Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Shaking My Head

Today, two bloggers found my blog by typing “is mayonnaise made of turkey sperm?” It’s bad enough if it were only one, but two??

Lord have mercy.

(Shaking my head in despair)

February 24, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Humor, Words | 8 Comments

Good Outcome – Check Your Boats!

Today, on my way home from grocery shopping, I was at a stoplight, and a guy with a boat was trying to enter traffic from a boat parking lot on the gulf. All of a sudden, the tarp covering the back of the boat was boiling and twisting, and then, just as the truck was starting to enter traffice, out from under the tarp popped a frantic, scrawny little black and white cat, desperate to escape. He twisted himself out from under the cover, hit the road, and fortunately chose to dash in the direction of the boatyard, not the traffic.

The guy driving the truck with the boat attached never even knew what had happened.

If you have a boat that you keep parked out where cats might think it a good place to catch a snooze, you might want to check inside your boats before you drive away. At least this little cat was able to escape back into his known territory. Other little cats might not be so lucky.

February 24, 2007 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Saturday Low Statistics

Saturday mornings are also a little slow for me, so this morning, as I looked at my statistics, I thought I saw a pattern. I counted back every seven days, and, sure enough, every week my statistics take a small dive on Saturday.

I am guessing that the quality of what I publish doesn’t vary that much, but that the majority of my readers come from places where they have a Saturday – Sunday weekend. Saturdays are always busy days for getting things done – getting the new garden in, getting shopping done, bringing in the groceries for the week, if you are a working Mom, going hiking or boating or some activity you can’t do during the work and school week . . .

Last night we visited friends who had just accomplished a major project in their garden here – transferring palm trees. It took a crane and a whole team of people to dig the huge holes, dig the trees out of one spot and transfer them to another. What an undertaking!

It was one of those lovely evenings in Kuwait – our friends were relaxed and enjoying the glow of having accomplished a major task, the evening was soft and sweet, and the fire glowed with eucalyptus wood. I came home smelling so good, and knowing it was one of those evenings I will long remember. Kuwait in February – the sweetest time of year.

Tomorrow is Kuwait’s National Day, and the day after that, Kuwait Liberation Day (from Saddam’s troops), so the Kuwaitis are enjoying a four day weekend at this sweet time of the year. Some have taken holidays in connection with the five day weekend (somehow Saturday became a weekend day, too, because it is sandwiched between the Thursday-Friday weekend and the Sunday-Monday holiday) and made it a full nine or ten day holiday.

Happy Holidays to all our Kuwaiti friends.

February 24, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Holiday, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Statistics | Leave a comment

Bureaucrats Joke

A Department of Agriculture representative stopped at a farm and said to the old farmer, “I’m here to inspect your farm.” The old farmer said, “You’d better not go out in that field.”

The Ag representative said in a demanding tone, “I have the authority of the U. S. Government behind me. See this card, I am allowed to go wherever I wish on agricultural land.”

So the old farmer went about his chores. In a few minutes, he heard loud screams and saw the Department of Agriculture rep running for his life, headed for the fence. Close behind, and gaining with every step, was the farmer’s prize bull, nostrils flaring, madder than a full nest of hornets.

The old farmer cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled out, “Show Him Your Card! Show Him Your Card!”

February 23, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Humor, Joke, Locard Exchange Principal, Social Issues | 2 Comments

Book Meme – Too Much Temptation

Friday mornings in Kuwait can be VERRRRRY quiet. Today, I explored Technorati, and found people who have linked to me. One was PearLady and oh, what fun, she published a Book Meme.

I don’t do tags. I don’t do memes. Oh well, she found my weak spot. Here goes. Please read all the way to the bottom.

Hardback or paperback? I prefer paperback, just because I read all the time and paperback is more portable. And because I like to pass it along, and paperback is cheaper. But I buy hard cover when it is brand new from an author I love and I can’t wait.

Amazon or brick and mortar? Hands down Amazon, although if I am in the states, I can’t resist Barnes and Noble, and I always spend money there, and Half Price Books. Both ruin my weight allowance when I come to fly back to Kuwait.

Barnes & Noble or Borders? Either. Both. And all the little independent book sellers, too.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark is preferable, but occasionally I dogear sections I want to blog about. (Gasp) – occasionally I even underline.

Alphabetize by author, alphabetize by title or random? First by subject, then by author, but not by title.

Keep, throw away, or sell? Part with a friend??? Ah well, sometimes it is necessary. I even keep shelves of books for people to borrow, or to take. I buy multiples of the best ones, and trust that they will find new friends when they depart from my shelves.

Keep dust jacket or toss it? I take it off to read the book, then put it back on and give the book away. Hardcover books are too heavy to ship!

Read with dust jacket or remove it? Oops, see above.

Short story or novel? I love them both. Good science fiction often comes in short stories, stories you can remember years later. And novels – those are the friends that you keep around.

Collection (by same author) or anthology (by different authors)? Collection by the same author, because I am particular and don’t like all authors.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? I prefer Harry Potter. I don’t know why, but I find Lemony Snicket a little creepy.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? Prefer to stop at chapter breaks, but sometimes I fall asleep and just have to give it up.

‘It was a dark and stormy night’ or ‘Once upon a time’? For me, once upon a time. Love history.

Buy or Borrow? Mostly buy, but sometimes the book I want to read isn’t available for sale, and have to borrow.

New or used? Both. Some books you can’t find new.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse? Often look for specific authors, always looking for recommendations and often ask fellow travellers who look absorbed in what they are reading.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger? Tidy endings are nice, and I also find that the ones that end without resolution are the ones I think about the longest.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading? Any time. Usually, I use it as a carrot to make me get work done and projects finished, so normal is later in the day.

Standalone or series? Both. I like the Dickensian continuity of series.

Favourite series? Dorothy Dunnet’s Niccolo series. Fascinating characters and I learn so much. Great, vivid images, takes you back to the mid 1400’s.

tag…you’re all it…show me the meme! (If you don’t have a blog, you are welcome to comment below, or cut and paste.)

February 23, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Fiction, Poetry/Literature | 5 Comments

Egypt blogger jailed for ‘insult’

From BBC News:

An Egyptian court has sentenced an internet blogger to four years’ prison for insulting Islam and the president.

Abdel Kareem Soliman’s trial was the first time that a blogger had been prosecuted in Egypt.

He had used his weblog to criticise the country’s top Islamic institution, the al-Azhar university and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.

A human rights group called the verdict “very tough” and a “strong message” to Egypt’s thousands of bloggers.

Mr Soliman, 22, was tried in his native city of Alexandria. He blogs under the name Kareem Amer.

A former student at al-Azhar, he called the institution “the university of terrorism” and accused it of suppressing free thought.

The university expelled him in 2006 and pressed prosecutors to put him on trial.

During the five-minute court session the judge said Soliman was guilty and would serve three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting Mr Mubarak.

Egypt arrested a number of bloggers who had been critical of the government during 2006, but they were all freed.

“This is a strong message to all bloggers who are put under strong surveillance that the punishment will very strong,” Hafiz Abou Saada of the Egyptian Human Rights Organisation told Associated Press.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Africa, Blogging, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Social Issues | 3 Comments

Donna Leon: Read and Savor

When I tell you about Donna Leon, I am really introducing you to a friend. I can’t remember when we met, but I can tell you that I seek her out whenever I can. Just listing her books, I realized there were several I hadn’t seen and I ordered them immediately, from the Amazon re-sellers.

“Why the resellers?” you are asking. Donna Leon is not that easy to find, in the United States. Some of the books in her series seem to have been printed only in the UK, which is a pity, because The Donna Leon books really need to be read in order.

While they can be a quick read, they are better read slowly and savored. It’s not that hard. Her humor is subtle, sometimes even sly. Commissario Guido Brunetti, her main character, lives in Venice. He has a family, a sweet wife – Paola, and a daughter and a son. He eats Venetian meals, he lives in an illegal Venetian apartment, he has a glass of wine or two with his lunch. It helps to read the books in order, as his children grow from childhood to teen-agers, and to grow older with him as he solves his cases.

But in Donna Leon’s books, solving the cases is not the goal. As often as not, even while Brunetti solves the case, justice is not served. The books are about the living conditions and social realities of life in Venice, and in Italy. The books are about painful subjects – child prostitution, traffic in women, blood diamonds and African immigrants, and about art fraud and Mafia crime and big business. And the book is about Venetian and Italian interconnections, so that some crimes just disappear, some evidence just disappears, and Brunetti’s dunderhead of a boss tells him to just look the other way.

While each book is deceptively short, and written in clear, simple language, the books are richly complex, weaving a myriad of details into each page.

Thanks to Donna Leon, I know what it is like on a cold, rainy day in Venice, when the water rises and you have to try to walk on raised boards to get where you are going. I know what it is like to have a family emergency and the police vaporetto is in use elsewhere and to try to figure out the fastest way to run home, crossing bridges, grabbing a taxi, complicated by the canal system and tourist infestations in Venice. I know when policement get together for lunch in Venice, you don’t talk business until AFTER you have finished your exquisite pasta with truffles, accompanied by a glass or two of the fabulous house wine. Donna Leon has taken me there.

In Death and Judgement, the book I just finished, Brunetti is called by a police sergeant who has arrested a former police sergeant and wants Brunetti to come to the station. Brunetti’s conversations with the arresting sergeant always require a lot of patience:

(Brunetti) “Did the people in Mestre tell you to make out an arrest report?”
“Well, no, sir,” Alvise said after a particularly long pause. “They told Topa to come back here and make a report about what happened. The only form I saw on the desk was an arrest report, so I thought I should use that.”
“Why didn’t you let him call me, officer?”
“Oh, he’d already called his wife, and I know they’re supposed to get one phone call.”
“That’s on television, officer, on American television,” Brunetti said, straining towards patience.

We’ve all been there. Dealing with those who think they understand, and their understanding is . . . imperfect.

In another part of this book, in which the major issue is the big business of trafficking in women for prostitution, Brunetti is having a conversation with his wife:

Paula pulled gently on his hand. “Why do you use them?”
“Hum?” Brunetti asked, not really paying attention.
“Why do you use whores?” Then, before he could misunderstand, she clarified the question. “Men, that is. Not you. Men.”
He picked up their joined hands and waved them in the air, a vague, aimless gesture. “Guiltless sex, I guess. No strings, no obligations. No need to be polite.”
“Doesn’t sound very appealing,” Paola said, and then added “But I suppose women always want to sentimentalize sex.”
“Yes, you do.” Brunetti said.
Paola freed her hand from his hand and got to her feet. She glanced down at her husband for a moment, then went into the kitchen to begin dinner.

If you are reading that interchange too quickly, too superficially, you will totally miss the significance of the last sentence. If you have been married a long time, you will totally understand that a whole lot happened. This is one of the things I love about Donna Leon.

Death at La Fenice
Death in a Strange Country
Dressed for Death
A Venetian Reckoning
Acqua Alta
The Death of Faith
A Noble Radiance
Fatal Remedies
Friends in High Places
A Sea of Trouble
Willful Behavior
Uniform Justice
Doctored Evidence
Blood From a Stone
Through a Glass Darkly

087113937501_ss500_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Books, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Washington Post Contest

This was sent to me by a good friend: These are entries to A Washington Post competition asking for a two line poem. The contest was to have the most romantic first line, and the least romantic second line.

My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife:

Marrying you screwed up my life.

I see your face when I am dreaming.

That’s why I always wake up screaming.

Kind, intelligent, loving and hot;

This describes everything you’re not.

Love may be beautiful, love may be bliss,

But I only slept with you ‘cause I was pissed.

I thought that I could love no other –

That is until I met your brother.

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you.

But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar bowl’s empty and so is your head.

I want to feel your sweet embrace;

But don’t take that paper bag off your face.

I love your smile, your face and your eyes –

Damn, I’m good at telling lies!

My love, you take my breath away.

What have you stepped in to smell this way?

My feelings for you no words can tell,

Except for maybe “Go to hell.’

What inspired this amorous rhyme?

Two parts vodka, one part lime.

February 21, 2007 Posted by | Humor, Poetry/Literature, Relationships | 6 Comments

Giving it Up for Lent

Lent started today, our own holy season of repentance and fasting. When I was a little girl, children would gather and figure out what they were going to give up, like chocolate, or coca cola, or candy. Mostly, in truth, it didn’t last too long. We meant well, we took it seriously, but we didn’t have the capacity for that kind of long term commitment – 40 days (and 40 nights, too; we don’t get time off from sunset to sunrise.)

As adults, we can be equally wacky, but in different ways. We can give up something that is too easy to give up. We can give up something and then obsess about it until it makes up a major focus of our day. If we are very fortunate, with prayer and God’s help, we can truly give up something meaningful and stick to it, offering it up as a spiritual sacrifice to God.

I had a blessing this week. It didn’t feel like such a blessing at the time, but a great deal of the time this week I was driving, and I had riders in the car.

I had no idea my language in the car had deteriorated so far. I’m a pretty good driver, but this is Kuwait. There are things that are out of my control. And I discovered that occasionally, bad words pop out of my mouth.

I can only guess that it happens when I am alone, too, but I am not conscious of it. All of a sudden, when some bad word pops out of your mouth and you are NOT alone, you become VERY conscious of it.

I’m giving it up for Lent.

At first, I was going to allow myself non obscene words like “Idiot!” “Imbecile!” and “What are you thinking??????” but after lengthy thought, I think it defeats the purpose. No. I am going cold turkey, no obscenities, no outraged exclamations.

Perhaps an elaborate “I forgive you” from time to time. . . . Pray for me!

February 21, 2007 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual | 13 Comments

“Was That Funny?”

When my son was little, he went through a time when he would make up jokes and tell us, and watch our reaction and ask “was that funny?” He wanted desperately to catch on to humor, but humor is a whole new way of thinking, and he was only four or five years old.

We started with riddles, I think, jokes in which words had more than one meaning, and then we moved on to knock knock jokes. But when he first started making jokes, he started with pure nonsense.

Around eight, we introduced him to Shel Silverstein, a brilliant poet, who writes books for kids that are also a joy for adults.

006051303901_bo2204203200_pilitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_ou01_aa240_sh20_sclzzzzzzz_.jpg
(photo courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Where The Sidewalk Ends
Light in the Attic
Falling Up

We all loved Shel Silverstein. Our son would read the poems aloud to us as we zipped around the back streets of Europe. We never got tired of him. His poems are funny to both children and adults “One Sister for Sale” “The King Who Loved Peanut Butter” . . . and sometimes poignant, or even sad.

Slowly, slowly, our son built up a huge repetoire of humor. Today, he is one of the funniest men I know, albeit most of his wit is very dry, and sometimes . . . I don’t always get it.

And that doesn’t begin to tackle the problem of “what is funny” crossing national and cultural boundaries! I think you have really arrived in a language when you can tell a joke in another language, and the native speakers find it funny.

February 20, 2007 Posted by | Books, Communication, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Joke, Poetry/Literature, Random Musings, Relationships, Uncategorized | 3 Comments