Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Where is Enugu, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Enugu, in Nigeria:

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As you pray for the well-being of Enugu, would you also pray for all those places where religion is a cause for strife? Syria, northern Nigeria, the newest country in the world, South Sudan? To me, it is just heartbreaking that those who should be living in peace, working together, are in armed bloody conflict against one another.

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , | Leave a comment

A TCK Wedding (Third Culture Kids)

Several years ago, back in my earlier blogging years, a Kuwaiti friend, Amer al Hilaliya wrote a wonderful post: I Am a Third Culture Kid, Are You? He never anticipated the result – comment after comment, some short, some a little bitter, some longer and insightful. The Third Culture Kids know who they are, and are eager to share their insights and experiences – but mostly with other Third Culture Kids, who understand.

Others . . . don’t get it.

This weekend, we went to a wonderful Third Culture Kids wedding. It wasn’t billed that way, but it was so thoroughly that way that I couldn’t stop seeing it. It doesn’t hurt that we are reading the seminal work on Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E Van Renken called, yep, you guessed it, Third Culture Kids.

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It’s almost like reading a whole new book. It has all the Third Culture Kids stories, but has expanded to include third culture kids cousins, like the adult third culture kids, ATCKs (those who have lived a goodly share of their lives in a non-native culture), cross culture adoptees, cross cultural marriages, etc. One of the points they make is that being third culture kids cuts across a lot of boundaries and makes for odd – odd by normal standards – friendships. Once again, across the boundaries – countries, old, young – friendships are determined by a commonality in experiences outside the native culture. It is a fascinating read.

People don’t think of how LONG Florida is, tip to tip, but from Pensacola to Fort Myers is a fuuur piece, as they say, even if it is on an inside curve. Thank God it wasn’t Key West! We thought it would be an eight hour drive, and it turned into thirteen, with heavy traffic from Lake City to Ft Myer.

The wedding was sweet, simple and heart felt. Both sets of parents had done significant missionary work in foreign countries, and the kids were definitely third culture kids. The groom would speak Turkish in his sotto voce asides to his best man, who grew up with him on the streets of Ankara. The bride’s brother read all the greetings and best wishes to the bride from her friends in Hungary – and he read them all in Hungarian.

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Just as the ceremony started, along came a pirate ship! Some things, you just can’t plan, they just happen.

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They all told family stories, and one of them stuck in our hearts because it reflects our own experiences growing up in the Moslem world. The groom, as a young man, came home flustered because a woman on the metro, as he was coming home, noticed he was not wearing an undershirt under his T-shirt, and assumed he was a homeless child. She started talking with all the other passengers, and they marched him off the train to the souks, where they insisted on buying him an undershirt (who knew that you were not properly dressed in Turkey unless you were wearing a sleeveless undershirt?) and also a sweater, to keep him warm on the streets. All this, in spite of the fact that this homeless boy spoke excellent Turkish and kept telling them he had a home! No! No undershirt, he has to be homeless.

Few people in America know the kindnesses we experience living in the Moslem world. It may not always make sense to us – in Tunis, we always wondered if we were getting the annual Eid platter of lamb and couscous showed up because we were thought to be poor or because we were strangers? There has always been a sweetness and generosity to our Moslem neighbors that humbled us. Because of the layering upon layering of these kindnesses, we see Islam, and the Middle East, differently from most of our American friends who have never lived among Moslems. Maybe if we all knew one another a little better, we would have less cause to fear one another, and maybe without all that fear, we could manage a little less hatred.

What is a wedding without babies and children to remind us of the Circle of Life (which AdventureMan calls The Circle of Death). This little one speaks English and Turkish already, and loved the sugar white sands of Ft. Myers Beach and the little seashells, just her size.

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As more and more people cross borders, for work, for play, for marriage, for education, as we live in ‘alien’ cultures and learn other ways of thinking, maybe we are growing into an entire world with a larger viewpoint?

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | 4 Comments

David, and Where is Yambio, South Sudan?

A year ago, we had an extraordinary experience. We often entertain delegates visiting from other countries, and this time we had three African journalists, and, strictly by chance, they all turned out to be Christian. Most of our gatherings are strictly ecumenical, but these were joyful, praying Christians, and the evening took a turn we never anticipated.

 

“So how did you find Jesus?” one woman asked David, from the newest country in the world, South Sudan. Inside, I was shocked, and when I am shocked, my tendency is to laugh, I don’t know why, it is just the way I am wired. Every culture is so different. In the South, people might ask that of one another, particularly if you worship in a fundamental sect, but our sect is more formal, and to inquire into another’s spiritual life can be perceived as intrusive.

 

David, however, was not taken aback. “It’s a long story,” he said, and we all settled into comfortable chairs to listen better. It was Christmas, the decorations were up, the lights all twinkling and we had eaten. A good time for a story.

It was a long story. It started with a little boy in a happy family, who one day was told to run! Run! Run into the forest and hide! The riders were coming! His family grabbed a very few things and ran.

 

His family ran for years. His family ran into forests, across borders, into dry arid spaces. Sometimes some of the children would get separated from their parents for a while, but they would keep asking, and eventually meet up again, only to face separation again. Their whole lives were running, from the Janjaween, from border police, from robbers.

 

At one point, he and a brother stayed in a church, and a priest taught them about Jesus. Simple stories, simple songs, and he drew letters and numbers in the dirt – that was his early schooling. It was a haven of peace for him.

 

Many years later, the family was reunited in their village in the new country of South Sudan. Miraculously, every member of his family survived, indeed, most of his village survived. They had maintained lines of communication through all those years of running and separation, and were so thankful. Most of all, now, they were thankful – they had a church in their village. David had learned to love learning, and had completed his education and had found a wonderful job.

 

“I don’t know the book like you do,” he told us, “I only know it like a little child sitting at the feet of that priest, but I am learning.”

 

I can’t help but think that David knows more than he thinks. David holds his belief in Jesus like a child, simple and direct. His testimony is powerful and unforgettable. I am in awe, even a year later, of his story and testimony.

 

Today the church prays for the diocese of Yambio, in the South Sudan:

 

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December 17, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Africa, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Gulf Citizens Diplomacy Council, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Sudan | 2 Comments

Condolences South Africa: Nelson Madela

In Memory of Nelson Mandela

Nelson-Mandela’s-Top-Five-Contributions-to-Humanity

December 5, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death | | Leave a comment

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: Heather Lende

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“You have to read this!” said my book friend, “You’re from Alaska! It’s about a woman who lives in some small town and writes obituaries!”

I grinned politely and put the book in my bag. Some books sound more interesting than other books – I’ve always loved adventures and mysteries and murders – add a little drama to the day-to-day-ness of everyday life. A woman who writes obituaries? Hmmm, not so much.

But spending my afternoons tending to my sweet little 3-month-old granddaughter means I often sit, anchored by the soundly sleeping baby who I don’t want to disturb, even by twitching. I have one hand free – and you can only play so much iPhone Sudoku.

An Alaskan friend had also recommended this book, so early this week I picked it up and started reading.

Oh. my. goodness. Yes, Haines is a small town, but oh the drama of writing obituaries. Oh, the things you learn about your neighbors and the surprises you get learning about their earlier lives. I love the way Heather Lende weaves the writing of the town obituaries with the current ongoing dramas in her own life and in the lives of her friends and makes it work.

It’s not unlike where I grew up, although my hometown had a hospital. We also had moose and bear and elk in our back yards, and learned to treat wildlife with respect, and that the best option was to back away slowly. There are the same senseless deaths from auto accidents, fishing boat accidents and unexpected changes in weather. There is the same feeling of wonder, almost every day of your life, knowing how very lucky you are to live in the midst of such awe-inspiring beauty. It’s hard for me to imagine being an unbeliever living in Alaska.

It’s also a great book to read before going to bed. Some of the books I read are too exciting or too disturbing to read before bed; books that infiltrate your dreams with images and situations that give you a restless night. While Lende deals with death and sadness and drama, there is an underlying message of hope in the neighborliness of your neighbors, the security of living in a town where everybody knows everybody else, in the civility even of people who strongly disagree with one another. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name gives you peaceful sleep. She ties it all together with an ending that rips your heart out; you will never forget this book once you read it. After reading, you will feel like you have lived in Haines, Alaska.

The paperback version is available from Amazon.com for $9.73. No, I no longer own stock in Amazon.com.

November 22, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Gardens, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Spiritual, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

“How Have You Managed . . . ?”

“What do you mean?” I asked the elegant grinning lady who was asking me the question. Three former military wives, one Army, one Air Force and one Navy, and we had been talking about our world-wide lives and adventures.

“How are you doing? You haven’t been here long. Are you managing to settle in?” asked with enormous sympathy.

She caught me off guard.

Yes, I am happy. I’ve settled in. I have friends. I’m connected.

But her question caught me off guard, and all of a sudden I couldn’t answer.

“I’m doing OK” I managed to start. “But it’s like this church. I love this church, and at the same time, there are times I walk in and oh, how I miss our churches in the Middle East, where I would walk in and think ‘this is what heaven must look like’ especially at Christmas, with all the Indian families in their saris and finery, and the Africans in their brocades and elaborate head-dresses, and the people from all over the world. The music was simpler, and at the Christmas Eve service, we sang ‘Silent Night’ in every language in the church . . .  I miss that.”

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There are times the memories catch me unaware, and leave me breathless.

AdventueMan and I went grocery shopping today and when the cashier told me the total, AdventureMan almost gasped. I just laughed and told him that’s why I never took him grocery shopping with me in Kuwait – the sticker shock would have killed him.

Life here is definitely easier.

On the other hand, we have had to revise our ideas about Kuwait drivers. At first, we just thought there were a lot of Kuwaitis living in Pensacola; now we have realized that there are people who just drive as they please. Some of them are stoned out of their minds. I witnessed an accident last week where when I checked the driver of the car that was hit, she grinned at me loopily – and then disappeared. It was bizarre, and I wonder how many people are on the roads as impaired as she was. She went right through a stop sign as if it weren’t even there, and if the car had hit 6 inches more forward, she would have been dead. She didn’t have a scratch. And she was not at all concerned, just that loopy grin. “Elegantly wasted” said the driver of the car who hit her.

We both have a lot going on. With connection comes commitment and obligation. We try to coordinate our schedules at the beginning of the week so we can help one another out. The highlight is that each afternoon I am taking care of our new little granddaughter. AdventureMan/Baba often comes by and naps in the peaceful environment just to be with us. She is a sweet, laughing little baby, never very fussy. He offers me a day off, which occasionally I take, or he takes a time when I have a meeting or an appointment. We have both discovered how very much we like the ‘work’ of grandparenting. :-)

We’re managing. :-)

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , , , | 8 Comments

MERS Found in Saudi Arabian Camel

 

 From AOL/Huffpost/AP News:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi Health Ministry says it has discovered a deadly virus in a camel in Jiddah province, on the western coast of Saudi Arabia.

The ministry’s statement released Monday is considered an important development in the search for the origin the deadly illness. There have been more than 60 deaths from the virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, with all but a handful of the fatalities in Saudi Arabia.

The ministry said a sample from the camel was tested near the home of a patient infected with the virus.

An international research team in August found the mysterious virus that is related to SARS in a bat in Saudi Arabia. They suspected it was perhaps another animal that was spreading the virus directly to humans.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Environment, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Saudi Arabia | , | Leave a comment

Expat Teacher Murdered In Qatar After Night of Clubbing?

The prosecutor says violent crime is rare in Qatar.
If, by violent crime, the prosecutor is excluding abduction, rape in isolated sites in the desert, and expats who quietly exit the country when they discover the justice system is not going to prosecute Qatari citizens, only if those are excluded, along with the rape and abuse of local domestic workers, then he can say violent crime is rare.
Violent crime is not rare. It is not talked about.
This girl met up with people who seemed trustworthy. They were probably educated, and spoke English well. They might have even seemed gentlemanly. They offered her a ride home. They dropped off her friend.  But this girl never made it home.
One of the bravest women I ever knew, at 16, told me she was lucky to be alive. She accepted a ride home; they were brothers of a school friend. She reported them to the police. The boys were held – briefly – and she forced them to strip during the line-up to have them endure just a tiny amount of what she had endured. The prosecutor ultimately told her that they could not be prosecuted. Her family, shattered, left the country. It was a very common story, this ride home from a club turning into a nightmare, through which some victims live – and some don’t.
The 16 year old was very stoic. She said if she let it get to her, they won, they would be in her head. For most victims, the memories and the nightmares resonate for a long time.

Qatar expats shocked after UK teacher’s suspected murder

Yolande KnellBy Yolande KnellBBC News, Doha, Qatar

Lauren PattersonLauren Patterson had gone to a nightclub with a friend before she went missing

The suspected murder of a young primary school teacher from south-east London has deeply upset British expatriates living in the Gulf state of Qatar.

However, two weeks after Lauren Patterson disappeared following a night out in the capital, Doha, officials have given few details about her disappearance.

DNA tests have been carried out on the remains of a body found in a remote area of desert but the results have not yet been released.

At the Newton British School, where Ms Patterson worked, one mother paid tribute to a talented teacher who she said had been a favourite of her little son.

However, staff refused to comment, saying they had been advised not to.

“We’re a small, close-knit community and we’re all in deep shock,” explained headteacher Katherine Dixon. “We are dealing with small children here.”

Security camerasWhen 24-year-old Ms Patterson went out on 11 October she had just returned from a trip home to the UK for her grandmother’s funeral.

She and a female friend decided to go to Club 7 on the seventh floor of the luxury La Cigale Hotel.

It is a popular venue where all nationalities mingle on the dance floor as DJs play ambient house music.

High living standards and high tax-free salaries draw thousands of Britons to Qatar

Groups sip cocktails around low tables decorated with colourful, illuminated ice buckets.

Everyone entering the club has their ID checked and they are watched by burly bouncers and security cameras.

It is believed that in the early hours of the morning, the two women left with two local men they knew who had offered to drive them home.

Ms Patterson’s companion was dropped off safely but she went missing.

The alarm was raised by her friend who called the police the next day.

Arrests

Reports say a falconer found a badly burnt corpse shortly afterwards. Two suspects were detained although no details about them have been confirmed.

Mohammed Rashed al-BinaliPublic prosecutor Mohammed Rashed al-Binali says violent crime is “very rare” in Qatar

The case has been referred to the attorney general.

“Violent crime is very rare in Qatar,” public prosecutor, Mohammed Rashed al-Binali told me in his smart office surrounded by shining skyscrapers in central Doha.

“We are continuing to investigate the case. We cannot give more details at the moment but the Ministry of Interior did arrest the suspects within 24 hours.”

Alison Patterson has flown to Doha and is awaiting further news about her daughter.

She told the BBC she would only make a statement “when I feel the time is right and I have received all the information concerning Lauren”.

Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office says it is providing the family with consular assistance.

Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, is generally considered one of the safest places in the Middle East for Westerners.

The tiny, but very wealthy Gulf state, which is the biggest exporter of natural gas in the world, relies heavily on its growing foreign workforce.

It now has some 17,500 British residents. Most are attracted by the high living standards and high tax-free salaries.

Yet work permits can be easily revoked and this makes employees from overseas very wary of upsetting the authorities.

While Qatar has recently supported opposition movements pushing for greater freedom across the Arab world, the nation itself remains very conservative and tightly controlled.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Crime, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Lies, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Qatar, Safety | , | Leave a comment

Where is Terekeka, South Sudan?

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Today the church prays for the diocese of Terekeka, in the South Sudan. I have never heard of Terekeka – have you?

When I looked for it on Google Maps, it didn’t have any information. When I went to The South Sudan and then googled Terekeka, it came up with a reference, and I had to go to this website to find it – they had a map.

The organization who put up the map, Harvesters Reaching Nations, has two locations in the southernmost part of South Sudan, the newest nation on earth. They are building hospitals, and taking in orphans. If I hadn’t gone looking, I would never have heard of the good works they are doing, saving lives, changing lives.

This is what they say:

We currently serve more than 190 orphans in two locations in South Sudan – Yei and Terekeka. Our school in Yei provides a Christian education to more than 500 students. In addition to our school-age orphans, more than 400 children from surrounding villages attend our school.

The Harvesters campus in Yei consists of 90 acres of land donated by the South Sudan government. Since our beginning in 2001, we have built homes, dorms, classrooms and other facilities within a fenced-in campus. We use the land we own beyond the fencing for planting and growing corn, tomatoes and other vegetables for use in the orphanage.

Harvesters’ campus in Terekeka, South Sudan opened in 2010. At this campus, we currently provide care for 44 orphans, but will grow to 80 in the near future. We have built homes, dorms and a clinic within a five acre, fenced-in campus. Additional facilities, including a church and school classrooms, will be built in the near future as the needs and resources dictate.

To do this, they sold everything they owned, and moved to the South Sudan, and used the proceeds from selling everything to build the hospitals and schools. I bet they are the happiest they have ever been, and the most thoroughly engaged in life they have ever been.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Values | , , , | Leave a comment

Not The Day We Expected . . .

And once again, we have to laugh at God’s perfect timing.

I love Thursdays. Thursdays are the only day I have unscheduled. Once a month on a Thursday I have a meeting, but other than that, Thursdays are mine, and I luxuriate in them.

This morning I slept in an hour, then went leisurely through my Lectionary readings and scanned my e-mail. AdventureMan had other plans, but as we talked over our day, decided he wanted to come with me to the commissary. It’s fine with me. We have always had some of our best conversations in the car, and he doesn’t follow me around in the commissary asking questions like “do we really need this?” the kinds of questions that drive wives to homicidal thinking. There are some benches in the commissary, AdventureMan calls them the Old Farts benches, and he picks up his specialty bird seeds and supplies, then settles in to watch for me coming down the last lane.

Four minutes after we left the house, we got a call from our son, tied up on a case, that little Q broke his arm on the playground, could we go pick him up? We were only about five minutes from his school and were there in a flash. AdventureMan/BaBa rode in the ambulance while I drove over to our son’s home to care for the baby while Q’s Mom zipped to meet them at the hospital emergency room.

It took all day. Between the transporting and the paperwork and the x-rays and the setting of the bones (yep, two bones broken), by the time we all met up again, I no longer had any interest in hitting the commissary. I will try again tomorrow, God willing.

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Meanwhile, we marvel at how wonderful it is to be here in Pensacola, to be on call for emergencies like this, and that we were just minutes from his school when our son’s call came. We love it that we can be useful in these emergencies, that we are here to help and that we can be helpful. Once again, we thank God for his perfect timing.

Meanwhile, Mom called and gave me no sympathy whatever. She laughed! “Remember your sister broke both her arms before she was six, and you both broke legs skiing!” she chortled. Ouch! I guess little boy Q comes from a family of risk-takers. His dad broke exactly the same arm in the same place jumping to grab on to a high bar once. His son said “I thought I could fly. . . but I can’t.” It’s in the genes. :-}

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Health Issues, Pensacola, Relationships, Survival | 4 Comments

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