Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Moonsighting

This is what I find so exciting about blogging. This morning I found a comment in my moderation stack from blogger Fahad (His blog is Salmiya) recommending a website Moonsighting, which has all kinds of wonderful photos made of the new Ramadan moon.

I had never known how very very thin this crescent is, and how difficult it can be to spot. In some of the photos, it takes a few seconds to find it at all – and you have to know what you are looking for.

Meanwhile – some of the photos are simply breathtaking.

There is also something that makes me LOL. There are a large number of topics at the top of the page, the last one says “Do Not Click.” I didn’t click it. I resisted. But I am also willing to bet that there are a lot of people who cannot resist. If you are one of them, come back and let me know what happens! LLOOLLLL!

August 31, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Ramadan, Spiritual, Technical Issue | 15 Comments

Ramadan for Non Muslims

I am repeating this post from September 13, 2007 because it found so much interest among my non-Muslim friends. We are all so ignorant of one another’s customs, why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. There is a blessing that comes with learning more about one another – that blessing, for me, is that when I learn about other, my own life is illuminated.


(I didn’t take this photo; it is from TourEgypt.net. If you want to see an astonishing variety of Ramadan lanterns/ fanous, Google “Image Ramadan lanterns” and you will find pages of them! I didn’t want to lift someone else’s photo from Flicker or Picasa (although people do that to me all the time!) but the variety is amazing.)

Ramadan will start soon; it means that the very thinnest of crescent moons was sighted by official astronomers, and the lunar month of Ramadan might begin. You might think it odd that people wait, with eager anticipation, for a month of daytime fasting, but the Muslims do – they wait for it eagerly.

A friend explained to me that it is a time of purification, when your prayers and supplications are doubly powerful, and when God takes extra consideration of the good that you do and the intentions of your heart. It is also a time when the devil cannot be present, so if you are tempted, it is coming from your own heart, and you battle against the temptations of your own heart. Forgiveness flows in this month, and blessings, too.

We have similar beliefs – think about it. Our holy people fast when asking a particular boon of God. We try to keep ourselves particularly holy at certain times of the year.

In Muslim countries, the state supports Ramadan, so things are a little different. Schools start later. Offices are open fewer hours. The two most dangerous times of the day are the times when schools dismiss and parents are picking up kids, and just before sunset, as everyone rushes to be home for the breaking of the fast, which occurs as the sun goes down. In olden days, there was a cannon that everyone in the town could hear, that signalled the end of the fast. There may still be a cannon today – in Doha there was, and we could hear it, but if there is a cannon in Kuwait, we are too far away, and can’t hear it.

When the fast is broken, traditionally after the evening prayer, you take two or three dates, and water or special milk drink, a meal which helps restore normal blood sugar levels and takes the edge off the fast. Shortly, you will eat a larger meal, full of special dishes eaten only during Ramadan. Families visit one another, and you will see maids carrying covered dishes to sisters houses and friends houses – everyone makes a lot of food, and shares it with one another. When we lived in Tunisia, we would get a food delivery maybe once a week – it is a holy thing to share, especially with the poor and we always wondered if we were being shared with as neighbors, or shared with as poor people! I always tried to watch what they particularly liked when they would visit me, so I could sent plates to their houses during Ramadan.

Just before the sun comes up, there is another meal, Suhoor, and for that meal, people usually eat something that will stick to your ribs, and drink extra water, because you will not eat again until the sun goes down. People who can, usually go back to bed after the Suhoor meal and morning prayers. People who can, sleep a lot during the day, during Ramadan. Especially as Ramadan moves into the hotter months, the fasting, especially from water, becomes a heavier responsibility.

And because it is a Muslim state, and to avoid burdening our brothers and sisters who are fasting, even non-Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, touching someone of the opposite sex in public, even your own husband (not having sex in the daytime is also a part of fasting), smoking is forbidden, and if you are in a car accident and you might be at fault, the person might say “I am fasting, I am fasting” which means they cannot argue with you because they are trying to maintain a purity of soul. Even chewing gum is an offense. And these offenses are punishable by a heavy fine – nearly $400 – or a stay in the local jail.

Because I am not Muslim, there may be other things of which I am not aware, and my local readers are welcome to help fill in here. As for me, I find it not such a burden; I like that there is a whole month with a focus on God. You get used to NOT drinking or eating in public during the day, it’s not that difficult. The traffic just before (sunset) Ftoor can be deadly, but during Ftoor, traffic lightens dramatically (as all the Muslims are breaking their fast) and you can get places very quickly! Stores have special foods, restaurants have special offerings, and the feeling in the air is a lot like Christmas. People are joyful!

There were many comments on the original post, and, as usual in the history of Here There and Everywhere, the commenters taught us all more about Ramadan than the original post. If you want to read the original post and comments, you can click HERE.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Relationships, Shopping, Social Issues, Spiritual | 12 Comments

End of August Sunrise

No, no, it’s no trouble at all to be up for the sunrise, in fact, I have been up for hours. Yes, jet lagging. I thought I had dodged that bullet, but when I awoke, feeling GREAT, thinking it was morning, and checked my clock . . . it was only 2:30. 2:30 ay – em.

I’ve got all the laundry done, dishes washed, I’m all unpacked, and I think I am going to need to go back to bed soon.

I was just thinking, for Kuwaitis coming back, there won’t be a jet lag issue – with Ramadan starting almost immediately, nights and days get turned upside down anyway.

My flight in was a hoot – probably 80% families, Kuwaiti and Omani. Most of the kids were between 8 months and 2 1/2 years, but amazingly well behaved. The flight was packed. Packed. Not a single empty seat. I am guessing this was the big influx trying to get back before school starts and Ramadan starts – double whammy.

Fortunately, KLM seemed to have stocked a lot of kid’s meals, they didn’t mind the toddlers in the aisles, and the flight was relatively quiet – astonishingly so, considering all the kids on board. I have never seen a flight with so many children. The Pre-boarding of the families alone took about 45 minutes. Unaccompanied people like me were stuck in here and there where there was an empty seat.

The poor families; many had hoped for an empty seat next to them, and had to hold the babies and toddler the entire flight. There was a baby in my seat when I boarded, but the parents quickly picked her up and we had a good time chatting during our time together; we even all slept when the baby did. The baby coughed and sneezed on my meal, but I don’t seem to be suffering any ill effects. 🙂

I’m happy to be back in Kuwait. I’ve grown to love Ramadan, and I am looking forward with great anticipation to those magical days when the temperatures begin to drop once again and we can spend time outdoors.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | Community, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, KLM, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series | 10 Comments

Pilot Sleeping, No Penalty

From yesterday’s Kuwait Times:

KAC head overruled in pilot transfer
Published Date: August 28, 2008

KUWAIT: The Administrative Court has overruled the decision of the chairman of Kuwait Airways Company, Hamd Al-Falah, to transfer a pilot from his normal duties to another department, as well as reducing his salary. Al-Falah took the decision after the pilot allegedly committed a violation when he went to sleep while a flight under his control was returning to Kuwait on auto pilot from another Gulf state, reported.

Despite the need for him to resume control of the plane for landing, the pilot could not reportedly be roused from his sleep and the co-pilot had to land the plane single-handedly. The pilot was subsequently referred for investigation by a committee, managed by an Indian administrative employee of the corporation.

The pilot contested the committee’s decision, approved by the chairman, to transfer the pilot and reduce his salary, particularly since aviation regulations prohibit the imposition of two penalties for one violation or mistake.

A court official revealed that, although the court had cancelled the two penalties, it could not officially cancel the decision to transfer an employee since this comes under the authority of the relevant department. Company regulations state that any employee being reassigned should be transferred to a post at the same level as their former position.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues | 13 Comments

WOOO HOOO! Hope in a Bottle That Works!

Fresh from The New York Times: An Article on Wrinkle Removers, Backed by Science. You can read the entire article by clicking on the blue type.

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
Published: August 18, 2008

Nostrums that promise to smooth wrinkled skin are a staple of snake-oil salesmen everywhere, but now there is strong evidence that certain kinds of treatment are effective. Over the past decade, researchers have been learning which treatments work, and why.

The key is a growing understanding of the skin’s connective tissue, called the dermal collagen, and a recognition that damage to the mechanical properties of the collagen outside the skin cells, and not necessarily genetic damage to the cells themselves, causes wrinkled skin.

A recent review in The Archives of Dermatology concludes that three anti-aging treatments are proven clinically effective: the topical application of retinol; carbon dioxide laser resurfacing; and injection of hyaluronic acid, a moisture-retaining acid that occurs naturally in the skin. Each depends on the same mechanism, the interaction of skin cells called fibroblasts with the collagen they produce.

“This is an area where there’s a lot of hype and not much substance,” said David J. Leffell, a professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale who was not involved in the review. But, he said, this study is “good science.”

Theory and experiment back these treatments, the authors write. Fibroblasts — connective tissue cells — secrete a complex group of polysaccharides and proteins that creates collagen, which gives the skin shape and elasticity and supports the blood vessels that permeate it. The network of collagen tissue is maintained by its mechanical tension with these skin cells.

Skin deteriorates as it ages, but its exposure to sunlight inhibits the ability of fibroblasts to produce collagen. The hands, face, neck and upper chest all suffer more than unexposed skin, and light-pigmented people wrinkle more readily than others. This damage, the authors write, is essentially an accelerated version of chronological aging. Ultraviolet radiation induces production of the same enzymes that degrade collagen with age.

Collagen fibers last as long as 30 years. But with age and ultraviolet exposure, they deteriorate and fragment, and fragmented collagen impairs the collagen-producing function of the fibroblasts that created it. As the fragmented collagen accumulates, new collagen production declines, the connections between the fibroblasts and the collagen weaken, and the skin, now lacking support, begins to wrinkle.

But there are treatments that counter this process. Topical application of retinol, a form of vitamin A, was the first to be proved useful. Although the molecular pathways are not well understood, retinol causes new collagen to form in chronologically aged skin and in skin damaged by ultraviolet light.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Health Issues, Shopping | 7 Comments

Spotting Infections in Your Elderly Parents

I am printing this entire article because few of you will be reading the Military Officers Association of America newsletter, and this is one of the best articles I have seen on the subject. It is SO easy to dismiss a parent’s complaints as just being a normal part of aging – and it is important to catch these things early.

Role Reversal — How to Spot Infections
2008/08/22 00:00:00
By Nanette Lavoie-Vaughan

The next time your parent complains of feeling “out of sorts” or gives you a vague list of minor problems, don’t dismiss it as normal grumpiness. There’s a good chance your parent could have an infection.

Diagnosing the elderly with an infection can be difficult. Seniors are less likely to have classic symptoms such as fever, chills, and vomiting. Instead they might have atypical symptoms such as subnormal temperature, confusion, fatigue, and decreased appetite. In many cases, these subtle signs can be attributed to the normal aging process — or ignored until the late stages of the infection.

Let’s take a brief look at how the infection process works. When the human body is under stress or exposed to bacteria and viruses, it triggers a healing chain of events that, in most cases, results in the prevention of infection or illness. However, when the amount of bacteria is too great an infection occurs. At that point, the immune system kicks in doubly hard, releasing a flood of chemicals to attack the infection and promote recovery.

Seniors are more susceptible to infection because multiple chronic illnesses that occur with age put extra stress on the body, and the medications for these conditions can block the immune system. In addition, the immune system naturally weakens as we grow older.

The most common sites for infections in older adults are the urinary tract, the respiratory tract, and the skin. It also is common for seniors to develop an infection prior to an acute deterioration of their chronic medical condition or in combination with other acute medical problems. A typical example is the person with congestive heart failure who develops pneumonia. The symptoms of cough, congestion, and shortness of breath are similar and might occur simultaneously, or the onset of pneumonia might precipitate an acute attack of congestive heart failure.
So how do you know if your parent is developing an infection? Look for:

an acute change in his or her ability to perform day to day activities;
subnormal temperature;
increased pulse rate;
unexplained dehydration;
confusion;
poor appetite; and
fatigue with increased aches and pains.
For specific infections you might want to look for the following signs:

Respiratory infections

Cough
Increased mucus
Abdominal pain
Headache
Chest pain
Generalized weakness
Loss of appetite
Urinary infection

New onset of incontinence
Pain with urination
More frequent urination
Flank pain
Weakness
Blood in the urine
Skin infection
Redness
Warmth
Pain or tenderness
If you note any of these symptoms, due diligence requires a complete medical evaluation to determine the source of the infection and any other acute medical problems.

Why is this so important? The risk of sepsis, an overwhelming infection that enters the bloodstream, is higher in the elderly. The longer these types of symptoms go untreated, the more likely the bacteria will find its way into the bloodstream.

Another concern is the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overuse of antibiotics for viral illnesses and the common cold have caused bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics that once treated most infections. The three super infections that pose a threat are Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C diff), and Vancomycin-resistant enterocolitis (VRE).

MRSA is diagnosed by obtaining a culture of the body fluid (sputum, urine, blood) where the infection is present. MRSA infections can occur anywhere in the body, and even though treatment with Vancomycin appears successful, a small amount of the bacteria can remain — a phenomenon medical professionals refer to as colonization. The remaining bacteria can cause infections to reoccur at any time.

C diff and VRE both cause diarrhea and are the result of antibiotics killing the normal, beneficial bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract and allowing infection-producing bacteria to proliferate. C diff can occur after the prolonged use of any antibiotic; VRE is specific to the use of Vancomycin. Treatment includes preventing dehydration associated with diarrhea, a bland diet, and bulking agents to decrease the amount of diarrhea, and administration of Flagyl to treat the condition and allow the normal bacteria to return to appropriate levels.

The good news is that most infections are isolated and can be treated with short-term antibiotics. Basic preventative measures — such as assuring that your parents have a pneumonia vaccination, receive the flu vaccine yearly, avoid others with acute infections, and stay well-hydrated — can decrease the likelihood of serious infections.

In addition, keeping the skin well moisturized can prevent skin infections. Dry skin is more likely to crack and tear, providing an opening for bacteria to enter. Urinary tract infections are prevented by good hygiene and adequate fluid intake.
Infection in the elderly is a serious concern, but a few simple measures and a diligent eye are all it takes to keep your parents healthy.

(For more information about infections in the elderly, super infections, and vaccinations go to http://www.health.nih.gov/topics. )

Nanette Lavoie-Vaughan is an adult nurse practitioner and professional consultant. She is a featured speaker at national professional conferences and writes about geriatrics for multiple publications. If you’d like to send Nanette a comment, question, or suggestion for a future column, please e-mail rolereversal@moaa.org.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Communication, Community, Family Issues, Health Issues, Relationships | | 9 Comments

Streets of Gold

Because it is a time to be considering holy things, and because I was sent this in the mail this morning, and because we have been talking about the prophet Job/Ayoub, I will share this morning devotion with you:

Job 22:24-25. Assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you.

A story tells about a rich man who pleaded with God to let him bring into eternity one suitcase full of his most valuable possessions. God finally conceded, and the man packed as much gold as he could into his biggest suitcase. When he arrived at heaven’s gates he was met by St. Peter, who opened the suitcase, curious to see what the man valued most.

“What!” St. Peter was incredulous; “You brought pavement?”

(For my Moslem readers: I don’t know why, it doesn’t say this anywhere in the Bible, except that Peter is given the responsibility for the building of the church and is often shown holding keys – like in the keys to the kingdom. Peter is often pictured in cartoons as the keeper of the gate into Paradise; he is portrayed as an old, bearded man with a long list in front of him, like who is naughty and who is allowed in. I know it might seem strange to you, but this is not considered offensive; it is an affectionate portrayal.)

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Humor, Interconnected, Spiritual | , , , | 7 Comments

Namibia, A Bleak Kind of Beauty

This is an excerpt from the New York Times Travel Section on Namibia, a country AdventureMan and I visited a few years ago.

We landed in Windhoek, and our first night, we ate dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse, a little disorienting, as we had flown in from Germany, and found ourselves in a very German restaurant. The Germans colonized Namibia for a very few years over 100 years ago, but their influence lingers on in names, on streets, statues and cuisine.

Our trip through Namibia was unforgettable. It was unlike any other African country we have ever visited. It has a very long coastline with cold Atlantic currents called The Skeleton Coast. It has the world’s highest sand dunes, unbelievably beautiful. When I think of Namibia, I think of dryness – it is the thirstiest country I have ever seen, outside Kuwait.

Much of our time in Namibia, in Etosha and in Demaraland, we were camping, with CCAfrica (Conservation Corps Africa), but at the end, we stayed in one of the most spectacular private lodges in the world: Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. It was a total WOW. We rode ATV’s to the top of the dunes for sunset. They had an astronomical observatory, because at night there is NO ambient light and you can see the sky so clearly. The food was fabulous and creative.

Namibia, a country of stark beauty and riveting contradictions, should be at the top of any serious traveler’s want-to-visit list.

The landscape is otherworldly, from the ocean of blood red crests along Dune Alley at Sossusvlei (pronounced SOSS-oo-vlay) to the gravity-defying rock formations and petrified forest of Damaraland, in the country’s center. Even beside the main highway, there are enough elephants, giraffes and springbok to satisfy those who can’t imagine a southern African trip without big game.

And the mind-boggling juxtaposition of women draped in skins that covered animals a week earlier against shopping malls offering a full selection of Ray-Bans, or of face powder ground in a mortar and pestle cheek by jowl with shiny Hummers, leads you into the heart of a modern Africa tangled by time, defined by the collision of centuries and traditions.

Namibia isn’t easy, especially for travelers whose notion of a vacation is dashing from one sight to another, or for urbanites who need regular fixes of bright lights and noisy streets. Except for those with pockets deep enough to arrange chartered flights between the dunes and the Damara homesteads, it demands patience with corrugated gravel roads and mile after mile of what poets are fond of calling terrible beauty.

You can read the entire article HERE.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Travel | | 3 Comments

What a Difference a “D” Makes

AdventureMan called me, laughing, and said “I just have to tell you what just happened to me.”

He was talking with a Kuwaiti woman who said “You speak Arabic amazingly well, except for one little thing – you say the ‘d’ when you should be saying the ‘Dh’.”

It was all he could do not to laugh. Not because of what she had said, but because it reminded him of a conversation we had, repeatedly.

When AdventureMan took Arabic, I took French. We were on our way to Tunis, I had a small baby, and I already spoke a little French. I made arrangements to study half days, and hoped it would be enough. Thanks be to God, together, we did just fine. In Tunis, most Tunisians spoke French and even those who spoke Arabic switched to French for the numbers. (Things are different now; this was many years ago.) The Tunisians called him “That Lebanese guy married to the French woman.” (He is not Lebanese. I am not French. Most Tunisians spoke a Berber dialect, which was not quite the same as Arabic.)

When I finally started formal Arabic classes, years later, I would say things I had learned from my husband and my dear Qatteri teacher would say “No, that is how those Lebanese people say it, not the way we say it.”

When my husband would correct my Arabic, now I could just cooly look at him and say “That is how you Lebanese say it, but we Qatteris say it this way.”

When he would lecture me on Arabic (I can only absorb about one minute of lecture at a time and them my head starts swimming) I would respond with ” ‘Dh’ AdventureMan, ‘Dh’ ” implying that his “Dh” wasn’t hard enough. It would make him laugh every time, totally crack him up. He can’t lecture me when he is laughing.

So here he is on the phone, laughing and laughing, because the Kuwaiti woman told him his Arabic was fine except that his “dh” wasn’t hard enough. God bless you, dear, whoever you are. 🙂

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Language, Living Conditions, Marriage, Middle East, Relationships, Tunisia | 7 Comments

Home Prices Drop, Sales Rise in Seattle

The Seattle Real Estate market has been fairly bullet-proof, until lately, when following the trend across the United States, prices here have also dropped, reports this morning’s Seattle Times. (If you have ever dreamed of having a home in Seattle, even after all my rain photos, now is the time!)

By ALEX VEIGA
The Associated Press

A real-estate-agents trade group says sales of existing homes rose 3.1 percent in July as buyers snapped up deeply discounted properties.

Stephanie Kuhn — who moved in March from the Seattle area to Orlando, Fla., because of a family emergency — has yet to find a buyer for her Mountlake Terrace condo.

The two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot condo has been on the market since March but is drawing little interest.

“I can’t buy another house until I sell my house up there,” said Kuhn, 47.

Seattle and Portland, Ore., were among the top 10 metro areas in the nation with the most pronounced drop in home sales last month compared with July 2007, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, which analyzed all home sales recorded by all local agents.

The AP-Re/Max home-sales report was one of two released Monday. The second was from the National Association of Realtors.

Sales of existing homes in the West edged higher overall in July, as many buyers took advantage of falling prices in foreclosure-ravaged areas in California, Nevada and elsewhere, both reports show.

About 1.1 million pre-owned houses and condominiums were sold last month in the 13-state region, up almost 1 percent from the same month last year, the Realtors group reported. But the median home price plunged more than 22 percent to $273,200, it said.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, News, Seattle, Shopping, Social Issues | | Leave a comment