Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Anne Enright: The Gathering

What is it with my problem with Man Booker Award winners? The last one I remember is White Tiger, which we read in our Kuwait book group, and I hated. Actually, it was the main character I hated . . . and possibly that is what is happening with me and The Gathering, now that I think about it.

We meet Veronica, Irish, from a large Irish family, as she learns of the death of her brother Liam. Through claiming the body, preparing for the funeral, the funeral and the aftermath, we are there with Veronica as she whines and complains, as she disparages her family members while ignoring her own husband and family, and she drinks too much. She gets up at noon, and stays up all night, avoiding her husband. Her language is frightful, and her sexual episodes are crude and explicit . . . offensive, but maybe it is the utter distraught nature of a woman in the throes of the deepest grief?

Slowly, slowly, the story unfolds. For me, I was never sure what was truth and what was imagination, in terms of the story. Were the children abused, molested, neglected? Or are these the creative imaginings of a troubled woman? There seems to be a thread of insanity in the family – can we trust that she is a reliable narrator?

As little as I liked the main character – hmmmm, that seems to be a problem I am having a lot right now, or at least I’ve had a run of main characters I don’t like very well – I finished this book. I’m glad I read it so that I can talk about it if it comes up in a discussion, but it did not inspire or elevate me in any way, and I didn’t even feel a lot of compassion for the narrator.

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September 21, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Interconnected, Ireland, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships | 5 Comments

Ann Patchett: The Patron Saint of Liars

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. The main character is odd, a woman who doesn’t really think things through clearly, and somehow doesn’t even really know what she is feeling.

She gets married, and three years later, pregnant, decides “the marriage isn’t working” and leaves her husband, with a note saying only that the marriage isn’t working. We’ve been with her when she met him and fell in love, and she seemed to love him OK, and their lives together seemed to be OK, but somehow, she had to leave. I didn’t understand it when it happens in the book, and I never did understand it. The author tells us that Rose is a private person.

Rose drives from California to Tennesee, to a home for unwed mothers, where she bears a child, whom she keeps. Most of what she does seems to be on automatic pilot. I never really understand what Rose wants, only that she is aware that this isn’t it.

The story is told from three different points of view, and at no time did I have a clear idea of what motivated the main character, Rose. You can’t help but love her husband, Son, and her daughter, and all the women who love Cecilia, and help raise her.

You do get was a rounded picture of people around her, the good sisters running the home for the unwed women, how the women who arrived changed over the years as our culture changed, and how you may not understand how a person’s mind is working but sometimes you can just find a way to accept that she is what she is, and get on with living your life.

I really liked the book, even though I was not taken with the main character. I can’t tell you too much without giving it all away. Read the book and tell me what you think.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Books, Charity, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Emergency Message for U.S Citizens: Demonstration Notice 14-2011

Emergency Message for U.S Citizens � Demonstration Notice 14-2011
September 20, 2011
Please circulate the following message without additions or omissions
immediately to all U.S. citizens within your area of responsibility.

An anti-corruption demonstration is planned for the early evening hours at
Determination Square on Wednesday, September 21 in downtown Kuwait City. An
increased police and security presence is expected in and around the capital.

There are also reports of possible demonstrations in support of Bidoon rights on
Wednesday, September 21 in the cities of Jahra, Al-Sulaibyah and Al-Ahmadi. An
increased police and security presence is also expected in these areas.
Spontaneous and planned demonstrations take place in Kuwait from time to time in
response to world events or local developments.

At times, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Do not let curiosity get the best of you; avoid the areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large gatherings. Please stay current with media coverage of local events, be aware of your surroundings, and practice personal security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel
Alerts, as well as the Country Specific Information for Kuwait can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling
1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside
the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These
numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through
Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). You can also download our free Smart
Traveler App for travel information at your fingertips and follow us on Twitter
and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14,
Bayan, Kuwait. If you are a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance in
Kuwait, you may reach the U.S. Embassy by calling +965-2259-1001 and requesting
the duty officer.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to enroll in the
Department�s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that they can obtain
updated information on travel and security. U.S. citizens without internet
access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By
enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact
them in case of emergency. For additional information, please refer to “A Safe
Trip Abroad”.

This message may be accessed on the Embassy website, http://kuwait.usembassy.gov

Please note that the Consular Section is closed for U.S. and most local
holidays. The current holiday schedule for 2011 is posted on
http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/holidays.html

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait | 1 Comment

Naman: Cured or Pride?

Today’s Old Testament reading is from 2Kings. I like this story. Although it happened so long ago, it still applies to me today – do I want to be right or do I want to be cured?

2 Kings 5:1-19

5Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.* 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’* 4So Naaman* went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’* 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?* Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’

11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!* 12Are not Abana* and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’ 16But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. 17Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. 18But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.’ 19He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Emily Arsenault: In Search of the Rose Notes

I think I got this book because I saw some of my book-loving friends on Good Reads reading it. When I started reading it, I thought, “Hmmm, big print, short chapters and the main character is a pre-teen, hmmm, this has the feel of a teen-book,” but by then it was too late, I was already hooked, so I read the whole book and I am glad I did.

So the writing is not all that complex. I actually like teen books because teens and twenties deal so much with making moral choices. They are at that wonderful age when they think about things and decides what matters to them. There are many of those I would rather hang around than people my own age who want to talk about shopping or shoes or aches and pains.

(You can find this book at Amazon.com)

Nora hangs out a lot with Charlotte, her best friend, while her single mother works full time. Charlotte is bossy, but never boring, as they explore the pre-teen world together. They have a babysitter, Rose, who watches over them and keeps them out of trouble. Until one day Rose disappears.

The book switches back and forth from these pre-teen experiences to a later time, maybe 15 years later, when Rose’s body is unearthed, and once again Nora experiences a lot of feelings she had buried. I loved the depiction of high school, where so many kids are suicidal, and life is cruel. High school just isn’t a kind place, even for those who look like they are having a great time.

At the same time, there were some good relationships, and you get to look back with Nora at people who were kind, but you were too absorbed in your own feelings to notice. It’s a complex world, and we get to go back and explore it once again through Nora’s eyes.

I’m glad I read it. This book did not change my life, but it is a great book for people who either are younger, or who like younger people, as I do.

September 17, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Books, Community, Crime, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Relationships | Leave a comment

Contagion

As we rushed into the house, we both headed immediately to our bathrooms to wash our hands. Twice. And I also washed my face.

Contagion is a very intelligent movie. It is scary, but not in the Friday the 13th kind of scary, or in the Night of the Living Dead kind of scary, although come to think of it, there were some elements in common with the original Night of the Living Dead. No, what makes Contagion scary is that it could happen so easily.

I had no idea that we touch our faces, on the average, of three to five times a minute, more than 3,000 times a day, and that with every surface we touch, we transfer (germs) (bacteria) (things that could make you sick) close to an entry to your body, like your nostrils and your mouth. Once you start thinking about NOT touching your face, you become aware of how often you touch your own face, unaware. Like flipping hair out of your eyes, or covering your mouth when you laugh, or a million other things like that. You become aware of all the things you touch between the time you wash your hands and touch your food. You think about who may have touched your fork, and how well it was washed.

For me, the scariest part of the movie, beyond how quickly the virus mutated and spread, was how quickly civil society broke down when cities were quarantined, when people were concerned food was growing scarce, when people thought they had to fight for survival. The rules for avoiding spreading the virus were not to meet, not to touch, to stay apart. It’s hard to help one another when those rules are in play, but those rules make it easier for those without rules to attack and take what they can.

I liked the music in the movie, too, very edgy.

Before I ever saw this movie, I heard an interview with the author on NPR. She was saying that when they came to her wanting to make this movie, she said “it cannot start in Africa. . . (there were a whole bunch of rules, which were hilarious because they were like every plot for a movie like this ever made) I knew I needed to see this movie, to see how it could be done and still be dramatic, and follow her rules.

There is one hilarious quote. A blogger in this movie gains enormous following. As he is tracking down one of the scientists for information, the scientist says to him:

Blogging is not writing. It’s just graffiti with punctuation.

Excuse me, gotta go wash my hands again.

September 16, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Experiment, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Movie, Social Issues, Statistics | 6 Comments

Emergency Message for U.S Citizens – Demonstration Notice 13-2011


Emergency Message for U.S Citizens � Demonstration Notice 13-2011

September 14, 2011

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

Youth activist groups have called for a demonstration on Friday, September 16,
2011 in Kuwait City during the early evening hours at Safat Square and possibly
Determination Square located opposite the National Assembly. An increased
police and security presence is expected throughout the day in and around the
capital.

Spontaneous and planned demonstrations take place in Kuwait from time to time in
response to world events or local developments. At times, even demonstrations
intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into
violence. Do not let curiosity get the best of you; avoid the areas of
demonstrations and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large
gatherings. Please stay current with media coverage of local events, be aware
of your surroundings, and practice personal security awareness at all times.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel
Alerts, as well as the Country Specific Information for Kuwait can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling
1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside
the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These
numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through
Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). You can also download our free Smart
Traveler App for travel information at your fingertips and follow us on Twitter
and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14,
Bayan, Kuwait. If you are a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance in
Kuwait, you may reach the U.S. Embassy by calling +965-2259-1001 and requesting
the duty officer.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to enroll in the
Department�s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that they can obtain
updated information on travel and security. U.S. citizens without internet
access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By
enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact
them in case of emergency. For additional information, please refer to “A Safe
Trip Abroad”.
This message may be accessed on the Embassy website, http://kuwait.usembassy.gov

Please note that the Consular Section is closed for U.S. and most local
holidays. The current holiday schedule for 2011 is posted on
http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/holidays.html

September 14, 2011 Posted by | Civility, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions | 2 Comments

Kuwait House in Pensacola

We were exploring a new neighborhood to look at a house I’d seen. We loved the neighborhood. As we were driving, I said “Oh! Look! That’s what I’ve always loved!”

A new house is being built, and high up, it has a large covered terrace. I used to see something like it in Safety Harbor; a large screened, covered terrace.

“It’s a Kuwait house,” said AdventureMan. “Look, it has a dome. It just LOOKS like a Kuwait house.”

He’s right. I agree. This house, sitting on the Bayou, could be a house in Kuwait.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Marriage, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Lectionary Readings for Today – Forgiveness

Hatred is its own punishment. We are called upon to forgive, and to live lives of goodness and mercy.

Ecclesiaticus, or Sirach 27: 30 – 28: 7 (Roman Catholic)

27:30 (NRSV) Anger and wrath, these also are abominations,
yet a sinner holds on to them.
28:1 The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance,
for he keeps a strict account of their sins.
2 Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done,
and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.
3 Does anyone harbor anger against another,
and expect healing from the Lord?
4 If one has no mercy toward another like himself,
can he then seek pardon for his own sins?
5 If a mere mortal harbors wrath,
who will make an atoning sacrifice for his sins?
6 Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside;
remember corruption and death, and be true to the commandments.
7 Remember the commandments, and do not be angry with your neighbor;
remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.

Genesis 50: 15 – 21 (alt. for RCL)

Gene 50:15 (NRSV) Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

NEW TESTAMENT: Romans 14: 1 – 12 (RCL)
Romans 14: 7 – 9 (Roman Catholic)

Roma 14:1 (NRSV) Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

GOSPEL: Matthew 18: 21 – 35 (all)

Matt 18:21 (NRSV) Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

September 11, 2011 Posted by | Spiritual | | Leave a comment

10 Years Later, 9/11

I have a photo I love, my favorite nephew posing in his thobe and kefiya and egal, all of it just a little off, a little not-right, if you are really Arab and know how they are worn, but I love the quirkiness of it. I took that photo on September 10th, ten years ago today. He and his parents had just returned from a fabulous trip – meeting up with AdventureMan and me in Paris, coming to our house in Germany, traveling on to Greece and then to Egypt. While they were traveling, I returned to the US for a wedding, and met up with them once again at their house.

The next morning, my nephew stuck his head in my bedroom and said “Aunt Intlxpatr, there’s something you need to see.” The first plane had just struck the World Trade Center Buildings.

“That’s not good. You can’t hit a building by accident; you really have to aim to hit a building.” I was still fuzzy headed, but the adrenalin was pumping and he and I remained riveted to CNN. It wasn’t long before the second plane hit, and all the world changed. Sometimes it seems to me like the fact that the Pentagon was also hit gets lost these days.

I had tickets back to Germany but wasn’t sure if my plane would even fly. It was a scary time, a lot of dire speculation and not a lot of facts to back it up. As it turned out, my flight was one of the first international flights out, and it was packed with all the people who had been stuck in Seattle for a week trying to get back.

For about a year, I was obsessed with reading everything I could about 9/11, and then I just hit overload, and went the other way. It’s like I felt I would explode from all the contradictory information, all the scare tactics, all the misinformation and conspiracy theories floating around, so for most of the time, I just shut it out.

I keep the photo of my nephew where I can see it often, and think about a time when we lived in a brighter world.

September 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment