Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Swarming Fish

We were dining overlooking the water, when I happened to look down. I gasped!

“Look! Look at the fish!”

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It was the most amazing live show, ever. The fish would make the most amazing patterns as they swarmed, making twirling circles, sometimes fanning out, sometimes closer to the surface than other times. Sometimes the rush of their movement created a wave, a wave of sparkling silver bodies. It felt like a gift from God. We sat and watched, mezmerized.

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August 27, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 3 Comments

Hints of Ramadan

These lanterns are already up at the Al Kout Mall . . . Ramadan is in the air!

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August 27, 2007 Posted by | Community, Eid, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Ramadan, Shopping, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Tang Chow and Gulf Road

I’ve written about Tang Chow before. I know, I know, you are looking for something new. But (there’s always that “but”) when Adventure Man called and said “what do you want to do about dinner” and I said “I just have a hankering for Tang Chow”, he said “Me too! I’ve been thinking about it all day!”

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It’s great when you are married to someone who likes the same food at the same time. No, it isn’t always instant agreement.

Sometimes, we’ll be going out and he will say “where are we going?” and I will give him three options, and he won’t like any of them. So then I say, “Ok, OK where is it YOU really want to go?” and he will tell me and we will go there. Sometimes it works out OK, and sometimes there just isn’t much on the menu I really like, but we try to take turns getting to choose when we can’t agree. But if one of us really objects, then we go somewhere else.

We never disagree when it comes to Tang Chow. The only negative factor is the traffic on Gulf Road. What a hassle!

Last week we were caught in that horrid traffic (and it’s only August! Not even as bad as when school starts!) and there was a car to our left with the lights on inside, four women primping, literally with compacts, checking their own lips, checking their eyes, clearly ON DISPLAY but pretending to be oblivious to all the attention they were getting from the guys trying to get their attention.

And the guys in front of us, in a great big SUV, trying to get the girls’ attention, HIT the car in front of them, full of a family bringing a brand new baby home from the hospital.

Guys, take it off the road! Court in the parking lots, court at Chili’s, court at the coffee houses or at the Malls – take it off the road.

You have my sympathy, truly. I know it is really really tough here, almost impossible, to get to know the girls. And you have all those raging hormones. Still – take it OFF THE ROAD.

We could see the young men were really really sorry they had hit the family. I am betting they learned from the experience, and, God willing, will keep their eyes on the road when they are driving, but I am afraid to hope for too much.

August 27, 2007 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Middle East, Relationships | 2 Comments

Kuwait Bans Melmac

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Today on the front page of the Kuwait Times is the announcement of a ban by the Ministry of Commerce on selling any goods containing melamine, stating it was “based on information received from the Customs Department and office of the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and has to do with melamine containing urea formaldehyde, which is banned” because it is “believed to be harmful to health.”

I was so curious, I had to Google “Melamine kitchenware + danger” because, to the best of my knowledge, Kuwait is now the only country in the entire world to ban melamine.

Melamine appeared in dog and cat food, and is believed to have been the cause of some early poisonings in the US, but as far as I can see, that came from insecticides, not from eating off melmac.

On the same front page is an article about hundreds of camels dropping dead in Saudi Arabia, also believed poisoned by a insecticide contaminated feed. Is there some relationship?

It isn’t an issue in our house; we don’t have melamine. But I have this irrational fondness for Melmac, because there used to be a show called Alf, about an alien that lived with an American family, and he was from the planet Melmac, which always cracked me up. I can’t imagine the generations of Americans – and others – who have eaten off Melmac dishes without any serious effects. How can this be? Is Melmac now formulated differently from before? Are Melmac plate users going to succumb to some serious problems because they ate off Melmac plates?

And why is Kuwait the only country in the world banning Melmac?

August 26, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cooking, Customer Service, Health Issues, Kuwait, News, Technical Issue | 18 Comments

The Road to Damascus

I am dancing for joy! Adventure Man and I are taking a trip soon, back to Damascus! We spent many a happy weekend, even a couple weeks there, way back when, driving from Amman whenever we could. We loved Syria.

I would sit in the old Hammadiyya Souk, drinking tea and feeling the ghosts of the centuries of traders who had sipped tea in the same place. There is, for us, something special about Damascus.

I know there are a lot of Syrian bloggers out there. And it has been a while since we have seen Damascus. I would love to know a couple really great places to eat (we eat in local dives and we eat in the best hotels; we look for good food and atmosphere and know that cost and value are not always the same so recommend whatever YOU love), a good shop for the silk brocades, and anything else you think we really should see.

August 26, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Travel | 6 Comments

The Arab Way (2)

Here is when the Arab way doesn’t work. . .well, it does work, but not in your favor. I was taking my car in for some repairs a couple weeks ago; they told me “just bring it in, we will take care of it” and fool! I believed them!

So I get there, seek desperately for a parking space, and go inside. I take a number. Not too bad. Only five people in front of me.

Five people. But here comes Bashir, and he sits himself down right at the counter, no number. The clerk finishes with number 34 – and Bashir shakes hands with him, greets him, makes small talk with him – and takes care of him.

Meanwhile Ali and his four brothers walk in. They have a number. They want to sit down, but I am on the far end of the couch so only Ali sits down. He tells his brothers they can sit, but with a big wolfy grin – like a dare. Let’s see which one of you will sit next to a WOMAN. And not one of them will. The manager walks over to Ali, greets him and they chat and then Ali and his brothers are all taken to another area, where they get specialized service.

Old Abdul shuffles in next, and I know I am screwed. OK, OK, I tell myself, you have a choice, you can laugh or you can stew. If you stew, you just ruin your own day – it’s not going to change anything. So I just laugh.

Eventually, I get seen, and the dealership makes the problem go away, and I think to myself that in the US this would have cost a lot more, I would have waited a lot longer, and I wouldn’t have all this material for a blog entry.

The Arab ways works – but it works best if you are an Arab, if you are a Moslem, and if you have connections. I am betting it also helps to be male, but I have seen women who knew how “to be preferred”, too. ;-)

August 26, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 8 Comments

I Thought I’d Never See You Again

I thought I saw you from across the room. My heart leapt into my throat – I didn’t dare believe my eyes.

I thought I would never see you again. When you disappeared from my life, life lost a little of it’s savor. I looked for you, I searched for you, always disappointed. I had become so addicted, without even knowing it. You made such a difference in my life. Without you, there is only darkness.

I woke up each morning yearning for you, and sad because of your absence. Oh yes, I moved on, I found others, but I was never satisfied. I never found a substitute for you.

So you understand why I appeared so wild-eyed with happiness? Why I grabbed at you so greedily? I want you in my life! Please, don’t desert me again!

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August 25, 2007 Posted by | ExPat Life, Humor, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Shopping | 11 Comments

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

On a recent flight, I found an insert for the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, the Doha equivalent to the Tarek Rajab Museum here in Kuwait. I have visited both of these museums many times – and have marvelled that private individuals would amass such great collections and share them – free – with the public.

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You have to be invited, or you have to ask (groups often do) if you can visit; it is not open daily the way the Tarek Rajab Museum is.

You can find the museum online at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum.

August 25, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Public Art | 2 Comments

Kingdom of Heaven and IMDB

Adventure Man and I finished Rome, The Final Season, and weren’t ready to start anything else . . .you know how it is when you finish a really good series?

So today, we sat down to watch a movie I saw on a plane, Kingdom of Heaven, which Adventure Man had never seen. And the truth is the movie was a lot like the movie I saw on the plane, but was so much longer, and so much more full of detail. And – oh what fun – in one of the earliest scenes, I said to Adventure Man “Look! There’s Vorenus!”

“Noooooo.” he denied I had seen Vorenus in the entourage of Orlando Bloom’s Baron father.

Not long afterwards he had to do the ceremonial apology. (It’s a family tradition.)

First he looks over at me to see if I am going to say anything. It’s pretty clear that it really IS Vorenus.

Then, seeing I am not going to lord it over him, he concedes. “Well done, Intlxpatr. You are right. And I was wrong. That is very sharp of you to spot Vorenus.”

(The tradition is that you have to say “You are right, and I was wrong.” But he gave it extra grace by cloaking it with additional flattery.)

(No, he doesn’t really call me Intlxpatr, but I really do call him Adventure Man.)

So now we are watching the back-story, the history behind the movie, and it is fascinating. Earlier Adventureman looked up all the mistakes in the film on IMDb.

You don’t know what IMDb is? It stands for Internet Movie Database, and you can look up all kinds of things about movies or TV series, or your favorite actors and actresses. There is also a list of mistakes, anachronisms or lack of continuity, and we thing this is a lot of fun.

So you put in your title name Kingdom of Heaven and you go to the film page.

Over on the left hand side are all kinds of things you can choose from, including a section called Fun Stuff, under which you find goofs.

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Here is a partial list of goofs Adventure Man found at IMDb:

Crew or equipment visible: In some scenes involving horses, modern orange cones can be seen on the ground directing the riders on the path past the camera to follow.

Factual errors: When the Muslims are praying near Jerusalem they are praying towards the setting sun, west, not towards Mecca which is to the south south east.

Continuity: During the battle for Jerusalem, the crescent moon and the star nearby, change positions during a short period of time. First, the crescent is horizontal, with the star a short distance above it. In the next scene, the crescent is on an angle, and the star is where the unlit part of the moon would obscure it.

Factual errors: A few times during the movie, the Muslims are shown praying while the prayer call is being delivered. The prayer call precedes the prayer.

Anachronisms: During the movie, flags from Castilla y Leon kingdom are shown several times. At that time Castilla and Leon were separate kingdoms. They became one in 1230.

Continuity: The size of the hole in the sand made by the sword when Nasir is down after the fight for the horse changes going from large and uneven to even

Revealing mistakes: When the messenger of Saladin is stabbed in throat by Guy de Lusignan. The blood that is squirted outward sprays from the left side of the neck where he was not stabbed.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Guy stabs Saladin’s messenger in the throat with a small dagger. When the messenger falls, Guy is holding a bloody sword, rather than his dagger. This is corrected in the Director’s cut, where Guy proceeds to behead the messenger with his sword.

Continuity: At 2:08:09 surrender of Jerusalem, the scar to left and below Bloom’s eye disappears.

Anachronisms: In the Director’s Cut, Sibylla tells her son, soon to be Baldwin V, in his geography lesson, that the King of England is Richard, the son of King Henry. Richard I did not succeed his father until 1189, three years after the death of Baldwin V.

Factual errors: Sibylla claims that she was married to Guy de Lusignan when she was 15 years old. In fact, she was 20 or 21 when she married him in 1180. She had been about 17 when she married her first husband, William of Montferrat, in 1176.

Anachronisms: The so-called ‘Templar’ who attacks Balian before the battle of Hattin (in 1187) wears a white surcoat bearing a black cross: the arms of the Order of St Mary of the Germans (aka the Teutonic Knights). This order was not founded until 1190 at the very earliest.

Miscellaneous: When Balian is building the timber water channel he places the lower level duct on top of the higher one. This should be the opposite way round as in its current state any water running down would run under the lower duct and consequently be lost.

You can read the rest of them (if you care) HERE.

What is cool about buying this movie is that you can watch it again and spot the goofs for yourself, and you can watch all the extra things about making the movie and about the history behind the movie.

We both liked this movie.

The other movies we watched were Ghostbusters 1 & 2. It always makes us laugh.

August 24, 2007 Posted by | Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues | 2 Comments

The Arab Way

My husband and I were very young when we first came to live in the Middle East, back to back embassy assignments, first in Tunisia, and then in Jordan. Before those assignments, we had spent two years learning about the culture, and my husband spoke Arabic and I spoke French. It didn’t matter. We were still woefully ignorant. (And we are still learning!)

People would call us, asking for favors, especially visas and getting their kids into U.S. colleges. We would look at each other in astonishment. How could they think their kids could get into college without passing the tests? How did they think their cousin could get into pilot training when there were other, better qualified candidates? And we learned, that with the right connections, exceptions are made.

We got smarter. We were travelling back in Germany, and wanted to stay in military lodging, but all the rooms were taken. We decided to go get something to eat, and at dinner, I said to my husband “let’s try doing it the Arab way.” He looked at me and said “Whaaaaaattt?”

“Take your orders that say we are with the embassy and on special leave” I told him. “Tell them we just got in, and just need a place for tonight.”

“But they don’t have any rooms!” Adventure Man protested.

“They always hold rooms back for special circumstances, for pilots, for emergencies,” I countered. “Make us special.”

We finished dinner, and felt better with our blood sugars back up. Adventure Man became his charming persona, and we went back to the hotel. He was inside for a bare two minutes, and came back out grinning, and holding a key.

We have learned an important lesson. Yes, there are policies. Yes, there are rules. Yes, there are the way things are done, customs, traditions, inviolable.

But there are also exceptions, and they are based on personal relationships.

Our insurance company told us they would no longer insure our Florida house, too much risk exposure in Florida. We went to a lot of trouble to try to meet a guideline that would allow us to be an exception – to no avail. Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with one person who was persistently pleasant in telling me it was not possible. I told her that telling me what a great customer I was, and how they valued our loyalty didn’t ring true when they would abandon us after all our years of being good customers. I didn’t blame her, personally, but neither was I buying all this pleasant stuff, when the bottom line was money, not loyalty.

I hung up the phone with a huge pit in my stomach – this cloud, this worry has hung over my head all summer, and now my worst fears had come true and I would have to seek new, less reliable, insurance. But I decided to put it off until tomorrow, no point trying to do something when you feel really depressed.

Late last night, we were in those early hours of dead-drooling sleep, the phone rang, and it was the insurance representative calling us back. Four hours after our phone call, the phone call which had been “the final answer” she was calling me back to say she had found a way, and our policy was being re-instated.

Thanks be to God! The Arab way worked, even though I wasn’t consciously using the Arab way, probably my thinly veiled anger and frustration and bottom line TERROR had gotten through to her. I thought it was over, but God was working behind the scenes, and a miracle happened.

We are still learning; we still have a lot to learn, and living in this culture helps us continue learning a new tools, additional strategies, for our tool box.

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Spiritual | 24 Comments

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