Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Change in the Weather

Today my Mom and I went shopping, tough work in a soggy, sultry heat. She was game, though, and shopped ’till she dropped, or at least until time to pick up AdventureMan to head for lunch at the Marina Oyster Barn. We’ve taken Mom there before, and today, that was just where she wanted to eat. Oyster stew. Hush puppies. Grilled tuna sandwiches. A slice of key lime pie to go – oh yummm.

As we entered the Marina Oyster Barn it was 77 degrees F. An hour later, as we left, it was 55 degrees F and it was starting to rain. This was not unexpected, but the sheer drama of the one hour, 22 degree drop made our jaws drop.

We dropped Mom off at home and hurried off to finish some errands before the big storm hit, but we were too late – just as we left the store with the 2 pounds of Jordanian dates for Mom, the squall hit full force, and we were soaked in the ten feet it took us to get to the car.

I’m happy though. I love the cooler temperatures, I love a chance to wear some of my more wintery clothing, and I love love love not having to use the air conditioning. 🙂

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November 30, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Shopping, Weather | Leave a comment

Camellia

Camllias are new to me. I didn’t even know what one looked like, but I saw a particular flower blooming EVERYWHERE, in many many different colors, so I asked one of my DIL’s aunts what it was and she said “Camellia!”

I think I need to grow camellias. 🙂

This is what they look like in bud:

My roses are blooming merrily once again, and I even see a stray magnolia blooming from time to time. Now that the hottest of the heat has broken, gardening is fun once again.

We are in a real seesaw weather season, one day it is hot and sticky – with big booming thunderstorms – and the next day will dawn COLD and clear and bright.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Beauty, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Shooting the Grands

One of the family traditions at this large family reunion is taking photographs, different family groupings, and . . . all the kids. This was totally hilarious. This was chaos with some really fun props. The older kids tried to cooperate. The younger kids . . . LLLOOOLLL.


November 29, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, Family Issues, Photos, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Ahhhhh . . . Sunsets at Panama City Beach

Living in Kuwait, getting up in the morning was easy, a gorgeous sunrise over the Gulf every morning. I miss those sunrises . . .

But from time to time, I get the sunset, and oh, I do love sunsets, too! Thanksgiving at Panama City Beach, every sunset a different sunset, even every ten minutes a different sunset:

And the next night is a totally different sunset:

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Beauty, ExPat Life, Florida, Living Conditions, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Amer Al Hilal on Kuwait’s Ban on DSLR Cameras

Woooooo Hooooo Amer Al-Hilal, a man I am proud to call my friend. It takes such great courage to speak out when something is going terribly wrong, and Amer knows how to do it articulately, rationally, and as the gentleman he is.

From his article in the Arab Times:

Camera ban regressive idea

‘Don’t stifle home-grown talent’

For a country that possesses a Constitution which safeguards civil liberties and freedom of speech, Kuwait sporadically sure likes toying with those liberties such as tentatively banning the Blackberry service, shutting down You Tube, impeding public gatherings and marches, banning and censoring books, literature, films and magazines which are available elsewhere in the Gulf.

This week according to media reports, and highlighted extensively in local Weblogs and Twitter, a palpable growing outcry is directed at the tentative plans by The Ministry of Information, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Finance to outlaw public photography and relegate it to journalism purposes only. This has allegedly resulted in the ban of Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) in public places. If this charade is true, then it bodes ill for this country, another regressive move into the annals of ignorance.

During the 1980s video cameras and photographic equipment were also shunned by the authorities. I remember visiting Failaka in 1985 and being confronted by a military officer who demanded I hand in my bulky video camera until I left the island. These types of infringements in the name of security were insignificant — we still had an attempt on HH the Amir, explosions at Foreign Embassies in Kuwait and an actual invasion.

Why does this country always attempt to stifle home-grown talent? Banning cameras in public places is demoralizing to all the passionate, talented young Kuwait men and women who have excelled in this field and love their hobby, not to mention visitors who attempt to document their travels here. Moreover, banning DSLR cameras is irrational and counterproductive if you think about it; in this day and age of iPhones, Blackberries, 5 MP plus camera phones, Google Earth and the like, anyone can take photograph of anything, quietly, without fanfare, which makes the potential DSLR ban even more preposterous.

I have just returned from a trip to Dubai where I witnessed dozens of tourists proudly using their cameras to document Burg Khalifa and the other picturesque locations. No one stopped them, impeded them or asked them what they were doing and you know why, because they respect people’s rights and are intent on making their country more appealing. UAE is able to manage security matters confidently because they have proper security and ID processes in place: eye scanners at airports and entry points, proper electronic government, high fines for breaking the law, a brilliant CCTV system in place in every street corner (not the shoddy black and white choppy, streaming-like quality of the limited equipment we have here) — they truly invest in their infrastructure, maintain it and upgrade it.

If Kuwait is serious about its security then it should invest in the same caliber of CCTV and not the bargain basement tenders that usually go towards ineffective systems (i.e. Highway signs with the useless ‘no mobile’ plasma screen) belonging to members of the matching ministry who want a ‘piece of the action’. The sad reality is the government sector here would rather ban something than actually strive to improve it through sheer hard work and effective processes. It’s just easier to ban; a question of laziness and neglect.

Needless to say, Kuwait seems unfazed when foreign jets infiltrate our airspace and take aerial shots of our oil refineries and military installations, or when agents and their local conspirators are found to possess blueprints and photographs of said installations, but no, lets go after the ‘little guy’, the amateur photographer or tourist on the street taking pictures. It’s a hypocritical, spineless action by the authorities.

Moreover, I suspect the issue is not just relegated to security, a myriad of reasons could have led to the support of this ban, fundamentalists who felt cameras and pictures are a ‘Tool of the Devil,’ government officials and ministries disgraced at seeing shots of Kuwait’s dilapidated infrastructure, environment and mismanagement on weblogs, internet forums and magazines. You cannot conceal the squalid side of Kuwait; it is there for everyone to see.

Furthermore, this law against public photography will not be enforced, just as seatbelt, no mobile while driving, no litter, no smoking areas, and other ‘laws’ cannot be enforced in this Land of Confusion.

Amer Al-Hilal is webmaster of http://www.hilaliya.com and can be reached at amer@hilaliya.com.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Bureaucracy, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Privacy, Values | 23 Comments

Intlxpatr Updates and ReVisits

Oops. I totally forgot. I wanted to show you my Halloween pumpkins.

What? ? ? Really? ? ? Halloween was almost a month ago? ? ? Time just flies these days.

I carved my pumpkins only a day or two before Halloween because with the heat and humidity here – like in Qatar and Kuwait – pumpkins can go moldy and soft if you carve them too soon.

I was OK, except for the ears. The ears – even just in a couple days – got all shriveled, but I kind of liked the effect. These were supposed to be cat pumpkins:

Happy Baby is learning to feed himself. He does great with Cheerios, with rice, with little things he can pick up and put in his mouth. Not so great yet with the spoon, but he is learning to love BBQ:

He thinks the flash on my camera is hilarious. Other than that, he likes me OK, but AdventureMan is his favorite right now.

The Qatteri Cat has a new bed, and oh, he just loves it. It has a tiny heating pad inside and is just warm enough to entice him. He sleeps so happily in his new bed, and he puts his baby in the bed to keep him warm, too, LOL:

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in Panama City Beach, but my sunset photos are in the other camera and I don’t have the thing to download those photos. You have something to anticipate. 🙂

Great breakfast this morning at Andy’s Flour Power on Panama City Beach, one of our favorite places to go for breakfast:


AdventureMan and my Mom had the Vegetable Fritatta, and I had the Eggs Benedict:

We hope all our friends who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday will take it easy on the Black Friday shopping, don’t get too excited, don’t fight over those great bargains. Have a great day.

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Qatteri Cat, Shopping | 7 Comments

The Happiness Project

AdventureMan and I have subscribed to Bottom Line for many years and we often learn from the Bottom Line Secrets newsletter they send us. This was in today’s Bottom Line Secrets e-mail: The Secrets to Happiness!

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin

Philosophers, psychologists and self-help gurus all have advice on how we can be happier — but what really works? Journalist Gretchen Rubin decided to find out. She devoted a year to “test-driving” happiness strategies and gathered feedback from visitors to her popular Web site. She called her research “The Happiness Project.” Different happiness strategies work for different people, but a few strategies stand out…

Seek novelty and challenge even if you value consistency and comfort. I didn’t expect exploring new challenges to make me happier — familiarity and comfort are very important to me — but I was wrong. Trying new things is one of the most effective paths to happiness that I have encountered.

The human brain is stimulated by surprise and discovery. Successfully coping with the unfamiliar can provide a high level of happiness. Repeating what we’ve done many times before can be comfortable, but comfortable is not the same as happy.

Example: Launching and updating a daily blog have brought me great happiness, though initially I feared that I lacked the necessary technical skills.

Challenge yourself to do something that sounds interesting — even if it’s different from anything you’ve done before or it requires skills that you’re not sure you have. Take a class… try a new hobby… learn a language… or visit a different town or museum every weekend.

Try doing whatever you enjoyed doing at age 10. The person we are in adulthood has more in common with the person we were at age 10 than we realize. Renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung started playing with building blocks as an adult to recapture the enthusiasm he had felt in his youth. If fishing made us happy when we were 10, odds are it will make us happy today… if playing the drums made us happy then, it probably still will.

Example: I was given a blank book when I was a child and really enjoyed filling it with clippings, notes, cartoons, anything that interested me. So as part of my happiness project, I bought myself a scrapbook and started clipping items from magazines and newspapers to paste into it. I was amazed by how much happiness I still could derive from this.

Read memoirs of death and suffering. Paradoxically, sad books can increase our happiness. These books put our own problems in perspective and remind us how fortunate we are.

Examples: I became happier with my own life when I read Gene O’Kelly’sChasing Daylight, the former CEO’s memoir about learning that he had three months to live… Stan Mack’s Janet & Me, about the death of the author’s partner… and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, about the death of her husband.

It’s not that I’m happy that other people have been unhappy. It’s just a way of appreciating everything that I do have.

Declutter your home. A few minutes of cleaning can substantially improve one’s mood by giving us the sense that we have accomplished something positive. Cleaning also creates an impression of order that can contribute to serenity. And it helps remove a source of stress — conspicuous clutter is a visual reminder of a responsibility that we have neglected.

Try a brief burst of cleaning the next time you feel overwhelmed or anxious even if you don’t think it will work for you. Even people who are not particularly fastidious discover that this boosts their mood.

Examples: For me, cleaning out a drawer… organizing my medicine cabinet… or just making my bed in the morning provides a real boost to my happiness.

Be appreciative of people’s good traits rather than critical of their bad ones… be thankful for what they do for you, and stop blaming them for what they don’t.

Example: I stopped getting angry at my husband for forgetting to withdraw cash before we went out. Instead, I started taking it upon myself to make sure that we had the necessary cash. I also made a point to be more appreciative of all the things that my husband does do, such as dealing with the car.

Enjoy today even if there’s still work to do. Many of us assume it’s normal to live with limited happiness until some major milestone is reached — we earn that big promotion, have a family or retire. We tell ourselves, I’ll be happy when I achieve my goals.

Example: As a writer, I imagined how happy I would be when the book I was working on was finally published.

Unfortunately, people who pin their happiness on a distant goal usually spend most or all of their lives less happy than they could be. Often they set ever more distant goals as the original targets approach… or they discover that the goal that they thought would bring happiness actually brings added stress. Some never reach their goals at all.

I’m much happier now that I remind myself to be happy about making gradual progress toward my goals, even if the goals themselves remain far in the distance

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Gretchen Rubin, an attorney and former Supreme Court clerk. Based in New York City, Rubin is founder of The Happiness Project, a blog and newsletter, and author of the best-selling book The Happiness Project (Harper), for which she personally tested happiness strategies. www.Happiness-Project.com

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Character | 3 Comments

A Little TSA Humor

Thank you, KitKat 🙂


November 23, 2010 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Privacy, Satire, Travel | 5 Comments

Shop Till You Drop

Running into the Target is so easy – it is one of the nearest stores, and now that Targets also carry essential foods, it makes shopping quick and easy.

For me, anyway. As I was checking out, I saw this adorable little girl. Her grandmother said it was OK to shoot this photo:

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Pensacola, Shopping | Leave a comment

Burkino Faso to Send Me Money! Wooo HOOO!

In today’s e-mail:

Attention the email id owner.

I am Mr. Abama Robert George from Ministry Of Finance Burkina Faso (Head office). This is to bring your notice that after the conference meeting we had, The Government of this country realized that you are among those that involved in scam victim we have in our list to Compensate by the government of this country as instructions from United Nation(UN).

The Governor of this state, Ouagadougou the capital city of Burkina Faso has instructed this office to forward your file to WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER DEPARTMENT to pay you the sum of US$500,000.00 through WESTERNUNION .His Excellence the GOVERNOR this province has instructed the WESTERN UNION payment department Mr. Dicko James to send the sum of $500,000.00 through his custody for easy receiver of your funds. You are to contact them now to ensure that your fund will be transferring to you once you send them the needed information to avoid wrong transaction.

According to the demands of WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER you are to receive
your fund at the instalment rate of $10,000.00 daily until the $500,000.00 is completely transferred to you accordingly. You are to contact them now with the bellow information to avoid wrong transaction.

Your first & second Name===========================
Telephone No.======================================
Your Country=======================================
Your city.=========================================

Listen very carefully, tell Mr.Dicko James that you advise to contact him by Mr. Abama Robert George from , Ministry Of Finance here in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso;Bellow is their Contact Information.

Name Mr.Dicko James
Email (wunionagent.officebf@gmail.com)
Telephone +226 78 71 49 18

Please, do not forget to update me as soon as you receive your first payment.

Best regards.

Mr. Abama R.George.
F.A in Ministry of Finance
Burkina Faso.

Yes! Yes! I will e-mail you as soon as I receive my first payment. Hold your breath!

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Crime, Cross Cultural, Scams | 4 Comments