Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: Dubai, Sharjah and More Adventure Than Anticipated

North from Muscat, through the Straits of Hormuz (where you see Khasab) and then south to Dubai.

We didn’t have a lot of expectations for the day. We were docking late in Dubai, just after lunch, and heading off almost immediately for Sharjah. We couldn’t really think why we were really going. 

Packing to go home changes everything. You are no longer on a journey, you are already planning an end, it’s like the end of a love affair. AdventureMan and I sit down and calculate our tips. The tour requires that we prepay gratuities, and we did so, but there are people who contributed greatly to our happiness on board, and we need to encourage them in the most sincere way – cash.

So I spend my early morning time up in Horizons, drinking coffee, catching up on e-mails, and taking photos of the sunrise, which is shockingly dirty. The sun appears to be fighting its way through the smog and haze. And, oddly, the sun is rising on the port side of the ship, which would imply we are heading south, how can that be? I figure we must have passed the Straits of Hormuz and are now going south towards Dubai, it’s the only explanation I can think of. (See map above)

We hit breakfast – it’s taken about two weeks for us to settle back down, with all the variety and abundance offered, and we are now back to mostly eating with some discipline. I’ve not been as good with the blood sugar during the trip, but I’m back down to normal now and want to hold that line.

Our last trip to the spa, and once again, we have it all to ourselves, and then loll around for a while in the hot Gulf sunshine before showering – the spa is salt and showering is a must, as is drinking a lot of water to rehydrate. Lunch is just a little rushed, and then we are off to the Nautica Lounge where we run into Ed and Alan, and catch up on their happenings as we wait for our trips to be called. They are off to visit Dubai, while we are off to Sharjah.

Below is the very modern, very efficient arrivals terminal and immigration.

First, we have a great guide, an Iranian woman, with no headscarf, which she later explains – that the Quran says nothing about covering your hair or face, only to “cover your beauty.” She says that she covers sometimes, like for praying in the mosque, but she finds the abaya and headscarf are off-putting to her western tourist clients, and that people feel freer to ask her questions when she looks more like them. I found that to be compelling – that she believes in covering but that she also believes in eliminating barriers with her clients. I liked that she could hold those two ideas and make it work.

The trip was amazing. Sharjah is still quieter and somewhat less modern than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, although still built up in a more residential way. We started with a visual (in the bus) tour of a roundabout with beautiful official buildings – the court, the library, a mosque, surrounding a park, all very beautiful. Then we went to the Islamic Museum.

The Islamic Museum was impressive.

I leave the group; I zipped to the gift shop. It’s not that I am a rabid shopper, it’s that I do like to bring things back for people and I find the best quality at the best prices in museum shops. I found some wonderful things, very quickly, and moved on to a visiting Calligraphic exhibit, (I learned the glory of Islamic calligraphy at the Tarek Rejab Museum in Kuwait, a treasure trove of gorgeous Islamic scripts) and then I zipped up to visit the beautiful dome, gloriously painted with constellations and signs of the zodiac.

The dome crowns a beautiful reception room with comfortable chairs, and people looking up at this ceiling in wonder. It is beautiful.

From there, I went to the section on Islamic technology, where I exalted in astrolabes and exquisite instruments of measurement – I love good design. It thrills my heart to see the gorgeous design of these instruments created to do practical work, but which thrill the user with their beauty.

As I am there, I get a call from AM reminding me our time is almost up and it is time to meet. Here is a thing about Oceania excursions – we never had a single one where were were held up by a lagger. On all our tour, people paid attention to time expectations and met – or even exceeded – the instructions. 

From the Islamic Museum, we headed to a fort, actually a re-creation of an actual fort which had been built on that exact spot. It had gorgeous pieces of ancient weaponry, guns, cannons, ammunition, suits of armor, and samples of early technology, such as goat skins used to store liquids, make yoghurt and butter. It was nearing sunset, and the late afternoon light loved the fort and it’s beautiful spaces.

You will see a picture later of the original fort; this fort has been re-constructed in the middle of a busy city to honor the Sheikh and to honor earlier traditions in Sharjah. Below is looking down into the well in the fortress.

I found this display below a bit bizarre, but maybe that’s just me?

Below is an Omani chest, with the nail-head decoration. This chest is used as a closet, holding a simile of the Sheikh’s wardrobe.

Another view of this modern apartment building; I would like to believe the snake-like figure is also calligraphic:

Last, we went to the Sharjah “souks.” We started off at the gold souks. 

I like gold. I like real jewelry. The gold souks are overwhelming. Many of the shops are full of gold sets, the kind of gift a young bride is given by the groom’s family when she enters their family, a mail-like necklace/breastplate, and maybe earrings, a headpiece, sometimes handpieces, all matching, and all of which belong to her and provide her with some security in case down the line she is divorced or widowed. In theory, her bride price and her jewelry are hers to invest and manage. These sets are awesome to behold.

The sets are also intimidating. Maybe a movie-star could carry them off in our culture, but otherwise, they would draw too much attention. As we walk by shop after shop, I am dazzled and my heart beats faster, but when it comes to something for me, there is nothing. I remember how hard I had to look in places like Saudi Arabia, when gold was much cheaper, for pieces which were more modest and simple.

I buy nothing, except for at the end when AdventureMan and I have fresh-pressed juice; strawberry for him, and pomegranate for me. It is fresh juice, with no additives, and no sugar; there are pieces of fruit in the juice and it is delicious. These are times I really miss living in the Middle East.

As we are leaving, the sun has just gone down and the night has gone purple. It never fails to take my breath away. I only see this color in the Middle East, and it is just when the call to prayer begins to be called. Tonight there is a crescent moon. We are looking across the river at Dubai. The lights are twinkling, the call to prayer calls to our hearts, and families are gathering on woven mats to sit on the grass of the park across from the Mall. It is an exquisite time of the day and an experience of pure joy.

“So,” I can hear you asking, “The day is over. Where is the unanticipated adventure?”

Back at Nautica, we stand in line to pick up our passports for our departure the next day. I am handed my passport. AdventureMan’s passport is not there. The crew searches relentlessly, as we watch others easily access their passports. AdventureMan’s passport does not show up. It has not been returned by UAE Security. No one knows why.

We go through a bad couple of hours. I am trying to game what we will do if the problem is not resolved. This is an unusual circumstance, but this is the Middle East.

Security tells us his passport has been flagged because he was in Dubai in 2008 and they have no record of his exit. This is entirely possible. AdventureMan traveled a lot, in and out of many countries. Perhaps someone was talking with him as he departed and neglected to mark his departure. It’s all speculation. We really don’t know.

Finally, hours later, they relent, and an hour before the boat sails, his passport is returned by UAE officials. 

We dine in our cabin, as we finish our packing. We need to have clothes for sleeping, clothes for disembarkation, and clothes for flying, including something warm for our transits through Brussels and Montreal. This entire trip has been a packing challenge, trying to anticipate temperature changes and comfortably appropriate clothing, including modesty requirements. Dinner is simple but relaxing, we finish off the wine we bought in Barcelona, and we jump up now and then to refine packing, make sure we have the appropriate paperwork, etc. We are greatly relieved to have AdventureMan’s passport back and we are also a little unnerved. We are hoping there will be no further problems as we leave Abu Dhabi.

We sleep well. 

February 19, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Cold Drinks, Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Public Art, Shopping, sunrise series, Sunsets, Survival, Travel, Work Related Issues | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: Salalah, Oman

We have a history with Oman – we love it. Once, when my husband and I were visiting in Oman, we traveled to an oasis, where a small boy asked to guide us. The path was clearly marked, but this young man was so charming and spoke such good English, we hired him. On our way into the falls, he asked us if we knew John Thomas. LOL, we knew John Thomas!

On that same trip, in our lovely hotel, I bought a silver thimble. It cost way too much for a lowly thimble, but it was exquisite, beautifully crafted, and to this day I am thankful I overcame my frugality and bought it, because it has given me years and years of heavy usage, and I feel joyful appreciation every time I look at it.

I visited Oman again, later, with the Kuwait Textile Association, visiting craftspeople all across Oman.

We are thrilled to be visiting Salalah. Neither one of us has ever visited Salalah, a port city, famous for its lush greenery, bananas, coconuts and its long history as a trading crossroad between Africa, the Middle East and India.

The day is off to a hilarious start. It’s been so warm, AdventureMan had decided to sleep on the balcony and early in the morning got thoroughly soaked as the ship was hit by errant wave. He dries off and crawls into bed as I head up to Horizons to catch up on e-mail. I come back down later to see if he wants to hit breakfast, then we head off for Salalah trip; Scenic Salalah.

Bus #1, full, heads off for “souks.” Ship is docked 14 miles from Salalah. Shuttle bus takes people to gate, then you can pay $27 to go to Salalah to a taxi driver, then $27 back. 

We are given a special card to keep on our person, which we must turn in when we come back to the ship.

It’s a long drive. We stop first at a mosque, which we are told has restrooms. We are free to enter the mosque as long as we take our shoes off and leave them outside. The guard near the restrooms won’t let us in; he tells us they are closed. The guard at the entrance to the mosque won’t let us in. One woman has her shoes taken while she is trying to get into the mosque.

We drive into town to “souks” which are all primarily frankincense, signs in English and Arabic, all pretty much the same merchandise. I bought some rose perfume and two keychains for gifts.

The restroom is very clean, with six regular stalls and two “traditional” squat stalls with hoses.

Next is Biladi Museum, really nicely done, the entrance is like coming into a fortress. Inside are rooms with displays of very early history, meteorite hits, and maritime history with all kinds of boats, bows, and knots. I went to find the books and crafts shops, which were closed, but found some beautiful spaces still being built, with waterways, facsimiles of old boats, picnic areas, shady areas, and seating areas – this place has a lot of potential. 

This cannon, below, blew me away. It is probably the earliest example of a cannon I have ever seen, and although it is primitive, it is amazing in the advantage it could give to the one who could wield it.

Then we go to drink coconut water, from a small open shop full of bananas, coconuts, and other fruits. There were many similar small shops, but somehow this entrepreneur seems to have a contract with the cruise ship lines. I think he had figured out how to get us in, give us each a coconut and get us out in time for the next bus to pull up.

Miguel, our next-door cabin mate, bought bananas for Marguerite, his wife, who is ill with a stomach bug. He had shown us a scarf he bought her at the Frankincense souks, camel colored, and told us he had known Marguerite in Cuba from the time he was twelve years old. They have been married now 59 years. They are so sweet with each other. Miguel also told us that his new heart medicine is also a diabetic medication and has helped his health greatly, also it helped him lose a lot of weight.

The coconut water was not that tasty, but the shops were full of so many different kinds of coconuts and bananas, and behind the shops are acres of banana trees bursting with bananas, and coconut trees with coconuts, in a dry and arid land, with wonderful places where water is abundant.

All in all, it was a short excursion. We were back at the Nautica for lunch, where they had a wonderful bouillabaisse. Next to our boat was a specialized boat, fueling our boat. It took a long time, and we could smell the petroleum. We imagined that we probably hadn’t fueled since Haifa, and were happy Salalah provides that service to these large cruise ships which have begun to stop in Salalah.

We would have been interested in time on our own in Salalah, but the cruise ship port is far from the actual city, and the ship’s shuttle only takes you to the gate, where you can catch a taxi – $27 each way into Salalah, and back to the ship. We are headed for Muscat and Dubai and Abu Dhabi – we can wait.

Back before I ever dreamed of blogging, we lived a while in Saudi Arabia. AdventureMan would come home from work, pick me up, and take me to the Souk Dira where I might buy buttons to teach my little students names of colors and shapes, or I could comb through the antique (junk!) souks for old camel milking bowls, afghani beads and jewelry, old silver leg bracelets, etc.

Saudi Arabia taught me a lot about assumptions. I had always told AdventureMan it was my one big NO, I wouldn’t go there. So he invited me for a visit, and I had a chance to rethink. Then I went to live there and discovered that there were many layers. Saudi Arabia was complex. It could be brutal. I also met Saudi women who were educated, and began a whole new kind of education for me, as I listened, observed, and broadened my understanding. One of my favorite things about Saudi Arabia was those evenings at the souks. We would get there shortly before the sunset call to prayer. We had a favorite felafel stand where we would get a sandwich and a fruit drink, and find a place to sit while all the shops closed. The call to prayer is magical in itself, and as the sun set, the sky would go purple and then get darker and darker shades of purple until it was black. The stars were brilliant, even though Riyadh was a highly neon city. Those moments eating our dinner as the sky went purple, and listening to the call to prayer, left an imprint on my soul.

As the sun went down, and we departed Salalah, the sky went purple.

February 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: A High Risk Area for Piracy

Leaving Aqaba, we all received this letter along with our daily newsletter, The Current:

The Nautica actually was attacked by pirates several years ago and used both speed and a water cannon to avoid being boarded by Somali pirates. (Travel Weekly: Oceania Outruns Pirates:  https://www.travelweekly.com/Cruise-Travel/Oceania-Nautica-outruns-pirates)

Suddenly, too, on the very sedate walking path overlooking the swimming pool area, we found very fit young men, running the course. They had boarded, maybe in Aqaba, and left the ship when we were no longer in the pirate area.

Meanwhile, for the duration of our time in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, we were under strict orders to close our curtains at sunset and to keep them closed. We were to stay off our balconies after dark. The curtains in the restaurants were closed, and night lighting was minimized. We were told that if there were any kind of challenge to the ship, we were to go into the hallway, or to where our crew told us to go to keep safe.

The issue with pirates – specifically Somali pirates – is more complex than you would think.

We were delighted to have young men on board who looked entirely capable of manning a water cannon and successly challenging any invaders.

February 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Counter-terrorism, Geography / Maps, Social Issues, Sunsets, Survival, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s The Point? The Suez Canal

I am starting this entry at the end. Those of you who have been reading Here, There and Everywhere all these years know that I am an unabashed Geography nerd. I love maps. I love navigating, and I am pretty good at it. The opportunity to go through the Suez Canal was irresistible.

Now I’m going back to leaving Haifa.

We had another day at sea en route to the entry to the Canal. Once again, at night we are both sneezing and congested.

The next morning, I feel great once I am upright again, cannot understand why I am so stuffed up at night. 

It is warm out on the water, considerably warmer than before. I am wearing a sleeveless dress with just a scarf against the breezes. Breakfast at the Terrace Restaurant out on the deck; I had a hard-boiled egg and bland sausages. There is nothing to see. Water water everywhere.

We came back to our room, changed and went up to the spa for almost an hour. Caught up on e-mail, caught up on some reading, watching the progress as he get closer to Port Said, the entry to the canal experience. 

I’ve stopped going to the lectures. I did not find them useful. I had loaded my Kindle (it’s on my computer) so I have lots of books.

I don’t know how it works for you, but I had thought I would have a lot of time to read in retirement, and I don’t. I still have a lot of my daily routine obligations, you know, like keeping the house picked up and the laundry done and groceries shopped for and put away, those kinds of things. It’s not like AdventureMan is just lying around eating bonbons, he is also busy. He has taken all those dreadful business phone-calls off my (military wife) plate, and I am pathetically grateful. He also handles most of the house maintenance and all of the yard dealings, he gets the cars serviced, he volunteers at a local elementary school, he is a true partner. so believe me, I am not complaining. I am telling you this so you will understand how much I love having time to read, and not having to think about life-maintenance details.

Just before my husband left to attend his lecture on Tutankhamun, the captain of the ship made an announcement that we will be getting to Port Said a little earlier than expected due to an ill passenger who will be taken off the ship for medical care. Oh yikes. One of my worst nightmares would be to be hospitalized in Egypt. Port authorities will come aboard for some vague reason, he just wanted to let us all know. Very interesting. I went up on deck and saw them lowering the platform where small boats might tie up, I am guessing to offload the passenger, but then nothing happened. Or it happened at a time I wasn’t watching for it to happen, maybe during dinner.

The Captain also said we will be entering a queue of ships and will enter the Suez Canal around 3:45 a.m.  It will take us about ten hours to transit the canal. 

It was a beautiful evening, but oh, the industrial smog that hung over Port Said created a firey sunset.

We are surrounded by cargo ships, so many ships I worry we might run into one another, all crowded together.

I had set my alarm for 3:47 am. but I didn’t even need it, I was so eager, I woke up at 3:30 am. Out on the balcony, I discovered we were moving, and the pilot boat came up and dropped off the Canal Pilot as I was watching.

Port Said oil refineries. We’re starting through the Canal.

I felt great, but I needed coffee. I dressed, went up to Horizons to get coffee, and there was coffee! There were not many people who thought this was worth getting out of bed for, but I didn’t want to miss a minute. I found a couple other early birds and we went up to the top deck.

There was a small group, and one man had a program, Vessel Finder, that showed exactly where we were as we entered and passed through the canal.

We spent hours watching as we made progress, one container ship in front of us about 300 meters, and one behind.

The sun came up and we could see flocks of birds, and see soldiers policing the eastern bank, the land that borders Israel.

Finally, around seven, I went down and joined up with my husband. We went to breakfast, then to the spa, and got two of the lounge chairs. We soaked, then we enjoyed a great view of both sides of the canal for another hour or so.

This little village was full of these structures; I think they are dove cotes, or maybe for pigeons.

This was a ferry taking people from one side of the canal to the other. The entire length of the canal, we only saw one bridge, but we did see military-style floating bridge equipment they could use in an emergency to get to the other side.

The boats ahead of us. These Egyptians did a really smart thing, building this canal, and they built it in record time. Now, there is so much traffic through the canal that they had to build a second parallel channel, and even so, the ships go south all at the same time, and then they go north all the same time. They are willing to pay a lot of money to go through the canal because it beats having to go all the way around Africa to get their goods and products from Europe to India or the Middle East. I read they only allow passenger ships in the winter months.

It was a long crossing. There are parts that are very bleak, and it’s almost like watching a loop, like the same scenery passing and passing . . . I love the novelty of this itinerary, and I also have to admit that ten hours is a lot like watching paint dry.

Nearing the Southern end of the canal we start seeing more small boat traffic.

And dredging equipment, a never-ending task.

It was interesting to me that there was no lecture or video information on our room screens on the enormous accomplishment of building the Suez Canal. There was no commentary from the Captain. Most of the passengers were gathered around the pool, or sequestered in their cabins. I thought it was a missed opportunity; we all could have learned so much.

As we exit, we see fish traps like we used to see in Kuwait

Around 3, we exited at Suez City and sped toward Sfaga, halting only to pick up the passengers who had been evacuated for medical care to Cairo. Imagine! They missed the crossing, but won’t have to miss any of the rest of the trip!

We sat on the balcony, watching cargo container ships and trying to calculate the load, counting, estimating, thousands and thousands of containers stacked on all kinds of boats, in all kinds of configurations. 

The sun sets as we leave the Suez Canal and chug down the Red Sea towards Safaga, where we will dock to go to Luxor, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings.

February 3, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Photos, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaos

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

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

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

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

Lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s No Place Like Home

Back in Pensacola; we love our sunsets and the Wolf Moon setting over the Bayou Texar:

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Pensacola, Sunsets | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | 1 Comment

A Day Like No Other

I headed for the Y this morning, surprised I was awake and eager – I’d been up late the night before following the senatorial elections in Georgia, finally giving up when I couldn’t stay awake any longer. When I got to the Y, I found all the lanes filled, more than filled, and people waiting. In a state with one of the highest COVID rates in the nation and one of the highest death rates, and a state rated #50 in all 50 states in the health care for the elderly (aaack, I choke even to write this word, which seems to apply to me, but I do not feel “elderly”) I cannot stay in a place where a lot of unmasked people are breathing heavily as they exercise. I came home and walked a mile, then went on with my day.

I fell in love with a beautiful heron.

And his friends:

What a day it was. Two Democrats elected in Georgia, swinging the Senate to a 50-50 split, with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. As I see it, it is a challenge and a win-win. If this country is going to heal, we have to work together. We have to try to see things from the other’s point of view, and we have to find ways to compromise to achieve the greater good. We have so much work to do just to remedy the great slough of the last four years, work in the fields of justice, environment, health care, infrastructure, diplomatic relations, oh my, so much work to do in so many areas. It’s going to take all of us working together.

So as we are eating lunch and Mitch McConnell is on CNN making an astonishing speech supporting accepting the electoral college votes for Joe Biden, so astonishing it caught our full attention, and then all hell broke loose. There was a rallying speech by our Fearless Leader, who assured his followers once again that the election had been stolen and he was going to march with them (he didn’t) to the Capital where the senators and congresspeople were meeting, and they were to show how strong they were, and not be weak.

We watched in horror as this mob headed to the Capitol and knocked over the barriers and FOUGHT WITH THE POLICE. these followers of the Fearless one who calls himself the Law and Order President. Oh the shame of it! We watched as they broke windows, and lookie-lou’d, phone cameras in every hand documenting their invasion. We watched a sole policeman trying to staunch the mob as they headed for the law-makers chambers. The horror. The shame. I think all America was watching these hooligans with utter horror.

Not the brightest bulbs in the chandeliers; the US government offices are littered with cameras and state-of-the art facial recognition sortware. For the rest of their lives they will be instantly recognized as yahoos and insurrectionists in their FBI files accessible to every sheriff’s office and police department in America. What utter fools.

What did they think they were going to be able to accomplish? I suspect it was not a question of thinking; they were part of a mob and just sort of mindlessly participated not even realizing what they were doing. The last thing they would accomplish was overturning the will of the people, those voters who defeated the sitting president by more than 7 million votes.

As I write this, the Senate and House are meeting again to verify the electoral college votes and probably will agree to research better, more efficient ways to secure the vote in the future, maybe find more standardized ways to provide equal access to voting to all Americans, and to think of ways to more efficiently tally the vote. Joe Biden is safe. He will be inaugurated January 20th. And Kamala Harris will be one of the most important Vice-Presidents in history, providing the tie breaking vote when Democrats and Republicans fail to agree, but even better, working in the background to find ways to get lawmakers to craft legislation that will serve the people of both parties. I believe this.

At the end of this extraordinary day, I looked out and saw this:

Is that not beautiful?

I believe that out of the most horrendous circumstances, great good can come. I have seen this in my own life. People can change. Lives can change. We have choices, and sometimes it takes a good shaking up to show us how we can make better choices. I have hope that today has opened eyes, and opened hearts, and that it has opened a possibility that we can find a way to work together to accomplish great things.

Nancy Pelosi is talking about today being a day of Epiphany, a time of change and healing. My Moslem friends would say “insh’allah.” God willing.

January 6, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Cultural, Events, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Sunsets | , , , , , | Leave a comment

After the Storm: Christmas 2020

It rained and the wind blew, knocking over the Christmas trees on my front porch a couple times until AdventureMan grabbed a few stray bricks from our back yard and anchored them firmly. Then, around one in the afternoon, the rain stopped, the wind lessened, and the skies lightened, just in time for us to meet up with our son and his family for a masked and socially distanced service at 2:00.

It was a very odd Christmas – we had to sign up in advance, and each service was limited to 70 people. They allowed family groups to sit together, but each group was separated by at least one pew from any other people. No singing. If someone showed up who had not signed up, they were turned away, unless there was space.

In our church, the policy has always been that there is always space, and you are welcome. We could see that it was tearing the rector apart to have to enforce the policy strictly, but adhering to masking and social distancing has kept us all well and allowed us to continue with attending services in person, as well as on FaceBook and YouTube.

It was wonderful just to be there. It felt awful not to be able to welcome the stranger, nor to greet one another with Christmas hugs and kisses. It’s been that kind of year.

We had a family dinner at our house, our first year using the French china and silver with the kids, but they are ready for it. We all had so much fun.

Christmas morning dawned with clear, cold skies and lots of sunshine. The family came over, we opened gifts and spent the day together, laughing, telling stories, eating French strawberry roll-ups with whipped cream, and just hanging out. Two of us took a long walk with the dog, while the rest engaged in warfare over some game with elaborate rules.

When everyone left, we cleaned up, put the furniture back where it belonged, and AdventureMan got out the bin of old sheets to cover some of our more vulnerable plants against the plunging temperatures to come tonight.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make sure our outdoor cat, Emile, will be warm and protected, which is harder than you might think when we have never been able to get closer than three feet from him. He will occasionally shelter in the covered litter box we have set up for him, with reflective blankets, and he quite loves the heated pad on the bench. We know the cold temperatures are hard on him. We’d love to get immunizations for him, get him fixed, bring him inside, but for now, none of that is possible, and he is so feral we are not sure it will ever be possible.

The sun is going down on one of the loveliest Christmas Days we have ever spent in Pensacola. We are so thankful we made the decision to downsize, and move to this house.

I couldn’t stop; I wanted to get everything in place before I collapsed. AdventureMan, busy with his new toy, a slide viewer, calls out “is there anything I can do to help you?”

I surprised him. I drink little. I called back “In about an hour, when the sun is setting, how about fixing me a Santa’s Helper?” (Champagne and Chambord) and he laughed and said that once the champagne is opened, you have to drink the whole bottle because you can’t really re-cork champagne, and I said I didn’t care, I just wanted one glass.

It has been a most excellent day. My daughter in law and I, on our long walk, discussed how while in many ways 2020 has been cataclysmic, for us, it has also carried many blessings. She said she thinks 2021 will be just another year, full of challenges and full of blessings. She has deep insights, deep wisdom and it is always worth listening to what she has to say.

I hope you have had a satisfying Christmas. I hope it ends a year full of challenges – and blessings. I wish you the same in the coming year, eyes to see, ears to hear, the wisdom to know when to act; when you can make things better and when you can only make things worse by acting. I wish upon us all the wisdom to know the difference.

December 25, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Birds, Christmas, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Sunsets | | 1 Comment

Tofino and the Heebie Jeebies

Today I woke up with the heebie jeebies, an unexplained restless anxiety with no cause that I am aware of. It happens; it happens sometimes when I don’t get enough sleep and this was one of those mornings when I woke up just before four a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, and sometimes it happens when some kind of atmospheric pressure shift takes place, and that has happened, too.

No more clear cool sunny days, the air is heavy with moisture and the clouds hang low over Pensacola.

As I read the news, CNN had an article about Tofino: Canada’s Bohemian Backwater and I thought “Isn’t that where AdventureMan and I went when we spent a couple weeks on Vancouver Island?” I checked this blog, and to my utter delight, came across several entries on our stay in Ucluelet, where we stayed when we visited Tofino.

(Sea Star at Terrace Beach Resort; Ucluelet)

I read through the entries. It was like taking a little escape all over again. My vapors lifted. I headed to the kitchen to start a big pot of baked beans and get started on my busy day. I don’t shop often these days, but I needed a birthday card and Target was stocked, better than I have seen it for a long time, with clothing in colors, designs and sizes that are perfect for my grandchildren. Woooo hoooo, such an inauspicious beginning and such a great turnaround to my day, thanks to “Bohemian” Tofino.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Hotels, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment