Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Word Play from Washington Post

Many thanks to a good friend who sent me these Word Plays from the Washington Post. I met this friend while on a cruise, but not on the cruise; we met at the Museum of Archaeology in Kotor. There were tour groups from Viking going by, and not a single Viking guide mentioned this museum, prominently located on the main square. It was full of fascinating displays, and also had a gift shop with unique items, great gifts for grandchildren.

We kept meeting up, at the most wonderful places – the harbor in Dubrovnik (where Game of Thrones was often filmed) eating mussels and salad and drinking wonderful wine, up in the lounge as we discussed books we were reading. It was over five years ago, and this woman and her husband have visited us, and we continue to have a rich and satisfying correspondence.

They also love words – as I know you do, if you are here, especially if you subscribe to follow this blog. She sent me this, and it made me laugh, and it gave me great joy. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Subject:
The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the winners.

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafhalon (n): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

4. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.


October 6, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Joke, Words | , | 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

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

COVID and Escambia County

I love my new neighbors in my little house with the sunsets. Early in the morning, as I was hanging my swimsuit out to dry, I saw her and her daughter also out in their backyard, and strolled over to say “Hey!”

She held out her hands in warning. “Don’t come any nearer!” She explained her youngest daughter was in quarantine, her entire high school was quarantined, students, faculty, administration. My friend is a dear woman, she had to quarantine her husband in the basement far away from his infectious daughter, due to health issues. I later learned – not from my neighbor – the school blames a “secret” Halloween party that ended up being a huge crowd event. A super spreader.

Sigh. Honestly, I can’t blame the kids. There is a belief around here that the COVID virus makes you a little uncomfortable and then you get over it. The majority of the adults don’t bother with masks.

We continue to be careful in our little bubble. Today, we drove out to a restaurant we like in the more rural north part of town. We planned, if it were not too crowded, to eat there, but it was too crowded. As we waited, masked, just us and the management and wait staff, not a single other person coming in to order, whether for pick up or for dine in, was masked.

The case rate in Florida is once again rising rapidly. The death rate is rising once again. I have a sinking feeling that the normal big family Thanksgivings will take place here as usual, with a resulting spike in cases and deaths. I am so sick of hunkering down, and I just tell myself to get a grip, I take enough risks, don’t take this one.

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Danced All Weekend

I have a conservative friend I see three times a week, and we delicately discuss politics. It’s been an intricate dance, as we feel strongly about our issues, and we also want to remain civil, to remain friends.

A very old friend rebukes me. “How can you even talk with these uncaring haters?” she asks me.

We’ve been friends for a long time.

“How can I not?” I answer her. “How can we win and move forward if we continue to alienate one another? I know how it feels to be on the outside, and to feel powerless, and aghast at what is happening. How can we bring our opponents into the conversation, so that we might find a way – maybe not a perfect way, but a way forward, where we can both give a little and find a way to make it work?”

So when I saw my conservative friend this morning, he gave me a smile. “How was your weekend?” he asked, dancing around the elephant in the room, the Biden – Harris win.

“Oh, I am SO tired!” I told him, and then grinned, “All that dancing for joy the whole weekend, I am exhausted!”

He had the grace to laugh.

November 9, 2020 Posted by | Civility, Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: The Captivating Citadel of Bleye

I keep telling my husband, this is the hardest trip I have ever written up. We wake up in one place, end up in another. We may or may not tour the second place in the same day. We may arrive, tour one place, then board a bus and head for another. It is very hard for me to keep my days straight.

For me, Bleye was a welcome relief.

My husband was eager, from the beginning, to tour Bleye, with it’s 17th century citadel high above the river. It was built by Louis XIV to protect Bordeaux, upstream. Legends are that Roland, knight of Charlemagne, is buried here, along with Charibert II, an early King of Aquitaine. So much history, and so beautiful!

I have my own agenda. I need some quiet, I need to be away from the groups. I need to walk at my own pace, and be able to stop and ponder where I will. Bleye, for me, is an opportunity to explore, on my own, in quiet. Yep. I’m an introvert. 🙂

I had a lovely adventure. I started with the group, then headed off in a different direction, heading straight up the hill of the main street after entering Bleye. I toured the entire citadel, loved my time, went around the groups when I came upon them, and ended up at a small museum with a delightful woman who loved it that I was an American who spoke French. She spoke no English, and gave me a private tour of the museum. She made it come alive! It had been a prison, and I could see the prisoners trying to sleep in the cold stone courtyard, trying to bake their meager bread in the large oven, It was a brutal life. In the basement of the museum were models of the Bleye Citadel and various artifacts, going back to earliest man in that area.

I was both stimulated and refreshed! I also found a shop with lovely hand painted silk scarves, just what I love!

When AdventureMan and I met up again, we had a lot to share 🙂

Arrival in Bleye, view from the river:

 

 

It looks like a grim day in the photos, but I was wearing a short sleeved dress and a hoodie, and I had to take the hoodie off and tie it around my shoulders, it was so warm and humid. I remember sunshine, but I don’t see any sunshine in the photos. I must just have sunny memories of Bleye.

 

 

 

 

This is the main street, where, when my group went left, I went straight ahead. There are all kinds of artisan shops along this street, including an artisan ice cream shop (No, I didn’t, but I was tempted by the blueberry ice!)

 

I don’t know what this was, but I loved the feeling of it. Maybe a farmhouse? Maybe a barracks?

 

 

 

This was my favorite area. It is all overgrown, all green and mysterious.

I purposely included people in this shot so you could see the relationship of citadel to river, and see the strategic value of Bleye. You can spot any ship entering from the Atlantic headed toward Bordeaux. Also, I think this is one of those iconic photo places where tour brochures are shot, wedding photos, “I was there” shots – I think I’ve seen that overlook from different vantages a hundred times.

 

I shot this watchman’s tower because it evoked in me a feeling of isolation and loneliness; I could imagine being the guard on a cold, windy night, no fire, and hours of watching before me. You always hope for nothing to happen, and at the same time, watching and waiting is boring and monotonous.

 

Lots of happy meals available in Bleye citadel. The menu of the day, tuna tartine (a savory upside down pie?), slab of salmon with creamy risotto and chocolate cake with a pear sauce and chocolate wafer all for around $25, really, not bad for a tourist location.

Don’t you like to see what’s for lunch or dinner?  🙂

 

 

 

The Viking Forseti waiting for us at the landing below the citadel.

In the small museum, such treasures from antiquity!

 

This is my dear friend, who made my trip into Bleye so delightful, meaningful and unforgettable. It was a lovely moment of connection. (And that’s the old bread oven)

Model of the old citadel:

 

 

I love this rendition of the entrance, especially because later, when we visit the Museum of the Aquitaine, there is a print of people at the gate of a similar castle, surrendering to an army who probably starved the castle into submission. Such were the realities of a pre-nation.

 

I loved this door; it reminded me of Tunisia. My friend the museum docent, explained to me that the studs, while artistic, also ruined any axe which was trying to break down the door. Oh! I guess it should have been obvious, but I was so taken with the artistry that the utility escaped me.

 

 

Finally! A photo with a little pale blue sky!

We spent the night, and the next morning in Bleye,

This was one of the funniest nights of our trip. We couldn’t get into the Aquavit Terrace, the only place where you can find a table for two. We anchored a table for six (the smallest table available) in the dining room, and were approached by four very beautiful and a little bit tipsy women, asking if they could join us. I said “Of course! You are welcome!” because that is the custom of the boat, you share tables, you get to know one another. But they are all looking at my husband, whose face looks like a deer in the headlights. He does not want to appear horrified, but he is overwhelmed by these laughing, beautiful ladies and for an instant, is unable to hide his feelings.

Thankfully, they joined us, and as we chatted, we enjoyed them very much. Lucky for me, I got to sit next to another introvert, who lives a very different life from mine, in a very different context, but listening to one another, we had a lot in common and a lot to share. Each woman at the table was unique and talented. They were all celebrating their 70th year on earth and more than 55 years of friendship. They had met in school, and kept up the friendship all these years, traveling to get together, and planning a trip now and then together. They were delightful, and we all ended up laughing for the next two or three hours. At some point, we were close to being the last party left in the dining room, and we broke it up. From an awkward beginning came one of the best evenings of our trip.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Tough Times in 2017

It’s been a strange year. I fought depression a lot of the year, faced with a political administration that is rolling back everything I believe to be good about my country. I watched our culture degrade, environmental protections roll back, air pollution standards roll back, financial institutions restrictions roll back, oversight disappear, the State Department erode, and truth become astonishingly irrelevant,  civility hard to find. I also found friends, who, like me, welcome immigrants, fight against those who would restrict voting rights only to people a whole lot like them, and who support equal rights and the belief that we are called to be better people, and to do what we can to lift people, rather than to stomp on them.

One great wonderful event happened this year, my grandchildren were baptized. It was a private event, with friends and well-wishers, and it was joyful, and very funny. If I want a big smile, I think back on that precious day.

At that same time, two people we know were diagnosed with cancer, diagnosed in the very prime of their lives. One was the father of our dear daughter-in-law. He and his wife welcomed our son, and then us, into his sweet family, a family full of women as wild and wacky as I am. We laugh, my daughter-in-law and I, about how our relationship is “unnatural.” We are supposed to be hostiles, but in truth, we genuinely love one another and we enjoy one another’s company. I admire her, as a wife, a mother and an environmentalist. We enjoy her parents, and we spent two weeks in Zambia traveling with her father and his wife. We had a great time with them.

Her father was a poster boy for chemotherapy. He smiled and laughed his way through it, cheering up those around him who were trying to cheer him on. If he ever had moments of self-pity, we never saw it. He chose to spend his time loving others, and continuing to make this world a better place.

In November, he caught a cold, and then pneumonia. The family gathered, and he rallied for a while, and then sank slowly, unable to get enough oxygen into his lungs. Before Thanksgiving, he was gone.

Yes, I am faithful, and I also have a hard time accepting that it was this man’s time to go. I am guessing that part of it is being unable to accept my own powerless to stop this horrible thing from happening, this good man, cut down in his prime. He was just making plans to retire, to travel. He and his wife were excited. I couldn’t help it, his death made me angry, it was such a waste. Yes, you can be faithful and be really mad at God.

This man loved his grandchildren.

 

He loved fishing, and spent time teaching his grandchildren, nieces and nephews to love fishing, too. Here he is on the Zambezi, seeing what he might catch.

Every life he touched, he left better for it. He was a fine man, and I grieve for my sweet daughter-in-law, for this terrible, painful loss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is hoping for a better year to come.

December 29, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Aging, Civility, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo – Bristol Hotel and Surroundings

A quick ride from the airport to downtown Oslo, where we find The Bristol Hotel, and inside a table with Viking local guides, armed with key sets with each passengers name. So easy, so well thought through – no waiting, just pick up your keys and an information sheet (like what time to meet up with your guide the next morning – critical information) and up to our room. Smooth. Efficient. Well done.

 

The room is charming and welcoming. You would think we would drop all our bags and hit the town, but you would be wrong. We dropped all our bags and hit the sack; slept like the dead for two hours and forced ourselves to wake up and get morning. It works for us.

 

I loved the spaciousness of this room, and oh, YES, wooden floors. I am such a sucker for wooden floors.

 

The bathroom was nice enough; I took a photo to show you the teeny tiny shower. I estimated it was about two feet by maybe two and a half feet at the longest, but a door cut across at a 45 degree angle, slicing space out of the shower. The controls were interesting; you control hot and cold with the right lever, and volume with the left. Well, it got the job done, it just felt cramped.

A storage rack and a pay bar in the entry hall.

 

We ate dinner in the Bristol Library Bar; the most fun was watching the locals gather in groups to have a drink on the way home. It was a busy, happy place, and we decided to eat dinner there and then go for a walk.

 

 

Our dinner was a bowl of Norwegian fish soup and an Autumn salad. The fish soup was delicious; we don’t put peas in fish soup in the Pacific Northwest, nor in the South, so it was a lovely addition that surprised me and delighted me. The Herbstsalad had roast duck pieces, and roasted beet, on a bed of mixed greens. The whole meal was lovely.

 

After dinner, we walked around the shopping area near our hotel, it was a beautiful night and the streets were crowded with a festive crowd. I thought the below was a church, and perhaps it was at one time, but I was told it is no longer a functioning church.

 

Some public art – Oslo is full of lovely statuary, and beautiful parks.

Oslo is also peopled by these trolls, in infinite variety. I sort of like them, I think of Father Richard Rohr and his message that our dark side is sometimes the way we find our path to God, in our brokenness.

 

As we walked, more and more people were gathering along the pedestrian way. We would ask, but no one we asked seemed to know what was happening, but all suggested it was probably a political rally with elections coming up soon. It was a very festive rally, not hostile or threatening in any way. Ah, to have such civil politics . . . .

 

Near our hotel was a store which sold what we called in Germany, “trachten” which means traditional folk-clothing. This traditional folk clothing is still made and is increasingly worn on high social occasions – weddings, important political occasions, National day, etc and is very expensive. One guide told us an outfit might start at $2,000. and then for special occasions, your husband might buy you the traditional jewelry which goes with the clothing.

 

 

This is actually my favorite, below. The Norwegian traditional clothing seems to me to have some Middle Eastern influence in the trims and buttons and modesty. No, I am not the least bit tempted; it would not work in Pensacola. It would be too hot and too heavy, and the heat and humidity would harm the valuable wool fabrics.

We slept wonderfully at the Bristol Hotel, and were up bright and shiny the next morning for our tour of Oslo and train trip over the mountains to Bergen.

 

 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Public Art, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nina George: Little French Bistro (aka Little Breton Bistro)

 

I haven’t been reviewing books so much recently. I run a local book club, we meet once a month, and this year, we chose some really HARD books. This book, The Little French Bistro, is not one of the books my book club read. It is not a hard book.

It is a great, quick airplane read, or a beach read. It is a book you can read and pass along to the person sitting next to you, because you won’t need to go back and re-read any of it.

I am pre-disposed to like any book that has France, French, or Paris in the title, or bistro, or book shop. I read another book by this author called The Little French Bookshop, in which the main character ends up taking his bookshop – on a barge – down a series of rivers, through locks and small French towns, to the south of France. I really enjoyed that book, and have thought of it often.

This book I just found annoying. I wanted to tell the main character, Marianna, to “man up,”, grow-a-pair, take responsibility for your own life! She lived in misery for forty something years with a man who treated her like an accessory, like a domestic, like a convenience, without respect, without . . . . respect.

Marianne gets sadder and sadder, goes to Paris on a trip with her churlish husband, and decides to commit suicide, but fails in her attempt.

She escapes the hospital in which she is about to be evaluated for mental stability, and heads to Brittany.

I’m not liking her very much so far, but I am hesitant to blame a victim. And I am annoyed; how did this sad sack get the gumption to go, and how did she happen to have cash on her, when her purse went into the river with her when she jumped off the Pont Neuf?

Her motivation? She wants to die in Brittany, and things the sea will do the job. She ends up in the sea several times.

Long story short, she finds work she enjoys and is good at. She learns a little French, she makes friends. She gets a make-over and buys some new clothes. She finds a lover, a French artist, who loves and adores her, and she blooms under his loving attention.

Sigh.

It’s a very romantic idea, and it makes me tired. I’ve met so many divorced people, men and women, who are still looking for that partner who will love and adore them. Some of them wish they had stayed with their marriage; some were smart to leave. Relationships are hard work. It may be all magical, as George implies, at the beginning, but as the relationship grows and enriches, deepens, you have to learn to accept another, warts and all. You can’t do that unless you can accept yourself . . . warts and all.

I object to the premise that you find a wonderful new lover and a new life begins. My experience tells me that you really need to be happy with yourself, first, and that wonderful love will follow . . . or not. If you are happy with yourself, and you are creating a life you love living, that may be as good as life can be. If you don’t find a way to be happy with yourself, if you don’t know who you are, every relationship ends the same way. God willing, we grow, we change, we learn more about ourselves, who we are, our relationship to the universe, and our purpose, and how to fulfill it.

There are some interesting characters, interesting situations and a lovely community life in The Little French Bistro. My frustration with the book is that it had more potential than it demonstrated.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Books, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

In this morning’s lectionary readings from Deuteronomy, I find words of hope this morning:

 

Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 18

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

I often tell my friends that I encountered very good Christians as I lived among the Moslems; they believe in Christ, and as we differ among ourselves as Christians, they also differ from us. Some of the differences are significant, and at the same time, I am aware that Christians did not agree – and still do not agree – on Christ’s divinity. So I look at the fruits of the spirit, I look at actions, and I look at being faithful to God’s intentions for us as his creation. I welcome the stranger as the stranger so often welcomed us.

Right now, it shames me that our very Christian country is no longer hospitable to the stranger. We were the shining light of hope in the world. Now we are led by a me-first bully, who will rob the poor even of their access to affordable health care to fill his pickets and those of his cronies. He forgets we are all strangers in a strange land, and will have to answer for our misdeeds.

I take courage in the spiritual renewal of resistance; there are those who continue to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, who are fighting against injustice in the criminal and legal system, who are fighting for a woman’s equal place in this country, who are protecting the widows and orphans, the very things we are called to do. For the first time in my life, I am a member of the ACLU. I continue to receive training as a spirit warrior.  We use our increased investments to fund Planned Parenthood. We strive to feed the hungry and clothe those without clothing.

We laugh, as we discuss issues in our classes, at our activities, over lunch, that at this later stage in life, we could be so reactivated 🙂

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values, Women's Issues | 3 Comments