Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Kuwait Blue Sky

Friday, for the first time, the really blue sky was back! There must have been a subtle shift in the wind, as all we have seen all summer has been haze, and at best, a slight lightening of the haze.

My public art for this week:

A Salmiyya power station
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A giant sized rosewater bottle on 303 (Look at the sky!)
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Last, but not least, I spotted another of those Palm Tree Antennas in front of the old Regency Palace Hotel. I can’t remember seeing it before, so maybe it is new. Where have YOU seen other Palm Tree Antennas?

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September 16, 2007 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Bureaucracy, Community, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Public Art | 9 Comments

Ramadan Shopping: Breaking the Code

Finally, this morning, I was able to do some shopping. We are talking desperate, here, no eggs left in the house, no onions and we are getting low on milk.

I shopped on Thursday, the first day of Ramadan, with no problems. Since then, I have tried to shop Friday after church, and Saturday around two in the afternoon – both times, just the crunch in the parking lot convinced me not to even venture into the store. This was true both at the Sultan Center and at the co-op.

One friend told me that a good time is around 4 in the afternoon, but that is low energy time for me, and time when I need to be thinking about what kind of dinner I am going to get on the table. That’s not a real good time for me to be shopping. And it would also mean being on the road at a time when there seems to be a lot of traffic, which I avoid. I honor your fast, and at the same time, late in the day, your low blood sugar, sleep deprivation and caffein deprivation make you dangerous!

(once again I have given up bad language – this time as my Ramadan “fast”. If you will remember, I gave it up for Lent, and I’ve continued to do fairly well, but Ramadan is a good time to practice some additional spiritual discipline.)

But this morning, I had thought I would try eight in the morning, but there was a lot of traffic. I waited until nine, and it turned out to be a good time – the produce store was being re-stocked, there were eggs, there was milk, there was everything I needed. I wasn’t the only one there, there were a few other women, but it was a cake walk, relatively speaking. I’ve broken the code!

September 16, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Ramadan, Shopping, Spiritual | 11 Comments

Peter Bowen: Wolf, No Wolf

“You have to take this. You’ll really like it,” Sparkle insisted as I inwardly groaned, thinking of the TWO stacks of unread-must-reads by the side of my bed, and my already bulging suitcases.

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“I know it doesn’t sound like something you’ll like,” she went on, slightly frustrated with me, with herself, “but once you start reading, you’ll get into it.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but good enough for me. I always KNOW what I think she will love, and she has done me many a favor in return, introducing me to authors and series worth reading.

“It’s about Montana. The main character is mixed Indian and French and some other things, a grandfather, and it all takes place in a small town in Montana . . . ” she sort of fizzles out. “I’m really not doing a very good job of making this interesting.”

And she sighs in frustration.

So, about a month later, just because I love my sister, I pick the book up and start reading while waiting for my husband to get home for dinner. As it turns out, he is very very late – and I am very very glad. I don’t want to stop reading!

When you first jump into Wolf, No Wolf by Peter Bowen, it takes you a minute to adjust your ear to the way they talk. These aren’t people most of us have met before. Gabriel DuPre´ is m´etis, a mixed blood. His ancestors are French who came early to the great continent that is now the US, Canada and Mexico, and they trapped and hunted, married native American wives, and developed a culture all their own. His language pattern is similar to that of the Cajun in Louisiana.

He is a cattle brand inspector in this small Montana town. His children are grown, he has so many grandchildren he can’t remember all their names. Every now and then, he pins on his deputy sherrif badge to solve a mystery in the small town of Toussaint, Montana.

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Here is how Wolf, No Wolf opens:

Du Pre´ fiddled in the Toussaint Bar. The place was packed. some of Madelaine’s relatives had come down from Canada to visit. It was fall and the bird hunters had come, to shoot partridges and grouse on the High Plains.

The bird hungers were pretty OK. The big game hunters were pigs, mostly. The bird hunters were outdoors people; they loved it and knew it, or wanted to. The big game hungers wanted to shoot at something big, often someone’s cows.

Bart had bought a couple thousand dollars’ worth of liquor and several kegs of beer and there was a lot of food people had brought. Everything was free.

Kids ran in and out. The older ones could have beers. Bart was tending bar. Old Booger Tom sat on one of the high stools, cane leaned up against the front of the bar.

“You do that pretty good for someone the booze damn near killed,” said Booger Tom. “I know folks won’t be in the same room with the stuff.”

“Find Jesus,” said Bart. “It’s not too late to save your life.”

He went down to the far end of the bar and took orders. Susan Klein, who owned the saloon, was washing glasses at a great pace.

One of Madelaine’s relatives was playing the accordion, another an electric guitar. They were very good.

Du Pre´ finished. He was wet with sweat. The place was hot and damp and smoky, so smoky it was hard to see across the room. The room wasn’t all that big, either.

Madelaine got up from her seat, her pretty face flushed from drinking the sweet pink wine she loved. She threw her arms around Du Pre´ and kissed him for a long time.

“Du Pre´,” she said, “you make me ver’ happy, you play those good songs.”

. . …

Someday this fine woman marry me, thought Du Pre´, soon as the damn Catholic church, it tell her OK, your missing husband is dead now so you can quit sinning, fornicating with DuPre´.

I’ve never hung out in a bar in Montana, fiddled, or had a girlfriend named Madeleine (!), but already I feel like I know these people and this life. Peter Bowen is the Donna Leon of Montana, introducing us to the kind of crimes that happen in those sleepy looking towns we drive past on the superhighways, glancing at, or stopping to fill our gas tanks.

DuPre´ is a good man, and, like many a good man, sometimes has to do a bad thing to protect those he is sworn to protect. Policing is not pretty business.

The first story has to do with the re-introduction of wolves back into the Montana highlands, something not at all popular with those who have been raising cattle there. The second book in this two-book collection has to do with serial killers, how they stay under the radar, and how very difficult it is to catch them.

In both books, it is as much about a new way of living and thinking as it is about solving the crime. DuPre´ consults often with his friend Benetsee, the local medicine man, who sees things we don’t see. One of the FBI Agents is Harvey Wallace, also more than half native American, whose real name is Harvey Weasel Fat. The books are about how men and women fight, the nature of male friendships and female friendships, and very much about the human condition wherever we may be.

Life is short. I can never live in all these places long enough to even scratch the surface of the flavor of each variety of life. But these books help, they give us glimpses into another way of thinking, another way of doing things, and stretches our little minds just a little so that we learn to think more flexibly.

So who is going to write the Kuwait detective series? Who will take us into the diwaniyyas seeking information, who will take us out on the shoowi to gather information against those delivering drugs to Kuwait, with whom will we camp in the desert, avoiding explosives left over from the Iraqi invasion? I think his name is Anwar al Kout (the light of Kuwait!) and his wife is Suhail (the Yemeni Star!) – somewhere out there is someone who can take us into Kuwait and bring it alive. Where are you?

(You were right, Sparkle. I loved it!)

September 16, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Music, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual | 10 Comments