Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Most Expensive Soap in the World Made in Qatar

There is nothing so lovely not so luxurious as a really good soap. My niece introduced me to my very favorite, an Iris scented soap from Santa Maria Novella in Florence which she brought me as a house gift when she visited in Germany.


This (below) is not the Florentine soap made by nuns. This soap is not for sale; it’s for promotion and for royals only – From Qatar’s Gulf Times:




Al-Sherif shows off the soap as Dr Hassoun (second right) and other guests look on at the unveiling yesterday.  PICTURS: Jayaram

The “most expensive soap in the world,” made of pure gold dust, olive oil and virgin honey and embedded with diamonds, was unveiled by Khan Al-Saboun Bader Hassoun and Sons at the Qatar Pool and Spa 2013 at the Doha Exhibition Centre yesterday.


Weighing around 100gm and with a price tag of $3,800, the soap dubbed ‘Qatar Royal Soap’ with the word ‘Qatar’ in Arabic inscribed on it, is being dedicated to Qatar and its great achievements in many fields, especially in winning the bid to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup.

Khan Al-Saboun Bader Hassoun and Sons chairman Dr Bader Hassoun explained that the soap was specially made for royalty aside being beneficial for the skin due to its natural and organic contents.

“Our company, based in Lebanon, has been known for specialising in natural and organic beauty products for years and we have very committed patrons due to this specialisation,” said Dr Hassoun, whose family has been in the soap making business for over eight centuries.

He said that the soap, though highly valued, has not been produced for commercial purposes, though it was earlier reported that it will be available for sale in Al-Saboun City Center – one of the company’s six branches in Qatar.

“We have made only this one piece in order to showcase our capabilities for inventions in soap making and just to express our respects for royalty. So, the soap will not be for sale,” he maintained. Lebanese singer Reem al-Sherif was present at the launch.

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Italy, Living Conditions, Qatar, Shopping | , , | Leave a comment

Speaking More Than One Language Delays Alzheimer’s

From AOL Everyday Health:


WEDNESDAY, November 6, 2013 — A small but growing body of research is finding that people who are proficient in multiple languages have a lower risk of cognitive decline. In the largest study to date on the relationship between bilingualism and dementia, researchers from Hyderabad, India, and Edinburgh, Scotland, demonstrated that bilingualism may stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia for several years. Their study was published in the journal Neurology.

The research team in Hyderabad  evaluated 648 people who had dementia symptoms for 6 months to 11 years before enrolling in the study; 391 of the subjects were bilingual. The researchers found those who were bilingual developed dementia on average 4.5 years later than people who spoke only one language. On average, bilinguals developed dementia symptoms by age 65.6 compared with age 61.1 in people who spoke only one language.

“Nowadays, a lot of companies are having expensive brain-training programs, but I’d say bilingualism is very cheap,” said Thomas Bak, MD, a lecturer in human cognitive neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, and second author on the study. “The crucial thing about bilingualism is that it offers what we say is constant brain training. A bilingual person Is forced to switch to different sounds, words, concepts, grammatical structure, and social norms.”

Dr. Bak’s study demonstrated the impact bilingualism has not only on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but also on other types of dementia. Though the majority of patients in the group studied (37 percent) had Alzheimer’s-related dementia, 29.2 percent had vascular dementia, a type caused by reduced blood flow in the brain from stroke. Frontotemporal lobe dementia — from atrophy or shrinkage of certain areas of the brain — accounted for 17.9 percent of the diagnoses. Lewy body dementia, the second most common type of progressive dementia and one that is related to Parkinson’s disease, accounted for 8.5 percent, while 7.4 percent of people in the study were diagnosed with mixed dementia.

The researchers found bilingualism had the most dramatic effect on people who were diagnosed with frontotemporal lobe dementia. Knowing multiple languages delayed dementia symptoms by as much as six years in this group. Individuals with vascular dementia had an average of almost four extra years before dementia symptoms set in. However, individuals who knew three or four languages weren’t protected longer from dementia symptoms than those who were only proficient in two languages.

The More Different the Languages, the Better

The World Health Organization estimates 35.6 million people in the world have dementia, with 7.7 million new cases every year. And in India the problem is expected to grow even more dire. In 2009, the World Alzheimer’s Report projected India will have 10 million dementia patients by the year 2020. This was the impetus behind the new research, said Suvarna Alladi,MD, lead author of the study, which was funded by the Indian Department of Science and Technology.

“Dementia has become a major public health problem in India, and research that explores potentially protective mechanisms is of tremendous importance,” said Dr. Alladi. “Since many people in India can fluently speak two or more languages in their daily life, it’s heartening for us to know that something that we take for granted may protect our brains from developing dementia early.”

Teluga is the official state language in Hyderabad. Natives of the city are often also proficient in Hindi and Dakkhini, which more closely shares roots with English than with Teluga. This raises questions about the brain and “linguistic distance,” said Bak.

“You could argue the more different languages are, the better they are for the brain,” Bak said. “However you can also argue that when you speak languages that are so closely related you have to suppress one.”

Scientists have also become interested in whether cognitive abilities can be retained in similar ways if a person doesn’t learn a second language until later on in life, but there are yet no studies on this topic. However, many researchers, including Bak, speculate that a person who learns a second language later on life could glean similar benefits. “There are theories that would say you need the constant practice,” he said. “The fact that I can swim won’t make me healthy. If I actually go swimming it will make me healthier.”

Exercising the Brain

Numerous studies have found one of the best ways to slow cognitive decline is by mindfully engaging in brain-flexing activities, such as playing Suduko and crossword puzzles or reading books. I-Chant Andrea Chiang, MD, a professor who specializes in language psychology at Quest University Canada in Squamish, B.C., sees very little difference between language learning and any other type of brain exercise. “The brain is a muscle and it needs to be worked out like any other muscle,” said Dr. Chiang. “All those mental activities stimulate the brain and build up a cognitive reserve, even though there may be physical decline.”

Chiang has consulted with Ryan McMunn, who runs BRIC Language Systems headquartered in New York City. McMunn said a number of Alzheimer’s patients have sought out BRIC language classes online to help offset the symptoms of the disease, or are learning a second language because Alzheimer’s runs in the family. McMunn, who is American and lived in China after college, said his grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, but he wasn’t aware of the research on bilingualism and dementia until after he began learning to speak Mandarin, which he now does fluently.

“Honestly I can’t think of a more fun way of trying to postpone these things,” said McMunn. “Learn any language; it’s a fun thing to do and it allows you to communicate with new people. I look at it as very beneficial.”

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Health Issues, Words | Leave a comment

“Mind Your Own Business”



You can be married for a long time and still be surprised. 🙂


I was thinking about other cultures, and then I thought about growing up in Alaska. Alaska is one of those kind of end-of-the-line places. Maybe it’s changed, but except for the native Americans, most people had come from somewhere else. Very few were second generation.


People at end-of-the-line places often have backstories they don’t want to talk about – bad divorces, or worse – bad marriage –  no divorce, criminal records, or a million other situations they don’t want to talk about. From an early age, you learn not to ask. There were also a lot of laconic Scandinavians around; they talk about fishing and hunting but are seriously tongue-tied if asked a personal question. So again – you learn not to ask.


“Mind your own business,” I can remember my own mother saying, so I thought it was a rule. “Don’t be a Nosey-Parker.”


All my life I thought that was the rule. It was the way I was raised. Every now and then that curtain of pre-conceptions parts and a light gleams through. I was thinking about other cultures and it occurred to me to ask AdventureMan if he grew up with the same rule.


He just laughed.  He looked at me in utter amazement, and laughed.


“I grew up in a town of 3,000,” he laughed, “and some of those were relatives, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins – everyone knew everything!”


“There’s no such thing as ‘mind your own business’ when your entire life is known by every single person in town!”


He hooted with laughter at the very thought.



“Everyone knew everything!” he repeated.


It’s expat world right here in my own house. This is a whole new way of thinking about things. I’ve always thought personal privacy was sort of universal, but not so.


One of the many times we lived in Germany, we lived in a small village where people told us everything. It was amazing, a whole different world, being on the inside, but not really being a part of it all. People seemed to feel we needed to be filled-in. One family didn’t speak to another family in the village, and it was awkward, because there were only like 300 people in the village, but many years ago someone’s grandmother had a terrible disagreement with the other family’s grandmother and no one in the families speak to one another now, even though no one can remember the reason.


I’ve escaped a lot of that being an expat, not sticking around longer than five years max, not long enough to develop a reputation you can’t shake. 🙂 But it makes me wonder if things are looser these days, if you can grow and change and be allowed to outlive your mistakes in small places where everything is everyone’s business . . .


November 7, 2013 Posted by | Alaska, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Marriage, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Where is Umzimvubu, South Africa?

Today we pray for the Diocese of Umzimvubu, in South Africa:


Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 8.28.04 AM


Matthew 5: 44-46

44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps, Interconnected | | Leave a comment

Where Are Dioceses of Ukwa and Umuahia (Aba, Nigeria)?

Every day our church prays for a different part of the world. Today it is Ukwa and Umuahia in Aba, Nigeria.  I had to look it up:

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 7.34.14 AM

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps, Interconnected | | Leave a comment

Kuwaiti Woman Arrested Driving in Saudi Arabia

From today’s Kuwait Times:

Kuwaiti woman caught driving in Saudi Arabia

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti woman was arrested in Saudi Arabia after she was caught driving in the kingdom where ultraconservative laws ban women from taking the wheel. According to a Khafji police report, the woman was caught driving a Chevrolet Epica on the ‘Sitteen Road’ in front of a hotel in the area located near the border with Kuwait, while a Kuwaiti man was in the passenger’s seat. The woman told the officers that the man was her father, adding that he is diabetic and cannot drive and that she had to take him to the hospital for treatment. The woman remains in custody pending investigations.

Saudi authorities have warned women of legal measures if they defy a long-standing driving ban in the kingdom. At least 16 women were stopped by police last Saturday and were fined and forced along with their male guardians to pledge to obey the kingdom’s laws, as more than 60 women said they defied the ban.

A growing number of men are quietly helping steer the campaign, risking their jobs and social condemnation in the conservative kingdom. Some of the men have even been questioned by authorities, and one was detained by a branch of the Saudi Interior Ministry – a move that sent a chill through some of the activists working to put women behind the wheel. In the run-up to last weekend’s protest, men played a key role in helping wives, sisters and female friends to enjoy what they believe is a fundamental right. Since the campaign was launched in September, they have produced videos of women driving and put them on social networks. They have helped protect the female drivers by forming packs of two or three cars to surround them and ward off potential harassment. And some have simply ridden as passengers with the women as they run their daily errands.

By A Saleh

I love it that this writer specified that this movement to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia – where there is no law forbidding women to drive – is supported by husbands, brothers, fathers who want them to be able to drive. Most of the people discussing it in the US think the men don’t want the women to drive. I laugh, and say “they DO drive!” They drive all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, only in Saudi Arabia they have to disguise themselves as men, or drive out in the deserts. Their brothers, husbands and fathers teach them to drive. Time is on their side, their day is coming. Let’s hope women driving means fewer 12 and 13 year old boys behind the wheels, driving their Mums.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Saudi Arabia, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

A Minor Miracle

A couple years ago, when I was at the dermatologist (and if you have lived under the hot strong sun in the Middle East, you might want to have an annual skin-scan, too) she asked “anything else?” and I wailed “What is happening to my skin??”




I’ve always had good skin. All of a sudden, I felt like the Portrait of Dorian Grey, like all my secret sins were catching up with me and manifesting on my skin. You could see my pores! I was getting little brown spots. I am not an abnormally vain woman, but I will admit that the sight of my skin going bad overnight was a staggering blow.


She laughed. “I have a magic potion that will keep your skin looking pretty good,” she said, and wrote me my first prescription for Retin-A.


It’s not a fountain of youth. It’s not like it gives me the face I had in my twenties and thirties, even into my forties. But it holds those brown spots at bay, gives my skin light and sparkle again, and tightens up those pores. I don’t know how it does it, I don’t care. It’s a little bit of magic and helps me handle the inevitability of the aging process.


She also gave me a coupon that made it less expensive. Still, I gasped the first time I went to buy it, and neither of my health insurances covered it. A little goes a long way, so I’ve only had to renew the prescription twice.


This last time, when I walked in to the pharmacist, I asked the cost first. He told me that for the name brand it would be eight hundred something and for the generic it would be five hundred something.


You could feed an African village for a year with five hundred dollars. I couldn’t do it. I walked away. I spent a week in stunned disbelief, then went online and found a coupon that promised a sizable discount.


When I went back to the pharmacy yesterday, they said the coupon wouldn’t discount much, but this time the girl took the initiative to check my insurance and said “the coupon doesn’t help, but did you know that your insurance will pay for all but $5. if you take the generic?”


“There must be some mistake,” I thought to myself. My insurance has never covered this before.


“Are you sure?” I asked her, not really wanting to, wanting to hand her five dollars and run out the door, but also knowing that if it were a mistake, that the pharmacy would be stuck holding the bag.


“Yes, ” she responded, “I’m sure. Only thing is, you’ll have to come back tomorrow to pick it up, we don’t have it in stock.”


Oh ye of little faith . . .


This morning, still thinking they have made a mistake, I called to ask if it had arrived, not wanting to make a trip in vain. The pharmacist left me on hold a long time and I just knew something was not right. I knew it couldn’t be this good. You don’t get a $500.+ medication for $5.


Then he came back on the line. “It’s in,” he said, “Come and get it!”


I feel so blessed. I’m aging, my skin is aging, and the Lord is merciful on me, a sinner. He allows me a small vanity, caring for my skin, and for only $5. I still can’t figure out if this is the new Obamacare or some Medicare benefit, or a prescription benefit change. I don’t even want to investigate, I am so grateful for this mercy.


And no. I would not have been able to justify it at $800. Or even justify it at $500. There is just so much need in the world for the basics, for food and shelter and clothing for the poor. But $5? For me, it is a minor miracle.


(In a study published in the UK Telegraph, researchers found women think negative thoughts about their appearance an average of 36 times EVERY DAY.)

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Islamic New Year

My good friend and commenter, Daggero, left this comment for us yesterday announcing the new Islamic year:


For your information yesterday we entered the Islamic year 1435 Hijri ( hijri = immigration ) which marks the year the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, emigrated after 13 years of calling people to Islam from Mecca to Medina, ( where he is burried in his Mosque , Masjid an Nabawi, the second holliest mosque in Islam after the Mecca )


So total Islam time from begining to now is 1448 years, and on this auspicious occasion i wish you , AdventureMan and your family and the little ones a happy and a blessed New Islamic year.



We wish you the same, Daggero, and I smiled as I read that you discussed the topic we were discussing with your daughter on the drive to school in the morning. I remember those days so well, as young people begin to draw off into their own lives and the time we spend with them in cars can be so precious. Happy New Year to you and your family.


We had a friend from Libya whose family name meant “from Madina;” before we had ever lived in any Middle East country, he had told us a little about Madina, and what a beautiful city it is. The mosque is very beautiful. I think the tradition is that green was the prophet Mohammed’s favorite color?


Happy New Year, too, to all our Moslem friends.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Word for Babies is Insects”

One of the great wonderful things that has happened with living in Pensacola is that I get to spend a lot of time with my two little grandchildren, one of whom is two months old and just loves to be held, and one of whom is three years old and loves to talk.

I adore them both, but the three year old is so much more interesting, as he can talk and express himself and I love the way a three year old thinks.

We talk a lot. The other day we were talking about breaking things like arms – he had just broken his arm in two places and got a 1 (needs improvement) on “uses playground equipment safely” LOL. I had just told him how my sister broke both of her arms, not at the same time, and how we had each broken a leg skiing.

“You know, Shisha, you’re a lot like a boy,” he said to me, and I knew it was a compliment but I couldn’t help laughing.

“Why do you say that?” I asked, and got some evasive answer – even a three year old has a sense of when a thought might be out of the ordinary.

This week, though, he really gave me a good laugh when he came running in and showed me his weekly sheet, with green happy faces (that is a very good thing) and a photo of himself as a baby.

“Another word for babies is ‘insects!'” he announced, and I couldn’t help it, I laughed.


“No! No! It’s ‘infants!'” I said, and made him watch my lips as I said it because it’s one of those words where we kind of cut off the t at the end, and he got it right. I laughed, knowing it must be “I” week at his school and how very cool is it that they are teaching three year olds such words as “infant” and “Insect” and so what if it takes a little while to get them all straight, just hearing them and seeing them applied is such a good thing.


November 3, 2013 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Education, Family Issues, Humor, Words | 4 Comments