Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Rest in Peace, President Richard von Weizsaecker

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We met President von Weizsaecker under unusual circumstances. He has asked to greet members of the US Forces living in Germany on Thanksgiving. A friend called us urgently two days before Thanksgiving, asking if we would join them; they had been selected for the President’s visit. Others had been invited, but their children had come down with chicken-pox. We had just moved, had no plans and were delighted for the offer.

President Richard von Weizsaecker arrived in a large motorcade, the streets lined with people. When he entered the military quarters, suddenly we all felt a bit shy, but he sat himself among all the children, who all happened to be boys and un-shy. He knew just how to get them talking, and us. He was a most gracious and elegant man, sure of who he was, and excelling in putting others at ease.

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The next day our photo appeared on the front page of the Stars and Stripes with the President, and our friends from all over Germany were calling to ask if we’d gone undercover – we were identified with the names of the people who had originally been invited, whose children had chicken pox. Of course, the more we explained, the more nobody believed us. It was hilarious.

BERLIN (AP) – Former German President Richard von Weizsaecker, who urged his country to confront the Nazi past, promoted reconciliation and denounced far-right violence during a 10-year tenure that spanned the reunification of west and east, has died. He was 94.

President Joachim Gauck’s office announced Weizsaecker’s death on Saturday. Weizsaecker, a patrician and eloquent figure who was president from 1984 to 1994, raised the profile of the largely ceremonial presidency and established himself as a moral conscience for the nation.

Weizsaecker’s May 1985 speech marking the 40th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II cemented his reputation. It won widespread praise as an effort to bring fellow Germans to terms with the Holocaust.

 

“All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by its consequences and liable for it,” said Weizsaecker, who served as a regular soldier in Adolf Hitler’s army. “Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present.”

“The 8th of May was a day of liberation,” he told the West German parliament. “It freed us all from the system of National Socialist tyranny.”

Later that month, the Netherlands’ German-born Prince Claus presented the president with a Dutch translation of the speech, telling him that it enabled him finally to acknowledge his roots in a country where resentment of the Nazi occupation remained widespread.

In October 1985, Weizsaecker made the first visit to Israel by a West German head of state. His Israeli counterpart, Chaim Herzog, said the comments had won Weizsaecker “a special place in the history of your people.”

“Richard von Weizsaecker stood worldwide for a Germany that had found its way to center of the democratic family of peoples,” current President Joachim Gauck said in a message of condolences to Weizsaecker’s widow. “He stood for a federal republic that faces up to its past.”

 

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January 31, 2015 Posted by | Biography, Character, Communication, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Relationships, Thanksgiving | , | Leave a comment

Zambia: “What is it like where you live?”

Today the church prays for the diocese of Lusaka, and I smile as I pray for my Zambian friends. We have stayed in Lusaka several times, and visited schools and clinics in remote parts of Zambia. Zambia is an amazing country – something like 70 different peoples and languages, and training in all the schools to help them learn how to live together.

 

One young Zambian told us that when they come into contact, it is normal to feel strange; the “other” doesn’t speak the same dialect, may be a traditional enemy, is just different, uncomfortable. They are trained to ask “What is it like where you live?” and to listen to the response.

 

I have used that phrase so many times; it is so useful. When you listen to an “other” talk about his or her life, you connect. You find similarities, and differences, and you learn the joys and challenges of this different life. It is a wonderful question. I used it the first time in Zambia, at a dinner with a lot of people we didn’t know. The woman next to me seemed stuffy, but sometimes that can be shy, so I asked “What is it like where you are from?” and she looked at me with concern and said, very sharply, “What do you mean?”  I said “what is your life like, tell me about what you do in a day?” and she said “That is a very odd question!” but she went on to tell me about her life, her country house and her passion for riding. By the end, we were having a great conversation.

May God bless you richly, Zambia. May your peoples live together in God’s peace!

 

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January 31, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel, Values, Zambia | Leave a comment

Drilling Down

It’s my favorite time of the year, and there is just so much to do. Cooler temperatures give me energy! As I am making my morning coffee (as opposed to my mid-morning coffee, or my after-lunch coffee or that regrettable late afternoon coffee) I noticed a ray of sunshine coming in obliquely from a new direction, illuminating how dusty my lower cupboards had gotten. While the coffee brews, I grab the spray and paper towels and quickly wipe down the streaked, dusty doors, hoping no one else has noticed their grime. There are even a couple stray Pete-hairs, which make me sad. I still miss that sweet cat. I wonder where his spirit roams?

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It’s the time of year for cleaning-out and re-organizing, and when you are a quilter, you have a lot to re-organize. I have shelves and bins of fabrics, shelves of books and patterns, shelves of cut pieces and threads, shelves of quilts ready to be assembled. January is such a great month for getting rid of things that just bog me down and collect dust. There are a few things I am sentimental about, but for the most part, I love the free-ness of clearing out the expendable.

