Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 5 East Glacier to Helena

AdventureMan and I have different perspectives on this day. He thinks it wasn’t so bad. I think it was the worst day of our trip.

It started off great. We slept in – well, until 0730, which for my body time is 0830. We ate breakfast, packed out, thoroughly appreciating our three nights at Traveler’s Rest and the spaciousness and convenience of our beautiful cabin there. 

View of Traveler’s Rest From SR2

AdventureMan suggested one last drive to Two Medicine, and it was beautiful, a totally different day from our first drive.

On the way back, we stopped at the glorious Glacier Park Lodge, and then for our last time at the Glacier Trading Post and picked up two pieces of huckleberry pie for the road. The crust on these pies is as delicious as their fillings!

Glacier Park Lodge

As we head out of Browning, AdventureMan says “We can turn off the Bossy Lady now; we have been on this road so often we know the way without her, and you can turn her back on when we get near Helena.”

This wind farm went on for miles!

Long story short, an hour or so down the road, AdventureMan says “None of this looks familiar!” I say sure it does, because it’s all rural stuff, grain and storage for grain, railroad tracks, but it nags at me that AdventureMan might be right. 

When I check, we are on A road but not the road we had intended. This road takes us to Great Falls and the interstate. We near Great Falls around lunch, find the Bear Diner and have what we agree is the most forgettable meal of our entire trip. 

Cute place, large menu

AdventureMan is right, it wasn’t a bad place, the service was good, I was just grumpy to be in Great Falls and eating calories that didn’t thrill me.

It is August, and nearly 80°F and this is at the entrance of the Bear Diner. It gave me a chill knowing winter can arrive suddenly, and it is best to be prepared.

This is also a day when there is a lot of haze, and I am a little nervous about breathing the particulate matter from the burning wildfires.

Carolina Bed and Breakfast, Helena, MT

We get back on the road and arrive in Helena at 2:00, early for our B & B reservation. Fortunately for us, the room at The Carolina B&B is ready, and the hostess is very gracious, welcomes us, shows us to our room, The Anisette, and shows us around the beautiful mansion, full of beautiful furniture, carefully gathered, curated with care, and china, and exotic curios, full of artistic works and models and framed art. Everywhere you look is something of interest. 

Our room, the Anisette, which has a bathroom behind the mirrored door
Bathroom next door to our room; not all rooms had their own bathrooms
A gathering room on the top floor
Bedroom on top floor
Another bedroom

Tonight AdventureMan chooses a place for dinner, and we head downtown to one of the trendiest restaurants in town, Hokkaido, where we feast on Japanese cuisine. They specialize in Ramen and sushi, so I order some broth and a poke’ salad and a sushi roll, AdventureMan orders a seaweed salad and a couple rolls, and we share a large pot of green tea. Every table around us is filled with happy customers, old and young. It was the most varied demographic I have experienced, old and young, foreign and domestic, all economic levels, and the food was delicious, the service efficient and also friendly and helpful. 

After dinner we explored Helena in the glowing late evening sunlight. We found a “mosque” which turned out to be the civic center, and AdventureMan found a statue of Theodore Roosevelt which turned out to be a statue of someone else in front of the Capitol building. We were staying in a very old neighborhood full of spectacular houses and a gorgeous old Catholic church, so we were able to spend some time walking before we turned in. 

Helena Civic Center
Cathedral of Saint Helena, in the last gleams of the day’s sunlight

We were so glad to have chosen a room with its own bathroom. All through the night we could hear doors opening and closing, people using the bathrooms next door to our room. You could hear couples whispering to each other, which warned us to be careful because if we could hear them, they could also hear us.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Geography / Maps, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intlxpatr Celebrates 15 Years of Blogging

How could I miss my own blogaversary?

Fifteen Years! Whoda thunk it?

Remember when we all got started? 2005? 2006? I was reading blogs like Waiter Rant, Jewaira’s Boutique, Hilaliyya, Fonzi – and the lively Kuwait blogging scene inspired me to take a chance.

I’m not a big risk taker. My style is more uner-the-radar. The Kuwait bloggers welcomed me in, provided lively and stimulating feedback, we encouraged one another and we never looked back.

All these years later, I’m astonished to find I am still blogging. I remember a lengthy conversation in one of the comments sections about why we blog. I am still convinced that we blog because . . . that is what we are wired to do. We cannot other.

For those with more exotic tastes

So really, I have an excuse for missing the exact day – September 6th – of my blog’s beginning.

I’ve been traveling. I bought a new computer, and you know those steep learning curves . . . I learned that when you buy a new computer, you no longer have compatible card readers with which to upload your photographs. If I’ve taken a photo with my iPhone, I can AirDrop it to my photo files, but anything taken with a camera to a SanDisk is just (pardon my language) SOL.

I also discovered that my good friends at Amazon don’t always tell me the truth about compatibility, so even though I bought an Apple gizmo that promised me to work with my new computer, it did not; it never even had the possibility. Go figure.

As a hint to what is coming, instead of Champagne, or Vouvray, or Sancerre, or a fine Bordeaux, this year we are going to have some refreshing, delicious Flathead Cherry Juice.

Thank you for coming by, thank you for your faithfulness and support these fifteen years and thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for reading, and for commenting, whether online or behind the scenes. Thank you for following. You, and our conversations, are what keep me going. Many thanks.

September 10, 2021 Posted by | Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Florida, France, Kuwait | | 1 Comment

People Who Smell Like People

I’ve just finished a run and I’m lying flat on the floor under the ceiling fan to cool down. This little Alaska girl is not wired for running in heat and humidity; I run on a running trampoline between the air conditioning outlet and the ceiling fan.

As I lie on the ground, hot and sweaty, the cats can’t get enough of me. Uhtred in particular, loves body smells. When we go on vacation, AdventureMan leaves dirty underclothes to keep him from getting too lonesome. To Uhtred, my sweat seems to be like some rare purfume; he is rolling and bumping on me, purring, kneading, clearly out of his mind with delight.

I find myself thinking back to the days in the early 1960’s when we moved to Germany. The war had been over for years, but it was still a post-war country, where we couldn’t eat ice-cream because there were brucellosus outbreaks among cow herds. And people smelled differently.

Our first housing was in a hotel on a busy street with a street car, and we learned to take the street car everywhere. For a young teen, it was a world of freedom. But people . . . smelled. We could smell their perspiration. The women didn’t shave and neither men nor women washed or dry cleaned their clothes as often as we did.

As a girl, our culture taught us that we were never to have any smell other than shampoo, soap or a light perfume. As teen-agers, we had an utter horror of perspiration, or any other kind of personal odor.

We got used to it. At some point, we just accepted the difference. It was just a part of riding the streetcar, or shopping, the people smelled like people. We didn’t even think about it.

Years later, we found ourselves living in Tunisia, and once again, people smelled like people. We noticed, but we understood and accepted that it wasn’t right or wrong, it was just a difference.

Now, there are times when I miss Tunisia, I miss Zambia, I miss people who smell like people. It also occurs to me that we Americans may also not alway be so hygienic in the future, where world-class fires destroy huge portions of large states, where water is increasingly scarce, where hurricanes destroy electrical delivery systems and pumping systems. We may not wash our clothes as often, we may wear our clothes longer between washes, we may bathe less frequently – and we may smell like people.

September 9, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Germany, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Travel, Tunisia, Values | 3 Comments

Stream Julia Childs Season One

I am so blessed. Late in life, AdventureMan has discovered he loves to cook.

I always thought I was a good-enough cook, but another military wife and I would joke that after preparing thousands of meals on demand, to meet the needs of a picky but not very discerning family, our skills devolved to a more survival meal production than anything that could be considered fine dining.

When my son would come home from school and smell a dessert, he would say “Oh, are we having company for dinner?”

Not so AdventureMan.

Right now he is binge watching Julia Childs on Amazon Prime. It starts with her very first show, and it is both charming and hilarious, as she goes on and on about these new coated pans (teflon introduced around then.)

Tonight he fixed us a Salad Compose´with salmon and grilled asparagus, red peppers, purple potatoes, snow peas and garlic, and green beans. Very Mediterranean, and oh, so delicious.

You Can Now Binge-Watch Every Single Episode of The French Chef with Julia Child

Lauren CahnLauren CahnUpdated: May 27, 2020CHILDS Television cooking personality Julia Child prepares a French delicacy in her cooking studio on JULIA CHILD, USAAP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

If you’ve always dreamed of cooking along with Julia Child, now’s your chance! The French Chef is streaming on Prime and PBS.

Julia Child wasn’t the first TV chef, but she’s certainly the most memorable.

Her iconic cooking show, The French Chef, was taped live. It dominated the televisions of home cooks from 1963 through 1973 and taught many a viewer how to cook like the French do. With her down-to-earth personality, Julia made dishes we could hardly pronounce—like beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse and coq au vin—seem doable.

She’s always with us in our hearts, thanks to her quick kitchen wit. Now, she’s back on our screens, thanks to PBS!

How to Stream The French Chef

In mid-March of 2019, PBS launched its PBS Living service, which includes classic cooking shows. PBS Living is an add-on service that you can access through your PBS membership, but you can also access it through Amazon Prime Video.

To access through Amazon Prime Video

To watch on Amazon Prime Video, you have to be a Prime member. You can sign up for a free trial for 30 days, after which it’s $12.99 per month. Then, join PBS Living, which is a paid opt-in channel for Prime subscribers. You can enroll in a free trial for 7 days, after which the cost is $2.99 per month. In addition to The French Chef, you’ll be able to access episodes of other iconic shows, including This Old House and Antiques Roadshow.

Don’t miss these timeless cooking lessons from Julia Child.

How to Watch Julia Child—Without Paying Extra

If neither of the above options works for you, you can still enjoy Julia Child on PBS via the free Julia Child Video Collection, consisting of full-length episodes of select Julia Child programming (including some early The French Chef episodes) as well as shorter interviews, behind-the-scenes clips and other snippets.

You can also catch reruns of all of Julia Child’s best French Chef episodes with celebrity chef commentary during Dishing with Julia Child!Must-Make Recipes Inspired by Julia Child



August 13, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food | , | Leave a comment

Before the Blog: Arrival in Kuwait

After three years in Doha, AdventureMan transferred to Kuwait to take on a new position. I followed, spending a couple months dealing with a variety of authorities to get permission to take my cat, known as the Qatari cat in the blog, his real name was Pete.

When our Morgaine died, AdventureMan said “No more cats!” but six months later, on a plane back from our son’s wedding, I told him I needed a cat. He worked long, hard hours, and loved what he was doing. I loved that he loved what he was doing, and I was lonely in our huge house, just me, rattling around like a little pea in a big pod. Because he loves me, he agreed, and as soon as we got back to Doha, I went to the vet and found Pete. I brought him home. Pete didn’t love me to start with – he loved AdventureMan. When AdventureMan would leave for work, Pete would howl in anguish. Slowly, slowly while he came to find me an acceptable substitute, he always loved AdventureMan the best.

So I was trying to do everything I could to guarantee Pete would travel with us to Kuwait. Travel was complicated by an outbreak of Bird Flu. While it didn’t affect people traveling on Qatar Air with falcons (birds!) it seemed to complicate travel for cats. AdventureMan came back a few days ahead and I told him of my frustration – I had a veterinary certificate, I had been assured by the airlines that Pete would travel with us but every person gave me a different answer. He got involved, and the day before we travelled, he got a firm “yes.”

We’ve lived in the MIddle East for years. We know “yes” isn’t always yes. We got to the airport early, to check in, to make sure everything went smoothly. It didn’t. The woman at the check-in desk said “No,” Pete couldn’t travel because of the bird flu. I said “we have him on the reservation!” and the woman said “He’s just a cat. Don’t you know they have many cats in Kuwait?” AdventureMan got involved, invoked the name of the high poohbah he had dealt with and got permission from. After many a phone call, and almost at the very last minute, Pete was allowed to fly.

Magic Kingdom

I use this image of Magic Kingdom because flying into Kuwait from Doha was flying into a whole new world. You might think all Gulf Arab countries are alike, but you would be very wrong. Kuwait and Qatar have many interrelationships, many of the same families, but the culture was very different.

AdventureMan had reserved a limo – not what you are thinking. Not a big fancy car, but a sort of beat-up big car that could handle all our luggage and the cat, and would be waiting for us. Coming into Kuwait, getting a residence visa, getting to the limo was easy. What happened next was unexpected, and part of why we chose this kind of life.

The beloved Emir of Kuwait had died, and we arrived on the day of the coronation of his son. Important people from all over the Gulf and from many other countries were attending this event. It didn’t affect our arrival at the Kuwait Airport, because there is a special VIP terminal for important people. Getting out of the airport, however, was unbelievably complicated as cavalcade after cavalcade of important people stopped traffic so they could be rushed to the events surrounding the coronation. Just as we were about to turn onto the road to Fintas, where we were to live, we were cut off by a big sand-colored official SUV with six men hanging on the outside in desert fatigue uniforms carrying automatic rifles. These were not friendly looking guys, in fact it was a little bit terrifying.

And this was part of the magic of Kuwait, the contrasts and the unpredictability. First rule, you never never mess with the police (and there seemed to be several different kinds of police.)

When I had flown to Kuwait to look at housing, they showed me one apartment and many many villas. The villas were huge, two or three had their own indoor swimming pools, two had elevators. I chose the apartment, which had more square footage than the house we live in now.

I loved living in this eyrie, with it’s huge view over the Arab Gulf.

Kuwait City is center in the distance.
Moon Over Family Park in Fintas

Scenes in Al Fintas

Scaffolding

AdventureMan would never go out on our balcony. We would watch other high rises going up and know that the concrete was poured at night, but it was still very hot, the concrete often had more sand than was good, and many of these buildings are built at sea level. Like the collapsing buildings in Miami, we often had salt water in our underground parking garage. I had thought I could care for the apartment on my own, but the seals on the windows could not keep out the sand, and every day the tile floors were gritty with it. I couldn’t keep up. I was lucky to find a wonderful woman to help me; she also helped me understand many of the realities for expat-labor in Kuwait.

High rise going up next door; elevators not in yet so laborers are taken up in this raft by a crane.

Some of the labor practices were horrifying. Kuwait and very modern laws and standards. Kuwait also has a system called “Wasta” which sort of translates to “who you know/who has influence” and depending on your “wasta” the standards may or may not have been maintained. Also, the fine, ever-present air-born sand creates engineering and maintenance difficulties that we can barely imagine.

Creating a Fish Trap

We came to admire the laborers very much. They had a hard life. Most were sending everything they could back to families in their own countries, mostly to feed their families and to educate their children. Some were badly treated, some did not have jobs. You get used to thinking in a different way. We had regular beggers, men who waited outside our favorite restaurants knowing we would give them our bag full of food on our way back to the car. There were, of course, scammers, but most who asked for food or money were grateful, in a dignified way, for anything we could share. These men are building a fish trap – there is a way in, but no way out. It was fascinating to watch it being built.

In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, Kuwait monitored their best male students, and sent these young men to study in different countries. Many went to the US and UK, and being young men, found themselves the kind of adventerous wives who would dare to marry a dashing foreigner and go to live with them in their country. (That is a topic for a whole other blog entry!)

I was fortunate to be friends with many of these women, who in turn introduced me to Kuwaiti women. These were all very fine women, a lot of fun, educated and skilled and sophisticated. It thrilled my heart to be an aging woman who still had so much to learn, and was blessed with these spirited mentors.

Below is a refrigerated water supply tower, put on the street by a generous and religious person to bless those who do not have access to cool water. You see them everywhere. I hope our country never becomes so desertified that we need to install these. I always loved that they are so joyful, so exuberantly creative. They are not only functional, they came in many different sizes, styles and shapes, and they always made me smile. This is what I call giving cheerfully!

