Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in The Barrel

AdventureMan and I have this phrase, and I cannot imagine where it came from (from where it came, for you grammar sticklers!) “Every Monkey gets his turn in the barrel.” It’s particularly true in the workplace, or at least almost every workplace where I have worked – it’s like the stock market, sometimes your stock is high, sometimes your stock can fall, and often, it is not so much your performance as the PERCEPTION of your performance.

Often, in the work place, stocks rise and fall based on little or nothing at all. In fact, if you are really really good at what you do, you are sometimes more at risk, because those who are less accomplished always need to focus the attention anywhere but on their own work, and if you are doing well, they will often find something to criticize to keep their own lackluster accomplishments from coming into focus.

But every monkey getting his/her turn in the barrel applies in almost all factors of life. Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you, it’s just the way things are.

So my trip home was sort of my turn in the barrel. I was a little late getting to the airport, which was not crowded, but there was a long back-up going through passport control to get to the departure gates. They had plenty of staff, but for some reason, they were SO SLOW. When I got to the front, the woman ‘taking care’ of me was busy texting! I asked if the computers were slow today – honestly, she had already stamped my passport, she was just killing time – and she said “No, why?” as if she were unaware of all the people standing in line, waiting to get through.

When I got to Dubai, I had to do this 2 km run from the gate where Emirates comes in to the Delta check-in counter. I always think of it as good exercise, but the humidity in Dubai is particularly high, or else the air conditioning is going out, and at the end of the trek, I am almost soaked with sweat and thinking ‘OMG I need a shower.’ I went to the lounge, but there was a sign “opening at 2100 hours’ and it was 15 minutes after nine. I could see someone in there, but later she stuck her head out and said she couldn’t let anyone in until the ‘attendants’ came, which they did, about 15 minutes later – they had been shopping!

And then I discovered that I had to go to the Air France lounge, not nice at all, near the smoking station so even inside the Air France lounge it smells stale and smokey. I am spoiled. I love the Emirates lounge in Dubai, where they even have tiny small containers of Haggan Daaz ice cream for their clients. 😉 This lounge was filled with American contractors. Yes, we are also American contractors, but this was the other kind – great big fat loud-voiced men, bragging about their salaries and demeaning their wives. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, which I did quickly after checking my e-mails.

The flight from Dubai to Atlanta is just long – more than 15 hours – and started inauspiciously. As we took off, as the plane’s nose lifted, some cupboard fell open and we could hear china and cutlery falling and breaking, a lot of it. I felt so sorry for the flight attendants; they have a lot to do during those flights, and now it was complicated by a disaster at the beginning of the flight. I got through it, mostly by escaping into sleep.

As we arrived in Atlanta, everything had changed. I just did this trip six weeks ago, but there is a new traffic pattern, a longer trek, sterner instructions about how and where to get into line. My bags, marked “priority’, were, as often is the case, nearly the last off the plane, and I trundled them through customs, and then had to run (honestly, this is like a herd of cattle) to get into another long, snaking line to go through security again – this time in Atlanta, where you have to take off your shoes, take out computers, can only use a 1 quart zippering plastic bag, etc.

I had thought I had plenty of time, but a large troop flight came in from Afghanistan, and we all had to move aside to give them priority. That is the one inconvenience I did not mind at all – I am so proud everyone moved over with no grumbling and let our servicepeople through, to get them on their way for R&R.

Security found me very interesting, and this is my own fault. I have a little Waterford crystal sugar jar that I took with me. I’ve had it since the early years of our marriage, and I often hand carry it to the next post. It’s too bad that lead crystal goes opaque in the scanners, and that the shape was a little like that of a hand grenade. I also had my wireless router with me, and this led to a long, long, very long inspection of everything I was carrying.

As I griped later to my son, he said “And I am sure it never occurred to you that you were arriving from the Middle East on a one-way ticket.”

LLLLLOOOOLLLL @ me. Nope. It had never occurred to me. I guess I was thinking about other things – farewells, clearing out the house, packing, mortgage papers, insurance papers, TAXES (Oh aaaAAARRRGGHHH, yes we have an extension, but we still have to get them done!)

