Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Star Wars Paradise

One of my bible study friends and I were talking about our study, and she asked me “What is it they are saying when all the people drop everything and go pray in those countries?”

The expat dilemma – most people don’t want too much explanation. And you never know who is a rabid anti-Islamist, and I don’t want to argue. But this time I took a chance.

“They are saying different things depending on the time of day, like first thing in the early morning they say ‘come pray! come pray! It is better to pray than to sleep!’ and then they say ‘God is Great! God is Great! I testify that there is only one God, and Mohammed is his prophet.'”

I sort of held my breath, as she thought about this, and then she said “Well, I guess that’s all right.”

Then she asked me if I ever thought about heaven. I told her about our churches in Qatar and Kuwait. I especially miss them at this time of the year. I told her I thought Paradise would look like our churches there, all peoples from all parts of the globe. I told her how on Christmas, all the Indian women wore their most beautiful saris, and the African women wore their dresses and fancy headpieces, and we westerners wore our nicest winter clothes, and we all worshipped together in peace, and to me, that was just a tiny slice of what I think paradise will look like.

My friend is fourth generation Pensacolian, and has never travelled. She proceeded to blow me away.

“Did you ever see Star Wars?” she asked me. I nodded. “Do you remember the bar scene?” I nodded again. Who could forget? But where is this discussion going?

“When we think of heaven, we think of what we know, but there is so much out there we don’t know, and God is creator of all the universe.” she said. “We can’t limit God to what we know; he is so much more! I think it’s going to be like that bar in Star Wars, that we will be with creatures we cannot even imagine, and that we can have celestial homes wherever we want, like a cabin in Alaska, or a hut beside the Ganges or maybe we can be here for a few thousand years and then on another planet, whatever we want.”

Her vision is huge. It took my breath away. The more she talked, the more blown away I became. I was shocked at my own smallness, my lack of imagination, and thrilled with her vision and the possibilities. She’s right, you know. We can’t begin to imagine what our heavenly home will look like, but her idea gave me food for speculation for months – maybe years – to come.

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Random Musings, Spiritual, Values | 4 Comments

US Embassy Warden Message for Kuwait

Kuwait City, Kuwait
December 16, 2010

MEMORANDUM

To: All American Wardens

From: Consular Section

Subject: Warden Notice 2010 – 1

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010, is Ashoura and marks the end of the 10 days of
ritual mourning observed by most Shi’a Muslims. Observances in Kuwait are
generally peaceful although the mourning rituals can be emotional and public.
As a security precaution, we recommend that U.S. citizens avoid areas where
there are public gatherings and crowds observing Ashoura. In particular, the
following neighborhoods have concentrations of Shi’a mosques and gathering halls
where crowds may congregate:

Bneid Al-Qar
Mansouriya
Al-Daeya
Al-Dasma
Rumaithiya
Maidan Hawali

A standard good security practice is to avoid any large gatherings or crowds.
Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and
unpredictable. You should avoid them if at all possible. Be alert and aware of
your surroundings and pay attention to local news media.

It is illegal in Kuwait for foreigners to participate in demonstrations. If you
take part in one, you may be arrested.

You can stay in touch and get Embassy updates by checking the Embassy website,
found here at U.S. Embassy Kuwait , and by enrolling in the State Department’s
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You can also get global upates at the
U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Consular Affairs website where you can
find the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country
Specific Information. If you don’t have internet access, we have a call center
for updates–1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or
outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

The American Citizens Services Unit is located in the Consular Section of the
American Embassy in Bayan, Block 6, on Masjed Al-Aqsa Street.
Telephone: [965] 2259-1001 or 2259-1002
Emergency after-hours telephone: [965] 2538-2097
Facsimile: [965] 2259-1438 or 2538-0282

The U.S. Embassy is open Sunday through Thursday, except U.S. federal and most
local holidays.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 2 Comments

Qatar National Day 2010

Qatar’s National Day Celebration is December 18th. Qatar has developed a website especially to publicize National Day activities. You can find it here: Qatar National Day – English)

There is an interactive map on which you can click to find ongoing celebrations, and an event schedule:

I suspect this is going to be one fabulous celebratory year, with the win of the 2022 World Soccer Cup event. Wooo HOOO Qatar!

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Doha, Entertainment, Events, ExPat Life, Holiday, Interconnected, Public Art, Qatar | 2 Comments

FollowUp To Pensacola Christmas Parade

Seen in local Pensacola grocery store:

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Environment, Florida, Holiday, Living Conditions, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Underwear Rules

“I can’t believe the things you talk about in the locker room!” AdventureMan exclaimed, “we (meaning the men in the men’s locker room) never have those conversations.”

No. They talk about what they did in the military, they talk about aches and pains.

We women talk about everything.

I had just told AdventureMan about my new revelation. The woman next to me in the locker room told me about her system. She hangs her underwear on a rack in her laundry room, which is next to her garage. When she is heading out the door to go to water aerobics, she just grabs her underwear off the rack and heads out the door.

“You can do that?” I thought to myself. I might have even said it out loud. It was a whole new way of thinking for me.

What about underwear rules? What about the rule that says you are supposed to take things out of the dryer or off the rack and fold them up and put them away? Isn’t that like a law or something? I think – I used to think – it was like one of God’s laws, but now I am thinking maybe it was one of my Mom’s laws.

I feel so free! My laundry room is also next to my garage. LLOOLL! I can grab underwear on my way out, too! Wooo HOOOOOOO!

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Cultural, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Santa Lucia / Saint Lucy

Today is the feast day of St. Lucy, or, as I was growing up in Alaska, surrounded by Scandinavian fishermen and their families, Santa Lucia. In Swedish families there is a tradition that the eldest daughter, on Santa Lucia day, wears a wreath of candles and brings her parents coffee and special saffron buns in bed. People always make jokes about someone following her with a bucket of water, but I can imagine there were mishaps – imagine, mixing candles and hair. As you can see in the photo, thought, the candles are tall – at least at the beginning.

Never kid yourselves. Children love blood and gore, and love to be a little bit scared. The Grimm Brothers knew this, and if you have ever read their original stories, the hairs on the back of your neck would rise and you would say to yourself “How can these be stories for children??” Think about it – Hansel and Gretel abandoned by their own parents to starve in the woods? Girls with really mean stepmothers, who treated them unfairly?

Back before all the romantic literature on zombies and vampires, we children would stand out in the bus stop (in winter, the sun barely rises during the long Alaskan winters) and tell each other stories of the saints in the bible. Many of them died horrible deaths, and this one ended “and then they took her eyes out of her head, and she was still alive!!!!” I don’t remember ever hearing the miracle of the restoration of her sight, in fact, I thought she was killed, martyred, but here is her story, for those who want to know what Santa Lucia’s day is all about.

LUCY

VIRGIN AND MARTYR, abt. 304

The early Roman lists of martyrs commemorate Lucy, virgin and martyr, on 13 December, and her name, with that of Agatha, appears in the Roman Liturgy as an example of those who have gone before us, in whose company we join in giving thanks and praise to God. Aside from this, little is known of her, except that she lived in Syracuse in Sicily, and probably died around 304. Her name, which means “light,” probably accounts for the story that her eyes were put out and her eyesight miraculously restored, and may be connected with the fact that her feast occurs near the time when (in the Northern Hemisphere) the nights are longest.

In Sweden and elsewhere, the day is observed by having one of the daughters of the house dress in a white robe with a crown of lighted candles and go singing from room to room (presumably followed by an adult with a fire extinguisher) early in the morning when it is still dark to awaken the other family members and to offer them St. Lucy’s Cakes and hot coffee.

Ember Wednesday (of the winter season) is defined as the Wednesday after Lucy’s Day. (An equivalent definition would be: the Wednesday preceding the last Sunday before Christmas.)

The above in dark type is from The Lectionary which publishes daily readings and these stories of the Saints put together by James Kiefer.

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Local Lore | Leave a comment

The Pensacola Christmas Parade

“Do you know they are expecting over fifty thousand people??” my friend asked me over the phone. I had suggested we meet up. “I didn’t know there were fifty thousand people in Pensacola!”

She was going, but we probably would not see one another. My son and his family were meeting me at the church and we would watch together.

I have never seen a Christmas parade like it in my life. For one thing, the weather is perfect. It is cool enough for long sleeves, even a sweater, some Pensacolans were all bundled up. No rain – I understand last year the parade was rained out. No snow – it’s been really cold all week, and it’s going to be cold again tomorrow, but today – and tonight – were perfect.

“Where will we meet?” my son asked when he called.

“I’m leaving now; meet on the steps of the church” I answered. “See you there.”

* * * *

“I’m here, but not on the steps, across the street, under the tree right in front of the school” I left a message.”

“Mom! Where are you?”

“I’m by the school under a tree – wait, I can see you, I’m waving, I’m waving!” and finally he saw me, and we all had our little space.

It was a great space for viewing the parade. A great place for a little 9 month old Happy Baby, who loved the sirens and the police and the flashing lights, and the bark on the tree. He had a ball, and then he was tired.

Here is what is hilarious. It was not a great place for parade activity. I’ve never seen a parade like this, but this is very Pensacola, or so I’ve been told. First, this is the least ‘politically correct’ parade ever. It was wonderful! Floats full of Marys and Josephs and little baby Jesus, and shepherds and angels, marching evangelists carrying bible verses – LLOOLLL, a big thumb of the nose at secularity. This town celebrates the Nativity!

The Holy Bible Float:

The sign-carrying evangelists:

The Krewe of Pompeii Float (Krewes are local social groups that form to celebrate Mardi Gras)

Krewe of YaYas Float:

Did you notice something in all those photos? Did you notice all the hands up?

Did you see all those hands up? It took me a while, but I finally figured it out, all these people want beads! And Santas are throwing beads, and angels are throwing beads, and the Blue Angels are throwing beads, and . . . Joseph and Mary are throwing beads!

I had made a strategic mistake! The woman next to me had 15 or 20 beads, all kinds and all colors, and I was busy taking photos, and I had none. I then also noticed that I was under a tree, and the tree was catching beads that should have been mine!

Time to get serious. I put the camera away and started waving with the rest.

My treasures:

Big Wooo HOOO on me; every kid in Pensacola has like seven hundred beads, but I have my start, I have two! LLOOLL, next parade, I have my priorities. No more photos. Beads!

If you want to have a really good time, come to Pensacola for one of the liveliest and most fun parades I have ever attended.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Community, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | 5 Comments

Ancient Civilizations Hidden in The Persian Gulf?

I found this first thing this morning on AOL Science News

Theory Points to Civilization Under Persian Gulf

Hugh Collins
Contributor

(Dec. 11) — The waters of the Persian Gulf may be hiding a lost civilization that could change our understanding of human history, according to new research.

This huge fertile stretch of land may have been home to humans from about 74,000 years ago until about 8,000 years ago, according to Discovery News.

When the waters around them began to rise, these early humans may have migrated to what is now the gulf shoreline, founding new settlements there, according to a paper published in the December issue of Current Anthropology.

Wikipedia
New research suggests the waters of the Persian Gulf, depicted here in an historical map of the region, may be hiding a lost civilization that could change our understanding of human history.

Over the past several years, archaeologists have uncovered new evidence of those shoreline settlements.

“Where before there had been but a handful of scattered hunting camps, suddenly, over 60 new archaeological sites appear virtually overnight,” Jeffrey Rose of the University of Birmingham said, according to LiveScience.

“These settlements boast well-built, permanent stone houses, long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the oldest boats in the world,” Rose said.

Rose says such sophisticated settlements couldn’t have developed so quickly, which is why he believes even older settlements lie beneath gulf waters. If true, Rose’s hypothesis could offer a clue as to how and when human beings first departed Africa and settled in the Middle East.

This has long been a topic for debate, with some scientists saying that humans made the migration 125,000 years ago, while others put it closer to 60,000 years ago, LiveScience said.

The now-submerged slice of land would have been about the size of Great Britain, Rose said.

Since it would have received water from the rivers Tigris, Euphrates, Karun and Wadi Baton, it would have offered a fertile refuge from the nearby harsh deserts.

“I think Jeff’s theory is bold and imaginative, and hopefully will shake things up,” Oxford Brookes University’s Robert Carter told LiveScience.

“It would completely rewrite our understanding of the out-of-Africa migration. It is far from proven, but Jeff and others will be developing research programs to test the theory,” Carter said.

Rose admits that much work remains be done. So far, he has focused on archaeological sites on dry land and studies of geological history.

Finding some physical evidence beneath the waves of the ocean would be a major advance in proving that his theory is correct.

“We would need to find a submerged site, and excavate it underwater,” Rose said, according to LiveScience. “This would likely only happen as the culmination of years of survey in carefully selected areas.”

The waters of the Persian Gulf rose 8,000 years ago, perhaps because of the collapse of a huge glacial dam in Canada, according to Postmedia News.

This event caused water levels to rise across the world. This catastrophic event may have forced humans out of the Gulf basin and given rise to ancient stories such as that of Noah’s Ark.

“Certainly, I think there is compelling evidence to suggest that both the flood and Eden myths may be rooted in these events around the Gulf basin,” Rose said, according to Discovery News.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Gardens, Geography / Maps, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Middle East | , , | 8 Comments

The Christmas Lights of Pensacola

Last night, after our son and his family left after dinner, AdventureMan had a gleam in his eye. (No! not that gleam!)

“Want to go out and look at the Christmas lights?” he asked.

“Oh! Yes! Yes!” He knows I love the lights.

Pensacola isn’t so over-the-top as the Tampa Bay area used to be. Pensacola uses a lot more white, a lot less music and moving displays. Pensacola is more restrained, and more traditional.

Just so you will know where I am coming from, here is my favorite:

Thoughtful, restrained, elegant. There are a lot of this kind of display, and I love them. I also love the others, although many are more exuberant. There seem to be a lot of white deer, and . . . some of them move their heads. Yes! I am telling the truth!

Some people just get totally into the spirit of the season, and go all out. Here is a sampling of what we saw:

I can’t help but find this funny; Frosty the snowman and the Creche juxtaposed:

Along with Santas on rockets, LOL!

This is a Christmas Snoopy as an aviator on top of his doghouse. What does it have to do with Christmas? LLOOLL!

A lot of people are using balloons, with varying results. Santa on a motorcycle, Santa on rockets, all kinds of balloons, problematic because sometimes balloons loose air.

Here are Santas, and then a Santa loosing air, LOL

I love the way WordPress has put snow on all the blogs for December (you can turn it off if you don’t like it) but with these photos, snow falling is perfect. 🙂

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Community, Florida, Holiday, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Photos, WordPress | 6 Comments

Kuwait: Using Democracy to Eradicate Democracy

My good friend, Amer Al-Hilal, was one of the people who inspired me to start blogging. This is his article from today’s Arab Times. Bravo, bravo, Amer, bravely and elegantly stated:

Free Kuwaitis from the shackles of radicalism
An Innocence Lost

By: Amer Al-Hilal

Respect for human rights, democracy (embodied in our Diwaniyas and later in our Constitution) freedom of speech, gender equality, and religious and cultural tolerance — all these traits were ingrained in the Kuwaiti culture and person for hundreds of years.

These days we witness media reports of MPs attempting to pass legislation to ‘ban bikinis,’ ‘female sportswear,’ or completely eradicating the legal and constitutional presence of female parliamentarians — as if all major problems of the State: Ahmadi gas leaks, Mishrif Station pumping sewage into our waters, expired meat, visa trafficking, development and all the other major issues were already dealt with.

Some of these same individuals wouldn’t even run for Parliament in the 1970s because they regarded democratic public office as ‘unIslamic.’ Now, they are not just attempting to run the show, they are attempting to re-write history and modify the political and social structure of the State, by using democracy as a means to eradicate democracy.

These same ‘religious’ MPs who abhor even the national anthem and refuse even to stand in respect to their State, these ‘Sharia Sheikhs of Swing’ who observe female groups and file police reports about ‘lesbian gatherings’ — even though the assembly of women was at a wedding — and who attempt to free rapists and child molesters from police stations, visa traffickers, expired food merchants and other lawbreakers and criminals, not to mention defend terrorists who threaten the State and the troops of our Allies; hypocrisy at its finest.

Additionally, treating women, employees and compatriots with disdain and disrespect looking the other way whilst corruption seeps and takes hold of society — nullifies any Sharia degree or religious gravitas an individual might have.

Let us be candid, if Kuwait truly was a civilized society the MPs would have been sued, prosecuted and kicked out of Parliament for such inflammatory-jumping-the-gun statements and for attempting to influence criminal investigations. But politics is politics and deals are made, always at the people’s expense. Furthermore, tribes and political groups — some who report to and coordinate with foreign entities — currently dwarf the power of the State (much of this is the State’s doing).

Critics
Right wing critics who slam progressive Kuwaitis for encouraging respect for other cultures and religions are dismissed as “agents of Western propaganda” or ‘Liberals’ — for wanting to highlight those ideals and reinforce them — are obviously unfamiliar with Kuwait’s history and background, and are apparently not familiar with the basic tenets of Islam which value and guarantee the aforementioned rights. Maybe some are unfamiliar with history because they just got the Kuwaiti citizenship; others are familiar but think we were living in the Dark Ages then.

In any case, they are certainly not familiar with Kuwait’s real ‘tradition and customs.’ Kuwait was more of a trading and commercial hub before oil than it is now; one of the many reasons why Kuwait was a merchant city and trading post — a haven of culture and commerce for hundreds of years even prior to the advent of oil — was tolerance and openness.

Men and women shared equal responsibilities; toiling away from dawn till dusk, women taking care of the household, educating their children and were active in producing goods (i.e. embroidering the ‘Sadu’) and in commerce — they kept things together, while their partners embarked on six month or longer pearl diving or trading voyages to places as far as India and Africa. They were partners in the true sense of the word. They were equals.

We were no less Muslim then. In some ways, we were superior Muslims; we weren’t arrogant like we are now, with that wretched ‘holier than thou’ attitude; we were broke — desperate for sources of income. Kuwaitis had to interact with other cultures, learn their language and customs; it was an issue of survival, whether it was opening a trade route for water, dates, gold or otherwise. We needed others and that taught us humility and real tolerance of cultures, peoples and religions.

That great Kuwaiti attribute is being diminished by the day in this day and age.

Ultimately, Islam should not be measured by the amount of mosques that are built (even though this is a blessing to any society), how many expatriates are converted, or by the amount of Holy Quran memorization schools (even though this is a noble activity) but by treating your fellow men and women, irrespective of whether they are native or expatriate, with respect and dignity, accepting their views and their way of life even though you may disagree with them and by combating inequity and corruption.

That is real test of democracy and Islam is all about democracy, its real targets are oppression, corruption, intolerance, injustice, not impeding the construction of churches, wiping out pictures of the Virgin Mary in magazines, removing Christmas trees, impeding foreign National Day celebrations, removing horse statues from a Chinese bistro at the Avenues, forced segregation and so forth.

It is truly outlandish when Kuwaitis – true citizens of the world with their astute, cultured predispositions — have to travel to a neighboring Gulf state to see a banned film, watch a concert or buy a book. It boggles the mind. Thirty years ago we did all that here and more, without any problem — which means our original ‘traditions and customs’ were much more broadminded.

If only people took the time to learn about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his kind, good-humored, patient, compassionate and tolerant ways, instead of blindly following self-imposed judges, juries and executioners of society — who pass ethical judgments on so-called ‘moral pariahs,’ restricting people’s freedom of expression and worship and stifling their personal choice — Kuwait would be in a much healthier shape than it is now.

What’s happening these days in Kuwait is tragic. The potential for greatness is there but in order for us to meet the vast economic, cultural and intellectual benchmarks, our current State-wooing of extremists alongside their Parliament-supported xenophobia has to finally end and justice applied to all.

Al-Hilal can be reached at amer@hilaliya.com.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Blogging, Free Speech, Kuwait, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | 1 Comment