Water tower

Kuwait was often beautiful. Below is a window called meshrabiyya, it provides light; it also provides privacy for the viewer. Many buildings in Kuwait incorporate homages to earlier architectural traditions.

Meshrabiyya window

“Regrets, I have a few . . . ” Mostly I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, mostly just earrings I pick up on my travels. My son was getting married; I offered to help the bride with bridesmaids gifts and a Kuwaiti woman guided me to the old gold souk where a jeweler made these necklaces for me, raw emeralds and pearls. I did not get one for myself. I wish I had! You could find real treasures, original and nothing less than 18K and real gems. The workmanship was exquisite.

One of the great joys for us was the Magreb (sunset) call to prayer. Everywhere in Kuwait there were mosques on almost every block. At sunset, each would have a call to prayer. They started seconds apart, so there was a sort of lovely cacaphony of sound, voices raised praising God and reminding everyone to worship and praise. We would watch the light change as the sun set and listen to this marvelous sound.

Mosque

So many mosques! So like Pensacola! Some were small and simple, some larger and ornate and a few gigantic mosques. I think of Kuwait early in the morning when one church, I think the downtown Presbyterian church, has a carillon concert. It’s not the call to prayer, but it’s the same idea, calling our hearts to be thankful for our creation.

And now, my favorite haunt in Kuwait, the Mubarakiyya. Mubarak is blessing, and the Mubarakiyya was a blessing to me. This is where we would go for the best dates (the dates you eat, and entire street of date vendors), cottons and fabrics for our stitching and clothing (no Macy’s in Kuwait), and for some of the best eating in Kuwait. The stalls and kitchens were miniscule, most had outdoor seating, and the food was FRESH. Our friend Mohammed said that the reason the tea was so good (the large brass pot sitting on a heater at our table) was that they never washed the pot, so it had an aged tannin flavor, LOL. We would eat Kuwaiti shrimp, mezze, and oh, the freshly baked bread. We would take our visiting experts to this souk, a place they might never otherwise experience, and thrill their hearts with the sights and sounds and smells.

Main entry Mubarakiyya
One of the date stalls
Souk foods
This store cracked me up with it’s giant model

I didn’t always have a great view, and driving home one night alone in the middle of a sandstorm is one of lifes most adrenalin filled moments. You can’t see, and you can’t breathe.

I will end this with a big smile. Near the Kuwaiti airport was a store that sold electric palm trees. AdventureMan told me that he’s always wanted one and threatened to buy one to bring back and put in our yard in Edmonds, or Pensacola. Horrified, I just let it slide, and it never happened . . .

August 12, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Moving, Qatteri Cat, Travel | Leave a comment

Tales from Before the Blog

Tonight we were eating Indian food, and talking about some of the truly great Indian restaurants where we had eaten in Doha. Our two favorite had separate veg and meat sections, and one, The Garden, even had them on two separate floors. The other, the Welcome, was a wonderful place, a place I would never dare to take my mother but a place we often went with friends. Once, we took another couple we liked, and we started with chots and dosas, and then ordered entrees. When the bill came, AdventureMan picked up and the other man objected – but only momentarily; AdventureMan showed him the total bill was 44 Qatari Dinar – somewhere around ten dollars.

Both The Welcome restaurant and the Garden were torn down to make way for a grand new walking street going down to the Souq al Waqif. We never saw prices like that again, or that kind of Indian-comfort-food-at-low-prices.

In these times, people still rode camels while racing.

One story led to another.

“Take Her! Take Her!”

AdventureMan preceded me to Doha; I stayed behind and packed out, found new renters for our apartment, sold my car and arranged for my diabetic cat to fly with me to Doha.

When I got to Doha, I showed the veterinary papers showing Morgaine had the veterinary papers in order, but, as it turned out, I had not requested permission from the Qatar Department of Animal Health to bring in my cat, so I would have to leave her until I got permission. I discussed this politely with the customs official, a young soldier, and then I started pulling out my packets of syringes and vials of insulin, and I explained to him that she needed X amount of insulin injected at such and such a time, two times a day.

He looked at me in utter horror and said “Take her! Take her!” and I didn’t wait a single second but got everything back in my bag and walked out as fast as I could with my unpermitted cat. Things were easier then; there were always men with carts eager to take all your bags, so all I had to do was grab the cat and run.

Old Sharia Kharamaa / Electricity Street

“She’ll Have to Sign a Waiver”

No sooner had I arrived in Doha than a car showed up at my villa, a car I hadn’t requested nor chosen, but I guess the car I was meant to have. I had to learn to think in a whole new way. It was a really good thing I had the car because Operation Enduring Freedom was breaking out, and I knew I might not see my husband again for a while. He took an hour off the day after I arrived to show me where two grocery stores were; the one near us for the basics, and the French Carrefour, across town, but worth the drive.

But the company was horrified I wasn’t leaving. “We’ll pay your passage!” they said. “You can go anywhere! You don’t want to stay here, war is breaking out.”

I had just gotten to Doha. I was settling in. I had my abaya and scarf from our time in Saudi Arabia, and I knew the way to the airport; I could walk if I had to. My niece, Little Diamond, was coming to stay with me. We both spoke some Arabic, she spoke more than I did. I wasn’t afraid, and I didn’t want to leave.

“She’ll have to sign a waiver,” they told AdventureMan. I signed the waiver.

Dhows in the Center of Doha/ Carrefour in the background

There were some dangers. While the USA and allies were gearing up to help the Kuwaitis take back Kuwait from the Iraqis, not everyone was on board. We learned to alter our body language, to walk and speak quietly, not to draw any attention to ourselves. We did our shopping calmly and efficiently. Even so, on occasion there was an occasional shop clerk who might ignore me and refuse to wait on me, but those occasions were rare, and the occasions of great hospitality from local citizens were many.

I always asked permission before I would take a photo

The day the war started, my sweet cat died. She had problems breathing early in the day, so I took her to the vet. Going to the Vet in Doha was not like any going-to-the-vet I’ve ever experienced before; you go, you sign in, you sit, if there is a chair left, and you wait your turn. It doesn’t matter how sick your animal is. It was chaos. Many people got very emotional and wanted to be taken out of turn. When I got to see the vet, who was always very kind, he gave her a shot and said “Now she will feel better.” I told him I thought she was close to the end, and he said maybe or maybe not. I took her home.

About three hours later she came and lay next to me quietly and I knew she was saying goodbye. She started gasping again, so I put her n her cage and drove as quickly as I could to the vet, but it was Friday afternoon, the day everything closes for mid-day prayer, he was closed, and could not be reached. By the time I got home, she was dead.

So the war is starting, my cat has died and I am not in a rational place. AdventureMan called and my niece talked to him. I think she told him the cat had died and I thought there was a chance it might just be a fit and she might come back to life, which was true. AdventureMan came home, I don’t know how he did it, but he did, and we drove out to the desert and buried our cat. He brought me back home and went back to the base and I didn’t see him for a while, except on television; as the CNN reporter stood in front of a sign at the press center on base, my husband sauntered behind him and gave me a wave. We still laugh about how he took a break to bury our cat just when war was about to break out, but managed to get back in time for the opening. He showed up when it mattered.

Welcome to Doha.

August 1, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Political Issues, Qatar, Restaurant, Stranger in a Strange Land | 4 Comments

Afghani Interpreters Begin Arriving

First group of evacuated Afghan interpreters arrives in US

from BBC News

(This morning, Adventureman’s heart is lighter. He is a Vietnam vet, and for many years has carried the guilt of our country having left behind so many people who worked with our forces so loyally, and suffered terribly when we pulled out. While we believe Afghanistan was not a winnable war (just look at history), he had anxiety that once again we would leave our allies behind.

We have a soft spot for Afghanistan. While we worked with the Department of State, way back before the Taliban, Afghanistan was considered by many to be a great post. The Afghani people were educated, and had a long and fascinating history. Afghani food is delicious. Day trips around Afghanistan opened people’s eyes to new ways of thinking and doing things. Even the Afghan clothing was comfortable and loose, perfect for the great heat of the summers. Friends who had served in Afghanistan shared wonderful stories and memories, and would gather for “Afghan Night” where they would prepare food for 100 of their best friends, of which we were honored to be included.

