Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Celebration at the Seville

“I think we ended up exactly where we were meant to be,” AdventureMan said as we drove away, and I love him for thinking that, and saying that. I think so, too.

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It’s been an amazing week.

I’m tempted to say, about so many of the subjects, “I don’t have a dog in that fight,” and yet, somehow, I do.

Our Supreme Court is been so greatly conservative that I had no hopes that so many decisions would come down on the side of what I consider human dignity.

We have great medical coverage, thanks to what is truly socialized medicine – life time medical care through career military service coupled with the medicare that United States citizens receive when we turn 65. So when people complain about “socialized medicine,” I just laugh and say I love my socialized medicine. It pays almost all my medical bills.

So why does it matter to me that others have affordable health care?

I worked with the homeless for a year, with homeless families. It was a program; we provided housing, some food, and counseling, and guided our residents into degree programs, assistance programs that would lead them to an ability to self-sustain.

What I learned, over and over, was stunning. Many women with children are one man away from homelessness. Women with children are exceedingly vulnerable. When a child gets sick, unless you are protected by family, the child cannot go to day care and Mama has to stay away from work to take care of them. Too many absences and that job disappears. No insurance, and the costs are those hugely exaggerated sums you see on your reconciliation sheets your insurance sends – what the cost is, what insurance pays, what your share is. IF you have insurance, your insurance company has negotiated the costs, and those costs are considerably less than if you don’t have insurance. The least able to pay are charged the most. Is that fair? I thank God for affordable care, so that all people have access to decent health care for themselves, and for their children.

It was teetering on the balance. Which way would the Supreme Court decide on this technicality? By the grace of God, the majority opinion was that law is tough enough to write and often mis-written and corrected before the ultimate wording is finalized. This was no exception; it needed refinement but the intent was clear. Affordable care is the law.

The poor and the minorities are not to be discriminated against in housing, either, the Supreme Court decided. Again, it’s not my fight, no one has ever discriminated against us, except for being military (and the implication was that military was riff raff). The significance here was that even if the discrimination was not clearly intentional, if it was discrimination, it was not allowed. It levels the field; makes life more fair for all of us.

And last. That people who want to marry will have the dignity of that right. That those people will have the same legal rights, rights that guarantee inheritance, rights that guarantee access to the partner that becomes hospitalized, rights to make legal decisions as a legal married couple. Again, AdventureMan and I, one man and one woman, are married, so we don’t have a dog in the fight – except that as human beings, we want the laws to be fair, and humane, and applicable to all. We have no say over how we are wired or who we love, and, as we see it, no right to restrict others from what we have chosen for ourselves.

We’ve had a great day. We went to early service, where Father Goldsborough spoke as a Southerner, and how his views have changed, and how he believes that if the Confederate flag is a cause of grief and horror to those whose family were once enslaved, that that flag should be retired. Yes, keep it as history, display it in museums, but not as a part of a public, governmental display. He is a courageous man.

And while I agree that it is time for the flag to be retired, the flag is just a symbol.

It is a kid that killed the bible study participants in South Carolina. It was a kid with a powerful GUN. So why are we not talking about gun control? I have the feeling that a lot of people are willing to pull down the Confederate flag in hopes that it will keep the attention off the fact that people with problems who have access to guns are the problem. Sure, you can kill with a knife, or a car, or a hundred other ways, but nothing beats a gun for killing efficiently, and no gun beats an automatic weapon for super efficient killing.

I headed straight for the commissary to do some weekly grocery shopping, while AdventureMan spent time in the garden. I got the groceries unloaded, and dinner started. AdventureMan came in and invited me to lunch at my favorite place, Five Sisters.

When we got to Five Sisters, every table was full and lines and groups of people were scattered around waiting. We headed to the Fish House for some fish and grits, but it was the same story. So we headed for Saville, where we found a parking place and while it was crowded, very crowded, we got a place in the Palace Bar, which we like anyway, and we liked that it was away from the music and we could talk.

After we ordered, I said “I think we are in the middle of a celebration,” and he agreed. We were surrounded by a very large group of guys about our age, but we had to guess they were gay, and they were all very celebratory. In fact, much of the restaurant was moving from table to table, hugging and exchanging greetings and congratulations.

The last time I remember feeling this way was in Alaska, last year, for The Celebration, where all the tribes gather to share culture and dances.

On our way out, I leaned over and said “Congratulations! We wish you happiness!” and they thanked us and we left.

Except, LOL, I had dropped my sunglasses, and we had to go back in. “Stop, stop!” our friends at the next table asked us, and thanked us again for our ‘kind words.’ But they needed to talk. It wasn’t about the right to get married, they explained, each jumping over the other in speech in eagerness to explain, “it is about legal rights in hospitals” said one “the right to be who we are” said another. These were men about my age, and they needed to be heard. I told them that I remember Juneau, Alaska, and I don’t remember any gay people. I said there must have been, but I never knew of any, and one man said “that was me! Imagine growing up knowing you are seriously different, that you like boys and not girls, and who do you talk to? There was NO-ONE!”

These guys had been married for varying amounts of time, but this weeks Supreme Court decision eliminated the anxiety that things could change, that a change in president could signal a cascade of change in state laws and the hard-won battles would have to be fought again. “The only person left in my family who would have the right to say whether to take me off life-support or not is a person who would likely say “pull the plug!” and my husband would have no say at all, before this decision!” one said, and the husband added “and she could keep me out of his hospital room, even though we’ve been married for years!”

I would have loved to hear more, but this was their celebration. It was like one huge wedding celebration, so much love, so much happiness, so much joy.

“I can be who I am!” one said to me, with such emotion. “I can be who I am!”

I almost cried with joy for him, for all of them. They have seen such change, from living their lives in hiding to being able to live legally, freely, as who they are. We were moved by their joy, moved beyond words. We felt so honored to have been able to share a little of their joy, even though – this isn’t our dog, this isn’t our fight, it isn’t our win.

Except, except that as human beings, maybe it all IS our dog, and is our fight. Maybe it is our win. Maybe, as Jesus says, we are all connected, we are all meant to love one another, and as weird as we are, as eccentric, as different, maybe we are all meant to love one another and to live in peace with one another. Maybe the dignity of every human being is relevant to my own . . .

It’s a heady thought for a celebratory Sunday.

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Alaska, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions | 4 Comments

Celebration 2014: Friday Afternoon Dancing

For the first time ever, the announcer tells us, the groups are all ready on time and the dancers ready to go – they are astonishingly ahead of schedule.

We return as a group of mixed dancers, from many Alaskan tribes, and some dancers with roots in classic “lower 48” tribes, so they all respect one another’s traditions, share, and do a little bit of everything. I kind of like this kind of flexibility. Some of the female costumes are a little ummm . . . skimpy . . . for the cold Alaskan climate, LOL, and some of the tattoos a little un-Alaskan and it doesn’t matter, they make it work.

The Celebration Hall is full and brimming over, dancers and their families in the waiting rooms, behind stage, in the halls, in the gift stores, children wailing for their Moms or Dads, it is totally a family affair. Grandma’s step in and help, and the dance goes on.00Afternoon

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June 25, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Events, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Dancers, Costumes, Transmitting Culture at Celebration 2014

I am getting questions about the clans and tribes. I can’t answer your questions. I know there are the Ravens, and the Eagles, and I know they are not hostile but two halves of a whole. I know the raven legend; raven steals the sun – knowledge – and shares it with everyone. He is often shown with a long beak and/or curled around a ball. Eagles have short curved sharp beaks. But, with dispensation, an Eagle may marry a Raven. There are also subgroups, so you can be at once a Raven and a Bear, or a Killer Whale, or maybe a Wolf.

I try to understand, but it is a lot to absorb, and sort of complicated and flexible. As I look at my photos, I can see I was most interested in focusing on the costumes / textiles and less interested in the story. I wish I could tell you more, but you will have to read it for yourselves!

Here is a mural in downtown Juneau that demonstrates some of the artistic traditions of some of the various clans:

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It’s important to remember – this is about them. It’s about holding on to traditional values and core beliefs, and transmitting knowledge of the culture to children and grandchildren. It’s not about us. As I said, we are there to witness and observe and celebrate, but they are there to celebrate who they are. Meanwhile, you can share the experience with these photos:

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The front and center rows were reserved for the elders, and once the dancers started, every seat was filled. There were wet eyes, and open weeping. There were joyful moments, too, when the dancers would invite ‘all the Eagles’ or (something I didn’t understand) to rise and join them in their dance. My own heart swelled to witness their joy.

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June 24, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Children’s Costume Contest at Celebration 2014

One of the sweetest events at Celebration 2014 is scheduled early early in the morning, so early, we missed a part of it. The families of the clans take great pride in creating their ceremonial robes with clan markings, and get the children started in the tradition early.

These children were SO adorable, and their costumes finely and lovingly wrought. They had an enthusiastic – if fairly sparse – audience at the early hour, but it was necessary with all the many different groups dancing throughout the day.

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I THINK this might have been the winner, but I am not sure. Not everything was in English, and sometimes I couldn’t understand what was said. Winner or not – adorable 🙂

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June 24, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014 Parade Continues

I hope you will forgive me; I am not able to do the same work on the iPad I can do on my computer, so these photos are uncropped, unenhanced, they are what they are. It isn’t about the photos, it is about the people they are celebrating. These are more photos from the opening parade, which was rich with colors and sounds:

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June 19, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Heritage, Local Lore, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration 2014 Begins

This is the reason we are here – Celebration 2014. I had never heard of it, it is not well publicized. It only began some time in the 1980’s and I came across it by accident, researching a Native Alaskan hunting mask my Mother gave me. I found a blog written by a young girl from Nome, showing early Celebrations, and explaining it was a gathering of the Alaskan clans.

Wow. This was so totally new to me. Growing up, there was little or no acknowledgement of the First Nation tribes. We were told not to play with the native children; they had knives, they were dangerous. LOL, tell a kid another kid has a knife and guess who they want to play with?

All us kids went to school together. Even as a young child, you recognize discrimination when you see it. Kids have a strong sense of “Fair”. We knew, at a gut level, that not playing with our Native classmates was not right, not fair, and . . . we went right ahead and did what kids do.

I do kind of cringe, thinking of playing cowboys and indians with real Indians, LOL . . . . but anyone could be whoever they wanted to be, so often as not, cowboys were Indian. It’s funny now that I think about it; kids see things differently.

I am not Native American, but this is my connection, my early classmates. You know how sometimes the pieces just come together? Now I know why I worked so hard to attend those nomadic festivals in Douz, in the Sahara south of Tunis, the falcon festivals, why I urge locals to gather the stories and dances and clothing traditions and to preserve them – it’s because I learned to treasure the arts and crafts of the earliest Alaskans.

So I came back not as participant, but as witness. I wanted to see the First Nation people Celebrate who they are, and their own cultures and traditions. I had no idea how very moving I would find it, but once the drums started beating and the chants started, I was weeping.

The best part was the multi-generational participation. The groups were led by elders, but at their feet were the grand children and great grandchildren, all dressed, all chanting, learning the steps, learning the songs, learning the traditions, learning more about who they are. Their faces were full of joy, and pride, and I get a little choked up just writing about it.

The opening parade was not until evening, so we were on our way to the hotel for a quick snooze and we saw the dugout canoes headed toward Juneau, full of chanting rowers.

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AdventureMan quickly turned the car around so we could watch them approach and land. It was haunting, beautiful, the drums, the chant, and a woman next to me, around my own age, turned to me, weeping and said “I never thought I would see this again in my own time.” It was a moment of pure joy.

(This was the end of a one week canoe trip by several canoes: read about it here)

The opening parade was a small problem; we looked and looked for where the parade was due to start and finish. Many in town knew there was supposed to be a parade sometime, but were hazy on the details. Finally, we found the right places, the right street and were scouting parking when a parking police person told us that all the government workers go home at five and the parking enforcement people go off duty at 5:30 so show up after 5:30 and you can park where you want. Wooo HOOOO! Thank you, City of Juneau!

The parade started promptly at 6, led by elders carrying the American flag. Tsimshia’an, Tlingket or Haida – all American. One of the lead dancers was a Marine who took leave to come back and dance with his tribe, leading the younger men in the movements to the hunting dances.

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More images to come 🙂

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Events, Generational, Local Lore | , | 2 Comments

Alaskan Heritage Celebration

I’m researching the Inuit / Eskimo / Yup’ik mask my Mother bought lo, these many many moons ago, and like anyone born to research, I am hopelessly lost, and enjoying every minute of the journey.

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I’m not Alaskan. I was born in Alaska, and so many times through the years when I see blocks that need ticking, I have been tempted to tick “native Alaskan” but I know that they don’t mean me, and that there are people who really deserve those preferences. I FEEL Alaskan, even though I’ve been gone a long time.

(My Mother used to tell us not to play with the “natives” because “they had knives!” (Big scary eyes). LLLOOOLLLL! Can you think of any quicker way to get your kids to play with the forbidden group? They had knives! Plus, they were our neighbors, and our classmates, and we all played together. Skied together. Played Cowboys and . . . Indians. Yes! We did! LLOOOLLL!)

I found this fabulous video of segments from the “Celebration 2010” There is a reason I am sharing this – first, for all my friends of all nations who love textiles and handwork as I do – and our name is legion – I want you to see this video and to see the magnificant ceremonial robes they are wearing. They have to be hand made; they are each so individual, even among people of the same clan, the bear is different, one from the other, the fish – different, the raven – fabulously different, I even saw a sun! I hope your heart goes pitter patter, just as mine is going.

I wish I could bring this entire celebration to Kuwait and do a presentation with the KTAA (Kuwait Textile Arts Association.) They would LOVE these crafts, and the dancing. Look at the wonderful drums!

Second – did you hear them ululate? This is what I love about my travels; no matter what our differences, we have some amazing similarities.

Celebration, a First Nation heritage event taking place in Juneau, Alaska, originated and was sponsored in 1982 by Sealaska. The gathering takes place every other year and is the biggest event for Native Americans in Alaska for Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.

To me, the coolest thing of all is that this is not done for tourists, but for the First Nation peoples, to transmit their culture to their children, and to celebrate themselves. This second video focuses on the clans and their special dances:

Now here is the exciting thing. It only happens every two years. This year it will take place June 6 – June 9. Here’s the information:

Celebration Native Cultural Conference
June 06, 2012 to June 09, 2012
A biennial Native cultural celebration featuring colorful costumed processions, dance performances, authentic arts and crafts and gatherings. Held in various venues including Centennial Hall Convention Center.
907-463-4844
http://www.sealaskaheritage.org

We already have plans for this June (I’ll share more about that later) but I talked to AdventureMan and said I really, really want to go in 2014. He said (are you sitting down?) “That’s just the kind of thing I LOVE! We’ve been planning to go to Alaska anyway, let’s go for that celebration!”

And that is why, after all these years of being married, I still adore my husband. He is a man with a heart for Adventure, and he gets all excited about the same things I do, well, some of the time. There was a falcon fest once in Tunisia that he dragged his feet on because he had just gotten in from a long trip, but once we got there, we all agreed it was one of those things that we would have regretted forever if we missed it. He is always up for a new adventure!

Wooooo HOOOOOOOOO!

See you there?

May 19, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Heritage, Humor, Kuwait, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel | 2 Comments

To Kuwait: Happy Liberation and Independence Days Celebrations

Wishing all my Kuwait friends all the blessings of liberty, and independence.

I always remember February in Kuwait as being one of the nicest months of the year – so how is it this year? My friends in Doha tell me they are having a heat wave!

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Doha, Events, ExPat Life, Holiday, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Weather | 4 Comments

Week of Celebrations For Qatar’s National Day

Wouldn’t you think these celebrations would want lots and lots of observers, helping celebrate? So . . . where and when is the camel dressage? (I really, REALLY want to see that!) Which day is the parade? When are the fireworks?

Announcements like this are tantalizing, and hard information often difficult to come by.

Gala planned for National Day
Web posted at: 12/7/2009 1:27:32
Source ::: The Peninsula
BY HUDA N V

DOHA: Qatar is set to celebrate National Day, which falls on December 18, on a grand scale this time. A series of exhilarating programmes have been lined up for the week-long celebrations starting six days ahead of the landmark date.

Beginning from December 12, various competitions, symposiums, parades and other events meant for family and children would mark the celebrations. The first day would witness two traditional Qatari sporting events — the Masseela Horse Race and Pure bred Arabian Camel Race.

Highlighting the country’s penchant for Arab horse racing and camel dressage, the National Day Masseela Horse Race will take place at the Darb-a-Saai Camp in Rawda Umm Rouman (Al Rayyan).

The horse race will be organised in the traditional Qatari way, whereby pairs of riders will challenge each other in a test of courage with the winning rider advancing to the next round.

The Masseela Horse Race, featuring both Arabian horses and Qatari riders dressed in the traditional attire of the ancestors is an apt way to introduce the young generation to the traditions of their ancestors.

Arabian camels from Qatar’s leading stables will compete in two contests — camel dressage and ‘Best Behaved Camel’. In the dressage, a camel has to complete a routine within a specific time and it is to be judged on the way it has been dressed up.

The ‘Best Behaved Camel’ competition will judge a camel on its ability to overcome obstacles and distractions such as water and food. Other events include a poetry competition for Qatari men and women focusing on their recitation skills. Various Qatari tribes will also showcase the traditional sword dance — Ardha — accompanied by music composition using traditional musical instruments. A symposium will also be held on the occasion.

Al Dawha satellite Channel, which was launched during the National Day in 2008, will be on air again this time with documentaries highlighting the progress, history and culture of the nation. On day, the Corniche will witness a huge military parade and a colourful rally. The 5km stretch of will be bejewelled in light. The grand finale of the week-long celebrations would be marked by a spectacular pyrotechnic.

Qatar University will also celebrate the occasion. Over 500 students have signed up for various activities to be held on December 16. A huge parade showcasing the history of Qatar, the visions of various rulers  right from the first to Qatar Vision 2030, some of the greatest events in Qatar such as the Asian Games and the Qatar’s World Cup bid 2022 will also take place.

December 7, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Doha, Events, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Qatar, Technical Issue | 10 Comments

“Ban Valentine’s Day Celebrations”

(Yawn)

I hate it when I can’t find the entry all typed up for me in one of the local online versions of the newspaper; it means I have to type the whole thing in by myself. I guess all the newspapers felt this was to ho-hum to put on the online edition.

Live from the Kuwait Times:

Ban Valentine’s Day Celebrations
KUWAIT: MPs have spung to action earlier than usual. They have urged the government to ban any form of Valentine’s Day celebrations on February 14. Lawmakers have asked the MInister of Commerce and Industry to see it that Kuwaiti traditions and values are fully observed, reported Al Watan. Speaking in this regard, MP Mohammed Hayef al-Mutairi urged the Commerce minister, Ahmed Baqer to ban the import of merchandise related to celebrating the “heathen occasion” (allusion to Valentine’s Day). He also warned local companies against displaying any of these goods for sale.

“This is against Islam and misleads our youth” he said. MP Abdullatif Al Omairi said that celebrating this day was a ‘blind imitation of the West.’ It is something that does not belong to us, something that is completely alien to our society, morals and traditions,” he warned. He urged the government to interfere and preserve Muslim values. “There are only two Eids in Islam. We should not celebrate Christians’ festivities because they do not celebrate ours,” he said.

As if celebrating Valentine’s Day could be stopped! As if a loving husband doesn’t invite his wife to dinner, or as if a loving wife doesn’t fix something special for her husband just because, just because. As if you won’t buy chocolates for your sweetheart, or flowers, whether or not there is a Valentine’s Day (February 14th) advertisement in a window. As if you can forbid the joyful celebration of a relationship. It’s not about a Christian holiday; this stopped being a religious holiday long ago, if it ever was, this holiday is purely about the joy of living. Not unlike Liberation Day, or a national day, neither of which are Islamic, and both of which are joyfully celebrated.

When will these lawmakers (and I include the lawmakers in all nations) learn that when you forbid something, you only make it more attractive?

In my country, we have some very serious national issues to tackle. I prefer that my lawmakers focus on national issues and not issues-of-choice to private individuals. (AdventureMan already knows where he is taking me on Valentine’s Day. 🙂 See you there!)

February 4, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual | 39 Comments