Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

From the Sacred to the Profane

You won’t find this in the Kuwait Times – a book review in yesterday’s paper by Kimberly Marlowe Harnett on a book called Indecent: How I Make it and Fake it as a Girl for Hire by Sarah Katherine Lewis, a sex worker (the cleaned up job title for those who offer sex for hire). This reviewer got my attention. She wrote this:

“When Lewis’ customers are not utterly repulsive, they are profoundly pathetic, paying serious money to women who loathe them and who perform canned routines with an eye on the clock.”

The book’s author says conventional jobs pay less.
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October 9, 2006 Posted by | Family Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

The Amish and Forgiveness

In yesterday’s paper there is a prominent article on the Amish – first inviting the wife and children of Charles Roberts, the killer of their daughters, to attend the funerals of their children, the children he killed, and then – and this is the part that stuns me – attending his funeral.

A funeral is to mourn the victim. In a recent blog We Need to Talk About Kevin I talked about how incredibly hard it would have to be to forgive the killer of my child. When I wrote that, I was thinking of the years that it would take to achieve forgiveness in my heart, a very quiet and personal thing.

The Amish took forgiveness to a height I can barely begin to comprehend. First, to see past their own grief and reach out to the family of the killer – the family so damaged, so stigmatized – and so innocent. But in addition, to attend the funeral to honor the killer of their children? Holy Smokes. That sets a standard of forgiveness that amazes me. I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

God bless them. I wish them only well, I hope that this standard of forgiveness they demonstrated gives them true and genuine peace in their hearts. I know their example has given me something to ponder for a long long time.
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October 9, 2006 Posted by | Spiritual | 2 Comments

Opposite World

I need to write this post while I am freshly back home, because it wears off, you forget the sharpness of the differences . . .

You have to think about how you will manage your bags when you get here, because there will be no willing men with carts to do it for you.

Getting on the highway . . . people are so polite. People drive exactly at the speed limit, or maybe up to 4 miles over. If you put on your turn signal, they slow down and allow you to enter their lane. No one weaves back and forth, no one gets on your tail and insists you get out of their way. Traffic flows smoothly, predictably. People are wearing seat belts; their babies are in baby seats and their children are buckled in the back seat. It’s five lanes, and it’s all very tame. Our testosterone drivers in Kuwait would find it very very dull. I didn’t see a single accident, or single wrecked car all the way home, about twenty miles.

At the grocery stores, there are places for inviduals to put their grocery carts back – and they really do. There are also enough parking places. The cashiers also put the groceries in a bag for you, but there is no one who carries them out to your car.

The streets are immaculate – not because we have hoards of people to pick them up, but because people here have a horror of littering – and huge fines that discourage the rare few who would toss a kleenex out a window.

Service providers are more helpful, and less servile. There is a sense of interchangeable rolls – the guy behind the counter at Starbucks might also be a full time IT student at the local university, just piling up a few barista bucks to pay his way through school. (There is always a tip jar in every Starbucks – Have you ever noticed there are no tip jars at the Starbucks in Kuwait?) The gal behind the counter at the grocery store might live just up the street from you. The guy at the Half Price book store has kids at the same school where your child goes to school. It’s different when all the workers are part of the same community.

The health care worker living with my parents to take care of my father is treated like family. He’s from Ghana. I watch him watch us as we gather. I imagine some of it is very familiar to him – the way women communicate when family gathers, laughter, tears, family business, making plans and arrangements. And I imagine some of it is very . . . foreign. I would love to read HIS blog!

There are seasons here. You need to have socks with you to keep your feet warm, and closed-toed shoes. There are trees that were green two months ago, and are now a flaming red, or orange, or yellow. I need a sweater outside, over a shirt. It’s cool, but not yet really cold.

Part of the transportation system here is ferry boats. People take them to get to work. My home town is, like Kuwait City, on the beach, but the water is not jade green, but a deeper, colder blue.

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October 9, 2006 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Middle East, Social Issues, Travel, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Karma Payback

When I started this blog, one of the first posts I wrote was about getting an upgrade. This trip, it was karma payback. I booked a ticket and paid online, and later when I tried to reserve my seat online, I kept getting an error message. When I got to the airport, (confirmation in my hand, thank God) the clerk said my reservation had been cancelled. I had paid extra to have an upgradeable ticket, and to be able to change dates if I need to – it took the fixer-guy over an hour and a half to figure out how to re-instate my reservation.

And I asked for an upgrade – I have thousands and thousands of frequent flyer miles; I don’t need a free ticket but it helps on the night flights to be in business class because you can lie down and sleep! Makes a difference when you have a long way to go. But they didn’t give any upgrades – and when I got on the place, the entire business section in front of where we were sitting was . . . EMPTY. Go figure!

In Europe, I asked for an upgrade for the next leg – not free, I am willing to cash in miles, but the snotty desk clerk told me my ticket was the non-upgradable kind. It doesn’t do any good to lose it in those circumstances, but I was steamed. What did I pay extra for??? When the guy who fixed my reservation fixed it, I guess he didn’t put in the right code. I’m screwed.

After the next flight, which was very long (had a good seatmate, though, quiet, like me, but when we talked it was about books and families and comfortable stuff) I went through immigration and because this was my fifth trip back home this year, when I filled out the immigration form, I listed that I wasn’t bringing back anything. And I wasn’t. I barely have the right clothes. But that got the attention of customs, and I got the full inspection, which after you’ve been travelling for more than 28 hours is annoying. They were cordial enough, but they went through everything, suitcases, carry-ons and purse, very thoroughly. And found nothing.

Last, but not least, I went to pick up my rental car, only to discover I don’t have my stateside driver’s license with me. After half an hour of desperate searching (I am an organized person; things are where they are supposed to be! but it wasn’t!) I offered her my Kuwait license, which she couldn’t read and said she couldn’t accept, and then, miracle of miracles, I came across my old Germany driver’s license. A German license is good for life. And, thanks be to God, she accepted it. And on top of that, for some amazing reason, using a German license made the rate even better than renting in my own state with a state license. Again – go figure.

And I just figure all of that is karma payback for all the good luck I have had in previous trips. We have a saying: Every monkey gets his turn in the barrel. I guess it was just my turn.

October 9, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Middle East, Travel | Leave a comment