So to read that the first flight of interpreters and their families have arrived gave us great hope. Hope for a new group of citizens in our country who will work hard and share the gifts of their heritage, hope for their wives and daughters who we know to be amazing women, and hopes that one day there might be an Afghani restaurant in Pensacola!)

An Afghan interpreter with the U.S. Army's 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment helps to question a villager
image captionAn Afghan interpreter with the US Army seen speaking with a villager

About 200 Afghan interpreters and their families have arrived in the US – the first of a group of 2,500 Afghans being evacuated as the Taliban advances.

The interpreters are being resettled under a visa programme for those who worked with the US during the recently ended 20-year war with the Taliban.

They arrived in the early hours of Friday morning and were taken to Fort Lee military base in Virginia.

They are expected to stay there for around a week while they are processed.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden called the arrivals “a milestone” and “the first of many” as US authorities work to relocate eligible Afghans out of harm’s way.

Afghans eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) will be transported either to the US, American facilities abroad or to third countries while they finish their applications. The most recent arrivals have already completed an extensive vetting process.

On Thursday, the US Senate approved more than $1bn (£719m) to pay for the evacuations, including housing and transportation.

The bill would also loosen applicant requirements and allow for 8,000 more visas in addition to the ones already allocated for.

The Taliban have been advancing Afghanistan following a decision by Mr Biden to withdraw the remaining American troops from the country.

With those advances have come danger to those who worked alongside US troops during the two-decade conflict.

Since 2008, approximately 70,000 Afghans have been resettled in the US on an SIV .

Last week, a senior state department official said that the total number of visa applicants now stands just over 20,000. About half have yet to complete the first steps of the process.

Those yet to go through the process face potential threats in attempting to secure a visa. Mike Jason, a former US Army battalion commander who was deployed to Afghanistan, told the BBC that travelling across Taliban-controlled areas with the documentation needed for SIVs puts interpreters in “mortal danger”.

“That’s basically an entire confession that you’re an interpreter working for the Americans. We’re asking them to travel with the evidence,” he said.

Not-for-profit group No One Left Behind estimates that at least 300 Afghans or their family members have been killed for working with the US.

The Taliban were removed from power by the US-led invasion in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.

Fighting between the insurgent Taliban and Afghan government forces has increased over the past two months as international troops pull out of the country.

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Afghanistan, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Leadership, Political Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Rest in Peace, Donald Rumsfeld

You can admire a man without agreeing with him. Donald Rumsfeld gave me one of my favorite quotes:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.

I always thought he said “it is the latter category that bites us in the butt,” but maybe that was the unofficial version.

June 30, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Political Issues | | Leave a comment

FamilyFest in New Orleans

Time goes on and we have heard rumors that New Orleans is actually safer than Pensacola. The family needs some time together, just to be, and we love to travel together.

To be as safe as we can be, we choose to rent a place through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and there is a large selection. We want to share space, and we also want this family of introverts to have space to escape one another, too. We found a beautiful place on Napoleon Avenue, close to several places we love, great walking, even a bakery, La Boulangerie, with fresh croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast.

We have a tradition of starting at the Cafe Abyssinia – Pensacola doesn’t have any Ethiopian food, which we love for it’s flavor and healthiness. We order the Vegetarian platter, and add Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew.

Cafe Abyssinia Vegetarian Platter plus Doro Wat

Then to the zoo. We hit paydirt, we don’t know why but the zoo is nearly empty. We have a Krewe membership, but we still had to make reservations. Totally worth it.

One of the reasons we normally stay at The Parkview is they have the most fabulous playground in the world. This time, it was a real thrill. All the houses in the neighborhood had signs in their yards saying “Thank You Drew” for the Saint’s retiring quarterback who created this wonderul playground and lives in this neighborhood.

It isn’t just a swing-set, it is also public art 🙂

The Yoga Moms do outdoor yoga near this glorious old oak

“We’re staying in a mansion!” our beautiful, imaginative grand-daughter exclaimed as she entered our rental. It was less costly and more space than spending three nights in two rooms at The Parkview.

Dining room

Kitchen

Entry with stained glass
King bedroom
Walk in closet in King master bath
Huge sleeping porch BR with 2 Queen beds
Queen suite also has bathroom
We found we really needed the washer and dryer
Queen Suite Bath with laundry, Jacuzzi tub and separate walk in shower

Part of the fun was walking to places where we could order out to eat. Magazine street has so many good restaurants; the first night was Japanese, the next day was mid-day wood oven pizza from New York Pizza. We ate it too fast to get a good picture. It was delicious!

Our favorite meal of the trip, on one of our all time favorite New Orleans restaurants, Superior Seafood, within walking distance on Saint Charles. What is not to love? It is here, long ago, that we introduced our grandchildren to grilled oysters, fish sandwiches, and profiteroles!

Sunday Brunch, so they have live music
A lot of people go just for the oysters and the bread
A socially distanced group was having a birthday party

We ordered two dozen grilled oysters to share among the six of us. They are so rich, but they went fast. Too fast to photograph!

My entree, BBQ Shrimp. Fussy and messy but oh, so good!
Our grandson’s Catfish Sandwich, huge, and he ate it all!
Our granddaughter had the “kid’s” fish portion, also huge. Don’t you love that the catsup comes in a silver sauce server?

One of the highlights of the trip came at the time our waitress asked if we wanted dessert. When five of us ordered profiteroles, she exclaimed “Five?” She seemed so shocked! We assured her we wanted five portions (and a slice of carrot cake for one of the party) and she brought five, two profiterole each, SO good. They provide a bittersweet hot chocolate sauce in a silver server which you can pour over the profiteroles.

The next morning we all scrambled to strip our beds and pile all the sheets and towels in near the washer and dryer, make sure we left the kitchen as we found it, dishes washed, garbages emptied. It was a small price to pay for such a spacious and lovely location.

And the reward was breakfast at the new Two Chicks location, closer to the French Quarter hotels. We fortunately got there early, before the line formed outside to get a table!

I love to leave New Orleans with a taste of morning crepes in my mouth 🙂

We had picked up some items we had left to be polished and plated over a year ago. There they sat, with my name on them, but one of the pieces I was sure wasn’t mine. It is a bath box, and I was sure it was copper. When I picked it up, it wasn’t copper at all, it was sparkling brass. Zito’s Polishing and Plating does a fabulous job making our pieces from the Middle East look great again. Another stop was Enrique’s, to have some of our carpets mended.

So it wasn’t all walking and eating, we also had business to take care of, things we can’t get done in Pensacola.

On the way home, we saw a billboard nearing Mobile for Dick Russel’s, and we thought we would give it a try. We had to wait a half an hour, socially distanced and masked, although many of the people had noses out or a mask just hanging off an ear as they waited outside. The people waiting kept telling us we would love the BBQ.

The biscuits were fresh, and really good
BBQ Turkey, beans and cole slaw
Pulled pork, onion rings and greens

The truth is, we will never go back. BBQ is personal, and we were both horrified by the sauce, which others raved about. It tasted mostly like catsup to us. Sauce, in our humble opinion, makes the BBQ. This did not thrill our hearts.

All in all, however, a great family trip, our first outing as a family for over a year.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Music, New Orleans, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome Ramadan 2021

For all my Muslim friends, people who have become dear to me, I wish you a blessed and faithful Ramadan.

Troublesome years, like 2020 – 2021, with all their deaths and miseries, also have hidden blessings, bringing us closer in faith to our Creator, by whatever name we call this mighty one. I am wishing you spiritual strength, and all the hidden blessings this holy season has in store for you as you set aside the cares of daily life and focus on the spiritual life.

I thank you for all I have learned from you, from the way your faith opened my eyes to my own faith, and how closely our faiths, in their purest form, intertwine.

May your Ramadan be greatly blessed.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | ExPat Life, Faith, Ramadan, Spiritual | Leave a comment