Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Holiday Greetings from your Bank

Can anything else go wrong? Fortunately, I have a great sense of humor. But here is my worst nightmare come true.

Money is protection, right? Credit is money where carrying cash could be dangerous or inconvenient. Living overseas, we use our credit cards often, because it is easy to pay it off every month from the bank.

I am a little obsessive, I pay the bill, and then I check to insure that the bill has been paid. I saw my credit card register the recent payment, and then, a couple days later, to my astonishment, I saw the payment disappear. It was “reversed”.

Long story short, the credit card bank refused a BANK CHECK from my bank. The credit card bank said it came back saying “unable to find account” but the bank says the credit card bank failed to endorse it. Everyone agrees this is not my fault but meanwhile – I have a large check that is neither in my bank account nor has it paid off the credit card.

The credit card company says they submitted the check again, with their endorsement (they agree that they didn’t endorse it) and that the bank sent it back again. The bank says that didn’t happen, that the check was only submitted once. I believe some clerk somewhere made one little mistake and created this problem, but meanwhile, it is tying up MY money!

Meanwhile, snow storms hit Denver, and the credit card company has been unable to do any customer service for days, since all the banks, etc. were unmanned – people couldn’t get to their jobs. And now starts the Christmas holiday season when . . . the banks will be closed for at least three days.

And my father dies, and I need to quickly have an airline ticket, car rental, all the usual expenses of travelling.

Fortunately, we have stashes here and there we can draw from, and are not too worried about this. We know it will be resolved eventually, but I am insisting that the two banks work it out and make sure I don’t have to pay any charges on the amount that I PAID with a BANK CHECK. The bank calls daily to keep me up to date – up to date meaning that there is no progress.

Happy Holidays to you, Uncle Scrooge!

December 23, 2006 Posted by | Christmas, Communication, ExPat Life, Family Issues | 4 Comments

In the Headlights: Holiday Eating Tips

While looking for a photo of Rotkohl this morning (see previous post), I found this delightful and funny blog, In The Headlights.

She blogs mostly about food, recipes, cooking equipment and restaurant experiences, but the December 20 entry is Holiday Eating Tips and starts with 1. Avoid carrot sticks.

That got my attention!

She suggests you go next door, find a place where they are serving rum balls. The whole list is of a similar nature – this is the holiday, enjoy it. Love this blog!

December 22, 2006 Posted by | Blogging, Christmas, Holiday | 3 Comments

Christmas Dinner: Festive Alternatives 1

We have had many Christmases in countries where a traditional ham will not do, and is often not available. While turkey is always possible, we find we are not so eager for another turkey so close to Thanksgiving. We’ve tried all kinds of alternatives – duck (once, and everyone said “yuk” because it is so greasy), roast beef (nobody thought it was that special,) shrimp (always a winner in our house) – but one of the all time favorites is rouladen.

It is only intimidating the first time you try it, and then you laugh at how easy it is. When rolling, tuck the sides in before the final roll, and place tucked side down in the baking pan.

Rouladen

Rouladen is a German word that means rolls. The shutters that roll down over the window are rouladen. Little packets of meat roled around a savory stuffing are rouladen. This recipe are not authentic German rouladen, but an evolution over the year to what we like. This is also an approximation, but these work! They are delicious as a meal – and even more delicious as leftovers, but there usually isn’t much left over.

The Sultan center cuts round steak in long thin strips. (about 3-4 inches wide and 10 – 12 inches long) Those work fine.

Not in Kuwait? Find a butcher that will make rouladen cuts of meat! Usually the more expensive supermarkets will have someone who knows how to do rouladen cuts.

Buy a wooden or metal mallet. Pound the rouladen cutlets very thin. This will make them cook up very tender. The goal is that you can cut and eat them with a fork – that tender.

Crisply fried bacon, crumbled
Dill pickles, chopped small, but not as small as relish
Grated carrot
Green onions, chopped
Sharp mustard
Coarse pepper
Salt

Spray your baking pan with oil to protect it from the heavy baked on tomato sauce.

Spread a thin coat of sharp mustard on each slice of meat, then sprinkle with carrot, pickle, bacon, salt and pepper. Roll up, tucking large side flaps inside, and place in a baking pan with the end of the roll down.

Sauce: 2 Cans tomato sauce, 1 cup red wine (does not have to be good stuff) 1 Tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon mild paprika – sauce will be thin and should cover the rouladen (make more sauce if it doesn’t). Tuck in a bay leaf or two. In Kuwait, no red wine, use some red vinegar or balsamic vinegar to liven the sauce.

Bake: Heat oven to 325, pour sauce over meat rolls, and bake slowly two hours or so. It will start to smell yummy, and the sauce will thicken. When you serve the rolls, they will be so tender (thanks to the combination of wine and tomato) you can cut them just with a fork.

Serve with noodles, or with rice, or with potatoes to soak up the gravy.

Rotkohl (Red Cabbage)

Heads of red cabbage are available in Kuwait, even in the co-ops. This dish makes a great accompaniement to the rouladen, and has a lovely color, too. It is so so easy.

1 small red cabbage, sliced thinly
1 small apple, sliced thinly
1 cup grape jelly
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup grape or cranberry juice

Bring juice,vinegar, jelly, cinnamon, clove and sugar to a boil, add cabbage and apple, stir thoroughly and turn down fire to very low. Simmer for 45 minutes – the house will smell wonderful and the cabbage will shrink to a small amount. Serve with ham or turkey or rouladen.

December 22, 2006 Posted by | Christmas, Cooking, ExPat Life, Holiday, Recipes | 3 Comments

Two Photos

I have a photo of my Dad and me when I was only five or six months old. I am in my snow suit, with a big hat on my head. My dad has lifted me high on his right hand, high above his head, and I am oblivious to the danger, and out of my mind with delight – you know how babies are. I have a look on my face of delerious happiness. I am almost as high as the mountain in the background. I am – almost literally – on top of the world. My Dad is young and thin and strong. He was a great skiier in those days.

The second photo is of my Dad and my Mom, on a visit to Germany, only eight years ago. Dad was 80. They flew to Germany and rented a car to visit us, and to tour some of their old haunts from their own ten years of living in Heidelberg. He and Mom crawled up on the fountain at Deidesheim to stand behind the bronze costumes for a photo. Their faces are effused in smiles; they are still young in spirit if not in body, and having a wonderful time.

In recent years, my Dad was less and less able. His big project every week was to program the video recorder to record two tapes a week of prime time American television for my husband and I – we would watch it whenever we wanted and had time. He was known at the post office as the man who came in twice a week mailing these videotapes to us, and he loved it that he was so well known by the folks at the post office.

Dad died last night. He was 88. I’ll be going back for a short time. Dad, I know you’ve gone to a better place. Alhamdallah.

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December 20, 2006 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Germany, Kuwait, Relationships, Travel | 12 Comments

Rape in Kuwait

This is a very difficult post. Rape is a terrible subject. Coolfreak in his blog IheartKuwait wrote a heartbreaking post about a young woman raped recently in Kuwait, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

Rape has been the subject of several editorials in the Kuwait Times. Rape of children, abduction and rape of young women, abduction and rape of domestic servants, rape of domestics on the job site, abduction and rape of young men. . . rape is prominent DAILY in the crime column. Rape is epidemic in Kuwait, so common that people seem to think that there is nothing that can be done.

People can wring their hands. People can moan about how wrong it is. But what is being done for the victims of rape?

In California, volunteers put together rape crisis centers. At first, these centers were totally staffed and funded by volunteers and volunteer fund raising. The volunteers, with their own funds, established a 24 hour hotline, with an answering service, that rape victims could call and reach a rape counselor.

Counselors would accompany victims to the hospital, explain procedures, and explain the victim’s options. Counselors would help the victim on the long journey to feeling safe once again, and to feeling some remnant of control over their lives.

Members of the rape crisis centers created education programs, and worked with both police and hospitals to establish procedures working with rape victims. Police were counselled on how to work with the traumatized victims, and police worked with the crisis workers to create new, enforceable laws against the rapists. It was the beginning of the victim advocacy program that is now common in most western countries. Most law enforcement agencies now have paid staff to work with crime victims en route to criminal procedings against the “perp” and subsequent counselling. Victims can testify at parole hearings against probation.

Rape is an outrage – against the individual, and against the community. Rape is less about sex than about power and humiliation. Have you noticed when serial rapists are caught, they turn out to be pathetic losers? They carry a huge burden of inadequacy combined with feelings of entitlement. The most appropriate penalty is their exposure through the court systems, and imprisonment, with those who, like themselves, think like predators.

But we must do what we can do to help the victims, to provide them with counselling and resources to speed their recovery. To create strong laws which protect the community by keeping the predators off the streets. To create procedures where evidence can be gathered and stored, and DNA samples compared so that offenders can be charged, and tried, and convicted.

Hats off, by the way, to the young man Coolfreak with the courage to first blog about this outrage. I find his blog brave and creative and refreshing and amusing and stimulating. Check it out.

December 19, 2006 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, News, Social Issues, Uncategorized, Women's Issues | 11 Comments

Today’s Kuwaiti Hero: Sheikh Nassar Al Mohammed

Today’s Kuwait Times has the following story:

No One is Above the Law

No one is above the law, even if he happens to be the son of the prime minister. This is exactly what the Prime Minister, Sheikh Nassar Al-Mohammed said to the Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs, MAJ GEN Thabet Al-Muhanna and the accompanying traffic delegation when he received them in his office.

The reception was held to express gratitude to the Highways Officer, Lt Khalid Al-Hajery and his assistant, SGT Mohammed Al-Rasheedi who issued a traffic citation to the prime minister’s son when he was returning from a reception.

The patrol stopped his son and issued him a citation for tinting the vehicle’s windows, before letting him off.

When Sheikh Nasser came to know about it, he also sent the car to the traffic department to impound it, as the citation required the car to be impounded as per the law. (emphasis mine)

Comment: You always get the feeling there is more to the story than appears in the paper, but if this one is complete, it is pretty cool. This is leadership by example. Wooo Hooooooo.

December 18, 2006 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, News | 10 Comments

Dining Out: Souk Mubarakia

This is for Skunk – he recommended the outside restaurant at Souk Mubarakia, which also happens to be one of our favorite places to go.

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Does anyone know of a restaurant around here with an old Kuwait theme – like where they have private small rooms where you sit on the floor, like a small majlis?

December 18, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Photos | 10 Comments

Kuwaiti Drugged, Robbed in Thailand

Today in the Kuwait Times:

“Thailand/Kuwait. A Kuwaiti claims he was drugged and robbed at a hotel in Thailand. The 45 year old man stumbled from his room at the Marine Palace Hotel in South Patayya, Thailand yesterday morning, telling the reception staff that two women had stolen 10,000 Baht (around KD 82) in cash, a digital camera and a mobile phone.

The women had earlier entered the hotel, telling reception that they were going to the room occupied by the victim. They allowed the reception staff to take photocopies of their civil ID’s, reported local press yesterday. Arrest warrents for both the women, a 20 year old from Bangkok and a 21 year old from Nhakon Sawan Province were issued.”

Comment: I would love to know the rest of THIS story.

December 17, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Detective/Mystery, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, News, Social Issues, Travel | 7 Comments

Circumcision NOT complete protecton against HIV/Aids

One of my favorite source blogs Sociolingo reports the significant news from Africa. On December 14th, he quotes a United Nations report stating that while circumcision halves the risk of HIV infection, it should not be relied upon without condoms.

“Although these results demonstrate that male circumcision reduces the risk of men becoming infected with HIV, the UN agencies emphasize that it does not provide complete protection against HIV infection,” they said. “Circumcised men can still become infected with the virus and, if HIV-positive, can infect their sexual partners.

“Male circumcision should never replace other known effective prevention methods and should always be considered as part of a comprehensive prevention package, which includes correct and consistent use of male or female condoms, reduction in the number of sexual partners, delaying the onset of sexual relations, and HIV testing and counselling,” they added.

December 17, 2006 Posted by | Africa, Blogging, ExPat Life, Family Issues | 2 Comments

Liberation Tower at Night and Qatteri Cat

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We love going to Souk Mubarakia. Took this recently on a cool, clear night from the souks

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The Qatteri Cat has not lost interest in the tree, but no longer seems interested in pulling it over. The blanket is Masai, from Tanzania. Great Christmas colors!

December 17, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lumix, Pets, Photos, Tanzania | 11 Comments