415: My Country, T’is of Thee

I am American. I am  fiercely proud of my country, even when she is led by idiots. Americans give of their time, money and goods to the rest of the world, unlike many others. American politicians think they are the world’s policemen – and I already mentioned even when she is run by idiots. Proof positive. CHINA now has the world’s largest standing military – let THEM do the world policing for a few decades, and reap the un-thanks for doing it that we have harvested over the last double-handful of decades. It is time for America to close its doors and take care of its own – but first, she needs to shake a lot of illegal fleas off her back – back to their countries of origin, to get in line with the others who are filling out forms, paying fees, standing in line and waiting patiently (or less-than-patiently, as the case may be) to become American citizens legally.

Doing anything illegally is not how it is done, and the fact that America is being run by idiots right now does not change or mitigate or alter that truth in any way. I am not sure how it is possible to be so fiercely proud of my country and so completely, utterly and totally ashamed of her leadership – but there it is.

414: Life Uncertain

No one is promised a long and fulfilling life

Even though that is the expectation and the goal.

A twenty-nine year old teacher at my school

Died this weekend unexpectedly, throwing me

for a complete and total loop of uncertainty:

knowing that I am not promised tomorrow,

and knowing that I was expecting tomorrow anyway.

That is not a given, it is a gift

that one day, won’t be given

and I won’t know when that day will be.

I can prepare, and pray, and search my heart and do the best that I can do

and still….

one day, I won’t get my daily gift.

Love while you can and be prepared

for the day the gift does not come for you.

413: Barbados

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I adore Barbados. It is the Caribbean island that is located furthest east – or the closest one to Africa and Europe, even though it is closer to South America than either one of those. Being so far east, most hurricanes give it a pass.

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As a result of location (and its geography and climate, which made it ideal for growing sugar cane and making RUM), it spent quite some time as a British colony before peacefully earning its sovereignty as a nation. It’s a pretty small nation.  You can drive from one side of the island to the other in about a half hour, even with traffic. It is a longer island than it is wide, though – going end-to-end, long wise, would take, oh, maybe an hour and a half, with traffic.

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The interesting part of the history of Barbados, to me as an American, is that our first president, George Washington, took his only international trip there. While he was there, he got ill with smallpox, an often deadly disease during his day. He survived, of course, and therefore had immunity from smallpox during the American Revolution, especially during the winter encampment at Valley Forge. This meant the American military leadership suffered no disruptions when smallpox broke out – GW was immune.

The fun part of Barbados is that, being British, they all drive on the other side of the road. Note that I did not say the WRONG side of the road, BUT – I did nearly meet my maker there when I looked in the incorrect direction to check for traffic before stepping off the curb, and a BUS whiffled by a few millimeters from my nose. I needed to change my pants, and I had campmeeting right there on the sidewalk. I might have even spoken in tongues.

Near-death experiences aside (!!!), our trip was offered on http://www.travelzoo.com, a fantastic Website that scours thousands of tour companies looking for what they think are the best 20 deals for the week , and they send a Wednesday e-mail to subscribers (it is free) listing the great deals on trips world-wide. Our Barbados deal came with round-trip airfare from the USA, six nights at a beach-front resort that included a full breakfast every morning (YUMMY, too!), with pool, AC, and a kitchenette in the room, PLUS a 100 dollar gift card good nearly everywhere on the island (bought lots of gifts for friends and family) and a fifty-dollar voucher for a seafood meal at the weekly weekend grill-seafood-party place where everybody meets to have fun and pig out. All of this was less than 600 USD a person, and they STILL run deals like that on travelzoo years later. I adore travelzoo, too!

I had grilled fish at the weekend party place, and it was then (and even now) the best fish I have ever eaten. Bar none. And Barbados has something else to gush over…Mount Gay rum. WOW. WOW. WOW. They have been making rum on Barbados for several centuries, and it SHOWS.

I had a fabulous time there – even the fact that they bury their dead standing up (!!!!) did not freak me out too badly. There is an interesting Barbados burial site story in this group of top ten: http://listverse.com/2012/10/04/top-10-creepiest-graves/

I plan to return, if God lets me live long enough!!

For more background on GW in Barbados: http://www.coedu.usf.edu/culture/Story/Story_Barbados_Washington.htm

412: Quasimodo in Female Form

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Some days, that’s me. Some days, that’s you (female or not). Sometimes we all fall off the normal cliff, straight into crazy.

What triggers that Hulkish transformation varies person-to-person. My trigger is probably not your trigger. I know myself well enough to realize that I have more than one trigger. You probably do, too.

We all like to think we are rational, logical, considerate people. Yeah, right. On a good day, maybe.

There are some parts of my own psyche that I keep crammed down deep into a box in a private corner of my personality, with three triple-locked chains wrapped tightly around the box. I am always horribly upset at myself every single time that box gets opened, whether it is opened by me, or by someone else pulling one of my triggers. I don’t like those parts of myself. Those are not the parts I look at in the mirror. Those are not the parts I list on my resume, under the category of “strengths.” But…

Those parts are still me, until I can conquer them and get them under my conscious control, and even then, they are still part of me…even then. That explains the triple-locked chains. I am working on it.

I can only hope you are working on yours.

411: To Adopt, or Not to Adopt?

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I am a sucker for a mewling kitten. I know this from bitter experience. By the time I got a job in Panama, and we were packing up to move from Morocco, I needed to find homes for ELEVEN cats. I managed all but three by the time it was time to go, so at least I only had to book flights for three pets to Panama, and let’s not discuss how much that cost.

The trouble is, once I got to Panama, it took less than a year (only ONE kitten season), to acquire two more. The fact that two of my beloved fur children went to heaven during that time, so that the total number of fur babies remained constant at three, is neither here nor there. The question remains, should I adopt, knowing I will not be able to resist anyway, and also knowing that I will not be staying in this country for another 15 years or so, which is usually how long a cat lives, on average?

It is enough that they get several good years with me and then get another home, as good as I can provide for them? That is certainly better than life on the street would have treated them, because I take them to the vet, and neuter them, and care for them. Still, I know that changing families can be stressful for both people and pets, so am I being fair or unfair to them, loving them for a time, and sharing them with some other good family when I have to go?

 

410: Moving On

Well – Panama is not going to be the retirement country. I will start filling out applications soon, in the fall, for a new school in another country. Perhaps Nicaragua, perhaps Ecuador, perhaps Bolivia or Brazil – who knows?

And why, some of you may be thinking, are you dissatisfied with Panama, the world’s top-touted haven for retiring Americans? I have discovered that wherever the world is beating a path, is very probably NOT the place that I am wanting to go. That has proven to be the case with Panama. I think the nicest thing I can say about Panamanians is that they have a very relaxed attitude towards customer service – which I would not have believed of a people who had such a close association with Americans for the last 150 years. The Panama idea of customer service is akin to that old joke about the bull servicing the cows – THAT kind of customer service. After a while, you just sort of expect to get screwed – NOT my idea of a good time. An author I am currently reading said that Panamanians have an “immature” work ethic. Fairly accurate, and kindly put.

Plus, all that crap you read about Panama being so cheap – WHERE do these people making these claims come from – freaking California, or New York City? Only those idiots could believe Panama is cheap, and you already know they are stupid for continuing to live in such expensive places to begin with (not to mention the hurricanes and the earthquakes, for crying out loud). Taking their word for inexpensive living is ridiculous to begin with, seeing that they have no basis in reality from the word go.

The only catch, and the ONE thing that might keep me here in Panama for another year, is the actual process of moving again. Moving is not a whole lot of fun and games in any location, and moving country is that whole ugly process, times ten to the nth power. Meh.

Still, that is what being an international worker is all about – seeing and “trying on for size” new places and new cultures. Besides, my Spanish is actually getting a little better. I am sure I sound funny, but I am generally understood – the whole point of communication in the first place. I am far better at Spanish than I EVER was at French (ugh) or Arabic (ditto).

I just need to find homes for two sweet cats – another whole issue.

 

 

 

409: Reflections

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Being a reflective person is both a gift and a curse. See, reflective people actually think, analyze and consider their lives, how things are going, have gone and will go (not necessarily in that order), the world, other people, sex, politics and religion, and myriad other topics, both at random and deliberately seeking to understand, make connections with all those dots, and trying to make life better not only for me, myself, but for others I care about, those I don’t particularly care about, and the universe in general. So. How is this both a gift and a curse, you might ask? Ask or not, here goes:

People who are not reflective just live their lives in the moment and don’t bother a single brain cell (of the few they have operational) with any thoughts of how they might have avoided past problems so that future problems are eased, much less whether their roles in various situations contributed for the better (or not), and the thorny (thornLESS, for them) area of self-improvement. You know, like those women who are more than 150% overweight who post memes about ‘like me the way I am,’ with never a thought on actually imposing some self-discipline to do other activities/hobbies available in life besides gastronomy – leading to an early death due to the health complications of obesity. Yeah, live in the moment – the few of them you are ensuring for yourself.

Now, stop taking off your shoe to hurl at me. I know perfectly well that you can live a disciplined, ordered, reflective life, and accidentally step off the curb and meet your maker at the hands of a bus. Nobody is guaranteed any particular life span. However, to continue to do things proven to hasten your meeting with God (once you actually know what those things are) is demonstrating not a whole lot of self-preservation instinct. Living in the moment. Must be nice to be so oblivious.

Of course, humans rationalize everything – there are some who say that if Heaven is supposed to be perfect, why on Earth would anybody want to live a longer time on Earth? Yeah – that is exactly the motivation for all those Islamic suicide bombers and terrorists, too, and I certainly do NOT want to align myself with THAT sort of thinking, even if the theology is sound.

Still, there is something to be said for the brainless sort of person who is just totally laid back, dude. I just don’t think I will be that sort of person until about 15 minutes before I die. Until then, I will continue to live reflectively, self-improving to the best of my ability on this journey called life.