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Expat wanderer

Mountains and Glaciers En Route to Chenega Bay

Passage was a little rough, once again, going through the Barrens, and AdventureMan took a dramamine. Because we don’t take a lot of medications, when we do, it can have a long-lasting impact, and AdventureMan sleeps in the next day. Not such a bad thing, it is vacation, after all. He is missing a lot of breathtaking scenery, but . . . LOL . . . even breathtaking scenery gets to be a little “oh yeah?” after a lot of breathtaking scenery.

 

Once all the high school kids got off at Kodiak Island, the boat became very quiet.  There are some families, a few tourists, family members en route home, or to medical appointments from remote villages. We are meeting some fine people. One young man for whom we took a photo told us he was from a small village in Israel. I think that is true, and I think it is also disguise. He looks just like my Palestinian friends in Qatar. I expect it is just easier, here in the US, to say you are “from Israel.” I love these young people, many of them out all on their own, all alone, seeing these wonderful sights. 

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Even though these are all different, after a while . . . Oh! There are a lot more photos! You really want to see them all, LOL?? After a while, you can’t even count the glaciers. My eyes have been so hungry for mountains and blue green pine trees and snow and glaciers, and now . . . I feel overfed!

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September 10, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Photos, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Weather Anomoly

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As I lay reading the newspaper yesterday afternoon, my afternoon sparkles were back. I have a variety of shiny surfaces, including a couple Swarovski crystal stars (lacking a piece or two) hanging in my office window; most of the year I have afternoon sparkles and rainbows on my office wall when the sun starts heading west toward sunset. It’s a small thing, but it gives me a jolt of joy.

I lose them just when the Pensacola weather starts hitting “hot and humid” on a regular basis. It’s a double whammy.

Although the temperatures remain hot, nightly temperatures are getting a little lower and the angle of light is different. The humidity is lower. The plants in the gardens know it; we have African iris blooming again, the white roses I love so much are back blooming their beautiful heads off, and the crepe myrtle is in full bloom, the swan song. I’ve even seen some magnolias blooming. It’s a little weird. I’m feeling like planting some tomatoes – last year we had tomatoes even through the coldest part of winter.

What is also a little weird, and there is a superstitious part of me that even hesitates to name it, I don’t want to invite it . . . we have had no hurricanes. It is mid-hurricane season, still plenty of time for angst, horror and destruction, but in spite of dire forecasts of one of the worst years yet, we have had not one single hurricane. Thanks be to God.

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Gardens, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

Four Men Convicted of Fatal Gang Rape in India

See these related stories

 

NEW DELHI — An Indian court convicted four men Tuesday in the deadly gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, a brutal crime that galvanized public anger over the widespread – yet widely tolerated – sexual violence faced by Indian women.

As word of the verdict filtered out, protesters outside the courthouse chanted “Hang them! Hang them!”

The men were convicted on all 11 counts against them, including rape and murder, and now face the possibility of hanging. The sentences are expected to be handed down Wednesday.

Judge Yogesh Khanna said in his verdict that the men, who tricked the 23-year-old rape victim and a male friend of hers into boarding the bus they were driving, had committed “murder of a helpless person.”

The parents of the woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, had tears in their eyes as the verdicts were read. The mother, wearing a pink sari, sat just a few feet from the convicted men in a tiny courtroom jammed with lawyers, police and reporters. The hearing lasted only a few minutes, and the four men were quickly led from the courtroom by policemen after the verdicts were read.

Speaking before the convictions, the father of the victim called for the four to be executed.

“For what happened with her, these brutes must be hanged,” he told reporters as he left home for the courthouse. “Nothing but the death penalty is acceptable to us.”

Protesters called the Dec. 16 attack a wake-up call for India, where women have long talked quietly of enduring everything from sexual comments to public groping to rape, but where they would often face blame themselves if they complained publicly.

“Every girl at any age experiences this – harassment or rape. We don’t feel safe,” said law school graduate Rabia Pathania. “That’s why we’re here. We want this case to be an example for every other case that has been filed and will be filed.”

Lawyers for the men have insisted they were tortured – a common occurrence in India’s chaotic criminal justice system – and that confessions, which were later retracted, were coerced.

A.P. Singh, who at times has worked as a lawyer for all the men, said they were innocent.

“These accused have been framed simply to please the public,” he told reporters. “This is not a fair trial.”

The men were identified by the young woman’s friend, and police say they could be seen on security cameras near the bus.

The men, most of them from a crowded New Delhi neighborhood of hand-made brick shanties filled by migrants from poor rural villages, were joy-riding around the city in an off-duty bus when police say they came across the woman and her friend waiting at a bus top. The pair – by most accounts they were not romantically involved – were heading home after an evening showing of “Life of Pi” at a high-end mall just a short walk from the courthouse where Tuesday’s verdict was read.

It wasn’t late. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood. The bus, by all appearances, was just a way for the two to get home.

Instead, the attackers beat the friend into submission, held down the woman and repeatedly raped her. They penetrated her with a metal rod, causing severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.

The woman, who was from another poor migrant family, had recently finished her exams for a physiotherapy degree. Her father earned a little over $200 a month as an airport baggage handler. She was, the family hoped, their path to the bottom rungs of India’s growing middle class.

The defendants also came from poor and ill-educated families. One, Mukesh Singh, occasionally drove the bus and cleaned it. Another, Vinay Sharma, was a 20-year-old assistant at a gym and the only one to graduate from high school. Akshay Thakur, 28, occasionally worked as a driver’s helper on the bus. Pawan Gupta, 19, was a fruit seller.

With them were two other men. Police say Ram Singh, 33, hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was murdered. He was the brother of Mukesh Singh, who was convicted Tuesday. Another man – an 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack and cannot be identified under Indian law – was convicted in August and will serve the maximum sentence, three years in a reform home.

Facing public protests and political pressure after the attack, the government reformed some of its antiquated laws on sexual violence, creating fast-track courts to avoid the painfully long rape trials that can easily last over a decade. The trial of the four men, which took about seven months, was astonishingly fast by Indian standards. The men can appeal their convictions.

While many activists heralded the changes that came with the case – more media reporting on sexual violence, education for police in how to treat rape victims – they note that women remain widely seen as second-class citizens in India. Girls get less medical care and less education than boys, studies show. Millions of female fetuses are statistically “missing” because of illegal sex-selective abortions.

Victims of sexual assault, meanwhile, often find themselves blamed by their families and police, who deride them for inviting attacks. Activists say most rapes are simply kept secret, even from authorities, so that the woman and her family are not seen as tainted.

“We can celebrate this particular case. But total change is a much larger issue,” said Rebecca John, a supreme court lawyer and prominent advocate for women in India.

“As we celebrate this case, let us mourn for the other cases that are not highlighted.”

The victim’s family was, in many ways, far different from most in India. Her parents had pushed her to go as far as possible in school, and even encouraged her to leave home for a better education, both seen as highly suspect in the conservative village culture that her parents were born into. They had saved for years to help pay her school fees, and made clear that her brother would not be favored.

And when she was raped, the only people they blamed were her rapists.

Their pain has been staggering.

“I always told my children: `If you study hard you can escape this poverty.’ All my life I believed this,” the mother told the AP in an interview earlier this year. “Now that dream has ended.”

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Is Ramadan 2014?

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Forward planners alert!

When-Is.com tells us the start date of Ramadan 2014 will depend on where you live. If you live in the US, it will start a day later than if you live in Asia or the Middle East.

If you want first crack at Ramadan reservations, major airline sales often start in October 🙂 Eid al Fitr will start either the 28th or 29th of July, depending also on where you live.

Eid al Adha will be the 4th or 5th of October.

Ramadan in 2014 will start on Saturday, the 28th of June and will continue for 30 days until Sunday, the 27th of July.

Based on sightability in North America, in 2014 Ramadan will start in North America a day later – on Sunday, the 29th of June.

Note that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of Friday, the 27th of June.

Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.

The dates provided here are based on the dates adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America for the celebration of Ramadan. Note that these dates are based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes. This approach is accepted by many, but is still being hotly debated.

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Eid, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Ramadan | Leave a comment

Departing Homer for Kodiak and Chenega Bay

Did I mention departures can be ephemeral?

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“As soon as possible” can take a long long time when you are boarding cars, motorcycles, even a grown-up tricycle, container vans, campers, R/vs of all shapes and sizes, trucks, and today we learn how it is done. This is truly a marvel of engineering. It must also take some amazing system to keep straight where every vehicle needs to go because they are getting off at different stops, so all the ones getting off at the same stop need to be stored together. Watching all this happen is amazing.

They have this turntable. Cars drive on, we think a maximum of six. The turntable also handles a maximum of one large container truck.

Cars drive on the elevated turntable:

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Turntable begins to lower:
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Cars reach main deck:
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Turntable begins to turn:
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A friendly otter kept us entertained while we waited for all the vehicles to board.

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We were told this is one of the Homer small ferries to Kachemak National Park or to Seldovia:

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It is another gorgeous day in Homer, and even early in the morning, fishermen and women are on the beach:

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It’s a beautiful departure, and somewhere between Homer and Kodiak, we run into a heavy mist near sunset:

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We departed late and will be getting into Kodiak late, so late we sleep right through it. Before we know it, we are departed from Kodiak and en route to Chenega Bay and Whittier.

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment