Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Stalwart Falls

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“Are you catching colds?” our friend asked as the funeral ended.

“No, no, I said, funerals just find us very vulnerable, and we have to deal with losses, past, present . . . and future. We have an ongoing fight over who is going to bury whom.”

We did not know the man well who had died, but we knew him as a stalwart. He was a greeter and usher at our service, and he was only rarely ever not there. He served the church. He was always there. I had asked his wife to help me with tickets, and she had laughed and said “of course, I’ll be there because my husband will be there, and if you need me just holler.”

They weren’t there. It made me uneasy, it nagged at me. I didn’t need her, but I missed her, and as I said – they are ALWAYS there. Sometimes it’s what is missing that catches your attention. It caught mine.

When I learned her husband had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, just as the Antique Fair was starting, it came almost as a physical blow. It’s not that I knew him that well. It’s that his presence at the church was something we took for granted, he was stalwart. You could count on him. We attended out of respect, respect for him, support for his wife.

And I know that the two of them spend (spent) as much time together as AdventureMan and I do. I don’t like to think that it could happen to me, that I could be suddenly left. AdventureMan was a military man, he would often leave, all these years, and he might tell me where he was going but I never knew for sure where he was going. We had a code to use if he was lying, but although he never used the code, I know there are times he lied, all for that bitch, national security. Yes, yes, I know, strong language from Intlxpatr, but strong times call for strong language. We both knew that there were times when there was a risk he wouldn’t come back.

We didn’t have to deal with death a lot in our life abroad. Of course, in the military, everyone is young. In all the countries where we worked in the Gulf, there were upper age limits – people retired and people left; you can’t live out your years in Qatar or Kuwait, there are laws against it. You can’t even be buried there without special permission. We learned to deal with the losses of people coming into our lives and leaving, but we didn’t have to deal with the great finality of death. We’re learning.

AdventureMan insists he is going to go first. I am tough in a lot of ways, but I don’t know that I am tough enough to go through his funeral. The very thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.

He tells me not to worry. He wants a Viking funeral; he wants to be sent out in a kerosene soaked ship and for archers to set it on fire as it sails off, disintegrating in flames. Isn’t going to happen, AdventureMan, but if it did, I might give some thought to pitching myself on the ship as it departs . . . otherwise, I’m afraid I might live the rest of my life as the one of the walking wounded.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Kuwait, Lies, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

‘Putin’ On The Ritz in Moscow, LLOOOLLL

Oh Hayfa, this is one of the best flash-mobs ever! I wanted to be there!

I always thought Kuwait was ripe for a flash mob at the junction where the Fintas Expressway joined 6th Ring road. Never had the courage; even though you’d have to wait 6 – 9 light changes to get through. Figured the morality police would have me up on charges, LOL.

Best Best eveh!

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Humor, Kuwait | | 1 Comment

“Extinct” Shark Found in Kuwait Fish Market

January was always the best month to visit the fish souk in Kuwait; cooler weather = less smell. One of my best memories is my friend who was living in Teheran going through with her camera, taking photos of every fish to show her husband – they didn’t get a lot of fresh seafood, and they missed it so much. It was January, it was cold – but so much less fish-y smelling than in July :-)

This is from AOL News:

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A shark species previously thought to have been extinct was reportedly found in a fish market in the Middle East.

This is the smoothtooth blacktip shark, and the last time anyone ever reported seeing one was was in 1902 in Yemen. Scientists eventually labeled it extinct, or vulnerable to extinction in the 1980’s.

Then in 2008, the Shark Conservation Society took a trip to a fish market in Kuwait. They were looking at sharks and noticed one looked ‘very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.’ So of course they decided to investigate.

Further analysis confirmed it was in fact the smoothtooth blacktip shark.

But there’s more: Recent studies of Middle Eastern fish markets also counted as many as 47 more have been spotted.

Now this doesn’t mean the species is necessarily thriving, but it does mean scientists have a greater chances at learning more about the shark and possibly even ways to save the species.

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Cooking, Environment, ExPat Life, Iran, Kuwait, Living Conditions | Leave a comment

Kuwait Posts New Speed Limits Effective NOW

From the Kuwait Times:

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UPDATE:

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January 2, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions | , , | 4 Comments

Kuwait: Operation Hope Keeps on Giving

Brava, Sheryl Mairza, brava for the good work you are doing that makes so much difference in so many lives. May God bless the work of your hands! From the Kuwait Times:

Spreading cheer in the land

Sheryll Mairza

Operation Hope, an NGO established by Sheryll Mairza, is touching people’s lives throughout the world. A grassroots humanitarian outreach that is motivated by compassion to alleviate suffering in Kuwait, Operation Hope serves those in the greatest of need through the support of the local and international community. Since 2005, more than 50,000 bags of winter clothing have been distributed to impoverished workers in Kuwait.

Operation Hope is now slowly reaching out to people around the world through organizations and individuals. After the recent typhoon in the Philippines, Operation Hope contributed relief goods for the affected areas.

“For the Philippines, we contributed some of our collected goods when we were approached by organizations and individuals to help them in their relief efforts. We have a lot of gently used clothes ready to be sold, but we gave it to third party organizations that shipped it to typhoon victims in Philippines,” Mairza said.

Another instance where Operation Hope reached out to people of other countries was through a proxy. Mairza said a Gambian woman who wanted to stock her library with books had her wish fulfilled. “We were approached by a woman from Gambia who had started a drive to fill her local library with books so she could help boost the literacy rate of adults there. We have an abundance of books here, so we helped her and shipped the books to Gambia,” she said.

According to Mairza, Operation Hope has a very limited budget and people to do international relief efforts, but through third party organizations, they can reach people on the other sides of the world. “We cooperate with people in areas where need arises. If people there want to start volunteering work similar to Operation Hope, they can do so. I allow the use of Operation Hope’s plans,” she mentioned. “I don’t personally want to go to different places to set up Operation Hope. If volunteers like to spread it in other countries and set up their own NGOs, they can take my blueprint and apply it there. They can be founders of Operation Hope for example in Malaysia, Indonesia or Philippines. I will be happy to share the formula I used to set up this NGO,” she said.

Creative Ways

Mairza admitted Operation Hope was affected by the global financial crisis of 2008, which saw a great decline of support from donors. “When it became evident that support was dwindling, we came up with more creative ways to keep the funds flowing. We started Christmas bazaars and sold used clothes and kitchenware to raised funds. With the support of locals and expats, we opened a boutique inside a compound of my in-laws’ house to sell gently used household items.

The need is great and extended beyond winter, so we organized more frequent bazaars. A vast place in my in-laws’ property in Rumaithiya was utilized to display the products. We received so many donations – from toys to clothes to household things – that we didn’t know where to put them; even the embassy shelters had no place to store all of it, so I thought of selling these items,” Mairza said. “With the help of the British Society of Kuwait, we renovated the facility and opened it on January 12, 2012. We are generating income from it and we distribute it in the form of tickets for the repatriation of runaway maids. We also regularly send toiletries and sanitary products for women in the shelters of the Ethiopia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka embassies,” she explained.

A few months ago, according to Mairza, an Ethiopian woman fell from the third floor of her employer’s house, and her leg was amputated. “Operation Hope provided her with a prosthetic leg, and we helped her rehabilitation,” she noted.

Asked on how he she was able to monitor and control the flow of donations to Operation Hope, she said, “We don’t keep a substantial amount of money in the bank. Whatever we get we give it right away to the needy. We need donations to flow regularly to carry out the work at Operation Hope. We are also lucky to have the support of a woman from the Behbehani family, who has a heart of gold. She is always ready to contribute; always ready to support us financially and emotionally and with words of encouragement. She is a shining star, and one of the Kuwaitis who have been contributing to our cause. This woman calls us and asks what else she can contribute. She is very passionate about helping and serving others

Charity Work
The need for a charity work is great according to Mairza. Apart from individuals and organizations, she is also thankful for the support given to her by educational institutions in Kuwait. “I get phenomenal support from schools. They are very helpful and volunteer time and effort to collect things,” she added.

Mairza dreams a time will come when Operation Hope is no longer needed. “I know this dream is very idealistic, that the gap between the haves and have-nots will narrow,” she said. Realistically, her vision is to continue moving forward to raise the younger generation to be aware of realities and look beyond their personal goals and ambitions.

“I want them to see the persons to their left and right, because at the end of the day, we are brothers and sisters. We come from different places, but we are all brothers and sisters. We need to continue to strive to support and help one another,” she mentioned.

In May 2013, she was presented with $10,000, an award she received for inspiring women of the GCC, sponsored by Philadelphia cheese. “It was a very amazing award which I used to add to our winter program. It was a huge blessing for us,” she concluded.

By Ben Garcia

December 26, 2013 Posted by | Biography, Character, Charity, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | , | Leave a comment

Pensacola, A Very Middle Eastern City

We had no idea when we left home this morning that when we got to the school, all the parking spaces would be full and it would be almost impossible to find a seat in the auditorium. It was only 8:45 in the morning, and it was only the Pre-K 3’s who would be performing.

 

We had forgotten – Pensacola is like the Middle East. Family first, and time off for a Christmas Pageant – well, of course!

Pensacola is not like Seattle, or any of the larger cities. While spread out, it is only around 50,000 people, and the worst traffic is never that bad, not if you’ve driven in Amman, or Seattle, or Qatar, or Kuwait. You may not have to stop while the shepherd and his sheep cross the road, but you can get to downtown Pensacola from almost any part of the city in under 15 minutes.

 

The parking spaces were GONE. The auditorium was PACKED. Friends were greeting friends, all dressed in the reds and greens of Christmas time.

 

And then the children marched in, and it was barely controlled bedlam as these young stars spotted parents and grandparents and yelled “Grandpa! Here I am!” and angels and sheep and shepherds and wise men all were carefully lined up to sing their songs and tell us the Christmas Story as only 3-years-old can. Oh, it was not to be missed!

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We love it that Pensacola is not a city with a lot of rushing about; people have time to go see their children in the school Christmas pageant, that the teachers take the time to herd these cats so that they can sing the songs, do the motions, and probably, if asked, give a rough outline of what happened on that first Christmas.

It’s all a matter of priorities. Pensacola, like our homes in the Middle East, places a high value on family activities, family time, and a balance of work and family where family time has a cherished place.

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Community, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Jordan, Kuwait, Middle East, Pensacola, Qatar, Values | | 3 Comments

Kuwait Drivers Without Drivers’ Licenses

This disturbing piece of writing is from the Arab Times. Disturbing not just because Kuwaiti citizens are driving without licenses – that’s nothing new – but also because some editor let this piece run without some badly needed editing. Ayb!

 

Some Citizens Said Driving For Many Years ‘Without’ License

 

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 23: Intensive traffic campaign the Interior Ministry’s Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs embarks upon since the past few months uncovered that some Kuwaitis have been driving for many years without license, reports Al-Watan Arabic daily. A source disclosed that a Kuwaiti in his 40s’ recently applied for driver’s license at a driving test section. The added the act is strange in Kuwait since almost every Kuwaiti goes for driving test at the age of 18. Other driving test sections have received similar applications from many Kuwaitis in their late 20s and 30s. Some of the concerned citizens changed their minds to apply for driver’s license after they were caught by traffic officers. He also said many others were caught driving

 

“The added the act is strange . . . ”   Gibberish. And what about that lead sentence?

November 24, 2013 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Just Bad English, Kuwait, Language, Living Conditions, Safety, Social Issues | 3 Comments

Most MERS Cases Undetected, report shows

Interesting, Qatar announced today their fourth case – this article says they have had eight confirmed cases and one Tunisian who visited Qatar and came down with MERS. From the Gulf Times:

 

Most Mers cases going undetected, study says

Researchers estimate that for each case that has been found, five to 10 may have been missed

  • Gulf News Report
  • Published: 21:32 November 16, 2013

  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • The Mers coronavirus typically causes severe respiratory problems.

Dubai: A new analysis of Mers case data suggests a large number of infections are going undetected, with the researchers estimating that for each case that has been found, five to 10 may have been missed.

The scientific paper, from European researchers, further suggests that transmission of the Mers virus is occurring at a rate close to the threshold where it would be considered able to pass from person to person in a sustained manner. In fact, the authors say based on the available evidence they cannot rule out the possibility that person-to-person spread is the main mode of transmission of the virus at this point. The other option, they say, is that the virus is spreading via a combination of animal-to-person and then person-to-person transfer.

“We conclude that a slow growing epidemic is underway, but current epidemiological data do not allow us to determine whether transmission is self-sustaining in man,” they write in the article, published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The scientists are from Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh and the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The work was done with funding from Britain’s Medical Research Council, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other agencies.

To date there have been roughly 155 confirmed MERS cases and at least 65 of those infections have ended in death. All the cases trace back to infections in a handful of countries on the Arabian Peninsula: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

On Wednesday, Kuwait reported its second case Mers coronavirus for a man who just returned from abroad, the health ministry said.

In a statement cited by the official KUNA agency, the ministry said the new case was for a 52-year-old Kuwaiti national who was in a stable condition. Media reports said the patient had just returned from a visit to neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The announcement came hours after Kuwait reported its first case of the Mers virus for a 47-year-old Kuwaiti man who was in critical condition.

Last weekend, Omani officials widened health checks following the country’s first death blamed on Mers. Officials looked for any sign of the virus in people who came in contact with a dead 68-year-old man.

Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling, said that while publicly available data are spotty, calculations based on what is known support the argument that only a small proportion of cases are coming to light.

“At the very least there probably have been double that number of infections,” Ferguson said in an interview.

“But it’s considerably more likely in my view that we’ve had maybe five to 10 times more human infections than that. And symptomatic human infections, I would say.”

He stressed that he and his co-authors are not suggesting that the Mers-affected countries are hiding cases, just that the way they are looking for them is not capturing the full scope of the outbreak.

Experts have previously expressed concern that surveillance systems that look only for Mers among people who seek hospital care will only catch the sickest of cases. And in at least one affected country, Saudi Arabia, the criteria for who gets tested for Mers may be less inclusive still.

Dr. Anthony Mounts, the World Health Organisation’s leading expert on Mers, said the agency has been told Saudi health officials are focusing their testing on people with Mers-like symptoms who are gravely ill.

“I know that their surveillance strategy is focused on intensive care patients,” Mounts said in an interview. “That’s the focus of their surveillance strategy.”

Mounts agrees that many Mers cases are probably being missed. But he noted that some other affected countries are taking a different testing approach. For instance, Qatar has tested over 3,000 specimens over the past six months, looking for Mers in people who seek medical help for influenza-like illness, and all people diagnosed with pneumonia.

“They really are testing a lot of people and they’re not seeing this,” he said.

Eight Qataris have been diagnosed with MERS since the virus hit the global public health radar in September 2012. As well a man from Tunisia who contracted the virus is believed to have been infected on a visit to Qatar.

Because of the scarcity of publicly available data, Ferguson and his colleagues used some different approaches to try to estimate the state of the outbreak. He acknowledged that their calculations are estimates, and said of the analysis “it’s not definitive … but I still think it’s informative at least.”

“I would say we’re doing the best we can with the data available to try and address a couple of key questions,” he said. “We would certainly be in a better position if there was fuller [case] reporting.”

A commentary by Canadian epidemiologists lauded the team for the techniques they used to reach their conclusions. Dr. David Fisman and Ashleigh Tuite, who are with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana Faculty of Public Health, also hinted that the often-seen instinct to withhold information during infectious disease outbreaks may be futile in the era of computational biology.

“The ability to draw inferences about diseases from non-traditional data sources will hopefully both provide alternate means of characterising epidemics and diminish the temptation towards non-transparency in traditional public health authorities,” they wrote.

One of the questions Ferguson and his co-authors tried to answer relates to whether the virus is spreading person to person at this point or whether what is being seen are infections from an animal source that is igniting limited spread in people.

To do that, they tried to calculate what is known as the virus’s reproductive number — the number of people, on average, an infected person would pass the virus on to. For a virus to sustain itself in people, each person needs to infect at least one other person, a reproductive number of 1.0 or greater.

They could not come to a definitive conclusion, saying with what is known, either scenario is possible. But they said the evidence suggests the reproductive number is near 1.0.

— with inputs from agencies

November 24, 2013 Posted by | Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Work Related Issues | , | Leave a comment

Kuwait to Limit Auto Ownership to Solve Traffic Gridlock?

Limit Kuwaitis to two cars per citizen?

Limiting expats to one car will also limit the people willing to take contracts in Kuwait, and family willing to accompany them . . .

Or is this another of those unenforceable laws to put on the books?

Restrictions on automobile ownership in the offing – Bid to solve traffic problems

KUWAIT: According to a report published yesterday in a local Arab daily, the government is planning to limit the number of vehicles a person is allowed to own at two for citizens and one for expats. This proposal may be announced at the beginning of the next year. The proposal also calls to stop renewing registrations of old vehicles without specifying the period, which could be between 8 to 12 years.

The Ministry of Interior hasn’t received any official instructions to take action in this matter. “We are an executive department that applies the law and executes decisions. It’s possible that there are committees at the ministry studying this proposal, but we are not aware of it yet,” Maj Naser Buslaib, Head of the Media Department at the Ministry of Interior told Kuwait Times. Economic analyst Hajaj Bukhadour thinks such a proposal is not realistic and doesn’t believe it may be applied. “Such rules do not exist in any country, even the poor ones or those suffering from traffic woes. Through such unreal proposals, the officials in charge are trying to shirk the problem.

The officials pin the blame and responsibility on expats as they are not qualified and creative enough to find a solution for the traffic problem in Kuwait,” he pointed out. Development and improvement in administration is important to solve major problems. “We should improve the performance of the officials who are in charge of issuing decisions.

There are mistakes in any institution, but we need to improve and this is a great part of solving the problem. Such a proposal proves that officials in charge at the Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Interior and other institutions didn’t study the problem correctly,” stressed Bukhadour. There are various solutions according to him.

“Different public institutions should cooperate to organize the movement of people in streets through different timings of public employees, schools and others. Also, the government should provide modern and clean public transportation such as a metro or new modern buses that will respect the time and have stops near residential areas that are shaded to suit the hot weather when passengers are waiting for the bus,” he explained.

He mentioned additional solutions. “Developing roads and the infrastructure is very important in solving the traffic problem. Also, the development of the Traffic Department will help in this matter. I think that such suggestions may bring better results in solving the traffic problem rather that coming up with unreal proposals,” concluded Bukhadour.

By Nawara Fattahova

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Safety, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Traditional Dhow Festival Opens in Doha

The cool thing about living in Qatar is that they tell you when the festival is about to happen, and encourage you to go. The Dhows – all the different kinds – are beautiful and graceful, and my happiest memories in Qatar include a night ride along the coastline with its twinkling lights on a blistering hot evening, but the sea breeze and the movement of the boat makes it pleasant.

Traditional Dhow Festival opens

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


The Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari checking a pearl at the opening of the festival yesterday and (below) some of the boats docked at the Katara Beach. Shaival Dalal

BY RAYNALD C RIVERA

DOHA: A total of 105 Arabian dhows of different types are moored at the Katara Beach for the third edition of Katara’s annual Traditional Dhow Festival which opened yesterday.

Compared with the previous editions, this year’s festival provides visitors with an idea about types of dhows still used in the region.

“Last year we had 107 boats, 70 to 80 percent of which were of the same type — sambuk. This year we have 105 boats of 22 types, mostly jalboot, baggarah, bateel and shoi,” Katara General Manager, Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti, told the media after the opening.

While most dhows came from the Gulf; some are from Iran, Zanzibar and India, he said.

“We are looking forward to having some boats from China next year,” he said, adding the Chinese ambassador, who was present at the opening, was forging relations with Katara to participate in the festival next year. 

New at this year’s festival is the Fath Al Khair’s journey to the six GCC states. The dhow, currently part of Qatar Museums Authority’s collection, would leave Katara shores on Friday and return on December 18.

Al Sulaiti said the 27-day voyage is “just like what our forefathers did in the past when they left Qatar for a couple of months to dive for pearls. Through this, we would like to refresh the minds of our new generation with the culture and heritage of their forefathers.”

Inaugurated by the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage H E Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, the five-day festival features heritage lectures, performances by regional bands, boat-making demonstrations, dhow cruises, light and fireworks shows, children’s activities and exhibits from museums across the Gulf.

There will also be maritime competitions, including sailing, rowing and pearl-diving in which the public is welcome to take part. Winners will be announced at a special award ceremony at the conclusion of the festival.

Ahmed Al Hitmi, Dhow Festival Committee Manager, said: “The festival pays tribute to our ancestors who worked effortlessly to build a future for our country. It provides a platform for cultural exchange, promoting Qatari history, and educating the youth.”

The festival runs until Saturday. It is open to the public today and on Saturday from 9am to 10pm, tomorrow from 9am to 11pm and on Friday from 3pm to 11pm. Public schools may visit from 9am to noon.The Peninsula

 

 

As an Alaskan girl, I grew up on the water and could not help falling in love with these old boats. I have hundreds – maybe thousands – of photos of boats, fishing, fishermen mending nets, fishermen making traps – I’m a sucker for a marine photo op :-) Some of these are Kuwait, some Doha.

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November 19, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar | Leave a comment

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