Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“Only Trashy Girls Get their Ears Pierced”

“Only trashy girls get their ears pierced!” my Dad roared as the nightly battle at the dinner table commenced. Every night, I presented facts and evidence supporting my need for pierced ears, only to engage his fierce and fiery disapproval.

“No daughter of MINE will ever have pierced ears!” rang in my ears, but I wasn’t giving up. The battle raged on.

Meanwhile, my next youngest sister went out and got her ears pierced, and showed up at dinner with bright, shiny gold earrings. I was dumbfounded. Flabbargasted – and aghast. What would my Father do?

I expected rage. He looked at her is shock. I think he went a little pale. He was angry, but . . . so mild! She really looked cute in those new gold earrings.

“You’re grounded for a week.” he told her coldly. The rest of the meal passed in silence, my sister grinning and preening quietly.

I went out the next day and had my ears pierced, too, so we could “serve our time” on restriction together. The next week, my Mom and youngest sister went downtown and had their ears pierced too. They didn’t get grounded.

Now he lies in a hospital bed, weak, old, and subdued, sliding between hallucinations and lucidity. What I wouldn’t give to see his fiery spirit back again.

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September 30, 2006 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Relationships, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Kuwait Skyline

I used to use Nikon. I had ones with big lenses, and a small one. Then, one day, my sister put a Panasonic Lumix in my hands and said “just try this. Don’t even read the instruction book, just see if you can figure it out.”

She was ordering one for her daughter and wanted to know if I wanted one, too. Five minutes later, I said “yes” and I never looked back.

The first year, I shot both film and digital, but this little Lumix (Leica lens, Panasonic body) just knocks my socks off. It fits in my purse, it is light as a feather, and has the equivalent of a 420mm lens. It shoots in low light, and it shoots fast. It is quiet, just a little tiny “tink” when you shoot.

My only regret is that I didn’t go digital sooner.

I hate concrete box apartments. I love it when people add a little interest. It may not always be my taste, but it brings a grin to my face. Here’s an apartment building in Salwa that we watched going up – underneath this fabulous Yemani-style facade is – a plain, dark, concrete block! But you would never know it from the outside:

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And the next is just down the road from it – I think the two are related, and I believe both are facades. They brighten my day.

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The photos are weird because I shot them through the window driving along 30/Fehaheel Expressway – not the camera’s fault. And no, I wasn’t driving. 😉

September 29, 2006 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lumix, Random Musings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Date Night in Kuwait

Because my husband’s weekend is Friday, Thursday night is our date night in Kuwait. We have a tradition of going out for a nice dinner together.

We used to drive our son crazy. We would say “Hey, want to go to Rio Bravo (Mexican) with us?” and about a third of the way there, my husband would say “You know, I just have this yen for sushi!” and I would go “Oh! Me too!” and our son would pipe up “No! No! No! That’s ‘bait and switch!’ No! That’s not fair!”

(Now he laughs and tells us that it runs in the family; that he and his wife do the same thing – and, he now also eats sushi. My sisters’ families tell me they do it too – it must be a family culture thing.)

So last night we were on our way to Biella’s at the Marina Crescent. But oh, the traffic on the Corniche! Maybe we should just eat Chinese in the neighborhood? What about the seafood buffet at the Crown Plaza? Or . . . finally we decided on Paul’s down at Fehaheel, and hoped there was a parking space.

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They have a new mall opening just across the main street from the Al Kout Mall, Al Manshar, with a great big apartment building and a great big new hotel, a Chili’s, a Johnny Rocket’s and a food court – a few of the merchants and restaurants are already open – but only like 40 parking spaces???? Go figure! Even worse, it is right next to a beautiful mosque, so at prayer time, there is NOWHERE for anyone to park. And the driving in Fehaheel at night is crazy . . . minimally better than Gulf Road. Take another look at the photo – those two outcroppings are perfect for a bridge, a la Marina Mall – connecting one mall to the other, and sharing parking spaces.

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At Paul’s in Fehaheel it was comfortable enough, with their fans, to eat outside, by the big shallow water-fountain pavillion. Great food – we had the Camembert – noisette salad, onion soup and the smoked salmon pasta, most of which we brought home because the soup and salad had been so good. Best of all was just being together, sharing our week and having a relaxed, delicious meal together.
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And it was there I told him about my blog. I don’t like keeping secrets from my husband. I wanted to see if blogging was something I really wanted to do before I told anyone. Last weekend, when he was asking me to explain blogging to him, I was afraid he was on to me. He wasn’t; it was a co-incidence, but I knew someone was bound to figure it out sooner or later, and I really wanted to tell him. I was ready.

Last night when we got home I showed him the blog and he was amazed. It is so cool to have such a great evening together, great meal, great conversation, and, after all these years being married, to be able to surprise him now and then – in a good way. It was one of our best dates.

September 29, 2006 Posted by | Communication, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Marriage, Relationships, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Breaking Out the Sweaters

This morning, checking the weather forecasts, I exclaimed to my husband “Wow! 100 degree (38 C) maximums for the next five days!”

“Break out the winter sweaters!” he exclaimed.

It’s a family joke. We’re from the same country, but different cultures. I was raised in a very cold climate, he was raised in a very hot climate. I need it to be cold enough to sleep; he sleeps in a nightshirt with an extra blanket.

When we were first married, he looked at me one night and said “Don’t you ever fry anything?”

I looked at him in horror. “No! – and you’ll live a lot longer! We only grill and occasionally saute!”

When I first met his family, they fixed all their best dishes for me.The food was wonderful, but used a lot of cream and lard and butter. Not used to eating such rich foods, I got really sick. Later, I did learn to cook several of the dishes that he grew up with, and he learned to like grilled fish and shrimp.

Although I do not think 100 degrees is “cool,” I am seeing changes in the weather – it is lovely at night, sweet for sitting outside. The color of the sea changed yesterday, from it’s normal jade color to a more blue color. There are huge flocks of birds, landing, resting and taking off – migratory birds? Two days ago, I could see silvery fish jumping in the waters, and last night, late late into the night, there were fishing boats just yards off the shore, with their lights gaily dancing up and down. I grew up on fishing boats – a part of me yearns to be out there with a line in the water.
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Think I’d better go pull out the winter boxes.;-)

September 28, 2006 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Locard Exchange Principal, Marriage, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The World is Not Enough

Whew! I just got back from a week in 12th century France, courtesy of my friend Zoe Olderbourg. (slaps a flea biting her arm) I bought this book, The World is Not Enough, a while back, and have tried to read it several times, but couldn’t get into it. This time, man, I got into it and couldn’t put it down!

We enter at the wedding of Alis to Ansiau, she (slapping the flea on my neck) the 14 year old daughter of Joceran of Puiseaux, Ansiau the son of Ansiau the Elder, castellan of Linnieres, who knows he is dying and wants to see his line continue before he goes.

“The two of them, standing there, were moved, as two children must be who have just been washed, dressed, lectured and left at teh altar by their parents in front of all the guests, their brothers, their sisters, their uncles, their playmates. They were so little alike. He was a boy and she a girl.”

Alis and Ansiau marry and fall quickly in love. (checking the bedding for fleas) They hunt, they go to tournements, Ansiau goes off on Crusade to the Holy Land – twice. Alis runs the daily life of the castle, has twenty pregnancies, 12 children who live. Ansiau has a mid-life crisis. In their late 50’s, we leave them, scratching one another’s flea bites and looking off into the sunset.

Reading this book, you are totally immersed in the daily life of the nobility. The nobility, as it turns out, are the original credit-crazy spenders – they borrowed against their inheiritance, they borrowed against their lands, they borrowed against their doweries. They were constantly short funds, and constantly mortgaging their future for a few baubles today.

The “castle” had a great hall downstairs, where most of the men slept and where cows and horses and chickens and sheep were brought if it got too cold in the stables in the winter, and up a laddar, one great room where there was one big bed for the king and queen and whoever else they invited to sleep there, and a couple other beds, mostly shared by four or five people. This was where ladies slept, and hung out, and embroidered, and (scratching at a fleabite on the ankle) exchanged gossip.

It was a fascinating visit into a world with no running water, no heat, no air conditioning, where babies died at birth as often as not. It was a world where people caught smallpox, and the lucky ones, those who survived, lived the rest of their lives with pock marks like craters on their faces. It was a world where the nobility didn’t read, and there were no books except in the monasteries. Only priests were authorized to read and explain scripture. It was a world where wolves and bear still roamed the forests of France.

The book is set near Troyes and Langres, in the Champagne area of France. Zoe Oldenburg captures the poverty and brutality suffered by the majority of people, rich and poor alike, without sacrificing the human joys and kindnesses which brightened the world, and made life worth living. The book is so realistic and richly detailed that you will be looking for flea bites when you finish!

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Books, Family Issues, Fiction, France, Uncategorized, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

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Kuwait City Meat and Vegetables Market

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Kuwait, Middle East, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heritage Market

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I couldn’t resist this photo. I love the art work in the Heritage Souk. Cat looks pretty content, too. I bet he gets the leftovers.

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Kuwait, Middle East, Travel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Driving in Kuwait – Traffic Stop

Sitting on the side of the road waiting to catch speeding drivers, a
Kuwaiti traffic policeman sees a car puttering along at 30 km/h. He thinks to himself, “This driver is as dangerous as a speeder!”

So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over. Approaching the car, he notices that there are women – two in the front seat and three in the back, wide-eyed and white as ghosts. The driver, obviously concerned, says to him, “Officer, I don’t understand. I was going the exact speed limit, 30 km/hr. What seems to be the problem?”

The policeman, trying to contain a chuckle, explains to her that 30 was
the road number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, the woman
grins and thanks the officer for pointing out her error.

“But before you go, Ma’am, I have to ask, is everyone in this car OK?
These women seem awfully shaken.”

“Oh, they’ll be all right in a minute, officer. We just got off Road 303.”

September 27, 2006 Posted by | Fiction, Joke, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Power of Words

I’m slow with the whole blogging thing. It’s taken me this long to figure out “link.” But I persist. I want to share with you two particular websites that give you the power of using the exact, most descriptive word or phrase.

A Word a Day has over 600,000 subscribers in every country of the world. Originally started as a labor of love, AWAD now has books and interviews. You can subscribe to get a daily e-mail with a new word, its meaning and its origin. Every week has a theme – last week it was Talk Like a Pirate! AWAD is fun, and a great tool for learning.

The wordorigins.org site has a big list of words and phrases that aren’t what they appear to be, like “pussyfoot”. We use phrases all the time that we don’t know why we use – this site tells you where the phrases and words originated, and how they should be used.

If you have not yet downloaded Google Earth, it is free, and it is fantastic. Kuwait is now so hi res that you can see a tiny little person in a swimming pool. Take a look, and start discovering the power of Geography!

September 26, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Get Out of Jail Free Card

Who could be whispering my name?

I was in the Jarir bookstore, on my way to the airport after a three week visit to Saudi Arabia. My husband wanted me to get a feel for the place before moving there to be with him. To my surprise, I really liked Saudi Arabia, what little I had seen of it. And I really wanted to be with my husband. But who could be calling my name?

“I can’t believe it! Is that you, teacher?”

I turned to see a traditionally garbed man, whom I instantly recognized as my former student in classes I had taught back in the US.

“Khalid! Khalid! I am so glad to see you!” I exclaimed, and I was. Khalid was one of my very best students, before he disappeared from classes. He was bright, he studied hard, and from time to time, he would even practice hard and tell a joke in English. He was a student any teacher would remember. He had more maturity than the other students, who treated him with respect, but he also had a delightful sense of humor.

Instantly, my husband and two other men who had come with us to the bookstore were standing between Khalid and me. I knew they were protecting me, so I quickly explained who Khalid was, and introduced him to the men with me.

“You remembered my name!” he said with an astonished look.

“Of course!” I assured him, “You were one of my best students. I missed you when you left.”

“Truly God works in mysterious ways,” Khalid looked dazed. “I never dreamed I would see you again, and here you are, in my country.”

We had to leave. Khalid gave me his card, and asked that I call so his mother could invite me for tea. I told him I wouldn’t be back for a couple months, and he said he was hoping to start legal studies in London in January.

In the car, my husband and the other two guys were cracking up, slapping their knees, almost howling with laughter. I was annoyed; what was so funny about my running into an old friend?

“He’s a muttawa!” they exclaimed, continuing their cackles, “You’re friend is a muttawa!”

The muttawa, the religious police in Saudi Arabia, are kind of the boogeyman, and we scare one another telling Muttawa stories. The problem is that you never know what new rules are going to go into effect, or what old rules they will begin enforcing. Our embassy guidance, for example, was that we were NOT to cover our hair, that it was a choice made by Moslem women, but not a requirement for non-Moslem women. We were also told to carry a scarf and not to argue if a muttawa told us to cover our hair, but to cover, and to take it off again when out of sight.

We were told that if our abaya was too short, a muttawa might hit our legs with sticks. We were told not to laugh, and to keep our eyes lowered to the ground to avoid problems. We were told that sometimes you might be arrested and not even know what you were being arrested for, and to always carry your cell phone with the embassy number on speed dial. In short, we lived in terror of arbitrary powers of the dreaded muttawa.

“Khalid is muttawa?” I couldn’t believe my ears. My husband explained how you could identify muttawa, the short robes, the lack of egal, the sandals, and that Khalid had probably broken the rules he was in Jarir to enforce by having spoken to me.

I never saw Khalid again, not in the Jarir bookstore, not anywhere. I am guessing by the time I returned to live in Riyadh, he was in London studying. But I often think of his amazement, and my own, in that one-time encounter. I often think, as he said, that “God works in mysterious ways.” I wish him well.

For me, I was never again terrified of the Muttawa. Khalid was muttawa, and he was a good man. I carried Khalid’s card with me, and figured if ever I was arrested (never even came close) that I would tell them to call Khalid, and he would help me. I thought of it as my “Get out of Jail Free” card.

Going back to the Locard Exchange Principal . . . knowing Khalid as a student and as a person made a difference to me. It colored my ideas about the muttawa, made me less afraid. If the Locard Exchange Principal works on a social and spiritual level, I wonder if knowing me has colored his perceptions?

September 26, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Communication, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Locard Exchange Principal, Middle East, Random Musings, Saudi Arabia, Spiritual, Travel, Uncategorized | 11 Comments