Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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

Leaving Bozeman, Day 14

AdventureMan hates my phone alarm, which is a tune called “Twinkle.” He always says it reminds him of hotel mornings when we have to get up at what he calls “The Cr#p of Dawn.” This was one of those mornings, we need to be up, get to the airport, turn in the car, check in two hours in advance, etc. 

Don’t you love this Mama Bear’s big claws?

It all goes smoothly. We drop our keys in the drop box, still a little nervous that we never received a contract for the upgraded vehicle. By the time we reached Dallas, I had a confirmation of the car rental return and a copy of the contract. Go figure.

The airline people were not at the airport two hours before the flight. Oh well. We checked in and had time for breakfast at the Copper Horse before boarding for our flight. In Dallas, we found a BBQ take-out and ate in the waiting room. 

We arrived safely back in Pensacola, on time, and there were zero taxis and about six sets of people in front of us. We never do this, but we called our son and asked if he would pick us up. He arrived, fully masked, welcomed us back, and drove us home. That night, he texted that he and our grandson both tested positive for COVID and the family would be quarantined, They live just blocks from us, so we were able to see them, to bring groceries or whatever they might need. They were tired and achey, but never got very very sick. 

I just took a break; AdventureMan asked me how the trip report was coming and I said I was finishing up and I was astonished at how much COVID had been an influence on this trip. From the start, when Viking cancelled our planned cruise in May, to the end, with hotels and restaurants struggling to find staffing, COVID had played a major role. We need to be paying attention. Things are changing. We are going to need to do things differently. We need to start figuring out those strategies now.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 12, Jackson Hole to Bozeman through Idaho

I have a Swedish sausage with my breakfast, because of Swedish descent as I am, I have never had a Swedish sausage. I like the taste, but not the consistency, which is kind of loose and crumbly. Great coffee, great muesli and love those berries. 

Very hazy day, trouble with allergies and breathing due to particulate matter from raging forest fires

Gas leaving Jackson Hole is $3.99 a gallon at the cheapest station.

I take a photo of the motel we stayed more than forty years ago, just outside Jackson Hole, when we were traveling across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus en route to Monterey, CA for grad school and language school and knew we couldn’t afford to stay inside Jackson Hole. We were right across from the Elk reserve, and once we got our little baby to sleep, we sat outside and watched the enormous herd of elk as they munched and wandered. It isn’t so far outside Jackson Hole, now, and I am glad it is still there. 

This is the second day where we experience haze. We drive up over the mountains into Idaho, and spend a couple hours on very rural highways sharing the road with large combines, harvesters and all kinds of farm equipment. 

The scenery starts to change when we near Big Sky and the Gallatin River. Lunch was apples with peanut butter alongside a road with trucks whizzing by.

Marriott Residence Inn

Once again, our hotel room is not ready. As we wait, another man gets the same response and also that he will not be on his requested floor. He is very angry, says he reserved a month ago (!) and wants to be accommodated. Later I ask the desk clerk if they are having problems with finding people to work and she says yes, that it is a problem everywhere in Bozeman. I suspect that they have closed off the top floor and are also limiting the number of people they can serve until they can guarantee the ability to take care of them. 

I am thinking that this has a lot to do with demographics, and problems with finding good, reliable, safe child care, and finding jobs which will protect their workers and also provide benefits. We can see that many of the hotels are now offering health insurance and educational benefits to the people they hire. I am thinking the labor market has a little leverage, and they are using it to better their conditions. 

And yes, that may inconvenience business owners and managers, and inconvenience customers, like us, but for the greater good, perhaps we can find a balance where everyone wins?

Our room is lovely, and quiet, and spacious. 

We have reservations for dinner at Blacksmith Italian, a restaurant we both found intriguing. Bossy Lady totally screwed up getting us there, sometimes she doesn’t really know everything, but she got us close enough and we figured out the rest. 

The minute we walked in, we knew we were in the right place. It was full of local people. The plates coming out looked very fine. The smells were delicious.

We split a platter of meats and cheeses; it was full of delicate tidbits, duck and Italian sausage and tiny pickled peppers filled with ricotta, etc. This came with crispy tasty triangular bread, a little salty, very tasty. AdventureMan had mussels and a side of pasta as his main course, and I had calamari with a Putenesca sauce and a side of pasta. The sauce was fabulous; I didn’t even need the calamari, the sauce was so engaging. The wines were equally good; I had a Barbera and AdventureMan has a Lacryma Cristi white wine which was so good, I ordered it the next night.

Calimari with Puttanesca Sauce
Side order of pasta

Yes. It was so good we reserved for the next night, too. It would be our last night in Bozeman, might as well end on a high note.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open: Day 11, The Tetons, Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole

We are up leisurely, no place we have to be in a hurry, and breakfast is included in our room. We get up, dress, head down to the breakfast room where there is not a buffet, I am guessing a concession to COVID, but a nice menu from which we can order. I order the muesli with a bowl of fresh berries, and AdventureMan orders an omelette. I get a great big pot of coffee, and he has tea. The breakfast room is so like being back in Germany. 

We are headed for Jenny Lake today, and are directed once again to Moose Wilson Road. As we near the middle, we see a car stopped and a lively elderly woman is hanging out of her car gesturing wildly to our side of the road and mouthing “MOOSE! MOOSE!” We drive slowly; I am so close that I have a hard time getting a good shot because the side mirror gets in the way. The moose, a cow, is very thin and enjoying some nice fresh shoots in a freshwater creek. If she is aware of us, she doesn’t let on. She just munches along. 

Although we are early, Jenny Lake is crowded, and there are no parking places. We head up for the overlook, and spend some time on a trail that leads to the Jenny Lake recreation area. The Jenny Lake Lodge is closed except to registered guests, a great disappointment because I love to look at the lodges. 

The view from the overlook is purely awesome. Mountains have that capacity, to awe and make words insufficient. We just filled our eyes. 

Remember that guide back at Yellowstone, as we watched Old Faithful erupt? He had told his group (and us) that one of the best places to eat in Jackson Hole was Teton Thai, in Teton Village, so we thought we would have lunch there. As it turns out, no, at least on Mondays they don’t open until dinner, so we needed to find somewhere else, and were told to try Spur, at the Mountain Lodge. I ordered Salad and a side order of brussel sprouts, which were roasted and crispy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and AdventureMan, who has never had any fondness for brussel sprouts even tried one . . . and then another . . . and another. They were really good. 

AdventureMan had a salmon – avocado toast which was also very satisfying, very tasty.

We spent time just walking around Jackson Hole, exploring, observing and yes, shopping. We are getting close to the end of our trip and we like to have something to bring back for our family. 

Jackson Hole is a lot of fun. It has a very young, energetic vibe. It has a lot of public art, and it seems to have a sense of humor about itself. We found some nice things for the family, and then, we also found an Eddie Bauer where we found some things for ourselves, too. 

This day had one sad event. We had booked a couple months ago for a restaurant in Bozeman that we really love. The day before we were going to arrive we got a call from the owner that his front staff had all quit and he had to close the restaurant. We were shocked, and sad for him; he has a truly distinctive and elegant restaurant, with foods we loved. I have to believe he will find a way to hire new staff, or convince former staff to come back. It would be too sad if such a lovely restaurant disappeared from the Bozeman scene.

At the same time, I am reading the Jackson Hole newspaper and there are nine full pages of help wanted ads. Many of the hotel and restaurants seeking help are offering free room and board in addition to salary and benefits. There are ads all across the spectrum though, librarians, engineers, substitute school teachers, airport security, etc. If we were young people, Jackson Hole would be a wonderful place to work, full of other active young people and world class skiing. 

Dinner that night at the Alpenhof is French Onion Soup and salad. We want to go a little easier on ourselves.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 10, Lamar Valley, Gardiner, Montana and Reflections

We are up at 6:30 without even setting the alarm, and head out to pick up coffee and go directly to Lamar Valley. Once again, no biscotti. AdventureMan buys a muffin, too sweet for me.

Great clouds

There was a heavy rain last night, the day is very clear, partly cloudy, with rays of sun beaming down. It is beautiful. Just past Roosevelt Lodge, and the turn to Lamar Valley, a truck in front of us slows down as a group of bison approach the road, maybe 20 of them, and start a trek across the bridge over the Yellowstone River. Cars start to pile up behind us, but they are all the kinds of early morning people who are respectful, there is no honking or people exiting their cars to take photos, and it is really a delightful experience. 

On the other side of the bridge is a trail the bison are climbing to get wherever bison go. Why shouldn’t they take the easy route, rather than down into the basin, cross the river, struggle up the other side? 

Because it’s so beautiful and I cannot resist . . .

We saw lots of groups looking for wolves in Lamar Valley, and bear, but we saw no wolves or bear. Often they are just little dots, off in the distance. We see many anglers casting their lines in the Soda Butte River, having the time of their life. Maybe they are all catching and releasing; I never see any fish being taken back to the cars. 

Ranger heading down into Slough Creek

When we got to the Soda Butte the light was beautiful. It has been blocked off since the time we walked around it and attracted the attention of a very annoyed bison, probably because people like us were attracting too much negative attention of territorial bison. 

