Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Wooo HOOO the New Q8 Books!

Brava! Brava, Fajer! What a great gift to the children and the community, to make Q8Books more accessible and family friendly. Woooo HOOOOO!

Reading and literacy are key to civilization. Brava!

 

From the Kuwait Times:

Kuwait’s community bookshop gets new life

Spooky Books storytime

Finding quality English books in Kuwait is a challenge as any book lover here knows. Local lawyer Fajer Ahmed, 26, recently took up the challenge when she acquired the small but well-loved bookshop, Q8 Books. She moved Q8 Books from downtown Kuwait City into a renovated space in Bayt Lothan, the non-profit arts and culture center located next to Marina Mall in Salmiya. Home to more than 15,000 titles of all genres including literature, general fiction, history, romance, thrillers and mysteries, westerns, classics, cook books, true crime, self help and motivation, family and lifestyle, business and philosophy and arts and crafts, Q8 Books has something to suit every reader’s taste.

By adding sofas, tables, chairs and beanbags, Q8 Books created a cozy, relaxed atmosphere along with free WiFi that invites customers to come and hang out. “We want to encourage reading, writing and communication in Kuwait, “Fajer explained. “As one example, we provide local writers with a place to display and sell their books free of charge, we also do all the administrative work for them.”

A community bookshop
Q8 Books also holds a free weekly story time for children, offers 50% store credit for trade ins, encourages book clubs and other responsible community groups free space to hold meetings and has an outreach project to support a library in Gambia. “We thank Bayt Lothan for giving Q8 Books a home,” Fajer said. “Without them none of this would have been possible.” Q8 Books’ erudite former owner, Jacob, started the bookshop almost a decade ago with only a handful of books. During his travels, he would browse used bookstores and markets to find quality titles that would be appreciated by the book-loving community in Kuwait. Jacob continues to help out at Q8 Books along with a group of dedicated volunteers and support from the Kuwait Writing Club.

Fajer also organizes regular events in order to build Q8 Books as a community space. On the first of November, Q8 Books hosted a Spooky Book night for kids, which included a story telling by local street artist Monstariam dressed in a bunny costume, a crafts and arts table, coloring and glitter, a costume contest and a chance for parents to browse and chat.

Kid and family friendly
“We really enjoyed Spooky Books night,” said Umm Sara, a mother of three children who attended the event all wearing ‘scary’ costumes. “The kids loved the story telling and we got several books. Much better than going to a mall and they got to draw and color and dress up.” The Kuwait Writing Club also took part, judging over 80 submissions for the writing competition. The winning submission will be published in Kuwait Times. “We also had a cover design competition for children to draw covers for the age appropriate horror story, Goosebumps, and every kid that took park received a free book of their choice,” Fajer explained.

Q8 Books will offer monthly events for children and parents with the goal of encouraging reading. “When kids come in playing games on electronic devices, we try to find books with the same characters and get them interested in reading,” Fajer noted. “Welovekuwait.com Children’s Bookshop has also donated coloring and reading books to give for free for every child that walks in.” Q8 Books encourages Kuwait’s community of readers to share their love of reading. They accept donations and offer store credit for traded in books. They also invite anyone to email ask@q8bookstore.com if they are interested in volunteering, donating or just want to talk to someone about suggestions for what to read.

Q8 Books is located in Bayt Lothan, next to Marina Mall. Store Hours: Weekdays 9am- 1pm and 5pm-9pm. Weekends 11am-9pm. Follow them on Instagram @q8bookstore

By Jamie Etheridge

 

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Books, Character, Civility, Community, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Uwem Akpan and Say You’re One of Them

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This is a very troubling book, and, for me, a difficult book to read. It has taken me weeks, and I will admit I have often interrupted the reading of it to read other, easier books. This book makes me very uncomfortable. The stories and images trouble my sleep.

Uwem Akpan is of the tribe of Annang, from Nigeria, and has committed to an even larger tribe, the Catholic Church, of which he is a priest, and this gives him a unique perspective. The stories in this book often focus on tribal differences, including religious differences, and although they are set in different African states, have parallels in lives lived elsewhere. Those tribal differences are between Moslem and Christian, but also between Pentecostal and Catholic, Tutsi and Hutu, and, most significantly, the differences between to tribe of the very poor and the very rich.

Each story is told through the eyes of a child living in a different African state – Kenya, Benin, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda.

In one of my favorite segments of the book, strife has broken out in Nigeria, strife between the Moslems and the Christians, but also throw in the Pentecostals and the Pagans and really mix it up. A bus is waiting in the bus station to take people back to the southern part of Nigeria, and on this bus is a young man, half Moslem, half Christian. The bus stands idle for hours, while the bus driver seeks fuel to make the trip. During this time on the bus, many conversations take place, and what I loved was how alliances shifted with each conversation. The people on the bus were from different traditions, but came together as a community. No community is without arguments and dissensions, however, and consensus builds, diminishes, shifts – it is a microcosm of the tensions and stressors pulling apart the Nigerian nation state.

Uwem Akpan treats the children in each story lovingly, treasuring their innocent perspective and the sweetness of their hearts and vision. The adults don’t come off so well, passing their days in drug-induced stupors, drunk, selling children into slavery and prostitution, chopping off their limbs with machetes, and closing themselves off into groups which protect themselves and exploit others.

It would be an easier book to read if it were about aliens, or if these stories were confined to Africa, but the stories of these abused, neglected and exploited children echo in every continent, country and city in the world.

Uwem Akpan writes prose that is poetry; the surroundings are described with such detail that you feel in the moment, you see through the eyes of each child, and you see things that are beautiful as well as scenes you did not want to see. As you can see, I have a lot of ambiguous feelings about this book. At the same time I can admire the writing, the stories have left images in my mind that cannot be erased. Dark images. There is hope in the persistence and resilience of many of the children, but concern about their long term survival. It leaves a heavy weight on my heart.

July 28, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Parenting, Poetry/Literature, Values, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Justin Cronin: The Twelve

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I had downloaded The Twelve to my iPad for a trip, but didn’t get to it, and sort of forgot it was there until my son mentioned he was listening to it on audio-books, and it was good, maybe even better than the first book in the trilogy, The Passage. He had loaned me The Passage several years ago when it came out, and as soon as I finished, I got on the list to download as soon as the next book came out – it was that good.

 

Cronin’s gift is an ability to create a future world entirely different from our own, with a devastating enemy – the virals – who, literally, are us, transformed. Cronin can make the enemy terrifying, destructive, truly horrifying – and can make them also captive to their repugnant nature and even pitiable. I think that is an amazing dance for an author to accomplish.

 

The setting is post-apocalyptic USA; the government had a sector working on a secret weapon which – of course – was not able to be contained, creating 12 super vampire-like creatures called Virals, who in turn create hordes of minions. This volume, The Twelve, is set more than 100 years later, but shifts back to earlier times to help us understand how this disaster occurred, and how characters relate back to the earliest times of the disaster.  The populations live in fear of sudden attacks; one family, out on a picnic, are almost totally wiped out by an eclipse for which the Virals were prepared – and the families were not.

 

As I read his books, I find them very cinematic, but, as my son and I discussed, too complex for a movie; it would need a gritty HBO series like The Wire, or OZ, or Deadwood to capture the subtleties, the nuances that make this a best-selling series. The heroes and heroines are all make for the screen, their relationships – and inter-relationships – make them interesting, and then, as we learn more, interesting again. We never know enough to make a final judgement on any character; the characters are complex and the relationships obscure until the author chooses to reveal. It makes it fun to try to spot them before he tells us. I missed a couple!

 

Although it can be read as a great-adventure stand-alone, you’ll be happier if you read The Passage before you read The Twelve. If you have a problem with postponing gratification, you might want to wait until the third and conclusive volume of the trilogy is published  – and that may be a year or so.

July 13, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Character, Community, Fiction, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Survival | , | Leave a comment

Jeannette Walls and The Silver Star and Negligent Mothers

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The first time I read anything by Jeannette Walls, I had not read her autobiographical best-seller, The Glass Castle. If I had, when I read the opening pages of one of my all-time-favorite books, Half Broke Horses , three young children out checking on the cows in America of the mid-1800’s, I would have said “Oh, yes, this is Jeannette Walls” instead of being so shocked that these three children were so far from home with a storm approaching. Not only does the storm approach – the oldest sister pushes her younger sister and brother up a tree and they are stuck there through a violent storm all night. No adult comes looking for them.

“Where is their mother?” in shock I thought, “a mother with three children out in the storm goes looking for them!”

Not if you are a Jeannette Walls mother. To ‘get’ Jeannette Walls, you really have to start with The Glass Castle, and learn about how she and her siblings are at the mercy of an alcoholic mother and father, both big liars, maybe with some attendant mental problems. Half Broke Horses is fiction, based on her own grandmother, who, at 15 rides 28 days across Indian territory to teach at a far-away school (What mother lets her 15 year old DAUGHTER ride for a month across dangerous country ALONE??)

I was on the send-as-soon-as-it’s-published list for Silver Star. And even once it arrived, I waited until I knew I might have a few free hours in the evening to read it – once you start Jeannette Walls, you can’t put it down. Her heroines in this novel are 15 year old Liz and 12 year old Bean (Jean) whose mother ran away from her hometown in Virginia to pursue a career in music. The mother has a small inheritance to sustain them; when life sours, as it often does for her, she packs the girls into her worn Dodge Dart and takes off. She isn’t always good about paying her bills. She talks to her girls about what a great team they are, and then takes off for a day or two, usually with some man, leaving them to eat chicken pot pies. Then, she abandons them with no sign of when she will be back.

The girls are pistols. They are survivors, much like Jeannette Walls grandmother in Half Broke Horses. When social services start coming around asking where their mother is, they take off headed for their Mom’s old home town, across the continent, in Virginia.

The heart of the story finds the girls living in the old family mansion, scouting for odd jobs, learning more about themselves and their heritage, and learning how a small community can smother, judge and support their community members in unexpected ways.

If you are a negligent, man-oriented, self-absorbed mother, you don’t want to have a writer for a daughter. Jeannette Walls is having a ball; her books are both sad and hilarious, and she has utter scorn for mothers who do not take the reins of motherhood and behave like grown-ups.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | Books, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Humor, Living Conditions, Parenting, Relationships, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did; from the first chapter I was hooked, so hooked I didn’t want to go to water aerobics of go to sleep until I had finished it. The title sounds girly and romantic, big yawn, but the book is anything but. The book is tough, and edgy, and tackles the foster care system without using sexual assault or out-of-the-ordinarily-cruel foster parents to bludgeon the point. She botches her one great chance at happiness when she sabotages her adoption by Elizabeth, who loves her dearly. The system can even be caring, but the effect of warehousing unwanted and neglected children damages their ability to trust, and to form relationships. We watch her as a child, self-destructive, angry, undermining her own chances of happiness.

Victoria even has a girly name to go with the title, but she is tough, and self-reliant, and very, very vulnerable, in spite of her toughness. Aging out of the system, she emerges a waif, with a hunger that stems more from emotional needs than physical.

She is greatly blessed to cross paths with people who look at her and truly see her, see her possibilities and her vulnerabilities, people who are willing to work with her, even to love her patiently, in spite of her prickliness and tendency to push people away. One of these is a florist, Renate, who recognizes in Victoria a gift for floral arrangement and is willing to work around her eccentricities. She gives Victoria a part-time job, in which Victoria flourishes.

In her emotional life, however, Victoria still has a lot of unresolved issues, stemming back to the very beginning when she was given up by a mother who, for whatever reason, didn’t want her. While she is hungry for love, she fears it as much as she wants it. Relationships overwhelm her. She abandons the love of her life, and then has to live with the consequences.

Watching her resolve her issues is cliff-hanging. You can’t stop reading. It’s not like watching a train-wreck; you know this girl has inner resources she has not yet tapped; you can read it in the loving evaluation of those who surround her. Every page of the way you are rooting for her to succeed.

 

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Books, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Parenting, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Americanah and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Rushing from one meeting to another yesterday, I had just an hour – but during that hour, Terry Gross was interviewing one of my favorite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does GREAT interviews. She is funny, and educated and insightful; she can talk about painful topics and make you laugh and cry with her. That interview was a blessing on my day.

I started reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when I was in Kuwait. A good friend approached me and asked me to form a book club. LOL. This is a friend I can’t say no to. Every introverted bone in my body was screaming “NO! NO!” and I smiled at her and said “Yes.”

God is good. He laughed when I said “yes” and through the book club, introduced me to authors I might never otherwise read. The club was made up of many nationalities, and we read books from everywhere, unforgettable books. We read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Half of a Yellow Sun.” Once you read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, there is no going back. I wonder if I will be able to hold out on Americanah until it comes out in paperback?

This is from the National Public Radio website, so you can actually listen to the interview yourself, should you want to get to know this delightful author a little better.

‘Americanah’ Author Explains ‘Learning’ To Be Black In The U.S.

June 27, 2013 2:39 PM
Americanah

When the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was growing up in Nigeria she was not used to being identified by the color of her skin. That changed when she arrived in the United States for college. As a black African in America, Adichie was suddenly confronted with what it meant to be a person of color in the United States. Race as an idea became something that she had to navigate and learn.

The learning process took some time and was episodic. Adichie recalls, for example, an undergraduate class in which the subject of watermelon came up. A student had said something about watermelon to an African-American classmate, who was offended by the comment.

“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘But what’s so bad about watermelons? Because I quite like watermelons,’ ” Adichie tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

She felt that her African-American classmate was annoyed with her because Adichie didn’t share her anger — but she didn’t have the context to understand why. The history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was not taught to students in Nigeria. Adichie had yet to learn fully about the history of slavery — and its continuing reverberations — in the U.S.

“Race is such a strange construct,” says Adichie, “because you have to learn what it means to be black in America. So you have to learn that watermelon is supposed to be offensive.”

Adichie is a MacArthur Fellowship winner and author of the novels Purple Hibiscusand Half of A Yellow Sun. Her new novel, Americanah, explores this question of what it means to be black in the U.S., and tells the story of a young Nigerian couple, one of whom leaves for England and the other of whom leaves for America.

The title, she says, is a Nigerian word for those who have been to the U.S. and return with American affectations.

“It’s often used,” she says, “in the context of a kind of gentle mockery.”

June 28, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Biography, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Travel | 2 Comments

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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I danced when I saw the Amazon box; rarely do I buy hardcover (hurts too much when they fall over if I fall asleep reading, too bulky to carry on planes) but this one I was on the waiting list for, mail it as soon as it is published! Khaled Housseini, author of Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns has a new runaway best-seller; thanks to him I’ve just spent three days in Afghanistan, Paris and Los Angeles.

As the book opens, I am big brother to a baby sister whose Mom died in childbirth, living in a remote village in Afghanistan. Life is tough, but through the eyes of these children, life is idyllic, even though food is scarce and winters are cold. We have a huge oak tree with a swing, we play with the other children, and we have each other. Our father’s new wife is kind enough, but is busy with her own children, and the drudgery of cooking, cleaning and making do in a very small, poor Afghan village.

Later, I am Pari, living in Paris with an alcoholic, self-absorbed mother, making a life for myself, but always with a nagging feeling of something just outside my peripheral vision, another life . . .

The tale is told through the eyes of many, and on the way to the end of the tale we meet a wide spectrum of humanity, suffer the ills of war, callousness and unintended cruelties. We find that the man with superficial charm also saves and changes the lives of many, we find a doctor who finds fulfillment serving in the poorly resourced hospitals of Afghanistan, and we feel the agonies of a dutiful daughter watching her father fade into the world of Alzheimer’s.

It’s a wonderful, wild ride, richly textured, and when it finishes, you are not ready for it to end.

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fiction, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Paris, Political Issues, Relationships | | 4 Comments

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

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I don’t know what it is about summer reading, but now and then I go on a theme-fest; a couple years ago it was Nigerian literature, and, once hooked . . . when my friend who is now living in Lagos recommended The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, I ordered it right away, thinking from the title it would be maybe light and sweet and humorous.

From the start, that assumption was blown. This is a direct and edgy Nigeria, darker, rougher and full of family secrets, domestic details and messy relationships.

It is a very Nigerian book – this is a good thing. There are cultural things that are not explained, but it all ends up making sense in the end. There are foods I have never heard of – ekuro with shrimp sauce, asun. There is a rudeness in the way they speak to one another, (“Is this a parking lot?” “Do I look like a parking attendant?”), a crudeness in the constant need to carry small bills for bribes, even on public streets. People speak their minds, with little or no mitigation, depending on the status of the person and their own personal goals and agendas.

At the weekly meeting of wives, the senior wife, Iya Segi, doles out rations of household supplies to the other wives, including chocolate powder and hair conditioner . . . and as the senior wives complain about the new wife thrown in their midst, she says:

“You will trip over in your hate if you are not careful, woman. Your mouth discharges words like diarrhea. Let Bolanle draw on every skill she learned in her university! Let her employ every sparkle of youth! Let her use her fist-full breasts. Listen to me, this is not a world she knows. When she doesn’t find what she came looking for, she will go back to wherever she came from.”

There is a whole other world in that one paragraph – a whole other way of seeing life and expressing thoughts. The culture may be alien, but I thoroughly enjoyed being a tiny mouse in the corner at that meeting – and others – and inside the minds of the wives, of Baba Segi, of the driver – so many good stories, so many points of view, and I learned things from behind those high compound walls and closed and locked doors that I might never otherwise have learned. Alien as it was, for me, this was a very good book, new ways of looking at things, and a great recommendation from my friend in Lagos.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Books, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Values, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

Forty Years Wedding Anniversary

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“You’re going to celebrate your anniversary for three days?” my friend asked incredulously.

“No, no, actually, it’s in two parts, we are celebrating the entire weekend, three days, but it’s because it is too hot to walk around New Orleans; so this is just part one, and in December we will celebrate part two with a trip to New Orleans when we can walk around and enjoy all the Christmas decorations and stay somewhere nice.”

It’s what we do.

There have been some years, particularly years with moves, or new positions, or new contracts in them, when anniversaries have sort of fallen by the wayside. We are enjoying making up for all the missed anniversaries, now that we have the great luxury of time.

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We have all kinds of fun plans, a hotel stay, a dinner in a fine restaurant, star gazing out at Ft. Pickens, maybe a dolphin cruise, and a trip up in the very large beach ferris wheel, while it is still at Pensacola Beach. We plan a day in several pools with our son and his wife and our little grandson. All. or part, or some of this may really happen, depending on what the weekend weather looks like. Ft. Pickens has already evacuated all the campers with concerns over this Tropical Storm Andrea coming in, and a dolphin cruise or a trip up on the great wheel may not be such a hot idea at 40 – 50 mph winds, LOL.

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AdventureMan and I knew when we married that we were in it for the long haul. We also knew it wouldn’t be easy. We come from different cultures, different life styles. We both had independent lives and responsibilities. We moved a lot. It wasn’t always easy, but then whose life is, when you know that life from the inside? We’ve had some great adventures, and some fabulous, astounding experiences. We’ve met extraordinary people and made very special life-long friends.

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When I told AdventureMan our weekend might not be as exciting as planned, he laughed and said “we can bring our books.” He always knows how to make me laugh, and taking books is exactly what we did when we first got married, and would take weekend trips to a lakeside resort called Chiemsee; it would be snowing and cold and we would go into this large old lodge with it’s double doors and double shuttered windows, with it’s eiderdown comforters and huge fireplace, and we would pack books. We would sleep and read, and sometimes go eat. If that’s how this anniversary turns out, it’s a very comfortable and familiar way to celebrate.:-)

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AdventureMan loves this blog. He always looks for his name. 🙂 Happy Anniversary, dear husband.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Blogging, Books, Circle of Life and Death, Events, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Hurricanes, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Pensacola, Travel, Values, Weather | , , , | 7 Comments

START with Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh

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I recently wrote a book review on River of Smoke, by Amitav Ghosh, which held me spellbound, so riveting that I had to order Sea of Poppies, which is actually the first volume of the trilogy. I had heard a review of River of Smoke on NPR and although it was written as the second volume in a trilogy, it can be read as a stand-alond.

Yes. Yes, it can be read as a stand-alone, but it is so much easier, I can state with authority, if you read them in order. Once I started Sea of Poppies, I also discovered an extensive glossary in the back, several pages, a list of the words, annotated with suggested origins, and it adds so much color to an already brilliantly colored novel. Much of both novels uses words from many cultures, and words that have been formed by another culture’s understanding of the words (some hilarious). If you like Captain Jack Sparrow, you’re going to love the polyglot language spoken by ship’s crews from many nations trying to communicate with one another. It can be intimidating, but if you sort of say the words out loud the way they are written at the beginning, you begin to find the rhythm and the gist of the communication, just as if you were a new recruit to the sea-going vessels of the early 1800’s. I loved it because it captured the difficulties encountered trying to say the simplest things, and the clever ways people in all cultures manage to get around it, and make themselves understood.

Sea of Poppies starts in a small Indian village, with one of the very small poppy gardens, planted on an advance from an opium factory representative, thrust upon the small farmer, with the result that most small Indian farmers converted their entire allotment from subsistence foods to poppies. Ghosh walks us through an opium processing factory, which is a little like walking through the circles of hell. We meet many of the characters we will follow in River of Smoke, and learn how this diverse group bonded into one sort of super-family through their adventures – and misadventures – together.

It is an entirely engrossing work. Sea of Poppies was short listed for the Man Booker award, and was listed as a “Best Book of the Year” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and The Economist. The theme is the opium trade, leading to the Opium Wars, with China, and is a chilling indictment of how business interests manipulate a population’s perceptions of national interests to justify . . . well, just about anything, in the name of profit.

The theme is woven through human stories so interesting, so textured, so compelling, that you hardly realize you are reading history and learning about the trade, cultures, travel, clothing, traditions, religions, food, and motivations as you avidly turn the pages.

I can hardly wait for the third volume. Get started now, so you’ll be ready for it when it comes out!

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Gardens, Health Issues, India, Language, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Social Issues, Travel, Women's Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments