Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sulphury Saturday Sunrise

Another sweet, clear morning, a whole blockade of fishing boats between me and the horizon, and a totally different sunrise from yesterday – a very yellow, sulphury sunrise:

It’s a mere 77° F / 25° C, a cool September morning, these last few days of Ramadan. Good morning, Kuwait!

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September 27, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 5 Comments

Sweet Friday Sunrise

It’s a temptation to linger outside on my balcony this morning. At 0700, it is a sweet 84°F / 29°C, there is a breeze blowing and look! There are sweet little clouds in the sky! Winter is coming! There is a chop in the surf, the air smells clean, and that band on the horizon is down to a thin wispy layer . . . if only the whole day could be like this.

Yesterday I ended up spending a lot of time outdoors. Early in the day, it wasn’t bad, it was even pleasant, but by mid-day, it was barely bearable.

Ramadan is the season of drawing closer to God / Allah, and thinking on those who are poor, and are not fasting to deprive themselves, but fasting because they have nothing to eat. As I found myself outdoors, unshaded, in the midday heat, I found myself thinking of you who are fasting, and how very difficult this year has been with the heat and humidity. The days of dry heat just leach the moisture right out of you; the days of humidity you drip, losing moisture either way that you can ill afford to lose when you must get through the day without drinking.

It is truly sacrificial, and my prayers are with you, that you find satisfaction in your fast, and draw closer to God.

For myself, at the end of the day, AdventureMan and I found ourselves exhausted and with that little dehydration headache you can get. I am feeling very thankful for the coming of cooler weather, insh’allah.

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Ramadan, sunrise series, Weather | 7 Comments

Stonehenge a Center for Healing

This is from BBC News: Nature, and you can read the entire article by clicking on the blue type, but I wanted you to know about the upcoming BBC Special on Stonehenge, September 27th.

Archaeologists have pinpointed the construction of Stonehenge to 2300BC – a key step to discovering how and why the mysterious edifice was built.

The radiocarbon date is said to be the most accurate yet and means the ring’s original bluestones were put up 300 years later than previously thought.

The dating is the major finding from an excavation inside the henge by Profs Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright.

The duo found evidence suggesting Stonehenge was a centre of healing.

Others have argued that the monument was a shrine to worship ancestors, or a calendar to mark the solstices.

A documentary following the progress of the recent dig has been recorded by the BBC Timewatch series. It will be broadcast on Saturday 27 September.

The mystery of Stonehenge, it’s origins, is purpose, has fascinated people for centuries. How amazing that one twelve day dig has discovered so much information – new pieces for a hugely complicated puzzle with lots of work left to be done.

As I write this post, I am also reminded of one of the all time funniest movies I have ever seen – This is Spinal Tap, one of those mocumentaries, this one about a rock group. Not a very bright rock group. It is a very funny movie.

They ask a set designer to create a magnificent recreation of Stonehenge, and give her a napkin with how they want it to look. The result is . . . hysterical:

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Entertainment, Local Lore, News | , , | 13 Comments

Travel Advisory

Just in time for Eid travel . . .

The truth is – I feel safe here. The truth is also that it only takes one crazy person, or one small group of crazies, and bizarre and terrible things can happen.

To: All American Wardens

From: Consular Section

Subject: Warden Notice 2008 – 18

Please circulate the following message without additions or omissions
immediately to all American citizens within your area of responsibility.

Begin Text.

TRAVEL ALERT – ARABIAN PENINSULA AND PERSIAN GULF

1. This Travel Alert is being issued to warn Americans about heightened security
concerns in and around the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf. U.S. citizens
traveling to or already in the region are reminded to maintain a high level of
vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
This Travel Alert expires on February 22, 2009.

2. The security threat level in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf region
remains high after the September 17 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in
Sana’a, Yemen, in which several security personnel and innocent bystanders,
including one U.S. citizen, were killed. Credible information indicates that
al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan attacks against U.S.
interests in the region. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics
including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and
bombings. While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more
immediate threat in many areas, the use of non-conventional weapons, including
chemical or biological agents, must be considered a possible threat. Terrorists
do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Increased security at
official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek
softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas
, and public areas where people congregate, including restaurants, hotels,
clubs, and shopping areas.

3. Potential targets are not limited to those companies or establishments with
overt U.S. ties. For instance, terrorists may target movie theaters, liquor
stores, bars, casinos, or any similar type of establishment, regardless of
whether they are owned and operated by host country nationals. Due to varying
degrees of security at all such locations, U.S. citizens should be particularly
vigilant when visiting these establishments. From time to time, the Embassy
may restrict official Americans from restaurants, hotels, or shopping areas.
U.S. citizens should exercise caution and take prudent security measures,
including maintaining a high level of vigilance, avoiding crowds and
demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all travel,
and ensuring travel documents are current.

4. U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the
nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel
registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ so that
they can obtain updated information on travel and security. Americans without
Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or
Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or
Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

5. U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.
These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services
to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and
consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S.
citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain
contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

6. As the Department continues to develop information on any potential security
threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through
its Consular Information Program documents, including the Worldwide Caution,
available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

In addition to information on the Internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date
information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the
U.S. and Canada or,outside the U.S. and Canada on a regular toll line at
1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday
through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays.)
End Text.

American citizens with any questions or concerns may telephone the Embassy at
259-1581, 259-1583 or 259-1240. In case of an emergency outside business hours,
American citizens may reach the Embassy duty officer by calling 259-1001.

For the latest security information, Americans should regularly monitor the
Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide
Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Up-to-date information
on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the
U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at
1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays.)

This message may be accessed on the Embassy website, http://kuwait.usembassy.gov

American citizens in Kuwait who would like to receive future Warden Messages
from the Embassy directly by e-mail may sign up for this service by sending an
e-mail to the following address: join-wardenmessagekuwait@mh.databack.com

American citizens resident and visiting in Kuwait who are not registered with
the Embassy, or whose registration information has changed, are urged to
register as soon as possible.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Social Issues | 5 Comments

Blog Action Day – October 15th

Last year, Kuwait bloggers were amazing in their support of Blog Action Day, which is October 15th. This year the theme is POVERTY. This is just a reminder, we still have time to think about our blog action day articles. Please go to their website (click on the blue type above) and sign up, indicating you will participate. So far, over 4,500 bloggers worldwide have committed to participate this year.

This is reprinted from their Blog Action Day 2008 page:

How to Make Blog Action Day 2008 Unforgettable
September 23rd, 2008 by Easton Ellsworth

1. Ponder.

Think about poverty.

Ponder the plight of the world’s poor and your place in the grand scheme of things.

Consider the things you have that others have not.

Let the numbers appall you. Let the images disturb your sleep. Let the complexities of the causes and solutions vex you.

Let the depth and emotion of this sensitive subject rock you to your core.

2. Believe.

Do you really think that you can make a difference in the global conversation this October 15 just by blogging about poverty and doing something about it?

We believe you can.

Do you?

3. Dream.

There is no such thing as a lack of opportunity – only a lack of vision.

This is not a pointless exercise. This is a chance to grab the world by the ears for one day.

You have the power to rally hundreds of people around you in your family, friends and community to do something on October 15 that calls attention to the issue of poverty.

There is no limit to what you can do – unless you think there is.

So dream up a brave, original way to make the world a little richer, even if only in knowledge, through your participation in Blog Action Day 2008.

4. Act.

Make Blog Action Day not just a day of blogging, but also a day of action.

Our worldwide impact will be great if we all talk about this issue, but far greater if we do something about it and talk about what we are doing.

5. Share.

Let the world know your true thoughts and opinions about poverty on October 15.

Use your blog, your social media accounts, and any other means you can to spread your ideas.

Join with other Blog Action Day participants to generate a collective noise far louder than any you could could muster on your own.

6. Change.

Decide to care a little more about poverty from now on. When it comes up in conversation, take it seriously. Changing the conversation is the first step toward changing the people in it.

Please join us in making Blog Action Day 2008 an unforgettable experience for thousands – maybe millions – of people across the world.

Your Turn

What other ideas do you have? How can Blog Action Day 2008 actually make a real difference to the world of tomorrow?

photo by Franco Folini

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Charity, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Fund Raising, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Social Issues | 7 Comments

Compassion Fatigue

At the book club meeting, the topic turned to the feral cats and dogs. I saw one yesterday, a beautiful little dog, long haired. He still looked pretty good, but a little frantic, running along a busy road. I worried – and I couldn’t stop.

One member was telling us her experience with a local animal rescue group – “I called, and asked them to come get a group of cats. I’ve been feeding them for months. They asked if I could touch them and when I said ‘no’, they told me to taper off feeding them, that if they were going to survive, they needed to learn how to forage for themselves! Can you believe it? They are there to HELP the animals!”

Another, quieter member of the group chimed in “But they only have so many people, so many hours in the day, and so many resources. They can’t save them all.”

The group fell into a silence for a short while as we all thought about that.

I have worked most of my life with people who need help. It made a religious person out of me – I had to pray all the time against hardness of heart. When you work for a charitable organization, there are people who know your system even better that you do, who come in with all the right information and get help that they may – or may not – really need. There are people who will lie to your face without blinking an eye. To survive, you have to focus on the successes, not the failures.

To survive, charitable organizations have to define what they want to accomplish narrowly. For example finding homes for abandoned pets is a limited, manageable goal. It doesn’t help all the the starving feral cats and dogs, etc., but it helps a small segment of the animal population, those least able to care for themselves – animals who have been dependent on human beings. Tackling the larger problem really needs the resources of a nation, state or city – and a professional Animal Control Unit. When I hear of police trying to track down a lion escaped from a private citizen’s collection (and that really happened in Fintas!) I shudder in horror – how would YOU like to corner a lion in a dark cement basement somewhere? Do they have any training in animal behavior/ animal control?

I worked for a year with the homeless, as part of a transitional housing program. We coordinated with state and local agencies, got single mothers into school, found babysitting, gave them the tools to become employed and have a better life. You would be amazed at the women who wanted the freebies – the nice housing, the babysitting, etc – but didn’t want the skills that would enable them to provide for themselves, or, more heartbreakingly, for their children.

I worked for a foundation providing scholarships and educational benefits for needy children – many of whom had parents who sabotaged their success. We opened a door of opportunity, and some parents were jealous or resentful – and slammed it shut.

In every case, we had to focus on the successes, and there were many. The successes kept us going on dark days, when we lost a client we had hoped would make it.

But here is also what happens. When organizations exist to help with a problem or situation, then we call them and expect them to solve the problem. We complain about them when they explain their limitations. Sometimes, it may even be a big donor who wants a favor – a favor that just can’t be done. “After all I’ve done for you!” they exclaim, not understanding that there has to be a line, and that the boundary protects the organization from going under because they try to solve too many problems at once. They can’t come out to pick up the outdoor cat who has been in a fight – they ask YOU to care. They ask YOU to take that cat to the vet and pay for it’s repair. They are doing all that they can do already; your request is outside the limits of what they can do.

When you know people are in trouble – step up to the plate – don’t just say “someone ought to do something”, BE that someone.

Find your talent – packing up bags for Operation Hope – Kuwait, or finding donations of coats, socks, shoes, scarves to keep the poorest of the poor warm through winters that can be bone-chilling here in Kuwait. Organize meals from your local mosque – what better way to teach the goodness of God than by feeding the hungry?

Help organize a fundraiser for the blind, or the autistic, or the charity that pulls at your heartstrings. Work to have a bad law changed. Find one small way, like blogger 3baid’s PaperDump to reduce paper usage in Kuwait. Organize a beach clean-up. Set the example by throwing your trash in the trash bin. Organize a re-use program for eyeglasses. Walk a dog. Socialize a cat. Feed and clothe the poor. Trust me, it will do you at least as much good than it does the recipient.

Back to the problem of abandoned and unwanted pets in Kuwait. No one wants to see animals in pain, abused. No one wants to see suffering. You can help there, too.

There are two animal welfare organizations in Kuwait, PAWS and AWL. Both have passionate and committed supporters, and they could also use your help.

The organizations can’t do it alone. They need YOU. Next time you find yourself about to criticize an organization for not being helpful, please, ask yourself “how can I make a difference here?” Inconvenience yourself a little. Take that first step. You’ll be happy you did.

Photo of a very content rescued cat:

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Community, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues | 4 Comments

Obsession: Radical Islam and the US Election

Most of you know that I have a niece I admire as well as adore. She speaks Arabic fluently, and even better, she is interculturally fluent, from Morocco to the Gulf to Beirut, she flows with the Arabic culture, and works with an organization promoting intercultural understanding. I couldn’t be more proud of the work she does.

Please, before you read any further, take a deep breath. This is going to get bad.

Today, Little Diamond wrote about a DVD sent out by a facade-organization through newspapers in US swing states. The DVD is called Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.

Although it never claims to be a Republican support organization, or a McCain support ad, what the DVD does is to try to scare people into voting for McCain. The message is this – all Muslims are radical, and we need a strong leader like McCain to counter their insidious influence.

As my niece says, she doesn’t believe McCain would ever approve such a tawdry piece of nasty propaganda; the Clarion Group who sent this DVD out probably did it on their own.

I urge to to go to Little Diamond’s blog and read her experience, and the comments. She quotes one individual, saying:

“Whoever they are, they sure must have a lot of money. H pointed out last night that each DVD probably cost $1 to produce and $1 to distribute. That’s $56 million, not to mention the cost of placing the DVDs with each newspaper. Even if H’s estimate was too high, assuming $.50 to produce and $.50 to distribute means $28 million + advertising contract costs. That’s quite a lot of money for a no-name non-profit to have gathered since its creation in 2006.”

Elections can bring out the best in people and/or the worst. Both McCain and Obama have so far treated each other respectfully, as is appropriate for educated, senatorial leaders of a country. This kind of hate-tactic is NOT the American way. It makes me see red.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, Community, Cross Cultural, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues | 7 Comments

Joanna Brady and Tumbleweeds

I have a lot going on right now, and that is when I turn to books, I don’t know why. The more scheduled I am, the more important it is that I have fairly lightweight reading. My favorite genre is mystery, and there are a number of authors I follow, some more important than others.

I was reading the lastest Joanna Brady mystery, Dead Wrong, by Seattle author J.A. Jance. Joanna Brady became Police Chief in the small (fictional) Arizona town of Bisbee when her husband, then the police chief, was killed and she was asked to fill his position. Since then (several books) she has been elected and re-elected, and solved a lot of crimes, and re-married.

Now, in Dead Wrong, she is heavily pregnant, trying to solve a tricky murder that involves a puppy breeding mill and dog fighting ring.

“We have to go to Tumbleweeds tonight!” I call out to AdventureMan. “Joanna Brady is pregnant and she can’t eat creme brulee, but she dives right into tacos and enchiladas! Now I am starving for Mexican food!”

AdventureMan just laughs, he is always ready for Mexican food.

So just after sunset, we are king of the road, and we drive to Tumbleweeds.

I would love to say something nice about Tumbleweeds.

The service was slow. The servers were poorly trained. The food was SO mediocre. The chips were thick, and cold, and you could see fat congealed on them. The salsa was dull. The burritos and tacos were bland. No wonder we go there so rarely.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Books, Cooking, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Fiction, Food, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 3 Comments

Kuwait Lifts YouTube Block?

Reports that the ban has been lifted are unconfirmed, according to this morning’s Al Watan. So if the ban is lifted, who countermanded it?

Kuwait reportedly retracts YouTube block
Nancy Oteifa
Al Watan staff

KUWAIT: Unconfirmed reports indicated on Monday that a decision to block the online videoـsharing Web site YouTube has been revoked by the Ministry of Communications. According to a blogger writing under the name of ”Falantan” who claims to work for a local Internet Service Provider (ISP), officials at the Ministry of Communications held a meeting Monday morning to discuss the issue and consequently decided to revoke the decision.

Sources stated on Sunday that a memo had been issued by the Ministry of Communications to all local ISPs ordering them to block the Web site Youtube.com.
However, speaking to Al Watan Daily, local ISP Arab Telecom denied having received any memos from the Ministry of Communication asking them to block this site. “We didn”t get any orders from the Ministry of Communication about blocking YouTube but the minute we receive the memo we will immediately block YouTube,” a company representative stated.

Reports that the Web site was to be blocked generated heated reactions from many people in Kuwait, some of who stated that this is a blatant disregard of freedom of speech, while others claimed that any site that displays material that is disrespectful to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) should rightfully be blocked.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Community, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News | 6 Comments

Kuwait Blocks YouTube?????

Kuwait blocks Youtube
Published Date: September 22, 2008
By Jamie Etheridge

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Communication has issued a memo to all internet service providers in Kuwait asking them to block YouTube access. The popular video website came under fire from the ministry due to content considered offensive to Muslims, a source within the industry told Kuwait Times. The Ministry pointed to content including a video of a man signing verses from the Holy Quran while playing the oud and another video showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

A Fasttelco source confirmed receipt of the memo. “It’s supposed to be blocked right now. But due to technical preparations the blocking may take until tomorrow [Monday],” said the source. The site was still accessible yesterday evening. The Ministry of Communication regularly issues memos to ISPs asking them to block certain websites, including those containing pornographic photos or ones like Skype that can be used to make international phone calls over the Internet.

YouTube is widely used in Kuwait. A search of the word ‘Kuwait’ turned up 59,000 videos, including everything from videos of car crashes on Fahaheel Expressway and Jessica Simpson’s concert for US troops in Kuwait to protests in front of Abdullah Al-Salem hall in the run up to the 2006 parliamentary elections.

You can read the entire article at Kuwait Times.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Technical Issue | 13 Comments