Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Winter at Tanureen

We love taking visitors to Tanureen, in Fehaheel. We love sitting out in those little cabinets. If we take friends with children, we love sitting near the playground, where the children can come and go, we can keep an eye on them and still have some grown-up conversation over dinner. What a great place!

In the winter, we have to eat inside the tent. It’s not so bad, as long as people aren’t smoking cigarettes. I like the smell of the shisha smoke, even though it isn’t my thing.

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Because most of the year we eat outside, I hadn’t really noticed the funny decorations inside – a pioneer type wagon, a chef and a Gulf-dressed mannequin serving coffee!

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All the food is good, the shish taouk, the mixed grills, but most of all, we like the grilled shrimp and the grilled hammour. We even eat the french fries, but . . . health conscious though we are, we usually don’t eat the vegetables!

January 28, 2008 Posted by | Eating Out, Entertainment, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 10 Comments

Sue Monk Kidd: Mermaid Chair

It took me a long time to buy this book, and an even longer time to read it. I kept reading the description, and I didn’t like it at all. But it kept popping up on the “recommended for you” list on Amazon, and I had this inner feeling that I was meant to read it, even if I didn’t particularly care to.

After treating myself to Leon and Bowen, I thought now was the time.

At first I found The Mermaid Chair a little Anne Rivers Siddon-ish – and I like Anne Rivers Siddons, and I don’t like imitations, which this felt like. And I thought to myself “Anne Rivers Siddons does it better.”

I kept reading, though. The book was intriguing, and I wanted to know what happened next.

Sue Monk Kidd wrote another book I really liked called The Secret Life of Bees in which I learned a lot about bees, and found the story wonderfully redemptive.

Sue Monk Kidd and Anne Rivers Siddons also share a love of the mystical, and the mystical in religion, and the mystical in human relationships, and the mystical in the sisterhood of women, all of which I find fascinating, and parts of which I would like to believe myself.

In this book, there is a lot going on. The main character is feeling stagnant and small, and invisible in her marriage. Her daughter has left for college, and she is oddly unable to find things in life to interest her. Then, her mother cuts off her finger, her mother’s friends call her to come to Egret Island, and she finds herself suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of emotions and torments that she can barely understand.

She has avoided returning to her Egret Island home to avoid the pain of her father’s death when she was 12, and her mother’s decent into moodiness and madness. She returns, meets a monk and falls in love, copes badly with her mother’s demons, and fights her way through her own personal crisis.

Sue Monk Kidd makes it all work. The work floats with artistic references; Gaugain, Matisse, Chagall, their mysterious, delightful women in particular float throught this book in Mermaid guises, and our heroine, Jessie Sullivan, discovers her own mermaid-within.

I won’t say that this is the best book I have ever read – it isn’t. I will say that I loved reading it. I loved the feel of living on Egret Island, with the tides and the birds and the small town friends, the local dog, the raininess and windiness of it all. I feel like I was there. I know the graveyard, I know the winding paths, I know those little golf carts everyone uses to get around. I know what it’s like to have to take a ferry to get to the mainland, I know the tidal currents of life’s more overwhelming moments.

As our Jessie binds her marriage back together, she says this:

Each day we pick our way through unfamiliar terrain. Hugh and I did not resume our old marriage – that was never what I wanted, and it was not what Hugh wanted either – rather we laid it aside and began a whole new one. Our love is not the same. It feels both young and old to me. It feels wise, as an old woman is wise after a long life, but also fresh and tender, something we must cradle and protect. We have become closer in some ways, the pain we experienced weaving tenacious lines of intimacy, but there is a separateness as well, the necessary distance. . . . .

I tell him, smiling, that it was the mermaids who brought me home. I mean, to the water and the mud and the pull of the tides in my own body. To the solitary island submerged so long in myself, which I desperately needed to find. But I also try to explain they brought me home to him. I’m not sure he understands any more than I do how belonging to myself allows me to belong more truly to him. I just know it’s true.”

This is a good read. It’s worth its reputation, it’s worth picking up and reading through. While some might think it’s very much a chick book, I suspect men reading it might also find a lot with which to identify. You can find this book at Amazon.com (disclosure: yes, I own shares in Amazon) for about $11.20.
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January 27, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Character, Community, Family Issues, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Local Lore | , , , , | 8 Comments

Sunrise 27 January 2008

Scary. Where did January go? I remember that huge luxury of time spread out, all of 2008, and now, almost 1/12 of it is GONE! Where did it go? How did this happen?

There is no horizon today, in Kuwait, it is all haze, haze sea, hazy sky and hazy sunlight. It is no longer so cold, Weather Underground: Kuwait has the lows hitting in the single digits (around 40° F) and the high today around 16° C/ 60° F. Nice weather!

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January 27, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Weather | | 11 Comments

Qatteri Cat’s Fuzzy Ears

Sometimes I really do think I have too much time on my hands. That, or maybe, I make bad choices and use my time unwisely(!) ;-(

The Qatteri Cat has the most amazing furry ears. Actually, he has amazing fluffy fur; we have to comb him all the time, his long, luxurious fur tangles and mats if we don’t, and sometimes, even if we do. They can’t always keep all of their parts immaculate, and need some help. I know, I know, too much information.

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His ears mesmerize us.

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They are thickly haired. A vet told us he was part desert cat, and the hairiness helps keep particles out of his years. He has tufts on the tips of his ears, which I have not been able to capture in photos. He has long mane-like tufts sprouting from behind his ears, so that when he is all cleaned and combed, he looks like a mini-lion with a mane.

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If you think you’re tired of cat photos, Qatteri Cat says you should try having to be the model!

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Now that it’s not quite so cold out, he isn’t snuggled up to me every time I sit down, so he is far enough away for a photo or two or three. . .

January 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Morning Coffee: Meal in a Cup

Some very very bad news from BBC Health News.

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Morning coffee is ‘meal in a cup’

Milk is one of the reasons some cups of coffee had so many calories

*Counting the calories

The coffee you grab on the way to work may contain up to a fifth of your daily recommended calories, a study says.

Some of those tested topped the scales at almost 400 calories.

Researchers said lashings of full-fat milk, cream and chocolate are the culprits with a skimmed milk cappuccino weighing in at fewer than 30 calories.

The consumer group also found that a burger would be a healthier option than some coffee house snacks after testing products from three leading chains.

Most of the big chains do have information about the nutritional value of their products on their websites, but we’d like to see this displayed prominently in their shops.

They found that one mocha coffee made with full-fat milk added up to 396 calories, and the same coffee with semi-skimmed milk – but topped with whipped cream – contained 326.

You can read the rest of this dismal article HERE.

January 26, 2008 Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Health Issues, News, Technical Issue | 5 Comments

Tarek Rajab Calligraphy Re-Visit

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Oh, the Tarak Rajab Calligraphy Museum is such a treasure! This time we went back just to have time to watch the entire film on calligraphy, the cutting of the quills and the mixing of the ink, how the paper is prepared and burnished, how ornamentation is developed . . . every time we visit this museum, we see something new, and we learn something new.

This time, I was looking for details. Oh WOW.

Here is a little of what I found:

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Kuwait is blessed to have such a gem of a museum, and open to the public free of charge, in a beautiful building, with gracious spaces. You can find more information on their website for both museums (The Tarak Rajab Museum is just around the corner) at The Tarak Rajab Museum website.

January 26, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Customer Service, Entertainment, ExPat Life | 11 Comments

Woo Hooo Al Ahmadi

Great sign, Al Ahmadi!

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I would love to see a Keep Kuwait Clean sign, maybe a series of them. The one I see features one of the beautiful, pristine beaches, and then the green green of the gulf. That contrast always takes my breath away, and it breaks my heart to see them filthy with fast-food wrappers, and detritus washed up from the boats.

Nicole B / Rainmountain, who has a photography and blog site has a one woman campaign to keep her segment of the beach clean in Mahboula. God bless you, Nicole!I think many of the schools also have beach clean-up days, and some clubs, too.

What would your sign feature? I’m not very artistic – those of you who are, would you do a sign, link to this blog entry so we can come visit?

January 26, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 4 Comments

New Minarets in Fehaheel

I love going out to Fehaheel; it’s kind of got a wild west feeling, with no regard to traffic lanes, no regard to traffic laws, it’s just not the city – it’s a step back in time, even with the beautiful Al Koot and Al Manshar Malls.

Two years ago, they tore down the old minaret on the mosque in the center of town on the Gulf Road, and the wrecker that tried to knock the minaret down got tangled – and fell over! It took months to clean that mess up, and then for the last two years they have been building the new “> twin minarets.

Recently the scaffolding came down. Here is how they look now – a serious facelift for a delightful old lady.

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January 25, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Community, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 9 Comments

African Textiles at KTAA

If color, texture and weave are your kind of thing, there is a wonderful group in Kuwait for you. Before I even came to Kuwait, people told me about the Kuwait Textile Arts Association, and oh, what a trip.

A friend asked me if I were going to this month’s meeting. I hadn’t seen any announcements for it, and then she said “you ought to come! It’s African textiles.”

Magic words.

You know AdventureMan and I love going to Africa. And a meeting on African textiles? Woooo Hooooooo! Yes, I will admit it, I am totally a textile geek.

Africa is a huge subject to cover, when it comes to textiles, and the speaker did well – Nigeria, Tunisia, Cameroon, Mali, indigo dying, small loom weaving. . . You could teach an entire college level course on any one of those topics, and he gave a great overview.

You can join KTAA for 10KD per year, or you can attend each meeting for 2KD. Meetings are held once a month at the Sadu House, where they also have a fabulous collection of books on textiles.

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January 25, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 4 Comments

Cab Ride

When I received this in the e-mail this morning, I realized I had read it before. I read through it anyway, and was every bit as moved as when I read it the first time, and so, I share it with you.

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80′s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. “Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness “It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”. “Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

“What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,”

I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.” I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one. People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

January 24, 2008 Posted by | Shopping, Social Issues, Spiritual | 5 Comments

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