Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

How To Be a Southern Lady

You’d think moving back to your own country would be a piece of cake, wouldn’t you? We nomads know better. Young people who travel to other countries to go to school know better. Military people know better. Missionaries know better. Diplomats know better. Anyone who has spent time living abroad know that it works both ways – you have an impact where you are living, and where you are living has an equal impact on you. You may go back, but you are never the same.

With this move, AdventureMan and I have been too busy trying to get settled and to take care of the incredible amount of bureaucratic detail it takes to relocate. Even with AdventureMan ‘retired’, the days are flying by, and we don’t know why we are so busy.

For one thing, I am doing my own housework, and I am finding I am not very good at it. Like I am good at getting laundry done, and even folded, but I haven’t ironed in a long time, and the things that need ironing are stacking up. I have bought a beautiful new ironing board, and a beautiful iron . . . and some starch, the liquid kind I like, not the spray kind. . . but I haven’t set it up, and I haven’t ironed, not a thing. I have discovered that all my packed things looked a lot better after hanging in the closets for a week, most of the wrinkles fell out, lucky me. But . . . the day of reckoning is coming.

The worst part, for me, is cleaning my floors. My floors are supposed to be beautiful; wood and tile floors. They actually ARE beautiful, maybe two days a week, the day I clean them and the next day, but five days a week, they need work. I wish I had asked my cleaning lady in Doha how she got my floors so beautifully clean. I wish I had paid more attention. I keep looking in the store for some miracle, a machine that will clean them in a heartbeat and make them all shiny. . .

The wonderful thing about moving into this culture – and it truly is a different culture from the one in which I was raised – is that we have our wonderful son and his wonderful wife to give us hints on what to do and not to do, and we have his wife’s wonderful family.

Mostly, I try to keep my eyes open. Southern women admire things extravagantly, and after living for so many years in the Middle East and Gulf, learning to admire extravagantly goes against all my instincts.

In the MIddle East, when you admire extravagantly, you can make people nervous. Some people worry about attracting “the evil eye” of jealousy, evil intentions, people who envy you and wish you harm. Some people, if you admire something, will give it to you! It’s true, those stories, it has happened to me. So now I have to un-learn my lessons in retraint and learn to appreciate, if not extravagantly, at least enough to be polite.

One of my wife’s relatives gave us a house-warming gift, an iced-tea maker, with a darling card that states Rule #1 is that every Southern Hostess knows that a pitcher of iced tea is a MUST for all occasions. I like iced tea, but I have never kept it on hand to serve, and I guess I need to start!

Her second rule was one that made me burst out laughing – “A Southern Lady, the most interesting ones anyway, know that rules are made to be broken.”

“Just be prepared for people to leave your home saying “Bless her heart, she must be getting forgetful. There was no iced tea!”

And then rule #3 – “The only correct and acceptable way to criticize anyone is to add ‘bless his/her heart!’ and then, anything goes!”

At a party at her house this weekend, I learned a couple more – the first rule being that when you are invited to a great big family dinner, bring dessert! Thank God, I did take a little guest gift, but now I know – bring dessert! And it had better be sweet!

The next rule is would make any Kuwaiti or Qattari feel right at home – spare nothing in making our guests comfortable. This Southern Hostess had seating areas inside the beautiful air conditioned home, and also seating outside for those who don’t mind a little heat. She had a big basket loaded with all kinds of insect repellents to keep her guests from being bitten. She took time with each guest, and although she was running her little bottom off getting everything organized, she made it all look easy, and as if she was having a good time. I have a sneaking suspicion the truly was enjoying having all the people around and that her great big heart loves taking care of the crowd. She was the essence of gracious hospitality. Did I mention she has also lived in Kuwait?

Dinner was “Perlow” an old Southern tradition, made in a huge old kettle from her husband’s mother, and hung from a tripod over a roaring fire to cook. The actual cooking was the men’s work as they sat outside drinking iced tea:

Home grown peas and beans mix – delicious!

Serving up the perlow:

My Middle East / Gulf friends would be comfortable eating this meal – Perlow is a variation of Pilaf, and very similar to Biryani. No alcohol served. No pork. Lots and lots of fabulous sweet desserts.

It’s funny, I used to tell people in Kuwait and Qatar that it was a lot like Alaska; when the weather got too bad, you just stay inside most of the time. When the weather gets good, you go outside as much as you can. When it’s too hot/cold, you run from your air conditioned/heated car to your air conditioned / heated store or movie theater, or restaurant, and then back to your air conditioned / heated car and back to your air conditioned/ heated house.

In the same way, I am beginning to wonder if the South and the Middle East know how much they have in common? In Pensacola, on Saturdays, we have the religious people on the corners shouting at passing cars, not a whole lot different from the volunteer morality police in Saudi Arabia. In the South, as in the Middle East, ‘family’ isn’t just blood, it’s also who you’re married into, and there is a lot of emphasis on family getting together and spending time together. In the South, as in the Middle East, men tend to gather in one area, women in another.

In the South, they drink iced tea; in the Middle East, it’s hot tea. Both have passionate patriots, fundamental believers and a tradition of gracious hospitality. Both have a passion for hunting and fishing. Nobody much likes obeying the rules in either culture. Maybe I’m still in the MIddle East?

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Cold Drinks, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Hot drinks, Humor, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Locard Exchange Principal, Marriage, Middle East, Moving, Qatar, Random Musings, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Values | 8 Comments

Black Friday

Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving – bargain hunters in the USA head to the stores. Some stores opened as early as midnight to attract bargain hunters. Many more open around 5 or 6 in the morning. Most have loss leaders – i.e. specially priced items, maybe even below cost – hoping people will come in looking for the bargains and buy something else.

Not me.

Not in a million years.

I did it one year; we had just come back to the US after living for years on Germany. I needed 110v Christmas lights, so I went to a store at 0530 and stood in line until it opened at 6 and got many packages . . . but not enough. Later in the day I went back to see if there were any of the bargain priced lights left, and there were stacks and stacks of them. I learned my lesson.

We also learned that many things go on sale a couple days before in some stores, or are still on sale and in good supply the following Monday.

I hate lines. I hate competitive shopping. I have seen women grab things out of one another’s hands, I have seen them race down the aisles . . . and I just ask myself “What is this all about?” I have that primitive instinct too, hunting down that elusive bargain, bagging it and getting it home – but at what cost?

Anomaly – while gas prices have dropped back to reasonable rates here, fewer Americans are traveling this year. Normally, Thanksgiving is the holiday with the highest accident rate of all the holidays because of the road traffic, but because Americans are holding tight to their purses this year, fewer are on the road or in the air.

We are packing up today and moving on to the next stop. We will stop and see good friends en route to our destination, have a meal and a good visit with them . . .

yes, yes, thank you, we had a truly wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving, a truly Southern Thanksgiving, with family, with friends, and I will share it with you as soon as I get a card-reader so I can upload to the computer. 🙂 There were three kinds of turkey – a deep fried turkey, a smoked turkey, and turkey breast pieces pan-fried in batter, like chicken nuggets only fresher, and tasty. My favorite was a big bucket of venison stew, one of the hunters had bagged a big buck up in Kentucky.

I don’t believe there was a steamed vegetable or un-sauced vegetable in sight! Lots of gelatins made with sour cream or cream cheese, macaroni and cheese, three or four different kinds of stuffings and sweet on sweet sweet potatoes . . . and then came dessert, oh my. The tables – separate stations for meats, stuffings, vegetables and salads – were groaning, but then again, there were many many people to feed. My Southern husband was in heaven, eating all the foods I don’t know how to make and never dreamed of making.

The very best part of Thankgiving was the visiting. It was like one great big diwaniyya, with people in the kitchen and living room, people way out back shucking oysters and peeling shrimp, loads of ice tea all made up, sweet, unsweet, Splenda, lemondade . . . young people playing football or running around. . . it was a very sweet family day, beautiful weather, you couldn’t order a nicer Thanksgiving, and we were so delighted to be included.

