to where I am today. When I returned to the United States, understanding how little I knew about my own religion, I enrolled in a four-year seminar in theology through an Episcopal Church program called Education for Ministry. It was life-changing. The first-year students read Old Testament, the second-year students read New Testament, the third-year students read Diarmaid MacCulloch’s book Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, and the fourth-year students read a variety of theological perspectives.

(MacCulloch’s book is thick and intimidating – and surprised us all with how much fun it was to read.)

My mentor was a skilled counselor and guide; she led us through all-year discussions of our weekly readings, so in the four-year program, we not only were reading our own year but giving input on the other’s readings. The discussions were lively and provocative. Slowly, even without realizing it, the students bonded closely with one another. We learned a very important lesson – how to disagree with people, especially when you felt strongly about an issue, and remain respectful.

It has served me well, living as I do in another alien culture. Although I was raised in a hunting culture (Alaska), when I lived there people kept their weapons locked away when not in use. There was no open-carry. As kids, we were lined up at school and given vaccinations, which we accepted as being necessary for our own well-being and the well-being of the community. I don’t believe we had a single black person in town, but we had the original inhabitants, Inuit, Haida, Tlingket and we all went to school together peaceably. My father worked for the government, he served. Service to country is a tradition in my family. I am aghast at elected officials who mistake staging political drama for good governance. I struggle to achieve civil discourse about issues about which I feel strongly.

And so I am thankful for all the years living among others; among the vanquished in Germany, among the desert people of Tunisia, and among the people of Abraham’s other son, Ishmael. Their patience with me taught me so much about myself, and that even my strongly-held convictions may not be nuanced enough to capture what passes for truth. It serves me well to this day, and, I hope, will continue to humble me as we enter this coming new year, Insh’allah.

December 31, 2021 Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Books, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Doha, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land | , , | Leave a comment

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

Treasures From the Past: Cookbooks and Salmon Burgers

I used to collect cookbooks, and, at my prime, I probably had close to three hundred. I loved them, some more than others. When it comes to books, I think I may even have hoarder tendencies; it is very hard for me to part with a book.

ThIs is the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I still love it and can’t part with it. I bought it in Nairobi in 1973. It has some great recipes, but most of all, it has an entire culture full of differences, with a guide to organizing a large camping trip into the wild, foods for invalids, pages of instructions for servants on how to do laundry, clean, etc., and an entire section on asking for what you need in Swahili.

Kenya Cookery, reprinted 1972
Table of Contents
Useful Swahili Terms

Maybe it’s an age thing, but there came a year when I realized that I really only used a few of my books, and it was time to simplify. I am now down to about thirty cookbooks, and each one reflects on stages of my life with which I am not ready to let go. Germany. Tunis. Saudi Arabia. Jordan. The South (you can’t beat the South for desserts.) And Alaska.

Both my Alaska cookbook (1947) and my Pacific Northwest cookbook (1946) are older than I am. The Alaska cookbook is from my Mom; she knew I would treasure it. I love looking through this cookbook and last night I cooked from it.

Out of Alaska’s Kitchens
Game recipes

I can imagine there might be a way to fix moose burgers that would be tasty and delightful. As a child, I remember moose burgers as being tough, always, and chewy, and, well, game-y. Our dads hunted in the Fall. There were big hooks in our basement where they hung the deer or moose when they brought the hunt in, and where they skinned and quartered the meat. The butcher would grind the moose meat and package everything up in white freezer paper. The meat would be stored in the cold storage locker, and Dad would stop by during the winters and bring something home. The only thing worse than moose burgers were bear burgers.

We never killed what we didn’t eat. Nothing was wasted. It was like it would be disrespectful to the creatures we hunted.

Pacific Northwest Cookbook

This book was left to my by my aunt. I use it to make a Pacific Northwest Bouillabaisse, and several fruit desserts made with fruits which were plentiful in season – cherries, blueberries, rhubarb, as well as apples, peaches, apricots, etc. This book is another one I will pass along rather than get rid of.

So last night I wanted to make Salmon burgers. I looked in my Alaska cookbook, and there it was.

Salmon Burger recipe

It made me laugh when I read through it. Canned milk – yes, well there are times in Alaska when fresh milk just isn’t available. Salmon was canned in big cookers in jars, and was an all day task. Corn flakes – we don’t even keep processed cereals in the house anymore. And no egg for binding, but I also remember that in the winters sometimes we didn’t have real eggs, only powdered eggs, which were good for cooking, like pancakes, but really were not at all egg like on their own.

So I used it as a guide, but changed things a little. I did brown the onion and green pepper and add it into the salmon mix. I actually did use milk, not believing it would absorb, but it did. I added an egg, just one. And I used half a cup of plain bread crumbs in place of the corn flakes. Because we like the taste of smoked salmon, I added a couple drops of liquid smoke.

Salmon burgers

BIG hit. These were moist and delicious. I started with a medium high heat, then turned it down when I flipped the burgers.

I served them with snow peas (mange tout) sauteed in garlic and butter.

I love it that salmon is so healthy and so available, and that these old cookbooks still have relevance; sometimes the oldies but goodies make a grand come back. I miss my Mom, and I miss the Aunt that gave me the PNW cookbook, but having their cookbooks keeps them a little closer.

October 5, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Books, Cooking, Cultural, Food, Kenya, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Recipes, Wildlife | | 1 Comment

Best Birthday Ever

A few years ago, I hit a number and I felt like my life was over. Rationally, I knew I was doing fine, but just the sound of the number hit me hard. I remember feeling the same way when I hit 50, and I thought it was going to be terrible, but that very day I went to pick up my photos for my Saudi pass and my photograph was fabulous.

OK, you know, here goes that rationality thing again. The RULES in Saudi Arabia say you are forbidden to retouch photos. The photographer just stood there with a big grin as I looked at photos of me with all signs of aging totally removed. Inside, my heart was dancing. My head knew it wasn’t really how I looked, but my heart danced.

In spite of the heartache of my Mother dying of COVID, this has turned out to be a sweet year. I had some stellar moments, dancing-heart moments. I love our new/old house, as you can guess from all the sunsets I post. Now, my son and AdventureMan installed a Little Free Library for me to care for, and another dream has come true, and my heart dances for joy. My family was together, my grandchildren helped fill the Little Free Library, and we all had cake and ice cream together, masked most of the time.

I’ve always loved libraries, and the first job I ever had, at six years old, was checking out books at the little library in Alaska. The clerk had failed to show up; the librarian was busy with a big time-sensitive book order and I volunteered. She showed me what to do. So easy a six year old could do it, and I had a ball.

I avoided book clubs until I ended up so many years in the Middle East. A group of women I knew and trusted asked me to form a book club, and I reluctantly turned them down because I didn’t want that responsibility. Very gently, they kept inviting me to start a book club and finally, I asked “Why me?”

“You’re the only one who can bring in the books we want to read,” they told me.

I learned so much from these women, and the book club was a huge blessing, a window into the way a lot of women think who are from different countries and different cultures from me. I learned how HUGE it is when ideas can be examined, and discussed openly, even when one must speak indirectly. I learned again and again how many mistaken assumptions I had made, how narrowly I saw the world. Books matter. Ideas matter. Sharing books and ideas challenge our narrow views and give us broader understanding of our complex world, and our fellow human beings.

Tonight AdventureMan is making Pasta Carbonara, which I should never eat, but once or twice a year, I do. It’s not like AdventureMan loves Pasta Carbonara; he makes it for me because I love it. Some of those excess calories come off as I dance and dance for joy.

The year I thought my life was over, some amazing things happened. I’m not going to get all excited, like this is going to be the best year ever, but I am so grateful, I feel so blessed, to have some dreams I know I dreamed come true, and some unexpected dreams I didn’t know I was dreaming also come true.

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Exercise, Food, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

Pork with Roasted Apples and Onions

“Where did you get this recipe? What gave you the idea?” AdventureMan asked as we feasted on a meal I wasn’t even sure we were going to like when I started it.

“Ken Follett,” I said slowly, trying to remember which book. I think it was A Column of Fire. The characters serve a meal of pork and apples, and it’s not anything I have cooked before, that combination, so down the rabbit hole I went. I have my Kindle on my laptop, I can check maps of where books are set, I can look up obscure words, and when something intrigues me, I can take a few minutes and follow that path.

I wasn’t sure how these ingredients would go, I wasn’t sure we would like fennel seeds, I wasn’t sure this was really a good recipe for us, but it sounds so good on a cold winters day and I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer. I pulled it out early in the day, read through the recipe, discovered my tenderloin was larger so I increased the amount of apples and onions by half. Actually, when I made the recipe, I didn’t really measure that closely; you can sort of tell from the instructions that this is another of those very forgiving recipes.

AdventureMan had some tiny potatoes left from his Bourride with Aioli, so he roasted them up with oil and garlic, salt and parsley, we put together a small green salad, and a feast was on the table. One bite and we agreed we have had such things on winter nights in France – and in Germany. These ingredients are so simple and the preparation, while a little fiddly, goes very quickly and easily. The combination is yummy.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Apples and Onions

Makes 4 servings

1 large pork tenderloin (about 14 ounces) (ours was 24 oz.)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 large onion, sliced

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup dry white wine or apple cider

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 450°F. Season pork with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and sear until all sides are brown, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. 

Transfer pork to plate. Cool slightly. Spread mustard over top and sides of pork; press fennel seeds into mustard. 

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add onion slices and apples; sauté over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Spread evenly in skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork atop apple-onion mixture.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until apple-onion mixture is soft and brown and meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 150°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork to platter and tent with foil. Let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour white wine over apple-onion mixture in skillet. Stir mixture over high heat until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Cut pork on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon apple-onion mixture onto plates. Top with pork and serve.

From Epicurious who credits Bon Appetite February 2004

Thank you, Epicurious, and thank you Ken Follett!

January 3, 2021 Posted by | Books, Cooking, ExPat Life, Experiment, Food, Recipes | , | 3 Comments

Bordeaux/Dordogne Trip – We Owe it All to Martin Walker and Bruno, Chief of Police

Several years ago, I ordered a book recommended by Amazon. I do that from time to time, and I will tell you honestly, some of them are real stinkers.

 

This book, Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker, was delightful. So delightful I started looking for more of the series, some of which I was able to find used. So delightful, I shared the Bruno, Chief of Police with my husband, and he, too, was hooked.

 

If there is a genre I like, it is detective novels set in foreign locations, dealing with crimes that have to do with social issues current in the locale. The first I can remember is the Eliot Pattison series about Inspector Shan, a Chinese detective who falls on the wrong side of Chinese political correctness and ends up in a Tibetan jail, where he begins a series long association with Tibetan monks and the threat to Tibetan civilization that the Chinese pose. It is eye-opening reading.

 

The next series I discovered were the Barbara Nadel series set in Turkey with Inspector Cetin Ikhmen. Then the fabulous and prolific Donna Leon and Commisario Guido Brunette, set in Venice.

 

And actually, I don’t read all this books in sequence. I watch for books by these authors, and read them when they come out, not unlike my addiction to James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux, set in New Iberia, Louisiana and Montana.

That was a very long introduction to the idea that it makes travel in foreign lands much more user-friendly to have read books that put you on the ground, seeing what the people who live there might see. When we went to Venice, we went off the beaten track to eat at a restaurant that Commissario Brunetti recommends to a touring couple who witnessed a crime and made a report to him. It was a great adventure just finding this restaurant, Rossa Rosa (“Guido Brunetti Sent Us”) and it had delicious local food, no tourists. In Venice. Imagine. Now, too, when we read the newest Brunetti novel, or watch the German production of the Brunetti series, we feel a closer connection with Venice, a familiarity, because we have a “friend” on the inside. Or so we feel.

 

Bruno Correze, the Chief of Police in the fictional French village of St. Denise, along the Vezere river close to where it links with the Dordogne, loves his small town. In the very first volume, we meet his friends, we visit his home, we are with him when he prepares meals and entertains his friends (he uses a lot of duck fat) and we get to visit the markets and cafes with him. Every book, like the best of this genre, introduces us to at least one issue, social and/or criminal, past or present, which is manifesting itself as a problem in the Dordogne. The actual crime may or may not be the point of the novel, and the solutions are often very French.

 

We have devoured this series. We felt like we had been there. So we decided we needed to go there.

 

We visited the Dordogne – it seems like a short time ago – the last time, 35 years ago, when our son, now grown, was around 9. We made a special effort to make this a trip which was relevant to him, too. We visited Castelnaud, and spent hours with the trebuchets and mangonels, old weapons once the ne-plus-ultra of fighting off the enemy. We visited the old caves with early paintings, when they were still open to visitors.

 

We love France, we love traveling in France and we have never had a negative experience in France. While I once spoke French fluently – we lived in French speaking Tunisia – but language skills get rusty when they don’t get exercised. Oh, really, any excuse will do. Martin Walker’s books made us hungry, hungry for French foods and hungry just to be in France.

 

We booked a cruise out of Bordeaux, eight days of cruising on the Gironde, Dordogne and other rivers, visiting villages older than our entire nation, learning about major appellations, eating some fine food and drinking some very fine wine.

 

And then we picked up a rental car in Bordeaux and headed to the Dordogne. I’m going to tell you all about it, but first I want to share Martin Walker’s books with you. He, and Bruno, have a wonderful website where he tells you all his favorite places. As we read the Bruno books, we also take notes – which wine he chose to serve with the duck course, where he and his friends gathered for the wedding feast, etc. It was like having a friend who says “Oh, I am desolate I won’t be there, but here are all the places you need to go, restaurants you will like and oh, be sure to try this wine!” Hotel and restaurant recommendations are on the website under “Bruno’s Perigord”

 

Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police website

 

Here are the Bruno, Chief of Police books, in order, from a resource called How to Read Me, which puts the books in order. http://www.howtoread.me/bruno-chief-of-police-books-in-order/

1 Bruno, Chief of Police – Meet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in a small village in the South of France who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that. Now, Bruno is paired with a young policewoman from Paris and the two suspect anti-immigrant militants. As they learn more about the dead man’s past, Bruno’s suspicions turn toward a more complex motive.

2 The Dark Vineyard – When a bevy of winemakers descend on Saint-Denis, competing for its land and spurring resentment among the villagers, the idyllic town finds itself the center of an intense drama. Events grow ever darker, culminating in two suspicious deaths, and Bruno finds that the problems of the present are never far from those of the past.

3 Black Diamond – Something dangerous is afoot in St. Denis. In the space of a few weeks, the normally sleepy village sees attacks on Vietnamese vendors, arson at a local Asian restaurant, subpar truffles from China smuggled into outgoing shipments at a nearby market—all of it threatening the Dordogne’s truffle trade and all of it spelling trouble for Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges, master chef, devoted oenophile, and, most important, beloved chief of police.

4 The Crowded Grave – It’s spring in the idyllic village of St. Denis, and for Chief of Police Bruno Courrèges that means lamb stews, bottles of his beloved Pomerol, morning walks with his hound, Gigi, and a new string of regional crimes and international capers. When a local archaeological team searching for Neanderthal remains turns up a corpse with a watch on its wrist and a bullet in its head, it’s up to Bruno to solve the case.

5 The Devil’s Cave – It’s spring in St. Denis. The village choir is preparing for its Easter concert, the wildflowers are blooming, and among the lazy whorls of the river a dead woman is found floating in a boat. This means another case for Bruno, the town’s cherished chief of police.

6 Bruno and the Carol Singers (short story) – Bruno is occupied with his Christmastime duties. From organizing carolers to playing Father Christmas for the local schoolchildren, Bruno has his hands full . . . at least until some funds raised for charity go missing.

7 The Resistance Man – First, there’s the evidence that a veteran of the French Resistance is connected to a notorious train robbery; then, the burglary of a former British spymaster’s estate; and, finally, the murder of an antiques dealer whose lover is conveniently on the lam. As Bruno investigates, it becomes clear that they are connected.

8 The Children Return (also known as Children of War) – Bruno’s village of St. Denis has been called many things, but a hotbed of international intrigue has never been one of them . . . until now. When an undercover agent is found murdered just as a prodigal son is set to retun from a grim tour in the Middle East, the small town suddenly finds itself host to a determined global tribunal, threatening the usual cheer brought by St. Denis’s annual wine festival.

9 A Market Tale (short story) – As summer blooms, the newest talk of the town is the rapport between Kati, a Swiss tourist, and Marcel, a popular stall owner whom Kati meets over his choice strawberries. None are happier than police chief Bruno to see Marcel interested in love again, but as his friend’s romance deepens, Bruno senses trouble in the form of Marcel’s meddlesome sister Nadette.

10 The Patriarch (also known as The Dying Season) – Bruno Courrèges is thrilled when he receives an invitation to the lavish birthday celebration of his childhood hero, World War II flying ace Marco “the Patriarch” Desaix. But when the party ends in the death of one of Marco’s longtime friends, Gilbert, it turns into another day on the job for St. Denis’s chief of police.

11 Fatal Pursuit – It’s the start of summer, and Bruno’s found himself the last-minute replacement navigator in a car rally race. The event has attracted a spate of outsiders with deep pockets, big egos and, in the case of one young Englishman, an intriguing story about a lost Bugatti Type 57C. When a local scholar turns up dead, Bruno suspects unnatural causes.

12 The Templars’ Last Secret – When a woman’s body is found at the foot of a cliff near the idyllic French town of St. Denis, chief of police Bruno Courrèges suspects a connection to the great ruin that stands above: a long-ago Knights Templar stronghold. With the help of Amélie, a young newcomer to the Dordogne, Bruno learns that the dead woman was an archaeologist searching for a religious artifact of incredible importance.

13 A Taste for Vengeance – When a British tourist fails to turn up for a luxurious cooking vacation in the idyllic village in the south of France that Bruno Courrèges calls home, the chief of police is quickly on the case. Monika Felder is nowhere to be found, and her husband, a retired British general, is unreachable.

14 The Chocolate War (short story) – Police chief Bruno enjoys wandering the stalls of the weekly market in the village of St. Denis as they are being loaded with wares. But when Bruno’s old friend Léopold from Senegal start selling African coffee and chocolate more cheaply than Bruno’s old friend Fauquet at his café across the square, a competition erupts between the vendors.

15 The Body in the Castle Well – When Claudia, a young American, turns up dead in the courtyard of an ancient castle in Bruno’s jurisdiction, her death is assumed to be an accident related to opioid use. But her doctor persuades Bruno that things may not be so simple. Thus begins an investigation that leads Bruno to Monsieur de Bourdeille, the scholar with whom the girl had been studying, and then through that man’s past.

How to read me: Bruno, Chief of Police

Bruno, Chief of Police Books in order: How to read Martin Walker’s series?

 

I owe a big thanks to Martin Walker for giving us so much inside information which enhanced our trip so much. I will try to remember to give him credit along the way as I take you along with us on our trip.

December 15, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Books, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Fiction, Food, France, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Tunisia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pilgrimage to Powell’s World of Books

It’s the last day of the trip, and we are back in Portland. In a day when Amazon reigns supreme, Powell’s still stands tall, a bookstore that is a legend, taking up city blocks in Portland in its multi level building, all sectioned off with a mix of new and gently used books in every subject.

Powell’s World of Books is overwhelming. If you love books, if you love all things related to reading, you must at some point in your life make the pilgrimage to Powell’s.

 

 

 

When you’ve got your fill of books, they also have a wonderful coffee shop.

 

June 4, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Cultural, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Life is Complicated: Maintaining Balance

It’s been an odd new year. It started with loss and grief, and quiet introspection. Once the season ended, we were caught in the whirl of daily life, amplified by our son’s need for an ACL fix, which has totally immobilized him for a couple weeks and which requires we all pitch in to help keep life going smoothly.

And, I had a major birthday.

The last major birthday I had like this one was when I turned 35 and realized that I hadn’t accomplished my major dreams. I cried all day. People kept stopping by, bringing gifts and cards, and I just kept crying That year, I started graduate school, and never looked back. I was a military wife at an overseas post, with duties to my husband, my community, my church and my job, and I piled on evening classes and all the attendant work of research and studying on top, and I had never been happier. Going back to school was like flying. I loved my studies, and on the days I felt overwhelmed, I would realize that grad school was the only thing I could resign from and I would choose to go forward. My studies were my reward for good behavior in all the other areas of my life.

“What? You didn’t love being a mother?” I hear you asking. We had an oddly shaped room in our quarters, long and narrow. My desk was at the far end, and next to it was my son’s desk. We would do homework together. I adored my son. I would take him to karate lessons, iron his acolyte robes, be there when he got home from school; he enriched my life. But what made my spirit fly was my studies.

Yesterday, things were relatively quiet and I started a project I usually start in January, cleaning out. We haven’t moved in nearly eight years. I tend to be pretty good at cleaning out and passing along or throwing out, but when you are settled, you don’t do so as conscientiously as when you live with a weight allowance. My weight allowance always heavily favored our items collected from foreign postings, and everything else was expendable. Now, the expendable is taking up space, and I want to clear out that which only burdens me and ties me down, and make way for whatever is coming.

En route, I came across a large packet of printed out letters from my earlier lives, one entry in particular, 5 pages describing our arrival in Kuwait. Oh! There are so many things I have already forgotten, so I read it through, and then passed it along to AdventureMan, and listened to him laugh as he hit the funny parts. I owe my Mother a great gratitude for having saved all those letters, for which, having gone through several computers since I wrote them, I have no records. Those were pre-FaceBook times, when we still sent out group e-mails, which then got forward on. Now, we have less time – or we take less time – to write at length about what is going on in our lives.

I made room for my growing collection of religious-oriented books. I have a shelf for them. I have my spiritual disciplines, like doing the Daily Lectionary, but for additional readings, books were scattered here and there. If I am going to get serious about reading them, I have to have them where I know where they are, and I can retrieve them easily. They don’t call it “discipline” for no reason.

When I was a nomad, life’s busier moments were balanced by the enormous quiet of being in a new location. There were the logistical challenges of deliveries, moving out / moving in, looking for the good grocery stores, the cleaners who could do your nicer clothes without ruining them, getting new visas, driver’s licenses, memberships, etc. but in general, life could be very quiet for up to six months. I always found those quiet times, before new friendships, meetings, commitments, etc. very nourishing to my spirit.

I’ve never been so settled. There are times when my spirit rebels against the sameness of it all. There are times when I miss being around people who don’t always use deodorant and who smell sweaty; it takes me back to riding the strassenbahn (street car) in high school in Heidelberg, or to Africa and our adventures there. There are times I catch a whiff of Desert Rose, and feel an urgent upwelling of nostalgia for walking down a Gulf Arab avenue, or through a mall, and how it was the men who smelled so good. There are times I would kill for real flatbread, fresh out of the oven, or for a Tunisian “brik,” done in pure olive oil, or for the simplest French dish, moules frites, mussels in a simple wine sauce with fries.

I do love Pensacola. I have friends here. I’ve always been lucky that way; people take me in and take me behind the scenes. I hear the old stories of how Pensacola used to be, and I hear the new stories, that corruption is never hidden enough to go undiscovered. People in Pensacola, like people everywhere, know things, and I am honored that they share these insights with me. I have found religious community here. I have found meaningful work.

I have a son of whom I am enormously proud. I love and admire his wife. And I have two of the smartest, funniest grand-children on earth, with whom I love spending time.

(Did you know that the use of “whom” is generational?)

It is a sodden, rainy day in Pensacola. AdventureMan is on the couch, here in my office, snoozing as I write. We are on our way to church, then I have a meeting before coming home to do my studies for my class this week. As it says in our Episcopalian Forward Day-byDay: Oh God, Give me strength to live another day. Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties: let me not lose faith in other people   . . .

On on.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Blogging, Books, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings | Leave a comment