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Manyang: Our Friend in South Sudan

God willing, in life, people cross paths and share their stories. I told you about Manyang, how he visited us near Christmas in 2012 and how his story changed our lives. Now, when we hear stories of the South Sudan, it is immediate, it is real, because we know the story of a young boy grown to be a very fine man, who survived the chaos and horrors of the janjaweed invasions and tribal conflicts before his country attained nationhood.

I recently wrote to Manyang, hoping he is still alive. It was that basic. I asked him, if he could, just to let us know he was alive, and that whether he could respond or not, our prayers were with him, for him, his family and his country.

This morning, by the grace of God, I received this wonderful response. Please, join your prayers with ours for Manyang/David, and his country, South Sudan, for peace, safety and prosperity, for justice and equitable distribution of resources.

I am glad to hear from you again. I have been talking of the nice people I was able to meet in Pensacola. Whenever, I talk about these people you are the first people I talk about. I still remember the nice dinner we had in your house.

I think God touched you to worry about my safety. You might have heard from news report the critical condition my country – South Sudan is going through. It is just like the story of my childhood to many other children now.

A political row in the ruling party here, turned violent in Juba, the capital of this country on December 15, 2013. Heavy artillary were fired and sporadic gunfire broke out in most part of the city. it was a genesis of another war which is now going on. Thousands of people were killed only in Juba.

I was in Bor, the captal of Jonglei State, about 125 miles north of Juba. The violent in Juba quickly spread to us in Bor and I was forced to flee to the bush with my family and the rest of the civil population as the town was quickly seized by anti-government forces. I carried my back on my head, walk long distant and drink dirty water again and eat grains when I was in the bush for seven days.

(This is a screenshot from Google Maps; Bor is the “A” north of Juba)

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(These are photos from Manyang’s BBC blog, referenced below. Please go there to read more in his own words about the terrors of the South Sudan chaos.)

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The government forces recaptured the town and we returned to the town. Many more people were killed and bodies were lying everywhere and there was a terrible smell. The rebels killed everyone they found in the town including old women, lame, deaf and all vulnerable people. And I was wounded in the upper left arm by a stray bullet of soldiers celebrating. The wound has healed and I am fine now.

It did not take long for the rebel to recaptured the town of goverment forces for a second time. And I was force to flee, this time cross the River Nile by boat to a makeshift camp across the river. This was where I got an access to go to Juba which was abit calm at the time. I am now in Juba staying in fear, not knowing where else to go.

God was speaking to you those conditions I was in in December and part of January. We spent Christmas and New Year Day on the run. I am glad for your prayers were able to lead me out of that mess. I still have hope that your prayers will continue to press political leaders to reach a peaceful solution to this crisis.

I have a live blog where I am sharing my bush experiences. You may have a look.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmediaaction/posts/Pens-down-in-South-Sudan

Share my message with the rest of the great people of Pensacola. My heart is always there with you.

Blessings

Manyang

January 16, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Safety, South Sudan, Sudan, Survival | , , , | 1 Comment

NZ Speeding Ad Goes Viral

This is a shocking ad; an ad that shocks the viewer into reviewing priorities

January 10, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Interconnected, Safety | , | Leave a comment

Christmas Mercies

By the grace of God, we got through the first week of December. By the grace of God, we managed to enjoy our first week in December!

 

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The first week in December this year followed directly after Thanksgiving. Often, there is a weekend between Thanksgiving and December, but this year, December started on Sunday, and there goes one weekend before Christmas. You might wonder why this is even important, but for some reason, there are so many things scheduled the first week of December, on top of the normal things scheduled for the first week of every month – you know, small things like bill paying and making sure your finances are in order :-)

 

So we had our normal first week of the month – Book Club, babysitting, exercise classes, bible study – AND. And we had a house guest, a very old friend, a friend from all the way back in Tunis, when we were all studying languages, our guest and my husband learning Arabic and me learning French. Our guest and I sang in the community choir together, and he was very much a part of our small expat family. Having him in our home was so easy, we came and went, fortunately at different times. On top of all this, we also had a couple of annual Christmas related events, social events, we had to attend. By the grace of God, it all went smoothly, and – this is the mercy – enjoyably. We weren’t stressed.

 

I was stressed a little yesterday. The last two days have been horrible for me, in terms of climate. You know, I like NO air conditioning, I like temperatures in the 60s and 70s (F) but the temperatures were almost 80 and HUMID. Bad enough I had to turn on our A/C last night so I could sleep, and feeling so grumpy. I really need to get the Christmas decorations up this weekend so I can get on with my December, enjoy the Christmas ambiance and not have to stress about getting things done. But how do you get Christmas decorations up when you are hot and sweaty, it just isn’t right.

 

Major mercy – when I woke up this morning, I was wrapped warmly in my quilts and . . . I wasn’t feeling hot or sweaty. As as matter of fact, overnight the temperatures had fallen into the 40’s! Woooo HOOOO, out came all the Christmas boxes and tubs; AdventureMan got busy putting up the lights, I pulled out the other things and we got busy. Around lunch time we had a wonderful lunch, and then went searching for more light; I hadn’t bought enough to cover the length of our porch. After four fruitless stops (the lights had to match or it was all for nothing) we came home empty handed and I checked online for where this brand was sold. It was Home Depot, the one store we hadn’t stopped at because I was so sure I hadn’t bought them there. Wooo HOOOO, one quick trip and we have all the lights we need and AdventureMan got them all up.

 

AdventureMan is more scrupulous than I am about some things. He . . . . read the instructions on the lights. Have you ever done that? Like where it talks about amps and resistance and fire warnings? LOL, I love a lot of lights, and will string lights on lights on lights. Somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind I sort of knew it might be dangerous, but AdventureMan takes those things seriously. The good thing is that we are still married, and much more safely wired than when I was doing it.

 

I can hear my son scoffing when I say that today was God’s mercy on me, but to him I say God makes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, and as undeserving as I am, today he gave me exactly what I needed – a chilly, Christmas-decorating kind of day. Thanks be to God.

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cultural, Living Conditions, Relationships, Safety, Shopping | 6 Comments

American Shedding Reliance on Cars

. . . in bigger cities where good public transportation is available, at least. But across the board, Americans are driving less. When I was a young woman living in Seattle, I took the bus to work. It was fast, reliable and I got to read going to and fro. A generation later, my son would park his car at the park and ride lot and take the bus into downtown. When you have GOOD public transportation, it makes a lot of sense. Found this article on AOL Auto News:

Commuters are shedding their reliance on cars.

They’re not driving to work in their own vehicles as often as they once did. They’re not carpooling with other workers as often. They’re increasingly using public transportation or simply working from home.

Those are the conclusions of a study released this week by U.S. PIRG, which reviewed data from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and U.S. Census figures.

It says the proportion of workers commuting in private vehicles, either alone or in a car pool, declined in 99 of the 100 largest urban areas in America between since 2000.

Newark, New Jersey saw the greatest percentage of workers put down their keys, with a 4.8 percent drop, followed by Washington D.C., down 4.7 percent and Austin, Texas, down 4.5 percent.

In recent years, there have been numerous indications that Americans overall are shifting away from driving. The number of per capita vehicle miles traveled reached its peak in 2004. This study claims to be the first to specifically look at the decline in American cities.

“Many existing transportation plans continue to reflect outdated assumptions that the number of miles driven will continue to rise steadily over time,” wrote Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst at U.S. PIRG and the study’s author. “Officials at all levels should revisit transportation plans to ensure they reflect recent declines in driving and new understandings of the future demand for travel.”

The U.S. PIRG study details changes that on a market-by-market basis. Among its other findings:

- The proportion of residents working form home has increased in every one of the 100 largest urban areas since 2000

- The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 of the 100 largest markets between 2006 and 2011

- The proportion of households with two cars or more decreased in 86 of the 100 largest markets between 2006 and 2011

One of the more notable trends appears to be the death of carpooling as a commuting option. Between 2000 and 2011, carpooling declined 17.8 percent, according to the U.S. PIRG study. Only 9.7 percent of workers now report they share rides to work.

The results are not entirely surprising: The number of Americans who work from home increased 45 percent between 1997 and 2010, according to an earlier study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Curiously, the decline in driving hasn’t dampened demand for cars. Automakers expect to sell approximately 16.4 million vehicles this year, according to the latest projections released earlier this week. It’s the best year for auto sales since 2007, when more than 17 million cars were sold.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Safety, Seattle | Leave a comment

Qatar National Day: What Not to Do

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LOL, This is exactly what everyone does. Not doing any of these things will not prevent the absolute gridlock that develops as everyone in the country drives into Doha.

From Qatar Gulf News:

The Traffic Department has urged motorists not to violate traffic norms while celebrating National Day.

In this connection, the department has reminded motorists of certain common violations that are seen during this time and asked them not to commit the same during this year’s celebrations.

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These violations include placing pictures, posters and flags on the entire car, thereby completely changing the look and colour of the vehicle; shading the windshield and rear window of the car, obstructing the driver’s view (both of the road in front of him and behind the car) and hiding the car plates; climbing on to the roof and bonnet of a car; getting out through the car’s windows and sunroof, which exposes passengers to the risk of falling down, besides affecting the control of the driver; and blocking traffic and parking in no-parking zones.

The department has appealed to all motorists to celebrate the occasion in a safe and secure manner and not to commit violations that may jeopardise the safety of other road users.

December 6, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Cultural, Doha, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar, Road Trips, Safety | | Leave a comment

Qatar Fields Huge New Traffic Force

This is from ILoveQatar.net, reprinted from Gulf News. I think I loveQatar.net is a very cool website, and I am thankful they continue to send me updates:  :-)

 

A BIG Wooo HOOOOO on Qatar for training and implementing a PROFESSIONAL traffic force. Woooo HOOOOO! I can only hope the laws they will enforce include children in the back seats in car seats and seat belts for every passenger. I pray that part of the training included instructions that traffic rules are to be applied equally and fairly against all nationalities, including citizens.

 

A new highway patrol police force that will augment the efforts of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in improving road safety will start work in 2014, it was announced at the graduation of the first batch of the force.

Consisting of 50 officers and cadets, the graduation ceremony of the first batch was held at the headquarters of the Traffic Department. The training programme was implemented by the Northwestern University, Chicago.

The team has received specialised training in enforcing traffic laws and booking common violations like tailgating, use of mobile phones, exceeding speed limits and not wearing seat belts.

The officers also acquired advanced skills in investigation of accidents, modern methods to interrogate drivers, preservation of evidence and making specialised reports on accidents.

According to Traffic Department officials, the new force will use both radar and lidar, a device used to monitor speed using laser.

The officers were also trained on skills needed to manually control traffic flow and its mechanisms in addition to the use of tools and methods for data collection.

The initiative was organised in collaboration between the Ministry of Interior and RasGas in the context of the priority given by the MoI and the National Committee for Traffic Safety (NCTS) to ensure responsible and safe driving.

The graduation ceremony was attended by Traffic Department director Brig Mohamed Saad al-Kharji, NCTS secretary Brig Mohamed Abdullah al-Maliki, traffic safety adviser at MoI Ademola Ilori and Brett Doherty, safety, health, environment & quality chief officer, RasGas.

Speaking on the occasion, al-Kharji said that the new force would support the MoI’s efforts in road safety.

“The new force will monitor and enforce road safety measures on highways. It includes monitoring speed limit, keeping space between vehicles and handling accidents and emergency situations.”

He added that the trainees got theoretical and practical lessons on controlling traffic movement on highways, safe parking and stopping of vehicles on highways as well as training on dealing with the public.

Speaking on the sidelines, al-Kharji said that there was a plan to equip traffic police vehicles with speed radars so they could catch violators while on the move.

He thanked RasGas for its collaboration with the MoI in this initiative and said the move would play a proactive role in reducing traffic accidents.

Al-Maliki said that the initiative came as part of NCTS and thanked RasGas and Northwestern University for their support for the initiative.

He awarded trainees with certificates and exchanged mementos with RasGas and Northwestern University. Gifts and appreciation certificates were awarded for lecturers and translators.

Others present on the occasion were RasGas public affairs manager Abdulla Hashim, Security & Emergency services manager Faisal al-Hajiri, road safety adviser John Cling, safety systems head Jive Price, road safety training head at Northwestern University, Antony Patila.

[www.gulf-times.com]

November 30, 2013 Posted by | ExPat Life, Law and Order, Qatar, Road Trips, Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Kuwait Airways Buys USED Jets

Has Kuwait Airways safety record improved? Can you still pilot for Kuwait Airways just by being Kuwaiti? Just one more reason not to fly Kuwait Air rom today’s Kuwait Times:

Kuwait Airways buys used jets

KUWAIT: The Kuwait Airways is buying five used aircrafts from India’s Jet Airways after an initial deal with Airbus fell apart due to lack of funding, a local daily reported yesterday quoting sources with knowledge of the case. Speaking to Al-Qabas on the condition of anonymity, the sources said that an agreement to purchase the Airbus A330-200 aircrafts was reached during Kuwait Airways board meeting last Wednesday. Kuwait Airways had signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year with Airbus to purchase and rent the same class of aircrafts, but the deal fell apart due to lack of funding and after Boeing reportedly entered negotiations with the national carrier. According to the sources, Jet Airways offered the five planes which have a total capacity of 1260 seats (252 seats each) for a total of KD 80 million.

The Kuwait Airways’ board sent its approval to the Kuwaiti government to make the final decision; which according to the sources is expected to be made by the Kuwait Investment Authority, which represents the general assembly for the Kuwait Airways and which will fund the deal if approved. If a deal is signed, the source predicts the aircrafts to arrive early next year. The planes, which have been in service for four years, can be used in medium and short range flights to Europe, the Middle East and Far East, the sources said. They added that each plane has two classes; a ‘Premium Class’ with 42 seats for businessmen, and an economy class with 190 seats.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Safety, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Rape Victim Should Have Just Closed Her Legs: Defense Attorney

Ignorance and outrageous statements on rape are rampant world-wide. Today, this story from New Zealand, via AOL HuffPost World:

 

This week’s example of how not to handle a rape trialhave comes to you from New Zealand, where a defense attorney is being criticized for saying a sexually assaulted woman should have kept her legs shut.

Speaking to a Wellington District Court jury on Wednesday, defense lawyer Keith Jefferies claimed that his client, George Jason Pule, a bouncer at a local club, had merely engaged in consensual sex with the victim, as quoted by local paper The Dominion Post.

Jefferies’ “proof”? The drunk 20-year-old woman did not attempt to stop Pule’s advances after he convinced her to follow him down an alley.

“All she would have had to do was to close her legs,” Jefferies told the jury in his closing argument, per the Post. “[I]t’s as simple as that.”

Pule had attempted to claim that the victim had filed a false rape charge because she regretted having sex with him, reports the Post.

Despite his best efforts, Jefferies’ client was ultimately convicted on the rape charge and is currently awaiting sentencing.

It’s been a difficult month so far for victims advocates in New Zealand, with the Wellington trial following news of an alleged “teen rape club, ” known as the “Roast Busters,” operating in New Zealand. Members of the group, which is currently being investigated by police, are said to have boasted about getting underage girls drunk and sexually assaulting them. 

“This whole situation is horrific,” Wellington Rape Crisis Center’s Natalie Gousmett said in a press release. “First we have the abhorrent behaviour of the members of the rape group, causing serious harm to the victims they have targeted. Then we have appalling coverage by media, including extreme victim-blaming. … All of this demonstrates the rape culture in [New Zealand], which is extremely harmful to survivors.”

Gousemett went on to note that victims who “are told they are at fault for being raped” are far less likely to come forward and receive the support they need.

In an effort to counteract the problem, advocacy groups have launched a new public service campaign called “Who Are You,” urging New Zealanders to keep “an eye on your mates when you’re out –- You look after them, they look after you. It’s all about having fun and making it home safely.”

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Character, Crime, Cultural, Living Conditions, Safety, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , | Leave a comment

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