So this trip, I was the monkey. I rolled around in that barrel. Actually, because I had no real agenda, other than be in P’cola by Monday to close on a house, I could roll with it and figure that I have had so many breaks, so many times, that if I needed to take this roll in the barrel, so be it, God is good and needed to give the breaks to that old guy in the wheel chair and that family with two kids in strollers, and all those fine young people who serve our country in strange and alien lands . . .

And, at the end of my journey is my son, his wife, and our grandson, and a sweet, relaxed day with them, doing not much but catching up. 🙂 The real chaos starts this coming week, early on Monday morning. Think I’d better get to church, get some fortification for the demands of this coming week.

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Doha, ExPat Life, Florida, Moving, Pensacola, Random Musings, Spiritual, Travel | 7 Comments

Who Is the Terrorist?

Sent by my Kuwaiti friend; I almost died laughing and I hope you will, too:

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Communication, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Humor | 2 Comments

Foods That HELP You Lose Weight

Wooo HOOOO! Eat AND Lose!

This is from AOL + That’s Fit

7 Foods That Help You Lose Weight
Posted on Mar 18th 2010 12:00PM by That’s Fit Editors

by Melanie Haiken, Senior Editor,

Don’t get sucked into the idea that food is your enemy when you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, it’s just the opposite: Befriend the right foods, and the pounds are much more likely to peel off than if you just try to cut calories across the board. Here, seven foods known to nutritionists to boost your body’s fat-burning potential.

1. Oats
Wait a minute; aren’t oats a carb? Yes and no. Oats are a whole grain, and they’re high on what nutritionists call the “satiety index,” meaning oats have tremendous power to make you feel full. Not only that, they’re also high in soluble fiber, so they cut cholesterol and blood fat. Oats digest slowly, so they don’t raise your blood sugar, and they keep you feeling filled up well into the late morning. Old-fashioned steel-cut and rolled oats, with up to 5 grams of fiber per serving, are best, but even instant oatmeal has 3 to 4 grams of fiber per serving.

2. Eggs
Nutritionists have been trying for some years to restore the reputation of the lowly egg. No longer thought to be a cholesterol-booster (eggs contain a different type of cholesterol than that in humans), eggs are a concentrated form of animal protein without the added fat that comes with meat. Dietary studies have repeatedly found that when people eat an egg every morning in addition to (or instead of) toast or cereal, they lose twice as much weight as those who eat a breakfast that’s dominated by carbs.

3. Skim Milk
Studies in reputable publications such as the Journal of Obesity (in addition to the controversial ones funded by the National Dairy Council) show that the combination of calcium, vitamin D, and low-fat protein in skim milk and nonfat yogurt trigger weight loss and help build and maintain lean muscle.

4. Apples
To keep the pounds at bay, eat an apple — or two — a day. Numerous studies have found that eating an apple a half hour to an hour before a meal has the result of cutting the calories of the meal. Why? The fiber in the apple makes you feel full, so you eat less. Recent research suggests eating apples has other benefits, too; the antioxidants in apples appear to prevent metabolic syndrome, the combination of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and prediabetes that tends to accompany thickening around the waist.

5. Red Meat
Not exactly what you think of as a diet food, right? But research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared diet results for women who ate red meat and those who didn’t, and the meat-eaters lost more weight. Experts think the dense protein in lean red meat helps you maintain muscle mass — but of course this assumes you’re exercising to build that muscle.

6. Cinnamon
This simple spice appears to have the power to help your body metabolize sugar, according to surprising data that came out of a USDA study involving diabetics. Eating as little as 1/4 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon a day was found to reduce blood sugar levels and cut cholesterol from 10 to 25 percent. So add cinnamon to smoothies, sprinkle it on your cereal, or flavor your coffee with it — particularly if you take your coffee with cream and sugar. The cinnamon will boost the health benefits of the coffee while helping your body rid itself of the added sugars.

7. Almonds and almond butter
Another counterintuitive choice; aren’t nuts and nut butters supposed to be incredibly fattening? Well, almonds are calorie-dense, but they also pack a huge nutritional punch — and they’re particularly effective in counteracting cholesterol and triglycerides. One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating almonds was as effective as taking a statin. Spreading almond butter on your morning toast gives you a nice protein boost while preventing the carbs in the toast from spiking your blood sugar.

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Diet / Weight Loss, Food, Health Issues | 1 Comment

“Health Care Could be Fixed Overnight . . .”

Today, AOL ran commentaries on American health care and whether the new proposals will make a difference. The comment of one CEO who runs an enormous health provider, caught my eye. As I read it, I thought “he is talking about the USA, but the exact same thoughts apply to Qatar, to Kuwait, to Germany, where an epidemic of self-inflicted health problems is growing wildly.” And it also occurs to me that he is laying the accountability squarely where it belongs – on our shoulders.

David Feinberg, M.D., M.BA.
CEO, UCLA Hospital System

“The debate they’re having now in Washington is the wrong discussion,” says Feinberg. “They’re not talking about health-care reform. They’re talking about health insurance reform. The bill in Congress has nothing to do with health care.” He explains that health care could be fixed overnight if people would stop using alcohol and drugs, eat right and exercise.

“I have 800 patients in this hospital today, and I bet 50 percent of them have illnesses that could have been completely prevented,” Feinberg says. “That situation is not going to get better with a ‘public option.'”

He points out that even people without health insurance can receive care when they need it in the emergency room, and, while it’s not ideal, they’re not being denied care because they don’t have health insurance. “It’s impossible to give high quality, low cost care to everyone. What we need is to decrease demand for health care.”

According to Feinberg, some 75 percent of illnesses are treated at home, whether that’s a bad cold or a sprained ankle, and he says that health-care reform should be focused on home care. “When you compare us to other countries with similar Gross Domestic Products, they spend half what we do on health care because they have a different lifestyle,” he says. “We either need to change our lifestyle, or it’s going to be very expensive.”

“With all due respect,” he adds, “the surgeon general is obese. I don’t think the President of the United States should be solving this.” Rather, he says, each individual needs to come to terms with the fact that eating right, exercising, and avoiding smoking and alcohol will transform not only their own lives but the ever increasing cost of health care in this country.

You can read all the commentaries on AOL Health News. I know most of us in my age group need more exercise (not you, Big Diamond!) and are beginning to stave off the common age-related problems of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, aches and pains, etc. We all KNOW we could be eating better and exercising more. We are smart educated people – but do we do what we know is best for ourselves? NNoooooooooooo!

I see the same epidemic striking in Germany, in Qatar and in Kuwait, people who have enough to eat are eating too much. Yes. Yes. I’m guilty. And I exercise a lot less than I need to. I was so happy to get back into a house, with stairs, so at least I would get the exercise of going up and down stairs a few times a day.

Japan has instituted a national policy of health, measuring citizens waists and penalizing them for carrying too much weight. I will be interested to see how it works out, if it pays off in health benefits and lowered costs down the road. It’s an inspired mandate.

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Diet / Weight Loss, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Germany, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | | Leave a comment

Places I’ll Remember . . .

I’m not very good at being sad. Today is one of the saddest days of my life. I’ve been weeping all day, and I’m not one of those women whom the camera loves when they weep. My throat gets thick, so clogged with emotion that I can’t talk clearly, and my eyes get all red and swollen. My cheeks get all blotchy. I hate it, my eyes are leaking, and my nose is running. I think I’ve got it all stopped, and it all starts up again.

Most of the house is packed, the kitchen cupboards cleared out and all the goods not going with us distributed. I weep as I pack my bags. I weep as I take out the garbage. I weep as I load one last load of wash into the washer.

“What is it in particular?” AdventureMan asks me, as I weep, yet again, as I start to write this entry.

“It’s the end of an era,” I choke out, and the tears start rolling once again in spite of all my efforts not to succumb.

“We’ve lived our lives as nomads ever since we met,” I continue.

