Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Lectionary Gospel for Thanksgiving

Today’s New Testament reading in the church Lectionary should give us all pause, as we celebrate Thanksgiving. No, being Episcopalian is not all “feel-good” religion.

James 4:13-5:6

13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’14Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.15Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.17Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

5Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure*for the last days. 4Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

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November 22, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sleepy Little Doha

My husband used to travel in and out of Doha for years before we actually moved there. He would tell me stories about “sleepy little Doha,” before-natural gas Doha, in a country that was not the richest country in the world. The international community then was so small that they would gather at the American Ambassador’s residence on Fridays for drinks and a cook-out, casually exchanging information and gossip on a lazy afternoon. This was also pre 9-11, when the need for mind-numbing security was not so imperative.

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I received the above photo in the mail today, and I laughed out loud and showed AdventureMan. We were there when the Sheraton Hotel was “way out there” in the middle of no-where. A new mall with a Carrefour had opened near the Sheraton and was visible from the dhow parking in mid-Doha.

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Look just above the dhows, to the left of the white building with green windows and you will see a flat building and Carrefour on it.

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The pyramid on the right is the Sheraton, once the hottest hotel in Doha. To the left, you can see the white building with the green windows, which almost disappears now. I want you to notice how relatively bare the skyline is, and this is 2005.

 

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These two buildings used to be the tallest on the Corniche.

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You can see them in the lower right of this photo, dwarfed by all the new sky-scrapers. At the far left, you can see one of my very favorites, a (formerly) tall building with a mosque built jutting out in the middle. You can barely see it now; it used to be one of the most prominent buildings on the Corniche.

DohaMosqueOfficeBuilding

This is what the building looks like when not surrounded by giants.

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This is what it looks like now, almost indistinguishable from the buildings surrounding and overwhelming it.

I used to meet a friend every Tuesday morning and walk the Corniche. We watched the buildings going up, tributes to the huge amounts of cash pouring into the Doha economy and the huge egos that need to build huge towers to put their names on. As they were being built, there were constant fires, mostly electrical, which challenged the fire department and killed the low-paid laborers. American firms seeking office space brought in experts to inspect buildings before renting them, to be sure modern, safe construction practices had been used. Most of the new high rises had been built with severe deficits, unsafe concrete, unsafe wiring, failure to allow people to evacuate safely in case of an emergency and elevators that barely worked even when brand new.

We particularly laughed at the giant phallic silver building front and center.

The extreme heat and humidity of Doha is hard on even good construction, drying out sealants on the windows (allowing dust and water to penetrate), peeling facades, making buildings a mere twenty years old look dingy and severely weathered. One relatively new building had windows popping out in its first five years.

On a hot night AdventureMan and I would have dinner downtown, often at The Majlis, and then go out to the Corniche and board one of the dhows decorated with strings of Christmas lights for a cooling ride along the coastline, where the breezes would blow and Sleepy Little Doha would sparkle.

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September 23, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Qatar | 1 Comment

When Nothing Means Something

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I lived through the 70’s and the ’80’s and as I have watched the young of our generation grow to maturity, I have had hope for a different kind of world. I believed I saw it coming, a new way of thinking, where women had equality, where all people had respect regardless of skin shade. I suspected it would be slow, but the dinosaurs my age and older would die off, leaving the more enlightened young people in charge.

When Obama was elected, I danced for joy. I saw it as a sign – a man of color elected President of the United States! To me, he embodied what our nation was established to attain. Freedom. Liberty. Justice for ALL. Equal opportunity.

This morning,  AdventureMan and I were talking; as I was leaving his office I tweaked his photos by mere centimeters. They had shifted and were just a little crooked.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said (and I had already done it.)

(Barely perceptible pause, but a pause none the less) “Oh no, my dear.”

We both broke out laughing. Sometimes people who have been married for a long time lie to each other in such a way, to be polite, not to rock the boat, but at the same time letting the other person know exactly how you feel about something.

That barely imperceptible pause had meaning. Nothing was something.

When you are a teen-age girl, there are a lot of things you tell yourself when trying to figure out what to do.

“Really, nothing happened  . . . .”

“I wasn’t supposed to be at that party”

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that bathing-suit. Maybe it was my fault”

“I know Mom and Dad would back me, but they would also be really pissed.”

“Do I want to be known as ‘that girl?'”

Maybe you talk to your friends. Most girls won’t talk to their parents, unless it is really severe and you can’t hide it.

I now – I worked with rape victims for two years at a Rape Crisis line. We listened. We offered information. We listened. We offered to go with them if they wanted to tell someone, like the police. We educated – police, hospital workers, first responders, parents. We listened. We went to court with the victims who chose to file charges. We listened.

The bravest woman I ever met was in Doha. I had agreed to meet with her when her mother told me she had been assaulted. She had been offered a ride home, the guy was the big brother of a school friend, driving her and her sister home. Instead, he and his friend drove deep into the desert, forced the girl out of the car and told her to co-operate and they would leave her little sister alone.

She negotiated. She wouldn’t do all that they tried to force her to do. Then they took her home.

She talked to a couple friends, who told her she needed to tell her parents because it had happened before, and could happen again. The young girls were like prey to these guys.

She went to the police, she named names. They were arrested, and when she saw them in the line-up, she told the police she needed for them to take off their clothes so she could tell for sure that it was them. She knew it was them. She also knew that they were from a good family and that nothing serious was going to happen to them no matter what the charges, but she wanted a moment where she could humiliate them in some small way for the way she had been abused and mistreated.

It was one of those unequal power moments, but she used what little power she had.

“I wanted to get this on the record,” she told me, “I wanted to make sure that when they go to get married, that their names will be on the record, and if not, people in Doha have long memories. Who will want to marry their daughters to these men?”

She was 16.

Her family suffered. Her father was heart-broken that he had brought his family to Doha and that he had, as he saw it, failed to protect his daughter. The family left Doha soon thereafter.

I still honor that girl, her courage, her wisdom, her dry-eyed willingness to speak out.

And I believe Dr. Ford. I believe she kept it to herself, maybe sharing a little with close friends. She was terrified and she was 15. She carried it for a long time. For most rape victims, like my 16 year old friend, the sexual violation pales in comparison to the violation of personal boundaries and the fear that you may not survive. You are in shock. You often blame yourself. You want to move on, and you don’t want to be known as “that girl that got raped.” She was younger than Kavanaugh, less powerful, a teen-ager.

President Trump, you are just an ignorant oaf. You think you are something, but you are nothing. It’s not like women are assaulted and men aren’t. A thousand Catholic boys can tell you differently, and they feel the same shame as female victims feel. I hope everyone in America reads your ignorant, hateful, smarmy tweet and see the horror in having you as a President.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Leadership, Mating Behavior, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Relationships, Survival, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Intlxpatr Turns 12 Years Old

Welcome! Grab a flute, come on in and mingle.

 

Who knew, when I held my breath and posted my first post in September of 2006, that I would still be blogging – with the same blog (!) – twelve years later.

I miss my life. It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t. When I started blogging in Kuwait, I was once again going up against the steep learning curve of starting over in a new place, discovering where to buy groceries (milk and dairy at the local Co-op, fresh vegetables at a huge vegetable market to the south of Fintas, western staples – a luxury – at the Sultan Center. I bought what I needed, most of the time, but occasionally, a price would be so shockingly out of line that I couldn’t bring myself to do it – like a package of chocolate chip cookies that you just cut and bake for something like $15 when I could make them from scratch by myself. But I digress.

Blogging was new and fresh, and I loved reading the thoughts of other bloggers. I learned so much, and I learned to think differently. Their thoughts were not my thoughts, and I got a very clear view of my own cultural blinders.

I also met some wonderful Kuwaitis. It was a world I loved, a world of ideas and discussions. It was fun. I quickly felt at home in Kuwait; I felt I was gaining perspective from many minds, and it helped me form a more complex picture. I laugh to think it will never be a complete picture; you know how even people you’ve known for a long time can surprise you?

AventureMan told me today I had surprised him. He was talking about how good we are at doing our homework for trips, and how we “roll with the punches.” In my very direct way, I said “No we don’t! We gripe with the punches.”

First I got a stunned silence, then the guffaw of laughter, and then we were both laughing. I love it that I can still catch him by surprise.

So welcome to the celebration of 12 years sharing lives, sharing ideas, sharing our common humanity. This year, in addition to the beautiful cakes I have so much fun enjoying in virtual world, I have added cupcakes, in honor of a five year old granddaughter who has a great eye.

 

 

 

Please stay as long as you’d like . . .

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Pensacola, Shopping | 10 Comments

Are You Chinese?

I always like to see where my visitors are coming from. Lately, I’ve had a surge in visitors from Hong Kong/ SAR / China.

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Usually, most of my visitors are from the USA, Canada and Kuwait. If you are Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese or SAR, could you give me a clue as to what has drawn your attention to this blog? I’m just curious.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Blogging, Cross Cultural, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Unknown Unknowns

Gordon was rolling in and no one knew if it would come as a tropical storm or a hurricane. Trust me, preparing for a hurricane is a lot of work, and we had to make a decision whether or not to put up the window coverings (we did not), to check over our hurricane supplies, like water, batteries, towels, buckets, cat cages, etc, which we did. I even made a big fresh pot of coffee, in case it were a long time before I saw coffee again, I could even drink it cold. AdventureMan cleaned the gutters, brought in outdoor furniture that could blow around, and placed heavier plants strategically so they would damage the house as little as possible if carried by hurricane force winds. Like I said, it is a lot of work.

 

We had wind and rain, lots of wind and sheets of rain, and bangs of thunder, and bangs of electrical conduits exploding, but although the power dimmed, we did not lose power entirely. Our only leaks this storm are in the garage.

The morning dawned; continued windy and rainy and thundery. We decided to go to a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch and had to detour three times before we could get there, twice due to deep pockets of water in the road, too deep to drive through, and once due to a tree down over the road. There are lots of pockets of deep water, and several trees down. We got off easy.

Aarrgh; now for putting all the carpets back down, getting the outdoor furniture back outside and putting the house back in “normal” mode.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Florida, Living Conditions, Survival, Weather | | Leave a comment

First World Problem

My problems are probably not your problems, but we all have to carry our own loads.

So yesterday, I was on the way to the YMCA for my water aerobics class; it helps me fight creeping depression. Why would I be depressed? Existentially, the tone of the current regime offends me, offends my values, and I have to fight not only depression, but also angry frustration. So I pray, asking for input which will alter my sour outlook.

At the pool, the first person I run into is one of my long-time pool buddies, and she has her little daughter with her. I ask how she is doing, and she says “I am not happy.” I know this woman, she is a good woman, and a conscientious mother. She goes on to say that she is at an age where other parents are waving their children off into independence, into college and jobs and marriages and children, and that will never happen for her. Her little daughter is 31, with Downs syndrome. She is a sweet, easy woman, but will always be a little girl.

My friend wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me how she saw her life at that moment in time, she was sharing her reality. I hugged her. It wouldn’t change anything, but she knew I was listening.

I left with an entirely changed point of view, going home to help AdventureMan take care of our two little “petites-enfants.” Tropical Storm Gordon is rolling in, their parents have to work and school has closed down in concerns for the safety of the children and their transportation. My problems are so First World. I got the input I needed.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Community, Exercise, Faith, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

A Thousand Kisses

Schools started Monday in our county in Florida, so now we have two grandchildren with us after school. AdventureMan is the real hero; he is not only a good teacher, he is also a lot of fun, good at playing with and entertaining the kids. I am good for explaining things and talking about things – and for 1,000 kisses.

“What is 1,000 kisses?” you might ask?

It’s a game I made up when my own son was two and a half or so, a silly game, a mommy game, where I give his tummy a whole bunch of kisses really fast with loud smacking noises. It causes hilarious gales of laughter, helpless laughter, because it tickles, because I am very noisy (and only a little scary) and well just because it’s fun.

It also teaches about consent. From the very beginning, I tell them that whenever they say “STOP” I have to stop, and without fail, when one of the grandchildren says “stop”, I stop. I want them to know about “safe” words, and I want them to know that no one has the right to do anything to their bodies without their consent.

Our eight year old grandson came in today, pulling up his shirt, and said “How about 1,000 kisses?” and I said “Aren’t you too old?” He said no, no he wasn’t.

I can still keep him pinned enough that he goes limp from laughter, but he is getting stronger and stronger and the day will come when I have to stop. For him now, the fun is in the struggle. He thinks he can beat me, but he can’t – yet. Actually, with him, almost as tall as I am, I am already ready to stop, but he is not quite there yet. At some point, very soon, I am going to have to just tell him that he is too big, too strong, and I can’t play 1,000 kisses with him anymore.

There is still his little sister, just turning five, who also showed up with her T-shirt pulled up demanding 1,000 kisses, so I think I probably have a few good years left with her. She doesn’t even bother to put up any resistance, just bursts forth with gale after gale of lilting laughter that brightens my soul and my lights up my day. Soon enough, she yells “STOP!” and we are both ready to stop, catch our breaths, and have a good chat.

 

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Communication, Family Issues, Generational, Parenting, Relationships, Values | | 2 Comments

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment