Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Where is the Diocese of Manicaland, Zimbabwe?

Today the church prays for the troubled and sometimes controversial diocese of Manicaland, in Zimbabwe.

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February 16, 2015 Posted by | ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Zimbabwe | Leave a comment

“U.S. Women Drive Because They Don’t Care if They are Raped”

From AOL News/Huffpost/TheWorldPost:

The good news is that Saudi women know better. They don’t buy this line any more than we do. They visit America, they go to school in America. And oh yes, they DRIVE in America. The second part of the good news is that the younger generation buys this line a whole lot less than our parent’s generation, and change is coming. It’s coming faster than this historian thinks.

Saudi Historian Says U.S. Women Drive Because They Don’t Care If They’re Raped

Posted: 02/10/2015 2:03 am EST Updated: 02/10/2015 8:59 am EST
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A Saudi Arabian historian trying to justify the nation’s ban on female drivers sayswomen who drive in other countries such as the United States don’t care if they’re raped and that sexual violence “is no big deal to them.”

Saleh al-Saadoon claimed in a recent TV interview that women can be raped when a car breaks down, but unlike other countries, Saudi Arabia protects its women from that risk by not allowing them to drive in the first place, according to a translation posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“They don’t care if they are raped on the roadside, but we do,” al-Saadoon said on Saudi Rotana Khalijiyya TV.

“Hold on. Who told you they don’t care about getting raped on the roadside?” asked the host, a woman who is not named in the transcript.

“It’s no big deal for them beyond the damage to their morale,” al-Saadoon replied. “In our case, however, the problem is of a social and religious nature.”

Two other guests on the show — a man and a woman — appeared to be in shock over his comments. Al-Saadoon said they were out of touch.

“They should listen to me and get used to what society thinks,” al-Saadoon said.

Since the rape argument didn’t seem to be convincing anyone, al-Saadoon tried another approach, claiming that women are treated “like queens” in Saudi Arabia because they are driven around by the men of the family and male chauffeurs. That led the host to ask if he wasn’t afraid that women might be raped by their chauffeurs.

Al-Saadoon agreed.

“There is a solution, but the government officials and the clerics refuse to hear of it,” he said. “The solution is to bring in female foreign chauffeurs to drive our wives.”

That caused the female host to laugh and cover her face with her palm.

“Female foreign chauffeurs?” she said. “Seriously?”

Saudi women face serious penalties if they are caught driving, including lashing. Two women who defied the ban on driving last year, Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, are being tried in a court that handles terror cases.

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Communication, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Quality of Life Issues, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , , | 4 Comments

“You Really Know How to Make a Birthday Last”

. . . says AdventureMan, as he takes me to lunch and to a movie on Valentine’s Day.

It’s a perfect stretch, from my birthday to Valentine’s Day. AdventureMan bought the beautiful white roses at Celebrations, a wonderful shop in Pensacola. What I love the most is that the flowers they use last and last. My flowers, more than a week old now, are just beginning to droop, just a tiny bit. They are still unspotted and unstained, glorious in their pristine whiteness, glowing in our foyer. I still feel the glow. 🙂

My sweet son and daughter-in-law invited us for a shared birthday dinner and we had a wonderful, laughter-filled time, talking books, talking kids, laughing, laughing, and the 1 1/2  year old is starting to really talk and to get the convenience of oral communication. She wants to be a part of everything! The birthday boy and I had a wonderful time, tickling and laughing and sharing jokes. It was a great evening.

Lunch was in Gulf Breeze, at Rotolo’s, where they have great salads and thin crust pizzas, and then we went to see the spellbinding (if you are a nerd and love complex thinking) Imitation Game, which we both enjoyed thoroughly. We are so totally geeks; this was the perfect Valentine’s Day movie for us.

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Relationships | | Leave a comment

Best Group Ever!

Sometimes, out of nowhere, comes a wallop, even a good wallop. Yesterday came such a startling change. The itinerary looked ordinary, do-able, nothing inspirational, but all get-the-job-done.

My group had a great weekend. They got to sleep, they got to walk on the beach, they got to eat a great meal or two. They had fabulous weather, a chance to chill and to integrate all the information we are piling on them, and a chance to walk away for a little while. They love Pensacola. Who wouldn’t, when the weather hits around 70° and the beach is white and the sky is blue?

First, we hit our volunteer experience, working at Manna to sort donations, making sure all the items were within acceptable expiration dates. At first, I wasn’t sure this group was going to “get” volunteering, but in a very short time, they were all focused and working hard, and working efficiently. As they sorted, other volunteers drove up in SUV’s, in big cars, in vans and we all helped unload. By the end of their experience, the warehouse manager said “You have processed enough food for over 1,000 people!” and complimented them. They glowed. None of them are from countries with a tradition of volunteerism, and this was a new – and thrilling – experience for them. It always gives me a thrill to see that light go on, to see oneself as part of something larger, organic, to see how connected we all are and to love being a part of something good, sharing. It thrilled my heart.

We ate lunch together downtown, and talked about events going on in each country, about the weekend, about their experiences. We bought coffee – oh! the universal need for caffein! – and headed on to our next appointment, which featured environmental issues and complex ways governments interact to combat the problems and enforce the regulations. It was a tough slog. These relationships are so complex that most of us don’t even think about it. These delegates have work to do; they are here to solve problems in their own countries, and they are persistent and dogged about getting solutions that they can apply in their own bureaucracies. It is a delight to see people so committed to solving problems that seem . . . almost unsolvable.

It is also inspiring, to me, to learn so much about Pensacola, in this job. When I was working on my Masters, I studied heroism, among other things. What I am loving about these office and field visits is that my education continues, and I see heroes at every level of bureaucracy, holding back the evil forces of laziness, corruption, and cronyism. And, sustaining my initial findings about heroes, heroines and heroism, they don’t even see themselves as heroes. They say, as all heroes do, “I am/was just doing my job.” They think anybody would do it. (They are wrong.)

At our very last appointment, I was thinking I would probably cut the day short. The speaker had given out information, the delegates had bags to pack, and all of a sudden, a spark, and an explosion! The good kind!

One delegate could not believe the head of this agency could maintain an important list with integrity. He kept drilling down on the structure, the details of how things worked (all the delegates were keen on the details of how the structures of organizations and bureaucracies worked to accomplish their missions) and where there were openings for corruption.

She was explaining how her employees were constantly trained, and how the agency was monitored to ensure fairness and an adherence to procedure. The delegates, all from countries where bureaucracies function differently, kept pressing her. Is there never anyone taken out of turn? Never?

“If I did that, I would lose my job,” she replied.

What followed was one of the most exciting hours of discussion I have ever experienced, as delegates from five different countries frankly compared their own challenges and experiences, and with great intensity tried to figure out how bureaucracies could function without corruption.

We tried to explain that we, also, are not immune from corruption, and cronyism, but that the combination of training and monitoring helps keep agencies within the boundaries, as best it can. Transparency doesn’t come overnight; we are still trying to achieve it.

As I listened, I could not stop grinning. These are young leaders, and the leaders of tomorrow. They admire what they see in our country. They want to bring trust into their own governments, but how do you create trust? How do you build trust? How do you maintain trust?

I don’t know those answers. And yet the process is working; the discussion was so inspiring, so heartfelt, and they had built enough trust in one another to share their challenges, without having to maintain that artificial facade that lack-of-trust builds.

Their liaison said “You will each have to find your own path; it won’t look exactly like the US path because it has to be a fit with your own culture.”

When I left the group, I told them “You are the best group I have worked with, ever.” There is a part of me that wanted to be a part of that discussion, because they were still deep in that discussion as we parted. My role had ended; I had done what I do.

And today, I am still grinning. I love this job, I love the people it brings me into contact with, international and local. I feel so blessed.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Tanzania, Values | , , , | 3 Comments

Best Birthday Ever!

Who knew that growing older could have so many joys? I sure didn’t. I dreaded growing old, leaving a life of adventures behind. I had NO idea.

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I recently had a birthday. On my birthday, I had a new group in town, and I was taking them around to their appointments. It’s always hard, the first day, connecting with a group who has been together for a while, but the structure carries it, and the day went smoothly.

When my itinerary and biographies were delivered, I also got a birthday gift from the best boss, ever. I’ve been with them as a volunteer for almost five years now, and they gave me a silver name tag – beautiful! with a magnetic back, so it doesn’t ruin my silk blouses. They also gave me a box of my own business cards, even though I am “just” a volunteer.

The biggest gift, though, was the gift of their trust.

In my innermost mind, I sometimes hear voices. These voices are harsh. They say things like this:

“What do YOU know about government and politics and how they work?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“What makes you think you’re so special?”

These are the malicious voices that will make me cower in fear, will make me turn down opportunities, voices that make me doubt myself.

My boss asked me in December to take this particular group. I’ve taken several groups before, often enough that it’s not a big deal, but this time had a twist – she would be out of town, so would her deputy; I would be “it.”

I heard the voices. I hesitated, but only briefly. They trust me to do a good job, in their eyes, I can do it. In my most rational mind, I know better than to listen to those voices that would tear me down and undermine my confidence, and it really helps to have the trust of those with whom I work on a regular basis to counter those voices who would have me keep my head down, stay in my place. I am in my place. I am doing what I was created to do.

So it was more than the beautiful silver name-tag and the cards, it was the expression of trust that I would handle any problems that came up (I did) and that trust was a wonderful confirmation of who I am and of what I am capable.

We had a very good day, this group and I. When I got home, there was a huge bouquet of white roses waiting for me; my sweet husband knows what I love. I was over the moon, and he said “I really really wanted to throw in a red rose or two because I love them, but I know YOU love white roses” and that was the second wonderful gift of the day, that he would buy me beautiful roses, the kind I like, not the kind he though I should like. 🙂

He also took me out for Chinese take-out, not his favorite thing, but one of my favorite comfort food kind of things, and it turned out to be surprisingly good, especially for Pensacola where we all bemoan the lack of really really good Chinese food. Every dish was really good, exceeding our expectations.

Then, we got a call from our son and his family, off on their own grand adventure, and my little just-five-year-old grandson sang to me “Happy Birthday to you,” and totally made my day.

The next night we went to Seville Quarter and had this wonderful steak they serve, on top of a crusted mashed potato-garlic-cheese combination, with a fabulous sauce that reminded us of France, and grilled asparagus. Still my birthday 🙂

BDSeville

There are things that matter, and things that don’t. I suspect I will hear those harsh voices as long as I live, and I thank God for all the countering experiences and voices which have shown those demeaning voices to be false – and meaningless. Living my life in the best way I know – that is a gift. Being surrounded by those who value me and encourage me and love me and who lift me when I stumble and say “You CAN do it!” That’s a gift. Having a sweet family who love me genuinely, and value me – that is a gift. Having work to do that is worth doing – that is a gift. Having a husband who cares what I like, who encourages and supports me and makes me laugh – I am so blessed.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Work Related Issues | | 5 Comments

Turning the Tables on ISIS

From today’s AOL News via Associated Press comes this analysis of the production of the recent horror video posted by ISIS of the death of the Jordanian pilot. They also published names of targeted Jordanian pilots.

 

Go after them. Go after those producing these slick, disgusting, violent videos. A truly religious person wouldn’t kill a dog by burning him in a cage.

 

When a person produces a product, they leave a signature, they can’t help it. If I blogged under a different name, someone reading the other blog would find phrases and words that would help them recognize me from this blog. We can’t help it, we are who we are, and we leave signatures. Figure out who the tech geeks are who have been producing these videos, who scripted these repugnant beheadings and burnings, and get them. First, though, publish their names and their photos. Let them feel the target on their backs before  you take them out.

BEIRUT (AP) – A video of a Jordanian pilot being burned to death was exceptional in its brutality, even for the Islamic State group, and also was a sign that the militants intend to raise the stakes in their propaganda efforts, experts say.

It also offered confirmation to the belief that the airman was killed days or weeks before its release.

The 22-minute clip that appeared on websites Tuesday was a complex, extravagant work that would have taken a significant amount of time and organization to script, stage, produce and distribute, they said.

It also suggested that the demands last week for a prisoner swap for the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, were a cynical charade to increase the drama around his killing, because he most likely was already dead.

Jordanian state TV had said al-Kasaesbeh, who was flying missions for the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes, was killed as long ago as Jan. 3, shortly after his F-16 came down in Islamic State-controlled territory in December.

“The more gruesome the executions are, the more attention they get,” said Brigitte Nacos, a professor of political science at Columbia University.

“When President Obama responds to each of their killing videos … that gives them the feeling of being a powerful political actor that legitimate actors have to deal with,” she said.

The video featured production techniques used in other clips from the militants. But unlike those that showed beheadings in which the hostages or their killer delivered a message before being killed, the pilot video is longer and involves a story-telling narrative and at least four cameras, along with advanced editing techniques.

It bore the logo of the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media service and included footage of Jordan’s king committing to the fight against IS and meeting with U.S. officials. The pilot was shown explaining his mission on the day his jet crashed. Finally, he was seen in an outdoor cage as a masked militant ignited a line of fuel leading to it. It also included a list of purported Jordanian pilots wanted by the group.

“This is simply the most horrific, disgusting thing I have seen from Islamic State in the last two years. It is shocking,” said Shiraz Maher, senior fellow at the International Center for Study of Radicalization at King’s College in London.

Nacos said the video is “cleverly shot with different camera angles.”

“They’re basically rejecting everything that is Western, yet they’re borrowing – in their media management, staging, directing, choreography – everything that you can learn from Western filmmakers and media people,” she said.

Nacos said the video’s brutality risks turning public opinion and potential recruits away from the Islamic State group; al-Kasaesbeh’s killing already has been denounced by Muslim clerics across the region, including some jihadi ideologues.

Christopher Davidson, an academic at Durham University, said the video was not perfectly produced, but had “very powerful political messages which clearly resonate with impressionable youth.”

Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Abu Dhabi-based Delma center, said having a captive pilot from the U.S.-led coalition bombing campaign was a rare opportunity for the extremists to deliver a strong message.

“It was a chance to humiliate not only Jordan but the international community fighting against it,” he said.

Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on rebel and Islamic extremist groups, said the video suggested the group’s violence would only become more gruesome as its fighters – and supporters – became increasingly desensitized to human suffering.

“The beheadings that have been happening so frequently – it’s no longer surprising to any audience,” al-Tamimi said. “They upped the ante.”

Al-Tamimi said the group also had to keep offering something new to its members, supporters and those under its rule – if only to keep them in a perpetual state of terror.

Maher agreed.

“Every time you think they cannot commit anything worse – they open up another trapdoor,” he said.

 

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | , , , , , | 1 Comment