“It isn’t like we want to live in Doha forever, Doha is changing, too, old friends are leaving.”

“It isn’t like I love packing up and starting over in a new place.”

“I shouldn’t have scheduled to leave on a Friday after church,” I philosophized, but it’s too late now. The waterworks started in church and have turned on and off with ever fresh goodbye.

I steeled myself to smile cheerily at my oldest friends, knowing we’ll meet up again – a wedding, a retirement, a gathering of old hands. But small things defeated me. The friends who switched their normal place in church and sat beside us. The communion hymn “Lord of the Dance” sung as a duet. One of our friends provided our very very favorite meal for lunch. The priest blessing my travels and sending me on with the prayers of the people. The difficult ceremony of saying goodbye to the people we love in a place which has nurtured us, spiritually and socially.

And one young woman painted a watercolor for us of our new grandson.

It is a stunning watercolor, I can hardly wait to have it framed. There is something very special in it – I have a friend who knits, but is constantly telling us how badly she knits. She knit a blanket for the grandson, and it was COLD in Pensacola, and that blanket was used over and over again. The blanket is in the lower left corner of the watercolor. 🙂

It’s going to be a long trip to our new life. We are going to a happy place – sunshine, but not so much heat. Humidity and lightning, but also four seasons and seafood. Our son, his wife, our grandson. All these are happy things. Our new house, a new life, closer to our families. All good things.

I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to my Palestinian friend, like my sister, and she shared all her children with me through these years of friendship. Saying goodbye to her was horrible. We know we may never see one another again. Her daughters assure me they will help us correspond; they will help her use modern technology to stay in touch. 🙂 I don’t know when I will ever see her again . . . and it breaks my heart. I guess I kind of thought she would come visit me. “No,” she said sadly, “no, I will never have the right papers to visit you.” Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how devastating are the restrictions on her life. And I’m just a friend. She hasn’t seen her own father, in Palestine, for years. Sometimes they can meet up in Egypt. . .

I’m not the first expat to leave here. One good friend left Doha last summer, she led the way. We all know that leaving the nomadic life is charting new territory. We’ve had a lot of fun, we’ve loved (most of) the expat experience. We know it’s time. It’s just the inner twenty-five year old is not ready.

AdventureMan’s company keeps saying “when you’ve had a break . . . ” and AdventureMan laughs and says “I’m not taking a break, I am RETIRING!” His company is savvy; they know that three months down the road the domestic life may get a bit old for these high testosterone kind of guys and they will invite him back for a special project or two. He promises me, if it is Doha or Kuwait, I can come with him. Even just a week or two, to see old friends . . . I’ll take it!

Thanks be to God, for creating us, and for giving us this wonderful life we were created to live. Thanks be to God for all these great adventures, for the exotic, the sights and smells and sounds, and for the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Thanks be to God for the generous spirited friends called to his life, who have shared the path with us. And thanks be to God for this outlet, this blog, where I can share the good, the bad and the ugly with friends from all countries who have ever lived as strangers in a strange land (even when that ‘strange’ land is the USA, LOL!) Thank YOU, friends.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Moving, Qatar, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Thanksgiving, Values, Work Related Issues | 14 Comments

Babies Love to Dance!

Now here is a study I love! Scientists studied babies movements to music and discovered – babies love rhythm, and love to move to the rhythm! Get those babies dancing!

If they find rhythm and music more engaging, sing to them!

They Got Rhythm, Study of Babies Finds

Lauren Frayer
AOL News

(March 16) — Babies innately respond to rhythm more than speech, according to a new study that found dancing comes naturally to infants.

Researchers in Britain and Finland tested the responses of 120 babies ages 5 months to 2 years and found that infants are much more physically responsive to music than to speech and find it more engaging.

In the experiment, which was recorded on video, babies were perched on their mother’s or father’s lap while psychologists played a recording of music. The babies moved their heads, arms, legs and bodies in time to the beat of various different genres of music.

“Our research suggests that it is the beat rather than other features of the music, such as the melody, that produces the response in infants,” one of the study’s authors, psychologist Marcel Zentner of the University of York in England, said in statement.

In order not to influence the baby’s movements, the parent wore headphones to block out the sound of the music and was asked to stay still during the experiment.

The recordings included classical music, rhythmic beats and also speech. They also hired professional ballet dancers to analyze the babies’ movements and determine how well-coordinated they were with the music. All of the babies responded more to the music than to speech.

The findings suggest humans may be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music.

“It remains to be understood why humans have developed this particular predisposition,” Zentner said. “One possibility is that it was a target of natural selection for music or that it has evolved for some other function that just happens to be relevant for music processing.”

Zentner and Tuomas Eerola of Finland’s University of Jyvasklya also found that the more the babies’ movements were synchronized to the music, the more they smiled.

The study appears in the March 15 issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Relationships, Tools | 2 Comments

Polite Reminder

Don’t you love this sign? It is so polite! Asking people not to smoke, even though it is outside, and – LOL – even though this restaurant encourages shisha smokers!

March 18, 2010 Posted by | Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Humor, Living Conditions | 4 Comments

One Last Time at The Majliss

Lucky me, AdventureMan shares my love of this fine restaurant. We meet up with a set of long-time friends and enjoy an evening of hilarity and good food. We had the mezze, yes, including the Majliss’s fabulous muhammara, made with ground walnuts and sweet red peppers and pomegranate juice, and then – the grilled shrimp and hammour. I don’t think anyone does it better:

The moment of hilarity? AdventureMan stands up and says he needs to go wash his hands. His friend stands up and says “I’ll go with you!” The joke? AdventureMan usually pays the bill while he is ‘washing his hands’ but we have been friends long enough for this man to have caught on to his trick.

March 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Early Morning Souk Al Waqif

One set of packers coming mid-morning, so AdventureMan is staying home, and offers to take me out to breakfast. I’m a cheap date – take me to the Beirut. I love this place.

As we get to the camel lot, we see they are being fed and dressed – a parade?

These guys look sharp. They have a lot of pride in what they are doing. And they have a dashing uniform. He told us they are a part of the Emiri Diwan.

On to the Beirut, and one of my reasons for loving these breakfasts – the souk cops, on their horses. The horses are beautiful, and well controlled. The cops are friendly and patient with all the tourists, and with us ‘locals’ too, when we ask them to pose with our Flat Stanleys. 🙂

It’s a real treat for AdventureMan to have a morning when he can sit outside with me and enjoy his favorite kind of breakfast:

We walked through the souks, and found that by 9:30, it is beginning to get HOT.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Moving, Weather | 6 Comments

Tawash Restaurant

We didn’t end up at the Brussels. As we walked into the souks, we smelled a whiff of grilling meat and decided we wanted Arabic food while we could get it. We walked up and down and decided this was the night to eat at the Tawash.

The Tawash is gorgeous. Somebody put a lot of thought into it. You can eat outside, along the walkway, or outside on the balcony, or outside on the upstairs terrace. Or you can eat inside, in a private dining room, or in a large dining room that can be separated by tent-like hangings that drop down between tables. It is beautifully thought through.

We chose the balcony – we wanted to be outside, but I don’t like to eat right out on the street, with people walking by and oogling my food.

We started with hummus and baba ghannoush, served with hot hot bread:

And then we had two great dishes, a traditional Kepsa (mensaf in Jordan) which is rice cooked with delicious spices and, in this case, chicken:

And a shrimp dish, the shrimp marinated in yoghurt, then fried, accompanied by fried vegetables, sort of like tempura – the batter was very light:

And we finished with strong, grainy coffee:

If you have special guests in town for only one night, this would be a great place to take them. It is a beautiful building, it has character and charm, the food is very good, the service is attentive without being intrusive, and it has a kind of magic, a uniqueness that sets it apart from the chains of restaurants also in the souks. If the weather allows you to sit outside – do so. Part of the charm for us was the great parade of humanity passing by as we conversed and ate. It’s an altogether lovely restaurant.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Community, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions | 4 Comments