 

And, with all the juices of renewal flowing, AdventureMan and I are planning one of our wonderful road trips. I used to do all the planning; AdventureMan might give some input but for the most part, he was focused on his job and I took care of travel plans, reservations, funding, etc. Now he has more time, we call back and forth from office to office about hotel websites, Google Maps, travel time. I create the data base and print out the segments, he helps with things to do and see and hotels and side trips. At first, it was a real adjustment for me, having input, but now it’s made things a lot more fun.

 

I didn’t used to print out segments, not once I got my smart phone, but to our horror, we discovered there are still places in this great United States where (gasp!) there is no coverage! When you have to make tricky road connections, it helps to have directions, and a hand held map. I put together folders, and we can just throw pieces away as they are accomplished. Our trips are more like missions, but a lot more fun.

 

We don’t do bucket lists, or not so much, but we do try to scratch an itch. There are places I haven’t seen, experiences I haven’t had. We’re alike in that way, AdventureMan and I. We love our road trips, as much for the unexpected blessings as for the planned ones. At dinner last night, I told him that about the worst experience I could remember was finding myself in a camp on the Busanga Plains in Zambia; it was about a week too early, it was still soaked with the receding flooding, game was scarce and it was very very hot. Mosquitos were everywhere, and I was covered with bites. At the same time, I have had better, less memorable experiences. You have to have the odd bad experience to help you understand just how good some of the good ones have been.

I had to do this photo because these below $2/gallon gas prices are such an unexpected delight:

 

 

 

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And I had a moment when I thought my heart would stop as our nearly 5 year old “baby” stood up on the high bar at gymnastics!

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So January is rushing by.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Qatteri Cat, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | 5 Comments

The Rains in Africa

There are times – it doesn’t matter where I am, but it’s usually a grocery store. Kuwait. Qatar. Pensacola – they all have this elevator music, music you barely notice, until you find yourself unconsciously belting out “I miss the rains in Africa . . . .”

I love that song. We’ve visited many African countries, and occasionally just before or after the rainy season. When the drops of rain hit the dry earth, there is a scent like no other, an earthy, clean perfume smell.

MIT scientists have worked out the source of that intoxicating scent – tiny bubbles.

 

Earthy, Post-Rain Smell Explained by MIT Scientists

By Jim Algar, Tech Times | January 18, 11:22 PM

Raindrop aerosols

Researcher create slow-motion video of “champagne bubble” effect to show the origin of the familiar after-rain smell. Raindrops can release aerosols from the ground into the air as they hit, researchers find.
(Photo : MIT)

 

Researchers say they’ve used high-speed photography to show the origin of the familiar earthy, sweet smell that lingers in the air following a rainstorm.

Scientists call that aroma petrichor, and have long ascribed it to chemicals and oils in soil released as aerosols when raindrops hit the ground.

Now researchers at MIT say they’ve created super-slow-motion footage to demonstrate how that “rain smell” moves from the ground into the air.

“It’s a very common phenomenon, and it was intriguing to us that no one had observed this mechanism before,” says professor of mechanical engineering Cullen R. Buie.

“Rain happens every day — it’s raining now, somewhere in the world,” he says.

When a raindrop impacts a porous surface, the researchers found, it traps tiny bubbles of air that then shoot upwards like the bubbles in a glass of champagne, ultimately bursting out of the raindrop in a fizz of aerosols.

Those aerosols contain aromatic elements that can be released by light rainfall and spread by winds, they say.

More aerosols are produced by light or moderate rainfall than during heavy rainfall, which is why the familiar petrichor odor is more commonly apparent after a light shower, they add.

“Heavy rain [has a high] impact speed, which means there’s not enough time to make bubbles inside the droplet,” says postdoctoral researcher Youngsoo Joung.

The scientists filmed raindrops falling on a variety of surfaces, including 16 kinds of soil and 12 engineered materials.

Identifying a mechanism for raindrop-induced generation of aerosols may help to explain how some kinds of soil-based diseases are spread, Joung says.

“Until now, people didn’t know that aerosols could be generated from raindrops on soil,” he says. “This finding should be a good reference for future work, illuminating microbes and chemicals existing inside soil and other natural materials, and how they can be delivered in the environment, and possibly to humans.”

The MIT scientists are conducting further experiments with surfaces containing soil bacteria and pathogens, including E. coli, to see if rainfall and its aerosol-generating mechanism can spread them.

“Aerosols in the air certainly could be resulting from this phenomenon,” Buie says. “Maybe it’s not rain, but just a sprinkler system that could lead to dispersal of contaminants in the soil, for perhaps a wider area than you’d normally expect.”

The results of the MIT study have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

 

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Experiment, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue, Travel, Weather | , | 2 Comments

From Whom Every Tribe in Heaven and On Earth Takes Its Name

I’ve been looking for this line forever, but it is no wonder that I couldn’t find it, I remembered it wrong, or I was using a different translation. When Father Ian at Church of the Epiphany in Doha would begin the prayers, he began with that invocation, reminding us that we, too, are tribal in our passions and affiliations. He used that word, tribal, instead of family. It is probably more true to the original intent.

Once people start drawing and adhering to lines between them and us, things get ugly in a hurry. I liked what Pope Francis said about Freedom of Speech being fine but it had to include respect for the religions of others, and self restraint. We all need to remember that it is the one true God who is the father of us all, and he will be the only one to judge us in the end.

We all get a lot of things wrong. Let’s hope He is truly the all-merciful and all-compassionate.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,* 15 from whom every family* in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

January 17, 2015 Posted by | Civility, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Qatar, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Wanted: Qatari Lady

This morning I found two comments on an old post about high temperatures in Qatar (now deleted). I was offended, but now I offer up this commenter to my Qatari friends. He has included his phone number. I suggest you call him and correct his mistaken ideas about Qatari women.

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Note: My site is not a hooking-up site.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Communication, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Mating Behavior, Qatar, Social Issues, Women's Issues | | 3 Comments

219 Girls Remain Missing; Nigerian Villages Beset by Boko Haram

Today, on AOL News, a report on the ravaging of two villages in Nigeria by Boko Haram, with satellite images showing the carnage and destruction as survivors tally more than 2,000 dead. The craven Nigerian Army claims the losses are more like 200.

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Meanwhile, of the almost 300 girls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram, 219 are still missing. Those who returned, returned by escaping. No one rescued them. The remainder are likely “married” to their captors, slaves to the household and many of them are probably pregnant. To be pregnant by a Boko Haram soldier creates a severe social problem if they are ever freed or rescued – the family cannot marry off an impure daughter. The children of these unions face a desolate future, wherever they are.

The world watches when terrorists wreak havoc in Paris, thousands crush the cretins who kill in the name of God, but no-one lifts a finger to help these small villages in Northeast Nigeria, beset by destructive vermin.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Large areas of Nigerian towns attacked by Islamic extremists were razed to the ground in a widespread campaign of destruction, according to satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International said the detailed images of Baga and Doron Baga, taken before and after the attack earlier this month, show that more than 3,700 structures were damaged or completely destroyed.

The images were taken Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, Amnesty International said. Boko Haram fighters seized a military base in Baga on Jan. 3 and, according to witnesses, killed hundreds of civilians in the ensuing days.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for the human rights group, said in a statement that the assault on the two towns was the largest and most destructive of all the Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International.

The group said interviews with witnesses as well as local government officials and human rights activists suggest hundreds of civilians were shot; last week, the human rights group noted reports of as many as 2,000 dead. The Nigerian military has cited a figure of 150 dead, including slain militants.
Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram group drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Chibok town last year. Dozens escaped but 219 remain missing.

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You can find much more information in this article on BBC News/Africa.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Political Issues, Rants, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

What a Difference a Few Degrees Makes

We are not running the heat all day, but we turn it on in the mornings and then again a little at night. Just that little bit has doubled our energy use for this time of the year. (says the energy nerd, who keeps track of these things)

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January 10, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Environment, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Cold Saturday Morning in Pensacola

It is warming, but “warm” is relative. Compared to 19°F, 31°F is “warm.” In terms of hands and toes and cold tile floors, it is still very cold. I was reminded this morning of how very cold I was in Kuwait those few January days when it would get down to 0°C; when windows are not sealed tightly and all your floors are marble, it’s like having winter inside your home.

And that is how my doves must feel. Normally, they sleep under our rosemary bush, or snuggle down under the lavender. I think, now that we have pulled a lot of our larger potted plants in close to the house under the awning, they are sleeping under our plants. This morning, they know I am here, with my camera, and they don’t care. They want to catch a few more ZZZzzzz’s in the first few rays of the early morning sun.

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They fluff up their wings to capture air and warm it with their bodies. Look how puffed up this one looks, about twice it’s normal size.

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AdventureMan goes out every day and breaks the ice in the bird bath, and puts in fresh water. People are good about feeding birds, but forget how hard it can be for them to find water when outdoor temperatures fall into the freezing zone.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Birds, Gardens, Kuwait, Pensacola, Weather, Wildlife | | 2 Comments

Saudi Blogger Flogged 50 Times For Criticizing Muttawa

This man, a father of three, had the nerve to criticize the arbitrary morality police in Saudi Arabia. He wasn’t criticizing Islam; he was criticizing the ignorance and irregular actions of the muttawa. When flogged, he did not make a peep. Another blow to freedom of speech.

From AP, via AOL News:

Witness: Convicted Saudi blogger flogged in public 50 times
AYA BATRAWYJan 9th 2015 2:08PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.

The witness said Raif Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.

Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals or about $266,600.

Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticize the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.

London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. Saudi Arabia’s close ally, the United States, had called on authorities to cancel the punishment.

Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque. His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.

The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.

Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. He used the blog to criticize the kingdom’s influential clerics who follow a strict and ultraconservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.

He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.

Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.

According to Amnesty, the charges against Badawi mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website. He was also accused in court of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s morality police.

In a statement after the flogging, Amnesty called the flogging a “vicious act of cruelty” and said that Badawi’s “only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has called the punishment an “inhumane” response to someone exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion.
In New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters on Friday that the U.N. human rights office was “very concerned about the flogging” and that it has previously raised concerns about harsh sentences in Saudi Arabia for human rights defenders.
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Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from the United Nations.

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, ExPat Life, Free Speech, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments