Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Hopeful Signs

You know me a little bit by now. You know what makes my heart sing. I believe things really can get better, if we all just commit to being a part of that process, and taking steps, even small steps, in the right direction.

So you will understand why this makes my heart sing:
00hopefulsign1

Wooo HOOOO, Kuwait! Clean! Fresh! Visible! Woooo HOOOOOOOO!

And – just seconds later – THIS:
00hopefulsign2

Light at night! Clear! Visible!

Wooo HOOOO, Kuwait!

Some bureaucrat somewhere made a decision, and followed through on that decision, to make sure it was carried out, this being Kuwait. That one seemingly small decision, that small step in the right direction, could save lives.

God bless the bureaucracy, God bless the people that make the effort to keep us safe, who take their jobs seriously. I don’t take this lightly, not in my own country, not in any country I live in. Public policy is created by US, making small steps for the greater good.

Advertisements

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Technical Issue | 7 Comments

Rose-Colored Sunrise 31 Dec 2008

When we got up this morning, it was DARK, at a time when it is normally lighter. When I looked out my window, there were heavy clouds, everything looked dark and sombre:

00justbeforesunrise

Minutes later, the sun begins to break through and the clouds look less substantial:
00sunrise

And then – the light! The sun breaks through!
00justaftersunrise

And, a short time later, the day shimmers in silver and gold:
00aftersunrise

All that drama, and the morning is yet young! Wooo HOOOO, what a day this might be!

These are funny days, December 29th – 31st, days in which those who follow the Islamic calendar are already in the new year, and days in which we are still waiting. Tomorrow we will all be back on track, starting off a new year. In Kuwait, schools this week reported 85% absenteeism. Schools were open – but the students didn’t come!

AdventureMan and I briefly reviewed our year 2008 before praying this morning. For us – even though our financial investments are (on paper) in the depths – this has been a very good year. We have each other, and we have our sweet Qatteri Cat.

00qcdec2008

We have been greatly blessed to have had more time with our son this year than any year we can remember in the last ten years. We love our time with him, and with his wife. We have had weddings, and lots of family times with my family. We have had wonderful times with our friends, old and new. God has blessed us abundantly.

In every way that really matters, life is sweet. We thank God for 2008. We thank God, even for the challenges that 2009 will bring.

Brothers and sisters, we wish you peace, peace in your spirits, peace in your families, peace in your nations, and a desire to meet all obstacles with peaceful intentions. We wish you peaceful times with family, and peaceful resolutions of any conflicts. May your New Year be filled with unexpected blessings!

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, sunrise series, Weather | , | 17 Comments

Qurain Fest – Information Where?

Here is what bugs me. There is this perfectly wonderful festival going on. I only know because the newspapers print photos and stories – after each event. I cannot figure out WHERE the event is taking place, WHAT TIME an event will take place . . . these are perfect opportunities to go and learn something, to experience the culture, and we have no idea – in advance – where to go, how to find these things.

I would love to see this dancing!

So, if it is cultural, music and dancing are allowed? 🙂 Is it always just men dancing, or do women dance, too?

Isn’t this camel racing season? When are the camels raced? Where?

From Al Watan

Kuwaiti folk dancing troupe entertains audience

KUWAIT: As part of the Qurain Cultural Festival”s festivities, the Red Palace group, a folk dancing troupe, performed in Jahra on Sunday.

The performance, which was attended by Deputy Director of the festival Mohammed AlـAsousi, lasted for two hours. The dancers presented a wide spectrum of national and patriotic themes much to the enjoyment of the audience.

Head of the folklore group, Nasser Suleiman AlـFaraj explained that their participation in the event came as a result of the group”s strong belief in reviving an old heritage and folklore. He stressed that the past would always be relevant in the present.

Last updated on Tuesday 30/12/2008

December 30, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Rants, Travel | 17 Comments

Sunrise 30 December 2008

Good Morning, Kuwait!

00sunrise30dec08

There are tiny, fleecy clouds in the sky, nothing to speak of, no rain in sight. The scum on the horizon is diminished. It is going to be another gorgeous “winter” day in Kuwait. Light sweater weather – my favorite!

weather30dec

Christmas is all put away, and we are readying to welcome in the New Year. Happy New Year (already) to my friends who celebrated the Islamic New Year yesterday. May God richly bless you in the year to come.

(As I write that, I realize with a start that we don’t think the way God does. What if the economic crisis, our dwindling investments, the rising prices – what if these are all a part of God’s blessing, and we don’t see it? What if he is demonstrating that we can live more simply, more happily, with less? What if he is telling us we can be happy eating less, spending less, what if he is telling us our greatest blessings are family? good health? moderation? Hmmmmmmm. . . . . . )

December 30, 2008 Posted by | Beauty, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Holiday, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Random Musings | 4 Comments

Slaughter of the Innocents

600px-matteo_di_giovanni_002

In our Lectionary readings for today we pray for the Innocents, slaughtered by King Herod, in the land that is now Israel.

PRAYER (traditional language)
We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

There is nothing so maddening as to be helpless to intervene in the huge crush of political events among nations. On the other hand, we have been given this very powerful weapon – prayer – and the knowledge that God can do anything, and that he listens to our prayers, especially prayers for the weak, the helpless, women and children.

We can also raise our voices where it counts – to our governments – to say “this is wrong” and “this must be stopped.”

This is wrong. This must be stopped.

It is neither good nor right for bullies to impose their will on those with less power, just because they can. (That applies also to my own country.) It is not good for the victims – but it is also not good for the health of the bully! Countries where minority rights are not considered find themselves weakened from internal disorders, like a body eaten with cancer. If minorities can be likened to bacteria – a little bacterial makes us healthier and stronger. Tolerance of diversity makes us as nations healthier and stronger.

Don’t you wonder what might be accomplished if the Palestinians and Israelis could find some way to live together in peace?

December 29, 2008 Posted by | Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Dharfur, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Spiritual | , , , | 3 Comments

Wikipedia Donate Button

Today I added (not very elegantly, I will have to fix this somehow) a new widget on my site. I find myself using Wikipedia almost as often as I use Google, and I love the entire concept – gathering what we know and sharing it with one another.

Today, I made my donation. It’s the least I can do. I access them almost daily, and I often use them to help me write my posts.

If you use Wikipedia, perhaps you will also consider making a donation. If you have a credit card, it couldn’t be easier.

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

December 29, 2008 Posted by | Fund Raising, Interconnected | 5 Comments

Family Crisis

The Gospel reading for today details a family crisis. We grow up with these words, we know them by heart, but it is only living in the countries near where Jesus was actually born that I have come to ponder these words in my heart, and try to imagine what it meant in Mary’s time.

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah* took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.

Living in Jordan, living in the Gulf has helped me so much to understand the context in which this birth took place. In America today, it is still hoped for that women will be married when they have children, but it is not taken for granted. No one goes out and kills a daughter or sister who has had sexual relations with a man before she is married. Parents don’t disown daughters who conceive before the vows are publicly exchanged.

Even now, in the Middle East, most expect women to be virgin at marriage, and to conceive only after the formalities of marriage. There are steep penalties to be paid for varying from that route. Banishment. Death. Dishonor. A bastard child, if she lives that long. These are all things Mary was facing as she entered her earliest months of pregnancy. Joseph had decided to set her aside – not to marry her. He was a decent man, but a man of the times, he didn’t want a pregnant bride. The angel comes – he tells Joseph that this baby is special, conceived of the Holy Spirit, that Mary remains virgin. And miracle of miracles . . . Joseph listens.

What a courageous woman. What a courageous man.

mary_web

December 28, 2008 Posted by | Character, Charity, Christmas, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Random Musings, Spiritual, Women's Issues | 8 Comments

What is it called in Kuwait? Can you do it?

In the comments of a recent post, blogger Moodi asked if I liked Qatayif. I checked the Wikipedia page, and it reminded me of something else.

In Qatar, when I lived there, our teachers at The Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam demonstrated making a large, thin dough that was used in many ways, folded and used in casseroles, used as a foundation in serving dishes, crumbled up when dry and used in breakfast making . . .

It was made by hand, using a dough that you held in your hand, and tossed and brought back to your hand after leaving a dot on a hot griddle. I think the hot griddle might have been flat some times, and like an upside-down wok other times. The pancake would turn out large and round, but only a few atoms thick, they were very very thin and delicate.

I never have seen this in Kuwait, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Do any of your grandmothers or mothers make thin pancakes for special holidays in this manner? Can you tell me what it is called?

In Tunisia, women used to make Malsouqa, the thin thin dough used to make brik and sell it in stacks in the marketplace. You could wait, and buy it fresh off the stove, they would toss and grab, toss and grab, and then peel the very thin, fragile skin of dough off the burner. Pop in a little tuna, chopped parsley. salt, pepper and egg, fry lightly in a little olive oil in a frying pan – heaven in a wrapper.

I was obsessed. It took me an hour – but I found a wonderful blog, Chef Zadi with these fabulous photos of how malsouka are made. His blog is all about healthy North African cuisine

p1010007

So – have you seen anything similar, something done on a hot iron with a dough held in the hand and tossed at the got grill over and over, leaving small spots of dough that gather into a large flaky thin pastry?

December 28, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Cooking, ExPat Life, Food | 7 Comments

Cross Cultural Eating

“And we are going to roast chestnuts!” my good friend said, and inwardly I cringed.

I remember years ago, when a French friend told me her mother was bringing marron glace to Tunisia, she was so excited, she could talk of nothing else for days.

“And when she comes,” my friend said, “you must come over and we shall eat marron glace together!” Her mother came, I was invited, and eager. Then I took my first bite of marron glace, and almost gagged. It was the flavor. It was the texture. I didn’t like them at all! Fortunately, there were other small foods, and I could push the chestnut around and hide it on my plate, and politely demur that I didn’t want to eat all her special marrons and deprive her of the pleasure.

We love being with this couple, and I accepted the invitation. Little did I know, as I dreaded being polite about the roasted chestnuts, that a perfectly roasted chestnut is a different food altogether! We sat outside, on a mile winter’s night in Kuwait, around a eucalyptus fire, with that fabulous aromatic smoke drifting around us, eating toasted delicious chestnuts and enjoying every bite.

Some things you just grow up knowing are wrong wrong wrong. Another friend wrinkled her nose when I told her my favorite Christmas dish was cranberry gelatin salad. In her experience, jello salads were full of horrid things like miniature marshmallows, whipped cream, cottage cheese. For her, it was inelegant, just about the worst thing you could say about any food. (To her surprise, she ended up liking the gelatin salad.)

“Oh, Harissa!” my Qatteri friend nearly swooned in bliss, when I asked her about her favorite Ramadan treat. I could hardly wait to try it, and when I did – it was the texture that stopped me cold in my tracks. I can’t even tell you how it tasted; there was a viscosity in it that deterred me from trying another bite.

When we go out with my Chinese friend for dim-sum, there are dishes she won’t even let us try. We trust her; she really knows what will be over the line for us. Chicken’s feet, for one. They bring out so many dishes, there are plenty that we like, and we never go hungry.

For my husband, a Southerner, it isn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas without cornbread dressing. I have to keep him out of the South to keep him alive; when we live in the South, he can’t resist the deep fried seafood. For me, I have to stay away from France and Germany, I love the pate´, the terrines, the cassoulet; the fatty geese, the fatty duck, the fried the vegetables and salads laced with lardons.

When we eat at one of the Japanese restaurants here, I can’t help but wonder how really Japanese the food is – when I have eaten with Japanese friends, there are odd colored things made with fruit juice, delicate morsels of unidentified meat . . . I suspect there are things common on Japanese menus in Japan that they know we won’t eat, and they don’t even bother to put on the menus in the US, or in Kuwait. When I see the cooks, I don’t think most of them are Japanese, and I wonder if Japanese people here ever ask for a truly Japanese dish, only to learn that the cook doesn’t know what it is.

One of the best things about living in another country is that you learn that the things you take for granted, you can’t take for granted. I learned that you can’t trust that every person you meet was raised eating with a fork. I learned ways to eat with my hands and not be messy. I learned that in some countries, you NEVER touch food with your fingers, you always use a utensil. I learned that in some countries, it is considered “uncultured” to drink your coffee with cream or sugar or any additive. I learned in some countries, you never smile in the market until you have agreed on a price. I learned in some countries, you can have a cup of tea while shopping and it doesn’t obligate you to buy. I’ve learned things I don’t even know I’ve learned, conquered prejudices I didn’t even know I had. I’ve stepped on toes, thinking I was behaving politely. I’ve violated customs I didn’t know existed. Some of what I have learned has been painful . . . and worth the pain.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship | 9 Comments

Vigilante Volunteers

“Helping out the Ministry of Interior”

From today’s Kuwait Times

Kuwaiti activist establishes voluntary religious police
Published Date: December 27, 2008

KUWAIT: Islamist activist Mubarak Al-Bathali announced that he has established a voluntary Kuwaiti Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, like the Saudi Mutaween or religious police.

Al-Bathali said the Kuwait committee would begin its religious tasks in the Sulaibikhat area before spreading to other areas of the country. He explained that he was inspired to adopt the idea after a number of devout young people complained to him about seeing inappropriate and immoral behavior in Kuwait’s streets.

He emphasized that the committee members would focus only on advising people to avoid irreligious and immoral behavior and would never implement harsh or violent treatment on anyone.

Among the types of treatment which Al-Bathali protested against was the alleged drinking of alcohol, banned in Kuwait, at Christmas parties in the country. He reiterated that those who wished to drink alcohol should go outside Kuwait to do so.

Al-Bathali emphasized that the committee’s work would not conflict with the Ministry of Interior’s, saying that on the contrary it would help the MoI to uphold public morality and values.

From today’s Arab Times:

WE DON’T WANT YOUR HELP GUARDING PUBLIC MORALITY! responds MOI

Interior Ministry hits out at new ‘guardians of freedom’
KUWAIT, Dec 26, (KUNA): “Kuwait is an institutional state governed by law”, a statement by the Ministry of Interior said on Friday. The statement came in response to a press statement published on the front page of a local daily earlier today. The press statement talked about a group that allocated itself as “guardian” of people’s personal freedoms guaranteed by law, the ministry statement noted. The statement stressed that the ministry was the only directorate tasked with implementing and preserving the law in the country through imposing security and order, as well as safeguarding public morals. “The Kuwaiti society is a conservative, Arab and Muslim one that maintains refined morals and abides by its customs and traditions,” it pointed out.

“The ministry will counter such ‘radical’ calls with firmness,” the statement said, adding that the ministry would not allow anyone, whether individuals or groups, to interfere in the public’s personal freedoms, describing the calls as a “loud” infringement of the law as it also defied the state’s constitutional institutions. The statement concluded by saying that the ministry would take needed legal and security procedures to counter these calls and maintain the nation’s safety under the leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

Meanwhile, the Citizenship and Passport Affairs Department at the Ministry of Interior has announced that citizenship will not be granted to Kuwaiti children born abroad, if they hold any other nationality, reports Al-Rai daily. The department said since Kuwait doesn’t accept dual citizenship, children born abroad, especially in western countries where citizenship is given on birth, will not be granted Kuwaiti citizenship if they accept another country’s citizenship. It applies even on children of diplomats and “the department will not grant citizenship to such children unless they give up their previous citizenship.”

It is easy to discover nationality from birth certificates, say sources. In another development, Iraqi authorities have extended invitation to Kuwait officials to visit Baghdad to locate the whereabouts of their compatriots captured during the August 1990 Iraqi invasion, reports Arrouaih daily quoting reliable Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry sources as saying. Sources added the step demonstrates the serious determination of Iraqis to see to an amicable resolution of the issues and to put to end the lingering suffering of many families who lost their loved ones during the war.

PS. I don’t want your help, either, morality volunteers, guarding my morality. My morality is between me and God. I obey the laws of the country I live in – the laws of the country, not your idea of what the laws should be. “Volunteers” guarding morality are vigilantes, pure and simple.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Privacy, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 5 Comments