An Immigrant Heritage

If I’m given the chance, I’m unsure if I would vote for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for president. I don’t know enough about his politics. They seem deeply conservative, and I’m annoyingly moderate.

He seemed to say some stuff many here in the U.K. disagreed strongly with when he visited recently. However, I am willing to hear more from him. I’m always willing to listen to every reasonable candidate of any major party, and as a governor that by definition makes him “reasonable.”

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

A separate – and disturbing – issue has been the mockery directed at him on social media (and even in some U.S. mainstream media) for his apparently not being “Indian enough” or even attempting to be “white.”

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In Your U.S. Passport: Place Of Birth

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 2002 law compelling the Department of State to allow U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to have their passport note their place of birth as Israel. Although President Bush had signed that bill into law, he refused to carry it out. President Obama continued that refusal.

The Constitution states (in Article II, Section 3) that the President “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” From those words it has essentially evolved that it is not Congress – the legislative branch – that is mostly responsible for carrying out foreign affairs. The voice of the country diplomatically comes mostly from the President – meaning from the executive branch.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a globe with borders.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a globe with borders.

Sometimes presidents sign contentious bills into law simply to direct a matter into the courts for constitutional clarification. Apparently some 50,000 U.S. citizens have been born in Jerusalem. After that 2002 law was allowed on the books, birth there and the passport terminology for its location was almost certainly going to end up in court when the executive branch State Department, following the policy course set by both Bush and Obama, naturally declined an “Israel” request by someone who was also willing to sue over it.

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At The Irish Frontier

It happened again. Previously it was at Heathrow. This time, it was Dublin Airport.

Arriving on Saturday morning, my passport’s older stamps made it clear immediately to the Irish border agent that I travel to Ireland pretty regularly. After we cleared up that I live in the United Kingdom and not in the U.S.A., he asked me my occupation. They don’t always do that.

Free Stock Photo: Flag of Ireland.
Free Stock Photo: Flag of Ireland.

I chuckled inside: I knew my answer would get a reaction. Whenever over the years I’d said “university administration,” no one ever raised an eyebrow. However, saying you write novels will nearly always – after the surprise has worn off – lead to some good-natured conversation.

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A Stranger’s Funeral

Last weekend, at Mass the priest had announced a funeral service would take place on Wednesday at lunchtime. He also explained that the deceased would have only a small contingent of family and friends present. What really caught my attention was when he observed if any of us in the faceless congregation could make it, it would be appreciated.

When he said that, I made a mental note: if I could, I would be there. I awoke yesterday morning and remembered it. Working at home as I do, there was really no excuse not to go.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cross.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a cross.

As you may know, Roman Catholicism and I have had a bit of a “complicated” relationship over the years, and my books reflect that. I packed the novel-writing away for all of an hour or so. As I closed the front door, I reflected on the fact that I could not recall ever before having been to the funeral Mass for a total stranger.

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Sneak Peek: Relaxing (Too Much?) Over Beers

“James” had not been a international traveller. He had never been to Europe until he visited France for the first time at age 29. Subsequently, he would find himself in various encounters with other Americans in Europe.

One example was a retired soldier who truly inspired him:

“I parachuted near here on D-Day,” he announced.

Another was an expat who left him feeling puzzled:

“We’re from L.A.,” she said. “My husband works in Paris, and we’re on vacation. He had to go to the States for a time by himself. I thought the boys would like to see Normandy.” She concluded as one of her sons gestured restlessly that he wanted to sit on her lap and she waved a hand trying to dissuade him.

And another was a study abroad student who turned him off totally:

“Natalie,” James interrupted in turn, “this Amber isn’t really an average American girl, trust me. She sounds demented.”

He hadn’t really made an American friend while he was abroad.

Time for another “sneak peek.”

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Carded At The Border

Having enrolled online before we went to the U.S., upon returning to the U.K. on Saturday I was allowed to join the U.K.’s Registered Traveller scheme. It enables some non-EU passport holders to enter the country through immigration e-gates at international U.K. airports, as well as the Paris, Brussels and Lille Eurostar terminals. No more filling out a landing card.

To do so, I had to mention it to the young woman border agent – on seeing her I thought she rather resembled singer Leona Lewis – who happened to be processing me. She knew what I meant immediately. She followed by asking for my invitation letter.

I handed it over. She scrutinized it and questioned me further. I passed muster. She concluded the formalities, “That’s fine. Let me get you a membership card.”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a UK flag
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a UK flag

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No Plans To Evacuate (At This Time)

In 2006, the U.S. State Department helped organize a mass evacuation of U.S. citizens from Lebanon during the Hezbollah-Israel war. However, currently, there seems no similar urgency on the part of the U.S. to evacuate a far smaller number of U.S. citizens from Yemen. Lawsuits have even been filed challenging the government’s not doing so.

As of April 11, this is what the Department of State has to say:

Yemen Crisis Update, April 11, 2015
Yemen Crisis Update, April 11, 2015

The page continues in sharing how Americans can perhaps leave courtesy of “third party” assistance, such as India’s:

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A Cutting Experience

Needing a haircut, I decided to take an hour or two away from the computer yesterday morning. We’re still new in the area, and I ventured into a barber shop I’d been to once before. My cutter this time was not who’d cut my hair previously, but I recalled he had been there trimming someone else the last time.

He seemed around my age. Initially he was soft-spoken and I detected “oddly” accented. Also appearing to be somewhat (in my book, as part that heritage myself) “Mediterranean,” I suspected he might not be from these shores.

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Americans Make The Movies (And At Times, We’re Really Sorry)

I’ve spent much of the last 25 years often as the (only) American in the room – be it with family, friends, or workplace colleagues. As you know if you visit here regularly, I’ve now also spent several years writing novels in which I’ve created characters sourced from some of my (especially early) “travel” and “expat” experiences. They are full of types of people I’ve encountered, and even cherished, and what I’ve seen here in Europe.

I can’t begin to list the nationalities I’ve met in just London: nearly every European country; Africans from Egypt and Morocco all the way to South Africa; Afro-Caribbeans; Middle Easterners; Indians; Chinese; other Asians; Canadians; Australians; New Zealanders; Brazilians; even a few other South Americans. And all the religions: not only Christians of course, but Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. It feels like a far more “diverse” city than even New York.

I will always remember a Pakistani student, right after 9/11. He offered me personal condolences. He flat out called the attackers “terrorists”: no qualifications, no hesitation.

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