Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Kuwait 1990

Thank you, Little Diamond, for spreading the news. This should be an amazing program.

From the Al Jazeera site:

On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi army invaded the emirate of Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, had declared Iraq’s 19th province.

The occupation of Kuwait may have only lasted seven months, yet the memory of it remains strong, not least in the minds of the children of that conflict.

At the end of the school year of 1990, students in an international school in Kuwait said their final farewells as they headed off for the summer holidays. Many of them would never meet again.

Al Jazeera’s Nashwa Nasreldin was one of those whose family was forced to relocate following the invasion.

Twenty years on, she returns to Kuwait, the country of her birth, along with a group of her classmates as they organise a reunion to find out what happened to their friends – and their school – during the war that separated them.

Kuwait: The class of 1990 can be seen from Monday, August 2, 2010 at the following times GMT: Monday: 1900; Tuesday: 0600; Wednesday: 0300; Thursday: 1400; Friday: 0600; Saturday: 1900; Sunday: 0300.

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July 31, 2010 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Political Issues | 4 Comments

February Barnacles

I rarely miss a water aerobics class. The Y makes it easy, even if I oversleep, there is also a 0930 class, or if I’m feeling bad, there are also classes on Tuesday and Thursday. Since I’m going to have to make it up anyway, I just go. I rarely feel bad enough to stay home, and most things I can schedule for after my class.

Any kind of aerobics class is funny. I try to be friendly to everyone, because these classes can be a real pain in the patootie if there are cliques or snobs, it starts to feel like junior high all over again, and God knows, that was bad enough the first time. Life is too short.

But there is one spot I really like. I like to be in the back of the class, so I can exercise harder or differently and not confuse anyone else. I’ve been doing water aerobics for a while and sometimes while the rest of the class is doing cross-country, for example, I will do it off the floor of the pool, or do an extra kick on the jacks, things like that, so it just works better for me to be at the back of the class. I also like to be at a certain depth, not too deep and not too shallow. So . . . regrettably . . . I am one of those people who have a spot.

Sometimes if I am a little late someone else stands in “my” spot and I have to stand somewhere else. I don’t worry about it, people in these classes come and go, and I usually get to stand there. If I don’t, I am still OK.

There are two other women on the back wall with me, who are pretty much always in their same places, and we really do have a good time. I joke that we are the barnacles, stuck to the back wall. This morning, I complimented one of them on her earrings, and she said they were amethysts for February, and as it turns out, we all have birthdays within one week of one another in February – all three of us, within one week. What an amazing coincidence.

She worked us hard this morning, and it is a good thing, as I fly this afternoon for Seattle. Keep me in your prayers for safe travels, and travel mercies, please!

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Exercise, Pensacola, Random Musings, Relationships, Seattle, Statistics, Travel, Venice | Leave a comment

Panhandle Politicians

One of the things I liked best about living in Kuwait was the lively press. When the press has freedom – and freedom is always relative – people have to be more careful about what they do. Here, on a daily basis, the Pensacola News Journal has a crime section where they run crime news AND they list the daily felony arrests – who, what and where. I love it that they name names.

When I opened the paper this week, I thought I was back in Kuwait. There is a race for an open seat in the House of Representatives, and one candidate has just been arrested for trafficking drugs. Another candidate and his wife were videotaped sneaking out and stealing their opponent’s campaign signs. LLLOOOLLL. This is hilarious:

People think there are such huge differences between our countries. . . and yet we breed the same politicians, the religious fundamentalists, the ‘get-rich-quicks-by-lining-my-pockets’ kind of guys, the developers . . . it’s almost as if when you run for office, there has to be something wrong with you. It’s a sad day for democracy when these are our candidates. What a difference technology is making – it can help keep us honest.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues | 2 Comments

Grumpy Wednesdays

I always get up grumpy on Wednesdays these days. My early water-aerobics class at the Y helps my mood, but when I get home, I have the dreaded cat litter to take care of. Thursday is garbage pick up, so Wednesdays I dump out all the old litter, wash out the litter box, dry it and refill it. I gather up the garbage from all over the house, put it in the can, move the can to the curb and then it’s picked up on Thursdays.

I think it took me all of 30 minutes.

I probably grumped about it about three hours, until I had it done. It occurred to me that I was letting a very small (but unpleasant) amount of time totally spoil my outlook. Literally, doing the job, doing the job well – takes minutes. Why do I grump about something so small?

Cleaning out cat litter is not a pleasant task. When I was pregnant, AdventureMan took over the job, because cat litter can hold parasites harmful to babies. Thirty years later, AdventureMan looked at me speculatively, his eyes all squinted up, and said “Isn’t the risk to your pregnancy about over by now?”

LLOOLL!

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Character, Family Issues, Florida, Living Conditions, Pets | Leave a comment

God Puts Women in Responsible Positions

I like the discipline of reading the Lectionary every day, because there are some stories we all know, familiar stories, but reading every day, we learn the less familiar stories. The book of Judges is not a book I would turn to saying “Oh good! Today we are reading Judges!” but now that I am into it, I am coming across some gems.

Here, we have Deborah, a prophetess and judge, and Jael, a courageous and determined women, and oh, what a difference their faithfulness makes:

Judges 4:4-23

4 At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. 5She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgement. 6 She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. 7 I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” ’

8 Barak said to her, ‘If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.’

9 And she said, ‘I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.’ Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and ten thousand warriors went up behind him; and Deborah went up with him.

11 Now Heber the Kenite had separated from the other Kenites,* that is, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had encamped as far away as Elon-bezaanannim, which is near Kedesh.

12 When Sisera was told that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13 Sisera called out all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the troops who were with him, from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Wadi Kishon. 14 Then Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day on which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. The Lord is indeed going out before you.’ So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand warriors following him. 15 And the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and all his army into a panic* before Barak; Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot, 16 while Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-ha-goiim. All the army of Sisera fell by the sword; no one was left.

17 Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. 18 Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, ‘Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.’ So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. 19 Then he said to her, ‘Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.’ So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. 20 He said to her, ‘Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, “Is anyone here?” say, “No.” ’

21 But Jael wife of Heber took a tent-peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground—he was lying fast asleep from weariness—and he died. 22 Then, as Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, ‘Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.’ So he went into her tent; and there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent-peg in his temple.

23 So on that day God subdued King Jabin of Canaan before the Israelites.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Spiritual, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Auditions

I have an anniversary coming up September 6th – 4 years of blogging. Two moves, and there are days I can’t believe I am still blogging. There are days, also, when I can’t understand why you keep reading so faithfully.

I am trying not to spend so much time on the ‘net. It’s conscious. I want to focus on living my life, not living vicariously through others. I check messages in the morning and evening, and I do my bible readings. Blogging is over and above. Research – for purchases, for trips, etc – that’s allowed. YOU still have a high priority. 🙂

Here are the three cakes I am considering for the 4 year blogaversary:

It is amazing how much time you can waste . . . just looking for the right cake for an imaginary celebration.

Which do you prefer? Why?

July 27, 2010 Posted by | Blogging, ExPat Life, Food | 11 Comments

Christ-Church-in-the-Gym

Today, with ample notification, the congregation met over in the Episcopal Day School Gym, while the air conditioning in the main cathedral and office buildings is being replaced. We sat on folding chairs, shoulder to shoulder, and we didn’t have kneelers.

Except for the congregation not being 1/3 Indian and 1/3 African and 1/3 all-the-rest-of-us, I would have thought I was back in Doha. 🙂 We sing the same music, follow the same liturgy – it is such a comfort, just about anywhere in the world we go, most of what we do follows the same pattern. Fellowship was held in the back of the gym, just like Doha. I’m beginning to know a few faces, and we nod a little (after all, we are Episcopalians) and I am happy our son and his wife also know a few people so worship feels more like family. Our little grandson loves the baby-care; they take such good care of him.

We have learned to live with – even adapt to – the differences wherever we might go. Some places, it’s all “smells and bells” i.e. incense, bells, high church formality. Some places it’s more evangelical, “new” music and hands in the air. Christ Church in Pensacola is old school, liturgical, but without the smells and bells. The sermons are down to earth and applicable.

The sermon today was on just that – keeping our mind on the substance of what we believe, and letting the stylistic differences go. Amen to that.

July 25, 2010 Posted by | Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Random Musings, Spiritual | 1 Comment

The Not-to-Do List

I love this meditation from Rick Warren, who sends these out daily from his Purpose Driven Life connection. I was at dinner last night with three well-connected (2 i-Phones, one something else) family members, and I remember thinking (with a grin) that we spent the entire dinner in conversation, and no one was occupied with their phone.

Choosing a simpler life
by Rick Warren

. . . a time to embrace and a time to refrain. Ecclesiastes 3:5 (NIV)

You’d think that living in Southern California means I’m surrounded by people who live a laid-back lifestyle. The truth is just the opposite: Most of the people I know are trying to cram more and more into each day.

For instance, a couple of years ago, I was with a group of friends driving down the interstate. At one point, I looked around and realized most of us were engaged in some activity other than talking to each other. Two people were on their cell phones; another was working on his BlackBerry; and a fourth was focused on his laptop computer.

As a joke, I declared I felt left out. I called the driver, who was sitting right next to me, and we chatted together on our cell phones for a few minutes! The point of our traveling together in the van was so we could grab time to talk face-to-face! Yet we felt pressed to get it all done.

That’s when I realized the truth – we couldn’t get it all done, and God never intended for us to make completing a to-do list the purpose of our lives.

The fact is, there are many things we think we must do that really are not worth doing. My point is this: You won’t simplify your life by getting an electronic organizer. You won’t even find it by convincing your neighbor, who makes Martha Stewart look like a sloth, to give you tips about coordinating your activities while still wearing a perfect dress and pearls like Beaver Cleaver’s mom.

Simplifying is really about choices – prioritizing what is important – and then sticking to those choices no matter how tempting it is to add more to your to-do list. In fact, take those tempting activities and put them on a list of things not to do.

You are the only one who can assume responsibility for your time and clarify what’s really important to you.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “But I have to take care of the kids,” or “I have to get this report done by Friday.” I’m not naïve about the pressures many people feel today, but it may be that those things – your children, your work – are the priorities you keep on your to-do list, and you move other things to the not-to-do list.

July 24, 2010 Posted by | Generational, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Tropical Storm Bonnie On the Horizon

Yesterday Little Diamond and I headed out to Fort Pickens, a long spit of land out on Pensacola Beach where there are old forts and batteries, campgrounds and hiking trails. The campgrounds looked heavily occupied, and there was a heavy surf – not to far from the road. In fact, although I am usually courageous, I felt uncomfortable about how close the surf was to the road. Out on this long, isolated spit, the land isn’t that much above sea level. It wouldn’t take much to wash right over the spit, and were that to happen, there is no place to run.

Personal security sort of becomes a way of life. It becomes second nature; you don’t even know you are constantly surveying your surroundings, looking for escape routes, keeping your back to the wall, facing the door, watching cars around you, etc. You don’t even know you are doing it, until you get that sort of choking sensation, knowing there is one way out and if that way is compromised, you might be sunk – in this case, literally.

On our way out and back, we saw mysterious activity, involving tents, lots of workers, surveyors and GPS systems. We speculated it might be movement of turtle eggs to avoid contamination from the oil spill, but we didn’t stop and ask – they seemed very intent and focused on their task.

We quickly toured and left for a nice lunch at Crabs – We Got ‘Em. DELICIOUS! We had the crab and spinach dip – oh Yummm. I had the crab cake sliders, which were so big I could only eat the crab cakes. Little Diamond had the Crab Ceasar. All in all, we were greatly pleased. Although yesterday was another hot hot hot and humid day, we ate outside in the shaded area, fanned by fans and Gulf breezes. Another day in Paradise. 🙂

(For those of you in the area, here is our review of our first visit to Crabs – We Got ‘Em several months ago.)

This morning, looking at the front page, we had confirmation of our fears – under the headline Bonnie Flies Over the Sea is a sub-headline “Ft. Pickens evacuates campers as storm enters Gulf, regains steam.”

A second article, above the line, is Sea Turtles Changing Shores and you can see a photo of a sea turtle nest full of eggs being moved to avoid damage from the oil spill.

Pensacola is actually just outside the projected path of Bonnie, but those storms are often known to veer from the projections. I have water and candles and matches and blankets, peanut butter and crackers stored in the closet of what Little Diamond calls the Fantasy Guest Suite. She is, as has become tradition, our first visitor. 🙂

July 24, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

“I need an ESCAPE!” I shouted to AdventureMan, at the end of my rope. So many things going on in my life that are out of my control, I just don’t want to deal with it any more, and I just want to run away and hide. “I’m going out to buy a BOOK!”

I found just the book, The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis.

I don’t know much about the late 1500’s in Europe, do you? At first, reading about this rich, spoiled little girl growing up in Florence, I felt a little impatient with her. All around her people are starving, and she hasn’t a clue. The plague strikes, and people are dying, but she survives. She starves, she suffers cold and fleas and is tossed by fate like a little cork on the water – all before she is 12 years old. Catherine de Medici learns early in life that she has no control over the forces of history and society swirling around her, over who she will love and who she will marry, even over whether she lives or dies. Surviving an attack on her family compound, held prisoner – alone – in nunneries until she is 12 years old – this girl’s life makes mine look peaceable!

I’m feeling better already.

Kalogridis is no Phillipa Gregory, but she has done her research, and draws us in. By the time Pope Clement betrothes Catherine to Henri of France, we are totally hooked. Thirteen years old, and off to live in a strange country as the bride of a man she has never met. She studies French as quickly as possible, but then again – this is a very bright young woman, who has been trained – by life and by education – to survive.

One of the paragraphs made me laugh out loud – as Catherine enters France, she is aware that her very fashionable Italian clothing is very unfashionable in France. She also notes that all the French women are painfully thin, thin to the point of gauntness, and are whispering behind their hands at her more normal size.

Lack of thinness is the least of her problems. She marries Henri, who is also 14, scared, and not in love with her, and they are expected to consummate their marriage under the eye of the King. Oh aargh! Catherine is on a steep learning curve, mastering French culture, diplomacy, the art of war, court politics and fighting the threat of repudiation the only way she can – with utter humility.

What I like the most about this book is that I feel like I was there with her. She is very human, and also very royal. People who are royal have different ideas than the rest of us, and are entitled in ways we can never imagine. They have obligations we can’t imagine. She makes choices I would never make, and yet the author convinced me that given her circumstances, she does the best she can with the resources at hand.

I also like it that Catherine of Medici was a brilliant and educated woman who held her own in a world where the balance was definitely in favor of being a man, and women were greatly at a disadvantage. While she made some horrifying choices, she had her reasons. This is not a book for the faint hearted; it is very earthy and it feels like an accurate portrayal of the times.

As I read these books, I think, too, how little we appreciate how free women are these days, and how recent that freedom is. Being able to choose our own mates – this is very recent. Being able to inherit and to manage our own money – this is very recent. As I talk with my friends who live in the Arabian Gulf, where marriages can still be based on family alliances, maintaining wealth and power, and where divorce can still equal personal disaster, it no longer seems so alien to me – we have this in our own history. We used to marry by contract, and our husbands had full use of our wealth. We used to be judged by whether we could bear children, how many, how many were sons, and how well we managed our households. We used to die in childbirth, and many of our children didn’t survive their infancy.

If you are looking for a good escape, this is a book that will take you there. It will make your own troubles look small in comparison. This book will keep you engrossed, horrified, and entertained, and, in the end, you might learn something, as I did.

You can find The Devil’s Queen at Amazon.com for a mere $10.40 plus shipping, and yes, I own stock in Amazon.com. LOL, we invest in that which we believe to lasting and important, and books play a large role in our lives. 🙂

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Books, Character, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, France, Health Issues, Leadership, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Mating Behavior, Middle East, Political Issues | 6 Comments