We went into Gardiner for breakfast, eager to get back to Tumbleweeks, a combination book store and cafe we particularly like. I had hot cereal with fruits, and . . . a slice of coffee cake, full of huckleberries and raspberries. One bite and I knew I was in trouble – it was SO sweet. And I ate the whole thing, knowing I would pay the price. (I did. The next morning I had the worst blood sugar reading I’ve had all year. I am usually so careful. I still remember that slice of coffee cake with great fondness.Sometimes we can’t help what we love.)

Tumbleweeds is doing gang-buster business, of course. You have a good product, it attracts business. They also are located next to Flying Pig adventure rafting business, and they have a sign that says “You do not get fast tracked because your rafting trip is about to leave.” I can only imagine the situations that have led to the posting of that sign. We heard one of the guides say to the cashier that they were closing down; “once the rains came the season is over.” People are closing up outside the park, also, clearly, inside. Yesterday, in the coffee line at the Mammoth Springs Hotel, we learned that there is noplace in Mammoth Springs serving breakfast; they tell people to go into Gardiner. 

En route back into the park from Gardiner, there is not even a person at the gate to check our pass. Back in Mammoth Springs, we walk around the village, visit the old Mail Carriers House, and head back to A23, our cabin. We ask the housekeeper about all the empty cabins, and she says “Yes, many cabins have been blocked because we don’t have people to care for them.”

I have a friend, a little younger, who asked me how aging is impacting the way we travel. I remember telling her first, that it hadn’t. Then, as I thought about my answer, I had to go back to her and tell her that we have changed, and because AdventureMan would get sick and tired from so much driving, we had devised a strategy of “shorter days, longer stays.”

On this trip, we discovered we still have the energy, we can do more than 10,000 steps per day, but we have to do it earlier, and later, and we have to have a rest or a nap in the middle of the day. Our transition days are the hardest, when we have driven further and we really need a nap and our room isn’t ready yet. 

In spite of rests we are sleeping very well, mainly due to quiet locales and cooler nights, also good mattresses. We also need our reading glasses more often, for maps, for menus, for directions, for bills and receipts, for fine print in guide books.

So we are packing, tomorrow is another transition day, Mammoth Springs to Teton Village, just outside Jackson Hole, WY.

I like my small suitcase; it is easy to manage, and I have enough clothing because I wear the same things over and over. I only brought the one sweatshirt; sweatshirts take up a lot of room. I brought too many short sleeve shirts. I brought one very casual dress and one dress that works for dinner, and one linen dress I use for travel and for transition days. All three of those items did heavy duty in the two weeks. One skirt got baggy because I wore it so often, it was pure cotton; the skirt that had some spandex in it kept its shape better. 

As we sit outside on our porch, we talk with some people we have talked with before; we were talking with them when I spotted the elk walking by behind our cabins, so they also got some shots. They were up this morning at 3:30 to go out with a Wolf spotting team and they saw lots and lots of wolves in Lamar Valley, and watched two packs of wolves meet up with each other. 

We have never seen wolves in Lamar Valley. We go there a lot, but I guess not early enough and/or not with the right people.

Tonight, we have our last dinner at Wonderland, but this is a valuable and hilarious evening. We know they open at five, so we make it a point to be there at 4:30. 

The word is out. Wonderland already has a line about twenty-five people long when we arrive. We are behind a group that is talking about having been out this morning watching for wolves, and they saw two packs of wolves meeting up, something no-one has seen before.

We can’t even look at each other. We have heard this phrase often, on safari in Africa. The wildlife spotters work together, they contact one another, they do their best to make sure their clients spot the game they want to see. 

So we’ve been looking for wolves and never saw a one. 

Next time, we might have to bite the bullet and hire a game spotter. We kind of prefer being on our own, not being in a group with other people, not being subject to someone else’s agenda, not being a part of those big groups along the side of the road. But this is our last night in Yellowstone, and we are thinking we might need to bend a little if we want to see wolves.

Squash Soup
Grilled Chicken Caesar
Caldera Burger

Dinner at Wonderland is delicious, as always. I have the squash soup and a grilled chicken Caesar, and AdventureMan has the Caldera Burger, which he loves. We love to watch the Wonderland team work together; they are a great team.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out in the Great Wide Open: Montana and Wyoming Day 1

Our first major trip since the beginning of COVID had an ambiguous start. AdventureMan and I over prepare, we always do. So the day before we are scheduled to leave for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, we are actually pretty relaxed. We are all packed – actually packed, and then re-evaluated when the weather suddenly turned from the high 90’s to much lower, and we scrambled to add some cold weather gear to the mix. We are enjoying some down time when AdventureMan calls from his office to mine – “Hey, we just got a letter from Viking you need to look at.”

AdventureMan is a big picture kind of guy. He gets right away that our trip in May 2022 is being cancelled. I capture the details – that we either apply the money we have paid in full to a future trip or we call immediately to tell them we want a full refund. This is the second time we have had this particular trip cancel and we look at each other and agree that two cancellations are enough.

There is an incentive to putting the money forward – a 10% reduction in the cost of the trip. We already have another trip booked with them, but for less money, so we wanted to keep it clean. We needed to call right away, because the deadline was during the middle of this trip which we are about to take, and our lack of internet connections in the remote locations we seek could prevent us from getting our refund. AdventureMan got right on it, the representative answered, encouraged us to book the trip again (we declined) and worked it out so that our refund will arrive shortly.

Crisis averted. Don’t you hate it when things happen at the last minute?

The following morning we were up at 0345 and Patrick, our taxi driver, arrived exactly on the dot of 4:15. For me, it was a scramble. Morning feeding of the two indoor cats and the one outdoor cat is my responsibility, plus getting dressed. I scrambled. I was finished just in time, we got to the airport, checked in and went through security. No problems, except I forgot I had my Fitbit on and had to be searched. 

One other problem. For this trip I had really tried to manage with a carry on bag, which preparing for two weeks is problematic. I had really thought things through, had clothes with multiple purposes, got it all in the one bag and my purse – and then they wouldn’t let me take the bag on board, they valet’ed it. I have a large handbag, large enough for my computer and meds and rental car paperwork, so all was well, but it was annoying to follow all the rules and then not to be able to take it with me. We call this a first world problem – in the greater scheme of things, it was small stuff. 

Our first flight was to Charlotte, and there was some passenger having a problem about wearing the masks over both mouth and nose, and about whether the female flight attendant had the authority to require full coverage. No problem, they had a big male flight safety monitor who explained his choices to him – cover, or get off the flight. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has had more than 4200 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of 2021. More than 3000 of these reports were due to refusals to wear masks, in spite of clear guidance from every airline that this is a mandate. 

We were close to where the flight attendants were chatting during take-off, laughing that a man would refuse to believe a woman had the authority to instruct him to wear a mask. Welcome to 2021. 

In Charlotte, we had just enough time to stop at the Farmer’s Market and pick us sandwiches and chips for the next leg of the flight. There were huge lines at all the other places, for Biscuits and Eggs, for McDonalds, for Starbucks. The second flight also departed on time. We don’t take these blessings for granted.

We arrived in Bozeman on time, 50 degrees F. outside and raining. We were delighted. There have been forest fires sending waves of particulate matter towards Bozeman for weeks, and now the winds have shifted, and the rain has helped tamp down the pollution. Again, we feel blessed.

AdventureMan had to wait for his bag so I went to pick up the rental car. Things got weird. Not in a hard way, just in an unusual way. There was no one at my rental agency’s counter, but there was a sign to check in with another rental agency. There was no line, so I checked in. The guy offered me an upgrade for a pittance to a Rav4, a car we really like anyway. Then he handed me the keys and told me how to return it when we were done. 

“Wait!” I said. “Don’t we have to sign a rental contract and talk about filling the tank and stuff?”

“Our printer isn’t working,” he stated, and I didn’t believe him for a heartbeat. “I can send you an e-mail copy if you wish” and yes, I so wished. I had my own copy of the initial agreement, but it was for a different kind of car. I’m glad I had it with me because the entire two weeks we drove this rental car, I never received a copy of the new rental agreement. A couple hours after I returned the car, I received the updated rental agreement. 

But the car was a beautiful turquoise blue, and close enough to the cars we drive to be easy, even better than AdventureMan’s 2010 version. It was an easy drive to our hotel, the Spring Hill Inn, which had our room waiting for us, a large, serene and quiet room, close to everything. Then off to the nearby Walmart, our usual Bozeman outfitter, for what we call car foods, and insect repellant (which we never had to use) and other small items of convenience.

There is a lot of construction going on in Bozeman, and we are told by many we talk with that the problem is trying to find an affordable place to live in Bozeman. Outside our window, we can see new housing going up, and we can also see the solution the construction workers have found to deal with the housing affordability problem.

We parked downtown when we found a place that looked wonderful and had a smoker out front, but it turned out to be a fine food purveyor, not a restaurant. We asked her for a recommendation, and she said ‘You have to go to the Rocking R” so we did. The Rocking R is actually a bar, a great cowboy bar, and the restaurant is called Hail Mary. We both had elk burgers – hey, we’re in Bozeman – and they were delicious. I think mine was called something like the Outlaw, and my beer was a Maverick Mary; it tasted good and because I don’t drink much, half a beer and I was buzzed. I also had roasted shaved brussel sprouts to salve my conscience. We had a great time. We are happy just to be back in Bozeman. 

We had time to take a walk along the main street – woo hooo, lots of fun stores, a rug store for AdventureMan and a book store for me. 

We couldn’t ask for a better first day. No delays, no negative events. Hardest part of the day was trying to keep myself awake until 8 p.m.

September 12, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Financial Issues, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel | , | Leave a 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

Discovering My Neighborhood

We have a renovation coming up which will require that we relocate for ten days to two weeks while the workers are completing a project we have long awaited. It’s not that easy these days to schedule projects; we ordered our new windows in March and they were installed in July! It’s a supply chain issue, a demand issue and a finding people to do the job issue. We are so happy; the company we wanted made the best proposal, we accepted immediately and scheduled. Our timeframe is months out, but we are on the schedule and we can live with that.

Hoping to find someplace nearby where we could stay, my first choice was the beach. On VRBO, where I found an amazing mansion on Napoleon Street in New Orleans, steps away from Magazine street, I found the perfect place at Portofino, at really great price. When I showed it to AdventureMan, he looked sad. He said of course, if I really wanted to do that, we could but it also meant battling two bridges twice a day to come back home to feed and take care of the cats. Oh. Yeh.

Floor plan for Portofino Condo
View from Master BR

Can you see why this would grab my heart? I could see myself sitting on the balcony, sipping my coffee, maybe even watching the Blue Angels fly by on a Tuesday morning practice. Ahhhhhh . . . . . And did I mention, the price was right?

So I started researching places near us where cat-care would be easy, and, sigh, yes, AdventurMan you were right, we can keep an eye on the work going on, too.

I was astonished at the quantity and quality of short-term rentals available in our neighborhood. Smart young people are buying up properties, even very small properties, fixing them up and maintaining them as Airbnb or VRBO rentals.

The first two I looked at were little cabins on the Bayou – darling places, but for the length of time we needed, maybe a little too small. The first one advertises on VRBO at $54/night.

This next one is also VRBO, on the Bayou, and starting at $67 per night:

I’m a sucker for a photo like this

These both look immaculate, and so new you can almost smell the fresh paint.

Then I started looking at airbnb. My daughter-in-law has had great luck with them, and they seem to have more variety in our neighborhood.

This house has beautiful spaces at $159/night.

This house has a beautiful location and lots of space at $210/night.

This rental was only $93/night, and allowed pets, but not on the furniture.

This one has a lovely location at $125/night.

Privacy. Convenience. Space. These are great options for people like us who just need a temporary place, and also for travelers seeking less of a tourist experience and more of a real life neighborhood experience.

August 15, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Hotels, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | 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

Salmon Piccata; Reward for a Long Week

As we sat down for dinner last night, I reminded AdventureMan that when he retired (maybe the second or third or fourth time) he said he wanted to learn to cook seafood, maybe he’d like to take a class.

All on his own, with recipes from the Barefoot Contessa, the Pioneer Woman, Southern Living, the Pensacola News Journal, how-to videos on YouTube and all kinds of other internet sources, his dream has been realized. Not only can he cook seafood, but he does it really well.

Last night was the end of a long week; a week with the grandchildren, a week of continuing organization and efforts for upgrades to the house that give us pleasure, a week of errands in preparation for an upcoming trip and the normal duties of every day life. As a special treat, AdventureMan volunteered to make a Salmon Piccata, which I adore, and he also roasted green beans and tiny potatoes in oil and garlic, and put together a beautiful green salad.

To top it all off, he found a gorgeous Sancerre to go with it. I can’t drink a lot of wine any more, not just due to being diabetic, but also because as I age, I seem to be developing a smidgeon of better judgement. If I can only drink a little, I want it to be something I like a lot. AdventureMan has found the perfect formula; for every really good bottle of wine we buy, he writes a check for an equivalent amount to the Salvation Army, to feed, house and care for the poor. It may not work for everybody, but it works for us.

Sometimes happiness is looking back and seeing how far you’ve come. Sometimes being content is finding joy in the everyday incremental refinements we make in life. A man who will create a magical dinner on a hot summer’s day when I am exhausted is my kind of guy.

August 7, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Character, Cooking, Cultural, Entertainment, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment