Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sleepy Little Doha

My husband used to travel in and out of Doha for years before we actually moved there. He would tell me stories about “sleepy little Doha,” before-natural gas Doha, in a country that was not the richest country in the world. The international community then was so small that they would gather at the American Ambassador’s residence on Fridays for drinks and a cook-out, casually exchanging information and gossip on a lazy afternoon. This was also pre 9-11, when the need for mind-numbing security was not so imperative.

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I received the above photo in the mail today, and I laughed out loud and showed AdventureMan. We were there when the Sheraton Hotel was “way out there” in the middle of no-where. A new mall with a Carrefour had opened near the Sheraton and was visible from the dhow parking in mid-Doha.

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Look just above the dhows, to the left of the white building with green windows and you will see a flat building and Carrefour on it.

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The pyramid on the right is the Sheraton, once the hottest hotel in Doha. To the left, you can see the white building with the green windows, which almost disappears now. I want you to notice how relatively bare the skyline is, and this is 2005.

 

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These two buildings used to be the tallest on the Corniche.

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You can see them in the lower right of this photo, dwarfed by all the new sky-scrapers. At the far left, you can see one of my very favorites, a (formerly) tall building with a mosque built jutting out in the middle. You can barely see it now; it used to be one of the most prominent buildings on the Corniche.

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This is what the building looks like when not surrounded by giants.

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This is what it looks like now, almost indistinguishable from the buildings surrounding and overwhelming it.

I used to meet a friend every Tuesday morning and walk the Corniche. We watched the buildings going up, tributes to the huge amounts of cash pouring into the Doha economy and the huge egos that need to build huge towers to put their names on. As they were being built, there were constant fires, mostly electrical, which challenged the fire department and killed the low-paid laborers. American firms seeking office space brought in experts to inspect buildings before renting them, to be sure modern, safe construction practices had been used. Most of the new high rises had been built with severe deficits, unsafe concrete, unsafe wiring, failure to allow people to evacuate safely in case of an emergency and elevators that barely worked even when brand new.

We particularly laughed at the giant phallic silver building front and center.

The extreme heat and humidity of Doha is hard on even good construction, drying out sealants on the windows (allowing dust and water to penetrate), peeling facades, making buildings a mere twenty years old look dingy and severely weathered. One relatively new building had windows popping out in its first five years.

On a hot night AdventureMan and I would have dinner downtown, often at The Majlis, and then go out to the Corniche and board one of the dhows decorated with strings of Christmas lights for a cooling ride along the coastline, where the breezes would blow and Sleepy Little Doha would sparkle.

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September 23, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | 1 Comment

When Nothing Means Something

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I lived through the 70’s and the ’80’s and as I have watched the young of our generation grow to maturity, I have had hope for a different kind of world. I believed I saw it coming, a new way of thinking, where women had equality, where all people had respect regardless of skin shade. I suspected it would be slow, but the dinosaurs my age and older would die off, leaving the more enlightened young people in charge.

When Obama was elected, I danced for joy. I saw it as a sign – a man of color elected President of the United States! To me, he embodied what our nation was established to attain. Freedom. Liberty. Justice for ALL. Equal opportunity.

This morning,  AdventureMan and I were talking; as I was leaving his office I tweaked his photos by mere centimeters. They had shifted and were just a little crooked.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said (and I had already done it.)

(Barely perceptible pause, but a pause none the less) “Oh no, my dear.”

We both broke out laughing. Sometimes people who have been married for a long time lie to each other in such a way, to be polite, not to rock the boat, but at the same time letting the other person know exactly how you feel about something.

That barely imperceptible pause had meaning. Nothing was something.

When you are a teen-age girl, there are a lot of things you tell yourself when trying to figure out what to do.

“Really, nothing happened  . . . .”

“I wasn’t supposed to be at that party”

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that bathing-suit. Maybe it was my fault”

“I know Mom and Dad would back me, but they would also be really pissed.”

“Do I want to be known as ‘that girl?'”

Maybe you talk to your friends. Most girls won’t talk to their parents, unless it is really severe and you can’t hide it.

I now – I worked with rape victims for two years at a Rape Crisis line. We listened. We offered information. We listened. We offered to go with them if they wanted to tell someone, like the police. We educated – police, hospital workers, first responders, parents. We listened. We went to court with the victims who chose to file charges. We listened.

The bravest woman I ever met was in Doha. I had agreed to meet with her when her mother told me she had been assaulted. She had been offered a ride home, the guy was the big brother of a school friend, driving her and her sister home. Instead, he and his friend drove deep into the desert, forced the girl out of the car and told her to co-operate and they would leave her little sister alone.

She negotiated. She wouldn’t do all that they tried to force her to do. Then they took her home.

She talked to a couple friends, who told her she needed to tell her parents because it had happened before, and could happen again. The young girls were like prey to these guys.

She went to the police, she named names. They were arrested, and when she saw them in the line-up, she told the police she needed for them to take off their clothes so she could tell for sure that it was them. She knew it was them. She also knew that they were from a good family and that nothing serious was going to happen to them no matter what the charges, but she wanted a moment where she could humiliate them in some small way for the way she had been abused and mistreated.

It was one of those unequal power moments, but she used what little power she had.

“I wanted to get this on the record,” she told me, “I wanted to make sure that when they go to get married, that their names will be on the record, and if not, people in Doha have long memories. Who will want to marry their daughters to these men?”

She was 16.

Her family suffered. Her father was heart-broken that he had brought his family to Doha and that he had, as he saw it, failed to protect his daughter. The family left Doha soon thereafter.

I still honor that girl, her courage, her wisdom, her dry-eyed willingness to speak out.

And I believe Dr. Ford. I believe she kept it to herself, maybe sharing a little with close friends. She was terrified and she was 15. She carried it for a long time. For most rape victims, like my 16 year old friend, the sexual violation pales in comparison to the violation of personal boundaries and the fear that you may not survive. You are in shock. You often blame yourself. You want to move on, and you don’t want to be known as “that girl that got raped.” She was younger than Kavanaugh, less powerful, a teen-ager.

President Trump, you are just an ignorant oaf. You think you are something, but you are nothing. It’s not like women are assaulted and men aren’t. A thousand Catholic boys can tell you differently, and they feel the same shame as female victims feel. I hope everyone in America reads your ignorant, hateful, smarmy tweet and see the horror in having you as a President.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Mating Behavior, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Relationships, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Intlxpatr Turns 12 Years Old

Welcome! Grab a flute, come on in and mingle.

 

Who knew, when I held my breath and posted my first post in September of 2006, that I would still be blogging – with the same blog (!) – twelve years later.

I miss my life. It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t. When I started blogging in Kuwait, I was once again going up against the steep learning curve of starting over in a new place, discovering where to buy groceries (milk and dairy at the local Co-op, fresh vegetables at a huge vegetable market to the south of Fintas, western staples – a luxury – at the Sultan Center. I bought what I needed, most of the time, but occasionally, a price would be so shockingly out of line that I couldn’t bring myself to do it – like a package of chocolate chip cookies that you just cut and bake for something like $15 when I could make them from scratch by myself. But I digress.

Blogging was new and fresh, and I loved reading the thoughts of other bloggers. I learned so much, and I learned to think differently. Their thoughts were not my thoughts, and I got a very clear view of my own cultural blinders.

I also met some wonderful Kuwaitis. It was a world I loved, a world of ideas and discussions. It was fun. I quickly felt at home in Kuwait; I felt I was gaining perspective from many minds, and it helped me form a more complex picture. I laugh to think it will never be a complete picture; you know how even people you’ve known for a long time can surprise you?

AventureMan told me today I had surprised him. He was talking about how good we are at doing our homework for trips, and how we “roll with the punches.” In my very direct way, I said “No we don’t! We gripe with the punches.”

First I got a stunned silence, then the guffaw of laughter, and then we were both laughing. I love it that I can still catch him by surprise.

So welcome to the celebration of 12 years sharing lives, sharing ideas, sharing our common humanity. This year, in addition to the beautiful cakes I have so much fun enjoying in virtual world, I have added cupcakes, in honor of a five year old granddaughter who has a great eye.

 

 

 

Please stay as long as you’d like . . .

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Pensacola, Shopping | 9 Comments

Are You Chinese?

I always like to see where my visitors are coming from. Lately, I’ve had a surge in visitors from Hong Kong/ SAR / China.

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Usually, most of my visitors are from the USA, Canada and Kuwait. If you are Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese or SAR, could you give me a clue as to what has drawn your attention to this blog? I’m just curious.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Blogging, Cross Cultural, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Unknown Unknowns

Gordon was rolling in and no one knew if it would come as a tropical storm or a hurricane. Trust me, preparing for a hurricane is a lot of work, and we had to make a decision whether or not to put up the window coverings (we did not), to check over our hurricane supplies, like water, batteries, towels, buckets, cat cages, etc, which we did. I even made a big fresh pot of coffee, in case it were a long time before I saw coffee again, I could even drink it cold. AdventureMan cleaned the gutters, brought in outdoor furniture that could blow around, and placed heavier plants strategically so they would damage the house as little as possible if carried by hurricane force winds. Like I said, it is a lot of work.

 

We had wind and rain, lots of wind and sheets of rain, and bangs of thunder, and bangs of electrical conduits exploding, but although the power dimmed, we did not lose power entirely. Our only leaks this storm are in the garage.

The morning dawned; continued windy and rainy and thundery. We decided to go to a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch and had to detour three times before we could get there, twice due to deep pockets of water in the road, too deep to drive through, and once due to a tree down over the road. There are lots of pockets of deep water, and several trees down. We got off easy.

Aarrgh; now for putting all the carpets back down, getting the outdoor furniture back outside and putting the house back in “normal” mode.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Florida, Living Conditions, Survival, Weather | | Leave a comment

First World Problem

My problems are probably not your problems, but we all have to carry our own loads.

So yesterday, I was on the way to the YMCA for my water aerobics class; it helps me fight creeping depression. Why would I be depressed? Existentially, the tone of the current regime offends me, offends my values, and I have to fight not only depression, but also angry frustration. So I pray, asking for input which will alter my sour outlook.

At the pool, the first person I run into is one of my long-time pool buddies, and she has her little daughter with her. I ask how she is doing, and she says “I am not happy.” I know this woman, she is a good woman, and a conscientious mother. She goes on to say that she is at an age where other parents are waving their children off into independence, into college and jobs and marriages and children, and that will never happen for her. Her little daughter is 31, with Downs syndrome. She is a sweet, easy woman, but will always be a little girl.

My friend wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me how she saw her life at that moment in time, she was sharing her reality. I hugged her. It wouldn’t change anything, but she knew I was listening.

I left with an entirely changed point of view, going home to help AdventureMan take care of our two little “petites-enfants.” Tropical Storm Gordon is rolling in, their parents have to work and school has closed down in concerns for the safety of the children and their transportation. My problems are so First World. I got the input I needed.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Community, Exercise, Faith, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

A Thousand Kisses

Schools started Monday in our county in Florida, so now we have two grandchildren with us after school. AdventureMan is the real hero; he is not only a good teacher, he is also a lot of fun, good at playing with and entertaining the kids. I am good for explaining things and talking about things – and for 1,000 kisses.

“What is 1,000 kisses?” you might ask?

It’s a game I made up when my own son was two and a half or so, a silly game, a mommy game, where I give his tummy a whole bunch of kisses really fast with loud smacking noises. It causes hilarious gales of laughter, helpless laughter, because it tickles, because I am very noisy (and only a little scary) and well just because it’s fun.

It also teaches about consent. From the very beginning, I tell them that whenever they say “STOP” I have to stop, and without fail, when one of the grandchildren says “stop”, I stop. I want them to know about “safe” words, and I want them to know that no one has the right to do anything to their bodies without their consent.

Our eight year old grandson came in today, pulling up his shirt, and said “How about 1,000 kisses?” and I said “Aren’t you too old?” He said no, no he wasn’t.

I can still keep him pinned enough that he goes limp from laughter, but he is getting stronger and stronger and the day will come when I have to stop. For him now, the fun is in the struggle. He thinks he can beat me, but he can’t – yet. Actually, with him, almost as tall as I am, I am already ready to stop, but he is not quite there yet. At some point, very soon, I am going to have to just tell him that he is too big, too strong, and I can’t play 1,000 kisses with him anymore.

There is still his little sister, just turning five, who also showed up with her T-shirt pulled up demanding 1,000 kisses, so I think I probably have a few good years left with her. She doesn’t even bother to put up any resistance, just bursts forth with gale after gale of lilting laughter that brightens my soul and my lights up my day. Soon enough, she yells “STOP!” and we are both ready to stop, catch our breaths, and have a good chat.

 

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Values | | 2 Comments

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

The Least of These

 

Today in the Lectionary readings, we come to the Gospel and one of my all time favorite verses and personal life guide. If you claim to follow Jesus, there are some basics. You have to follow the old Jewish traditions of loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. You have to take care of the poor, the widowed (the single mother), the mentally ill, the children. You have to welcome the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt.

Our national policies today are taking away medical benefits from our poorest citizens, are rolling back protections against pollution and contamination of air and water and even the foods we eat. The callousness of it all appalls me. Spiritually, we pay a price. As a country, I believe we will survive, but it will take a while to undo the damage that is being done, day by day.

As a cold warrior, I am horrified, but that is not a spiritual thing 🙂

Matthew 25:31-46

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, fraud, Free Speech, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | Leave a comment

Politics (ACLU) and Religion

The Psalm from today’s Lectionary readings:

140 Eripe me, Domine

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; *
protect me from the violent,

2 Who devise evil in their hearts *
and stir up strife all day long.

3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; *
adder’s poison is under their lips.

4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; *
protect me from the violent,
who are determined to trip me up.

5 The proud have hidden a snare for me
and stretched out a net of cords; *
they have set traps for me along the path.

6 I have said to the Lord, “You are my God; *
listen, O Lord, to my supplication.

7 O Lord God, the strength of my salvation, *
you have covered my head in the day of battle.

8 Do not grant the desires of the wicked, O Lord, *
nor let their evil plans prosper.

9 Let not those who surround me lift up their heads; *
let the evil of their lips overwhelm them.

10 Let hot burning coals fall upon them; *
let them be cast into the mire, never to rise up again.”

11 A slanderer shall not be established on the earth, *
and evil shall hunt down the lawless.

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the poor *
and render justice to the needy.

13 Surely, the righteous will give thanks to your Name, *
and the upright shall continue in your sight.

Yesterday, several news sources discussed the rapid growth of the American Civil Liberties Union; this one is from Politicus USA:

New Report: ACLU Membership More Than Quadrupled Since Trump’s Election

Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has more than quadrupled its membership, according to an article in The New York Times.

Before Trump’s election the group had just 400,000 members and most of its actions were out of the public eye.  But now, after 15 months of the Trump presidency, the membership is over 1.8 million and it has become one of the most active and visible opponents of Trump’s agenda.

Donations to the nonprofit group have also increased exponentially. The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said that the organization has raised over $120 million since the 2016 presidential election. Before that watershed election, he said, donations had been in the range of just $3 million to $5 million annually.

Romero said that concerns over Trump’s attack on constitutional rights and civil liberties have brought a whole new generation of political activists into their group. “Until Trump most of our support came from people who have been with us since we challenged Nixon,” Romero told the Times. “Now we’re kind of cool. Cool’s not a word generally associated with us.”

The surge in membership, coupled with the massive increase in contributions, has for the first time given the ACLU all the resources it needs to fight Trump and other administration officials in court and elsewhere. They have been involved in more than 100 legal actions against Trump administration policies, including the White House’sseries of travel bans on the citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, which happened shortly after he took office.

More recently, the group has been challenging the Justice Department’s family separation policies, Trump’s voter fraud commission and the president’s reversal of an Obama-era contraception mandate.

According to Romero, his group has over 170 times taken what he calls “Trump-related legal actions” since he became president. This number includes the filing of 83 lawsuits, Romero said.

As the Trump administration steps up its attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, the ACLU has been filing class action lawsuits and also seeking injunctions to attempt to make the government stop separating families and incarcerating children. In some cases they have already been successful, and they are continuing to fight for the legal rights of people who may have been illegally detained and deprived of due process.

The large increase in ACLU membership is a good sign for American democracy. It shows that many Americans not only disapprove of Donald Trump’s policies and actions but are willing to support the fight against them. Ultimately this may be what saves our country from becoming a dictatorship and what preserves and protects the Constitution of the United States of America.

I’m one of those people. I used to think the ACLU was extreme, that was until I saw them first to man the tables offering free legal advice to incoming passengers the night Trump implemented his first travel ban. I sent my first check. I was asked why I had joined, and I told them because they are now our front line against thugs with no moral values, oppressors of the poor, led by a heartless, selfish, man who must be reined in. They sent me a sweet little ACLU pin, which I don’t dare wear in Pensacola.

July 6, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Free Speech, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lies, Political Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment