Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Welcome Kuwait Sunrise

Adventure Man looks at me like I am stark-raving-out-of-my-mind.

“It feels different,” I have just said. “I can feel winter coming.”

The temperatures the last couple days have been 118° F. (48° C) going down at night to 91° F (33° C), according to my friends at Weather Underground: Kuwait.

But the five weeks I have been away have made a difference, I can feel it. The sun is rising almost a full hour later. The clouds are different, early in the morning, and there are more of them. No, no, I am not breaking out my sweaters yet, but the shift of the seasons has already begun in Kuwait, and I am nearly dancing for joy. I love the six months of winter in Kuwait.

For some reason, I am not jet lagging so badly this time, or at least not yet. Sometimes it hits me hard a couple days after arriving, but so far, so good.

And look at the Titian sunrise that greeted me this morning:

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Watch out, Kuwait. Intlxpatr is back!

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August 13, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lumix, Photos, Weather | 19 Comments

Perseid Showers TONIGHT!

This is from the US National Space Administration so I am figuring if it was scheduled for Sunday, August 11 – that’s right now, that’s night time in the US while it is Monday here. And as the report says the greatest concentration will be just before dawn, that would mean we need to keep our eyes on the skies here in Kuwait just as night falls.

What a show! If you have a camp in the desert, or a boat that can take you far away from the city lights, tonight is the night!

July 11, 2007: Got a calendar? Circle this date: Sunday, August 12th. Next to the circle write “all night” and “Meteors!” Attach the above to your refrigerator in plain view so you won’t miss the 2007 Perseid meteor shower.

“It’s going to be a great show,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. “The Moon is new on August 12th–which means no moonlight, dark skies and plenty of meteors.” How many? Cooke estimates one or two Perseids per minute at the shower’s peak.

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Above: A Perseid fireball photographed August 12, 2006, by Pierre Martin of Arnprior, Ontario, Canada.

The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is nowhere near Earth, the comet’s tail does intersect Earth’s orbit. We glide through it every year in August. Tiny bits of comet dust hit Earth’s atmosphere traveling 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light–a meteor–when it disintegrates. Because Swift-Tuttle’s meteors fly out of the constellation Perseus, they are called “Perseids.”

The show begins between 9:00 and 10:00 pm on Sunday, August 12th, when Perseus rises in the northeast. This is the time to look for Perseid Earthgrazers–meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping the surface of a pond.

“Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors,” says Cooke. He cautions that an hour of watching may net only a few of these–“at most”–but seeing even one makes the long night worthwhile.

As the night unfolds, Perseus climbs higher and the meteor rate will increase many-fold. “By 2 am on Monday morning, August 13th, dozens of Perseids may be flitting across the sky every hour.” The crescendo comes before dawn when rates could exceed a meteor a minute.

For maximum effect, Cooke advises, “get away from city lights.” The brightest Perseids can be seen from cities, he allows, but the greater flurry of faint, delicate meteors is visible only from the countryside. Scouts, this is a good time to go camping.

And there’s a bonus: Mars. In the constellation Taurus, just below Perseus, Mars shines like a bright red star. Many of the Perseids you see on August 12th and 13th will flit right past it. Instead of following the meteor, you may find you have a hard time taking your eyes off Mars. There’s something bewitching about it, maybe the red color or perhaps the fact that it doesn’t twinkle like a true star. You stare at Mars and it stares right back.

Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter in December 2007. NASA is taking advantage by launching a new mission to Mars–the Phoenix Lander. Phoenix will touch down on an arctic plain where it can dig into the ground and investigate layers of soil and ice, searching for, among other things, a habitable zone for primitive microbes. The launch window opens on August 3rd, so by the time the Perseids arrive Phoenix may be hurtling toward the Red Planet. Landing: late Spring 2008.

It’s something to think about at four in the morning, with Mars rising in the east, meteors flitting across the sky, and a summer breeze rustling the legs of your pajamas.

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Kuwait, Technical Issue | 4 Comments

Packaging

Dont ya just love it when someone goes to a little extra trouble to delight you?

I have a routine when I get to Amsterdam, my half way point. After all those hours of flying, I love having a shower. I love having the small room all to myself, quiet, to get all clean, to brush my teeth, fix my frowzy-airplane hair, apply a little fresh makeup. I don’t usually get a lot of sleep on my first flight – could it be that last strong cup of coffee I eat before getting on the plane? 😉

And then I wait the endless hours for my flight to Kuwait, trying not to nod off, because the overburdened lounge staff at KLM don’t do flight announcements, and I am so afraid I will fall deeply asleep and miss my plane. All around me are sleeping people – many on their way to Accra, Entebbe, Mumbai . . . and a few familiar faces heading back to Kuwait. Whoda thunk, this early in August, so many people would be returning?

I get restless. I don’t like the lounge food, it has a stale feel to it, and is mostly processed unidentifiable meat slices and hardening cheese, so I head down for the sushi bar. It’s purely psychological, but I believe the miso soup hardens my immune system against airplane-air-germs, so I almost always have a cup of soup and a small tray of sushi, something cooked or vegetable so I won’t offend whoever is sitting next to me on the way back to Kuwait.

And, because the sushi bar was packed, I got it all to go and found a quiet place in Concourse D to sit and eat. And look what I found!

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Now YOU tell me – isn’t that adorable?

Normally soy sauce comes in one of those nasty plastic or aluminum packets that you have to tear off an end. This – in a tiny little fish with a plastic screw-off cap – this gave me a moment’s grin in the middle of the limbo of airport transitions. And I thought of you, and how you might enjoy it along with me.

I’m sure it costs them more than a plastic packet. I love it that the top screws off, that the shape is a fish, I love the whole concept.

“It’s just soy-sauce”, you might say, shaking your head in mild disgust at how easily amused I am.

Yes, it is just soy sauce. And packaging matters.

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, KLM, Public Art, Travel | 6 Comments

Leaving Seattle

Here is what it is like, leaving Seattle.

For days, the televisions and radios have been telling us that traffic on I-5, the major interstate, will slow to a crawl for a month as serious repairs are made to the overpasses and bridgework supporting the freeway.

Remember the bridge collapse in Minnesota? I-5 is THE major route in and out of Seattle, traffic is unbelievably heavy, and yet . . . without regular inspection and maintenance, infrastructure fails, and a failure in mid-town Seattle could be catastrophic. The stoic Seattleites would much rather be inconvenienced than suffer a catastrophe, so they are all working to find alternate routes.

My drive through Seattle was a breeze. It was the last day before the closure. I was in prime time traffic. I don’t know if everyone thought the closures had happened already or if half the population is on vacation, but the drive was a delight – and the roads were dry.

My least favorite part of every trip is trying to get my bags to the check-in. Once, I left my bags in my rental car while I went for a cart, only to find on my return that the car – and my bags – were gone! It took half an hour to get the car back again. Now, I lug my treasure filled bags with me to the baggage cart section, wishing I were in Kuwait or Doha where someone would be running up to me with a cart, offering to cart my bags.

Check in is always another delight – because my ticket, even though it is an e-ticket, is booked in Kuwait, I have to wait for a real person to check me in, I can’t check in online or through one of the machines. But, by the grace of God, it all goes smoothly, and I am on my way to the gate.

But because I give myself plenty of time to get across town, I always have plenty of time before my flight, so I go to the food court. I love this food court. You could get Burger King, and a lot of people do, or you could get a wide assortment of organic foods, and a lot of people do, or you could get sushi and udon, which so many people do that they are usually sold out in short time. My favorite is a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

I have my favorite place to sit and eat, and I love to look at the airport art work. Look at the light fixture. . . I don’t think it is a Chihuly, but just look at it! In the middle of the food court! Isn’t it just gorgeous? Doesn’t it remind you of a very cold river, in the shallows, flowing over rocks?

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August 13, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Public Art, Seattle, Travel | 4 Comments

Royal Treatment

It’s back to Purgatory for me – the start of two full days travelling to get back to Kuwait. The day dawns cool, but the clouds are high and the roads are dry.

Seattle is undergoing a major infrastructure upgrade, and most of the lanes on the major interstate close tomorrow. Public announcements are on all the radio and tv stations about finding alternate routes, and today was the last day all lanes would be open. I was afraid traffic would be heavy, so I started early, but it was surprisingly light.

Turned in the rental car, got checked in, everything is cool so far. Go to stand in the security line and – as usual – I get sent to the “Royal treatment” line.

I am so used to it that I don’t even groan any more. I have my computer, my little plastic bag with face cream, mascara, etc. all in one bag, and I have little footies to put on when I have to take off my shoes. I am SO prepared.

What I am not prepared for is for them to tell me in an angry voice to take the liquid out of my purse. I say – as all guilty people do – “I don’t have any liquid in my purse!”- and they throw my purse at me and tell me to go through it and take out the liquid, and they give me a small plastic bag.

I go through my purse again – it has a lot of zips and pockets – no liquid. I put a very humble look on my face and hand it to her and say “there is no liquid!” and they yell at me “she’s going to take it!” and they run it through again. And then I have to wait in a small booth (again) for the full bag hand inspection for explosives and for the pat down check.

Those who know me will know why this is so funny. I am not dangerous looking.

They pat me down. They magic wand me. They tell me I can put my shoes back on as they wipe down my handbag and my carry on. Guess what – no liquid. They stamp my ticket, but . . .no apologies, no nothing. Just “you can go now.”

I’ve had this happen for five years now, almost every trip. It doesn’t matter whether I pay cash in person or pay by credit card online – I get the royal treatment.

On top of that, my plane is seriously delayed. They are bringing in another plane to substitute for it. I hope I will make my Kuwait connection – and I really really hope I have time between flights for a shower. I’ve also lost my KLM card somewhere in all these changing flights and confused reservations and they are being stinky about believing me, even though my frequent flyer status is on my ticket, on my boarding passes and in the computer. More royal treatment.

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Counter-terrorism, Customer Service, ExPat Life, KLM, Kuwait, Travel, Weather | 3 Comments