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Thanksgiving, Travel | 2 Comments

Sabille Shop

I love sabilles. Sabilles are localized charity, “in a dry and thirsty land” they are provided by generous souls that the thirsty might have cool, fresh water to refresh thenselves in the heat of the day. You will see them at mosques, along city streets, in every neighboorhood. They come in fanciful shapes; if you type “sabille” into the HT&E search window, you will see more. I love the Kuwait Liberation Tower ones, and also the water-tower wannabes, but I also like the ones that look like old castles or old doors or jugs. I love it that people go to the trouble to make something utilitarian interesting, even artistic.

Recently, I found a shop in the Wafa Mall that sells sabilles:


The shop is called Fine Things, and also has some fancy presentation boxes and this, which looks like a mail box to me, but might be for collecting charitable donations, or . . . ? I might be totally wrong. Your guess is as good as mine:


I like this tiny little mall because it has commercial kitchen supply shops with all kinds of display cases and things you don’t find very often. There is also a mattress shop; I always laugh when there is a family shopping there for mattresses because the parents don’t say “NO!” to their kids, so the kids are JUMPING ON THE MATTRESSES! The salesmen seem unable to ask the parents to make them stop.

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cold Drinks, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Exercise, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Shopping | 17 Comments

Diet Soda and Metabolic Syndrome

Bad news about a recent study on Diet Soda from The New York Times. You can read more up-to-date health news by clicking on the blue type.

Published: February 5, 2008
Researchers have found a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome — the collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and elevated blood pressure.

The scientists gathered dietary information on more than 9,500 men and women ages 45 to 64 and tracked their health for nine years.

Over all, a Western dietary pattern — high intakes of refined grains, fried foods and red meat — was associated with an 18 percent increased risk for metabolic syndrome, while a “prudent” diet dominated by fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry correlated with neither an increased nor a decreased risk.

But the one-third who ate the most fried food increased their risk by 25 percent compared with the one-third who ate the least, and surprisingly, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who drank one can of diet soda a day compared with those who drank none.

“This is interesting,” said Lyn M. Steffen, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota and a co-author of the paper, which was posted online in the journal Circulation on Jan. 22. “Why is it happening? Is it some kind of chemical in the diet soda, or something about the behavior of diet soda drinkers?”

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Diet / Weight Loss, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, News | 6 Comments

Diet Soda Problems

In a recent blog entry Gout and Soda frequent commenter Abdulaziz speculated that there is also a link between diet soda and over eating. Today I found an article in the New York Times that substantiates his gut feeling.

From The New York Times in an article entitled Symptoms: Metabolic Syndrome Is Tied to Diet Soda

. . . Over all, a Western dietary pattern — high intakes of refined grains, fried foods and red meat — was associated with an 18 percent increased risk for metabolic syndrome, while a “prudent” diet dominated by fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry correlated with neither an increased nor a decreased risk.

But the one-third who ate the most fried food increased their risk by 25 percent compared with the one-third who ate the least, and surprisingly, the risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who drank one can of diet soda a day compared with those who drank none. . . .

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Cold Drinks, Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, Health Issues, Statistics | | 3 Comments

Gout and Soda

I used to drink Diet Coke, and every now and then, like once every six months, I might have a small Coke, a real coke, a classic coke, but for the most part, I haven’t missed drinking soda.

AdventureMan gave up sodas in November, and hasn’t touched one since. Not only are they full of empty calories, they also make you burp. They can give you heartburn. There are studies that show they may be related to the epidemic of obesity we are seeing, and they may tip vulnerable people into diabetes.

In today’s Kuwait Times, there is one more reason to give up sodas. Studies have shown a connection between drinking sodas and gout (Wikipedia:

Signs and symptoms
The classic picture is of excruciating, sudden, unexpected, burning pain, swelling, redness, warmness and stiffness in the joint. Low-grade fever may also be present. The patient usually suffers from two sources of pain. The crystals inside the joint cause intense pain whenever the affected area is moved. The inflammation of the tissues around the joint also causes the skin to be swollen, tender and sore if it is even slightly touched. For example, a blanket or even the lightest sheet draping over the affected area could cause extreme pain.
Gout usually attacks the big toe (approximately 75 percent of first attacks); however, it also can affect other joints such as the ankle, heel, instep, knee, wrist, elbow, fingers, and spine. In some cases, the condition may appear in the joints of small toes that have become immobile due to impact injury earlier in life, causing poor blood circulation that leads to gout.

I found a link to the full length Reuters article Sugary drinks raise risk of gout in men, which you can read by clicking on the blue text.

February 2, 2008 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Family Issues, Health Issues | 12 Comments

Walking Old Damascus (3)

I can never get enough of Old Damascus, but for those of you who are bored already, I will only do one more after this one. And my friends, I am only skimming the surface – Damascus can keep you busy and happy for a long time. Along one of our favorite streets, Al Qamariyya, we saw a sign that said Calligraphy and Lute instruction, and we looked at each other with a grin – we could be happy for weeks learning lute and calligraphy!

We had met up with an old friend who loves Damascus as we do, and he suggested a walk OUTSIDE the walls, from Bab Thouma (Thomas’ gate) to the Bab Es Salaam, which we did. The Bab Thouma is only a five minute walk from our hotel, straight up al Hijari, crossing Street Called Straight where it becomes Sharia Bab Thouma – how easy can it be?

The walk along the northern outside walls in this section is spectacular. For one thing, look at the differing levels of construction in this, one of the remaining walls of Old Damascus:




From outside the northern wall, looking north toward the mountains:


Then you come to the Gate of Peace/ Bab es Salaam:


There is a whirl of reconstruction going on in the old city. Some fear modernizations which will change the character of the old town, but others say that the restrictions won’t allow that to happen – we shall see:



Here is what we love – in every country, you will find volunteer supervisors where construction or reconstruction are going on:


One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Ananias’ chapel. This is not the actual spot where Ananias baptized Paul, a mosque has been built over that site (It is called the Jakmak Mosque and you can see it in the long covered souk at the beginning of the Street Called Straight) but this is the church/chapel which commemorates that baptism, and it is very beautiful.


Time for a cup of coffee, and to plan the next walking expedition, and we find this wonderful cafe next to the church at Bab Sharqi:


We think there is a museum for the Hijaz Railway, which fascinates AdventureMan, but this is all we can find:


At our friend’s recommendation, we also try the Old Town restaurant, and we like it so much we go there twice:


Nice to have some pasta for a change, and the pasta here is really good!


Interesting old balcony:


I keep looking for the Issa/Jesus spire of the Umayyad mosque, and I think this might be it, but I am not sure. Legend has it that this is where Jesus will prevail over the forces of darkness and evil on the Last Day.


We are told you MUST make a stop at Leila’s, near the Ummayad Mosque, near the Hamadiyya Souks, and so we do. It is very conveniently located when you are shopping for visiting the mosque:


They had a Baba Ghannoush there unlike any I have had before, but very much like something we used to eat in Tunisia, called mechoia – grilled eggplant and peppers and garlic, with a very smokey taste. Yummmmy!


You know me and light fixtures – this is one of the Leila lamps:


Tomorrow I will take you to our absolute favorite restaurant in Damascus, and finish up the trip, I promise, as much as I hate to leave!

(Happy Islamic New Year!)

January 10, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos, Travel | , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Hotel Glasses “Sanitized”

A good friend sent me the following link. If you stay in hotels regularly, this video will change the way you do things, trust me! It is GROSSSSSSSS!

Don’t Ever Drink from Hotel Glasses.

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Customer Service, Health Issues, Hygiene, Travel | 4 Comments

Kuwait Protection

Kuwait is the only country I’ve lived in where people caught taking bribes or embezzling public funds get to keep their jobs. I understand in one ministry, a man is still in a job where he was convicted of embezzlement, and no one knows how much he has to pay back because they are still discovering all that he embezzled. He gets to keep his job?

This is from the Arab Times.

KUWAIT CITY: The Kandari tribe elders are planning to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the ‘sacking’ of the director of the Mubarak Al-Kabeer Security Department, reports Al-Watan daily.

The elders considered the ‘discharge from duty’ as exaggerated punishment particularly since the ministry had earlier praised his efforts and promoted him to a higher rank just a few months ago.

Earlier it was reported two directors of security departments in the Mubarak Al-Kabir and Capital governorates were being investigated for their illegal activities. The daily also added some senior police officials, whose identities were not given, were involved in alcohol trafficking and gambling.

The daily went on to say one of the directors from the Mubarak Al-Kabeer governorate was getting commission from an Asian man to run a gambling den and other illegal activities.

Interrogations revealed the director dispatched a police officer to a bank to change quarter dinar banknotes for KD 10 notes and a counter clerk at the bank branch said it was not the first time he had changed the quarter dinar notes for the officer. The quarter dinar notes were reportedly given to the officer as commission by the Asian.

In another incident a policeman was caught selling booze using police vehicle and when the uniformed man was arrested and reported to the director, the director is said to have overlooked the incident and refused to take action.

Moreover, it was also reported pressure had been applied on the arresting officer to withdraw his case.

It was also reported an Asian was caught selling alcohol and during interrogation he admitted to working for the director of the Capital governorate.

The man was reportedly deported from the country immediately which aroused suspicion. Sources say the man was deported because he was a key witness in the case.

Now this one is from The Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: MP Dr Faisal Al-Muslem recently urged the First Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense cum Minister of Interior Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to order the formation of a special committee to investigate recent press stories concerning a Mangaf house that had been allegedly turned into a ‘night club’ for Americans where they had liquor and various illegal stuff. Informed sources noted that special body guards had been placed in the house’s surroundings to prevent any of the neighbors from approaching it.

This is a social disaster that needs immediate attention,” stressed Al-Muslem noting that such an act was a clear violation of Kuwait’s sovereignty, religious beliefs, and constitutional rights to have a peaceful and secure residence.

In view of the fact that no security forces had been able to interfere and stop such violations, Al-Muslem wondered about the identity of the apparently high-ranking security official who had been protecting the owners of the night club. Al-Muslem also urged the Minister of State for Housing Affairs Abdul Wahed Al-Awadhi to form a specialized team to check on whether the owner of the night club had any right to violate the rules of the Housing Public Authority.

Furthermore, Al-Muslem suggested providing all expatriates (both newcomers and those renewing residency visas) with special brochures clarifying Kuwaiti social and religious concepts and asking them to show full respect and observation to them.

it gave me a smile thinking special brochures are going to change behavior. Somehow, this “nightclub” is getting protection. And people caught delivering alcohol in their cars are receiving protection. As long as these practices, contrary to Kuwaiti social and religious concepts are protected, what is a special brochure going to change? Some of them will drink and (ahem) do other illegal activities because they can! Because someone is providing protection for these activities.

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cold Drinks, Community, Crime, Customer Service, Detective/Mystery, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues | 8 Comments

7 drunk girls held for abusing officer

From today’s Arab Times If you are the parents of any of these seven young women, I can imagine your hearts are aching. I am sorry for your pain.

At the same time, I’m sorry, something about it makes me laugh, too. I can’t imagine the problems the police had handling seven drunk young women at one time. And I have to imagine the “abuse” was verbal and not physical. Somehow, it sounds like a very comical scene to me. I also imagine that the aftermath for these seven young women is far from comical.

KUWAIT CITY: Police have detained for interrogation an unidentified young Kuwaiti woman for verbally abusing a police officer on duty at a police checkpoint in Salwa, reports Al-Watan daily.

According to a police source, officers manning the checkpoint saw seven young women riding in a car. All of them appeared disoriented and were carrying a bottle of alcohol.

When the officers ordered the women to come out of the vehicle, one of them not only refused but insulted a police officer.
All the seven women have been referred to a police station. Attempts by unidentified persons to set the women free have been turned down, says a police source.

The source added 11 men had also been arrested for drinking alcohol. However, it is not known if the incidents are related

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Community, Crime, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 13 Comments