Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Has Your Wardrobe Changed?”

I was on my hands and knees, sandwiching two new quilts when AdventureMan seated himself near me and asked if he should take his grey-green pants on the upcoming trip. With all the baggage insecurity going around, we’ve made a decision to take a carry-on bag and one personal item, and skip checked luggage altogether.

Being the kind of person who used to over-study for tests, this is causing me some anxiety. I told him that the pants did not coordinate with enough of his wardrobe to make them useful, to stick with the tried-and-true khakis which used to be his staple, and his blue jeans, which will get him through some of the more rugged places.

More than once, we’ve had luggage go missing. It always caught up with us, but once – in Lusaka, we were headed out into the bush the next day and had only our traveling clothes and night clothes – and, thank God, some shoes. We grabbed a taxi and found a street mall with a combination grocery and department store, stocked with camo and green clothing from China which was more or less apropos. We couldn’t be choosy, and we were thankful to find something that would get us through until, we hoped, our baggage showed up. I still love the thick green socks I found; they have worn like iron.

But this is different, this is not the bush, it is a lengthy cruise, and I am trying to pack enough cool-weather clothing for cooler places, warm-weather clothing for places that are pretty hot even when they have cooled off, and clothes for dining in specialty restaurants with a dress code. I need clothes which will be modest. I need something for just hanging around. I’ve saved old swimsuits I can wear and leave behind, so that’s one thing solved.

“We’ve never lived in one place this long, ever,” AdventureMan continued, “and I have clothes I never wear anymore, things that have just become irrelevant. I keep thinking I need to get rid of more, like the pleated pants and the dress shirts, but it’s hard, I wonder if I might need them. Does that happen with you?”

I pause in my pinning and laugh. I have one dress in three different colors, another dress in two colors, and two jean skirts. I have a winter hooded dress in five colors. I am not a big shopper, so when I find something that works, I go with multiples.

Meanwhile, yes, AdventureMan, I have that other closet full, like you, with just-in-case clothes. I still have what is left of my evening dresses. I have clothing for in case I have a business meeting, or a funeral, things maybe I’ve worn once or twice since moving here. I have the odd specialty pieces, like Christmas clothing. When will I be ready to part with my cold-weather clothing, so beautiful and once so expensive?

I laugh and tell him all the above, and then tell him that of all the clothes I wear, I still have the clothes which were made for me in Qatar and Kuwait, copies of one particular Coldwater Creek linen dress which I had copied in both linen and cotton. I have three left. I’ve been wearing them for fifteen years, and they still look like new.

“I’ve taken them in,” I tell him because I’m smaller than I was when I was relatively sedentary in Kuwait. “And I’ve taken the hems up at least twice as I’ve gotten more used to being back in America. People tell me I look nice – they used to ask me if I was a missionary wife,” I added, and we both laughed. When you live in a different culture for a while, you become adapted to local ways. I remember how disconcerting it was in summers coming back to the USA and finding all the women shockingly and scantily dressed in their sleeveless dresses and shorts and T-shirts, even respectable women and I knew the change was in me and my perceptions, not in my culture.

I am thinking the backpack will be my Godsend. I am hoping I still have the strength and energy to run through Charles de Gaulle airport with the backpack on my back, lifting the carry-on if we need to run up or down stairs. I am thinking I can strap the backpack onto the carry-on handle in the straight places. I am thinking whatever I take will be enough; I am hoping it might even be a matter of discovering I have overpacked a little less than before.

It’s a curious mentality you develop when you’re nomadic. You become aware of so many possibilities, things that can go wrong, and things you might need, so you are always thinking “just in case.”

We have a backup plan. We know there is a Carrefour (large French supermarket) in walking distance to our hotel, so we can stock up on things we don’t have room to pack, or which we can’t carry on-board an airplane – manicure scissors, needles, sun protection, and some good bottles of dry red wine for our cabin. My list gives me a small illusion of control.

I take a deep breath and remind myself that this is our get-away, our escape, and that anxiety is counter-productive. We will be fine. Enough is enough, it will be a grand adventure.

October 15, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.

 

CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sedona, the Beautiful

We are up before sunrise (having our bodies still on Central Time has its advantages) and head for Red Rock Upper Drive, where we wait for the first rays of the sun in utter privacy, except for a family of hikers, with their hiking sticks, who shout ‘good morning!’ as they hike past our viewpoint and head on up the hill.

And here it is! Our first Sedona sunrise! (We didn’t get up for any of the others, LOL)

00SunriseInSedonaUpperLoopRedRockPark

The early light hits the red stone opposite:

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And every morning, there were balloons over Sedona while it was still cool in the mornings.

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It is still chilly in the early morning, but Spring has begun. By noon, it will be in the 70’s (F).

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This was one of my favorite formations, in Boynton Canyon, near the hiking trails. It reminds me of Petra, and our camel treks into the lands of Lawrence of Arabia.

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Lots of hiking trails here:

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This totally cracked us up. We know primitive roads. We went over a road in Tunisia that Montgomery used when he flanked Rommel’s forces. THAT was primitive. I was outside the car, guiding AdventureMan over ruts as deep as our Volkswagon Bus. These roads are not paved, but they are passable. Primitive is in the eye of the beholder.

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This is the only purple cactus I ever saw. Clearly it is related to the prickly pear, if it is not a prickly pear. I wonder if it is like hydrangeas; that you can change the color of the prickly pear by adding iron or something else to the soil? This was at an entrance to a new housing development that is just beginning; the houses will have pretty spectacular views.

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Sedona is beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see. Of all the beautiful places, Crystal Creek park was my favorite. It had all the elements – red rock formations, a rippling creek, and a hungry heron. It also reaches a powerful vortex, at the base of Cathedral Rock, and we hiked the trail, took photos, enjoyed a lot of positive energy, but I don’t think we were sensitive to the vortex.

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Red Rock State Park is another of those wonderful parks created and maintained with public funding, and manned by happy volunteers. We met several here, this wonderful guide, who gave us a first rate explanation of all the geological formations, and volunteers who ran the gift shop and museum/gallery.

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Sedona has stolen our hearts 🙂

April 22, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Environment, Jordan, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Spiritual, sunrise series, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Warden Message and More

Fresh in the mailbox from the Embassy comes this warning:

Embassy of the United States of America
Kuwait City, Kuwait
May 4, 2008

MEMORANDUM

To: All American Wardens

From: Consular Section

Subject: Warden Notice 2008 – 9

Please circulate the following message without additions or omissions
immediately to all American citizens within your area of responsibility.

Begin text.

The Minister of Interior, Sheikh Jaber Khaled Al-Sabah, has issued a Ministerial
decree that prohibits drivers in Kuwait from using a cellular phone while
driving a vehicle. This decree (number 76/81) is intended to keep drivers in
Kuwait focused on driving and not talking on a cellular phone. This decree is
consistent with what is going on in our own country in many states that are
enacting laws prohibiting cellular phone use while driving.

This decree goes into effect on May 1, 2008. As a practical matter, drivers
should not be talking on cellular phones while driving at any time. They should
find a safe place to pull over and stop their vehicles before talking on the
cellular phone. Keep in mind this new decree is an amendment to a previous law
already in effect that includes eating or drinking while driving a vehicle an
offense in Kuwait.

You should expect some increased vigilance on the roads by police in the coming
weeks to enforce this decree. Our information from MOI is the fine for use of a
cellular phone while driving will be 15KD.

Comments: There is already a law in effect that bans eating and drinking while driving??? Who knew?

Waaaaaayyyyy back in February, a chart started circulating, said to be a fraud, that pretty accurately defined the new laws in effect 1 May. Looking at it now, I am betting it is a list of new laws that went into effect in JORDAN, and Kuwait used it as a template for changes in Kuwait. I know new traffic laws – very similar – went into effect in Syria on May 1st.

I can’t help wondering how all this came about, but most of all, for your protection and mine, I am thankful for these new laws and the commitment on the part of the government to enforce these laws equally, across the board. The statement we keep hearing is “no one is above the law.” Wooo Hooo, Kuwait!

The only funny thing is – the chart I have seen most often in Kuwait says the fine is KD 50 for driving while on a cell phone. This message says KD 15. The announcement in the paper said KD 5. If anyone out there has been charged for taking on a cell phone while driving, will you let us know what the real fine is?

Is the ban being enforced equally against all drivers? The Kuwait Times says 200 people were charged on the first day of enforcement.

May 4, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | , , , , | 3 Comments